Dark Glass Ponderings

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. -1 Corinthians 13:12

I love the byline of this book: Satisfying your deepest desire with God, not food.  If you're looking for a book with dieting tips, don't bother with this book.  Lysa's book is about the journey.  Its about finding contentment in God, rather than twinkies.  

After conversations with my husband, I've come to the conclusion that most men don't think of food in the same way women do.  My husband seldom spends time thinking what's for his next meal and for the most part he is content to eat whatever is placed in front of him (not a bad position for a wife to be in).  

Anyhow, high cholesterol has led me to change the way I think about food.  Statistics show that most Americans spend a large portion of their lives gaining and losing the same pounds over and over again.  Lysa's book isn't about dieting, its about giving God control of our eating.  

I don't necessarily think every person needs to be as strict as Lysa is in restricting food, although maybe God will convict me differently later.  I believe its about being led by the Spirit, however.  

I appreciated especially Lysa's reflective questions.  I also love the fact that she includes Scripture to reflect on.  Memorizing and meditating on Scripture is such a key to overcoming sin.  Although I have finished reading this book I plan to spend time journaling on the questions further.

I highly recommend this book, not as a weight loss book but I think this would also be great for those who struggle with any other habit.

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Rhythm of Secrets
Kregel Publications (December 22, 2010)
Patti Lacy


Patti Lacy, Baylor graduate, taught community college humanities until God called her to span seas and secrets in her novels, An Irishwoman's Tale and What the Bayou Saw. She has two grown children and a dog named Laura. She and her husband can be seen jog-walking the streets of Normal, Illinois, an amazing place to live for a woman born in a car. For more information, visit Patti's website at www.pattilacy.com, her blog at www.pattilacy.com/blog, and her Facebook daily Artbites.


Sheila Franklin has masqueraded as the precocious daughter of avant-garde parents in colorful 1940s New Orleans, a teen desperate for love and acceptance, and an unwed mother sent North with her shame.

After marrying Edward, Sheila artfully masks her secrets, allowing Edward to gain prominence as a conservative pastor. When one phone call from a disillusioned Vietnam veteran destroys her cover, Sheila faces an impossible choice: save her son and his beloved…or imperil Edward’s ambitions.

Inspired by a true story, The Rhythm of Secrets intermingles jazz, classical, and sacred music in a symphony trumpeting God’s grace.


“A vibrant journey across time in search of the greatest truth of all: grace.”—Tosca Lee, author of Havah: The Story of Eve and Demon: A Memoir

“No longer a ‘well-kept secret,’ Patti Lacy is a master storyteller who speaks to the soul with a powerful and unique rhythm, weaving a tale so emotionally rich that story and reader become one.”—Julie Lessman, author of The Daughters of Boston series and A Hope Undaunted
“Patti Lacy pens another beautifully written story in The Rhythm of Secrets. I couldn’t put it down!”—Melanie Dobson, award-winning author of The Black Cloister
“The Rhythm of Secrets is a stirring story of faith and endurance that will keep readers turning the page until every last secret is revealed.”—Tina Ann Forkner, author of Ruby Among Us and Rose House

If you would like to read an excerpt of Rhythm of Secrets, go HERE.

Julia's Review:

Patti Lacy's writing is beautiful and lyrical. The characters were well-drawn.  The storyline drew me in.  I was excited about the Vietnam setting, because I really enjoy seeing unusual settings in books.  There were several scenes, however, which crossed my own personal boundaries in terms of content.

I obviously think so and that's what I'm exploring today on The Alley...

Congratulations to AMANDA STEPHAN!!!

Title: The Pirate Queen

Author: Patricia Hickman

Publication Date: 2010

**Special thanks to Waterbrook Multnomah for providing a review copy. The opinions expressed are my own.**

Saphora Warren is the envy of all the women in town. Her husband is a wealthy and innovative plastic surgeon. Her home is being photographed by Southern Living magazine for a cover spread. She has several beautifiul homes and has raised three worldly and successful children. She knows her husband has had multiple affairs, but she has just turned her back on it.

After hosting the garden party, Saphora comes to new realizations about herself and the emptiness of her life and packs her bags to leave her husband. In her halfhearted attempt to leave her husband she is about to walk out the door for their lake home when her husband approaches her with a revelation of his own, he has brain cancer.

Ironically, Saphora ends up nursing her husband at the same lake house where she was hoping to escape him. The character development is well-done, although I found the pacing of the plot to be slow. I loved Katrina’s Wings and the Milkwood Hollow series. In truth, I wonder if my opinion of this book was colored by the timing. I was not in the best frame of mind emotionally when I read this book. I tend to avoid books with cancer as a main subject.

Hickman has been a favorite author in the past and I will definitely seek out more of her books to read in future.

one of my heroes of faith
 Recently Chris and I have been listening to many sermons from Eric Ludy and reading a book about prayer written by Eric and his wife, Leslie.  Ludy's sermons are convicting to say the least.  He must be a voracious reader because he is constantly sharing information on heroes of the faith and building a booklist for our family. 

As a result I've been thinking much about men and women who maintained a vibrant faith and followed the Spirit where He led them. 

The first person who comes to mind is Peter.  He didn't exactly have the greatest start to his life of faith, did he?  He acts on impulse.  He is filled with fear which prevents him from stepping out on the water.  In Jesus' roughest moments, His friend Peter sleeps through the watch.  Next he cuts off the ear of the guard.  He runs away from Jesus, then follows at a distance and denies his Savior three times. 

But Peter's journey wasn't finished yet.  Peter is anointed with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and we see a new Peter.  A Peter who speaks out boldly.  Peter who is imprisoned for his faith...who then miraculously escapes confounding his friends in the early church.  His life ends by an upside-down crucifixion.  The Spirit's work in and through Peter never fails to amaze me.

Peter is just one example of many who inspire me in the Bible.  There's Nehemiah, a man who approached everything with prayer, constantly watching for enemy infiltration.  Noah who took God at His word and followed His instructions precisely.  The Proverbs 31 woman who is diligent and puts her family first in all that she does.  Joshua and Caleb who were strong and courageous in the face of danger.  Mary the mother of Jesus for her gentle and quiet spirit.  The other Mary who gives her all to Jesus at whatever cost.

Who is your Bible hero(es)/heroine(s) and why?

Title: The Discipline of Grace
Author: Jerry Bridges
Publication Date: 1994, 2006

**Special thanks to NavPress for providing a copy in exchange for a review. The opinions expressed are my own.**

Jerry Bridges has quickly become one of my favorite nonfiction authors I have discovered in 2010 and The Discipline of Grace is my favorite book of his to date. This book is Bridge’s attempt to merge the doctrines of grace to the principles of personal discipline.

Bridges’ books are both in-depth and highly applicational. He is very grounded in Scripture and I love the fact that he quotes frequently from the Puritans. When I finished this book I added many of the quotes to my journal.

As a result of reading this book, I have added a new phrase to my vocabulary, “preach the gospel to yourself.” If we spend time every day meditating on Scriptures on what Christ has done for us, particularly Scriptures about the Cross. I love this concept and have tried to incorporate it into my daily routine.

One thing I really appreciate is Bridges honesty and humility. He is willing to share areas where he has sinned and God has brought him to repentance. It seems unusual to find authors who share from their personal life. Makes you feel as though you and he are walking on the path together.

I look forward to reading several of Bridge’s books in 2011 as he has undoubtedly been one of my favorite new authors.

Kathi Macias is one busy woman! She has written both fiction and nonfiction, she does public speaking in various venues. She won the 2008 Member of the Year Award from Advanced Writers & Speakers Association. Her most recent books include The Extreme Devotion Series: No Greater Love, More Than Conquerers, Red Ink, and the upcoming People of the Book (April 2011). Find out more about her at http://www.kathimacias.com/index.html. She also has a new site: http://www.thetitus2women.com/.

Kathi was generous enough to share a recipe that is perfect for gift-giving or just to keep on hand.

“Cake in a Jar”

Betty Crocker cake mix (use pudding recipe on back of box)

Use canning jars—spray inside of jars with PAM and fill jar just under halfway mark

Put jars on a metal cookie sheet in oven; bake according to cake mix directions

When done baking, take jars from oven with tongs and DO NOT ALLOW JARS TO TOUCH EACH OTHER OR THEY WILL SHATTER

While baking take the seal part of the lids and boil in water on the stove. When you take the jars out of oven, put a seal on them and lightly screw on the top. Tighten tops down after jars cool a little.

What is your favorite type of gift to give?

Something personal and/or handmade, since that’s the type I prefer to receive.

Kathi your newest series clearly comes out of a passion for the persecuted church. How did you sense God leading you to write about the persecuted church? Have you traveled to the areas where your books take place? (I love that you are passionate about Voice of the Martyrs. I’m passionate about them and the work they are doing, too! )

Of the four countries covered in the Extreme Devotion series, I’ve been to Mexico only. All the others I had to do intense research on to bring them to life, plus work with people who live in the countries as the stories developed. My passion for Voice of the Martyrs and all the true stories I heard from their publications were the impetus for creating this series, particularly Red Ink, which is loosely based on the true life account of a woman named Li Ying who is currently in prison in China for printing/distributing Christian materials.

If you could travel anywhere you haven’t been to before, where would you go and why?

Israel! Each time I’ve planned to go, something came up and I wasn’t able to do so. My dream is to go there before I die, but if not, I’ll certainly see the New Jerusalem afterward, won’t I?

Which character in your books do you most closely relate to and why?

Probably Chioma in No Greater Love. She was a strong-willed young woman, and I’ve always been that way, though probably not nearly as noble as Chioma proved to be. My prayer is that God will continue to draw me closer to Him so that I might want day resemble Zhen-Li in Red Ink.

I’m so excited to see that you are part of a Titus 2 Women’s ministry site. Can you tell us a bit more about this ministry?

Tbis ministry was a couple of years in the making, as we prayed about/discussed it before launching it recently (www.thetitus2women.com). We believe it is a scriptural concept for the older women to teach the younger, and we seven ladies are all “mature” and have been in the Christian publishing industry for decades. It is our desire to minister/help the younger women who are coming along behind us to prepare to take the baton and continue to run the race. What a privilege and honor God has given us!

As a mother of two, I love that you have a book about biblical examples of mothering. Who is your favorite mother in the Bible and what do you think younger mothers can learn from her?

Because I married so young (18) and moved away with my military husband, I didn’t really have a role model close by. With two children by the time I was 20, I certainly needed one! I suppose that’s why I relate to Eve, who was the first mother and had no one to turn to for advice or comfort. That realization has completely changed my perception of her.

What is your favorite part about being a mother?

When my children (who are all long-since grown and gone with children of their own) come home and I get to wrap my arms around them in welcome. Don’t you imagine the Father feels that way (on a much grander scale, of course) when He welcomes one of His own? Makes me that much more anxious for my own heavenly homecoming!

Can you share with us a favorite writing tip?

Just do it! If God has gifted/called you to write, stop putting it off. Don’t let that book/story/poem/song die inside you. Start today! It doesn’t have to be perfect; writing is a craft that is learned over the years. But if you keep putting it off until tomorrow, it will never happen.

Do you have any favorite writing related rituals?

No. I’m a trained journalist, and I simply sit down and start working as I would at any other job. I do have to discipline myself to stay away from Facebook and emails, though—a terrible distraction, I’m afraid!

Would you like to leave us with a short excerpt from Red Ink, your latest release?


By Kathi Macias


Yang Zhen-Li was nearing thirty but at times felt twice that old. Her back was becoming permanently bent forward from the heavy pails she carried daily, one attached on each end of the thick bamboo rod that stretched across her shoulders, mirroring the heaviness of her heart. There had been a time when she’d been acclaimed as a beauty, but she could scarcely remember why…or imagine that it would matter.

She tried to fight the encroaching darkness, tried to hold fast to what she knew was true, but the constant lies and propaganda were taking a greater toll even than the physical labor and abuse or the burning, gnawing hunger. If her situation didn’t change soon, she knew she would never live long enough to see her husband or son again. And with nearly eight years of her ten-year sentence left to serve, the possibilities of her emerging from prison alive grew dimmer by the day.

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. She forced herself to focus on one of the many scripture verses she’d had opportunity to memorize between the time she accepted Zhu Yesu as her Savior and her arrest by members of the Public Security Bureau (PSB) on charges of teaching religion to children, including giving them papers containing religious writings. Even before her arrest, her parents had written to her—warned her, begged her, threatened her—and finally had her kidnapped in an attempt to convince her to go along with the government rules, especially the one limiting each family to one child. After all, she already had a healthy son. Why would she want another baby when they could scarcely afford to feed the first one? But though her abductors had forcibly aborted her second child, they had not succeeded in convincing Yang Zhen-Li to abandon the faith she had adopted before marrying her Christian husband. If anything, the ordeal had only strengthened her resolve to take a stand for the meaning of her name—Zhen-Li, “Truth,”—and spurred her to begin actively sharing the Good News of Yesu every chance she got. As a trained teacher, that quite naturally included talking with children about the gospel, a practice expressly forbidden by the government.

And now she was paying the price. Separated from her family and sentenced to ten years of hard labor and “re-education,” Zhen-Li struggled to survive against pain, exhaustion, and bitter loneliness. Worst of all were the times she felt God had abandoned her. It wasn’t enough to know in her mind that He promised never to leave or forsake her. She needed a visible reminder—soon—if she was to continue to remain faithful behind these prison walls.

Thank you so much for being here, Kathi!

My pleasure! I look forward to hearing from your readers/followers!
GIVEAWAY: I have a full set of Kathi's Extreme Devotion series for giveaway.  This includes: No Greater Love , More Than Conquerers AND Red Ink. 
(1) Please enter your email in this format:
name (at)  wherever (dot) com
(2) Answer the following question in the comment section: Have you ever read a fictional book that impacted your faith? 
I will draw the winner's comment number using random number generator on Tuesday January 18, 2011.

Title: No Greater Love

Author: Kathi Macias

Series: Extreme Devotion #1

Macias surprised and delighted me in the first book of her new series. Delight probably isn’t the right word in many ways considering the subject matter. No Greater Love is a story of Chioma who falls in love with the white plantation owner’s son, in apartheid-era South Africa. The events that transpire will change the perspectives and lives of everyone Chioma and Andrew touch.

I would definitely list No Greater Love as among the most spiritually impacting reads for 2010 for me. It is rare to read a fictional book that doesn’t just inspire, but challenges you in your faith. Macias’ book was just such a read for me. I find reading Voice of the Martyrs newsletter some of the most faith-building reading. We live in a nation that is fat with many sorts of temptations both within and without the church. Reading about the persecuted church provides a reminder of true and deep faith.

The characters were well-portrayed. Sometimes in fiction I feel that the villains are often portrayed in a way that is cardboard. Macias shows the multi-faceted battle between good and evil. As in many historical events both sides of the battle battled with evil ultimately ending in tragic acts of violence.

I’m challenged in my faith. While I am struggling with the temptation of eating the wrong types of food, many are starving yet filled with a faith that convicts me deep to my soul.

If you are looking for fiction that goes beyond entertainment to challenge your spirit, I highly recommend this book. It is oftentimes not an easy read. It is devastatingly sad with some violent content. Amidst these pages I was touched deeply, emotionally and spiritually in a way I seldom have been reading a Christian novel.

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

WaterBrook Press; 1 edition (December 14, 2010)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***


Chantel Hobbs is a life coach, marathon runner, personal trainer, wife, and mother of four. Her amazing story of losing two hundred pounds and keeping the weight off has been featured on Oprah, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Fox & Friends, Life Today with James Robison, The 700 Club, and Focus on the Family Radio—and in People and First magazines. Hobbs hosts a weekly radio show and is the on-air fitness expert on the WAY-FM radio network. She is also a regular guest on the KLOVE radio network. Hobbs is a frequent speaker to women’s groups and makes personal appearances at fitness conventions. The developer of The One-Day Way Learning System and the author of four books, including Never Say Diet and The One-Day Way, Chantel lives with her family in south Florida.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $19.99
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press; 1 edition (December 14, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0307457842
ISBN-13: 978-0307457844


The Battle over Blue Jeans

People, Here Is My Deal!

For as long as I can remember, I have loved clothes and makeup. Even when I weighed close to 350 pounds, I experimented with trendy hairstyles while checking out the latest plus-size fashion catalogs.

When I was in elementary school, I would spend afternoons with my sister Christy, sitting on the floor of the closet in the decked-out pink bedroom we shared. This was a supersized closet where we would set up our Barbie dolls for fashion shows. Because I had blond hair and Christy was a brunette, it was only natural for me to pretend to be Barbie and her to be Skipper, Barbie’s little sister. At least that’s how I sold the idea to Christy. As we grew up and began to put our dolls away, I still enjoyed being prissy, often spending way too much time in front of a mirror.

Even as a young mother, I was a fashionista. I’ll never forget entering the hospital to have a scheduled cesarean to deliver my son Jake. I had spent the day before the delivery getting a pedicure and manicure and shopping for a matching nightgown set. Really, I did this! As I lay on the table in the operating room, the doctor arrived and started to chuckle. “Well, Chantel, I can see nothing about this is going to be a natural delivery.” All I could say was, “At least I left the false eyelashes at home.” I was only half kidding.

One reason I went overboard with my appearance was because I loved hearing friends and family comment on how together I looked. Even while having a baby, I wanted to look great. But today, in hindsight, I feel seriously sorry for the woman I used to be. She was always exhausted from trying to maintain her unreal image. Plus, I knew deep down that I wasn’t fooling anyone but myself. My weight problem wasn’t going to vanish underneath fancy clothing and attempts to camouflage my problem areas. I really did know that owning an all-black wardrobe wouldn’t keep my body issues a secret.

But back then I had convinced myself I needed to make a serious effort to look pretty from the neck up because I was too overweight for the rest of me to look decent. I rationalized that if I could highlight my best features, people would see my positive attributes and look past my greatest flaw: my obese body. At this point my life was one big head game.

I’ll never forget the weekend I went on a business trip with my husband, Keith, to Bermuda. This was a dream coming true for someone who spent most days watching Barney and folding laundry. But when we started to pack, panic set in. Bermuda is one huge beach, and I knew I’d embarrass my husband if I wore a swimsuit in front of his bosses and work friends. On the other hand, this was Bermuda! It was a free trip and a chance to escape the zoo I called home!

After we boarded the plane, I found my seat and immediately put a jacket over my waist. This was a trick I had learned from previous travel experiences, and it almost always worked. If I could hide where the seat belt was supposed to be, the flight attendant wouldn’t notice that mine was unbuckled. The truth is, I did this because I couldn’t connect the seat belt. I was too big around. This time, however, my system failed. As the attendant stopped by our row, she asked me to buckle my seat belt. As I struggled to latch it, she stood impatiently with one hand on her hip. I whispered that I was having trouble making it fit.

So being the sensitive, tall, and freakishly thin woman she was, she shouted to her co-worker, “Could you look in one of the overhead compartments for a seat-belt extension?”

I was mortified. I closed my eyes and tried to pretend the attendant was talking about someone else. A few moments later she handed me the hated seat-belt extension, and I fastened the thing as quickly as I could. I promise you, I could feel the pity of strangers as they witnessed my hame. But instead of shedding tears, I did what I had rehearsed in previous situations. I took a deep breath and grabbed Keith’s hand, squeezing it for dear life as the aircraft took off. My vacation is off to a great start, I told myself. I can’t wait to see what other embarrassing moments lie ahead.

Surprisingly, our Bermuda trip ended up being the trip of a lifetime. The island was beautiful, the water was the clearest blue I had ever seen, and I felt beautiful for the entire week. Strangely, it was another young mother, the wife of one of Keith’s co-workers, who was mostly responsible.

Each day I would get dolled up and make my entrance into the meeting room for the company’s group breakfast. This girl went out of her way to say something sincere and extraordinary about the way I looked, morning after morning. She would also ask me for fashion advice. By her looks, she didn’t need any, certainly none from me. Yet she still inquired and never in a condescending way.

Best of all, she never breathed the dreaded words “You have such a pretty face.” The trip to Bermuda taught me the intense power we all have when we speak to someone, especially to a person who is feeling weak and vulnerable. Just by saying something simple and positive, we can brighten someone’s outlook, even if it’s only for a few seconds.

For most of my life I had become accustomed to backhanded compliments. When it came to my weight and all my failed attempts to lose it, I had heard everything. I’d try yet another diet, and two weeks into it over and over I would hear from those around me, “Now keep up the good work.” And I would always think, Are you kidding? I’m trying here. Just tell me “good job,”

and don’t worry about whether I lose another dad-gum pound. I get that you are letting me know I have a long way to go!

Yet Another New Start

Coming home from Bermuda, where I felt sincere acceptance, I had real hope. I felt different. I was relaxed, revived, and encouraged. I decided that I was ready to give weight loss another shot. As I set out to lose weight for the eighty-sixth time in my life, I felt prepared. I bought the latest diet book from Sam’s Club and a twelve-pack of muffins. I rationalized the muffin purchase by telling myself I needed to have one last hurrah.

On Monday my plan was to go for it. I would try with everything in me not to let anything stand in my way. Of course, I didn’t see any need to crack open the new book I’d bought until the weekend was over! What would a few more days of indulgence hurt?

Then Monday arrived, and I made my grand entrance at the gym. I even went back three days in a row. The only problem was that by the end of the week I was hanging out more than working out. I’d been trying to get David, the juice bar owner, to tell me his recipe for the yummy chocolate–peanut butter protein shake I was ordering every day. The first clue it wasn’t all that

healthy should have been the chocolate syrup he poured in. But I told myself, if it’s made on gym property, how bad could it be?

By the time the week ended, I had followed the plan in my recently purchased book and had my cheat day. Not surprisingly, I quickly indulged in an entire cheat weekend. However, I managed to get back to the gym the following Monday. The plan I was on was doable, and even with halfhearted efforts, I was slowly losing weight.

After shedding about twenty pounds, I decided I needed some new clothes. This was kind of funny, especially since not one person had noticed that I had lost an ounce. As I said earlier, I’ve always loved fashion. But at this point, with my weight so high, I was stuck wearing mostly dresses and skirts. I just couldn’t face the prospect of trying to fit my behind into a pair of pants

at Lane Bryant. But now, since I was feeling pretty good about myself and getting results, I headed over to the Coral Square Mall. I was there to hunt down a pair of blue jeans. Even if I had to lie down to zip them and not breathe while I wore them, I was determined to come home with new jeans.

I picked up three pairs with plenty of stretch to take into the dressing room. Once the door was closed, though, no amount of sucking it in, squeezing hard, or holding my breath got the jeans up to my waist. I couldn’t make any of them fit. As I held the jeans up and looked in the mirror, I wondered how anyone could stand to look at me. I was a disgusting blob of pain and misery.

I had left home that day feeling good about my progress. I was finally losing some weight. But after a few minutes in a dressing room, I wanted to die. How had I let myself become this pathetic mess of a woman?

A few Cinnabons later I went home. Two weeks after my blue jean horror show, I found out I was expecting. A month into the pregnancy I miscarried due to a badly infected gallbladder, and I ended up having emergency surgery. I wondered if I would ever change my life or if I would die first. Death seemed like perhaps the only escape out of this prison.

About six months later I had an unforgettable encounter with God. I was alone in my car, driving home from a meeting. I had reached my lowest point ever, and I let God in. I had known Him for years, ever since I had been saved from an eternity separated from Him. As a little girl in Sunday school, I had asked Jesus into my heart to save me from my sins. What I needed now, as a desperate, hurting, damaged woman, was to be saved from myself. I was still trying to run my own life.

God had whispered my name through many embarrassing moments and hurtful situations; I just never answered. But that night, alone in my car, He finally got through to me. I experienced a supernatural intervention. And it compels me now to tell my friends, my clients, and my readers my Lazarus story.

An Incredible Second Chance

Remember the story of Lazarus in the Bible? When Jesus brought him back from the dead, and we’re talking dead as a doornail (he was four-days dead), I imagine all he wanted was to blow a trumpet and tell the world about his miracle. Today I feel a similar kind of zeal resulting from my own miracle. As I surrendered all the pain of my lifelong weight problem to God, my heart

began a major shift. God gave me a deep desire to go to work. For the first time, I took on the task of losing the weight with Him in charge. I was no longer alone as I had been in the past. By allowing God, who never breaks a promise, to give me the strength, self-control, and focus I needed, how could I fail?

Ten years later I am on the same course He set for my life that night. My life is still filled with unexpected moments, both tragedies and celebrations. But I have never looked back.

After going on to lose two hundred pounds, I designed my own fitness and weight-loss program and became a certified Spinning teacher, personal trainer, and marathon runner. I love feeling strong, being healthy, and knowing I’m not a slave to my former appetites. Often I run into people I haven’t seen in many years. They may have known me as the overweight girl with a

pretty face. And if I dare to attempt a reacquaintance, I am usually in for a good laugh.

I’ll never forget one woman from a church I attended years earlier. I ran into her at the grocery store and tried to convince her who I was. “You aren’t really Chantel from West Lauderdale Baptist,” she insisted. I tried to get her to believe it was me, just an improved version. I think she finally accepted the truth, but it took awhile.

I am proud of the woman I have worked to become. However, I am most thankful that God rescued me from a place where I had lost all hope. God’s care for me and His work in my life give me the strength to stay on course. Now, after writing four books and producing a learning system for weight loss and fitness, I can see that God continues to use me as a voice of real-life

experience. A big part of my message is this: let me help you stop sabotaging yourself and your life. I know, from hard experience, how to overcome self-defeat. Every day I get to hear the stories of people who were losing hope, as I was, and now are finding the life they had dreamed of. I receive e-mails from women who have heard me speak, read one of my books, or heard me on the radio and now are surrendering their failed attempts to God. They are learning the truth and power of surrender and then doing the hard work of changing their lives.

In my work of helping people reclaim their health, I never know what is coming next. Recently I got a call from my publicist. She was so excited she could hardly tell me the news. “While you are in New York later this week to do The Today Show and Fox and Friends, a major women’s magazine wants to set up a photo shoot.”

I screamed. I couldn’t help it. Not only would the exposure help sell my book, but doing a photo shoot in New York, as the author of fitness books, was an experience I never dreamed I’d have. When I weighed nearly 350 pounds, an opportunity like this never entered my mind.

I couldn’t wait, but I had to. It was still a few weeks away. As New Year’s came and went, I was more careful than ever about fitting in all my workouts and eating clean. (Clean eating is the best way for me to think about food that delivers maximum energy with a reasonable calorie content.) When the day arrived, a driver came to our New York hotel to take Keith and me to the shoot. In the previous week, I had given my measurements to a stylist. She informed me she would be shopping for the clothes I would wear for the photo shoot. To use a term from my Southern-rooted parents, I was in hog heaven! I used to be the woman who was embarrassed to tell anyone her sizes, and now I had someone else buying me clothes based on them! The great part was the freedom in sharing what size I was. For the first time, I felt no shame.

When we arrived at the studio, I noticed that the loft where the photographer had scheduled the shoot was trendy and chic. It had sky-high ceilings complete with lots of lights and screened umbrellas to ensure perfect lighting. Taking up an entire wall was a buffet of food the magazine had catered for the event, my event! All of it was healthy fare with me in mind.

As I entered a dressing room, fun music filled the air. A makeup artist and hairstylist began their magic. I listened while they talked about their past work. One had done Heidi Klum’s makeup not long before, and the other spoke of doing the makeup for big names on a major movie set. I was a little overwhelmed with the emotion of the moment. I felt like I was back to playing Barbie dolls with my sister.

After hair and makeup were underway, the stylist had me try on all the clothes she had bought. We settled on a great pair of designer jeans with a sleek white sweater and a trendy hot pink top. I put on the heels she had purchased—a perfect fit—and some fabulous jewelry. Then I was whisked away to the main part of the studio. In that moment I felt like a million bucks.

It was then the stylist asked me what I believed to be an insane question: “Where are your old blue jeans?” At first I couldn’t believe I had heard her right, but I knew what she was getting at. She said the creative director wanted me to hold up a supersized pair of pants in the photo to show the dramatic contrast represented by clothes I had worn in my previous life.

I understood the point of playing up the shock value. Shoppers standing in line at the supermarket checkout would be amazed by the pants I had once filled out. But the idea that I would have to display a symbol of the old life I had left behind made me feel sick, like I had never lost a pound. How could I hold up a pair of jeans that represented my old humiliation?

I explained to the stylist that not only had I not brought a pair of jeans but I didn’t feel comfortable doing this. As I held my breath, a few phone calls were made, and the shoot continued without the troubling reminder of my past. It turned out to be a great experience, and I was pleased with the photographs. However, I felt a little angry and upset with myself. Hadn’t I moved on past my old image? I could now fit two of me inside my old jeans, so why was this such a big deal? I also wondered if readers might have been helped by seeing me holding up the pants I used to wear. Why couldn’t I just smile into the camera with confidence even if I was standing behind a pair of my old jeans?

I Will Never Return

Back in my hotel room, I awoke in the middle of the night still thinking about the photo shoot. Finally I could see clearly what had offended me. Supersized blue jeans were a symbol of major pain in my life. Holding them up in front of me would not feel as if I was showcasing success. I was now on an exciting journey to share my life and my program to help other people. I had ditched the old jeans, just as I had ditched diets—and both of them for good! Sure, I will always be able to relate to the woman who desperately tries to zip up a pair of pants in a store’s dressing room. But I didn’t want to spend another special moment of my life sharing the spotlight with my former self. I had crossed the point of no return. I now knew without question that I would never go back.

I have a completely new deal, one that focuses on living my new life, the life that God led me to when I fell into my darkest moment. The old me had long wanted to leave behind the constant torment of being overweight and undisciplined. That life is now over. My new deal is much sweeter than I dreamed was possible.

You can have the same deal! You can start living a life of security and freedom. You can be released from the prison of defeat, failure, and negative self-image. And best of all, the new deal we’re going to explore is guaranteed to last.

I won’t ever return to being the person I started out as. There is no going back. And I’ll show you how to take full advantage of the same deal!

My take:

Ok, obviously I chose to read this book because I do love food. I love cooking, I love eating. I love the smell of food and the appearance of a perfectly garnished plate of steak and potatoes. When I found out my cholesterol was high a few months ago, I knew I needed to make some dietary changes, but I didn’t quite know where to begin. I chose this book in hopes it would offer practical suggestions on healthy eating.

I decided to read this book after hearing Chantel speak on a Christian radio program. This was a great inspirational book in terms of emphasizing God-directed freedom as the key to health and fitness. Where this book fell short for me was in the application. I was hoping for recipes, fitness plans, etc. I was quite inspired reading the author’s story of her loss of 280 pounds and more importantly her change in her self-view. Perhaps the practical application is found in Ms. Hobb’s other books. I do plan on reading another book of Chantel’s since I find her story very inspirational.

Here are some of my favorite fictional favorites. I finished one of these books last night.  Note: not all of these books were published in 2010, although I read them all in 2010.  I know its typically a top 10 list, but since my reading lists are somewhat shorter than some bloggers I've chosen five. 

In 2011 I would like to read more women's fiction since that is the genre of my work-in-progress.

How about you?  Do you have any genre that you would like to read more of in 2011?

I'm sharing thoughts on Resolution at Reflections in Hindsight.  

Also thanks to Amber for the Awesome Sauce Award.  I haven't seen this one before, but Amber has a great blog as I'm sure I've mentioned here on several occasions.

Julia M. Reffner

About Me

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Christ-loving bookworm & homeschool mom of 2 stealing the rare quiet moments to pursue that all elusive writing dream. I also write book reviews for Title Trakk and The Historical Novel Society.


Contributor at The Writer's Alley:


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