I Had an Unplanned Pregnancy and I Gave My Baby Away

I was 18 years old and had a brief crisis of faith. I’d been raised in church and had served God faithfully the majority of my life. Life is still “life” and sometimes hits us with curve balls we don’t expect. It just so happened for me that all those curve balls knocked me flat. I found myself suffering from a broken heart and things just weren’t working out as I’d planned. I vividly remember the day I told The Lord “I’ve served you my whole life and done everything right and look where it’s gotten me. From now on, I’m doing the opposite.” I’d decided to go the other way and try to find happiness on my own. It wasn’t my finest moment.

A couple of months later, I’d lost my virginity to a man I barely knew and found myself staring at a line on a stick. My friend and I examined it again and again.

“I think that’s a line.”

“Do you see a line?”

“It’s very faint does that mean anything?”

“Maybe it’s a mistake.”

“Surely my period will come any day.”

It didn’t.

A couple of weeks past, and I took another test, and it was DEFINITELY a line. I was pregnant.

Timing could not have been worse! I’d been kicked out of my parents house and was living with friends. Actually, I slept on the floor in my best friend’s bedroom. I’d planned on going to a Christian college to study music but seriously doubted they’d accept me now that I was an unwed mother. I worked at Wal-Mart and didn’t exactly have a grand salary. The “father” didn’t want anything to do with being involved. He already had a child for whom he was paying child support and he made it clear that he had no intention of paying for another child.

I had never known fear and hopelessness like I did then. There was no way I could tell my parents. So I hid it. Only my closest friends and my boyfriend knew what was going on. So I decided to run.

What I saw as an opportunity presented itself in another state so I moved. My best friend moved with me and we kept the secret to ourselves. I broke up with the boyfriend and didn’t even tell him where I was going. I would have nightmares of him coming after me, showing up in the middle of the night to take care of the problem and get rid of both me and my baby. The only thing I knew was that I needed to make a good life for my child.

I ended up working at Wendy’s making $4.75 per hour. When I told my boss about the pregnancy, she cut my hours. Things went from bad to worse, until one night I found myself in a puddle on the living room floor of my apartment crying out to God. I decided to come back home. I was 8 months pregnant, and I moved back in with mommy. Something I swore I’d never do.

My mother was a godly woman and she showed me grace instead of condemnation. She welcomed me home like the prodigal, arms open and willing to help. Not everyone was so supportive. I received a lot of negative reactions as well from people who were supposed to love me and that was heartbreaking. It’s funny how some sins are looked at differently than others. People who had admittedly had promiscuous pasts looked down on me as if I were a leper. It drastically changed my perspective on how to love others and I strive to show others unconditional love now regardless of the messes they find themselves in, but I digress.

God took my ashes and made beauty. I looked into the eyes of my daughter for the first time that summer. I found a love I never knew existed. She was my world. Raising her alone would be hard. I worked hard! I enrolled in college and took on a full-time class load while working full-time and mothering full-time. It wasn’t easy but it was SO worth it. The truth is that God is faithful. He knew exactly what my wayward, aching heart needed to draw me back to him. He gave me exactly what was best for me, my precious girl. She changed me in more ways than I can list. I have never regretted having her. I’ve never thought I messed up my life. Sure it changed my plans a bit but ultimately, it just brought me new plans.

A few weeks ago, I walked my girl down the aisle in my backyard on her wedding day and gave her away to a wonderful man. She was brightness embodied, the most beautiful bride I’d ever seen. She has grown to become everything I could have hoped for and more. A high school graduate, now a wife and a college student, she’s beginning her own life. She’s serving the Lord.

I know firsthand the fear and confusion surrounding an unplanned pregnancy. I know the anxiousness of wondering how on earth you could ever provide for a child when you can barely provide for yourself. I know aloneness and what it’s like to be in a bad relationship or be carrying a child whose other parent wants nothing to do with you. I lived it. I’m not here to pass judgment on “choices”. But I want to offer this, often what we feel is the end is really the beginning. Sometimes the “bad” things we go through are really God’s perfect plan to bring us to something better and propel us towards his purpose.

I hear so many debates these days about abortion. I am fundamentally opposed to abortion but I understand the emotions that would draw someone to a place of such desperation. It breaks my heart. Some rant about “rights” as though they are talking about getting highlights or changing dentists. We spout overpopulation arguments or talk about how no one should bring a child into a situation where the parent can’t provide for it. That would be unloving so elimination is a somehow more humane decision. We could be advocating to prevent unwanted pregnancy in the first place rather than using abortion as a means of birth control, but somehow such arguments are deemed hateful and unrealistic. I’m often appalled by the callousness of the human heart when it comes to this topic.

So rather than argue about those things, I offer you this, my experience. I chose to have my baby and it was the best decision I ever made. What felt at the time to be overwhelming and impossible turned out to be such amazing grace! God knows what we need better than we do. He proves it all the time. My girl was the best gift he could have given me. I want to encourage you to look beyond your circumstance whatever it may be and find the hope that is hiding in it. It’s there somewhere even when you have to dig for it. And when it comes to abortion, don’t forget that you’re talking about more than ideology. You’re talking babies and mothers and fear, hopelessness, desperation, anxiousness, and the desire to do the right thing for everyone in the face of the most monumental situation. Don’t forget to be kind! But never negate the possibility that there is a purpose for that child and that it might just be the miracle you’ve been hoping for.

I chose life and I got to give away beauty to the world. You’re welcome!

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Image by Kaitey Brawley Photography

Image by Kaity Brawley Photography

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The Problem with Church

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I have been in church most of my life. I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. If you’ve been around church people long enough, I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “I’ve been hurt by the church” or “I’ve been hurt in church” at least once. It’s almost epidemic. The church, the place where people should flock to feel loved and welcomed, appreciated, needed, and safe, often times has become a source of pain or contention. This was never God’s intention. Yet , we are mere mortals and churches, though good intentioned, cease to be perfect the moment we walk through the door. Church was never intended to be a showroom full of the perfect and sinless. Church is a gathering place for the wounded. Church is a hospital for the broken. Fallible, imperfect men and women, join together as one body, with one united purpose, to glorify the Lord and draw closer to Him.

This morning I was thinking about King Josiah. His story is recorded in the Bible in the book of II Chronicles and also in II Kings. Josiah was 8 years old when he became king and at that young age he began to seek after the Lord. The real turning point for him happened 18 years later when one of the priests found the Book of the Law and read it to him. He saw himself there in the words. He realized the only hope for his nation and his people was change and he decided to act. Here’s the thing, Josiah had faithfully been serving God for 18 years by this time. Our current system of belief so often states that we are to follow after God ourselves and let others deal with themselves. Up to this point, that’s pretty much what Josiah had been doing. We cannot change anyone and we shouldn’t butt into anyone’s business. It sounds so good. But we are missing the point entirely. Our faith isn’t just about us. It never has been. Our faith is about serving others and helping them to reach the fullness of the life that God intended for them as well. In our self-absorbed culture, this seems so contrary but I contend that it’s just fundamental.

Josiah “set the priests in their duties and encouraged them for the service of the house of the Lord.” (II Chron. 35:2. Then later in verse 6 he tells the priests to “prepare them [the Passover offerings] for your brethren that they may do the according to the word of the Lord.” After they had served each other, they were encouraged to prepare for themselves. Verse 7 says that his leaders gave willingly to the people. You see, Josiah found that the key to leadership was equipping and encouraging others to operate in the fullness of their calling. In Verse 16, the Bible says the singers were in their places. So here they all were, in their place of utility ready to serve each other: a gathering of people focused on the person next to them rather than on themselves.

Maybe if we as a church would spend more time focusing on the person next to us than we do on our own problems or even on what we think we have to offer, things might be different. Maybe if we quit waiting on the Pastor or church leadership to do all the work and instead we step up and fill in the gaps, the ministry would be more effective.

Josiah found himself in the book of the law that day and it changed him. It caused him to realize his utility was not just as a ruler, but as an encourager. He led a nation to repentance through service. Perhaps it’s time we follow his example. So often, we’ve looked at all of the things we think exclude others from ministry rather than finding their gifting and encouraging them in it. As we encourage and equip them, they draw closer to Christ and the negatives often fall away.

We all have rough edges that need to be sanded down over time. Let’s stop focusing on the edges so much and start advocating for the heart. Let’s stop condoning sinfulness in church while casting stones at the folks outside. Let’s restore true worship again where we lose ourselves in wonder at a God who sees us, broken and fallible, and adores us anyway. Let’s follow his lead and radically love those we deem despicable. Maybe we can begin to see their hearts instead of their actions. Maybe we can find the person, whom God loves unconditionally, instead of focusing on the outside appearance. We believe God saves us through faith and not through our works, yet we judge the works of those who haven’t yet come to know Him and forget to love.

If you want to change the world, do it…one word of encouragement at a time.

Why I Still Hang with the Crazies

If you’ve spent any time on social media recently, you’ve probably noticed a few quotes such as these:

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Those were just two such statements I ran across this morning, but everyday I see a new version of the same basic statement. It sounds great on the surface right. Maybe I would have, at one time, completely agreed and gave an enthusiastic “like” or “amen”, but lately, something has seemed unsettling about that idea. The ideology is simply that our own health and happiness is the ultimate priority. Therefore, we shouldn’t tolerate anyone of anything that stands in the way of our own inner peace.

There are two flaws in this logic. The first is that anyone else has the power to take our peace in the first place. True peace doesn’t come from anything in this world. People, possessions and wealth are all trivial. True peace comes from knowing who we are and from the author of peace and our relationship with him. True peace is a gift that no one should ever have the right to snatch away. Sure we all struggle to hang on to it from time to time when life bears down hard and pushes every button we have. Still, the decision to let it go is totally ours. Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Secondly, our ultimate aim should not be our own happiness. I know, I know, not a lot of people will agree with me here, but let me explain what I mean. If we are believers, our aim is to become more Christ-like. “He must increase, I must decrease” John 3:30. You’ll never see Jesus cutting off the crazies. Instead we see him embracing the broken. We see him lay down his life for others time after time. He was never shaken by those who criticized him because he knew his purpose. Even in the face of Judas’ betrayal he ate dinner with him and didn’t cast him aside.

We are called to do the same. We should be so sure in ourselves that the drama around us can’t shake us. No one enjoys criticism or being gossiped about and lied to but that doesn’t mean it should knock us over. I for one, refuse to allow anyone that kind of power over me. Our lives are not our own. They are given to others. We do this naturally to a point. We give of ourselves to our friends, children, spouses, and families daily. We give until it hurts but that doesn’t mean we stop giving. We give as unto the Lord because we love him and we love others. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Matthew 12:30-31

Let me clarify, that I don’t believe we should put up with abuse. God may call us to be martyrs for sake of the gospel, but I believe there are situations where lines are crossed and healthy boundaries exist. I don’t spend hours on the phone with my ex husband allowing him to treat me the way he did when we were married. I am a firm believer in balance. Any extreme situation is unhealthy. Pray for wisdom there. I’m more talking about “drama light” if that makes sense. Being loving to others even when they are annoying. Reaching out in love to the person who talks about you behind your back. Being a friend to that person who always has something going on and bearing with them in love even when you want to shake them or slap them upside the head.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function,  so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” Romans 12:1-5

It is our reasonable service to lay our lives down for the un-loveable. Our mind may tell us to take care of us first but the gospel tells us to crawl on an altar and serve. Dead men don’t have rights.

So maybe I’m crazy but I will not “un-friend” the crazies in my life. I will take time out of my day to answer the phone and love someone through a crisis. I will not waiver in the face of disrespect or cower when attacked. I won’t be swayed by gossip but rather, I’ll refuse to listen to it even when it’s about me. As Eleanor Roosevelt said,  “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” My security comes from a higher purpose and my peace will not falter. So to all my crazy peeps, I’m not going anywhere.

Does Modesty Matter?

Photo by the Associated Press

Photo by the Associated Press

What does it mean to be modest? The dictionary defines it as “behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency.” Churches have defined it based on 1 Timothy 2:9-10, “in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.” We’ve argued the topic at length. I remember being told as a young girl that I should beware not to cause a man to lust. I couldn’t, as a young girl, understand this statement. My parents were even asked to leave a church they pastored as a result of my mom being caught red-‘legged’ in a pair of shorts in her own home when an elder stopped by un-announced. So believe me, I understand the abuse of women who were pounded with shame and legalism using the mallet of modesty.

That being said, I think we do a disservice to women and men alike by refusing to have the conversation about modest apparel or by stating that modest dress, being a subjective concept to begin with, is irrelevant to our present culture and should be abandoned in light of freedom of expression. I stumbled across  this article  this morning. For those of you who won’t take the time to read it, it is a response by Rachel Held Evans to a recent presentation by Jessica Rey regarding the evolution of the swimsuit and her new line of modest swimwear. I highly recommend watching Ms. Rey’s presentation here. Ms. Evans seemingly contends that since the church has used the issue of modesty to shame women into the notion that they are responsible for a man’s lust toward them and since most biblical passages relating to modesty are aimed more specifically at materialism, woman should be free to wear whatever they want without regard to how their clothing and appearance will affect the men (and women) around them.

It’s not the only area in scripture where we’ve used similar premises either, I might add. I’ve heard many women say they’d prefer to remove the scriptural concept of submission in marriage as well. The problem isn’t so much that submission or modesty are restrictive, it’s that they have been misused and abused. It’s no secret that the church has used concepts pertaining to godly living to condemn and even abuse people. Oftentimes, this is done to justify one’s own sinful tendencies. Christian men may use modesty as an excuse, “If she didn’t dress that way, I wouldn’t lust.” The truth is that lust is a heart condition as Jesus stated in Matthew 5:29, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” It is never acceptable to shift the blame for one’s sinfulness onto another. Jesus clearly puts the onus on the individual when he continues saying that if your eye offends you, pluck it out.

I remember this concept confusing me when I was a teenager and being told not to cause a man to lust. I didn’t understand it. I thought, “why doesn’t he just not look?” And there is some truth there. Men and women are responsible for their own actions and their own sins. If something is causing you to stumble, look away, or like Joseph when Potiphar’s wife got naked and tried to seduce him, RUN!!! FLEE!!! Get the heck out of there. You are responsible! Period!

Still, Paul also speaks about not eating meat sacrificed to idols if it offends your neighbor. As in just about everything, there is a balance. While women are certainly entitled to looking fashionable and pretty. They need to examine their motivations when it comes to issues of modesty.

It’s true that the conflicting voices are growing louder in our culture. The over-sexualization and objectification of women is everywhere you turn. Somehow, this is being sold to us as not only acceptable but as empowering to woman. The notion that to show off our bodies gives us freedom and power is inaccurate, however. My very astute daughter noticed recently that certain entertainers who call themselves feminists are most known for their ability to dance provocatively (while singing) wearing very little clothing. They brandish their sexuality calling it empowerment while, in actuality, they further the exploitative notion that women are objects to be used for sexual pleasure and entertainment. A true feminist should be touting the truth that women are so much more than showpieces, they are people with enormous capability, complex beauty and sensitivity. Women are masters at relationships, interpersonal connectivity and managing the demands of life with grace and dignity. Women are purposed for greatness that far exceeds their bodies and sexuality.

That being said, a woman’s sexuality and beauty is also a wonderful thing. When a woman is confident in herself, clothing herself in dignity and strength and faithfully following The Lord, she radiates beauty. She doesn’t need to hide from it. She doesn’t need to flaunt it. She carries it with her, inherent to who she is. There is no need for a woman to stop being interested in fashion or wear frumpy outfits to hide her from the world. We are a light and we should shine brightly.

So how do we strike a balance between the two voices? I think perhaps it begins right where the conversation began, with the heart. As women, we need to understand how our clothing (or lack thereof) may have an effect on the opposite gender. If we know the way we dress is causing an issue for another person, is it loving and Godly to continue dressing that way?

We need to begin having an honest inner dialog with ourselves. Why do we feel compelled to show a little more skin? Is it really a question of our being comfortable that way? I think for many women it’s more a matter of competition if we’re being honest. We feel like if we don’t look a certain way, we won’t be noticed anymore or we won’t be considered beautiful. We may even feel like it’s the only way to keep our husbands looking our way and not toward the gal in the grocery store who isn’t afraid to flaunt it. (side-note: my ex-husband was a sex addict and I can assure you, this tactic doesn’t work. Lust is a heart issue and he will always look elsewhere if it’s in his heart to do so. It has nothing to do with you no matter what the enemy of your soul screams in your ear…but that’s another blog post.)

Is it loving to wear clothing that makes it necessary for every Christian man to “run” and look away to maintain his integrity? Is it loving to wear clothing that makes other women feel uncomfortable being around you because they either feel it necessary to compete with you or protect their husbands and sons from you? It may seem like a good and honorable notion to dress for oneself but it’s not biblical. We are instructed biblically to put the needs of others before our own. (Matthew 22:36-40). 1 Cor. 8:13 “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.” Col. 3:17, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” It seems to me that if we are going to take a position here, wouldn’t the best one be to err on the side of love and respect for the needs of others rather than a desire to do whatever we want and not be restricted?

We have a responsibility to teach our daughters a little more than the do’s and don’ts. We should be comfortable broaching the subjects of lust, sexuality and attraction with our children. They will hear many messages from the world. Shouldn’t we be sure that they know the beauty of God’s design for sex? Instead of talking merely about the negatives of an issue, we should discuss the positives. There is something wonderful about knowing that certain things are for my husband’s eyes only. There is something wonderful in trusting in one another’s commitment to honor a marriage as well. We need to start talking about integrity, self-respect and dignity instead of shame and condemnation. I find that people tend to follow vision. Give your kids a clear vision of why it’s good to maintain modest dress and purity and they are more apt to go for it. Give them a no-no list and they won’t be quite as enthusiastic.

I know it isn’t always easy making a stand for something that isn’t necessarily in keeping with the tides of culture. Still, I firmly believe that one can look fashionable and beautiful without compromising modest standards and dignity. I firmly believe that removing biblical standards on the basis of culture is a dangerous proposition. I firmly believe that women are worth more than the what they look like in micro-mini skirts and halter tops. I firmly believe that a hedonistic culture focused on self and individual happiness would be impacted most by a remnant of believers determined to serve and love others more than themselves. I firmly believe that true freedom comes from the knowledge that we are loved immensely by God and His standards are there to protect and guide us rather than to inhibit us. Modesty is important and relevant even now in this generation and we need to continue to have conversations about it.

Why I’m Choosing not to Teach my Children “Tolerance”

Tolerance

The collective voice of our cultural paradigm can be heard from sea to shining sea. We are reminded that hate is never the answer, that bullying is prevalent and tragic and that our differences should be celebrated rather than used for purposes of division or judgement. The most well-known passage of scripture at one time was John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”. Now it is, “Judge not lest ye be judged”. I would list the reference, but let’s be honest, the majority of those who quote this scripture often, don’t know where to find it in the Bible, just that it’s in there somewhere. 

I read a story this week that impacted me. You can read it here: http://specialneedsparenting.net/darkness-theater/.  A mother brought her autistic son to see a movie knowing that he doesn’t handle the previews perfectly, but does just fine during the feature. Unfortunately, they never got to the feature because after he spoke a couple of times during the previews, they were met with jeers from the other patrons requesting they leave. When the mother relented and rose to leave, they were met with cheers, taunts and even someone yelling that her son was “a retard”. Ah, how tolerant we are of those different from us…

Tolerance as defined by Mr. Webster is: “willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own  : the ability to accept, experience, or survive something harmful or unpleasant”. This doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy.

Perhaps tolerance at its core is selfish. We really desire others to tolerate us regardless of whether we afford others the same courtesy. We fight for tolerance in certain areas, but don’t want to think about it in other areas that don’t matter to us. But the word “tolerance” inherently has that connotation. “I don’t like you but I have to tolerate you so just do your thing as far away from me as possible.” Why thank you dear world. I feel the love now.

I’ve made a decision that I will not teach my children “tolerance”. Instead, I will teach them to love. Love isn’t restricted by agreeing with another. Love isn’t impacted by differences, disabilities or lifestyles.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”  I Corinthians 13: 4-8

Jesus never asked us to tolerate our brother but he commanded us to love one another.

In love, we assist those with disabilities rather than worrying whether they will ruin our time at the movies. In love, we reach across religious lines and offer friendship and respect to those who believe differently than us. Rather than putting up with those around us, maybe we should try giving of ourselves.

I choose to teach my children to love others even when they seem unloveable. After all, isn’t that what Jesus did for us?

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

When You Stop and Think About It

Have you ever read something that’s going viral that you agree with completely and then you can’t get it out of your head? Not because it was any new concept or trans formative thought, but because you’re suddenly struck by the notion that it isn’t common sense to the mass populace. You realize that the way you try to live your life is foreign to others. Somehow you’ve become the anomaly. Selfishness has taken the place of selfishness everywhere like an epidemic.

Then everywhere you look, there are reminders of this fact and you wonder how you never saw it before. Then you grow increasingly concerned about others because of this realization and you wonder if maybe a small voice in the mass void can make a difference.

Then you realize that by nature of the fact that the aforementioned viral piece went viral, one lone voice already has. Then you realize that if that voice called to the masses, maybe yours can too.

Then you sit down and write the circular reasoning down and send it out into the void so maybe someone else can come to the same conclusion and stop and write or speak up or sing or do whatever it is they do. Then maybe one voice will become two voices or one hundred or one thousand or one million. Then maybe the collective voices will proclaim in unison that there is a better way.

Give of yourself. Make a difference.

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” Francis Chan

Why I Do & Don’t Work Out

 

Everyone knows the benefits of exercise. Doctors, health & nutrition experts, personal trainers, magazine articles, advertisers and celebrities have been telling us for years that if we want to be healthy, we have to work it. For me, that fact alone has done very little to persuade me to get up & move, or worse yet…step away from the chocolate. I realize that there are those among you who can honestly say that health is your primary motivator for exercise but when I look around; I can’t help but think that the majority of the folks at the gym are there because they want to look better. I used to be one of them.

I grew up as one of the scrawniest people alive. I was ridiculously skinny as a child & teenager. My first pregnancy, I weighed in at 5 months pregnant a whopping 88 pounds. I’m 5’3″ tall. The only concern I had with weight was that I had not acquired any. At some point, after a few kids and a desk job, I crossed the line into “normal”. All of the sudden, I was just an average, thin person instead of a commercial for starving children. I was in the middle of a disastrous marriage in which every flaw I had was pointed out & magnified. I became terrified that one day I would look in the mirror and it would verify what the voices screaming in my ear everyday were telling me…that I really wasn’t good enough. So I worked out. I became obsessed with every “trouble zone”. I worked out in the morning before starting my day and did crunches & leg work in front of the TV at night. I knew I wasn’t fat, but I wanted to be better, whatever that was.

After my divorce from my first husband, I got worse. I didn’t mean to & I don’t know if I even knew it at the time, but I stopped eating breakfast and lunch. I continued to exercise & added to that the responsibility of walking my ex’s dog, that weighed more than I did, three times a day. I dropped back down to below the 100 pound mark which I’d tried so hard to get up to as a teenager. It was lunacy.

When I started dating my husband, something in me shifted. He spent time at the gym, but his focus was totally different from what mine had ever been. He truly wanted to be healthy & fit for all of the right reasons, while I’d been striving to be good enough. He began to love me to life. I began to realize that I’d been enough all along and that no amount or lack of lunges would change that.

For a time, I stopped exercising altogether. I think I needed that time to come to terms with the fact that my body doesn’t define me. At times it’s been hard. I’ve gained 25 pounds in the last year. I probably needed at least 15 of them. Sure, I got aggravated when my size 0 pants quit fitting. I cried once or twice when I couldn’t fit into anything in my closet. Still, I feel completely satisfied with who I am and that is a victory for me so I refuse to feel defeated by a few extra pounds.

I think sometimes, we need to really grasp a concept before we can move on. I needed those pounds. Now I can work out for the right reasons. I woke up this morning and I didn’t want to crawl out of bed and start working up a sweat but I did it anyway. That for me is the greatest treasure of exercise. It’s in the ability to cause our flesh to submit to what we know it should be doing. Romans 7:14-15 talks about man’s struggle with sin. “14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” I think the same concept applies here. We know that in order to be healthy & fit, we need to exercise, yet we don’t want to, so we don’t. For me, when I put my flesh into subjection & let it know that it doesn’t get a vote here, it is so fulfilling. I feel powerful & strong. I also know if I can make my body submit to exercise, I can make it submit to the Lord in other areas as well. I love that!

I work out for me. I work out for my kids, so that I can have the energy and stamina to play with them & do what I need to do to be a great mom. I work out for my husband so that I can be around for a long time and enjoy the wonderful life we have together. I work out for God (yes that sounds strange) but I know that my body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and I need to be a good steward and take care of it. I work out so that I have energy. Sure, I want to look good, I want my husband to have a beautiful wife to come home to. I want to feel good about myself, but I’ve learned that I am beautiful even if I have a little cellulite. I am perfectly designed just the way that I am and finally, I’m okay with that.