We throw off the lie of perfection and cling to our identity in God as we strive to be whole, healthy, and fit. Our goal is wholeness, not perfection.

Archive for the ‘grace’ Category

12 Days of Christmas: Day 8 – Recharge

8th day

…my blogger friends gave to me: The permission to Recharge

Yes, I know that the 12th day of Christmas as January 6th.  But this year I have committed to finishing what I start.  Even if it isn’t the finish product I had in mind when I started.  I began writing this entry over a week ago.  But I realize now that the entry I started could easily be a blog series, so instead of trying to fit all of those words and emotions into a single blog entry I am choosing to start anew.

As women – regardless of our marital status, career choice, and maternal status – we busy ourselves and fill our days with meeting the needs of other people.  Real or imagined.  (The needs, not the people.  Who’s got time to meet the needs of imaginary people?)   We get so busy tending to husbands, bosses, co-workers, children, friends – not to mention the tasks on our to do lists – that we tend to put our needs last.  And we don’t realize how overwhelmed we are until our patience is running low and we’re struggling to find kind words or a gentle tone.

So, in 2015 I propose that we start setting aside time to recharge, to refuel.  Nothing crazy, maybe once a quarter.  Find a one day women’s conference in town.  Or a weekend retreat a few hours away.  I totally recommend the latter.  There’s something heavenly about waking up to quiet, knowing that all your meals will be made by someone else and you don’t have to clean up the dishes.  Did you just breathe a sigh of relief when you read that?  I did.  And then when you return home you are pleasantly surprised at just how ecstatic you are to be welcomed by a messy and loud house.

A search of “one day women’s conferences” on Google returned 254,000,000 results in 0.29 seconds.  “Women’s weekend retreat” only had 31,000,000 results in 0.26 seconds, but that’s still plenty of options.  Don’t want anything as formal as a conference or a retreat?  Then make a standing date with some friends for a mom’s night out or join a small group.  Just make sure that whatever is meant to refuel you doesn’t add to the stress that you’re seeking to alleviate.

Do you have a refueling plan for 2015?  If so, what is it?  If not, is there anything you did to refuel in 2014 that you’d like to do again in 2015?

12 Days of Christmas: Day 7 – Create Margin

7th day

…my blogger friends gave to me: The permission to Breathe

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by life?  Whatever your work/family situation is, do you ever feel like you’re juggling too many activities/responsibilities/roles?  And let’s face it, although technology can simplify our lives, it usually reminds us via social media that we can be doing so much more, or at the very least do what we’re already doing with a lot more style.

So today, we give you permission to just breathe.  What’s that you say?  You don’t have the time to stop and breathe?  Or your living space is so cluttered that you can’t find a place to sit down long enough to enjoy breathing?  Well, here are some resources that may help you find the time and physical space to do just that.

Corie Clark’s “The Simplicity Project” is aptly named.  Her approach to simplifying our over-complicated lives is exactly that – simple.  She doesn’t try to push a multi-step program .  Nor does she just focus on the physical decluttering that our lives need.  She addresses the need to tend to our spiritual health, physical health, physical spaces, finances, and time management.  Her approach to simplifying is not only doable, but grace infused, which makes it more likely for recovering perfectionists to complete the project.

Simplicity Project

While “The Simplicity Project” touches on learning how to say yes and no wisely, Lysa TerKeurst’s “The Best Yes” really gets to the heart of the matter – people pleasing.  Too many “Oh, snap!” moments in the book to get into here.  If you can relate to any of the quotes from the front of her book {I dread saying yes but feel powerless to say no.  I hope there’s more to life than my to-do list.  I’m a little overwhelmed and a lot worn out.  I’m drowning int he regrets of too many commitments.}, grab a copy.

Best Yes

This last book, “Finding Spiritual Whitespace” by Bonnie Gray, comes highly recommended from a God friend.  Since it’s on the “Read in 2015” list, you can read her write-up of it here.

Whitespace

12 Days of Christmas: Day 6 – Give Yourself Grace

6th day

…my blogger friends gave to me: The permission to Finish

I had a plan.  A plan to post for twelve consecutive days to encourage others to start fresh in 2015.  God had a different plan.  Twin B got sick and keeping up with posting took a back seat to being a mom.  As Twin B was on the mend I picked up posting again, albeit a couple of days behind on the “12 Days of Christmas” theme.  So I planned to do two days per day for a couple of days to catch up.  But again, God had a different plan.  Twin A caught whatever his brother had.  Good to see they can share sometimes.

So here I am, on the night of the 9th Day of Christmas, posting Day 6.

In the past, I would be berating myself about only being three days into the new year and already deviating from my plans.  But not this year.  My One Word for 2015 is FINISH.  Although the word doesn’t overtly imply grace, it is a grace filled word.  Until very recently I allowed the lie of perfection to dictate what I would or would not accomplish.  Let’s be honest, it was usually the latter.  If I couldn’t do it exactly the way I envisioned it, or how I thought others expected it to be, I didn’t do it at all.  Or I would start it, see that it wasn’t going to be perfect, then stop.

FINISH gives me the permission to give myself the grace to do just that, finish what I’ve started.  Regardless of the outcome.  So, I intend to finish the “12 Days of Christmas” posts, even if it takes me 30 days to do it.  I also plan on finishing a ridiculously long list of books that I started but put down.

What is one thing you need to give yourself the grace to finish?

12 Days of Christasmas: Day 5 – Eat Well

5th day

…my blogger friends gave to me: The permission to Eat

There are countless voices vying for our attention, saying “eat this, not that” and their advice is constantly changing.  Instead of adding to the noise, we’ll keep it sweet and simple: Eat more God food than man food.  That is all.  You’re welcome.

keep it simple

No, really.  Don’t get caught up in all the hype – the rules and regulations regarding nutrition.  Eat when you’re hungry.  Stop before you get too full.  Eat food for fuel, not as a reward or punishment.  Enjoy the food you eat.  Eat slowly enough so you can taste what you’re eating. Eat more fresh food than processed food.  Listen to your body and eat food that brings you health and life, not the stuff that steals it.

What is one change you want to make to your diet in the new year?  I want to eat out less and prepare more meals at home.

Permission to Be a Mom

My body is not my own.

My name’s Reina and I’m a recovering fitness addict, image addict – I’m not sure which one is more true.  The last time I was regularly active, it wasn’t so much of an obsession as it was a really positive outlet.  But once upon a time, I was a fitness addict.  I was more concerned about the end product and it overshadowed the joy and blessing of being able to move and breathe.  I pushed my body’s limits just a little passed comfortable in order to get stronger, and faster, and build endurance.  And let’s face it, I wanted to look good in jeans.

I’m definitely a recovering image addict, and I think that’s something I’ll struggle with as long as I’m on this side of heaven.  It changes, the degree to which I struggle with it.  And also the specific focus of the obsession regarding image, that changes.  There are better seasons, better days, and then there are those days and seasons when I really struggle to let go of the opinions of others.  I truly do believe that it’s an illness, disease, whatever you want to call it, that women are prone to be effected by more than men. Or maybe we just reflect it or act out on it in differently than guys do.  In ways that are more noticeable.  I don’t know.

One of the unexpected benefits of being a new mom of twins is that my twin pregnancy really humbled me in the area of obsessing over my fitness and image.  I was teaching fitness classes when I became pregnant with the twins.  I really enjoyed it.  I loved the endorphins, the comradery of teaching group fitness classes, the whole group dynamic – and it could be a class as small as two people.  One person actually, when it came to my 5:30 in the morning classes.  It was awesome to have other like minded people allow me to partner with them in the endeavor to get healthy and fit, to strive for progress over perfection.  We formed real bonds, created real community.

When I got pregnant I thought, “This is awesome!  I’m going to keep teaching classes and I’m going to teach until it’s time to give birth.”  Then we found out I was carrying twins and I was told that wasn’t going to happen.  The last class I taught was in early August and the next fitness class I participated in was in October.  And in those two short months I could tell the difference in what I could handle, or rather couldn’t handle.  The next time I worked out again was in December and whoa buddy, what I could do was limited even more.

During this time (August to December) I was gaining weight (to be expected) and battling pregnancy acne (as if I wasn’t self-conscious enough already with the rapid weight gain).  It was becoming more and more evident that my body was not mine.  My body was a home to the two lives growing inside me.  It was a cafeteria to feed them.  I was also processing their nutrients, their blood, their oxygen, their waste.  There were so many things my body had to regulate, and my body’s needs took a backseat.

And although I was okay with it during the pregnancy, I really did think that once they were born and I reached the six weeks recovery period (really eight with a Cesarean) that I’d be able to jump right back into working out.  More than trying to get back in shape, I was trying to get active again.  It took me several months of chiropractic care to get my hips and pelvis to stay put and not jostle out of place.  I started doing well for a few days at a time, which became a few weeks.  I was doing at home workout programs and seeing some real improvements in my endurance and muscle tone.  And then the boys went to daycare and I went to work.  They got sick and lovingly gave their stomach bug to me and my husband.  After that, it just seemed like every time I put two days together of working out that something else would pop up.  It really feels like – not as an excuse, but as a reality check – that God’s telling me that now is not the season.  Now is not the time to focus on my fitness, but to focus on being a mom.

Although they are not living in me anymore, and I’m not their house anymore, I’m still their number one source of nutrition.  I’m still supplying the majority of their nutrients through nursing or expressing milk and sending it to daycare.  So I really felt God focusing my attention on my nutrition and food intake.  Unfortunately, when I lost a few pounds in September, my babies lost weight, too.  I’m not sure if my weight loss was tied to their weight loss or if it was just the timing because they had another touch of the stomach bug.  Honestly, I wasn’t heartbroken about not focusing on my nutrition.  It’s not easy to eat 3,000 calories of healthy food every day.  It’s time consuming and it’s costly.

But that didn’t change the fact that I felt torn between being okay with wearing my maternity jeans and wanting to hurry up and “bounce back” to my pre-pregnancy body.  There’s a lot of pressure in our society for women to “bounce back” and look like their pre-pregnancy self with a quickness.  Never mind the magazines that feature new celebrity moms who have lost their pregnancy weight and more in less than three months.  Those magazine covers have been around for years.  When comparison rears its ugly head I’m able to remind myself that those celebrities have nannies, personal chefs, personal trainers, and they do not have the schedule normal moms do.  What gets to me is when I see normal moms on Instagram and Facebook talking about hitting that pre-pregnancy mark.  It’s much easier to get caught up in the lie of “Well, if she can do it I should be doing it.”  It seems like getting back to pre-pregnancy size or smaller isn’t just a goal anymore, it’s an expectation.

I know I’m not the only new mom (or new again mom) who is looking for, waiting for, aching for permission to be okay with walking in the truth that our bodies are not our own.  To be okay with the current season of life.  Not that there isn’t a time to lose fat and tone up. I just know now is not that season for me.  I’m not willing to give up what little sleep I get to wake up super early in the morning to work out before my house wakes up.  And after a full day – waking up around 4 to either nurse or pump, getting myself and everyone else ready for the day, working 9 hours, doing Mommy stuffy with our oldest, nursing and getting the twins ready for bed when they get home from daycare*, putting our oldest to bed, cleaning the kitchen and preparing all bottles and pumping supplies for the next day*, and spending time with my husband before going to bed by 11 – I’m spent and working out is the last thing I want to devote my time and energy to.  If you’re a mom out there and you’re able to juggle working full time, a newborn, older kids, a husband, nutrition, and fitness – mad props to you.  I’m just not there right now and that’s okay.

Since having the twins I’ve noticed that what and how we feed our kids is a huge deal.  I see plenty of debates via social media about breast feeding versus exclusively pumping versus formula and mushy food versus baby led weaning and all sorts of craziness.  I regularly see posts where women lovingly give one another permission to feed their children however they see fit, to do whatever is best for their family.  People say things like “As long as the baby is happy, healthy, and thriving, let’s encourage one another and not tear each other down.”  I see plenty of those posts.

We may not talk about it outright but I definitely sense that there’s this issue of “bouncing back” from a pregnancy and how long it takes.  I’d love to see just as many, if not more posts, of new moms (and new again moms) giving each other permission to enjoy being moms and not having to feel the pressure of to do so within a certain time frame.  Giving each other permission to be present for the very, very short period of time when our children rely so heavily upon us.

So if no one else out there on the interweb can relate, then so be it.  But if you can, please hear me when I say you have permission to be a mom.  Because that’s so much more than enough right now.

*when my husband’s schedule allows he helps out with these tasks

Amateur Juggler (October 4th)

I need to take care of myself.  What does it look like to you to take care of yourself?  There’s basic hygiene, water, nutrition – you know, the basics.  I’m just wondering how other full time working moms take care of themselves.  I remember doing it when my son was a toddler up until the time I got pregnant with the twins.  I did it with the help of having a membership to the Y, and then being a group fitness instructor.  So that kept me accountable because if I didn’t show up to class then class didn’t happen.  But now that I have twins and I’m back at work, I don’t really know what it looks like to take care of myself during this season.

I know sleep is a huge priority (as I yawn).  I know that spending time with God is a priority, but it seems like it’s something I don’t ever get around to, not how I used to, not how I’d like to.  I haven’t worked out in a really long time and I can feel my body craving all the good chemicals I get from working out.  I know I need to go out on a date with my husband.  It feels like it’s been forever since we went somewhere that wasn’t church or with family.

I know there are things I can do to take care of myself, I just don’t see how to juggle it all.  I’m missing margin in my day.  I need white space.  I need…how do you clear things off of your calendar and to-do list when all of the stuff has to be done?  I have a friend of mine at work who used to joke with me “Reina, all you need to do is get yourself a wife.”  All I know is I feel overwhelmed and spent.  So if you’ve got tips or suggestions on how to refocus energy and time, I’d love to hear them.

#NoFilter – Part 2

So I decided to take this self-presented challenge for the month of October (clearly failed didn’t meet that goal so I’m trying it for November).  I’m going to start writing unedited.  I’m not going to take the time to bold sections that seem important that stand out for some reason.  Quite honestly I don’t know why I started the practice of bolding  words.  I’m a little bit anal retentive a little obsessive compulsive.  So I just kept it up because the idea that there wouldn’t be consistency from one post to the next kind of gave me a nervous tick.

I’m just going to be writing and not really worrying about coming off as clever or witty.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, if people find humor or some wit within the words I string together, that’s cool.  That’s awesome.  That’s great.  But it’s not going to be my intent or my focus for the month of October (November).  I’m just going to write.  I just feel really overwhelmed right now (not writing during October did not help this feeling go away) and I feel worn.  It reminds me of the song by Tenth Avenue North.  I already liked the song, but then when Mike Donehey explained that it was written because of – or not because of, but in response to – something his wife shared with him when they had a newborn.  Which was she was just worn out.  Late nights with the baby and all the things that having a newborn brings.  And I can relate to that right now.

Although I am overwhelmed and feel worn out, I also feel burdened with a lot of things I want to put on paper, or rather, onto my computer screen.  Just a lot of ideas, and feelings, and thoughts.  And again, I’m not going to be concerned about an audience.  I don’t even really think I have an audience.  Maybe some really loving friends and loyal…yuck, I hate the word followers.  But anyways, there are maybe a few people who read this.  And thank you for reading.  I appreciate seeing that it’s been read, commented on, or liked.  But I’m going to be a little selfish here and just write for myself.  And if people can relate, that’s awesome. That’s great.

Right now I can’t concern myself with an audience or how it’s received, because then I start second guessing myself and I start editing while I’m writing rather than just putting down the words.  I start focusing on the reception of the words rather than the words themselves.  And what I write loses a little bit of its authenticity.

So that’s my self-imposed and self-accepted challenge for the month of October (I had all sorts of reasons to not start writing again in October).  I don’t know if anyone else, any other bloggers, or Instagrammers, or Facebook posters can relate to feeling burdened with the concern of how their words or pictures are received.  Focusing on the presentation rather than just sharing without filtering, without constantly editing.  So, if you’re up for the challenge, I’d be happy to have some company.

side note – On October 4th I recorded three different blog entries using an app on my phone.  I thought that if I spoke the words and then transcribed them it would help with trying to edit while writing.  I like the practice and I think I’m going to stick with it for the rest of 2014.  Crazy how that isn’t a very long time.

You’re Already Amazing Monday: Chapter 2

This is my second attempt at recapping Chapter 2.  My first attempt read too much like a middle school book report.  Okay, maybe elementary.  So I’m going to share my personal highlights and takeaways from the chapter.

  • God planted the “Who am I really?” question in our hearts to help us understand who he created us to be.  If we don’t know who he created us to be, then we can’t fulfill the purpose he has for our lives.
  • Knowing who I really am is necessary to love God, others, and myself more.

Strengths

  • A strength is a personal characteristic that can be use on behalf of God in service to others.
  • The three strengths I identified – trustworthy, cheerful, supportive
  • God is the source of my strengths, I am not (Philipians 4:13)
  • When I come up short, I need to focus on who I am in Christ
  • My divinely created strengths are supported by my weaknesses, because if I was good at everything (which I’m not by the way), I wouldn’t focus on much of anything (which is difficult enough already with ADHD, thank you very much)
  • My assets (strengths) can easily become defects if I don’t keep my motives and their intensity in check

Skills

  • A skill is a strength expressed in a specific way that builds up others and benefits the kingdom – NOT the definition I would have given before reading this chapter
  • Mad props to Holley for referencing Napoleon Dynamite and making me giggle
  • The three skills I identified – relating, encouraging, guiding
  • Strengths stay consistent throughout life but the skills that express them can vary depending on the season of life I’m in
  • God wants my heart more than my skills – Thank you, Jesus.  Because some days I feel like a complete failure for not getting enough accomplished.  Or for not being cheerful or supportive enough.

My “Who” and Who I’m Called to Serve

These were my favorite sections of the chapter.  It took me several years to identify my social circles, and My “Who” served as a nice refresher.  This came at the perfect time, since I am returning to work after an extended maternity leave.  I don’t have the opportunity to regularly interact with adults (other than my husband), so remembering that I can’t truly share who I am with everyone there was a timely reminder.  Who I’m Called to Serve was an encouragement to keep striving to work on my dream of serving in ministry full time.

your strengths + your skills + who you’re called to serve

=

you making a difference in the world in your own amazing way

God’s Heart for Who I Really Am

This section made me cry.  Every time I read it.  Growing up, I struggled with being mixed.  I believed that I wasn’t Latina enough because I don’t fluently speak Spanish.  I believed that I wasn’t Black enough, because, well, I don’t look Black.  (I don’t use African American because my family is Caribbean and it just doesn’t fit) I knew that I could pass for being White but didn’t want to.  I wanted to be accepted for the unique person that I am.  I wanted to feel like I belonged.  God healed this particular heartbreak, but reading these words let me see how God has used the break to shine through me.

We are much more than pretty…we are wonderfully made.

We are much more than likeable…we are deeply loved.

We are much more than okay…we are daughters of the King.

I think the enemy tricks us into believing we are not enough because he knows if we discover the truth, we’ll be unstoppable.

Tears.  Tears of joy.  Tears of relief.  Tears of regret over wasted strengths and skills due to fear.  Tears of grace.  But then I wiped away my tears with a renewed sense of determination as I read these closing words:

Girls, let’s stop shaking in our boots and instead start standing tall for him together.

Let’s use our strengths, skills, and relationships to make a  difference.

Let’s be who we are, really.

I can’t do it alone – are you with me?

YES, I am!  How about you?

A Message for Fit Moms

I’m reading You’re Already Amazing by Holley Gerth (read it and stop by here every Monday to join the conversation) and this paragraph stopped me in my tracks. It couldn’t have come at a more perfect time, because a friend of mine was feeling defeated by a workout she has been doing.

Making progress in life is hard work. When we insist on moving forward as quickly as possible, we can wear ourselves out in a hurry. Sometimes when God makes us wait, it’s one of the most merciful things he can do. It doesn’t inherently mean we’ve done something wrong. In fact, it can indicate just the opposite – that we’re right between some really big things God has for our lives, and we need to rest up.

I shared the paragraph with her and let her know that I can totally relate to wanting to be better/stronger/smaller/more fit/smarter/more experienced/whatever right NOW. It can be difficult, disheartening even, to not make progress at the pace I would prefer. But then God slows me down and I’m able to be grateful for the progress I’ve already made. I can easily forget that I just had babies, because they’re growing so fast. Not to mention what carrying them for 37 weeks did to my body. Our bodies are amazing for enduring what they did to carry and birth children. We (and I’m totally speaking to myself here) need to be patient and loving as we ask our bodies, often force them, to do things that will make them stronger in the long run but hurt right now.

As difficult as it can be, I sometimes like to have to talk to myself as though I’m talking to my 7 year old.  He is every bit the perfectionist that I am, which can lead to frustration and heartache on his part.  And lots of nevers.  Like “I’ll never be good at” this or that.  When these words come out of his mouth I call him over to me, pet and cup his face with my hand, look him straight in the eyes and tell him – “Yet.  You’re not good at it, yet.”

So to my fellow fit moms (moms working on their fitness) I say – be grateful for the ability to do what you can.  Try not to focus on what you used to do or what you can’t do, yet. I’ve found amazing women to walk alongside on my journey – via Facebook, Instagram, and even Twitter – a tribe if you will.  When the lie of perfectionism hisses, we speak truth over one another.  Do you have a tribe of truth speaking, encouraging accountability partners?

You’re Already Amazing Monday: Intro

In her introduction to You’re Already Amazing: Embracing Who You Are, Becoming All God Created You to Be, Holley Gerth invites me to pull up a chair so she can share a secret with me.  It is a secret so profound, that when I read it, I exhale deeply and my whole body relaxes.  “You don’t have to be more, do more, have more.”

YAA Intro

My whole life I’ve struggled to feel like I’m enough – Smart enough.  Articulate enough.  Funny enough.  Sweet enough.  Attractive enough.  Strong enough.  Brown enough.  Bilingual enough.  Ethnic enough.  Enough for you to accept me into your circle.  Enough for me to feel like I belong.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve experienced a great deal of freedom in these areas.  But every now and then a small voice will hiss, asking me, “Are you sure you’re ______ enough?”

Just when that doubt starts creeping in, Holley speaks encouraging, empowering truth over me – “You’re a daughter of God, a holy princess, a woman created with strengths you’ve yet to fully grasp and a story that’s still being written by the divine Author himself.”  Whoa.  I believe I am a daughter of God.  So much so that it’s the first thing I write in any “about me” space of social media.  And I know my story is still being written because, well, I’m still here.  But a holy princess?  The mom of three boys who is ecstatic to get a shower before supper?  The wife who does her best but can’t seem to keep both the kitchen table and counters clean at the same time?  I have strengths I have yet to fully grasp?  I’m praying they include time management, staying organized, and budgeting.

But here’s where Holley had me hooked, eager to read more – “And if you really take hold of who you are and what you’re called to do, there will be no stopping you.  That’s because there’s no stopping him in you – and he’s got bigger plans for your life than you’ve even imagined.”  This quote ignites a fire in me because I know this season of my life is boot camp – preparing me for God’s next assignment for me, for what I’m called to do.  But there’s a lot of fear involved in knowing that this season will end.  There’s safety sticking around boot camp and not having to go into battle.  But the second sentence of the quote has me wanting to suit up and fight because it’s my life verse: With God’s power working in us, God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine. (Ephesians 3:20 NCV)

Whether you’ve read the book before or not, I hope that you’ll join me every Monday to recap each chapter and share what it means in real life to embrace who we are and trusting God to mold us into who He created us to be.

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