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Five Years

19 May

Five years ago, on May 19, 2007, I married my favorite person.

Spring will always remind me of the excitement I felt during our engagement. I’d wake up in the morning and stare at the ring on my finger. “It’s true. This is actually happening.”

In some ways, our 4.5-month engagement flew by. There was a lot to do, buy and plan but things fell into place quickly and easily. I tried on 4 dresses and decided this was the one:

We got married at the north campus of the church we had been attending, surrounded by lots of trees and flowers:

We had our reception at a historic old farm, now right in the middle of a suburb:

(My brother and sister-in-law got married there the following year!)

But in other ways, our engagement seemed to last forever. Even just a few weeks seemed like an eternity until I could spend every single minute with my best friend and wake up in the same bed as him.

But that day finally arrived and it was magical. My parents are to thank for that. They were SO generous and made sure that our wedding was everything we had dreamed it would be. The flowers, dress, decorations, food, everything was AMAZING. Thank you Mom and Dad for making our special day so perfect!

I am thankful that I was able to just enjoy the day. Whatever happened, happened. If things didn’t go according to plan, that was ok. Because at the end of the day, we were MARRIED and were going to spend the rest of our lives together. (I did, however, get slightly irritated at Travis when a slow song came on and he didn’t come find me to dance!)

But as all married couples know, the wedding day is the easy part of marriage.  After the excitement winds down, you realize that you’re still the same two people with the same old problems.

That’s where God’s grace comes in.

If it weren’t for God’s grace…

Well, I’m scared to think of where Travis and I would be today if God’s grace hadn’t been actively at work in changing me. I am a different woman than the one Travis married 5 years ago. And praise God that I am! It has taken me FIVE WHOLE YEARS to be able to cheerfully and willingly serve my husband. To desire his happiness more than my own. To set aside my own desires and expectations to please him.

“This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.

This is the day that the Lord had made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Edited to add 5/23: I should also mention that our marriage is where it is today because God has been actively at work in changing Travis. He is so slow to anger, quick to compassion and incredibly sweet and thoughtful. He has changed the way he does things (like the dishes) because he knows the way I like them done. A marriage takes two people working together with servant hearts and many a conflict has been avoided by Travis kindly taking notice of and avoiding the things that tip me over the edge.

I am thankful every day to be married to such a wonderful, loving man. I truly do not deserve him. I don’t deserve any of the blessings that God so abundantly lavishes upon me. But He still gives them to me. The Giver loves to give, and gives in abundance, as if He had nothing else to do but to give and give again.

Today, I tell God that His gift to me has not gone unnoticed. I am thankful to the depths of my soul for His giving me the love of my life.

I can’t wait to see how God shows His faithfulness to us in the next five years.

My body is not who I am.

1 Oct

 

Last Tuesday, I went to the second meeting of our women’s book study at church. The study I chose is Love to Eat, Hate to Eat by Elyse Fitzpatrick. Even though I had found peace with food back in December of 2009 and I like to think that I have healthy eating all figured out, food and body image are still a struggle for me, and have been for a while.

It started the summer after I graduated from high school. I was bored because I only worked 20 hours, my boyfriend was gone for the summer and all my friends were busy. So to pass the time, I started exercising intentionally and counting calories for the first time in my life.

I took a detour my freshman year of college, when I became a pothead and gained 20 lbs from the munchies. By my sophomore year, I was back down to my previous weight, but more obsessed about diet and exercise than ever.

After becoming a Christian the summer after my sophomore year, things got better but this struggle continued to be a roller coaster.

I tried to dethrone my idol of thinness in 2008.

I swore off counting calories in 2009.

I talked about accepting my body shape in 2010.

I thought I had discovered the solution to emotional eating in March of this year.

But here I am, still struggling. That’s why I signed up for the book study. In all the years of my dealing with this, I had never talked to another Christian woman about it. I advocate vulnerability and transparency in all areas of life. I have been very open in talking about my life before I became a Christian and the body struggles I had then. But I have always conveniently glossed over my current trials.

Because I’m ashamed. This is an ugly sin. It’s judgmental and critical and harsh and unforgiving. It makes me feel superior to some and inferior to others. I have really good days when I think, “Oh, I must be over that struggle.” And then there are bad days when I think, “I’m so fat and disgusting and I feel like a blob.” Then there are days when I wake up and feel good about what I see in the mirror but after eating a little too much at dinner, I swear to never eat again.

I have tried almost everything I can think of to conquer this demon. I’ve reminded myself of truth – that God created me this way and I’m beautiful to Him. I’ve tried to be inspired by other women who are confident in less-than-perfect figures. I’ve ditched the clothes that make me figure-conscious and instead donned clothes that I can feel comfortable in. I’ve traded in my bikini for a tankini. I’ve sworn off sweets for months at a time. I’ve sworn off having rules about eating at all.

And here I still am.

I think this book study will be good for me. I know God wants to change this area of my life (because it is nas-tay) and I have long been trying to fix it myself (like I always do). I think it will not only be good to have other women to talk to about this, but also to have a meeting every two weeks to keep my mind focused on this. And this time, I am not expecting any quick fixes. I am not expecting this problem to be solved overnight, or for me to able to remind myself of truth one morning and have my struggles vanish into thin air. This will take time. This will being reminded of truth over and over and over and over…

The truth that is helping me refocus right now came from John Piper’s sermon called Staying Married is Not About Staying in Love Part 2: Our bodies do not represent who we really are. All along, I have been operating under the purview that I am only as good as I look.

But that’s not the truth – about me or any other person. The truth is that our bodies don’t have the glory they were supposed to have. We lost that glory in the fall. These imperfect bodies remind us that God will someday give us new bodies – bodies that are perfect and beautiful and free of sin. These bodies are vessels that house our souls, which cannot be seen but are precious.

“Let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:4).

Trials in our lives remind us that we don’t belong on earth and someday, we will be with Christ in perfect joy. In the same way, imperfect bodies can remind us that we will be glorified one day – but not today, and not here. Instead of chasing peace and perfection on earth, I can let these trials redirect my gaze to the greater reality of heaven and a new body.

I’m sure this is just the tip of the eating/body issue iceberg so there will be more to come.

What truth helps you accept your body the way it is?

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Song of Myself

15 Jul

In honor of my being alive for 28 years today, here are 28 things you may not know about me:

  1. I don’t eat meat off the bone.
  2. I can’t spit.
  3. I hate scary movies. Hate.
  4. My middle name is Ruth, after my mom’s mom.
  5. I was born with lots of dark brown hair that stuck straight up.
  6. My hair changed into bleach blonde by the time I was one.
  7. I couldn’t swallow a pill until high school.
  8. I love my family – immediate, extended and inherited through marriage.
  9. I knew I wanted to marry Travis after dating him for 3 months. His smile made me melt.

  1. I don’t like sweating when I don’t want to be sweaty.
  2. I get cranky in hot weather.
  3. My body temperature can go from cold to overheating in less than 30 seconds.
  4. My favorite bagel is chocolate chip from Panera.
  5. I like doing special things on my birthday.
  6. I hate bugs of all kinds. Hate.
  7. I’m deathly scared of spiders (what female isn’t?).
  8. I love (recreationally) swimming in lakes as long as I don’t touch any seaweed.

  1. I hated running in high school.
  2. I got my snowmobile license when I was about 13.
  3. I mowed our lawn growing up on a riding lawn mower called the Yazoo.
  4. My first kiss was under a table in kindergarten.
  5. I first kissed Travis sitting on the floor of my college bedroom. He first kissed me a month later on the bluffs in Red Wing. J
  6. I have never attempted a back flip on a trampoline, though I love doing front flips.
  7. I love swinging and spinning.
  8. I hate roller coasters. Hate.
  9. Working on my birthday makes me feel grown up (in a very boring way).
  10. 2009 was the first year I worked on my birthday.
  11. My favorite cake is either fruit pizza (it’s kind of a cake, right?) or éclair cake.

Dreaming

6 Dec

I got an email yesterday from one of my best friends in Minnesota. She wrote about how she was scared to date anyone because she had gotten her heart broken in the fall by a boy. She had spent a lot of time with him and thought he liked her but turned out, he didn’t. (When will boys understand that spending a lot of time with one girl who is “just a friend” is a no-no?!?!?)

Her email reminded me a lot of what I had to work through while dating Travis: learning to trust again.

After reading that email from my friend, I felt a renewed desire to write my memoir. I have suppressed this desire since I graduated from college. For my senior thesis, I wrote a prospectus, which is a fancy name for book proposal. I submitted it to about 5 specialized publishing houses. All came back saying “Sorry, no dice.” I put it on the back burner while I went to another Beach Project, got a real job, got engaged and then married, and then moved to Colorado.

But the dream has not disappeared. There is nothing I’d like to do more than be an author. To have books published. To tell other young women my story and share what God has taught me through the hardships I’ve gone through. They are not extraordinary hardships; they’re common ones. And that’s why I think my story would be so relevant and useful to other women.

I’ve hesitated to proactively go after this dream for a number of reasons. 

1. Every time I tell someone about wanting to write my memoir, I feel like so narcisstic. I ask myself, “Why is my story worth telling over someone else’s?” 

2. I’m scared that my dream won’t come true. I’ll put all this energy into writing and developing my manuscript, only to have it sit on a shelf somewhere, unread. I also wonder if this dream is just a selfish ambition or if it could really be in God’s will for me.

3. I’m working full-time and use that as an excuse to not devote time to writing. ‘I would have to quit work and only write for it to work,’ I think. But then what if #2 happens?

As I was doing my hair today, I was again wondering about what I should be doing with my life. Mentoring? Teaching? Volunteering? And I finally put 2 + 2 together: Writing is my passion. And writing is my gift. I should be using it.

1 Peter 4:11 says: “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.”

I should be using my gift of writing to serve the body of Christ and to glorify God. So I am daring to dream big and start writing, in faith that God will use it for His glory and purposes, whatever that looks like. Travis is starting grad school in January (God willing) so my plan is to write while he is going to class and doing homework. I will submit my manuscript and if no one agrees to publish it, I will look in to self-publishing. I am going to go for it…we’ll see what happens.

My idol of thinness

26 Mar

Since my senior year of high school, I have struggled with my weight, body image, and eating habits. Growing up, I was a naturally thin child. I didn’t watch what I ate because I just didn’t think about it. I ate what and how much I wanted and stopped when I was full. It was very simple. I was always a little conscious about my stomach–my biological makeup just deposits more fat there than other places of my body. When I was on danceline in high school, a lot of the girls on my team practiced in just their sports bras. I always wore a shirt. I was always concerned about my stomach at the beach.

But my senior year, one of my good friends starting eating only salads and lost a lot of weight. She didn’t look gross but she was thin. Then my boyfriend at the time went away for the whole summer to be a camp counselor. I didn’t have much going on since I was only working part-time at a drugstore/gift shop. So I started counting calories and exercising everyday (I had never intentionally exercised in highschool but had danceline practice 3 days a week and performances on the weekend). I lost some weight but when I got to college, everything went out the window.

My freshman year of college was characterized mostly by weed and munchies. My roommate Hope and I ate so much food when we got the munchies that sometimes we felt like we couldn’t breathe, we were so full. I never exercised (unless you count walking to class). Needless to say, I gained about 20 pounds, which put me at 155. About the middle of second semester, I decided I wanted to stop eating so much and start exercising (my lifestyle had become unenjoyable). That summer, I started running outside. At first, I could only run one pathetic block. By the fall, I could run 3 miles (on the treadmill).

My sophomore year was when my calorie-counting obsession really took off. I still was smoking weed so I still got the munchies. But during the day, I limited my calories to about 1,200. I went to bed so hungry sometimes that I couldn’t sleep because of the hunger pangs. How I ever did that, I have no idea. I ran on the treadmill at the Rec Center, often admonishing myself for a binge the night before due to weed. I lost all the weight that I had gained my freshman year. My desire to be thin became an obsession and was spurred on by the attention I got from guys.

The next summer, I studied abroad in Venezuela for a month and a half. Pretty much all the food I ate over there went straight through me. So I lost some more weight–getting down to 125. I have realized in the past couple years that for me, that weight is only maintainable when my food ends up in the toilet 30 minutes after I eat it. And that is not a fun life. In Venezuela, I became a Christian. But there were other issues more urgent than my body image–things like sex, alcohol and drugs. So it took a backseat.

I still clung to my idol of thinness throughout my junior year of college, even though the rest of my life changed dramatically. I stopped having sex. I stopped drinking and partying. I finally stopped smoking weed. My binges did not exist anymore but there were still days when I only ate 800 calories out of a desire to be thin. Finally, I recognized in my desire to be thin a desire to be sexy and get attention from guys.

My senior year, I let up on my physical regimen. I felt happy with my weight and treated myself to high-calorie food often. I worked at Noodles and Company the fall of my senior year. Between eating their food and not exercising much, I gained about 10 pounds. None of my pants fit anymore and I felt like a fat blob. I started exercising again and eating healthy. Some of the weight came off but I stayed around 145 for that whole summer.

When I got back from Summer Beach Project (in Myrtle Beach), I started running again. My roommates decided that they were going to train for a 10-mile race, so I joined them. Running was good for me. It kept me on schedule and I really enjoyed it. Because of my increase in appetite, I didn’t lose much weight. But I was in the best shape of my life.

Then, the day before New Year’s Eve, Travis proposed. With the biggest day of my life finally on the calendar, I started eating sensibly. I passed up dessert at my workplace and didn’t eat when I wasn’t hungry–even when people brought free food into work. I abstained from Doughnut Monday. I kept running and weight training as much as I could. And on our wedding day, I was very pleased with how I looked.

I started counting calories again the summer after Travis and I got married. He was gone for 2 weeks in Ghana, Africa, and I passed the time without him (much like that summer before college) by counting calories and exercising. I didn’t lose any weight.

Then we moved to Colorado at the end of August. We hiked a lot when we first got out here and I stopped counting calories. I kept running, though the altitude and hills made running even 2 miles a challenge. I listened to my body’s hunger cues and ate healthy foods. We bought a scale in mid-October and lo and behold, I had lost 10 pounds!

Over the holidays, I ate sensibly and didn’t stuff myself. When I got back to CO, I weighed myself and I had actually lost a pound! But soon after that, I started counting calories again. It started off as an education tool–to get an idea of how many calories I was eating every day. But it became an idol. I was pursuing eating healthy and exercising for my own glory–to lose weight and look good. God didn’t factor into the equation at all.

I went back to MN for my grandpa’s funeral and ate way too much while I was there. I was feeling fat and disappointed in myself but Lindsay, my brother’s girlfriend, told me I looked great and like I had been running a lot, so that made me feel better. But now I have gotten to the point that I don’t want to continue this crazy cycle.

I am sick of eating and exercising and the fear of getting fat (and conversely, the desire to be thin) ruling my life. The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:12 “All things are lawful, but not all things are beneficial. All things are lawful for me but I will not be enslaved by anything.” I will not be enslaved by my desire to be thin!! As I was reading the Word last night, I saw that my desire to take care of my body should come out of a desire to glorify God in everything I do (1 Cor. 10:31) and to treat my body like the temple of the Holy Spirit that it is (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

I have this vision for my life of eating: that I would be so satisfied in God that food would be a secondary pleasure (rightly so). Overeating is a small attempt at filling a void–being so consumed with physical pleasure that reason is trumped and impulse reigns. Often, my decisions regarding food are made according to my fleshly desires, not my Spirit. But Romans 13:14 says “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” So I am waging war against my idol of thinness. I am no longer counting calories and I am seeking to be mindful of God’s glory–and seeking to not be mindful of my own–when eating and exercising. I will listen to my body and treat it with respect. After all, it is a holy temple. It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Galatians 2:20). Therefore, I will not starve or gorge my body but I will give it what it needs. And I will echo the words of my Savior in Proverbs 4:7–“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you.”