Friday, August 26, 2011

Hard Work?

Three years ago this month, I weighed 225.6 lbs and felt terrible. I was lethargic, didn't enjoy physical activity (but was reminiscent of when I did as a kid), and ate too much food - too much of which was poor quality.

Three years ago this month, Steve and I made a commitment to change our health & our lifestyle. I now reside in the 145-149 range, 75-80 lbs lighter than I used to be. I ran in a 5K last year and hope to do at least one more this fall. My blood sugar levels have stabilized and neither Steve nor I have any cholesterol issues any longer. I dropped from a size 20 in denial (I wore an 18 out of protest) to a size 10, sometimes an 8 depending on the article of clothing. Three years later - I'm still not at the ideal weight that my doctors would like to see me at ultimately, but I keep working at it even though I am at a plateau and my doctors are generally pleased with where my health is at. Steve and I feel fantastic.

A question we're commonly asked: What's your secret? How did you do it?

In the age of the obesity epidemic & millions of quick-fix/short-cuts to losing weight, we decided to give it a whirl the old-fashioned way and see if doctors were full of crap or not. We changed our diet habits and started to exercise. As the pounds started to melt off, we celebrated small milestones (200! 175! 150! Holy crap I weigh less and look better than I did in high school!) and kept plugging along. We've been through periods of counting every. single. calorie that has gone into our bodies and now know the secrets to resetting our bodies after a vacation. We go to the gym 5 days/week at least and just recently bought bikes to get out and ride after work and on the weekends. Through commitment and hard work, our lifestyle has completely changed - completely for the better.

So why am I telling you this? 

Recently our good friend John gave his first sermon and in it he talked about faith. I was pumped for him; he serves in the youth ministry alongside us and I knew his energy would lend for a great message that morning. In the middle of his sermon, he started talking about today's Western Culture looking for immediate fixes and how when people want to lose weight there are those who will work for it with diet & exercise, and then there are those who will sit on the couch watching TV using one of those contraptions that are supposed to give you a six-pack while you do nothing.

Then he said this statement that has stuck with me since Sunday:

"Jesus is NOT an 'Ab Zapper'!"

This has stuck with me all week because it felt like God had grabbed my head and pointed it up at John at that exact moment. I realized with that statement that too often I approach my relationship with Jesus much as our culture tends to approach dieting. I have my salvation, I rest in that... but maybe too comfortably. I don't always follow the spiritual disciplines the way I should... sometimes I forget to rely on Jesus as the leader in my life and instead trust myself. Sometimes I am not good at communicating with Him through prayer, and I'm going to openly admit here and now that I am terrible about keeping up with my scripture readings.

I need to be approaching my relationship with Jesus with the same drive, desire, and discipline as I approached weight loss. Until I have the same habit-changes in my spiritual life that I now have with my weight change lifestyle, I need to be engaging in habit-changing behaviors that point me on the path that gets me closer to Jesus. And like I was able to have Steve as a partner when things got tough in weight loss, I look to him to encourage me in my spiritual disciplines as well - and vice versa. At the end of the day, I will not see the kind of deep relationship with Jesus that I know in my heart that I long for if I do not chase after it hard all the time.

At the end of the day, I have no good answer to the question "why haven't I been as disciplined in my spiritual journey as I was in my weight loss journey?". I have only myself to blame for that, I know what it takes to have hard work & perseverance pay off in a big way. I need to stop facing my relationship with Jesus like most of America faces the prospect of attaining a healthy lifestyle. After all, spiritual health is a big part of total health - arguably THE biggest.

Friday, August 12, 2011


I'm not sure if any of you have heard - but President Obama is going on vacation next week. He'll be taking what seems to be becoming an annual summer stay on Martha's Vineyard with his wife and kids.

And if you've heard about that, you've probably also heard about the folks who are all up in arms because the President is taking a vacation while the economy is in the tank and markets are in flux and unemployment is high.

Now... I normally try to avoid teetering on politics on the blog, and really what I'm about to say isn't all that political. It's a bit more pragmatic than it is political.

I'll touch briefly on the economy before I get to my real point. A couple of weeks ago Steve and I went to a baseball game wearing non-descript T-shirts and jeans. If you didn't hear us cheering, you never would have known that we were there to see the Red Sox play. So after some deliberation, we decided to go ahead and get ourselves Red Sox caps (queue Kenny Chesney music...) to the tune of $50 total. Steve posted a picture on Facebook & Twitter of us in our new caps with a comment of why the heck did we just spend $50 on Red Sox caps.

Doing our part for the economy and Red Sox Nation.

Within minutes he received a comment from a friend of ours reminding us that we're Americans and the economy needs us to spend money in order to be stimulated. Economies are stimulated when money - real money, not lots of credit card usage - is spent by those who are able to spend it. President Obama (like all presidents before him) makes a substantial salary for running one of the most powerful nations in the world; if he wants to spend $50,000 of his money to rent a beach house - please, by all means - let the man stimulate the economy.

Now... onto the bigger point I want to make. This one goes out to all those critics who are saying that President Obama shouldn't be taking a vacation "right now, when everything is a mess". All due respect - you're wrong.

Yesterday I was waiting for my coffee to be dispensed out of the company Keurig when I noticed that the President was speaking on TV. The first thing I noticed is that he - like other Presidents before him - seems to have aged during his time in office. He looked tired and his hair had greyed. Being the President of the United States of America is one of the hardest, most taxing jobs in the world. Personal politics and beliefs aside - whoever is in this position is looking into the face of at least 4 years of some of the hardest work they're ever going to have to do. Looking at Barack Obama's face yesterday and seeing that gray hair, I could tell that the job is starting to take its toll on him just like it had on those who came before.

And yes... I've heard the reports of how much this is going to cost taxpayers in Secret Service costs and blah blah blah.  I get it. That's partially my money too - so to that I say please, spend the money to give Mr. President a break and let him recharge his batteries, read books on leadership or whatever, spend time with his family, and rest. The reality is that he's not going to solve all the world's (or country's) economy problems overnight AND if this new committee whose focus is to come up with solutions comes up with something amazing - I'm sure the President will set up an office to review what they come up with and either comment back or sign it or whatever. When you're the "Leader of the Free World", even vacation doesn't mean you get to completely disconnect.

And let's not forget that tourists will buy anything - which means that Obama's vacation will further put money into the economy in apparent T-Shirt sales.

This morning I read a commentary about this whole thing and wanted to share this one excerpt with you that I think sums up and helps to drive home what I'm getting at:

But former Clinton spokesman Mike McCurry says that every president needs a break from the confines of the White House.

"We do need to let these guys have vacations and do some reading and thinking outside the box," he said.

What's more, keeping a sizeable crew of aides nearby is critical, he said. "Remember Clinton's trip to Martha's Vineyard in August 1998 when we ended up trying to decapitate bin Laden with a cruise missile strike? That's why the 'entourage' has to accommodate all aspects of the presidency, even on vacation. You never know what might happen..."

There is one other thing... taking a break is so important to how we're wired and how we're created that God requires it of us. Let me explain briefly.

When God created the heavens and the earth, the fish in the sea, the birds on the land, and then capped the whole thing off by creating man & woman - He took a break. All of that creation was a lot of hard work to have to accomplish, and He had a lot more work to do so he took a step back and recharged His batteries. We are created in His image... when we have done a lot of work and have a lot more to do, it's important for us to take a step back and recharge our batteries too. He has designed us to need to do this periodically, and so I appreciate that Mr. Obama is willing to make a point to take a vacation every year. It's setting a positive example for our country - step back, recharge, enjoy the blessings you have in your family and in your life. Do you need to go to the Vineyard - no. You can go in your own backyard with a grill and some suntan lotion. You can take a day at the beach. But for crying out loud - take a break. Your brain, your body, your outlook needs it. You are designed that way by God as a child of His created in His image.

So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Genesis 2:3, ESV)

And let's not forget that He even gave it to Moses as part of the 10 Commandments - you know, incase His example of taking a break wasn't enough that He had to put it in writing for us.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11) 

You were designed by God to workworkworkworkwork and then REST. And so was President Obama. He's one of God's children too. Let him be and let him do what God designed him and requires us to do.

Mr. President - enjoy your vacation. If you can, try to get over to Back Door Donuts and have a fritter for me.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

On Letting God

There's a problem that I face every time a loved one's personal crisis bubbles to the surface: I want to fix it.

It is in the very nature of who I am as a person. Some people are people pleasers, some are peace keepers, some are instigators. Me... I'm a fixer. When there's a problem I want everyone to see what their part in the issue is and fix it for themselves and the people they're affecting.

Over the years I have learned that this isn't necessarily the healthiest of traits to have. It can lead to a lot of undue personal stress, codependency issues, conflict, and butt-in-ski syndrome. When I discovered the person I am in Christ and began to uncover the path that God has set for me, I realized that this isn't something to be ignored either. I can use this desire to fix to be an encouragement or soundboard for reasonable advice when requested.

So where is the balance?

Recently I confided in a friend about some issues that have bubbled to the surface in our family. This is one of those friends who, when you're in her presence, you just FEEL Jesus. You know that God has in her plan to be an encourager, a reminder of Him, and an ambassador of His love within five minutes of being in her presence. So it was no surprise to me that when I confided in her that her almost immediate response boiled down to a reminder of the things that were important for me to remember.

Encourage, don't enable. Support, set up boundaries. Love, don't try to change.

The balance on the tightrope of a sticky situation is tricky for someone who is a fixer, this is something I have learned over the years. I have learned to listen to God in the midst of the chaos to be that voice of reason to guide me and coach me through the balancing act.

"You cannot change them, leave that to Me..." with a gentle nudge on my elbow to come back to the center.

"You cannot be in the middle, it won't leave room for Me..." with an encouraging pull back to the balance of the rope.

If I do not listen to God, if I do not slow down and let Him do His work... I can fracture relationships, compromise my own health (both mental and physical), and downplay or neglect the importance of His role in the chaos.

I cannot fix everything. He can. And let's not forget that just because I want something fixed does not mean that it is necessarily in God's plan. If it is - I still cannot fix it. There are two things that I cannot ever control: God and others.

Why not?

Because He gave us free will. And He is in ultimate control. I can pray for people to feel His presence, to listen to His guidance, to know that He loves them, for Him to move in their lives and bring them to a positive place.

But I cannot control them, I cannot control Him. I can only control myself, my actions, and the degree to which I turn down the volume of the chaos around me and listen for His voice. We've all heard the saying that we need to "let go and let God": for me this is much easier said than done. But I know that when I do... when I step aside and pass the tools to God and let Him do the fixing... things always work out better in the end because they work out according to His plan and not mine.

And in the long run, it's His plan that's the better one anyways and His handiwork that can do amazing things in people's hearts to heal, nurture, and grow.