#freedomin15--His Unique Creation

One of the best things about being with other believers is the (hoped for) grace usually given by all. It's March 16th and this month's freedom post is just now posted. Grace. February was a shorter month anyways, so I'm not as off track as the calendar says. How are you? Where is the Lord taking you in your freedom journey? How far off were you in your assumption of how this would go down? I was way off. Like, waaaaaay off. And I can only assume I'm still way off, even knowing what I do 2 months in. Grace again, right?


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The Lord has brought Psalm 139 to the forefront of my mind this month. Several times it has been referenced in various places, and has come across in my own study time. For me it's one of the many verses that I sort of skim over because, well, I know all about it (insert finger quotations).

I'm wonderfully made. 

His works are marvelous.

He knew me in my mother's womb.

But He knew I needed a lesson in His heart. I needed to know, in a different way, the words He knew my heart and mind longed to read.

O Eternal One, You have explored my heart and know exactly who I am; You even know the small details like when I take a seat and when I stand up again.     Even when I am far away, You know what I’m thinking. You observe my wanderings and my sleeping, my waking and my dreaming,     and You know everything I do in more detail than even I know. You know what I’m going to say long before I say it.     It is true, Eternal One, that You know everything and everyone. You have surrounded me on every side, behind me and before me,     and You have placed Your hand gently on my shoulder. It is the most amazing feeling to know how deeply You know me, inside and out;     the realization of it is so great that I cannot comprehend it.

Can I go anywhere apart from Your Spirit?     Is there anywhere I can go to escape Your watchful presence?

If I go up into heaven, You are there.     If I make my bed in the realm of the dead, You are there. If I ride on the wings of morning,     if I make my home in the most isolated part of the ocean, 10 Even then You will be there to guide me;     Your right hand will embrace me, for You are always there. 11 Even if I am afraid and think to myself, “There is no doubt that the darkness will swallow me,     the light around me will soon be turned to night,” 12 You can see in the dark, for it is not dark to Your eyes.     For You the night is just as bright as the day.     Darkness and light are the same to Your eyes.

13 For You shaped me, inside and out.     You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath. 14 I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.     You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;     Your works are wonderful; I carry this knowledge deep within my soul. 15     You see all things; nothing about me was hidden from You As I took shape in secret,     carefully crafted in the heart of the earth before I was born from its womb. 16 You see all things;     You saw me growing, changing in my mother’s womb; Every detail of my life was already written in Your book;     You established the length of my life before I ever tasted the sweetness of it. 17 Your thoughts and plans are treasures to me, O God! I cherish each and every one of them!     How grand in scope! How many in number! 18 If I could count each one of them, they would be more than all the grains of sand on earth. Their number is inconceivable!     Even when I wake up, I am still near to You.

19 I wish You would destroy all the wicked, O God.     So keep away from me, those who are thirsty for blood! 20 For they say such horrible things about You,     and those who are against You abuse Your good name. 21 Is it not true that I hate all who hate You, Eternal One?     Is it not true that I despise all who come against You? 22 Deep hatred boils within me toward them;     I am Your friend, and they are my enemies. 23 Explore me, O God, and know the real me. Dig deeply and discover who I am.     Put me to the test and watch how I handle the strain. 24 Examine me to see if there is an evil bone in me,     and guide me down Your path forever.

-Psalm 139 (the Voice)

There is so much here. And if you do like I had always done, and skim through this, you are missing a very direct love letter to that girl inside who shames herself and her body. Who tells herself that her talents aren't good enough and that her body will always disappoint. Come with me to verse 14:  

"I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.     You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;     Your works are wonderful; I carry this knowledge deep within my soul."

Read that verse again and then stop and ask yourself this question: What kind of woman or man would I be if I truly lived these words?

What if your heart was deeply grateful for His handiwork? For the ways in which He is using you in this world? For the wife He made you to be, or the mother? For the brother He has made you to be or the son? What if you could truly open your hands to heaven, let a smile sweep across your face, and stand in wonder and awe for what He. has. given. you?
This is a big deal, brothers and sisters. Because regardless of what we feel or see with our own eyes, the TRUTH is that HIS WORKS ARE WONDERFUL. Period. There is no possible way you could win an argument against this truth. You would lose. Badly.
So trade in your debate cards on this subject for the knowledge of this truth. And begin to carry it deep within your soul. The exchange is a no-brainer.

And allow me to challenge you to something greater. To a life immersed in His truth. Ask the Lord to grow you in your ability to default to what you know of HIM instead of what you know of you when the going gets tough and the enemies taunting words of deceit seem to sound a lot like truth.

-Laura

*For added encouragement this month, go ahead and print or save this image. And make this your mantra--for March and maybe even for the rest of the year. image


experiencingF

My life these days is a far cry from what it used to be. A few years ago, if you had asked me who I was I would have immediately recognized myself as an endurance athlete, but now I no longer consider myself one which is at times odd considering I somewhat branded myself as a triathlete by tattooing it on my arm. I no longer train or follow a weekly regimented plan. There are no future races on my calendar to obsess over, and honestly, I am barely practicing yoga on my own except when I am teaching.

Yet, I am the happiest I have ever been in my body.

When I reflect back on my time as an athlete, I realize now I was striving for deep perfection in body image. I started racing because I was running from deep hurt in my life, and so I identified myself through training and the way I was disciplining my body. My time on the road, in the pool, or in the gym became the spaces in my day where I could escape from life, and at times God. I found myself so ingrained in training for perfection, that I misconstrued the idea of healthy living. Though my body was probably in it’s best shape physically because I was pushing it so hard, I was never truly happy--with life or with my body image. I always needed a little more definition, more shapely abs, and less curve in my hips.

Now, as I practice yoga for healing and the sheer joy it brings to my soul by being able to connect with my Creator on my mat, I am starting to view my body in a different light. Though my legs are not lean and taut, and my abdominals are not defined, God has opened my eyes to what my body has been designed for. The way He has created us as women, our bodies are meant to go through changes, and mine, in all of it’s curves, is preparing, eventually, to house a tiny human and give life. Though my journey to the splits has not advanced over the last two months, and even in my realization that I physically may never be able to move my body into this pose because of how I am structured, my striving for this pose does not run my life. As I advance in my forearm stand, I see how God is helping me to let go of my deep-seeded distaste for my curves allowing me to freely shift my world upside down. I am letting go and learning to fly.

I am no longer practicing yoga to escape from something.

I am practicing yoga to find the woman God has created me to be. Every curvy piece of her.

-Caitlin


Yoga Poses

If you are working on your heart space, hang out here. If you are working into your hips and lower body, head on over to see what Caitlin has for you this month!

I'm so thankful that winter is over so I can get outside and cartwheel around in the sunshine. So I can #stopdropandyoga any and everywhere. It's not the easiest to kick up into handstand or hold crow pose when you've got a big ol' jacket on, boots, mittens and a hat. I'm in dire need of some dirty bare feet.

This month for me has consisted of a lot of non-yoga exercises to open my heart space.

Christina Mroz has published several great posts about opening the shoulders and realigning your posture. Please oh please head over and view her video on opening shoulders. If you don't have a bolster yet then go and get one. They are amazing and can be used to release basically any part of your body.

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I've been doing this one almost daily and just love it.

Another part of my problem is my neck. Chad Walding and his wife have created a program called Sitting Solution, and their website is chock-full of wonderful resources. This exercise has been a good one for me to strengthen the muscles in the back of my neck. Along with this I have been very aware of the placement of my head during my practice. So instead of hanging my head in plank/bear/chair/up-dog, I've been intentionally drawing up and back and engaging those muscles along the backside of my neck. image

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Sometimes it's a matter of adding a variation or another whole pose to your practice in order to move into greater openness and sometimes it's a matter of doing things off of your mat in order to create more freedom on it. Please take a few minutes and check out these resources, and see what else you can be doing off of your mat to increase openness in your heart space. Our dysfunction is still our dysfunction whether we are on our mats or not. Becoming more aware of that can be the key to greater success and fruit for your labor.

Thanks for being patient this month. March is halfway over, so I will see you in about two weeks!

Peace, dear ones.

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I struggle with Gluttony...

There I said it. Many people will admit openly that they struggle with certain sins or addictions or damaging behaviors. But few will admit to this one. So here I go.

When I say I struggle with gluttony I don't mean to paint a mental picture that resembles this:

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If that were true, it would be no surprise to anyone who ever went to a restaurant with me that I did indeed have an issue with gluttony... No, what I am referring to closer resembles this:

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Relatively healthy looking female, of average size, who can't help but eat an overly large amount of cake, cookie or pastry batter at each and every opportunity. She dips a finger, maybe two when others are within sight, and as soon as they duck out for even a moment, in goes the spatula. Once the contents are emptied into the cake pan and enter the toasty oven, her fingers scrape the sides of that bowl with ferocity and abandon, until every last drop is consumed. The bowl could skip the dishwasher all together and go right back into the cabinet.

This is the glutton that I am. But these behaviors don't happen all day, but do happen at least once every day. They are not because the food in mind is so irresistible that I am paralyzed by their powers of persuasion. This sin comes from a much deeper place.

Origins Of A Sinful Slippery Slope

As a young girl, like most, I slowly developed what has always been coined, "Low Self-Esteem". Biting retorts from angry relatives, mean bullying as a twisted form of flirting from boys on the playground (Seriously boys? Where the heck did you get the idea that teasing a girl would make her like you? Whoever the men were in your life did you no favors teaching you this, whether directly or indirectly. Shame shame.), and beautiful and stylish (and thin) older sisters all played a part in the tapes that began to play in my little brain. Along with this I've always had an adoration for delectable desserts and colorful sweets. When you're pre-puberty this is neither here nor there. Once good 'ol womanhood begins it's journey through your fragile adolescent body, your love for all things sweet begins to do you absolutely no favors. This was the story for me. So as I grew so did my little body. Nothing overly large by any means, but enough that it was noticed by boys and became more and more noticeable by me. I never established a very healthy attitude towards food as a young adult. I never learned (to my recollection) the importance of making wise choices about what I put in my body. I just felt caught between to opposing sides: "be thinner" and "indulge and reward yourself".

As life and womanhood progressed bigger things began to happen. Life happened, without the shelter of youth, and I found myself finding solace in those indulgences. If I couldn't fix the problem I could at least find comfort, even for a moment, in something sweet and satisfying. I guess this is probably a similar feeling to those who struggle with alcohol, or smoking, or maybe even pornography. Finding that escape from all of the troubles life brings with it. At two different times in my life I dabbled in the opposite sin of gluttony: starvation. It didn't do much for me. While I did lose weight, my eyes still saw the fat girl in the mirror. It was never enough. Size 0 jeans  and a bony back were not enough confirmation in my mind when I looked at myself in the mirror. So I ditched that plan, by the never-ending grace of God.

But I never really admitted to myself or anyone around me how I felt about food. Fast forward to my married self, living in a new and very foreign land (Texas) in a new lifestyle (military) with little to no friends. In the loneliness I ate. In the frustration I ate. In the uncertainty I ate. In the insecurity I ate. Not overly excessive amounts, but just enough of all the wrong things. And only because I wanted to punish myself for being myself. As a form of punishment I would eat large quantities (in secret, mind you) of something sugary, fatty and usually chocolate-y because in my mind, I didn't deserve anything better. 

Within the last year, my bondage of gluttony reached it's climax. Earlier this year I knew I needed to get a handle on it. So I read a book called, Made To Crave by Lysa TerKeurst. While this book was definitely encouraging, doing it on my own, with no accountability was not very life-changing. But I believe that this was a time of true revelation for me. This is when I realized what I really wanted freedom from and freedom to do. I wanted overall balance, with food, family and my faith. I believe this was when my new journey began without me even knowing it.

This is still a struggle for me. When I miss T so badly it hurts you can usually find me with a huge cup of hot chocolate piled high with marshmallows. And as soon as those marshmallows get all gooey I suck them down and refill the other half of cocoa with more. I have yet to figure out how to stop in my tracks and make a better choice. Because of this I've decided to begin, what I pray, is a study that will allow the Spirit to truly transform my mind, and in turn my body. A ministry called Revelation Wellness is doing an 8-week online Bible Study called Weigh Less To Feed More. It is a part of a ministry that I will be becoming more involved with (more on that later) called Holy Yoga. My prayer of desperation is to be able to find freedom from the hold that food has on me. I believe our society is overly obsessed with food, and I would really love to develop a strong anti-body to this disease. I don't enjoy thinking about what I will eat for breakfast before I've even gone to bed. I would love to just be able to go to bed. Period.

I pray that as you read these things about me your attitude would not be to judge my craziness but to show grace, and maybe come face to face with some areas of darkness in your own relationship with food. I think if we all got a little bit more comfortable with the idea that we all have bad relationships with food, accepted that reality in one another, and moved forward to encourage better choices in each other, we might have less of a weight and disease epidemic in our country. We live in a society that pressures us to be thin, toned and hot and also offers us chemically enhanced, nutritionally empty and overly starched foods to sustain us in our misery over not being hot. We're all in a hamster wheel and I'm believing God to be big enough to stop it so I can get off. 

So there you have it. If you also struggle with any aspect of food, I pray you are able to find the courage to speak out about it. Even doing that can give you enough freedom to begin down the path of better decisions. If you're interested in doing the study I believe they are still taking students. And if you need someone to walk alongside you as you venture down this dark and dusty road, don't hesitate to ask me. I've been hanging out at the trail head for quite a long time and I'm ready to venture out into the darkness and bring His truth to light the path.

 

 

My Big Question

My great, big, scary body-image question. No, more like a self-image question, because truly, my insecurities and short-comings and false notions revolve around more than just my physical form. But before I ask you the question, and in turn truly ask myself the question for the very first time, let me backup.

As stated in my previous post, I am a believer in the Author's sincere interest in my life; the tiny and the mighty, and everything that fits right in between. He romances, that is for sure. He also asks. He asks for my service, for my love, for my devotion, for my time. Recently He began asking me something I wasn't quite ready to hear. As a self-proclaimed victim of "seriously low self-esteem", I've created a life for myself that , in one way or another, revolves around how poorly I feel about myself. The trouble with this is that I have spent about 65% of my life feeling this way, so naturally, it has become somewhat of a character trait. My story is no different than anyone else, and honestly, that's not what I want to spend time sharing anyways. I will forewarn you in saying that this may or may not take two posts, and it may or may not be very esthetically pleasing to the English majors eye, but just stick with me.

Last week, a blogger that I follow began a series called 31 Days to Reclaiming Body Image (or something to that affect) and my immediate thought was, "yes, another thin, athletic, talented woman giving me advice on how to reclaim body image." And immediately I reminded myself that yes, it is possible for someone who has "all that I think will make me content" to have her own body issues too. So I swallowed my chill pill and kept on. With that topic lingering in the back of my mind one morning I felt challenged with a question.

 

What if you never change?

 

What if, for the rest of your days, you stay the very size you are right now?

 

Your waist doesn't get smaller, and definitely not firmer. Your boobs don't magically shrink and start defying gravity. Your skin keeps on keeping on in the pimple department.

 

What if?

 

While hating every fiber of this question, I also felt intrigued. It was almost as if a tiny shard of these lie-ridden glasses I've been wearing came loose and fell off. A little light of hope? A little glimpse of what might actually be my reality? So I kept mulling over this question, all the while poking and prodding each area of disdain... but with each day the pokes became a bit lighter, less hate-driven. Then I sat to do my BSF study. And I heard what was quite possibly written just. for. me.  We are studying Matthew 4 this week. To save you my interpretation I will simply share the words directly.

"Self-control and trust in God must replace a determination to control their own situation and others. And a truly contented spirit has no room for an attitude of self-pity and complaint." Ouch.  Remember back when you were in High School and instead of just feeling bad about yourself you also made sure everyone else knew how bad you felt about yourself? No? Well I do, because I did it often. See, that's the twisted thing about the deception of low self-esteem. It tells you that you really just feel oh so badly about yourself when in reality it's a serious pride issue.  It's a way of making everything about you and not needing to feel guilty or prideful about it. I mean, how could you? You're the sad chubby girl with no boys that like you. Or so you say. As an adult this habit changes slightly, but at the core it is the same. Instead of friends at school hearing your woes, it's your husband, or your family, or your boyfriend. In an effort to trudge through this life, I've resolved to control the one thing I know how; my dislike of myself. Truly trust God? Have self-control? What are these things they speak of? Do I long for a truly contented spirit more than I enjoy my attitude of self-pity and complaint? This is just one of many pieces that the big question brings about, and yet another reason why I didn't want to answer it when asked.

"Will you put aside your self-centered life of urgent but empty pursuits and ambitions? Will you trust the One who offers God's acceptance and transformation to real security and peace? Your Savior and King is here for you." The society we live in offers a lot of quick fixes for a lot of things. Just watch an infomercial. Major results in minor [time, commitment, money, effort]. This has always been my beef with diet fads, which is why my story does not include many of those. I have, however, bought into exercise tapes (Hip Hop Abs, anyone? Insanity?), the fitness magazines, and endless pins on Pinterest. The basic idea in our culture is that everyone has a "better" that they could be. Or for me, "should" be. I should be:

  • shorter
  • thinner
  • faster
  • stronger
  • dress "hipper"
  • be "more frugal"
  • crunchier (or more "natural" for those who don't get what that means... mom...)

I could keep going. And let me clarify one thing. No one, and I mean no one has told me that I need to be these things. These are things that have been fed to me by the thief of joy and author of deception. He has no greater love than seeing me live a life controlled by pity and pride. Two key words stuck out to me in the above quote: acceptance transformation

In a life filled with Pinterest and Facebook and mommy-wars and living "naturally", what woman (or man) in their right mind isn't desperately searching for acceptance? In a world of crazy, fat-melting Amazonian fruits and fitness magazines and Crossfit, what person doesn't long to see their physical body transform? But the truth I am beginning to see is that the acceptance and transformation will never be found in these places. It is found in the quiet places. Places of solitude, places of love. Family, laughter, joy, this is where we can truly feel accepted because we can truly just be. And the more I take the time to place myself there, in those moments that truly matter, the more I will see my soul, mind and heart transform. This weekend was my High School reunion, and it was absolutely no coincidence (maybe more like a harsh joke) that I would be pondering this question while returning to the place that birthed so many of these insecurities. I'm not a makeover story, the girl who walks in the room and blows everyone away with her crazy weight-loss and gorgeous hair and clothes and blah blah blah. I'm just an older, more mature version of the same girl who shied away from cool kids and ate lunch by her locker. As Saturday progressed and my womanly nerves began to get a little wracked, I truly asked myself that question, "Is it okay if you don't change?" (I decided that while I might be willing to discuss my options on being okay with the state of my physical form, I do know that there are parts of my mental, emotional and spiritual form that I do not want to see stay the same. But that is a topic for another post.) As I made my way to the neighborhood Target I passed something that made me smile and remind God that I had, in fact, not forgotten our previous discussion.

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I mean, what? This handmade sign, in a random person's front yard. Not a question. Not a call to confidence. Just the words that have been on my mind some five days or so. "Laura, your self-esteem is not found in anyone you will see while looking straight ahead but only when you look up." Needless to say, I made some giant leaps in acceptance that afternoon and resolved to enjoy myself no matter what. And I did. And the question still lingered.

So I will ask you the same question. If nothing changed, would you and could you be okay with that? If the answer is no, what are the things you do not want to carry into your life fifteen years down the road? Will these things hinder the way you love yourself, your family and your life? Will this drive a wedge between you and your Maker, the One who crafted you with such great care?

There are always ways to better ourselves, but I'm challenged to take a step back and see where I'm allowing my focus to lie. I always tell myself (and I know you do this too, so don't deny it), "Once I [do, make, lose, accomplish]_______, then I will finally be able to be content and put this whole big mess behind me." Another question to ask myself is, "If _____ changes, will I truly be content? Or is that an excuse to continue to look inward instead of out?"

I don't know about you but I've missed a whole lot of lives around me simply because I've been too busy feeling sorry for little old me. Some 17 years have passed and I can honestly say I do not want to spend another 17 replaying the same scenes.

So to that I guess I would like to ask you "My Big Question". Would you, could you, be content? (Cue the green eggs and ham.)

"But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and we can take nothing out of it" (1)... not even a hot bod with killer hair and glowing skin. Not even an awesome "body after baby". Not one single bit of it. So to this I aim to remember that my body is a temple of the Holy of Holies. My husband and son deserve my very best. My future children deserve a healthy oven from which to be baked. So I must do what I can to take care of what has been given to me. But to these aims, not the aims of the society of which I live.

"Keep your lives free from the love of money (or beauty or societal acceptance) and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." " (2). Guys, this is really what He wants... for me, for us... to truly know that He will never leave us, even when we wish so badly we could leave ourselves. This is what life is about. Contentment in Him, because He is here for us.

Next time you look in the mirror, really look at yourself and ask. It might be interesting to see what you find.

To read more about the 31 Days of Reclaiming Body Image you can visit www.thelittleway.net

Verse references: 1. 1 Timothy 6:6-7 2. Hebrews 13:5