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In October 2007, I arrived at the First Place 4 Health Wellness Week in Round Top, TX, a physical wreck. I was a diabetic on insulin, weighing well over 300 pounds, who could barely walk without getting out of breath. I avoided stairs at all costs, and had given up all hope of ever losing weight and keeping it off. I knew nothing about the First Place 4 Health program except what I had read on the internet, while searching for a Christian health spa, and in a book by Carole Lewis that I purchased after signing up to participate. Talk about a leap of faith – I had jumped in with both feet!
Then I met Carole Lewis and my amazing First Place 4 Health family, and spent a week immersed in their love and encouragement. I was doing a daily Bible study from Renewing Hope, meeting with the Lord and drawing closer to Him, completing several exercise classes, and walking an incredible 59,360 steps through His strength. Before the week was over, I told Carole, on an early morning walk, that next year I would return and she would see a lot less of me, setting a goal of losing 100 pounds. Little did I imagine all the other changes that would occur in that year.
Through the years I had lost weight many times, using just about every diet one could name, including low carb, grapefruit, cabbage soup, diet pills, and everything in between, but I would always regain the weight and more. What I discovered through First Place 4 Health was that I had only been addressing the physical side of a four-sided person who desperately needed balance in her life.

When I surrendered totally to Christ, He gave me the strength to do what I could not do alone. Losing weight is hard work, but He is faithful to provide each day what I need to “…run with perseverance the race set before us” (Hebrews 12:1) if I “…press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

Hebrews 12:1 has become my life verse and God confirmed that to me in several ways. I arrived at Round Top with a t-shirt in my suitcase bearing that verse, only to discover it was the week’s memory verse. Then in April 2008, I entered my first 5K race, whose theme was that verse, so now I have another t-shirt, a travel mug, and even a backpack to remind me of those precious words.

 

The morning of my first 5K race I arrived at the starting point and really just wanted to go home, when all the “jocks” started strutting around and stretching. As I was pondering doing just that, my provider, the Lord God, brought a former student into my path, whose mom was recovering from knee problems and needed someone to walk with. Praise God for Valerie, who walked every step of the way with me (and a few extras when we got off course because everyone else was so far ahead that we couldn’t see them anymore). I was encouraged and got to share First Place 4 Health with her as we walked the entire route in a blazing time of one hour, two minutes, and 39 seconds!

 

A critical part of success in First Place 4 Health is encouragement and accountability to others, but when I returned home from Round Top, there was not a group in Topeka, KS, for me to attend. I drove to Overland Park (65 miles each way) for several months and was blessed by the leadership of Jan Rice and fellowship with a tremendous group of encouragers. After a few months, I started my own group at my home church and that group became two. God has blessed me with a dozen members who encourage, uplift, and hold each other and me accountable.

Spiritual growth has been the best part of this entire process. My daily quiet time is something I anticipate each morning. Whether it is spent outdoors walking and talking with the Lord, or inside curled up on the couch with a cup of coffee or hot tea, it is a critical part of my life. First Place 4 Health Bible studies are so well written and the Lord has used them to draw  me closer to Him. Until I went to Wellness Week, I had never kept a spiritual journal, but now it is a critical part of my walk with Christ. Looking back through the pages, I can see God’s faithfulness in my life as I re-read prayers and praises to Him. I am learning that feeding on His word is better than any food I crave and doesn’t bring guilt from overeating.

This year in October, I arrived at the First Place 4 Health Wellness Week at Round Top as another person in so many ways – an incredible 100 ¼ pounds lighter, no longer using insulin, leading two FP4H groups at my church, and even becoming the FP4H networking leader for Kansas. I have walked over 1400 miles, biked over 100 miles, and take the stairs just because I can!


What’s next? I’m waiting on God to tell me, but I already know He has big plans for me in my First Place 4 Health ministry. I’ll be at Wellness Week next year and I can hardly wait to see what incredible changes the Lord will make in me when I give Him another year. I invite you all to join me at the Wellness Week 2009 in Round Top next year, but especially I encourage you to get on the road to health and run with perseverance the race set before you!!

 

Jan Norris
Topeka, KS

 

 

 

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Steve Reynolds, the senior pastor of Capital Baptist Church in Annandale, Virginia, implements the First Place 4 Health program at his church. Carole Lewis wrote the Foreword to Steve's book.