Freedom in Health and Wellness

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Yesterday we talked about the freedom I’ve found in my thoughts around my work. Today I want to share the freedom I’ve found around food and exercise as the 4th part of this series.

In the past weeks, I finally read Lysa TerKeurst’s Made to Crave.  I’d read tweets about it, blog posts about it, even watched webinars about it.  I had it on my Kindle since it came out, but just read it this month.  Again, the timing was perfect.

I have struggled on and off for years with an addiction to sugar, some unhealthy body image issues and difficulty committing to exercise. I’d get off it for a time, but then was right back to it.

Lysa gave me several insights that have really changed my thinking around this and truly think this time the changes are here to stay.  And listen, I’ve heard many of these things before, but since being freed, it’s like so many things are actually “sticking” now where they weren’t before.

The first is Lysa suggests getting some accountability.  I’ve done that in my exercise first with a Facebook group this month.  Knowing they are expecting me to stay on task and are checking in on me totally changes the game for me.  God made us to connect to others, so it’s no surprise this is helping.  Also, Scott is waking up with me when he’s not working and doing the exercises with me.  It’s been great having him beside me.

I’m in my 4th and final week of T25 and have seen amazing results.  And it’s not just physical.  It’s my thoughts towards exercising now. I truly enjoy it and look forward to it in the morning.  For the first time in my life, I’m getting up 30 minutes early to do it.  March is usually my most active of the year, but I’m praying that this “sticks” this time.  I think it will.

The second is that we should measure our progress not by a number on the scale, but by our obedience.  I have weighed myself every single day as an adult and much of the thoughts towards myself were based on whether the scale displayed a lower number or a higher number than the day before.  Lysa suggests that the number can’t tell you many things like how much salt you had, what time of the month it was or most importantly, how obedient you were.  Did you make good decisions that day?  If so good, then that’s the measure of success.  Turning food and exercise into an obedience issue instead of a numbers issue was a revelation for me.  My body is a temple and I am to take good care of it.

The third and final idea that brought me great freedom in this is the idea of temptation during difficult or celebratory times.  Basically, we use food to celebrate everything and to get through everything.  There was always an excuse to why I needed a bowl of ice cream—I had a great day, let’s celebrate or I had a horrible day, let the chocolate fix it or even, I’m bored, let’s eat some ice cream.  If we were at the mall, I’d get Starbucks because it was a “special” day out with the family.  I’d grab some extra dessert at work because I’d been working hard.  Or it was Christmas, or Easter, or Valentine’s Day, or someone’s birthday. There was always a reason to eat something I didn’t need.  And while I truly believe in special moments, I was using them as an excuse to not take care of my body.  In the book, Lysa shares truths from God’s word we can use in times like these.  For me, this was freeing.

I can feel old thoughts already creeping in as I write this—this won’t last, you’re just on a lucky streak, you can’t eat this way forever.  But no, we are more than a conquerors through Christ and we can have lasting freedom in His strength.

 

As we wrap this unexpected series on freedom in our thought life, I can’t help but encourage you to take stock of your thought life.  Are you constantly discouraged, negative, cynical and defeated?  It’s not supposed to be that way!  Seek the Lord with your concerns, read Scripture we’ve talked about and pick up the books that have helped me if you’re not sure where to start.  God wants more for you and so do I. And let me know if there’s a specific area I can pray about with you.

Finding Joy

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You might consider this post to be a third post in an unexpected series.  It began with seeing four ways people are redeemed in Psalm 107.  Then, God led me to the book Battlefield of the Mind and showed me how many of my thought processes were bound up in Green Pastures.

Since that time, I’ve been astounded, quite frankly, with how different my thoughts have been.  Instead of always expecting the worst, feeling negative about myself or my circumstances, I’m finding myself feeling secure in God’s promises, positive about the changes he’s making and content with where has me.

I wanted to share two areas in particular that I truly feel freed from as a result of these thought process changes.  I share them not in an attempt to overshare or boast in the changes, but to share that God has done much work.  And, if you find yourself in a similar situation, that you might reach out to God for the same.

In surprise to no one, God brought me two more books to shed light on these areas.  The first is Brene Brown’s bestseller, Daring Greatly.  Daring Greatly has been read widely and I’m likely the last of my reading friends to check it out, but like many books do, it came at just the right time.

Daring Greatly is about shame and vulnerability.  It’s impossible to do the whole book justice, but let me try to share a few concepts.  First, Brene suggests that whole, healthy people allow themselves to be vulnerable.  They allow themselves to be who they really are and connect with others.  People who are not whole often feel shame in some capacity and do not feel like they deserve to connect.  In order to protect themselves from this vulnerability, they wear armor.

Brene describes three main types of armor that people use to protect themselves: foreboding joy, perfectionism and numbing. 

To explain foreboding joy, Brene says, “In a culture of deep scarcity—of never feeling safe, certain, and sure enough—joy can feel like a setup.  We wake up in the morning and think, Work is going well.  Everyone in the family is healthy.  No major crises are happening. The house is still standing. I’m working out and feeling good. Oh, shit. This is bad. This is really bad. Disaster must be lurking right around the corner.” (Excuse the language)

I need to share that quote because that’s how I’ve lived a lot of my life.  It was ok to be happy, but only for a few moments.  I’d be staring at my newborn and thinking how beautiful she was and how blessed I was and then immediately think, she’ll probably die in a car accident tomorrow.  It pains me to admit that and I want to weep for my younger self.  My joy was so great, but I had to tamper it down so I wouldn’t get hurt.

Connecting this back to what Joyce talked about in Battlefield of the Mind, this relates to the wondering, anxious thoughts I knew I had.

I’ve done this with many things, but one of those is my job.  In addition, I wrapped a sense of foreboding joy about my husband’s job and some perfectionism I felt around my job and I was a mess.

For those who have read here for years, you might know I have spent years wishing I was home.  I felt like I needed to be a stay at home mom to be a real mom (although I never judged any other mother that worked).  I never really expected to fully enjoy my job.  Surely God was going to send me home soon.  I was good at it and loved my coworkers but the “perfect” mom would be at home with her kids.  And I worried what all those people thought about me being a working mom.

Plus, I had foreboding joy with Scott.  I love him so much and I never, ever worry about him going to work as a highway patrolman, but I am seeing now I have tampered the joy with a deep, inner sense of foreboding about what might happen to him.  I felt like I needed to do everything in order to keep our family running just in case.  I felt an extreme burden to do it all and do it well because Amy, one day you might have to.

Just in the last few weeks God has opened my eyes to this destructive thinking and it’s been amazing the results.

And I don’t doubt for one second his timing.  At work, I was given a new and difficult project just as I started this book.  The weight of it two months ago would have put me into a depression.  Even though it is difficult, I now approach it with joy.  Somewhere along the way I have felt a chain broken about my job.  I’ve been fighting God for so many years, but I have come to peace that God really does want me in my job.  And it’s ok to like it too.

He has shown me that I don’t have to shoulder everything in our family.  It’s ok to let Scott help and fill in my gaps. God put us together because we need each other.  I don’t find it an accident at all that Scott has a schedule that allows him to pick the girls up when I’m at work or that he doesn’t mind fixing dinner when I’m away because his dad did the exact same thing for his family.  If God does ever separate us, then he will provide, but I cannot live my life with that assumption.

Brene says the solution to foreboding joy is gratitude—seeing the small moments for the wonderful moments they are.  The solution to perfectionism is to find beauty in the cracks—we need to come to the point where we believe we are enough.  We aren’t everything, but we are enough.

So, with my family and with my job, which are very intertwined for me, I am learning to do both of those things.  I need to be grateful for those people, for my job, for a meeting well-led and a project much-enjoyed or for dinner cooked by my husband.  I have to believe I’m enough even though I am not everything.

I'm not everything, but  I'm enough

I am so thankful for the work God has done.  In Christian circles we talk a lot about God delivering us and giving us freedom. Many equate that to situations or addictions or behaviors, but the more I follow Christ, the more I see that it is in the heart and mind where we most need freedom.  I think that’s why Jesus was always more concerned about our heart rather than our actions.  True joy is found with a free mind, no matter your circumstances.

There is another area in which I have been finding freedom in the past weeks, but I believe I’ll save that for another 1,000 words tomorrow.  Come back?

Mighty

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I was listening to a podcast fro m Loran Livingston of Central Church of God where I went to church as a teenager this week.  Hearing his preaching still feels like a coming home.

He was talking about how before the world was created that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit came together and decided to make this world and us in it. They understood the fall and our inability to get back in His presence without redemption.  He talked about how Jesus must have agreed that he would make a way, that He would come and suffer and die in our place.  And that God said because he did that, he would give us to him.  That we, lowly and sinful, were his reward.

And that overwhelms me.

How little I give him in return for his great sacrifice.  Me, who is easily swayed and distracted, is supposed to be a living “thank you” for what he did.  God, how can I be more grateful?

But part of that made me angry.  How could they choose to do that knowing that not everyone would believe and be saved?  How could they sacrifice others? Why would they even create them? 

And God asked me, Amy, if you knew that Lexi would not love you back, that there would be pain in her life, and it would be cut short, would you choose not to have either Emma and Lexi in your life at all? Oh, dear God, no.  Whatever time I have with them, no matter how it goes, is precious.  I love to love them.  And how much greater is his love for his children?  I can’t imagine how much it hurts him when one of his children chooses not to love him back.  But oh, his love for all of us anyway.  That all of this—the pain, the time, the sacrifice—it’s all worth it to Him even when we give him so little back.

I don’t understand it all and I know my thoughts are not like His thoughts—maybe that’s not His why or how–but something about hearing that this week made me love him more for my salvation and want to be grateful more.  His love is mighty, indeed.

 

This post is linked to Five Minute Friday with Lisa Jo Baker.

You can do anything, but not everything.

Today’s post is a perfectly timed guest post from my online friend Jacey from The Balanced Wife.  This idea that you can do anything, but not everything is a lesson I’ve learned the hard way over many years.  Even this week, I had to say no to writing here as work and family priorities took over.  Jacey gives some very wise encouragement here I hope you take to heart.  Also, be sure to check out her brand new eBook on the same topic at the bottom!

 

You can do anything, but not everything

I sent a relieving but discouraging email last week. I had agreed to help someone with a small but recurring task, but I knew in my gut even as I said yes that I should have said no.

So there I was, a month later, backing out for reasons that were already true when I said yes in the first place.

This wasn’t the first time and won’t be the last I commit for all the wrong reasons: out of obligation, fear of letting someone down or fear of missing out.

Even when my reason is pure – a genuine desire to help – I find myself in the same position by denying the limits of my time, energy and attention.

Admitting my limitations feels like admitting weakness, but I’m learning that an inability to say no is itself a weakness that says more about my insecurity than my reliability.

To be available for what’s most important, we have to say no to what isn’t. It takes strength and wisdom to discern the difference.

What happens to overcommitted women who habitually pile on more? They lose their joy. They get stressed and anxious and stop attending to the truly essential.

They consult their checklists and their calendars and tie their self worth to checked boxes. They forget to thaw the chicken for dinner, forget to return the call that mattered, forget to pray.

They start resenting the commitments they’ve made to good things. Acts of service become a point of pride (the destructive kind) and identity. It all starts to feel too heavy, too burdensome.

They dream of a nap and a bubble bath but feel guilty indulging in either. They act from their own strength and inevitably burn out.

What do we do in the face of this losing cycle? Unfortunately, I’m afraid we perpetuate it. Instead of assuring that exhausted woman it’s okay to get off the treadmill, I find myself rushing to the first treadmill I can find. Surely if she can do it, I can too.

No more.

That thing that’s draining your energy? It’s okay to quit. Maybe it’s a book you are slogging through, or an exhausting friendship. It could be a failing business, a networking group, a gym membership, or an unreasonable client.

Maybe it’s even a good thing that needs to be set aside to make room for something better. Whatever that thing is, lay it down, because you can’t do it all.

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Here’s to saying no from strength instead of yes from weakness. Here’s to running the race He’s set before us and forsaking all others.

 

Jacey is passionate about living intentionally in the face of real demands, the unexpected, and human nature itself. Her book on the topic, Escaping Reaction; Embracing Intention, released this month. She writes about relationships, faith and personal growth at The Balanced Wife. She lives in Charleston, SC with her husband, Mike, and golden retriever, Jack.

What I Wore Wednesday 3.26.2014

After a six-week hiatus, I’m back!  Winter was wearing on me and I just could not take another minute of my winter wardrobe!  I was totally uninspired.  It’s been so nice to have some 60 and 70 degree weather around here lately so I can toss in some spring colors.

While we’re back to colder temperatures this week, I did capture one springy outfit this weekend.

 

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I wore this outfit on Sunday.  My friend Dani and I had a wonderful girls day a few weekends ago and she picked out this scarf at Versona.

Amy Bennett’s pin on Pinterest.

 

 

Let’s connect so we can do this again  Like AmyJBennett on Facebook.  Follow me on Pinterest (where I post these inspirational pictures), Instagram (where you might sneak an early peek of an outfit) or Twitter.

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