“Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself.”
(1 Corinthians 6:19 NLT)

By Valerie Sercu

With the New Year here, many people make resolutions to eat better and live a healthier lifestyle. My personal testimony is about how when I became physically healthy it directly impacted my spiritual development and relationship with Christ.

I am 37, married, and have two small children. I guess you can say I have always been “athletic.” I ran my first 5k at age 6, swam on swim team at age 7, made it to state in hoop shoot basketball at age 8, and ran track in high school.  So, I did have the mental training and dedication to strive to be better in whatever I was out to achieve.  That was all great and good, however during that time I was dealing with ugly realities in life that I had no control over. Sexual abuse as a young child. Moving to another state at 12 years old. My parents divorcing when I was 14, and my mother and my only sibling moving out of my daily life. 

Although always growing up in church, and accepting Jesus at age 6, I dealt with my pain through many years of various addictions. I smoked cigarettes for 17 years.  Yes, do the math; I started smoking at age 12!  And remember I said I ran track in high school?   Well I did, but during track practice when everyone was running down to the pier and back, I was running to my house, watching All My Children, puffing on a few Marlboro Light 100s.  I would then dab some water on my face to make me shimmer, pop in a piece of Wrigley’s double mint, then head back to the school  track, bragging on what a great workout I had!  I did that for YEARS!  

Not only did I struggle with my pack (or more) of cigarettes a day habit, but I had also a serious food addiction for 15 years. I grew up with parents who had a very unhealthy relationship with food, and I am sure I learned some of the impulsive obsessive behaviors that they had. The rest of the behaviors I took on as my own, and the beast lived in my head for too many years and could have taken my life more than once. 

I tell you these things so you will know that living a healthy lifestyle does not come natural to me. It is something I have fought for and I have learned to redefine as I live each day focused on how God desires me to live. I have always believed that what goes in is what comes out. Garbage in, garbage out.  Whether that is the food that we feed ourselves, the thoughts we allow in our head, or the people that we surround ourselves with. If we know where we want to be, we have to do the work and begin something, and see it through fruition. 

The turnaround in my life began when I saw other people in my life achieving great accomplishments. I wanted to stop being a victim and begin to be victorious.  I always had the dream of running in a marathon. I had that voice in my head that said, “You can’t. Valerie, you’re a smoker. You never follow through on anything. You will fail.” But one day, I CHOSE to tell that voice to take a long walk off a short pier, and I put my last cigarette out. The only logical decision then was to set the date for my first marathon. Which is what I did.

For me, when I began training, I would plug in my mp3 (this was before the iPhone, people), and listen to praise music while I ran.  Before I knew it, the tears were flowing and I had several miles behind me.  The burdens that I was carrying when I started were left on the pavement behind me. When I felt tired, I would chant to myself, “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.”

When you decide to live a healthier lifestyle and incorporate exercise into your routine, don’t be discouraged with its challenges.  Like my Italian grandma Rose would say, “It’s like making a lasagna…one layer at a time.” You may choose to have an accountability partner, friend or spouse to support you, or use your own voice for encouragement. This is such a magnificent time of year in Florida. A perfect time to get outside with your kids, ride your bike or walk with a friend. With small kids at home, I try to fit exercise in when I can. I will walk/run my son to school. Or when my kids are napping, I will use Exercise on Demand on the TV for an amazing workout in my living room. Just try to be creative and make it fun. There is a great program called Couch to 5k that can inspire you to get on track for living a healthier lifestyle. You may also be encouraged by running/walking for a cause.  Because of Ezra is one that touches me a lot, and motivates me. 

The Holy Spirit will find you and touch you wherever you are.  We just need to give Him our time and open our hearts to listen to Him.  His presence is so mighty and He can bring you healing from years of pain, even through exercise!

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