What a true honor it is to introduce you to Mrs. Jillian Lybrand Dean, who I affectionately know as JillyBear. Jillian came on staff in the student ministry in my church when I was in 9th grade and we have been inseparable ever since. Whatever our souls are made of, they’re the same and it is such a sweet gift I cannot truly put words to. Jillian and her husband James Dean live in the great state of Oklahoma where they do ministry and are raising Miss Eliza Kate who we affectionately call EKD 2.0.
As many of you know, my dad died recently of a heart attack. While we so clearly see this was the Lord’s timing and plan, my family has talked about making many changes in our lifestyles to focusing on physical health, what I truly consider to be an act of worship. I pray you hear Jillian’s heart of encouragement in how to truly care for our bodies and what it teaches us about caring for our spirits as well.
May you be half as transformed and inspired by Jillian as I am on a daily basis.
Fast forward to college: My senior year, I worked out regularly, ate pretty well, or so I thought, but my health was the worst it had ever been, and I was in my early 20’s. I won’t go into all the details, but my weight would fluctuate non-stop creating more issues both physiologically and emotionally than ever before. My hair even began falling out. I wanted to sleep all day, had more stomach issues than I would care to remember (or say in mixed company), and my skin was showing signs of my poor health. Definitely not what I went to college for!
I knew I needed help. A family friend recommended a nutritionist and I eagerly went to see him, ready to dive in and see what was going on. He needed a hair sample, I felt like he plucked my last remaining hair, but I was desperate. The results came back and the lists of things and products I should avoid reminded me of something a politician would read during a filibuster. I was overwhelmed, alone, and fearful.
He explained a few things to me about my body: my adrenal gland was shot (I had never heard of said adrenal gland), and I should basically avoid everything that I love: breads, sugars, caffeine. You name it. I probably wasn’t supposed to eat it. So then I asked the question, well what can I eat? I know this sounds dramatic, but I will never forget the blue sticky note he wrote on. It was my food list. Really?!? A Post-It note. Didn’t he know I’m Southern and that sweet tea runs through my veins? He didn’t seem very sympathetic.
He said, “Jillian, I know this seems overwhelming, but right now this is equivalent to a flat tire, and if you don’t fix this now, in a few years you will be having far more issues.” I wish I could tell you I listened to everything and my life was changed… I wish I could, but I didn’t. At that point in my life, I was working extreme hours and truly tried my best, but saw no results. Eventually, I just gave up. Truly deflated.
God placed several people in my life who saw my struggle that encouraged me to revisit what I learned. So I did. I followed the blue sticky note for 30 days. It was just 30 days, right? I actually went 40 and decided that this was probably in my head and I would be fine…I grabbed a sub sandwich and boy did it taste good topped off with a Coke. Within minutes, I felt like I had the flu, my stomach felt like I had eaten a rock, and my muscles were actually aching. I was in bed for two days. I wish I was exaggerating.
It’s so easy to just throw on some Netflix when I’m folding laundry or doing something else around the house. I find favorite shows and get sucked into the season long wormhole, only to be bated into watching the first episode of the next season because the finale was on such a cliffhanger that I couldn’t go another day without knowing how it all turned out.. Unless it’s New Girl… and then you know Zoey will get through whatever problem with her charming smile and carefree attitude! I love her, judge sparingly please! But then as I’m brushing my teeth I think about how much time I spent following a fictional city girl, and how much time I missed getting to know the creator of the universe. I give Jesus my best Zoey smile and promise to do better, but it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen when I don’t carve out time specifically for getting to know my Savior. That’s the challenge I give to you, and one that I have placed upon myself. If we want to clean up the foggy lens we have been looking through, we have to listen to someone who knows what a clear lens is. That’s the important thing about drawing from the Word of God, when I’m doing it, it’s the first voice I hear, and it drowns out my New Girl world.
It’s time consuming reading God’s word. It’s time consuming to have a healthy prayer life. The results aren’t quick and a lot of times it feels like we are stuck on that dreaded machine.. The treadmill. We can feel like we are on a spiritual treadmill, because we expect to humbly rival Mother Theresa after a week of bible study. Sorry, not happening. You have to sweat it out. Put down that chic Bible Study for a day or so and just dwell in His word. Nothing wrong with a bible study, but sometimes those are like turning the treadmill on and then sitting in your lawn chair in the garage drinking sweet tea. You spent time with the machine on but didn’t get any real work done. Don’t let someone else’s work allow you to sit in the lawn chair. Pick up your bible and start the ugly face, “I don’t know if I can make it,” scripture run. Read it, let it marinate in your soul, paraphrase it in your words, ask yourself what your life would look like if you applied it to your life. When you’ve done what you can, pick up a commentary on the passage you just read, now open the bible study… See how much deeper it is when you start the work on your own. FYI. I learn the most when I think I understand scripture and then find out I didn’t have it in the right context… I remember instruction and it pushes me deeper in Jesus.
Matthew 6:22:The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.
Spiritual wellness comes from allowing Jesus to tune you into Himself. See Him! When you see Him for the magnificent savior He is, you will find the rest of your life shifting into alignment. Trials will come, dark days, unfortunately are always on the horizon. Tuning into Jesus gives us the strength to lean into and the perspective that sees eternity in the days ahead instead of our momentary messes.
What are those warning signs that seem to creep up Spiritually? For me, I become less empathetic to His people. I get frustrated easily, and everything can sound insurmountable at the drop of a hat. I second guess my purpose and giftings He has entrusted me with seem to disappear when I’m depending on His words through a second source or even through my own foggy lens. These are the allergens to my spiritual health. They prohibit me from growth and wellness. I need the voice of my Creator. In order to do that… I have to detox , and insert those nutrients of His word so the real absorption begins and my lens becomes more clear. And it isn’t always pretty at first.
Over the last three years of my journey I can tell you this: I feel better physically and that directly impacts my purpose. My spiritual health is a direct measure of my personal health. These go hand in hand for me. I know that my journey is not over, just as my spiritual journey is not. The more growth I see and experience, the more refinement must occur which in return requires more sweat equity. Our Creator designed us to find peace and grace knowing that today is preparation for the days ahead. My desire is to be full of light, in this and through this, I pray my lens would become more clear. I pray that you would see Jesus for all that He is.