To my husband, through life’s many ups and downs. I’m glad we’re in it together.
Oh and also, I currently have an obsession with French music. Don’t ask.
Last Sunday during the sermon being preached at church, I was mentally running through ideas of things that I probably needed to fast from in my life, when this thought occurred to me: I wish I could fast from myself.
Seriously though. I was just having a morning where I was soooooo sick of myself! Do you ever have moments (or days. or weeks) like that? I felt so aware of how incredibly selfish I am. I mean really, every single little thing in my life is about me, even when I don’t think it is. When Riley has a rough night, I think about how hard it is for me to lose sleep. When she has a great night or day, I think about how great and helpful that is to me. I countdown the hours (or minutes) until naptime or bedtime so that I can have “me” time. When Jordan and I get into tiffs or have some sort of tension between us, I primarily think about how it affects me and how I feel. When someone says or does something that causes me to feel a certain way, I focus on the way it makes me feel rather than on what might be going on with them. When I do wrong things, it is because I was thinking only about myself and wanting instant gratification. When I do right things, it makes me feel good about myself and think about what a good person I am. Even the most selfless of deeds in my life, are still kind of about me. Because they make me feel good. They make me feel like I’m doing a good job. When I am most keenly aware of my failures, I sulk in self pity. When I am most joyful in my victories, I glow in self righteousness. Me, me, me, me, self, self, self, self… are you getting tired of it yet? I know I sure am.
I mean shoot, even my blog points to myself in many ways. Even though I fully believe that this blog is a great outlet for me, a hobby that I enjoy, and a gift that God has given me; even though I have seen that God has used it (and is using it) to work in others’ lives and draw them closer to Him and it is a ministry in many ways, it still has me all over it and I cannot divorce even my most selfless writing from myself. Even though God gets glory from the things I write about, if we’re honest I get a little glory too.
Ugh, and it’s just exhausting. I feel like I need a vacation from myself.
Tonight while frustrated with these things, I had this thought: I must be an annoying daughter to have.
The God of the Universe is my Father, and He calls me daughter. Psh. Bad call on His part, right? I’m so wrapped up in myself, I must be a really annoying daughter for Him to have.
But then something else came to me. Almost immediately and powerfully as if it were from a source outside of my own heart, this stronger image struck me: my own daughter, Riley. Would I ever, ever call her an annoying daughter to have? NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS!!! It doesn’t matter if it was the worst, most difficult day with her. Even on a day full of tantrums, and constant displays of how self consumed she is (hello, welcome to toddler life), I am still nothing short of enthralled with that little beauty. I would still post 29389872 pictures of her on Instagram, give a Facebook shout out to the cute and silly things she does, get teary eyed when I think about how much she is growing, and watch videos of her with my husband before we go to bed.
What humbling, sweet truth that is. Even on my worst days when God sees all of the things I listed above in me, His response is: “I am still nothing short of enthralled with that little beauty.” As silly as it may sound, I think if God had an Instagram account, pictures of me would be posted on there. Of you too. Scripture is clear in communicating that, as His daughter, He delights in me and I can never quite imagine just how deep and strong His love and affections are for me.
I even believe that part of having the opportunity to be a parent is to help us to understand that more tangibly.
I don’t need a “vacation from myself.” I need a Savior from myself. And He already came. He bought me with His blood, my mistakes, failures, self obsession and all. He did what I could not, to give me what I could not attain.
So tonight I can rest assured, knowing that my Father adores me. NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS would He think that I am an annoying daughter to have.
Sweet, sweet Grace.
If you are a Christian (and maybe even if you are not) you know exactly what I’m talking about. Something going on in your life is hard and you are told, “God has a plan, everything will work out for your good,” “God is sovereign, you just need to trust Him,” “He will provide, just have faith,” “Sometimes God tests us,” “You are being faithful, that’s what matters!” “Just keep ________ (praying. trusting Him. Being faithful. Fill in the blank).
Let’s be honest here. Sometimes saying these things is just.not.helpful.
One night during the leadership community group that I am a part of with our church, our Pastor said something that just astonished us. He told us about a friend of his who had just been through it one year. We’ll call him Jack just to make this easier. One thing after another… our Pastor said we wouldn’t even believe the awful things that had happened to “Jack.” When talking to our Pastor about this hard stuff in his life Jack said, “You know, I think God hates me.” Here comes the jaw dropper: our Pastor responded, “Yea I think you’re right. I think God probably hates you.”
Yea, that’s how we responded when we heard him say this too. Then he explained the difference in “normative” truth and “existential” truth. Normative truth is the real truth. The stuff that is just plain true, even if our hearts don’t feel it. Existential truth is what appears to be truth through what we are experiencing.
Does God really hate Jack, who experienced such a hellish year?
Normative truth tells us that He does not. God loves Jack SO much so that He gave the life of His only Son that Jack might live!
But the existential truth would tell us otherwise. If you look at the facts of what Jack had experienced over that year, evidence would point to a strong case for God hating him.
Do you want to know how Jack responded when our Pastor had said this to him? He said, “Thank you.” Every other Christian he had talked to had only told him the Normative truth. “God does not hate you! God loves you!” But it sure didn’t feel that way to him. There was something refreshing, I’m sure, about a Christian brother who was willing to step into the pain with him and affirm the existential truth that he was experiencing. I think our Pastor even told us that Jack eventually said to him, “I know God doesn’t hate me.” And he knew our Pastor didn’t ultimately believe that either. Sometimes it is just refreshing to acknowledge hard for what it is.
I’m afraid we don’t do this enough in the church. Instead we recite the things we’ve been taught since Sunday school. And I believe this comes at the expense of someone really needing some wrenching soul healing that requires the freedom to yell and curse the existential truth. We think we’re helping by throwing out the “God loves you” and “God has a plan” sayings, but really what we’re doing is telling someone that the pain they are going through is not legitimate and if they will just say these things it will all be better.
The thing is: these unhelpful “sayings” are actually true! They are not lies. God does actually love us. He does have a plan. He is sovereign. He is trustworthy. He tests us. He provides. He works all things together for the good of those who love him (Romans 8:28). We are called to be faithful, and that is more important than the results of what we do. These things are Normative truths.
They just are not always helpful, especially when the person receiving them already knows that they are true. In their head at least. If you tell these things to a Christian, chances are, they are not going to say, “Really?! Wow, I did not know that!” On the contrary, it is the fact that they do know it that makes their situation feel all the more painful. They are struggling in the tension of knowing these things to be true, while also suffering in the midst of circumstances that seem to prove otherwise.
Why am I writing about this today?
Today I find myself having to face some of the ramifications of this very thing. A couple of years ago I had a hard few years. Not only were people around me saying these normative truths, but I was robotically saying them to myself constantly. What has happened is that there is pain and bitterness buried pretty deeply that I have never quite let my soul deal with. Since I have not dealt with it spiritually or emotionally, I believe it is manifesting itself physically and perhaps the only way I will be able to push past this ailment is to face my “demons,” so to speak.
A friend of mine recently told me that when her son starts to get angry at people in his past for things that have happened to him, she and her husband instead advise him to turn his anger to God. That is surprising, isn’t it? I’ve never heard of that from a Christian parent before her. But I think she and her husband are very wise. Think about it: God is sovereign and if we believe that, we must believe that He has control over all of our circumstances. He has the power to stop anything from happening, and so He allowed these things to happen to her young son.
I found this very refreshing. In Christian culture we often would gasp at such a thought. We think that we should never be angry at God. But the truth is, GOD CAN HANDLE OUR ANGER. He can totally handle it. And I’m afraid that when we try so hard to cling to these normative sayings and avoid being angry at God, we never really get to the root of our soul pain and therefore prolong the healing process.
Think about it in the context of marriage. Let’s say Jordan let something happen that would have been in his control to stop, and it really hurt me. Instead of being angry with him and telling him I’m upset, I just just keep telling myself, “Jordan loves me. He really does. And I can trust him. And I need to be faithful to him.” Those things are true: He does love me, I can trust him and I need to be faithful to him. But if I just tell myself those things instead of addressing the root of my anger, I will just quietly harbor bitterness toward him until we get to the point where our marriage is not healthy and we don’t realize why. Those of you who are married can attest to the fact that sometimes it takes a really good fight and some honest duking it out to reach that good, refreshing, healing place in your marriage. Sometimes a fight or at least a confrontation can be the best thing for your relationship.
If in the scenario above I never went directly to Jordan with my anger, the questions this situation would bring up for me about his love for me and why that thing happened would never be addressed and somewhere, deep down, I am probably somewhat doubtful of our marriage. I may start to strive for independence because I secretly (and perhaps subconsciously) believe that when push comes to shove I need to be able to fend for myself, because I’m not ultimately sure he will fend for me. Unless I directly bring those things to him, I would probably never be free from that subconscious pull.
Perhaps it is in finding the freedom to direct our anger toward God that we start to see the ice melt and the glimpse of spring around the corner. David was angry at God at times, we see this throughout the Psalms. Job was angry with God. As a matter of fact many of the people we see in the Bible question God and cry out to him in confusion or frustration. Even Jesus cried out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (and he is quoting Psalm 22).
So I think I have some “duking it out” to do with God. I need to wrestle with him like Jacob did. I’m not looking forward to it. I know He will win. But it needs to happen. Maybe my soul will be free at last. Free from the lies of failure and the threats to my self worth. Free from the nausea and the chest pain, the jaw locking and the eye twitching. Free to be fully known and fully loved.
Maybe I’ll write about it once I’ve come through some of the wrestling and healing. Maybe I won’t. Either way, I hope that others find rest and relief in some of this like I have.
I have gone back and forth, debating whether or not to write this post. My hesitations were:
(a) This is an issue that women are bombarded with daily and I want to be sensitive to that. (b) I wouldn’t want it to feed any competition or insecurity, etc. Those of us who have been trying to lose weight are each on our own journeys with different bodies, goals, time constraints, and plans and I wouldn’t want this to make anyone in a different place in their weight loss journey to feel discouraged; and (c) Since I have blogged through some of the hard places I’ve been in with body image this past year and the ways that God has worked through it, I didn’t want anyone to think that I’ve lost those lessons or that now that I’ve lost the weight God isn’t still refining me. I also don’t want to give off the vibe that this is where I am looking for my value or finding my identity.
Despite those arguments, I (obviously) decided that I would write this post, and here is why:
1. I invited my readers into my weight loss journey and have shared my struggles. I think it is good to share my victories as well.
2. Committing to new disciplines has been a really good thing for me. I have blogged about ways that God has used this whole thing to shape my character. I think it is ok to show how it has shaped me physically as well.
3. I want to have it documented to look back on one day. I’m sure at some point in my life I will be in a place where I need to lose weight again, and it would be nice to have this to look back on to be reminded that I can do it and it’s worth sticking to the hard work. Should we be so blessed to have the privilege of getting pregnant again in the future, I’m sure I’ll have struggles with the post baby weight again, and I could look back at this post and be encouraged! And even if it is not related to weight at all, it serves as an encouragement in goal setting and discipline.
4. I hope that this might encourage some of my other mamma friends. I have a few friends who are currently pregnant that have asked me different diet and exercise questions, so hopefully this will answer some of those questions and encourage them to hang in there and not get discouraged.
So here you go! From Sugar Free, to Weight Watchers; Pilates, gym and “Insanity,” here are the results (I have pictures of myself in the 2 of the same outfits as “before” and “after” pics), and then I’ll give my evaluation of each diet and exercise plan:
And here’s another:
It took me 14 months to take off the baby weight. It definitely didn’t just fall off of me. I kept wanting to think that I was one of those people who could just eat whatever I wanted and didn’t have to work at it, but I finally had to accept the fact that I do have to work at it. So I did. It was so good for me. I’ve blogged about the ways that God worked on my heart and sanctified me in some sin issues through it, but it was also good for me to just have to commit to discipline in areas that I just didn’t want to. I think that sometimes it can only be a good thing for me to add extra discipline into my life, especially since we live in such an indulgent, consumer culture.
Here are the different methods I tried:
Sugar-Free: For one month my husband and I completely cut sugar out of our diets. Yep, that means we didn’t eat any sweets (although we had a few with artificial sweeteners), bread or pasta (unless they were stone ground, whole grain), rice, etc. You can search “sugar free” back through this blog if you want to learn more about exactly what Jordan and I did to cut sugar out, but here is my brief summary: I wouldn’t do it again. I felt so deprived, that I thought and dreamed about food with sugar all.the.time. I thought I was going to lose my mind. In addition to my mind, I did lose 7 lbs that month. But by the time it was over, I binged big time, and probably put some of the weight back on. I had thought I would feel so great and have so much energy, but I never really did (likely due to the fact that I was the mother of a 7 month old, so feeling energy was probably unlikely no matter what I was eating 🙂 ). Although I did feel awful once I started adding sugar back in. The biggest downside to sugar-free though and the main reason I wouldn’t recommend it is that we consumed WAY too much artificial sweetener. Which is probably way worse. I’m sure there are many people who have been able to commit to and even enjoy this lifestyle, but it was not for us.
Weight Watchers: A good friend of mine who had also had a baby around the time I had Riley recommended that I try Weight Watchers. She had actually encouraged me to do it earlier on, but I didn’t want to pay to do it (I think it was like $54 for 3 months). After the sugar free experiment, she told me she was going to join WW again so I talked to Jordan about the price and decided to give it a shot. I am so glad I did! I LOVED Weight Watchers! I did the online version, so I didn’t have to go to local meetings or anything. You tell WW what your goal weight is, the time frame you would like to lose it in, and then they give you a certain amount of “points” you can spend each day on food in order to achieve your goal weight. I wanted to balance being ambitious with being realistic, so I decided to set my goal weight at 5-7 lbs more than my pre-baby weight. Everyday I would log what I was eating, and they would keep track of my points. I could look ahead of time how many points something would be, so I could plan well before eating at restaurants or planning meals for the week. They have some tasty recipes that will tell you how many points they cost, and you are allotted a certain amount of extra points each week that you can either divide throughout the week (a glass of wine or a cookie each night), OR you can save them up and use them for one event (eating whatever you want at a restaurant or being able to have cake and wine at a wedding reception!) So this was the absolute perfect diet plan for me. I never felt deprived. If I wanted to eat the cupcake a friend brought over, I could. It just meant I would have to eat a lighter dinner and drink water the rest of the day. It helped me to be smart in budgeting what I ate and understanding portion control. By the end of the 3 months I had signed up for, I had achieved my goal weight. Thank you Megan for encouraging me to do it! 🙂
The Gym: In college and a few years after, I used to love working out at the gym. So from June-December I had a membership to a local gym here, Kinetix Fitness. I actually kind of got it for free (well technically I had paid for it 3 years ago), but that’s irrelevant. They offer childcare, which I thought was going to be a huge motivator to workout. I would joke with friends: “Shoot I should just go to the gym everyday to take advantage of the childcare and go read in the dressing room or something!” But the truth is: I hated dropping Riley off at that childcare. First of all, the childcare workers didn’t speak English, which I’m fine with, except for the fact that they could not communicate with me if something had happened with Riley while I was gone and I couldn’t communicate with them if there was something she needed. Second of all, the childcare room had an open ceiling so that you could hear the kids. Sometimes I would hear Riley crying and I just couldn’t bear it. Every time I would pick a machine close to the childcare room and strain my ears to see if I could hear Riley. Sometimes I would look in the glass window and she would see me and get excited, so I was just done right then. There was no way I could walk away, even if I had only worked out for 10 minutes. So needless to say, the gym is not my thing anymore. I would go once a week usually, twice tops, but rarely had a challenging workout since I was so focused on the childcare room. I was actually relieved when my membership expired.
Pilates: So on the days that I was avoiding the gym, I would try to do some Pilates at home. For some reason, I have always enjoyed Pilates. In the beginning of my pregnancy, a friend of mine who is a Pilates instructor met with me for private sessions and it was awesome. I still have the workouts she did with me written down on a sheet of paper. So at times I would pull it out and do that workout, use a DVD, or just put together Pilates stuff I know from over the years. While I do enjoy Pilates and I’m sure it made my core stronger, I didn’t see obvious results. Perhaps if I had mixed it with more cardio I would have, but I think the lack of cardiovascular exercise during that time slowed it down.
Insanity: Recently I have started doing the “Insanity: Fast and Furious” workout DVD. To clarify, it is not the Insanity series. It is an Insanity workout condensed into 20 minutes, with the same intensity and results. So basically, it’s super hard. I both hate it, and love it. I hate it because, well it is awful. I sweat like crazy, want to cry, sometimes fall on the floor and have dumped my entire bottle of water over my head in the middle of my living room, soaking my carpet and couch. But I love it because it is only 20 minutes (so much more doable with my schedule as a toddler mommy) so it’s a much easier time commitment, and just when I hit my wall and think I can’t take it anymore, I only have 10 or less minutes left and can (most of the time) talk myself through it. I have only been doing it for 2 and a half weeks, every other day, and I can already see results. So far it has been the most effective workout for me, and I’m growing more fond of it as I get in better shape and build endurance.
So there you have it! 55 lbs. later, I have finally reached my post-baby weight and am feeling encouraged, motivated, thankful, and healthy :).
Thank you to all of my friends and family who have been such incredible support through this!
Lately I have been reading through the gospel of Luke in my personal scripture study. In the gospels Jesus reserves his harshest teachings, not to the “sinners” in society, but the Pharisees. The Pharisees were the “law keepers” and were known for their dedication to upholding religious ceremonies and practices. If they existed in American culture today, you would probably find them at your local church every Sunday, enrolled in bible studies, faithfully tithing their money, praying in front of the church and abstaining from “bad” activities. They were doers of the “right” things.
Jesus wasn’t buying it. He called them hypocrites, “white washed tombs,” and “unmarked graves” that people walk over without knowing it. Ouch.
As a matter of fact, in Luke 11 there is a story told about Jesus being asked by a Pharisee to dine with them. Within only moments of being there, Jesus said to them, “You fools!” and started several following sentences off with “Woe to you!” Here’s a small example from Luke 11:
“Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also… But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God.”
I’ll admit, my first reaction to reading these things is usually to laugh. I can’t help it. I just find it humorous to picture Jesus walking up in someone’s house as a dinner guest and then just letting them know what’s up. No preface. Just straight up confrontation. I mean, be honest, is this what you would expect the famous Jesus to do?
My second reaction is usually to think something like, “Ooooooh Snap! He told you! That’s right. That’s my Jesus! He’s not some fluffy pushover.” Because I really do get annoyed when we paint Jesus in this gentle little light like he is just a white, American looking lamb who wouldn’t hurt a fly.
But then at times (when I’m willing to take an honest look at myself), I think “Ummm… uh.oh.” “Yikes.” “Oh sh–.” Something along those lines. You know, when he says something like, “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” Uh oh is right.
See, Jesus draws the line and makes clear that there are only two different types of people in the world, not 3. There are those who know Him, and those who do not. There are those who are sinful and desperate and realize that they need a doctor to fix them, and there are those who are sinful and desperate but do not think they need to be fixed. There is no 3rd group. There is no group of people who kind of know him. There is no group of people who are good people, who have fulfilled the law on their own. “None is righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10).
“Pharisees” are people who are depending on their own achievements and acts of righteousness to earn them right standing with God. Problem is, they work so hard at cleaning up the outsides of their lives and they look like such good people, that they fail to see that regardless of how “good” their lives look on the outside, their hearts are just as sinful as the people they look down on and scoff at for being “bad.” Unfortunately, it is their very efforts toward righteousness that keep them from ever really knowing God. They may know His law, but they don’t know His heart.
Just as there are only two different types of people, there are also two different fears that we are driven by: fear of man, or fear of God. The fear that you are driven by will determine which group you fall into.
Fear of man can be caring about what other people think of you, wanting their approval. It can be fearing them physically, fearing for your life (not as much a reality for many of us in America as it is for our brothers and sisters living in oppressive nations and 3rd world countries). It can be be fearing that the response other people have to you determines your worth: whether that means lording power over others, having people serve you to feel important, controlling other people; or letting them control you, looking, dressing, speaking, acting and living in a way that appeases certain groups or popular culture and opinion.
One of the best ways I have heard the fear of God described is like being in the midst of a dangerous storm or hurricane. If you know Jesus, you have a secure rock fortress keeping you safe from the storm so you don’t have to fear for your life, but you know what the storm is capable of doing. You understand it’s power and are humbled to depend solely on your rock fortress as your security in the midst of it.
Our God is an all consuming fire (Deut. 4:24, Heb. 12:29)
Or William Farley in Gospel Powered Parenting describes it as being like a fear that attracts us to the edge of the Grand canyon. “We are afraid, but the incredible beauty and vastness of the great gulf irresistibly compels us. It puts life in context, and gives us great peace.”
When we fear God, we see our desperate need to be rescued, to be fixed. We call on the Doctor to make us whole. If we don’t see our desperate need to be rescued and fix, we ignore the Doctor, and foolishly lead ourselves to our death.
When we fear man, we depend on ourselves. We either live for ourselves lavishly, recklessly pursuing whatever thrills our hearts please (because we are not afraid of what any “God” is or could do to us); or we live out of the fear of man, wanting people to think highly of us, accept us, or put us in some sort of high standing. We think we do things right, that we are “good” people and we do things to clean up the outside of our lives, ignoring the pure selfishness in our hearts. We don’t cling to the Savior as our fortress, we stand foolishly facing the storm on our own.
Jesus says this: “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.” (Luke 12:4-7)
Just when I am sneering at those Pharisees and saying, “You tell them Jesus!” I must face the realization that, I too, have Pharisaical tendencies. That humbles me, and I am drawn to the cross.
I must never forget my story of grace, and my constant need for God’s mercies each and every day. And I must sweetly realize that I have no need to “fear man.”
The hairs on my head are numbered, For the love! I am more valuable than many sparrows. You are too, friend. I pray that the truth of that statement from Jesus draws you to the edge of the Grand Canyon. That the beauty and vastness of Jesus would irresistibly compel you. ❤