Lessons on Self Control

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Two weeks ago I started the Whole 30 Challenge. I would say it’s a diet, but it’s not. It’s more of a “let’s change the way we think about food” thing; I suppose that’s why they call it a challenge. Anyways, I have really loved it a whole lot to the point that I want to “keep it up” beyond the 30 days. I want to just live my life healthier because I feel better, and I like feeling better.

One of the biggest lessons that I am learning is that everything is connected. I mean everything. So, what I eat is connected to how I feel about myself, which is connected to how I treat people. When I feel confident that I am feeding myself well, I am more able to be kind, giving, patient, etc… I’m less overwhelmed and less stressed; I’m able to “stay on top” of things.

Now, granted this has been two weeks, and I have to fight the skeptic inside my head (some may call her the devil) on a way-more-than-daily basis. This skeptic says, “Just wait until next year! New job, new responsibilities – you’ll be so stressed that you’ll start to have daily ice cream indulgences and pretty soon all this hard work will go to waste.”

But the skeptic is wrong. I know this because the other lesson I’ve learned is this lesson that my mom used to say to my siblings and me constantly growing up: No one (and, may I add, nothing) MAKES you do anything. You always have a choice. No matter what – I have a choice. Stress and responsibility do not force me into unhealthy habits; I choose them. Every single day I have to kill off the victim mentality (another name for the skeptic in my head) that I am stuck in my habits and that I cannot move forward. I can move forward. I have moved forward. I am moving forward.

Finally, I have learned (and am learning) so much about sin and God and holiness through this experience. I think about pleasure and indulgences and how the world (and Ellie) is obsessed with them. I desire pleasure always, but I do not always desire goodness. I desire sugar and Diet Coke and fried chicken and chocolate always, but I do not always desire those foods that are good for my body – the things that actually make my body feel good. I have spent so much of my life eating and doing things that make me feel pleasure for a moment, but ultimately leave me bloated and regretful.

And now I understand Solomon who had so many pleasures, and yet discovered that it was all meaningless. And I understand better the twisted messages our society screams at us that foods and things and people will bring us fulfillment and make us feel good, and yet here we are depressed and obese and struggling to make ends meet. And there are people offering answers to our depression and our obesity and our debt – they are showing us truth and ways out, and yet so few people listen. Or we listen, but we’re too busy/afraid/defeated to change.

And I have been there. And I am there. It is easy to sucked into the madness around us that fills our minds constantly until it reaches our hearts and our souls, and we begin to believe the lie that the skeptic in our head tells us. But what I must realize – what we all must realize – is that we do not have listen to those lies. We can care, and we can change, and we can overcome.

Okay – that got a little rant-like for about 3 paragraphs (sawwy) – back to sin and God and holiness and how the past three paragraphs relate to these things: sin destroys; God revived/revives through his son; we are made holy. We are no longer slaves to sin – we are no longer slaves to pleasure. Through Christ, we have the ability to overcome sin in all of it’s slimy, evil, disgusting forms. And we do this as an act of worship. To end, learning self-control (because that’s what this is all about, really), allowing the knowledge of what is good to trump the desire for constant pleasure, is how I am re-learning to worship. 

1 Corinthians 6

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

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The Problem with Ideas

The problem with ideas is that they are not visions.

Ideas are short-term, not thought out well, incomplete.

Visions are long-term, well thought out, complete.

This post started out as something quite different as what it ended up being. And of course I love it. I love how writing helps me to understand my own thinking better. It’s fabulous I love it.

That said, I am not actually sure what this post started out being. I know that I went to a service project today, and I know that I was bothered by this one thing that I couldn’t name, and I know that I wanted to figure out what that one thing was. So, I suppose this post started as a quest to find the right words to express how I am feeling. 

And here it is – the thesis, the main idea, the most important idea in this post that all other points mentioned should support: Every idea you have is not a vision, so don’t act on every single idea you have as if it were a vision.

Back Story: The service project today was to clean up a community garden.  It felt great cleaning it up. It was loads of fun, and I really enjoyed doing it. I got to show-off my gardening skills (thank you mom!), and the place looked really nice by the time we left.

Now, the story of the garden is that it was built in 2010-ish, and through 2011, it was maintained fairly well. The guy who managed it died in 2011, and since then, it has gone through multiple clean-ups by random groups. The woman who is kind-of-sort-of over the garden was very nice, and we chatted for quite some time about various different things. She was sweet and kind and so excited that we were there. Still, when I asked her what the purpose or the vision behind the garden was, she told me 3 different things that they thought could have worked, and, clearly, none of them ended up working. This tells me one thing: The founding organization did not have a vision; they had an idea (or ideas) that sounded really good, so they got money to support it.

But that is it. The thing about vision is that it needs to long-term; you can’t just plant a garden and say, “That was fun! Let’s grab a beer.” No, you have to maintain it. You have to continue to have money and support and resources. And if you don’t have a plan or a sort-of plan for how you’re going to get those things in the long-term, you just have an idea. And ideas, while sexy and fun, are not real-life. They don’t really get you anywhere.

Here’s where this is going: We have to stop getting ideas, funding them, and then watching them fall to pieces. I believe very strongly that THIS IS HARMFUL, not only to the reputation of an organization, but also to the people who are supposed to have been helped. Just because something can get funded does not mean that it needs to be funded. Just because something can be started does not mean that it can be finished.

My good friend Robin (proving I have friends) and I were talking about this the other day. Basically, the conversation was about how so many organizations get too big too fast, or attempt to do too much. There is so much power in doing one thing really, really, really well. There is so much power in having a vision (not an idea) that is extremely focused and specific so that it can be executed and maintained well. We have got to reclaim the idealism that says, “Doing one thing well is better than doing a lot of things half-ass-ly,” or we’re just going to end up with a bunch of served-well-sometimes, half-served, or not-served-at-all people. And that is not what we want. 

What we want, or at least what I want, is to work with an organization that has a clear and consistent vision AND a group of people who will work diligently to accomplish and maintain that vision.

What do you think: have I totally oversimplified the problem and, in the process, offended a lot of good-intentioned people (you know what they say about good intentions…)? Or do organizations really try to do too much? And how can we solve this? Or can we?

Self-Lover

This is the same old song that has been sung by so many – Dove, my mother, Tyra Banks – but I don’t feel like women get it all of the time, at least this woman doesn’t. But we really have to stop hating ourselves. We have to stop looking in the mirror and seeing all of the flaws and none of the beauty.

I am trying to be intentional about loving myself. I think negative things about me all the time: I look at my thighs and think “cellulite”; I look in the mirror and think “zits”; I look at my hair and think “not curly enough” or “not straight enough” or “too dry” or “too oily.” I’m just a mess, a terrible mess. And sometimes thinking all of these negatives things about me makes me hate me a little. It makes me want to hit something – hit it hard.

But I have to stop doing that. I have to stop doing it because the bottom line is I am imperfect, and I am going to do imperfect things and look imperfect and be completely imperfect sometimes. But imperfections are not flaws; imperfections are not ugly; imperfections are not unworthiness.

Once I realized how much I was hating myself, I knew that I had to stop. I have a niece; one day I might have a daughter. The last thing I want is for them to get bogged down with self-hatred. So, I have been intentional about looking in the mirror and thinking, “You’re pretty,” instead of, “You’re hair is a hot mess.” I’ve taken to looking at my thighs and thinking, “I’m so glad that I have these thighs; they are beautiful and they complement my body so well.”

It’s about way more than saying, “Your hair isn’t that crazy today,” or “You’re thighs aren’t that bad looking.” In fact, I don’t like that at all – saying “not that bad stuff” is just hating yourself to a lesser degree.

What intentionally thinking we’re beautiful is about is looking at yourself – myself – and seeing ourselves, thinking about ourselves as beautiful. This is about more than becoming “okay” with your flaws; it is about not seeing them as flaws anymore. It is about recognizing your flaws and calling them beautiful.

This photographer took these pictures of regular women in the nude around their houses – women of all shapes and all sizes, and I imagine that would be so terrifying because you just know that someone will look at your body and think, “What the hell was SHE thinking doing that? Just leave some things to the imagination.” But I love it – I love it so, so, so, so, so much. These women’s bodies were not perfect – they had stretch marks and cellulite just like my body; breasts were sagging and bellies were not flat, but their bodies – their imperfect bodies – are so far from being flawed. I look at the pictures and see how beautiful they are, every single one of them. And I am working on seeing myself like I see these women – beautiful with my flaws, not in spite of them. 

So, I’m working on loving myself. The Bible tells me that I was fearfully and wonderfully made, and I believe that. I believe that hating on myself does not honor my creator at all, and I want to honor him as much as I can. This is a good place to start.