Archive | February, 2010

Thinking about prayer

27 Feb

I’m sitting here in a coffee shop called Raw Bean in Salt Lake City, looking at the snow-covered mountains surrounding the city. It’s really beautiful. Whereas in Denver, the mountains are off in the distance, in this city they are right there.

Our little getaway has been really enjoyable so far – I’ll give the details in a future post, when we get back home. But I felt the need to blog this morning because it helps me think through what I’m learning about God. For some reason, on vacation when I have more time to spend with God than in my daily life, I end up spending less time with Him, thinking, praying, and reading. Part of it is my lack of resolution to do so – I either give in to my laziness or allow myself to go along with what other people are doing, to the detriment of my God-time.

Case in point: yesterday, Travis and I got up around 8:30 to go eat breakfast at our hotel. Then we came back to our room and while Travis did homework, I could have gotten in the Word – but instead I watched TV and attempted a crossword puzzle. While relaxation is good and I do think I need it spiritually and physically, I feel closer to God, more joyful and more relaxed when I spend time with Him. So this morning, I suggested to Travis that we spend time at a coffee shop, reading the Bible. I’m glad we’re here.

But it’s weird… God has given me the desire to pray so much lately that right now, I feel like my quiet time is incomplete because I haven’t prayed (I have a hard time praying in my head – I usually have to pray out loud for it to be coherent). Prayer really makes me feel close to God – something I have come to crave, need, depend on. Other the past several weeks, I have gone to God with a lot of things – far more than I ever used to go to Him for. So while I am still struggling with finding time for the Lord on vacation, I am excited to see how much He has grown my prayer life – almost in spite of myself. It’s awesome to see how God can take a tiny flickering flame – one that would go out if someone just walked past it – and fan it into a steady flame. He took my indifference and turned it into passion.

Now I just need to keep that passion while on vacation. 🙂

Whirlwind.

24 Feb

Wow, things are busy. Today at work was just crazy, then after work, I ran to Target to buy ice cream sandwiches for care group, raced home to cook a box of pasta, drove to care group (which was relaxing), then hurried home to pack for leaving for our Salt Lake City trip tomorrow afternoon. I know that tomorrow will be another extremely busy day at work (albeit a short one since I’ll be leaving at 2:30) so I want to get to bed soon.

I am really looking forward to our little getaway trip. The forecast for Salt Lake City is rain/snow on Saturday and cloudy on Sunday but I’m not that bummed because I’m mostly just looking forward to some relaxation. Reading the Bible and books, doing crosswords, watching TV while cuddling, talking. I’m also excited to explore the city – but at a very relaxed, got-nowhere-to-be pace.

I’m not usually a very busy person. It’s not really my style. I can handle it well in work settings but in my personal life, I don’t handle it well at all. I had numerous emotional breakdowns in college from feeling overwhelmed and too busy. I need down time. I need alone time. I need time to read, write and think.

So when I do get busy in my personal life, I don’t really have anything in place to keep me from overdoing things. Take triathlon training last April/May/June. It consumed my life. I was dedicated to my training, which is good, but it was at the expense of other things, like spending time with my husband, relaxing, cooking, and enjoying life.

This week, busyness has eaten up my time with God. Completely. I think about it every morning but because I need to get to work by 8 (instead of moseying in around 8:15 or 8:30) to get my hours in, I have been sacrificing my quiet time. Now that I have a job with more flexibility, I will have more opportunity for getting time in the Word – but because the job will be so demanding and busy over the next several months, I will have to guard my time with God jealously.

That is something I am making an even more heartfelt commitment to as I enter into a new season with this new job: fellowship. I don’t want to “neglect meeting together, as is the habit of some.” I want to continue going to care group, to women’s group, to the women’s book group, to church as often as possible. I want to continue getting in the Word daily, listening to sermons, and pondering spiritual truths and how they apply to my life. I don’t want to let my spiritual life slide just because I no longer work at a ministry or because I no longer have a typical 9 to 5.

So that’s really what this whole post is about: not wanting to let the most important things slide due to busyness. It’s not worth it.

Surreal reality.

22 Feb

So I had the interview with Your Cause Sports today. I was REALLY nervous. Every time I thought about it during the day, I got a rush of nervous excitement. I had thought about what I was going to say a lot, despite my desire to leave it all in God’s hands, and I was still really nervous during the interview. They asked me why I thought they should hire me over a guy who had lots of race timing experience (what I’ll primarily be doing) and I told them that I brought more to the table than that with all of my marketing experience.

Well, they evidently agreed since I GOT THE JOB!!

It’s very surreal. I have been waiting and hoping for this moment for several days now, especially today, and it’s finally here. I am really going to give notice tomorrow that I’m leaving. My last day at D2S will be March 5th. I will be working part-time with YCS at night to learn the timing equipment and then starting full-time there on March 8th. It didn’t work out for me to have much of a break and it’s head-on into race season now but I’m up for the challenge!

Anyway, I just had to let this out. I can’t believe it! It probably won’t start really sinking in until tomorrow when I give notice and fully sink in until I walk out of D2S for good.

Excitement aside, God was very gracious to me through this whole process. He gave me the grace to believe His promises to me – that whether I got the job or not, He was being good to me. That He had already predetermined whether or not I got the job, based on the best situation for me. He is in charge and He has opened the door. I am very grateful for this opportunity and I feel like I am moving forward in faith.

Woohoo!!

A choice

16 Feb

I just found out tonight that the job with the triathlon company I had wanted (and thought I had) back in January (that I didn’t get) might be back on the table. They are potentially getting 2 new contracts, which would bring in enough money (and enough work) for them to hire another person full-time. They were going to hire a guy with 5 years race director experience but when they called to offer him the job, he turned it down, saying he didn’t want to travel so much.

The contracts are still legally pending – meaning the race people have given their word but not faxed a signed contract. So this job is still not a for sure in itself, let alone for me.

The owner of this nonprofit also wants to meet me. So I’m going up there on Monday morning.

But here’s the thing…

I’m not entirely sure I want the job. I mean, I do.

But I don’t.

Why the ambivalence? This isn’t your typical job. It’s with a triathlon company…

Pros:

Work from home

Get lots of vacation during the off-season

Flexible-ish hours during the on-season

Get paid more

Work outside

A new, exciting experience in a fun environment

Lots of travel

More interaction with people

More authority and control over my workload (I would be in charge of timing events)

Work with non-Christians, have chances to share the gospel

Chance to broaden my marketing and design skills

Get involved with a start-up company

Cons:

Long hours during the on-season

Lots of travel

I’d be away from Travis a lot

Summer weekends would be tied up working instead of hiking and camping

I’d miss church a lot

Time off during the week, when Travis is working

Possibly not able to participate in any races during on-season

Besides D, it’s all guys who work there (and they sound like they’re frustrating at times)

Sometimes I like working in an office

I wouldn’t have a reason to dress up anymore (sweats and tees would be my “uniform”)

There are things I think I could do to minimize the damage… I could find a church that has Wednesday night services or recreate my own church services at home on my days off. I could bring Travis with me to some races. I don’t think every weekend will be tied up so we’ll have to be intentional about planning things like hiking and camping for those times. The other things are petty (like, liking to dress up… I think I can get over that).

This door isn’t for sure open yet, so I don’t want to get ahead of myself. But if the door does open, I could start as early as March 1st so I do want to consider it enough to know what my answer would/will be if/when they offer me the job.

After reviewing the list above, I feel like the Pros outweigh the Cons. It’s a little scary… leaving the known for the unknown. But just the other day, I was thinking about Crystal Renn, the plus-size model who wrote Hungry. When she had been discovered by the modeling scout and had finally lost enough weight to start modeling, she moved from rural Mississippi to New York. Her grandma (who was really like her mom growing up) moved with her, giving up her own house to go live in a tiny flat with a bunch of models. Crystal wrote that she still can’t fathom the sacrifice her “mom” made for her. But it is because her mom was willing to sacrifice for Crystal that she is changing the face of modeling today.

The Winter Olympics brought this thought up as well, as I watched a 16-year-old figure skater from the U.S. compete last night. That girl is forgoing a typical high schooler’s life, time with her friends and family, time with boys, time being a teenage girl, to achieve something great. She is following her dream. She is stepping out on the ledge and going for it.

There have been a few things in my life that I’ve had to make choices about. In the past, I’ve decided against them when they would cause me to give up something important to me. I decided to not take ballet lessons because they were on Wednesday nights, during our care group time. Travis and I decided to not lead a care group at church because we were just getting to be good friends in the group we were attending and didn’t want to leave those behind.

But maybe this is a decision that I have to be bold about. Maybe I have to sacrifice some things to achieve something great. Maybe God is calling me to take a risk, to take a chance on Him.

I don’t feel like I’ve ever really taken a risk on anything. Probably the biggest one was moving out to Colorado without jobs but that decision, we felt, was clearly God’s will.

So I want that kind of certainty with this decision. I’m leaning toward yes (if the job is offered, but that’s a big IF) but I don’t want that to be an automatic yes. I want it to actually be a decision, weighing the reality of the situation. Back in January, I wanted out of my current job so badly that I couldn’t see straight. But now, God has brought me to a point of rationality. I do like my job and I would be happy to stay there for the foreseeable future, until God moved me elsewhere. Maybe God is moving me now though?

God seems to have a way of bringing me to a point of contentment with a situation and then giving me what I’ve wanted all along. When I was finally content without a boyfriend after becoming a Christian, God brought Travis into my life. When I had finally made peace about the uncertainty of whether Travis and I would get married (and I say finally because it took me over a year!), Travis proposed. So maybe now that I am finally at peace with what happens with my job, God will give me the triathlon job. I don’t presume to know, though. He is full of surprises – all full of grace and blessing, might I add.

I really want this decision to be bathed in prayer, as they say, so I am going to try to pray a lot over the next several days about this. My life is in God’s hands and I am at peace when I rest completely in His love for me. So I am going to fight to rest, as John Piper would say.

Stay tuned for more…

My new blog look

13 Feb

As you can clearly see, I have updated my blog’s look and name. I had my last blog look since I started my blog back in 2007. Not only was it time for an aesthetic update, I felt like my blog name no longer accurately portrayed what my blog was about. (For those of you who don’t know, it was called Learning and Loving It.) While I am still learning, I can’t honestly say that I’m loving it. That is, I love it only insofar as it is a means to an end: knowing Christ more. I don’t loving learning (especially hard things!) for learning’s sake.

So when I contemplated what my blog is about most often, these words came to my head: honesty. truth. God. faith. reality. questioning. trying to figure things out. life. confusion. hard stuff. emotions. body image.

I wanted my blog name to capture that life isn’t a bowl full of cherries but it’s not a bitch either (to borrow a popular phrase). It’s a process. You grow, you shrink, you step forward, you step backward, you succeed, you fail. But through it all, those who have Christ, have “a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain [into the presence of the Father], where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf…” (Hebrews 6:19-20).

If I’ve learned anything over the last 12 months of questioning, confusion, and uncertainty, it’s that I am a broken human being. It is only through Christ and His gospel that I amount to anything. He is my hope, my inspiration, my calm amidst the storm. He is the reason I get out of bed in the morning and the Person I praise when I go to bed at night. He is my everything.

I have joy in being a broken person because it enables me to see the glory of Christ, displayed most poignantly on the cross, even more.

I have also learned that it is God’s plan to break me…in a good way. Like Kay Warren talks about in her book, Dangerous Surrender: What Happens When You Say Yes to God, God wants me to be “gloriously ruined.” To paraphrase Kay Warren, to no longer be content to live with the focus of my life on my world – myself, my problems, my family, my career. He wants my eyes to be opened to the reality of this world – evil and spiritual warfare – and to engage in battle wearing the full armor of God.

Being broken isn’t easy or fun. It’s hard. It hurts. But it’s worth it. Jesus said that “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11). Jesus also said “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you… Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:22, 24).

Jesus promises us joy. Moreover, He promises us HIS joy. What is His joy? It was His joy that motivated Him to endure the cross (Hebrews 12:2). Just as it was Paul’s and John’s joy to see their “children” in the faith walking in the truth of the gospel, so it is Christ’s joy to see us reconciled to God and co-heirs with Him. In Ephesians 1:18, Paul prays that the Ephesians (and all believers) would have “the eyes of our hearts enlightened, that we may know…the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” The only reason Christ died on the cross was to save us. He had perfect intimacy with the Father and the Father with Him. They didn’t need us. But they wanted us. And Christ’s death and resurrection – and the Holy Spirit dwelling in me – enable me to want God too. As the song All I Have is Christ says, “If you had not loved me first, I would refuse you still.”

I have Christ’s joy in me when I keep my eyes focused on heaven and God.

Colossians 1:11 says, “May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” My qualification in the inheritance of the saints gives me joy.

1 Peter 1:8-9 says “Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” Jesus is my source of joy.

I have joy in God when I turn from focusing on myself to focusing on God and the gospel. Often times, that shift only happens by God breaking me, making me die to myself and enabling me to live for Him and His purposes.

This blog is not called Happiness in Being Broken for a reason – happiness is based on circumstance. Most of the time, being broken does not make me happy.

This blog is called Joy in Being Broken because joy is a deep-seated emotion borne out of hope, truth, and faith in the gospel. True joy is only possible in Christ.

That’s what this blog is about.

Free to love God in all circumstances.

10 Feb

After being reminded of truth last weekend, my time at work has been much better. When tempted to get annoyed or frustrated, I remind myself of truth – that I can glorify God regardless of circumstance and that being gracious and patient is glorifying to Him.

I have been reading Waking the Dead by John Eldredge and his whole book is based around the quote by St. Iphnaeus, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” For several months, I have struggled with an Ecclesiastes perspective on life: everything is vain and a striving after the wind. Why eat? Why make the bed? Why buy clothes? Why enjoy music? Why exercise? It’s all seemed so pointless and such a waste of time.

But John Eldredge says that it is through the heart reawakened by the Spirit of Christ that we truly connect with God. Living life fully is doing what you love, seeing those things as gifts from God and revelations of Him. I have wanted to believe that for so long but it seemed to good to be true.

Tonight at care group, the worship leader, Cathy, thanked God for revealing Himself to us through sunrises, songs, and Scripture. I recalled reading in The Sacred Romance (another John Eldredge book) a long time ago about God wooing us, about Him speaking to our hearts through specific, tangible things. Again, this seems to good to be true.

But then again, it’s God. Nothing with Him is too good to be true because things more amazing than I can imagine are true with Him. He proved that with the gospel. “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?” Including love notes throughout the day. Including pleasurable moments, little things that we enjoy.

John Eldredge writes in Waking the Dead, “Everything you love is what makes a life worth living… A life filled with loving is a life most like the one that God lives, which is life as it was meant to be.” This makes sense to me, because if God’s glory is shone in a man (or woman) fully alive, then their heart is engaging with the things of this world around them.

Just as Travis and I were driving home from care group tonight, I was telling him how freeing it was to know that enjoying things in this world is good because they reveal God. I am free to enjoy things because of what they represent – they are the shadow but the substance is to come.

More than that, God has created me specifically to like certain things. There is a reason why I like sunrises, spring mornings, summer nights, grapenuts with bananas, honey and yogurt. He designed me to love reading, writing, and to have deep thoughts (sometimes deeper than I’d like). He created me to be more of a one-on-one person than a crowd person. He created me to be better at thinking through writing than speaking. He decided that I would prefer individual sports like running and triathlons over team sports. He gave me my love for funny movie lines, cute animals, and my wonderful husband (who cooked soup for tonight’s care group!).

The enemy wants to keep my heart indifferent or apathetic. He wants me to drift along in this life, skirting the fringe, finding no meaning or value in anything. He doesn’t want me to engage, doesn’t want my heart to feel. I will close with these quotes from The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis:

“Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground. I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made all the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable.”

“The deepest likings and impulses of any man are the raw material, the starting-point, with which the Enemy has furnished him. To get him away from those is therefore always a point gained; even in things indifferent it is always desirable to substitute the standards of the World, or convention, or fashion, for a human’s own real likings and dislikings.”

Humbled, yet again

6 Feb

The last few days have been pretty tumultuous for me emotionally. Yesterday especially. Thursday was the day I blogged last, the day I could barely stand to be in the office. If you can believe it, Friday was even worse. It was the most delightful thought to me to walk into Phil’s office and tell him I quit. To pack up my stuff and leave on the spot.

To be honest, it still is a pleasant thought.

I got home from work, just hating my life. Hating that I had a job I hated. Hating that I couldn’t quit, that I had to just endure it for however much longer and not being to bear that thought. I tried to look at jobs and work on my resume after work but the computer wasn’t cooperating. I didn’t need that. But I didn’t give up. After a few more attempts and a switch in computers, I brought up my old resume in Word and starting working on it. I even looked up a resume guide online and took their suggestions to heart.

Then all of a sudden, the computer I was working on shut down.

When I brought the program back up, my resume was back to where it had been an hour before.

I raged. I cried, hit the door, screamed, yelled “God, why?!?!? WHY!?!? Am I not miserable enough? Why this? Do you not want me to get another job? Is this Your way of telling me that?” That went on for about 15 minutes. It wasn’t my finest hour.

Finally, I calmed down enough to recall the changes I had made. I had started making when another box popped up about document recovery. I x-ed out of it and there, lo and behold, was my resume. It wasn’t exactly how I had left it but it was a lot closer than the one I had presumed to be the most recent version.

I was humbled.

And still confused.

Here I was, raging at God for no reason (the humbling part). But I was still left with the “Why?” (the confusing part). Why did I have to go through that emotional turmoil just to discover that my resume was indeed still there?

I still didn’t know “why.”

I did know that after finalizing my resume and getting Travis’ feedback, I was able to go to bed with a spark of hope instead of a cloud of doom hanging over my head. And I did know that when I woke up this morning and applied for 6 jobs, that I was excited about the possibility of a new work situation, instead of dreading heading back into the same old one.

But then, after all that, I finally discovered the “why.”

While reading Oswald Chamber’s My Utmost for His Highest, God knocked some sense into me. It’s amazing how many of Oswald Chambers exhortations do that on exactly the days I need them. The ironic part is that the readings that hit me square between the eyes were the readings I would have read on Thursday and Friday, had I gotten into the Word instead of foaming at the mouth with anger.

But first, I need to give a little background. After quite some time spent in bitterness and anger over the past week or so (and on/off for the past year or so) because of my job, I realized that the reason why working at D2S is so frustrating to me is because I feel insignificant. I have nothing to contribute because the motivation to come up with things to contribute has been snuffed out by the lack of encouragement for (and use of) contributions. Decisions are made and remade without the slightest regard for me. I feel like it can best be summed up by saying that my job is just to do what I’m told.

In light of that, these are the words God used to speak to me this afternoon:

February 5: “Are you ready to be less than a mere drop in the bucket–to be so totally insignificant that no one remembers you even if they think of those you served? Are you willing to give and be poured out until you are used up and exhausted–not seeking to be ministered to, but to minister?”

February 6: “Are you ready to be poured out as an offering? It is an act of your will, not your emotions. Tell God you are ready to be offered as a sacrifice for Him. Then accept the consequences as they come, without any complaints, in spite of what God may send your way… You must be willing to be placed on the altar and go through the fire; willing to experience what the altar represents–burning, purification, and separation for only one purpose–the elimination of every desire and affection not grounded in or directed toward God… After you have gone through the fire, there will be nothing that will be able to trouble or depress you. When another crisis arises, you will realize that things cannot touch you as they used to do… Tell God you are ready to be poured out as an offering, and God will prove Himself to be all you ever dreamed He would be.”

It is not my job that is making me miserable. Rather, it is my refusal to run to God in the midst of my frustration. It is letting my circumstances take my eyes off God. That’s what He was showing me last night when the computer died. A new job won’t make me happy. A new job won’t make my life better automatically. It still might be time for me to move on from Dare 2 Share but God is not primarily concerned about the circumstances of my life–He’s concerned about my relationship with Him. He’s concerned first and foremost about my sanctification, about refining me into the image of His Son. He reminded me that true joy — true unwavering, unshakable joy — comes from knowing Christ as my Savior. It comes from knowing that God has a plan for me and that, I love how Oswald Chambers puts it, “God will prove Himself to be all [I] ever dreamed He would be.”

I can glorify God and be the light of Christ in my current job. It will be hard and I have been brought so low that I finally recognize there is no possible way I can do get through this with my personal integrity and happiness on my own strength. I need to seek God’s face, to read the Bible and have God speak truth to my soul. But because of Christ, I have faith – and faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

“In this world, you will have trouble but take heart; I have overcome the world.”

What an amazing God we have!

Good ole work.

4 Feb

Ugh. Today is one of those days when I am so frustrated and fed up with work that I fantasize about marching into Phil’s office and saying “I quit.” No 2 weeks. No explanation. (But maybe a few cuss words). Just walk out of here, home free.

But I can’t do that. We need my salary right now. I mean, I guess we could manage without it but things would be tight, especially with Travis in grad school. (Darn those higher learning expenses!)

It’s not that I don’t like my job, per se. I like what I do. I like marketing, I like my responsibilities, I like that I get to do a lot of different things, things that I wouldn’t get to do if our company was bigger (like graphic design and HTML coding). But I don’t like the atmosphere. I don’t like the leadership (or lack of it). There’s no room to grow. There’s no encouraging creative thinking. People like me just do what we’re told to do.

That’s why it throws me for a loop when my boss asks me to give him graphics and images that could represent the feel/tone of our next tour. Why I’m so confused when he asked me to work with the marketing consultants to get our website for the previews up and running.

WHAT?!?!?

You mean, you’re asking me to come up with something… on my own?

Not only does that curveball cause me to switch my train of thinking totally (from being reactive to being proactive), it also causes me to do work I think is pointless. 2 1/2 years at this job has shown me that I am directed from the top. Any spark of inspiration is snuffed out by the powers that be.

Maybe it’s the pain of being a small organization.

But just maybe it’s the pain of being with this small organization.

There are days when I enjoy my job. Those are the days when everyone lets me be, when I can do my responsibilities without these crazy notions of creation and strategy thinking intruding on my mind-numbing tasks. When I don’t have to write marketing copy. When I don’t have to envision which tab should go where on our website. I can copy and paste HTML code for emails to my heart’s content.

Most days, it’s really not this bad. But some days, it’s worse. I have had countless raving, cursing arguments with the air on my lunch hour at home. I have imagined emotional jabs, smart retorts and passionate (but true) diatribes.

But alas, none of that has actually happened. I am still here, seething in my desk chair, hacking away on my computer, just like I will be tomorrow.

Hungry

1 Feb

This past weekend, I tore through the book Hungry by Crystal Renn. It literally took me just Saturday and Sunday afternoon to finish the 226-page book. But she has a very conversational tone and it’s a book about modeling and the rejection of starvation so it was a pretty easy read.

But an effective read.

Just a little background on Crystal, she is the leading plus-size model in America. And by plus, I mean she’s a 12 (not that big at all). She’s 22 right now and has already appeared in 4 international editions of Vogue (something unheard of when she started plus-size modeling back in 2004ish) and a slew of other high-profile, high-glamour publications and runway shows. She’s changing the face (er, body) of high fashion modeling as I type.

The book interested me from the start because it’s about a girl practically my same age who fell prey to the same body image demon that a lot of women (myself included) fall prey to: the idol of thinness. She was anorexic for about 2 years before deciding to step out boldly and attempt to be both a high-fashion and a plus-size model.

For me, similar to Crystal, the battle to love my body began in 7th grade. Not surprisingly, the despicable area (to me) was my stomach. Come to think of it, that was the only thing I didn’t like about my body throughout high school and into college. It’s the first place my body gains weight and the last place it loses it. No matter how strong and toned my stomach muscles are, it all hides under a layer of flab (Travis loves my belly, a fact that continues to mystify me). I know that if I just buckled down and didn’t eat so much ice cream chocolate or drank so much wine and instead counted calories and exercised like a nazi, I could lose the weight.

But let’s be honest – that sounds like hell.

That’s what Hungry is all about. Life is too short, relationships are too precious, that we shouldn’t spend all of our time worrying about being a certain size in pants or a certain number on the scale. For me, it’s reminding myself that I can be happy without washboard abs. And indeed, getting those washboard abs would guarantee misery for me because I would have to count calories, give up my favorite foods, and hand over my life to an illusion that is constantly just out of reach. I would rather enjoy life, eat great food, and do what I love than be a slave to image.

Of course, this is all so easy to say in the confines of my home office, where I am wearing a sweatshirt and slouching. But it’s a lot harder to accept myself when I go to Mexico and am surrounded by my bikini-clad, impossibly thin sisters-in-law. [They are great women and I love being around them. They are not judgmental at all and I have never had rude/snotty comments made about me. And I have to be honest and say that I’m not the giant cow I make myself out to be (though if you asked me on a different day, I might say otherwise).] Nonetheless, I have body issues. I’m sure every woman does and I have tried to remind myself of that.

But here’s what I’m learning. It isn’t worth the pain and anguish and worry to look a certain way. It’s better for me to wear a tankini and just cover up the area that gives me so much grief so that I can relax and enjoy myself already. I’m not trying to seduce anyone anyway – in fact, I have spent hours scouring racks in search of a bikini that doesn’t give this 34D girl major cleave (my search has, so far, been unsuccessful).

Not only does my obsession with looking a certain way (but never quite getting there) make me miserable, it makes me judgmental of other women. [This is hard to admit and I only do so because I think it’s the elephant in the corner. I think more women do this than like to admit it because it casts ourselves in a bad light. But hey, I know I’m a sinner in need of a Savior so I can fight against these tendencies with the freedom of knowing that even when I fail, I am still loved by God.] I am constantly comparing myself with them: “Skinnier than her – I’m better. She’s skinnier than me – I suck!”

In her book, Crystal tells women that they cannot look to the external world and society for validation and acceptance. That has to come from inside. As a Christian, I totally agree with her but would also add that validation and acceptance comes from being reminded of how precious we are in God’s eyes because of what Christ has done for us. We wear the robe of righteousness, of perfection.

More than that, God has created each of us to be different – to be exactly the way we are. I can stomp my feet all I want at how God created me but the fact that He created me to have long legs, a short torso, and a skinny little neck is a fact of life. I can spend my entire life wanting to change it (and being unsuccessful) or I can, like Crystal encourages, accept my uniqueness and embrace who I am, as a unique woman with a unique body shape.

Crystal talks about women having a “set point” – a weight that their body naturally prefers and gravitates to. I can back that up with experience from my own life. As an adult, I have always been about the same weight. The low exception was when I studied abroad in Venezuela (all the food went straight through me and I lost about 8 pounds in 6 weeks) and the high exception was when I was a pothead my freshman year of college and got the fierce munchies every night (I gained 20 pounds in about 2.5 months). But other than that, I’ve been pretty much the same weight as an adult, give or take 5 pounds.

I have also found that I am happier when I am focused on feeling and being healthy, instead of looking a certain way. I don’t feel healthy when I eat too much food for dinner or lay around on the couch all day. I don’t feel healthy when all I just eat sugar or I eat a big, greasy meal (my acid reflux hates me then too). I DO feel healthy when I take time to prepare and enjoy real meals (instead of grab-n-go stuff like I did in college), when I exercise regularly (pilates and swimming especially), and when I take time to relax and enjoy reading, writing, blogging, and hanging out with my husband and girlfriends.

I am all for women respecting themselves and their bodies by healthy living. Whether that that means their set point is a 2 or 12, that is how God made them. This book has completely changed the way I look at overweight people. Who am I to judge? I don’t know near the whole story and if they are overweight because of emotional issues, then they need a friend, not a judge. Healthy women are beautiful. (I pray that I will believe this more and more each day).

This pledge was in Crystal’s book (and she got it from Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon). It is my new credo:

The Live Well Pledge

Today, I will try to feed myself when I am hungry.

Today, I will try to be attentive to how foods taste and make me feel.

Today, I will try to choose foods that I like and that make me feel good.

Today, I will try to honor my body’s signals of fullness.

Today, I will try to find an enjoyable way to move my body.

Today, I will try to look kindly at my body and to treat it with love and respect.

I think that embracing and cherishing the body that God has given us is glorifying Him. It’s saying that His blessing in our lives is enough. His standard of beauty, and not the world’s, is what matters. “There is great gain in godliness with contentment.”