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What’s Saving My Life Right Now

9 May

Last night our worship service was on Romans and The Gravity of Grace. My favorite book from the Bible. I know it so well, and yet sometimes I am surprised by how new the words can sound when I need them most.

If God is for us, who can be against us?

My friend Katie wrote on her blog this week about what is saving her life right now. It’s a great read, go over and take a look. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Wasn’t that great? What would the world be like if we asked “what is saving your life?” instead of “how are you?” It got me thinking about how I would answer. How would I answer, now, when I need a little bit of saving?

Right now I’m holding onto hope, which we are promised does not disappoint. God promises that going through suffering will produce perseverance, which produces character, which leads to hope, which will not put us to shame. I’ve been through this before, all four stages, time and time again. So I know that His promise is good, just like Him. So when I find myself in one of those states, I can have hope. Because I know it is coming. Suffering produced hope, as promised, and that’s what I hold on to when the struggle still has hold of me.

His word is good, just as He is good.

“And we boast in the hope   of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings,   because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope   does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay  and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit,   groan   inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all.   Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died —more than that, who was raised to life —is at the right hand of God   and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God  that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Amen.

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Learning to Be A Bad Mamma Jamma

2 May

hehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehehe

I stood there, on the rubberized floor mat, trying to ignore the sweat that threatened to drip down my brow. Dripping sweat is so not hot. My shirt proclaimed, “Pretty Fast isn’t Good Enough.” It’s part of my ‘fake it ’till you make it’ series of shirts. (Also in the series, “Born to Run.” Because I’m not, really, but I want to be and I love the song.) But it wasn’t living up to its motivational job that day.

I watched as Trainer Kenny scanned the available weights and picked out each for my new regimen of strength training. 12.5, 15, 20 pounds…he picked up each, looked at me, and picked up the next weight higher. My eyes bugged out the further right he went. Surely he doesn’t expect me to pick up that?!?

Trainer Kenny picked up the 30 pound barbel like it was nothing. “We’re going to learn a new exercise today: Deadlifts!” He said cheerfully, as he let the weight go with an audible *thunk* on the bouncy floorboards. What now? Whada huh? Are they called that because they killed the last person you tried this on? These were the thoughts racing through my head as I looked at the dead-weight laying at my feet. Lift this? I have a hard time carrying more than one gallon of milk into the house, and you want me to lift that? You’re kidding, right?

He wasn’t.

So I lifted it. And other weights as I went through the series of exercises Trainer Kenny had come up with for me to make me feel like a bad a$$. I was lifting weights, and I was a bad mamma-jamma.

Since I took up with Trainer Kenny and his wacky (read: non-lazy) philosophy of working out, I’ve done things I didn’t believe I could do. Nothing crazy, but I’ve gone from a girl who was afraid to push herself to a woman determined, motivated, empowered to explore the reaches of her strength. To not just take the 15 reps if I feel I can do 20. To ask to do a full plank until I collapse. It’s strange. It’s the opposite of comfortable. But it’s worth it.

It’s not always fun, but it’s always rewarding.I learned something this week. I’m capable of more than I think. Unlike most of my life where I’m happy to take on a challenge, push myself beyond what is comfortable, when it comes to physical fitness I’ve shied away from pushing myself. I’ve chosen ignorance over health, weakness over achievement. And I deserve better.

I am so grateful for Kenny’s expertise. He thinks I can do more than I can, and therefore I do. I am so used to being self-motivated, self-driven, self-actualized, but sometimes – when I’m out of my depth – I need someone to believe I can do more than I think I can and push me. My eyes bugged out as he pulled bigger and bigger weights for my rowers, my chalice squats, my…I don’t even know what they’re called, but they were hard! I did more than I thought I could this week, and I felt more powerful pushing through and owning the modicum of strength I’ve achieved in that last two months. Weights have so often been the exclusive domain of the big, the built, the manly; if an athletic girl (never mind an overweight, big, curvy and fabulous girl) dared to infringe on their sacred ground, they were greeted with scorn, derision, condemnation; I know, I’ve seen it. So I’ve never gone there. But with Kenny by my side, I was going to try. And I rocked it, 31 BMI and all.

The takeaway? I can do more than I thought I could. You can do more than you could. Maybe, like me, you needed someone to tell you, someone to believe in you, believe that you could do it. You can. I can. We can. We are more than our lazy-butt couch-sitting selves want to think we are. If you can’t believe in yourself, get someone wh believes in you to push you. Untill you believe it yourself. Because you can do it.

You can lift a weight the size of your head. And rock it.

The Power of Writing Down Goals

22 Mar

image from online success with greg de tisi

Last week Trainer Kenny gave me homework. No, it wasn’t to do more squats correctly. 🙂 He wanted me to write down a fitness goal, to make it specific, and give it a time limit. Then he wanted me to write down five positive reasons why I wanted to reach this goal, and five negative reasons. Procrastinator that I am, I didn’t remember until last night, and we’re meeting today. Overachiever that I am, I decided to write down two. Notorious Over-Sharer that I am, I figured I’d share them with you lovely people. (You’re not sick of my many goal lists yet, are you? Good.)  After all, what’s better for accountability than making a goal public? (Please note, Trainer Kenny was very careful to say that these goals don’t have to be realistic. So keep the snickering to a minimum, please.)

Goal #1: Build lean muscle mass and a strong core to help me perform better when I run (hopefully) two half-marathons this October. 

Why?

  • Muscle = speed. I want a better time than what I achieved last October – ‘Finished.’
  • Muscle = endurance. Running all or almost all of (hopefully) two half marathons, instead of walking most due to a ankle injury, will feel amazing
  • Core strength = stability. Stability = better form. Better form = more efficient running, which equals less chance of injury and better time. A win all around.
  • Core strength also improves balance. I could do with less falling down on my runs, or in life in general.
  • A’s running one with me, and I’d love to keep up with him so we could cross the finish line together.
  • To prove to myself I can do it.

Why not?

  • I need my legs and hips to be stronger to support my knees. I don’t want my knee to almost go out again and have to fear that I won’t be able to finish what I started.
  • Weak runners are injured runners.
  • Try putting on a backpack with sixty pounds of weights in it and tell me if it makes running 13.1 miles easier. No? That’s what I’m dealing with now, and I’m tired of it.
  • A’s running one with me, and I don’t want him waiting around for hours for his slow wife to finish.
  • I don’t want to fail.

Goal #2: I want to lose all 60 pounds this year. (Hey! He said it didn’t have to be realistic!)

Why?

  • I’m 28 1/4 years old right now. I’m not getting any younger, and as far as my weight is concerned, I figure it’s either uphill or downhill from here. I choose uphill.
  • That will put me right in the middle of a healthy body-fat percentage.
  • I’ll be happier in my body.
  • I’ll be able to choose clothes from a store based on their style, not on whether or not they have my size.
  • I have a whole wardrobe – an awesome wardrobe, a fun wardrobe – in my closet that I no longer fit into. I want my clothes back!
  • Um, hello? 30 Before 30 list!
  • These boobs are seriously ridiculous to exercise with. They’ve always been big, no getting away from that, but I’m looking forward to getting back to big and away from obscene.

Why not?

  • I don’t want to be too tired/fat/out of shape to play with my kids one day.
  • I don’t want to wonder if my weight affects A’s attraction to me anymore. (He says it doesn’t, but you know how those nagging doubts go.)
  • I feel heavy, clumsy, and ugly right now when I dance. And I love to dance. Plus, I have little stamina so when I dance I can’t do it for as long as I’d like.
  • I’m afraid if I don’t change now, I’ll be this way forever. And I don’t want to be.
  • I don’t want to die early, or get any of the diseases connected to obesity.

So those are my goals! What’s the power of writing them down? Dunno. I’ll have to ask Trainer Kenny and get back to you.

Do you believe in the power of writing a goal down? Have you ever done it? How’d it go?

It Made All the Difference

21 Mar

image from jungyunjae on wordpress.com

Where is he? Where is he where is he? It’s two thirty and she’s coming at three and he’s not picking up his phone which means he hasn’t left yet which means he won’t be on time and, dear God, where is he? Whereishewhereishewhereishe?

Me: “Honey? Where are you? Why weren’t you picking up your phone?”

A: “I’m leaving now. I’ll be home in a bit. What’s wrong?”

Me: (Said in increasing tones of agitation and desperation) “You’re leaving now? It’s two-thirty. We’re not going to have any time before she gets here. We need to talk, we need to plan. We need to pray. What were you thinking? You set up the times, for your appointment and with her, why aren’t you here? This isn’t ok, I’m not ok. I need you here now.”

A: “I was planning on calling you on my way home so we could talk about things. This is important to me too, I want to plan this out, I want to pray with you. I’m with you…I’m sorry, I didn’t know I had to be home now. I’m heading out the door, I’ll call you when I’m on my way. Love you.”

Me: “……(sullen silence)……”

*click*

Not often, but every now and then I have to have a Very Important Conversation with someone. By this I mean a conversation that I anticipate will be difficult, emotionally taxing, with high risk if it doesn’t go well. I never embark on having that kind of talk without a lot of prayer and outside wisdom to make sure I’m not overstepping or overreacting. In short, a conversation that creates a perfect storm for one Christy A. being seriously stressed out. Usually I’m on my own as far as the stakes go, but in this case A was in it as well. In this case, we were both hurt, both feeling misunderstood, and both far more invested in making sure both parties came out of this talk maintaining a strong relationship with each other than in being right.

It’s taken me a long time to get there.

I grew up in a family who would scream at each other at the slightest offense. The offended party would come at the offending family member with both barrels blazing. Guilt, blame, hurt, anything but vulnerability were used to try to make the person feel badly that they’d hurt them. In turn, the offending party would look for any reason that the offended deserved what they got, had earned their hurt, and would endeavor to beat the other down with words and emotional blackmail. Nothing is my fault, everything is yours. We would yell until we were hoarse, no one hearing the other, and break apart at an opportune time hoping that the other would change and actually hear us and care about our point of view. Needless to say, it never happened.

The way I was brought up to fight was broken, dysfunctional, and poison to healthy, mutually beneficial relationships. Thank the Lord that A, avoider of conflict though he is, called me on my crap early in our dating relationship and told me that the way I fought made me a bully. I was a broken person. He was too. Neither of us came from families that equipped us to handle real-world relationships in a way that put our marriage before the self. But we are called to be better, to be less ‘me’ and more ‘we’, and we learned.

Here’s how our conversation went when A called me back,while on his way home:

A: “Hey, Baby.”

Me: “…..Hi…..”

A: “Before you say anything, I called and asked if she would come over at three-thirty. I’m sorry that my appointment ran long. I want to be there for you, and I’m sorry we mis-communicated about when you needed me to be home. We’ve got time now, and I’m happy to talk to you now, or when I’m home in a bit.”

Me: “………………………….”

In one simple swoop, he completely disarmed me. Took the wind of indignation out of my sails.

I was already stressed about the upcoming Very Important Conversation, and when he wasn’t home when I needed him I freaked out. But instead of hearing my anger, he heard my hurt. Instead of hearing my frustration, he heard my need. Instead of hearing my bitterness, he heard my fear. And that made all the difference.

Emmerson Eggerichs once said (I’m paraphrasing, it’s been awhile) that all the marriage advice he offered in his study Love and Respect is assuming that you have a good-intentioned spouse in your home, who wants better for you than they want for themselves. I chose well, and as far as our marriage is concerned, this is generally true for us. We (mostly) want better for the other than we do for ourselves, and we definitely work to put the heath and viability of our marriage above being right, above feeling self-righteous, above the illusion of being infallible.

And that’s what A showed me when he called me and said, “Before you say anything, I wanted to let you know that I called her and asked if she would come over at three-thirty.” That he heard me, he loved me, and he put me first. He knew that he would be dealing with a pissed off and defensive wife when he called me back, so he preempted me with love. He knew that I was hurting and needed him, even though I came at him with pain and disappointment.

The man I was married to a year ago wouldn’t have realized that. But the man I’m married to today does.

In my house growing up, you never said, “I’m sorry.” It was an admission of weakness, an admission of failure, and our home was not a safe place to be fallible. What we never realized, church-going family that we were, is that we all fall short of the glory of God. Which means that we are fallible. Learning to say, “I’m sorry, I messed up,” was the most grown-up thing I’ve ever learned to do. And, as I often say to my high school kids, if I hadn’t learned to admit to my fallibility and married a man who would do the same, our marriage wouldn’t have made it a month. Really. If I’d had a recorder and could replay our arguments from our honeymoon and that first month you’d know what I mean. But we learned, together. Which brings me back to my story…

A year ago A would have had a very different response to me in that second phone call after the way I’d talked to him in the first. Then he would have heard my hurt, the implied failure on his part, the accusatory tone. Though I’m sure he still heard all that, this time – to my amazed surprise – he heard the panic, the worry, the hurt at feeling like I was facing a Very Important Conversation alone. And he took care of it without me asking. Throughout our relationship, I’ve been the one to instigate change. I’m always looking for the next great marriage book we should read, to seek out the next small group, to suggest prayer topics and call us to look at the bigger picture. But the man I married is willing to grow. He’s willing to not be right if it means keeping us close. He knows how to say, “I’m sorry.” And it makes all the difference.

“Before you say anything, I called her and asked if she would come over at three thirty…”

No, he didn’t understand my need from the beginning. But with those words he showed me that he heard me through my fear, through my accusations. He heard me, and he fixed the problem. Without me asking. Because I would have found a way to make it work, even though I was stressed, even though I was scared. But he made it all go away, because he heard me.

It’s moments like this that show me that despite the dysfunction we are born into, despite the human tendency to never admit when you’re wrong, when we love each other (and I’m talking sacrificial love, the kind that puts the other’s daily well-being above your own,) we can choose to put your needs second when our partner is hurting. A could have been defensive, self-righteous even, given how I reacted. Instead he chose to act in love. And it was beautiful.

You have many choices in marriage. The greatest choice you can make is to put the health of the marriage above yourself. Even with both of our backgrounds working against us, we’ve learned to choose marriage. And I believe that if we can learn, anyone can. Which will make the world a more beautiful place.

A Bitter Pill to Swallow

8 Mar

image from hannah bruce on pinterest

I almost left the house angry yesterday, because I felt like a failure.

A is sick. Very sick. Sick enough to land him in the hospital, but thankfully not sick enough for anything more than prescription drugs. A and I have very different ideas about what it means to feel taken care of while not feeling well. I’m not good at taking care of him the way he’d like, and yesterday I almost chose to leave and not try instead of staying and feeling like a failure.

Avoiding that which we’re not good at is human nature. I’ve seen it over and over; kids who take band instead of PE because they’re not physically inclined, people who dive deeply into work because they feel unsuccessful at being a parent or spouse. I’ve seen it, I know it’s human nature. But it’s also human nature to deny that which we find unpleasant in ourselves.

Not to sound conceited, but I’m used to being good at things. I expect to be good at whatever I try, which is why I’m so eager to try new things. So it’s unsettling to realize that sometimes my decisions aren’t motivated by logic, by what’s best, sometimes my decisions are motivated by avoiding that which I might fail at.

I avoided exercise for a long time until I did something unexpected and felt successful.
I avoided the idea of marriage until two weeks before A proposed because I didn’t believe I could be good at it. Until I did. ( A long story for another post.)
I avoid reading C.S. Lewis because I’m used to being brilliant at reading comprehension and he makes my brain feel small.
I avoid talking to people about God because I’m afraid I’m not good enough at apologetics.
I avoid going back to school, when I’m very good at school, because I’m afraid of feeling like a failure when I’m in front of an academic advisor.
I almost left A when he was sick because arguing was making him feel worse, and I already feel like I fail when I try to care for him.

It’s very human. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

See, the problem with avoiding that which we’re not good at it that we can get stuck in these bubbles that give us a limited definition of success. One way I define success is growth. If we don’t try things that we might fail at, how do we grow? If we’re so afraid of feeling like a failure that we don’t reach beyond ourselves and try, we’ll never grow. I want to go back to school, there’s a whole new life that will open up once I do. By avoiding it because it will mean facing the dreaded academic advisor’s office I’m cutting myself off from a whole future that I want, not to mention all that I will learn and grow by going back. I almost lost out on the greatest love I’ve known apart from God because I was afraid I would suck at being a wife. And I can’t even go into how bad I feel that I almost left A (albeit temporarily) when he needed me, all because I felt I’d failed and wanted to run away instead of facing it.

So I want to be different.

I’m good at not lying to myself, once I figure out that I’m doing it, and I’ve never been one who was content to let my life be ruled by fear. That’s part of why I not only made a 30 Before 30 list, but put it up online; if I fail to cross everything off before November 10, 2013, everyone will know that I’ve failed. Not only is that a great incentive to complete the list, it’s also an exercise in putting it all out there fearlessly and deciding to be ok no matter if I’m successful or not. I want to live that way all the time, not just when I put things on a list. So I’m going to try to differentiate between the decisions that move me forward and ones that just move me away from something I’m afraid I won’t be good at.

Have you ever found yourself avoiding something you’re afraid you won’t be good at?

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