Freedom

The sound of fireworks started early this morning.  The store was full of people stocking up on BBQ foods, and ice. (You always have to have plenty of ice.)  Driving down the street almost every yard has a flag in it.  It’s July 4th, people!!  Yay freedom!! 


Shooting off fireworks, having BBQs, exploding with your patriotic ideals.  As if America wasn’t enough of the loud 2nd cousin, we have to yell from rooftops of the world to make sure everyone knows that we have our independence. 

In the midst of the revelry, this day also is a reminder about the other kind of freedom.

As I sit here in an air conditioned restaurant, as a single woman, alone, eating a delicious fresh meal and drinking soda.  I have a lot of freedoms that many all over the world do not.  I own my own car.  I have a job, and my own bank account.  I go about my days as I please.  

Sure there are days, when I long for my life to look different, you know, with a husband and kids. However, there are days, when I can spend my time in coffeeshops and restaurants, and not have a care in the world.  When now one is looking for me, when I don’t have to report to anyone, that I feel free, untethered.  I enjoy that feeling.

However, I think about often, as I am physically free, my soul was once a slave.  I once was entrapped by sin and caged.  Because of the cross, I am really free. I am no longer a slave. I am free, even more so, I belong to the Lord.

“So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.” Gal 4:7

This is often forgotten in the midst of my busy life.  I bustle around filling my time, thinking that the busier the holier, I am.  Suddenly, after saying yes to everything, I find myself enslaved to my schedule, to various commitments that I don’t actually want to have anything to do with.  

Then I find myself enslaved to technology, because I use it at various moments to escape, avoid the busyness.  I even can be enslaved by that untetheredness.  I am enslaved to that freedom ideal that our society preaches.  

I even find myself enslaved by my idol of approval, by my desire to not cause waves, fear that I have somehow messed up my life. 

We enslave ourselves without even realizing it. 

If we aren’t careful, we will find ourselves enslaved just as easily to the things that were once part of our freedom.  The only way we can be completely free is in the one you invented who gave up his own freedom from our sake.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. -Gal 5:1

How I long to experience the true freedom in Christ on a daily basis, not ever falling back into the entrappings of the world. I long for the kind of faith that makes those cages resistible. Even more so, I want to be the kind of woman that knows what freedom in the Lord tastes like, so I don’t run back to the cages of sin.  

Sure, we can go on and on about the freedoms we have in this country and goodness knows that we are so blessed to have the freedoms that we do, but in that freedom we believe the lie that our American freedoms will be enough.  Those freedoms will never satisfy that spot in our soul that longs for eternal freedom, eternal life with the one died to make us free. 

What do you find yourself enslaved to and how does that prevent you from experiencing freedom in the Lord?

photo credit: sylwester 22 via photopin (license)

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Feels like yesterday….

Many of my students were not even born or they may have been 8 hours old when the planes crashed into the towers.

But they still know about it.  Some were profoundly affected by it.  They are growing up in a world very different than the one I grew up in.  What they know about the world is very different than what I knew at their age. 

We talked it about it today, before I showed them a rap video about common and proper nouns. 

I almost didn’t expect them to bring it up, I knew that I couldn’t do it justice, so I wasn’t going to have some activity to go along with it.  The pressing needs of grammar and novels distracts me sometimes from these great teachable moments. 

However, I can’t sometimes breeze past the comments and the questions.  Just like my teachers in high school didn’t breeze past the comments and questions.  They faced it head on and used it to teach us.  To expand our world a bit.

I think about it sometimes, the fact that I can remember exactly where I was, what I was wearing, the fact that it was picture day and I was wearing my favorite jean skirt.  We watched news coverage on a small TV in one of the teacher’s closets.  We didn’t do much work, but we certainly learned a lot.

I think about the fact that I had no idea what the World Trade Centers were.  I had no understanding about the conflict in the Middle East.  I think about Mr. Bauer, a great world history teacher, who used that moment, in the midst of us learning about Napoleon Bonapart and war, to teach us about a different war. 

Like many other tragedies that I have addressed with my students in the last year, Newtown and Boston, these incredibly heart breaking and weighty moments are important for our students.  The world we set them loose in will be very different than the one today.  How we respond to these events will impact how they respond.  

I certainly will always remember how my teachers acted and responded to local and world tragedies and I am forever changed by them. 

When did it become about other people?

 “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant<sup class="footnote" value="[b]”>[b] of Christ.” Gal. 1:10

Don’t get me wrong, I am all about helping and serving other people.  I am a teacher, I live my life to serve and love my students.  I want to love and serve my community as well.  I want to be a good person.

However, somewhere along the line in the last year, things shifted in my brain.

See, I started on this journey to change my physical body, discovered it was just as much about my soul and lots of things changed.  My self-view changed.  I had more confidence and joy.  I enjoyed meeting people because I was confident and comfortable in my own skin.  I saw myself more than the in the background person.  I began to shine, enjoy life and was excited about the future.

But something happened……. 

disappointment turned into heartbreak and I didn’t even realize it.

I tried to ignore it and cover it up.  I went back to living my life to please other people, seek satisfaction in what they thought of me, in whether I was doing it right.  Even living healthy and running became about other people and competition.

It was an exhausting year.  I fought to keep my head above water and still have hard days. Slowly, the fog is beginning to lift as I take one more step toward the only ONE who can satisfy, who is already please with me, and rejoices in me big or small. 

As I ran this morning, I began to think about my beginning motivations for losing weight and living healthy.  It was first because I was tired of living in the impossible.  It was about proving to my 7th grade self that I could do what I never thought possible.

This last year it became about proving to other people I could do it, it became about reaching goals others set for me, it became about becoming skinny enough to get a date (I know totally lie, but I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a motivation.)   Somewhere in the midst of busyness and stress, I let my motivations begin and end with other people. 

Not that things will change overnight, they didn’t the first time, but it only takes a moment to make up your mind.

Why is it that we make things about other people and what they think?  Why do we want to prove to other people that we can do it and not fail?

You see, I think, we want approval, we are born with that need.  However, we misplace it in people.  People cannot give us what we ultimately need.  They cannot give us the everlasting approval.  

Until I can get it through my thick skull and deep into my heart that He has already called me worthy and already approved of me, that I don’t have to go after it in other people.  When I fully understand that, the disappointments, the stress and the hard things in life, will not derail me.

With that, I have made up my mind that my journey will not be about other people.  I will do this for myself.  All those miles I run will be fore me, all the sweat will be for me, all those crunches will be for me. 

Who are you living for?  Whose approval are you looking for?  What does it take for you to change that?

Small Wins

I frequently read the Biggest Loser Olivia and Hannah’s blog and recently they talked about the Bad Days.  …..the days that we fall back into old habits
…..the days that we are discouraged
…..the days when all we want to eat is…well everything we see. 

In this video, Olivia mentions something that was something I never though to do.  Make a list of all the things you did right.  If you are like me and get to the end of the day and can only think about all the ways that you didn’t meet your own expectations or others for you, this could change your life.

So instead of making a list of all the ways I have failed….I am going to make a list of the things I did right…the small wins!

Here are 3 ways that this idea has begun to change my year: 

1. My job: As a teacher of 12-13 year olds, I constantly feel like I am losing the battle to win their attention, their focus, and any ounce of academic success for them.  I feel like I have been losing the battle for the past couple of months.  

Thursday as I drove away from school, I wept because I felt that I had let down my students by harboring frustrations from hour to hour.  My impatience grew when they didn’t understand something I thought I had explained clearly and the apathy they showed to this assignment I was excited about, drove me crazy!!

Today, could have been about the same, but I am choosing to celebrate the small wins.  The little things that went right today.
– I didn’t have to write a detention or referrals today.
– The student who didn’t do anything yesterday in class, completed his assignment today with little prompting.
– We had library day, which meant that they worked on a fun activity.
– I got all my grades updated.
– I make Certificates of Awesome for the kids who did great first semester!
– Created a rubric for in class debates on Monday.
– Our newest ELL student who doesn’t speak any English seemed to make some friends.
– I found out that I would look really cute in hipster glasses. (All the girls at least thought so!)
– My 7th hour were very concerned with whether I was having a good day today.
– I had fun!!

2. Mental/Physically: Over the past 3 months, I have gained about 10 lbs back from where I was.  Big picture, this is not that big of a deal.  However, I was so close to my goal weight and I got off track after I ran my 3rd Half marathon this fall.  As I try to get back on track with eating well, (Let’s be honest, that is the hardest part of losing weight and I am a stress eater!)  thinking about the small wins of the day helps me be more positive about my progress. 

So this week instead of thinking about the gummy worms that I ate on Monday night, I want to think about my small wins!
– I worked out 5 days this week.
– I ran outside on Wednesday!
– Resisted the 2 offers of doughtnuts on Thursday (This was the stressful day!)
– Instead of getting Chipotle with friends on Friday night, I made an omelet! (Saved me money too!)
– Had salads 2 days for lunch this week!
– I didn’t eat anything after dinner 4 times this week.
– Resisted buying snacky foods that keep me munching!
– No cookies or chips for me during a meeting today at church! (It wouldn’t have been worth it.)
– Got up early this morning and ran with a friend. (Big win since I usually like to run by myself!)

3. 2012 Reflections: Don’t get me wrong 2012 was a great year and ended with a fantastic trip Down Under, but I started thinking about all the things that didn’t happen instead of all the things that did. 

So here are some good things that happened in 2012!

– Made a lot of new friends!
– Ran 2 Half Marathons
– Traveled to Denver to visit one of my favorite people in the world.
– Took 7 hours of Grad classes
Survived year 3 of teaching.
– Made it very close to my goal weight!
– Put myself out there and went on a few dates! (Didn’t turn out too well, but it was a good first step!)
– Stepped into a different role at church
– Said yes to a lot of things! (Color Run, going to Concerts, going to Australia!)
– Traveled halfway around the world to AUSTRALIA!
– Took on a lot of new things for my job and personally.

See I would say that 2012 was a great year.  I easily discredit it because not everything I wanted to happen happened….but whose to say that God doesn’t want to spread out the good things.

Ultimately, making a list like this brings to light the fact that as much as a fail, God is so abundantly gracious to me and does not leave me alone in that failure.

    For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
(Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

In what areas would it be helpful to make a list of your small wins?  What are some ways that you can practice grace to yourself or others around you?

When you realize that your biggest problem isn’t your biggest problem!

I have been working to write this post for a while and it happens that I am posting this on my Birthday! Perhaps I am in a very reflective mood or I feel like it is time to share this.

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Do you ever think about your life from the outside looking in? Do you ever think about all the things you had once hoped for and realized that most of them have come true? Do you ever think…“Is this really my life? Is this who I really am and who I really want to be?” These last couple of months have proven to be life changing in so many ways.

Some good, some not so good. Some of my changes aren’t so endearing to people. Perhaps that is what brought this thought process about.

As my body has changed, so has my life, maybe my personality a bit. The things I used to put my identity in and use as a basis of who I was as a person and what my life was going to be, are changing. I am having to figure out who I am apart from the image of who I thought I was.

Thankfully, part of this is realizing how much of my identity was placed wrongly and perhaps that is why I am so shaken/unprepared by these changes.

I used to think that “if I could only lose weight, then my life would be perfect” because I thought that was my biggest problem.

I used that as an excuse for a lot of things.
….for building up walls
….for not letting people in all the way into my life
….for being alone
….for my self-pity.

It seemed like something that was never going to change and I would always be as unhappy as I was inside. I was a good actor, most people didn’t know what was going on in my heart or soul. I was being eaten alive by this unhappiness that seemed like it would never go away. Does that make sense? It might not, because I don’t know how to even explain it sometimes.

As I have lost weight, I see that weight was not my biggest problem. It was actually the tip of the iceberg, the door into what has happened to be a room full of other issues that were covered up by the weight issue. These issues are not going to be solved overnight or by meeting another goal, but it is going to take time. All of these issues stem from my own sin and nothing else.

Now it seems it is very easy for me to try to cover up these issues by new friends, new experiences, new adventures, or work. Or even to resort back to what I used to find comfort in…food.

My biggest problem isn’t my weight or finding comfort in food or people.

I don’t have it figured out…nor do I expect to anytime soon. At the end of the day, I have to be okay with being in process, with being on a journey.

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It’s hard, I don’t really want to push the publish button on this one. It seems like I am sharing a bit of my soul. Maybe you can relate.

Where are you at in your journey? Do you relate to this jumble of thoughts that I have just poured on this page?

Reflection of 2010

It feels appropriate to spend the first day of the new year reflecting back on the past year. I read through some of my posts on this blog and am somewhat surprised that in the last two months I have only posted twice. I feel like in these last two months much has been going on. Perhaps, I just haven’t been able to articulate it like I would want to but in a lot of ways 2010 was a good year, and God has blessed me in many ways.

More than anything, I think I am struck by the fact that so much can change in a year and so much can stay the same. Spiritually, I feel like I have come a long way since last January, but at the same time I feel like I am working out some of the same issues with God. Professionally, I have grown and changed and learned so much, but I have a long way to go. I do know that I don’t want to ever arrive, but continually be in process.

One of the biggest changes that 2010 has brought me was that physically I have changed. 45 lbs and counting, running a mile, and then running a 5k. To be able to wear things that I never thought possible, to be healthier and motivated to continue on this path. Those are all changes that I see. But I have to remember that those physical changes won’t bring me that inner satisfaction that I crave in approval or success, those will only come from the Lord.

As I travel through my year in my journal and writings, I feel sense of anticipation, of weariness, of wanting, of hunger for more. I am not sure what more of, because I know there are days when I feel overwhelmed by what I have on my plate, in my life. I feel not equipped to handle what God has thrown at me. However, I know there is more that God intends to do in 2011. Am I ready for it, am I prepared for what he has? Do I know what I am asking for?

Even though I feel one thing, I know that the fact is God is there and will always be there to help me through whatever he puts in my path. It excites me to think about it in a lot of ways. I am excited for His plans, whatever they may be.