Accountability Ideas and Resources

Image Source: iStockPhoto

Image Source: iStockPhoto

Many of you are taking the plunge with accountability partnership! I know it is a bold brave step! I applaud you! Thank you for stepping up and believing God for the NEW thing that he is doing!

Today, I want to provide some resources for you and your partner.

Here are some previous posts on Accountability here at the blog.

  • How to pick an accountability partner. This post goes through some considerations you might want to ponder as you select a partner. If you already have a partner, this post isn’t likely to be terribly helpful. 🙂
  • This post shares a glimpse into how accountability can work for you as I share how it worked for me with my partner.
  • A post and form that I tried with my accountability partner a number of years ago. Click here to go to this post.

You and your accountability partner will want to discuss what works best for you each. What works best for one of you might not for the other, but you could still be successful partners together. For instance, there are some tools at the Thin Within website that some of you can use and benefit from. Some of these, might cause the rest of us to go right back into “dieting mode.” I have experienced both extremes during my own journey, but I share these tools with you now in case they can be supportive to some of you:

  • Food_Log – While different from the usual “diet” food log, it can, nevertheless, trigger dieting behavior, so only consider using this after praying and sensing God’s leadership. Then, perhaps, try it only for a week (or less) and evaluate with the support of your AP (accountability partner).
  • Hunger_Graph – This link shows two pages. The first is a sample page of how the graph looks when filled out. The second page is the blank one. Again, only use this if you think God is leading you to try it. It can be a temporary tool that can help us focus, but it can also challenge some of us with dieting triggers!
  • Observation and Correction– Each time you practice the Key to Conscious Eating, you make a special mark on the screen indicating as much. 🙂 At the end of the day, if you don’t see many marks next to that key, then you know it is likely to be a key you want to work on. Some people use #1 and #8 as their primary boundary (0 and 5 eating) with #s 2-7 being secondary boundaries. It can be best to focus on only one or two of the secondary boundaries at a time.

No matter what you have decided about accountability, you probably want to be structured with your partner to talk about these things each week:

1. What successes have we experienced in our Thin Within journeys? (There should be something here each week. If there isn’t, please email me for input. It could be your partnership isn’t functioning quite the way it is intended and a little input can help.)

2. What successes have we experienced in our accountability partnership? (Hopefully, you are seeing some of these within the first week. These things might include “Our schedules are compatible,” “We both like to text a lot and that is working for us,” “My partner likes to text and that works for me, but she can also talk on the phone every 3 days which is my preference.”)

3. What challenges or hurdles have we experienced in our Thin Within journeys?

4. What observations and corrections have we made?

5. Each of you will want to ask your partner: How can I best serve you in our partnership in the week ahead? If a partner needs more support, if a partner needs less, talk about these things and see if you can reach a happy medium.

Evaluate these things with a simple “Is this working for me?” approach:

  • Number of check-ins – does one of you feel like it isn’t frequent enough? Too frequent?
  • Nature of check-ins – does it feel like the emails are too long? Too short? No response?
  • “Venue” for check in – is the texting, phone calling, emailing approach work for you? Or do you need

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

– Galatians 6:2

Do you have an AP yet? If not, don’t wait any longer! Jump on board. Let’s have an updated response here on this post. If you still need an Accountability Partner, say so HERE on this post, ok? Then, please type out your email address like this: heidi bylsma at gmail dot com (no spaces) or harleys heidi at comcast dot net (no spaces). Then, if you see someone who intrigues you, go ahead and send them an email. No need to wait for me!

Past Sexual Abuse is Often at the Root of Overeating

field of spring grass and sunset

80% of the women who struggle with overeating and overweight have been molested or raped at some point in their life.

That is my best guess.

The reason I guess that the statistic is that high is because so very many of the women I have come to know over the past 13 years have experienced this. I have asked others who teach Thin Within classes and it seems to be a consensus that 8 out of 10 of the participants may have been sexually abused in some way.

My own story is found here.

Mandisa shares in the video below. If you see yourself as one of the 8, I hope you can be encouraged by knowing that you aren’t alone. Mandisa shares what she has done about it, too.

Do you have challenges, trials, trauma in your past that God may be calling you to bring to the cross to invite his healing? Won’t you consider getting in touch with a godly Christian therapist to help you to do so? While this is one of the most difficult things to do, it is also worth what it costs.

HEAL Lesson 6 – 2013 Abundant Life!

Image Source: Stock Exchange

Image Source: Stock Exchange

“Abundant Life” – The phrase brings to mind many things for each of us. For some, it might mean material wealth. For others, being surrounded by friends and family. For still others, it means good health and the freedom to serve others without restraint. Certainly, for as many different people there are on the planet, there would likely be definitions of “Abundant Life.”

The real question, though, is what did Jesus mean when he used the term? He said he came that we might have life and have it abundantly. If he came to give it to us, if we don’t know what it looks like, perhaps we won’t know if we have it. What if, for many of us, this is an untapped resource?

This week we look at a couple of facets of the “Abundant Life Gemstone.” To do this, we will evaluate our lives a bit inviting God, once again, to search us and know us and show us what we need to adjust. He provides the strength to do it. There is a great deal of joy in following his lead!

In the past, many of us were consumed with dieting, calorie counting, weighing, measuring, researching. The countless hours that we invested in the pursuit of “Thin,” actually may have diminished our ability to be sensitive to what God was calling us to do. We may have magnified our longing for thin so much that God became small in our eyes. Can you relate to this?

If so, we don’t need to condemn ourselves. We can, however, be intentional to be sure this no longer happens.

We want to invite God to show us what “Abundant Living” is for us. This will be individual. What it looks like for me, it may not look like for you. But one thing is certain…it will cause us to look more and more like Jesus and he was definitely “others oriented.” He was God focused and driven by a desire to serve people. This isn’t something we want to fabricate, but as we fix our eyes on Him, he will form a heart in us that cares about what He cares about. There is great joy in that place as we welcome his work in our lives, making us less and less myopic and expanding our vision outwardly.

One of the great things about the Thin Within (or HEAL) approach to eating and body image changes is that, while it may take some time and attention to have it be second nature, it will ultimately become second nature. It won’t require our constant attention the way counting, weighing, measuring did. It ultimately frees us to be consumed LESS with ourselves and more with the things that  God intends for us!

Psalm 37:4 says Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desire of your heart.

We are made by God for a life that is filled with so much more than we often settle for. We think we are happiest when we cater to ourselves, but the truth is, we were wired for community, for service, to have a heart for others. We are going to experience a sense of purpose and joy when we live as God intends! THIS is abundant living!

Have a look at Isaiah 58:6-12.

What is the call of God on our lives based on this passage?

What are the promises offered to us when we pursue His will, His way?

Where, according to this passage, is our healing going to be found?

With the Lord, so much of life is sort of the opposite of what “makes sense” to us. Who would have ever imagined that by giving ourselves away, we would actually experience wholeness.

If we haven’t been living this way, now is a great time to make a shift! There is no condemnation for the past. We may have regrets, but God calls us forward! Let’s move forward into our future with him!

This week’s material encourages you to have a look at your friendships. Do you have supportive, loving, encouraging friends in your life and people that you can love and encourage to pursue Christ? Are there any toxic relationships or people in your life who are like that shouting voice in last Friday’s video–spurning you, criticizing you, mocking you for your faith or your approach to eating and weight? Maybe it is time to ask God to show you his will for these relationships. Are they a hindrance to abundant living? Are boundaries needed?

If you still are without an accountability partner, this website exists to support your journey and there are people who posted as recently as last week that they still would like to be partnered up. Remember this is how it works to get an accountability partner:

1. Visit the Accountability Page

2. Post a bit about yourself–how long you have been involved in Thin Within, your current life situation (kids, empty nest, single, etc.), what your availability is for a partner (daily, email only, etc.)

3. Look at the postings there and see if one sounds like a fit for you based on the bit of information that others have posted.

4. Send me a note to heidi bylsma at gmail dot com (no spaces) and let me know the name of the person you want me to send your email address to and that you are interested in partnering up with her.

There is no reason that, if you want an accountability partner, you shouldn’t have one at this point! If not here online, then get a friend in real life to join you for your journey! We are pressing on and in to know Christ more and to be more like him.

In the activities for this week is a challenge to be still in God’s presence. I highly recommend this activity. It is difficult for us to truly be still. But it is well worth working at it. Share with us what God does!

Let’s welcome what God wants to do in us so that we might experience the abundant life that Jesus came to give us. He gave his precious life so that we might experience it. We were made for so much more than what we often settle for!

Assignment This Week:

  • Complete the personal study portion of Lesson 6 in your HEAL book.
  • Post your thoughts, insights, questions, comments here so we can share in the experience together!
  • If you haven’t gotten an accountability partner yet, DO!
  • If you have an accountability partner, now might be a good time to connect with one another and evaluate how it is going, should you continue, in what ways you should tweak your partnership. Be honest with one another. If you are looking for more accountability, just share with your partner this is so. If your availability has changed, tell your partner that.
  • Evaluate your friendships, using the suggestions in the lesson.
  • Complete the “Be Still Before God” activity. Share with us what happened!
  • Come back here on Friday for the final “Group Session”

My Lifeline!

Image Source: iStockPhoto

Image Source: iStockPhoto

Thank you so much for your concern (and prayers) for me after you read Thursday’s blog entry. God reached down and definitely pulled me up. Your kind texts, emails, and calls are cherished.

What do I do when I am in a situation like this? When I find myself face first in the bag of Oreos, chips, or wandering aimlessly in the kitchen looking for something…anything, really…?

Music is something that God has used to reach out to me. Music bathes my mind with his truth. I have to pick the right music, of course. I literally have taken a song and played it over and over and over again so that I get the words going through my mind ALL the time–on purpose.

I want to be able to say “I can’t get that song out of my head.” Especially when it has words like Mandisa’s Lifeline song. Look at these words–a prayer to God:

Here I am
Drowning in a sea of my own choices
Holding a hope by a thread
I’m looking round, I’m calling out
Fear pulls me down
When the waters rush over my head

You are my lifeline
You are my rescue
Strength in my weakness
Light in my darkness
You are my safety
Lifter of my head
The air that I need when
I can’t seem to breathe in
You are my lifeline
You are my lifeline

How many times
How many turns
Will it take till I learn
You reach for me in my need
And when I cry
I know that I’ll faithfully find you
When life comes crashing on me

You are my lifeline
You are my rescue
Strength in my weakness
Light in my darkness
You are my safety
Lifter of my head
The air that I need when
I can’t seem to breathe in
You are my lifeline
You are my lifeline

You’re there in my brokenness and my distress
My rock when I’m strong or when I’m powerless
You hold me in rushing tides when waters rise
And I’ll always find

You are my lifeline
You are my rescue
Strength in my weakness
Light in my darkness
You are my safety
Lifter of my head
The air that I need when
I can’t seem to breathe in
You are my lifeline
You are my lifeline

You are my lifeline
You are my rescue
Strength in my weakness
Light in my darkness
You are my safety
Lifter of my head
The air that I need when
I can’t seem to breathe in
You are my lifeline
You are my lifeline

Writers: Kevyn Gammond, John Pasternak, Michael Chetwood, Francesco Nizza, Paul Lockey
Copyright: Sound And Vision, LLC

When I am backed up against a wall, when I am emotionally drained, when I am angry and know that I need to give a heartache and my response to it to God, sometimes, all I can do is listen to music. Songs like this one wash over me again and again. I do that on purpose. Some might call it brainwashing, but when it is TRUTH, I think that is a wonderful way of changing my thoughts to be pure. I use the words like these, then, for my meditation, as a prayer to God, adding my own words. I end up waking up during the night with these words on my mind, too! It is an awesome way to invite God to renew my mind, to change my thinking. HE is WAY bigger than any memory of my past or any heartache in my present. WAY WAY bigger.

By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life.

Psalm 42:8

Here is the song so you can enjoy it. I hope that it transforms your thinking, too.

To buy this song on Amazon, click here.

To buy this song on iTunes, click here.

What do you do when you struggle with a spirit of heaviness, anger, sadness or some other emotion that attempts to control you? 

Shameless Advertisement! (My Face is RED!)


Some of you have wondered if I do speaking to groups. Absolutely. I love sharing from God’s Word! Whether it is a Thin Within launch event or something broader…like a Praise and Gratitude event! I love it and would love to meet you!

Here is my blurb about speaking found at my other website:

Over the course of my adult life, I have enjoyed speaking with women’s groups and Thin Within groups as well.

Topics include The Grandeur of Gratitude, Freedom Found in Forgiveness, and Breaking Loose of Labels and Shame.

How about a Living Life on the Path of Praise weekend retreat?  This is a four-message retreat weekend (but fewer messages can be managed, too!):

Message 1: Any woman can walk on the path of praise by embracing three gifts Christ has purchased for her. Christ gives us our: Value, Identity, and Purpose. The focus passage is 1 Peter 2:9, 10. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. We do a little hands-on activity with and interact with one another as we laugh together about the various “hats” we wear in life. It is a very encouraging message that focuses your group on “Identity Truths” God says he attributes to us. The goal is to focus the women on WHY we praise with our lives—in all the ins and outs of daily life—we were created and saved to praise! Message length: Approximately 35 min.

Message 2: Is called “Someday My Prince Will Come” and the focus is on WHO we praise. Video footage of Catherine Middleton and Prince William segue into the fact that her wedding would have looked so different had she married anyone else. How is what we are given affected by the One to whom we are betrothed–our great God and King? We look at our wonderful Lord and Savior and His promise that He is coming for his bride. God is transforming us to be his perfect bride. Practical tools are shared, including the God List and Praise-Fest. These are practical tools to use in quiet times and private worship that can lift us out of a pit of despair, keep us from temptation or lift our vision. We integrate worship as the women share what they learn in a moment of looking up some verses themselves…Depending on how much time the women spend sharing and how much music we use, this session can be the longest…about 45 minutes…or it can be extended with more singing and praise.

Message 3: Is “Staying on the Path of Praise–No Matter What”  This message challenges us to evaluate: What will we magnify…the Lord? Or the dust mites of life? Psalm 34:3-5 is a pattern based on David’s experience: Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the LORD, and he answered me;  he delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame. We then spend the rest of our time in 2 Chronicles 20 and King Jeshoshaphat. This, too, is very encouraging and the tool I share with the women is called “Truth Journaling.” It is another practical tool that helps us allow the word of God to renew our minds. This answers the question “WHEN do we praise.” Message length: approximately 35 minutes.

Message 4: Is “Is there Life After Retreat?” or “Surviving Re-Entry” This extends an invitation to the women to come and rest in the Lord. It is a commissioning of sorts. How do we do these things once we are back in our “real lives.” Let’s consider that we aren’t leaving behind the retreat experience. Instead, we are going to a wonderful opportunity to continue to grow as we practically apply the truths we have studied during the weekend. Session length: About 25 minutes long.

I am more than happy to prayerfully work with you and your group to provide you with something that will meet your ministry needs. Just contact me to let me know!

I also offer guided worship experiences. This provides an interactive, opportunity for the women in your group to draw closer to the heart of God through prayer, scripture, and praise.

If you would like more information regarding booking me for a retreat or special event–or even your Thin Within meeting–please contact me at heidi bylsma at gmail dot com (no spaces). I would love to talk about it with you or your women’s ministry team members!

Additionally, I lead worship, too. Some of the best retreats or message times are when we combine both a message from God’s Word and praise our God through song. Here is a page that tells a bit about my worship leading.

Of course, you will want to know what I charge…well, that’s up to God. As long as you can get me there and feed me and put a roof over my head and a bed under my bod ;-), I would love to come, trusting God to provide in whatever way you are comfortable. Some groups have taken love offerings. Some groups have paid what God laid on their heart. I am with him on this ride and trust in His provision. If I can, I would love to do it!

How about you? Has God put a song on your heart (as he has mine) or a message that he wants YOU to share? What will you do to share it? 🙂

HEAL Group Session 05 – 2013


This week’s lesson was perfect for me personally this week. Instead of condemning myself for my mistakes (which I shared here at the blog yesterday), I have been able to press on and in closer to the Lord and receive his acceptance, love, forgiveness and encouragement. Thank you for your kind emails. I appreciate it very much!

You know, legalism lurks in the most innocuous of places in our lives. If we aren’t careful, we can be taken by surprise…and even taken hostage. This week in Lesson 5, we had a chance to evaluate this and expose the legalism wherever it was found. Grace is there–abundant and free–ready to wash over, in, and through us! Like a raft floating down a river, let’s rest and let the current of grace carry us along. This isn’t a “devil-may-care” attitude. We know that Titus 2 says “This same grace that brings salvation teaches us to say no to ungodliness and worldly passions…” But we also know that God has promised that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). We embrace the truth that God has demonstrated his love before we ever have done a single thing that could possibly have “earned” it. In fact, we could not earn it. Period.

In the video below, I share with you as if we were sitting in my living room (or a hotel room in Houston, Texas, as the case may be!).

There is an activity on the bottom of page 89 called “Walking on the Tightrope of Perfection.” I couldn’t actually do this with you for obvious reasons. 🙂 So I used video clips of young women I accessed on a service I subscribe to. When you get to the first one, I am sure you will see why I say doing this actually was so hard for me. In fact, it broke my heart. It was really hard for me to do this activity–even in this format! I can’t imagine how I would feel if we were together trying to do the activity as it is written. I hope that it somehow ministers to you–even with it’s “shock value.” :-/

What creating (and editing) this video did, though, was to help me to ask God to make me sensitive to where legalism exists in my life at all and where it is expressed to others. If someone–like my daughter, son, my husband–was on the tightrope (that you will see in this video), would the way I live be more congruent with saying those things? I hope not! I fear that the answer is yes.

And then I also wonder if I do that to myself as well. If I am the girl on the tightrope, do I shout at myself some of the awful things that I say on the video to the girl trying desperately to perform, to walk on the tightrope while balancing something on her head, using one foot to move a hubcap on the line, holding the pole around her shoulders–all without “messing up?” As you watch the video, you may evaluate if you do it to yourself as well!

Anyhow, if you watch the video below, please know during the tightrope section that I was VERY uncomfortable with that. Don’t hold it against me. It is a dramatization only!

Enough with the disclaimers! LOL! Before you begin the video, please read Psalm 139 out loud. Ask God to continue to help you to know the truths of the Psalm  full well. 

Please share in the comments section below:

  1. From your study this week How does God want to lavish his grace upon you?
  2. How have you lived under legalism rather than grace?
  3.  What does the verse 1 Corinthians 6:12 mean to you?: Everything is permissible for me but not everything is beneficial.  Everything is permissible for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. 
  4.  What did you think of the tightrope illustration/activity in the video? What have you learned? How can you apply what you have learned to your own life? 
  5. Do the journaling questions on page 90 and share the answers to any of them that you feel comfortable doing so. For those of you without the book, here is the activity–you can join us!  Make a list of your favorite foods. Do you allow yourself to eat all of these foods? Without mentally counting up the calories? Why or why not?  Which foods do you ever restrict yourself from having?  Are any of these foods ever stumbling blocks for you?  What does God’s grace seem to indicate?
  6. Share your thoughts about the following verses:

2 Corinthians 12:9

Hebrews 4:16

2 Corinthians 9:8

Ephesians 2:4,5

Finally, how can we  be praying for you?

I hope that evaluating your life, thinking, speaking for ways in which legalism might be present has been helpful for you. More, I hope you will join me in recommitting to being people of grace. Jesus paid the price of all sin on the cross. All shame for sin was paid for too. One benefit of that payment on our behalf is that we might continue, forever, in the grace of God as an ongoing pardon, provision, power, and presence (of God) in our lives!