In my anguish I cried to the LORD, and he answered by setting me free. Psalm 118:5

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sufficient Grace

I was warming up on the treadmill this morning, when I heard what has become familiar lately...God nudging me and saying, "Today is the day. You're gonna run the mile today." Until today, I've ignored this nudge and made every excuse why "today" coudn't possibly be the day. I was out of excuses though, and desperately wanted to accomplish this goal.

Then I heard Mandisa singing, and it could only have been her to inspire me to crank up my treadmill. "Shackles" was pumping in my ears and through my blood.

I began to run. Focus. Sweat equity. Determination. Utter Obedience. Self-discipline. Effort. These got me through the first half, but only that far. I couldn't begin to imagine how I was going to get through the second half. You see, I've never run more than about 5 to 6 minutes at a time, and that's my highest time. And when I say I'm running, it's only barely more than a jog. I'm not a runner...yet.

For the last half mile I begged God to empower me, to drag my feet if He had to. Whatever it took. I had committed my actions to Him, and His word tells me if I do that, my plan will succeed (Proverbs 16:3). When it got really bad, I claimed outloud, "your grace is enough," or "I will not quit, I will not quit, I will not quit." Over. And over. And over. And then some more. I even recall repeatedly saying, "C'mon God," in anticipation of Him filling me with whatever I needed in order to drag my butt across the finish line.

I called out to Him and He answered me.

I finished that mile. While it wasn't physically or technically perfect, It was one of the most amazing moments I've ever had with God. It was a mountaintop experience if I've ever had one. God showed me with crystal-like clarity that His strength really is made perfect in my weakness (2Cor 12:9). Friends, it wasn't me that got me across the 1-mile line. God got me there and reminded me that He will get me across every finish line in every race I run, if I will only submit to Him and let Him get me there.

Friends, I have trust issues with God, and apparently always have, thanks to negative human influence. I've learned recently that one of my biggest fears in life is that God will somehow let me down. And "when" He does, where does that leave me? In the middle of nowhere, lost in a black abyss, with nothing, because I've put all my faith in Him (except what I've put in myself)...if He fails me, I have absolutely NOTHING.

Running this mile today was an exercise in trust. Even though I knew I was not physically ready to run an entire mile, I stepped out of the boat, trusting God to make my way on the water. And He did. Everytime I give God the chance to prove Himself, He exceeds my expectations and builds my trust in Him. He loves me with such a pure and complete love, a love lacking nothing, that He is willingly and patiently "proving" Himself to me through moments like these.

What a glorious, intimate truth God revealed to me this morning. Trusting Him allowed me to lay down the strength I think I have within myself, the strength that can only get me part of the way, and make room for what really lies beneath. That, sisters, is HIS power. And I would much rather call on His power than my own.

So I ask you, friends, where do you need God run beside you? Where do you need Him to fill you with His infinite power to give you a strong finish? Where does He need to carry you to the finish line? Remember, though, that before He can do any of these things, you must first let go of yourself to make room for Him and the power He brings with Him.

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cor 12:9

Monday, May 9, 2011

Healing Balm

I can freely admit I'm no expert in emergency situations. Even as a mom of three, I still stumble through anything that resembles a crisis. Do I put running water on a burn? I struggle to decide if that bleeding wound needs a band aid or a 2X2 piece of gauze with tape? And how about a "sprained" ankle, or a broken toe...wrap it? Don't wrap it? And how am I supposed to really know if something needs stitches? What's a mom to do!?

I've likewise lived this same way in my spiritual life as it relates to my struggle with food. Everything gets the wrong medicine. My need for emotional intimacy or closeness might get a peanut butter sandwich. Anxiety or stress gets an absolute overload of food slapped on it. Boredom...more food. Exhaustion...more food. Ill-behaved children...chips. Irritating husband...cookies. A friend lets me down...I might try some ice cream. This foul list could go on for forever, trust me.

My methods are the medical equivalent to using gauze for a gushing, bleeding wound. Friends, you and I both know it just will not work. It's a feeble attempt to pacify a wound that needs something so much greater. It needs concentrated effort from an expert...and in those moments I'm fighting the urge to binge or overeat, so do I.

Jesus is the one-size-fits-all balm for every wound. He is the Great Physician, the one, the only Mighty Healer. Sisters, it's time to lift up our eyes. Our help comes from Him, and only from Him.

Exercise your faith, and put down the extra helping of potato salad. Instead, seek Him, and you'll find His healing balm is a perfect fit.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Freedom through Obedience

I have blogged about this topic before, but honestly, we could hardly talk too much about obedience, given this world in which we live.

As I read my devotional this morning, I couldn't help but think about my current weight issues (beyond the battle as a whole, and more specifically, the 10lbs I've gained in less than 4 weeks...thank you very much, Mr. Abilify!) and how I believe God to be testing me heavily right now.

I'm doing everything right. I'm counting my calories and working out 7 days a week, like a professional athlete (okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but that's what it feels like!). This issue of obedience is so distinct that I can almost hear Him aking if I'll still obey Him (by eating right) even though all this hard work isn't paying off, or if I'll continue to do the hard work (physically) when I'm not getting positive physical results? How about the spiritual work? My answer is yes, yes and yes. Will I still trust Him even though this is my present reality? Again, yes, and here's why.

(from Breaking Free devotional by Beth Moore)
I know that sometimes we can be in too much bondage to even imagine living an obedient life. We want God to somehow wave a wand over us and magically remove every hindrance without requiring anything of us. But if God simply waved a wand over us and broke every yoke without our cooperation [obedience], we would soon pick up another. We cannot go forward without obedience.

I have certainly wished God would snap His all-powerful fingers and peel this entire oh-so-cumbersome mess off of me, but it is for my good and His glory that He has not done that. God is teaching me obedience, and the obedience I learn now will protect me from blindly taking on yet another yoke later!

In the sometimes-violent throes of this ugly, beautiful journey, I have had to depend completely on God, and He has blessed me with countless spritual breakthroughs and tremendous emotional healing. I am learning to trust God, to cling to Him, to remain in Him. If God waved some ridiculous wand, I would have no need to seek Him, obey Him and dig deep, and I would certainly have missed out on the precious and priceless intimacy I've experienced with my Heavenly Father.

Now, I'm not saying God doesn't ever choose to release someone immediately from the yoke they carry, because He certainly can and does. God is the ultimate Healer. But in my case, God knows me too well to give me such instantaneous freedom. In His infinite wisdom, He knew I had lessons to learn that would otherwise be lost through freedom that required no work on my part.

So, is this weight gain worth it? Is this stage of the war REALLY worth it? Most certainly, and utterly YES. It's unmistakably worth every extraordinary step of the way. I will continue to walk with God, and He will hold my hand all the way.

I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand and say to you, "Do not fear, I will help you." Isaiah 41:13

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. John 15: 9b-11

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sacrifices...of another kind

Have you ever thought about the things you sacrifice? Probably so. I have a new perspective on sacrifice today that I’d like to share with you.

My day began as usual. I always wake up to exercise at 5am, but I had planned to take today off. However, I woke up at my normal time, without the alarm, only to find that my exercise clothes had not made it to the dryer. So why did God have me up so early? Then it hit me…quiet time. And that makes me smile, that God would call me from sleep just to spend some time with Him. So, I made my coffee and sat down with God. I read a devotion from Breaking Free by Beth Moore and this is what it said.…

I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. Romans 12:1

To be liberated in Christ, we’ve got some sacrifices to make. And as long as He is the one asking us for them—not our own guilt or legalistic tendencies—any sacrifice we make in our quest for freedom will be wholly consumed by God as a sweet sacrifice. He will bless it.

We fear making sacrifices. But the irony is that we also make a lot of sacrifices when we are not living in the will of God. How many things have we placed on the altar of Satan’s kingdom? Don’t we live sacrificially when we’re outside the will of God, giving up all sorts of things that were meant to be ours in Christ?

In my battle with food since September of 2010, I have never once considered sacrifice in this way. I have for nearly 9 months only considered the food I am sacrificing in terms of it being a sacrifice to me. Giving up my favorite binge foods has been in fact a difficult, uncomfortable and unpleasant sacrifice. It has often felt impossible. But, to be told that when I disobey, or make poor food choices I am instead sacrificing something even greater? Now that’s a fresh approach to the concept of sacrifice.

Keep this in mind while you read Malachi 1: 6-14, and brace yourself.

6 “A son honors his father, and a slave his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” says the LORD Almighty. It is you priests who show contempt for my name. "But you ask, ‘How have we shown contempt for your name?’ 7 “By offering defiled food on my altar. “But you ask, ‘How have we defiled you?’ "By saying that the LORD’s table is contemptible. 8 When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?” says the LORD Almighty. 9 “Now plead with God to be gracious to us. With such offerings from your hands, will he accept you?”—says the LORD Almighty. 10 “Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD Almighty, “and I will accept no offering from your hands. 11 My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD Almighty. 12 “But you profane it by saying, ‘The Lord’s table is defiled,’ and, ‘Its food is contemptible.’ 13 And you say, ‘What a burden!’ and you sniff at it contemptuously,” says the LORD Almighty. “When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?” says the LORD. 14 “Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,” says the LORD Almighty, “and my name is to be feared among the nations.

Defiled offerings? Lame and diseased sacrifices? God showed me through the combination of these scriptures, ever so clearly, how my repeated poor choices not only cost me all that He intends for me, but have also repeatedly dishonored him.

I can see so clearly that, though desperate for freedom, my efforts have been somehow ill-equipped, even half-hearted, and that I had not previously “set my heart to honor God.” This is not to say I had not previously on my journey heard these very same words even, but today God walked with me through my quiet time, to Sunday school class and into church service. It also doesn’t mean I had not been convicted of the sin factor in my food issues. Because I am and have been for 9 months. And it doesn’t mean I didn’t fight like a tangled dog trying to break free. Because I did.

I can also see now that I have placed defiled food on His precious altar. I have offered lame sacrifices when I had better ones to give. I have dishonored God. I say with great anticipation that this stops…yesterday. Not today or tomorrow, but yesterday.

You might wonder how this revelation is suddenly going to change anything for me. Well, journey into the church service with me, where Brett taught on the story of David and Goliath. This story is more than the story of your youth; it’s a picture of God vs. evil, and EVIL DOES NOT WIN. GOD WINS. EVERYTIME. In this familiar story, David fights, armed with his slingshot, against a 9-foot tall bronze serpent opponent named Goliath. He not only wins, but he beheads Goliath and parades his head through town to show everyone just who God had empowered him to conquer.

This is an dead-on portrayal of what I want to do. I am determined to beat my Goliath and parade his bloody head through town, showing everyone exactly who God has defeated in my life.

What have I learned over the past 48 hours?

In all of this, God has reminded me not-so-subtly that I am in His loving, protective care. He is in control of this battle. He is bigger than my battle. I have a spiritual enemy who is seeking to destroy me. My God, the one true God, is always victorious.

I am declaring boldly this afternoon that I will be free. I am so close to freedom right now, I can feel it and sense the winds of change bristling around me. I already feel free. I am rebuking demons and claiming my freedom. I am arming myself, dropping my chains, setting my heart to honor God, right now, and walking into freedom.

The Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Bipolar Testimony

Dear friends and strangers,

The National Institute of Mental Health defines Bipolar as such:
Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of bipolar disorder are severe. They are different from the normal ups and downs that everyone goes through from time to time. Bipolar disorder symptoms can result in damaged relationships, poor job or school performance, and even suicide. But bipolar disorder can be treated, and people with this illness can lead full and productive lives.

I am an enthusiastic and passionate Christian. A wife of nearly 12 years. A mother of three. A former educator. A caregiver. A daughter. A sister. A friend. And, I am bipolar.

I choose not to let bipolar define me, but it is undeniably part of who I am, and I’d like to tell you part of my story.

For many years I suffered from depression, or so we thought. I was given prescriptions from my Family Doctors and General Practitioners, for a variety of different medicines. I’ve taken a number of anti-depressants over the years. Most recently, I’ve been on Prozac for the last 6 to 7 years.

In 2008 I began to display very uncharacteristic behavior and had multiple inappropriate online relationships, all of which I eventually confessed to my husband, John. We worked through this and our marriage seemed to be restored, or at least headed in that direction. We were doing well.

Then, December of 2009 hit and I told my husband I was done. I wanted to leave our marriage because it was just too difficult for me anymore. I was miserable and couldn’t seem to fix anything. In my mind, it was all John’s doing. He wasn’t good enough to me, or didn’t say the right things all the time and he didn’t make me happy anymore.

This is why I praise God for my husband every day. He refused to accept this and recognized immediately that this was not the wife he knew and loved. Neither had my behavior in the last couple years been representative of the woman he fell in love with. He courageously asked me to see a professional. Not a Family physician, but a Psychiatrist. I reluctantly agreed (thank God).

At this point, I couldn’t even handle the stress of trying to find a doctor. John did all the footwork and found a doctor in Fairhope who would see me and accept our insurance, despite the fact he wasn’t “currently accepting new patients.” John spoke to the doctor’s nurse, found out what he could do regarding how to “deal” with me in the meantime. He also initiated marriage counseling for us immediately.

Upon seeing the psychiatrist, I was diagnosed with rapid cycle bipolar disorder. We were informed at the same appointment that the Prozac I had been on for years was the worst possible medicine I could have been taking. Naturally, we were furious with previous doctors (and this is why anyone who speaks to me about this will know immediately that I adamantly believe people need to be seeing a psychiatrist for psychiatric issues, not their general practitioner.) My doctor lowered my Prozac and began a regular regimen of a mood stabilizer.

It took several months, but between weekly counseling and my new medication, I began to feel normal again. This was a feeling I had become painfully unfamiliar with and I didn’t even realize it. John and I started to heal. He attended counseling with me and was my accountability in so many ways. He made sure I took my medication and he was responsible for keeping my behavior in check. It was only through the power of Christ that I was able to defer my authority over myself in these areas to him. Trust me when I tell you how incredibly hard it is to have to defer to another’s opinion of my behavior and mood over my own. There do not seem to be adequate words to express the level of trust this requires between two people.

I stand before you today a healed woman. God hasn’t healed my bipolar, but he has healed me nonetheless. I take my medication every day, and do so willingly because of my deep desire to be healthy. God has redeemed me, restored my marriage fully and saved my children from unspeakable and irreversible harm through the courage and insight of my husband. He provided me with a tremendous Christian counselor and a psychiatrist with the expertise I needed. God filled me with the power to trust these people. Friends, whether it’s the way we usually define “healing” or not, God healed me.

Living with bipolar is not easy. I choose every day to be healthy and to take my medicine (that’s another vicious facet of the disease, the conviction that you don’t need your medicine anymore). I still see my counselor once a month. I see my psychiatrist every couple months, or more if we believe my meds need an adjustment. My children have had to learn to live with my disease. My husband, God bless him, has traveled this ugly rollercoaster-road with me from the get-go. Friendships and family relationships have been strained (some, terribly so). This is not an easy disease to understand or empathize with when you’re on the outside looking in. I have made a life-long commitment to managing my disease carefully, as it is no different than heart disease or diabetes or blood pressure. It will always need my attention.

Some of you might wonder why I have decided to go public. I was recently offered the opportunity to “tell” my testimony in church yesterday, on Easter Sunday, in cardboard form. I took that opportunity to tell how God has redeemed my life and traded ashes for beauty. Doing so inspired me to go all the way, beyond sharing with pass-in-the-hallway friends, acquaintances and total strangers—all the way to sharing it with everyone I know, especially those I claim to love and know well.
Also, I desperately want to dispel the misconceptions surrounding this disease. Having or being bipolar doesn’t mean I am violent, suicidal, depressed, or crazy. What it does mean is that I have a chemical imbalance in my brain that causes more frequent mood fluctuations (because mine is rapid cycle…there are other types) and more exaggerated shifts than “normal” people. “Highs” are not necessarily extreme and uncontrollable happiness. Mine are defined by agitation and increased irritability, and a high level of productivity. My “lows” are not characterized by depression, but rather quietness, seclusion and clinginess to those I love, especially John.

Furthermore, I am personally free from the stigma attached to bipolar because I know God intends to use my experience with bipolar to help others. Otherwise, He would have physically healed my body from it. Proving this point, He already is using me. My openness about my disease with the few I have shared it with one-on-one is giving strength to others and giving others the insight that they are not alone. All of this disarms the enemy. God has made it possible for me to have potentially difficult conversations with other women who need encouragement for a variety of reasons.

Left untreated, bipolar, depression and severe anxiety will destroy lives. What it doesn’t destroy, it will cripple. Satan has a field day in the minds of those plagued with these diseases. He wants nothing more to destroy and I know, because it almost took my marriage and everything else I hold dear.
If you’re reading this, you likely either know someone who needs help or you need help yourself. If it’s you that can identify with anything I have said, I want to encourage you to find a professional. Insist on the best of care for yourself. Enlist the help of someone you love and trust intimately to walk this road with you. Do not allow mental illness of any sort to rob you or anyone you love from living a full life. If none of this describes you in any way, then please, please, please pass this along to anyone you think needs to read it. If it’s not for you, my story can be a great conversation starter between you and someone you care about.

Finally, I need to thank some people, without whom I would never be able to share my story.

To my closest friends and family, thank you, thank you, thank you! From the bottom of my heart I thank you for loving me every step of the way, even today and tomorrow, for the constant encouragement and for never letting me feel judged. Most especially, John, Lindsey, Terri and the rest of “my girls.”

To my “everyone else,” those who didn’t know, or may have only known part of the whole story, thank you for your patience, for loving me through what you didn’t even know, and for loving me even now as you learn the whole truth.

Most of all, I thank You, my precious LORD, for loving me, for saving me, for healing me and now for using me. “…My lips overflow with praise” (Ps. 119:171) and I love you with all my heart (Deut 10:12).

Stephanie Norsworthy


PS If you have never seen a cardboard testimony, a quick search on YouTube will yield multiple results and give you a good idea of what 25 of us did in our church yesterday. The music we used was “Beautiful Things” by Gungor, and my card read: (side 1) BIPOLAR (side 2) Healthy and Whole in Christ. I believe a video was made, so hopefully I will be able to share that soon as well.

Monday, April 18, 2011

My Spiritual Bucket

"Vessel" is defined by Webster's Dictionary as "a container for holding something." Sounds simple enough, right?

There are multiple examples of vessels in the Bible, both spiritual and literal, so let's reflect on two.

First I'd like to point you to the Book of Matthew. In Chapter 26 we are told the story of the anointing of Jesus at Bethany... "a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. 8 When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. 9 “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” 10 Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. 11 The poor you will always have with you,[a] but you will not always have me. 12 When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. 13 Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Oh, what I would give to know what this vessel looked like! This precious jar used to dispense perfume over the head of Christ must have been beautiful, no matter how plain it likely was.

Next, lets move to the woman at the well. We could delve deep into this scripture (John 4) and discover more about Jesus as the spiritual vessel here (because He is truly the vessel for our God, the Living Water), but I want to keep this simple. This woman most likely walked for miles to that well, in intense heat, to fill her clay jar with water, and would then return to her village to deliver this life-sustaining and thirst-quenching water to her household.

Now, jump with me back to our definition. If I may, I'd like to embelish Webster's definition. A vessel is not simply a container; it is also a necessary tool for delivery from one point to another.

If that treasured and highly valued jar of perfume had been cracked, the perfume would have never made it across the room to the head of our Savior, Jesus Christ. It would have been grossly wasted on the dirt floor.

Further, no woman in any third world country around the world would carry a hole-ridden cistern or vessel to the well near her village. Surely, after walking the many difficult miles from the well, the precious water would be gone before she ever returned home.

Do you know, friends, that you yourself are a vessel? God has anointed you in this life to hold His Holy Spirit. Even more, He has anointed you to deliver Him to others around you. Just like these tangible vessels, though, you too can be broken. Cracked. Incomplete. And thus, an ineffective tool for containment and delivery.

The beauty in this ugliness, though, is that a damaged or forsaken, unattended to vessel can be repaired and redeemed and restored (praise God!).

I am painfully, and thankfully, aware of the hole in my own spiritual bucket. I have given a great deal of thought to this perforation in my spirit lately, and I have struggled to understand what has caused it, and thus, how to permanently patch it up.

It was in church on Sunday, April 17, 2011 that the pieces finally came together.

Brett spoke extensively about God as an artist, the perfect creator of all things beautiful. He told us how God passed the paint brush on to creation (for me personally, this was my flute and my music, so I related deeply to his artistic reference), and that because of all this, we crave beauty and perfection. And then it clicked. The light came on.

I suddenly realized that my music as a young child was more than a "gift" God had bestowed on me. It was more than a talent he gave me to escape the emotional emptiness of my childhood. Before I ever knew I could have a personal relationship with Christ, He was seeking relationship with me through the music I spent so many hours practicing daily. Beauty. Perfection. It was what I craved desperately. All for a deeper connection to Him, and I had no idea. How amazing is that? He put the paintbrush in my hand so I could know Him better.

God still uses music to reach deep into my soul today. Though I haven't played in several years now, God has of course found a way. Intense harmony, a perfectly tuned chord, complex is all evidence of God stirring His spirit within me and drawing me to connect with Him. It is because of my heightened sensitivity to God in the music I hear that I am so easily touched by what I hear. How beautiful that God would reach out to me and spend time with me in this way.

I am a vessel for God and within me I carry His Spirit, His word, and His love for His people. If I have an unrepaired, gaping hole...a missing spiritual element, then I will not be an effective container, or an effective method of delivery. How can I take Him to others if I am broken? The painful truth is that I can't. I will waste Him on the perverbial dirt floor.

My extraordinary passion for music, even as a young child, reminds me that I am designed by God to crave Him. To be an effective holy vessel for God, I must place a permanent plug in this hole by seeking deep and lasting relationship with Him. No temporary fixes will do! Not food. Not Facebook. Not texting. Not my husband. Not my kids. Not my activities. Nothing but God can permanently plug this hole, and for me, that means deep, significant relationship with the Father who created all things and designed me to crave Him.

Up on the Mountain

Let's be honest, friends; in this campaign through food addiction to cherished freedom, sometimes it's not so easy to keep going. I often find myself in the heat of that lustful craving, and I just can't take another step; I give into my flesh by indulging that physical longing with something delicious, and yet sadly temporary.

I've been knee-deep, waist-deep and in over my head on this pilgrimage since September 2010. Yet, somehow I am able to move through challenges, successes and failures and back, with fresh focus and commitment daily.

How, though? How have I not caved under the sheer exhaustion of this trek across the desert?

I am presently in a leg of my journey that offers me a rare and beautiful treasure: clarity. Sweet friends, I am on the mountaintop! I am experiencing precious freedom and Goliath-sized growth--my food is comfortably under control, I haven't binged in nearly a week now, and I am getting physically stronger everyday.

Seasons like THIS are precisely why I have been able to pick my hurting- and sometimes broken-self off the ground and put one bruised foot in front of the other for seven excruciating long months.

In the crispness of this clarity on the mountaintop, I have power greater than my own, strength I cannot understand and endurance beyond comprehension. Here, life is simple and uncomplicated. Choices are easy. Cravings are joyfully satisfied with relationship with God. Keeping my vow to God to be healthy and exercise daily requires little effort.

Unfortunately, I cannot live on the mountaintop anymore than Jesus could. And neither can you. Because of God's great love for us, we are called to descend the mountain and live in the valleys. It is there that God requires us to apply the strength and endurance we were given in that freedom-experience called the mountaintop, and grow.

The good news? A valley rests between two mountains! So no matter how hard life in the valley may be, your next mountain of sweet relief isn't far away. And while you're there, stand tall. Soak in the panoramic view. Catch your breath. Revel in the exhilaration. Bask in the glorious uninterrupted sunshine. Most of all, sisters, be ready to descend the mountain and live the life God has called you to.