What did you want to be when you grew up? 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated by stories of missionaries. I would read missionary biographies as a little girl and was intrigued by these men and women, serving God and sharing the Gospel in exotic, far-away lands. Missionaries are rockstars in my mind. I have always been curious about their lives and their calling, and I especially admire their love for God and the people they serve.

Now, as an adult, I have several friends who serve as missionaries and you know what? I still think they are rockstars…and I’m just as fascinated now as I was when I was 8-years-old! There have been times when my husband and I have wondered if God may be calling us into missions type work. God’s answer to that appears to be ‘no’ or at least, ‘not yet.’

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1395296_10200671573018321_2008978916_nMy husband, Dave, would never call himself a superhero. But he IS a superhero to our four children and me. I shared this post on our adoption blog a few years ago, and it still holds true today: What Makes My Husband an Awesome Daddy.

I am so grateful he loves God and is a spiritual leader for our family. When it comes to homeschooling, Dave takes an active role in planning the year. He helps me see the big picture when I get bogged down in the day-to-day challenges. And he keeps me sane on the crazy days.

Even after a long day at work, he is often outside with the kids playing basketball or throwing the baseball around in the evening. Recently, when he was returning home from a work trip, he rushed from the airport straight to the ball field so he could make it in time to see our son’s baseball game. I know it meant a lot for my son to see him at the game.

I am so grateful I have Dave by my side to navigate this crazy thing called life! Happy Father’s Day to my husband, to my Dad, and to all the awesome dads out there!
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I don’t do yoga. It’s a personal choice. I think stretching is wonderful. I love my foam roller and used to take Pilates classes regularly. I know many of my friends love yoga and often invite me to join them. But my answer is no and here’s why.

The practice of yoga goes beyond physical exercise. There is a deeper spiritual component to the practice of yoga, and while many mainstream American yoga classes may not emphasize the spiritual element, it is still there and cannot be separated from the practice. Each yoga pose carries its own meaning. “Yoga is a vast collection of spiritual techniques and practices aimed at integrating mind, body and spirit to achieve a state of enlightenment or oneness with the universe.” – Yoga 101: The Basics

“Americans are usually drawn to yoga as a way to keep fit at first, but the idea behind the physical practice of yoga is to encourage a deeper mind-body awareness,” explains New York yoga teacher and author Beryl Bender Birch. “Healing and balancing the physical body helps bring clarity and focus to the mind as well.”

“Initially, the sole purpose of practicing yoga was to experience spiritual enlightenment. In Sanskrit (the ancient language of India), yoga translates as “yoke” or “union,” describing the integration of mind and body to create a greater connection with one’s own pure, essential nature.

“Classes that have gained popularity in the United States usually teach one of the many types of hatha yoga, a physical discipline which focuses mainly on asanas (postures) and breathwork in order to prepare the body for spiritual pursuits.” – Not All Yoga is Created Equal

Here is Deepak Chopra’s explanation on yoga:

“Even if yoga only enhanced physical fitness, the time spent in practice would be fully worthwhile. However, while the health benefits are many, yoga offers much more than just a way to exercise the body. The deeper meaning and gift of yoga is the path it offers us into the timeless, spaceless world of spirit. Yoga teaches us both to let go and to have exquisite awareness in every moment. We remember our essential spiritual nature and life becomes more joyful, meaningful, and carefree.” – Deepak Chopra, MDThe Deeper Meaning of Yoga

I cannot separate the physical aspect of yoga from its spiritual roots.

“Americans have turned yoga into an exercise ritual, a means of focusing attention, and an avenue to longer life and greater health. Many Americans attempt to deny or minimize the spiritual aspects of yoga — to the great consternation of many in India. When Christians practice yoga, they must either deny the reality of what yoga represents or fail to see the contradictions between their Christian commitments and their embrace of yoga. The contradictions are not few, nor are they peripheral. The bare fact is that yoga is a spiritual discipline by which the adherent is trained to use the body as a vehicle for achieving consciousness of the divine.” – Al Mohler, The Subtle Body: Should Christians Practice Yoga?

So is “Christian yoga” okay? No, not for me. All that is doing is “Christianizing” what I consider to be a spiritual practice contrary to what the Bible teaches. The meditation element may be Christ-centered, but the practice of yoga itself is rooted in the worship of something other than the One, True and Living God.

In Romans 12, it says, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

For me, it does not matter the popularity of yoga. I don’t want to live as someone conformed to this world, even in a so-called Christian yoga class. I believe stretching is beneficial, but I can perform stretches without the unnecessary spiritual baggage from yoga.

As you look at actors and news anchors on TV these days, you can see an incredible amount of detail, thanks to high-definition technology. Flaws that could once be hidden show up with great clarity on many TVs, despite adjustments to studio lighting or the magic of a make-up artist. On the positive side, it makes those TV personalities seem a little more normal, like the rest of us, when you see they have flaws, too.

I was talking to a friend recently who commented on my weight loss journey. She told me she was encouraged by all my posts. I told her I used to think I was a pretty private person, and a few years ago I wouldn’t have shared so much. I have always been reluctant to talk about my weight or my clothing size. I can remember back as far as first grade, feeling bigger than the other kids and embarrassed that I didn’t look the same as them. But now, if you ask me how much I weigh, I will tell you. It’s not a big deal anymore.

So what changed? I think I started living a “high-definition” life. The more open I have become, the more I realize how much in common I have with others – and how we can encourage one another in our own struggles. I am striving to live a transparent life, at least with my weight loss journey.

What would it look like if this “high-definition” or transparency extended beyond just my weight loss journey? Specifically, what would it look like if we were as transparent with each other about spiritual lives, our struggles with sin?

I think Satan thrives on our shame, our embarrassment, and the idea that if we share openly about a doubt or a struggle with sin, we are going to be looked upon as weird or criticized (and that may very well happen). It’s scary when you think about it: being authentic, real, and vulnerable; opening yourself up to the possibility of criticism and judgment.

God intended for us to live in community with one another, to share our struggles and to encourage one another.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” – James 5:16

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

We need to take the masks off, stop paying attention only to what our Facebook profiles portray as the perfect life, and start being more authentic with one another. Do we need to broadcast our struggles to the whole wide world? No, not necessarily. But I do believe it is important to have at least a few close relationships with a few people, with whom you can be honest and open. By becoming more transparent through my weight loss journey, I feel such freedom from my body image issues that have plagued me for most of my life. I wonder how much closer my relationship with God would be if I was as open with my spiritual life, and other areas as well.

 
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IMG_2166There is a name I can now call myself – it is something I could not say a year ago. Runner. I AM A RUNNER.

A little bit of background: I hurt my back in college – fell about 20 feet from one of those cherry picker lifts during a football game. Ever since then, I have suffered flare-ups with my lower back – the pain can sometimes be so bad, it would hurt to move, let alone walk. Every doctor I have seen over the years has told me running is bad for my back.

I was at the gym one day last year and decided to get on the treadmill, just to see how it felt. I had lost about 30 pounds at that point. I ran/walked a slow mile. No pain. It felt pretty good, actually. So I talked to a doctor/friend who specializes in spinal injuries, and he advised me to go slowly – if I had any pain, stop immediately. He also gave me worst case scenarios – the ‘old’ me would have heard those and decided running was a bad idea.

I took my friend’s advice and spent about a month working up to 30 minutes of jogging. I then signed up for my first 5k. I completed that 5k in just under 30 minutes. I ended up running three races last year – another 5k and an 8k. I am now training for my first 10k. I never thought I would be part of the running community.

I still have a bad back. But I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). I am grateful to God for giving me the ability to run right now, and I hope I can continue to run for many years. Running has given me a new perspective on the life God calls me to live:

“…Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” – 1 Corinthians 9:25-27

 

 
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a2423260bdbdc75b234b183b88d0f77eHow do you measure spiritual growth? It’s a question I have been asking myself the last couple of months. With physical training, I can measure myself by the number of reps I can do, how much weight I can lift, how fast I can run a mile. So how do I know if I’m getting stronger spiritually? I can do “Christian-like” things and mark them off a list, but I don’t feel that’s a true measure of spiritual growth. To be honest, I often don’t feel like I measure up as a Christian.

When I read this week’s Bible verse for my Proverbs 31 Made to Crave Bible study, I started to re-think my measure of spiritual growth:

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Perhaps my standard of measuring progress is backwards.

“In the minds of many people inside the church, “Livestrong” is the essence and goal of Christianity. You hear this obsession in our lingo: We talk about someone having “strong faith,” about someone being a “strong Christian,” a “prayer warrior,”or a“mighty man/woman of God.” We want to believe that we can do it all, handle it all…

“We like our Christianity to be muscular, triumphant. We’ve come to believe that the Christian life is a progression from weakness to strength.”- LiveStrong Christianity by Tullian Tchividjian

Tchividjian said modern Christianity has it wrong. The progression as a Christian shouldn’t be considered going from weakness to strength, but rather the other way around. He used Samson as one of his examples – Samson believed his strength was in his hair, but it was actually the spirit of God giving Samson his strength.

“The Philistines are not defeated until Samson is weakened. His hair is shaved, his eyes are gouged out, and he’s chained up like an animal in the zoo. He finally realizes that he is weak and that God alone is strong and so he prays and asks God for a generous portion of strength. God answers his prayer and Samson brings the building down on himself and all the lords of the Philistines. It is when Samson is at his weakest that he is most powerfully used.” – Tullian Tchividjian

So, rather than putting on a facade and letting everyone believe I have it together, I am striving to live my life as transparently as possible. That’s one of my goals with this blog: I struggled for so long with my weight, I want to encourage others by sharing my struggles. I am a work in progress. I hope God will continue to use me and be glorified through my weaknesses.
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