Listening

The dark can be so daunting

The light can seem so dim

Still, from heaven, you are calling.

Can I hear your voice again?

No fear in death or life, though all of hell presses in

Your voice, the roaring lion, shatters mountains and hangs on the wind.

Still small voice, speak to me. I’m listening!



Labor Day

Once a year, we get to cease from our “manic Monday” lives, and be celebrated for the impact our working has had on our society. We mark the end of the summer with this hiatus. We light our grills, don our shopping garb and hit the sales, relax with friends and family. We get to rest. But do we really?

What about our souls? Deep within where no one can see, do you feel yourself striving? Are you striving to be more, to do more, to be a better person, to be more diligent…to be seen? We hide these inner longings with stuff. The busy trappings of a life fully lived. Work, school, kids, chores, laundry, diapers, christian service, community service, hospitality, good works. I’m not denying the value of any of these things. They are all good and should be done. But do they drive us? When our tired heads crash into the fluff of our pillows at night, do they consume us still? Are we able to rest or are we thinking about all of our stuff? Do we feel full with overflow…ready to pour out again tomorrow not of necessity, but rather abundance? Why are we striving at all?

We all know labor. The toil and motion of our days. The drive to accomplish more or be a little better. So we reach and stretch like ace bandage around the wounds of our lives, hiding the inner longing from the masses. Gaining momentum so we can do more tomorrow. We know the ache of muscles overused. The dull of a mind overspent. The fog of lack of slumber and heavy heart. We may not labor everyday. We may even enjoy it. We, hopefully, take time out to laugh and enjoy the moments of greatness. We rest a bit now and then, but is rest a lifestyle?

I contend that every day should be labor day. Jesus said this in the book of Matthew: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30.  

The answer to our striving is always found in our following. Jesus didn’t ask us to be better. Jesus took our ‘bad’ upon himself, bore our sorrows and took our shame. Jesus provided freedom for our souls. Freedom from the burden of striving. When we come to him, we are free to be. In him we find rest. He joins us in the yoke of life, strapped in together with us and carries the burden for us. We simply walk with him.

There will always be hustle and bustle circling overhead. There will always be things to do and commotion to tame. But there will always be Jesus soothing our souls with the balm of his peace. He washes our hearts with his spirit, quiets us with his love and calls us righteous. None of this is based on what we can do or have done. Though our righteousness was as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), he clothes us with his righteousness (Romans 3).

Today, I encourage you to rest in him. Enjoy this labor day, knowing that you were created for his good pleasure, that he delights in you and that you are loved more than you can ever imagine. Happy Labor Day!

Rest

Gotta’ do what you gotta’ do

Whoever said pregnancy was magical must not have dealt with morning sickness. I have, in my four pregnancies, experienced varying degrees of first trimester ickyness. This time hasn’t been too bad until the past week or so. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that folks ask how I am feeling and up to this point, I’ve been able to say that I’m feeling great despite a little fatigue and the occasional nauseated moment. So since I was bragging, I am getting hit with the big guns. I am not feeling so good these days! Even as I sit here and type, I feel more and more rumbly in my tumbly. I’m sure this post will be cut short and revisited before it becomes complete as a result of this.

I realize that this is a completely normal part of a healthy pregnancy so I try not to complain about it too much (though my husband may disagree with me about the quantity of my whining). I also know there are little things I can do to stave off the nausea. The most effective is for me to eat something which always makes me laugh when I think about how ironic that is. When I feel the least like eating and the most likely to be unable to eat, I must eat in order to feel human again. What an awful trick?!

Like so many other things in life, the principle holds true that sometimes we need to do what is good for us regardless of whether or not we feel like it. My kids rarely jump out of bed first thing in the morning bursting with excitement about another day of school, but they need to go in order to grow. I rarely revel in the thought of a tough workout (try NEVER these days), but if I want the results I go for it anyway. I rarely find my kids begging for more zucchini or broccoli (except for my oldest who is abnormal and prefers veggies to meat at ALL times) but I know they need healthy foods to be healthy so they eat them anyway. Sometimes, I don’t feel like spending an hour in prayer or a little extra time in the word, but without prayer and study, I cannot maintain my spiritual health.

I am sitting here at lunch time trying to determine what I’m going to try to ingest to calm my queasy midsection and nothing sounds appetizing but I either eat or I continue to feel miserable. What we need may not always match what we want but that doesn’t mean we won’t end up with the desired result. God knows exactly what we need and what’s best for us. Instead of trying to beat the system and get our way, maybe we should just do what we know is best and get rid of the ‘icky’ for awhile. Sometimes we just gotta’ do what we gotta’ do.

Challenge

I’m a sucker for a good challenge until it hurts too much.

I recently gave into an old obsession and bought yet another workout DVD because it looked SO pretty. We all need a little variety from time to time right? I was so excited to pop the sucker in and transform my body in one hour. I knew as soon as it was through I’d be rushing with endorphins and ready to overtake the tri-state area (yes, I have kids and watch way too much Phineas and Ferb). With one swift flash of my Reebok I’d forever destroy the evil forces of Cellulite and his marshmallow minions.

Unfortunately, my dreams of heroism were dashed within the first twenty minutes of hellish torment inflicted upon me by power lunges and the land of ten thousand squats. Even the perfectly perky muscled out trainer people on the tape were in tears with quivering legs unable to sustain any more torment. It was somewhere in between my tears and the tears of the poor and pitiful buff girl on the tape that I decided I may have been a little too ambitious. I decided to come back to this particular DVD in a few years when I’d changed my name to “Jaimie, body-builder extraordinaire”.

For some reason today I decided to get it back out and I happened to notice there was a shorter workout on the same DVD that I hadn’t seen the first time. So I figured I’d give it a shot. Worst case scenario, I could just give up and have a good laugh at the insanity that drove me to try again.

I made it all the way through!  There were definitely a few moments when I was convinced that I would fail. I lost my balance a few times and had to readjust and get back in the right position. But I did it and I feel like a warrior…maybe not quite a superhero yet, but a warrior nonetheless.

I think that’s the way it should be with the challenges before us. Usually the things worth fighting for don’t come easy or cheap. I will not offer on the altar that which costs me nothing comes to mind. (2 Samuel 24:24) Sometimes it will feel like the earth will open underneath us and swallow us whole if we keep standing here. Sometimes it will feel like we aren’t nearly strong enough to keep standing in that position for another second. The cool thing is that in the end, we are a lot stronger than we think we are. We are capable of so much more than we allow ourselves to believe and on top of that, when we aren’t strong enough we have a comforter who is. “And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

I’m beginning to believe that if the task I’m setting out to accomplish is perfectly comfortable for me, then it may not be the task God is setting before me. I think he expects us to tackle the big things. I think he wants us to realize we can do more than we have been doing and that he has big, incredibly good, plans for us that exceed what we conceive in our limited understanding. I’m determined to accept the challenges that come my way with determination and passion. I’m determined to not freak out when I lose my balance and fall down, but rather to get up and go again.

I’m going to be one fit mama by the time I’m done both physically and spiritually.  “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed.  But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness.For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” 1 Timothy 4:6-8

 

 

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.