Remembering What We Love

I stole the title of this post from my MOPS devotional book.

I just read Chapter 8 today, Confidence Over Conformity: Remembering what we love.

The author talks about how she made a friend at a playdate for her son. They were talking about finding time for the things they like – writing for the author and painting for her friend. The author was writing a book and her friend lamented having no time for art anymore.

I have encountered that sentiment a lot as I somewhat publicly pursue my own interests. I have had people tell me that I’m lucky to be able to do what I love because not everyone can. I’m told that there just isn’t time for mom or dad to focus on themselves. I’m told that to do lists are just too long and the days too full and the nights too short to spend ourselves.

The author goes on to share a story of when she was in a spelling bee in second grade. She got second place and her mother considered it a waste of time. The author never entered another spelling bee. And she struggles to pursue her creative interests because they are “time wasters”.

How often do we all fall into that trap? There are so many more things I could DO instead of knit. Or write. Or run. Or read. Or create. Or consume. Or enjoy.

I could do that load of laundry that’s been staring at me for days. Or just quick unload the dishwasher… and then load it… and then wash down all the counters. Or clean this thing. Or that thing. Or find something “developmental” for my kids to do. Or whatever else. The list just goes on.

In the past few years, I’ve really started to embrace who I am and what I enjoy. At first, I felt like I needed to make money doing these things to make them worthwhile. If I could sell what I knitted, THEN it would be worth my time to spend hours knitting. If I could just get paid to write, THEN it wouldn’t be a waste of time to write. If I could just start on the path to being a famous, sponsored ultramarathoner, THEN it would be worth all the training time required.

Now, I do these things simply because I enjoy them. Because I need to do things I enjoy to maintain my sanity. Because I am me. I am Cari. I am not JUST mother or JUST wife. I am not defined by my relationships to others. God has given me gifts that are intended to simply be enjoyed.

It’s hard to break out of that mindset, isn’t it?

That our interests are only worth pursuing if they accomplish another means. Because enjoyment somehow isn’t a good enough reason to engage in our hobbies.

Growing up, my parents, like all parents, weren’t perfect. They did stuff that screwed me up just like your parents screwed you up and like I will screw up my kids. One thing they did really well, though, was to encourage us exploring interests. I was in Girl Scouts and band and choir and track and cross country and plays and musicals and church and youth group and on and on. I was never the best one, though. I wasn’t first chair. I wasn’t section leader. I wasn’t the perennial winner. I didn’t even get my Gold award.

What I did get, though, is much better. I got support in the things I liked to do. And now, as an adult, it’s been pretty easy to throw off the chains of “I should…” and embrace “I do it because I enjoy it.” I don’t need to make money to make it worthwhile.

How about you? Did you feel supported in your interests? Did you have to be the best for it to be worthwhile? Did you have to have the right interests? Were you completely different from your parents and they were totally cool with it? Did they pursue your interests with you?

What struggles do you have with pursuing hobbies today?

What lies are you believing that say carving out time for yourself is wrong?

God made us all unique. And that includes our hobbies. That includes finding things to do that make us happy. Finding our passions and our interests and using our skills. Even as a Christian, not everything we do needs to be overtly Christian. Perhaps simply enjoying who God made us to be is a good enough testimony. I am worth spending time on myself.

Being creative for the sake of creativity is a great use of our time and energy. God is the ultimate in exploring creativity. How could a creative God think that spending time in creative pursuits is not worthwhile?

Friends, you are worth spending time on yourselves doing things you enjoy simply because you enjoy them. We need to stop believing the lies that say unless we make money or are “accomplishing something”, that our pursuits aren’t worthwhile.

If you like to write, write even if no one will ever read it. If you like to run, run even if you will never race. If you like to read, read even if you never discuss what you’ve read with anyone. And so on. Even if you never make money. Even if those around you don’t understand. Even if those around you try to make you feel bad for investing in yourself.

I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full. That’s what Jesus said. The thief comes to destroy and Jesus comes to give life.

Are you believing the thief? Or Jesus?

What can you do today to start eroding your belief in the lie and start building your belief in the truth?

Advertisements

Recap of 30 30s and goals for 2017

I suppose it’s about time that I share how I did on my 30 30s. In short, it was a series of goals I set for myself to complete during 2016, the year I turned 30. I wanted to push myself to explore new hobbies, to grow in different ways, and to achieve things I may have previously thought impossible.

As far as completion of items, I did terribly. I only completed 9 of 30 categories. I came close in 6 others, but didn’t have the drive to push myself to finish them.

Part of my problem at the very end is that I only wanted to do the things just to check them off my list. It felt really inauthentic, which made it hard for me to push and do it.

However, I don’t see it as a failure. In fact, I learned more about myself through failing to complete things than I would have otherwise. I realized that I really don’t care for working out – either strength training or yoga. While I know these would help take my running to an entirely new level, I don’t have the patience or the drive to do it. At least not on my own. I found that to be very valuable.

I do enjoy writing on my blog, but I didn’t manage to eek out 30 posts in one year. Part of the time, I didn’t have anything to say and sometimes I really just didn’t have the time. However, I have learned that my blog is an important way for me to process through things and I really look forward to processing through some pretty deep and painful hurts over the next year. We are all a product of our experiences and choices and it is high time I let go of some things from my previous prodigal life.

The other thing I realized is that I have lots of hobbies that take time and cannot be done concurrently. I can’t read and knit or run and write at the same time. I also can’t write a blog post and a novel at the same time and each of these takes time. The important thing I’ve realized is that I just need to go with whatever creative whim I happen to be on at the time. It’s okay if I don’t write for weeks at a time while I read or knit a sweater. It’s okay if I give up knitting to write a novel or train for an ultramarathon.

Previously, I had thought I needed to find time during each week to participate in each of these hobbies, but I have realized that as long as I’m feeling fulfilled by the current hobby, it’s okay that I only engage in one or two at a time. I don’t see an uproar here when it’s days or weeks between posts, so it seems you all are living life just fine apart from my musings, though I do want to try to muse with a little more regularity this year. We will see, though.

Some of the goals I had set were things that weren’t actually important to me but I wanted them to be. I haven’t really played guitar for a couple years now and having a $500 guitar hasn’t changed that, even though I wanted it to. It sounds really nice, but I don’t know what to play on it. I don’t know when to play that doesn’t draw toddlers around to pull and pluck and poke and yank and hit it while I play.

I finally did read the entire Harry Potter series this year (actually, in a span of about two weeks…) and it was really enjoyable. I have a stack of other recommended reads by a friend to get through and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m really excited about the books and I’m excited about my growing list of other books to read. I am excited about writing my novel and seeing where the story goes. Maybe I’ll publish it, but maybe I won’t.

In all, I found the challenge to be a great success. I feel proud that I even tried to tackle something so huge. I did grow a lot and I see where I still have areas in which to grow. I have really accepted the things that make me happy, the things that I enjoy, that I want to spend my free time on. I have better learned who I am and I have deepened some relationships with friends that I really wanted to do. I’m being more honest, more encouraging, more open, more vulnerable. The best part about it is that my friends really seem to appreciate it. They aren’t scared off like I had thought they would be. They seem to like me for me and that was actually pretty surprising.

For the majority of my life, I’ve been trying really hard to be someone else – whether I tried to be Megan or Kristin or Katie or Cheryl or Alli or Jenna or Nicole or Katie (a different one) – I was always trying to be someone else and not myself. This year, I’ve learned that people like Cari. People like Cari because she is Cari. I have great things to offer if I would just give myself the chance to offer it.

So this year, I have some pretty specific goals, and far fewer. They are all important to me and they are manageable. They are direct, they are measurable, and all of them are either fun or fulfilling.

So, my goals for 2017 are as follows:

  • Finish writing Tamerna book 1.
  • Run an ultramarathon (paid race).
  • Watch all the Harry Potter movies.
  • Read Lord of the Rings.
  • Take the kids to the park more often than I did this year.
  • Purge more unnecessary stuff from my house.
  • Read to the kids from their Bible more often.
  • Read the entire Bible.
  • Finish reading the Sword of Truth series.
  • Engage more intentionally with my friends to deepen our relationships – check in via text message or calling, do more than just push ‘like’ on facebook, etc.
  • Finish knitting my sweater.
  • Play with the kids more AND let them play outside alone more
  • Date my husband more

 

I am always a fan of accountability so any time you want to check in on me, I am a fan of sharing how things are going.

How about you? Do you set goals for an entire year? Do you call them resolutions? Are you experiencing any success yet? I’d love to hear what you’d like to accomplish in 2017!

NaNoWriMo

Nearly an entire month has passed since my last post.

I have started to write two different times, but alas, it hasn’t actually come through to finished posts. That is undoubtedly because I have been up to my eyeballs in NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. Yeah, it’s a real thing. The premise is to write 50,000 words in the month of November – whether a novel or otherwise.

I have been working specifically on a novel. I had originally intended for it to be a stand alone novel, but it sort of morphed into book 2 of a series I hadn’t intended to write. A fantasy series about an elf named Tamerna (more like night elf from WoW and less like Santa’s little helper) and some things happen and she reacts, etc. You know, general story stuff happens.

Book 2 , currently titled The Legend of Tobias Snow, is based off a short story I wrote a couple months ago to submit to an anthology put together by a facebook group I once was in. Well, as fortune would have it, I broke one of the rules and now no longer have an anthology to submit to, but I still have a pretty darn good short story. Everyone who read it said they wanted to know more about Tobias, thus this novel. I had originally planned it to be a nice little history of Tobias, but it simply took a completely different direction.

I am a discovery writer, or pantser as some say, which basically means I write as I go. I don’t do very much planning and certainly don’t do anything in the way of outlining, so the story more presents itself to me than I plan it and write it out. For me, that is the beautiful thing about writing, the flow of words from my brain to my fingers and then onto the paper (or screen as it may be). Watching a story take shape in front of my eyes is one of the most fun things I do with my free time. Going back and watching it evolve seeing where I have to go back and fix the front end so it matches the back end is a different task entirely, but I do enjoy that part too.

I have definitely learned quite a bit about myself in this process of making and trying to reach goals. A terrible habit of mine is to give up if I think I can’t reach a goal or if I think that it feels fake to make a big push right at the end in order to reach a goal. That hasn’t been the case with NaNo. It ends in three days (including today) and I still have 10k words to write, which means I need to bust out more than 3k words a day to make it. Usually, I would throw in the towel and say “I can’t do it, it’s not worth making a huge push to get there” but not this time. This time, I am doing it.

It’s also given me another little nudge to make a good push to end my 30 30s strong. There are several categories I will not finish. I know this, but I still have an entire month to make a push for some I KNOW I can finish and that is precisely what I’m going to do. The point of NaNo, the point of the 30 30s, is to stretch myself, to push myself, to help myself grow in ways I might not have grown otherwise.

I watched a documentary recently called The Barkley Marathons and the race founder at one point says something like ‘It’s such a privilege to watch people push themselves farther than they think they can go’. So my 30 30s, my NaNo, my ultra – all of these are attempts to push myself farther than I think can go. Those are the moments, the times, where we learn the most about ourselves. I’ve really enjoyed these challenges and I want to do my best to achieve as many goals as I can, to push myself to walk just outside my usual boundaries.

When is the last time you really pushed yourself?

I am an ultramarathoner

ultramarathon

This weekend, I accomplished something I have wanted to do for quite a long time.

I ran an ultramarathon.

The best part is that I didn’t even have to PAY for it! A free run, 5 mile loops around my house. In pain. For free.

And I still got an awesome t-shirt out of the deal.

itbegins

I split up time with my favorite running buddies (my dogs and myself – I know, lame – haha!) and made a super dorky t-shirt to help motivate myself to keep going.

That’s my little guy up there, almost 14 months old. My daughter was sitting on the steps with her new Elmo book, which she REALLY wanted to take a picture of, but I guess waiting 12 seconds for the picture was a little much.

It was really awesome how excited everyone was for the run – especially the dogs.

first run

Throwback – this is me in April, stuffed into my running clothes, feeling like the wife of the Michelin Man, heading out for just a couple miles. Like, literally, two miles I think. I remember not even wanting to share this picture because I felt SO uncomfortable and chubby and out of shape, but I’m glad I did. I knew I would be.

It’s easy to share the stuff that is SUPER awesome and the pictures where we look super great. I knew that running 2 miles was neither super awesome and I didn’t look super great, but it was important to document the start. The first miles after baby, after winter. And the dogs were turbo excited to go for a run. Finally!

It’s amazing how far I have come, to be honest. From 2 miles in April to 30 miles in October. I feel really good. I feel strong. I feel healthy. I feel vibrant (and to be honest, still a little stiff today, but NOT SORE!!). I just feel better and seriously, if I’d never lost a single pound, that would be enough. Not that I would know if I’d lost weight because we don’t have a scale. It’s enough to just feel better.

Anyway, back to the run-down (see what I did there?). Ha!

5done

It was a little bit cooler than I had initially thought and dressed for, so I had to dress up a little more to survive the chilly wind with these arm-warmers I knitted up a few years ago when doing the Bismarck marathon relay with some friends.

My awesome husband took these pictures and updated my “legions of fans” every lap on facebook. So amazing. So supportive. There is no way I could have done this crazy, CRAZY thing without him really being for it and supportive. I was also really humbled by the fact that my friends, that people I knew, actually gave a crap that I was doing this. I know that we have friends for reasons and friends take an interest in your life, but it was still really humbling to me. I felt a LOT of gratitude toward the people who cared that I was doing this crazy thing for no other reason than “I wanted to.”

So, friends, you are amazing. Thank you for being amazing. Thank you for caring. Seriously. It means so much.

It usually takes me a few miles to warm up, so at the end of 5, I was feeling pretty darn awesome. I had to really consciously keep myself going slow so that I would have enough gas in the tank to go all 30 miles. I was really amped up and wanting to truck. Ultimately, I’m VERY glad I just turtled along the entire time.

10down

Because it was so cold, I didn’t really feel the need to hydrate all that much. However, Coach Husband really got on my case about that after 10 miles, so I tried to be better. After 10, I was still feeling really great and ready for a lap all by myself. However, I knew that it wouldn’t last, so I actually spent part of lap 3 praying for God to give me and my legs strength to finish and thanking him for my husband, my friends, just all the great stuff in my life. I think lap 3 was definitely my gratitude lap – I felt really grateful and humbled.

I thought back to my marathon and how I used that to help power through a really difficult race. I thought of all the people who have helped me finish both my marathons and the spiritual journey I’ve been on this year. I knew I couldn’t do it on my strength, but with God, all things are possible. I can do all things through him who gives me strength. If I hope in the Lord, he will renew me and I will not be weary. Gratitude is an amazing thing.

I had planned to run my 30 next week, actually, and had a small lineup of friends and family to run it all with me, however, due to some unforseen circumstances, I will be out of town. I was grumbling to this lady up here after our Bible study on Wednesday about how bummed I was that I couldn’t do it, that I wouldn’t be able to wear the sweet shirt I ordered for myself and she suggested I do it this weekend and THEN she joined me for the last 10 miles.

It’s amazing how refreshing it is to have a little pick me up in the form of a crazy, high energy friend on the last legs of a super hard goal. It’s like I was saying above, about people I know actually giving a crap that I was doing this. I still smile thinking about it.

Anyway, I was still feeling pretty good after 20 miles, so I was excited to get out for this next lap. I was feeling better after these 20 miles than I did finishing 20 miles last week AND 15 the week before. I still don’t understand it because I certainly didn’t do enough training between to justify such a huge apparent increase in stamina. All I can say is God answered my prayer – he gave me the strength I needed.

By the time the final lap rolled around, I was really starting to be in pain. My feet were hurting, my upper back was getting sore, my legs were starting to hurt, and I was just wearing down. My expression says it all. Mentally, I was excited to finish and accomplish my goal, but physically, it was tough to get back out on the road.

However, you don’t run 5 of 6 laps and then quit. No way. Do or Do Not, right?

So off we went for our final lap. It was slow, it was painful, but it was one of those ‘put your head down and run mental challenge’ laps. I knew I could finish. I had already done 25, I had already done two marathons previously, I knew I could finish. Slowly but surely, one step at a time, I knew I could do it. I told myself ‘don’t start this unless you can finish it’ and I was really motivated to finish.

As far as fueling, I had a nutrigrain bar at 5, 10, and 15 miles to help keep fuel in my body. I also started the day with a big bowl of peanut butter, nutella, honey, and mixed berry oatmeal – a GREAT prerace meal for me. I finished out 20 with half a banana and meant to finish it before my last lap, but since I’d sent it inside, we all forgot about it until about mile 27. A little late for my banana, ha!

signs-for-mama

Unbeknownst to me, a little craft project was taking place during my last lap. As I came up the road back to our house, less than a quarter mile to go, my friend was whooping up a storm and I heard husband whoop back. I didn’t expect them to be outside to be honest. It was COLD! The temp definitely dropped in the last 10 miles and the wind had picked up.

As we crested the little hill up to my driveway, my whole family was out waiting for me. My daughter was holding this yellow sign and when she saw me, she took off running at me “I COLORED A PICTURE FOR YOU, MAMA!”

She was so proud of her picture. I wish I’d had the strength to pick her up, but I was wiped. I took the picture she colored and encouraged her to run with me. Her shoe fell off immediately, but my friend scooped her up and we ran our last .02 miles together. Husband was playing Rocky from our garage stereo and holding his own sign. It was without a doubt the BEST finish ever, even with no medal, no crowd, no pictures – just having my family there was enough for me. The memory I have in my head is good enough for me (thought a video would have been SUPER cute and amazing – we didn’t know how cute she would be right then).

I’ve gotten pretty emotional at the end of both my marathons and, honestly, I expected to be at the end of this too, especially with my family there, but I didn’t. I started to, but I just smiled like an idiot the entire time. The dogs were going crazy, baby boy was sitting in his stroller all like “dude…it’s cold. Let’s go in.” and my daughter was talking talking talking like usual. It was really wonderful – much better than crying I think.

And I got to say some pretty awesome words: I am an ultramarathoner.

Recipe! – Chicken and mushroom creamy noodles

I inadvertently made a super delicious supper tonight. Of course, I always intend to make delicious food, but I don’t always cook from scratch like I did tonight and admittedly, the food isn’t always super delicious. Now, I want to share with all of you before I forget it! I know, it’s not the greatest picture. I didn’t think to take pictures or share this until well after I’d put the leftovers in the fridge.

delicious supper.jpg

While I was out running, I was thinking about ingredients we had laying around the house. We had chicken, cream of mushroom soup, canned mushrooms, yogurt, and cottage cheese. I’ve been binge watching Chopped on Netflix, so I feel like I need to justify it a little by cooking a little bit more. It’s even accidentally sort of healthy!

So here’s what I did:

2 chicken breasts
1 Tbsp butterPaprika
Cumin
Onion Salt

I sliced up the chicken and in the butter, quickly cooked it through generously seasoning it. I had to use the onion salt because I didn’t have any onions in the house and my dried onions were running low (and now I’m out!).

I took the chicken out and set it aside in a bowl. Then:

1 can mushrooms
1 can cream of mushroom
2 cloves garlic

I sauteed up the mushrooms a bit with the garlic and then tossed in the soup. Then I added:

1/2 box of chicken broth
2 c water (I didn’t actually measure, I’m just guessing here)
1 generous scoop of plain yogurt
1 generous scoop of cottage cheese
1 tbsp onion flakes (real onion would be better, I know!)
I simmered all of that together for a little bit (just a minute or two), added some salt, pepper, more cumin and paprika. I readded the chicken and stirred it all up.

Then I added a box of penne pasta into the pan to let it soak up all the juices.

I ended up adding another generous scoop of cottage cheese and yogurt and then added a splash of milk, maybe half a cup.

It turned out REALLY delicious!! I would definitely do some things differently though. I would have added more milk and probably something green. I think peas would have gone nicely with it and maybe even some cooked carrots. We pureed it up for the baby and he had two generous helpings and my nearly 3 year old devoured quite a bit too. Talk about high praise!!

So now that I have it all written out up there, I’ll add it down here in more traditional recipe format.

I’ve name it: Chicken and Mushroom Creamy Noodles (not terribly creative, I know)

2 chicken breasts
1 Tbsp butter
Paprika (maybe 2 or 3 tsp total)
Cumin (maybe 2 or 3 tsp total)
Onion Salt
1 can mushrooms
1 can cream of mushroom
2 cloves garlic
1/2 box of chicken broth (or the whole thing and less water)
2 c water (less if you use more chicken broth)
2 generous scoops of plain yogurt (probably 1/2 cup)
2 generous scoops of cottage cheese (probably 1/2 cup)
1 tbsp onion flakes (or finely chop up a medium sized onion, more if you like more onion)
2 cups milk
1 box penne noodles
Parsley
Chives
Frozen or fresh peas (optional)

Sautee chicken in butter with a generous amount of spices. Set aside.

In same pan, add mushrooms, soup, and garlic (fresh onion if you have it). Sautee for a few minutes, until onions are soft.

Add liquids and stir, bring to a boil. Add noodles. Add more spices as needed, salt and pepper to taste. Toss in peas (or other veggies) with a few minutes to go on noodles. Stir and enjoy!!

So press on, dear friends

I’ve started working on my second novel. I wrote my first one a few months back. It took me about four months to hammer out the 75,000-ish word novel. I haven’t really touched it since writing the last few words. At the time, I figured it wasn’t really worth doing anything with because it’s not very good. Because it’s not sellable right now. As is. As a first draft.

This, I know, is completely ridiculous. NOBODY writes a sellable first draft of a first novel. Or any novel for that matter.

It’s taken some time, but I have circled back to it and begun the editing process, which is more difficult than I expected it to be. In a way, I expected editing ease to take over when I started editing my novel because I really enjoy editing. It’s kinda my gig. I have people who consistently ask me to edit stuff for them and I really enjoy doing that.  Turns out editing your own work is an entirely different animal. Who knew?

So I’m struggling a bit with editing novel one. I’m struggling a bit with where to go with novel two.  I’m realizing that novel three, a potential collaboration, is just collecting dust because we’re both working on multiple other projects. Surprisingly, it’s all a little discouraging to me. Despite what I know in my head, I feel like writing should just be easier. Like it should just flow from my fingers the way my blog posts often do. Like somehow it should be effortless.

This is not true and in my head, I know this. It’s hard. Just like everything else. If it were effortless, everyone would do it and there would be no market for creative work because everybody would be producing creative work. Yes, there are moments of brilliant ease, but for the most part, it’s discipline (with which I already struggle), it’s work, it’s pursuit, it’s pushing through, it’s pressing on. It’s just a lot like life, isn’t it?

I know these little lumps and bumps, this season of discouragement, won’t last long and soon I’ll be back up on my horse, pounding away at the keys, deleting this and that, refining, adding, changing, morphing. The same way God works on us, deleting this and that, refining, adding, changing, morphing.

Speaking of, I’ve been trying to read 30 books of the Bible this year (I’m halfway there!) and as I’m going through the New Testament, the idea that continually pops up is the idea of community. Early in the NT, the emphasis is really on community – the community Jesus built around himself, the community of the new believers in the house churches, the community recorded in Acts and Romans, the community Paul cultivated in his church plants – there is a lot about community there.

I know I’m jumping around in my ideas a lot here, but stick with me.

So, community. We all know that life is meant to be lived in a community. Different parts of life require different communities. I’m trying to build up a spiritual community, a mom community, and a writing community all at the same time. These pursuits in my life are especially difficult and so in order to press on, I need others around me who are moving in the same direction. People I can encourage, people who can encourage me, people who can just live life together.

It is a painfully slow process.

Perhaps it’s part of this refining, adding, changing, morphing idea. Patience. It’s a long slow process and it takes perseverance. Just like writing. Just like training for a marathon. Just like everything in life that takes more than a minute to complete.

I have a friend who confided in me that she was struggling and had a bit of a plan, but she didn’t really know what to do about a first step. So we talked a little bit about it, I gave some advice and then I told her I would pray about it for her. I was excited for her. We both thought it was a pretty good idea, a decent plan. I finally got around to praying for her (it took me a few days) and I really went for it. I prayed for an hour (another 30 30 goal). I realized something through my prayer conversation and after I reached out to her with my realization. I admitted I could be completely wrong, but I suspected that what she needed more than this plan was community, for someone to really see her.

This day to day business of momming is really hard. It’s easy to feel unseen. It’s natural to think about ways to be seen (blogging anyone?? Haha!) by others. It’s easy to fantasize about other ways to be noticed by other people. It’s easy to see where our sense of community falls short.

People like to romanticize the good old days, when neighborhood kids played together and women gathered at the washing building and talked and everyone just got along and if you were neighbors, you were friends because people were just friendlier back then. I’m going to be honest with you. I don’t think people were necessarily friendlier, I think the desperation of being home all the time drove it. If you had young kids and five other families on your block had young kids and all the mothers were home all the time, I think it’s only natural that eventually the kids would befriend and so would the mothers. The drive to build up a support system is strong and the need for others to understand where you are in life is deep. It wasn’t perfect then just like it isn’t perfect now.

So, friends, I know life is tough. We all have spots where we struggle, whether it’s weight or loneliness or writing or running or working or our marriage or our kids or our finances. We all struggle from time to time to press on, to persevere, to take hold, to push through. We all feel that despair in our hearts and souls, like no one cares, like no one sees us, like nothing will change.

The truth is, though, God has a plan for your life and for mine. He has uniquely equipped us with skills, with talents, passions, and desires. He gives us trials to grow us. He heats up life around us to refine us. It’s a slow and painful process sometimes, but we need to press on. To depend on God for strength. To know there is a reason for our lives. That what we love to do is not an accident. That we are created on purpose.

Press on, friends, and take hold of the life God has intended for you.

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead,  I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  –Philippians 3:12-14

The insidious reality of weight loss talk

Several people over the past few weeks have asked me the innocent question “Have you lost weight?” followed up by the statement “You look great!”

I know these words were not spoken with any kind of ill-intent. Quite the opposite actually. I know these people were trying to build me up, to tell me they’ve noticed my work, to compliment my effort.

The truth though?

It’s not a compliment to me.

I don’t know if I’ve lost weight. I’m sure I have. My clothes fit differently, looser. I seem smaller when I look in the mirror. I don’t have a scale, though. Ever since my nephew broke ours when he jumped on it six years ago, there has been no scale in our house. That has been such a blessing because I could finally break free from the weight mentality that so easily ensnares us women. Or men. Or people. Weight is a big deal. And losing it is a really big deal.

Do you want to hear the really dark truth, though?

The past couple weeks, all I do when I walk by a mirror now is look at my body. I scrutinize it. Today, I put on my running clothes and then I stood profile and I just examined.

Hmm, yeah, my butt does look smaller. And I think my stomach doesn’t stick out as much as it used to. Still pretty big, though. And soft. That’s kinda gross. Boobs are full of milk, so they don’t count. Man, even my face looks more slender. That makes me look a little older, too, doesn’t it?  Yeah, I’m pretty sure I’ve lost some weight. I wonder how much. I know it was 25 pounds a few months ago, it’s probably more now. I bet I’m getting really close to 160. Just ten more pounds and the BMI chart wouldn’t think I’m overweight…

All of these thoughts whirred through my mind and have been because of the constant prime of weight loss by these well-meaning questions. I find myself holding in my stomach more. I watch my shadow while running to see if I look thinner there too. I admire how ‘thin’ I look when I lay on my side and everything droops to the floor. But the upper hip looks darn good.

It’s because of this dark reality in my life that I intentionally stay away from weight-related talk. I don’t even know how to respond to those questions anymore because it makes me feel uncomfortable. It reinforces that idea that I wouldn’t look great if I hadn’t lost weight. I would still be unremarkable and chubby. Not great. I stutter and stammer through an answer, coming up with something like ‘well, I AM training for a marathon’ and leave it at that.

I know I’ve talked about this subject before, but I think it bears repeating given the destructive thoughts and actions such comments have wreaked on me over the past couple weeks. I have been lacking in motivation for my running and working out and right now, I wonder if the weight loss talk isn’t a big part of it.

I am working really hard and people notice I’m not as chubby.

Do you know what I notice?

I feel strong. I can go up the stairs carrying kids without as much effort. I can run 20 consecutive miles. I can do some push ups on my toes. I can pop up off the floor more easily than I’ve been able to in months. I can carry heavy stuff more easily now. My clothes don’t hurt and feel really uncomfortable when I wear them. I have more stamina. I have more energy.

Talking only about weight loss minimizes everything else. It perpetuates the idea that weight loss is king (or I suppose queen in the world of women). I don’t do any exercise to lose weight. It’s not a motivator. Weight loss is the only goal that will let you down over and over and over again. Those last five pounds will always hang on. It will always creep back up. It’s not sustainable. It creates an obsession with a mechanical device on the bathroom floor.

It shuts out all the other ways your body is changing when you start to live a healthier lifestyle. It minimizes the fact that you can go upstairs and not be winded. It minimizes that you’re not hefting yourself off the floor. It minimizes that it’s easier to play with your kids.

I get it. Weight is so tangible. That number is so easy to track and to follow. It’s so easy to see forward and backward progress. It’s so insidious, though. Because success is hinging on numbers going down. What if they go back up? Then what? How is your mood? What is your reaction? How do you treat others around you?

What if we could finally let go of this idea? What if we could fully embrace that strength is what matters? That progress of ability is what matters? What if we could ask new questions?

You look stronger. Have you been working on it?
You look fit and healthy. What is your secret?
Have you been working out? You look strong. 

Can we cut the crap with talking about weight? Can we finally stop talking about it?

I am so tired of fighting the urge to scrutinize myself in the mirror. I’m tired of wondering if I’ve lost weight. I’m tired of picking myself apart. I’m tired of wondering where the weight loss has happened. I’m tired of only my lack of chubbiness being noticed.

I am working so hard for the goal of running a marathon and it’s like that ability is so unnoticed. My miles are increasing. I am running easier, faster. And yet with all these weight-related primes, I almost can’t help myself from looking and checking and ultimately being disappointed.

Let’s commit to no more weight talk. Let’s talk about feeling healthy. Let’s talk about feeling good. Let’s talk about seeing different results. Let’s talk about increased miles and increased resistance and increased repetitions. Let’s reframe our fitness goals to not include a number on a mechanical box. Let’s help each other to stay away from that stupid mirror that tells lies about our progress and beats us down because we are not perfect.

Please help me succeed. Find other ways to compliment my hard work. Stop asking about my weight.