Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Spirit is Willing - The Flesh is Pitifully WEAK!

It happened already. I almost caved.

It is SO much easier to make commitments than it is to keep them! This morning, I got an email listing items for sale at the aforementioned store I seem to want everything from (my husband says I should quit giving them free advertising, hence the generic reference). I was trying to think of EVERY SINGLE POSSIBLE excuse for why I should get to buy something, such as: "I could buy it for my birthday and just leave it in the bag until then" or "My business had a great month - it could be like a self-issued bonus!". I even tried to get my best friend and my husband to give me an excuse to be off the hook. I'm so thankful for friends and a husband that are here to remind me why I made the commitment in the first place.

Recently, a woman who is a mentor in my life, sent me this email in regards to the choices I make:

"We can't change anything about the past, but the daily choices we make and habits we form greatly influence our future and that's what we have the ability to control. Pressing heavenward in Christ is where our focus should lie, and any time you start to feel distracted from that goal, try to stop at the soonest chance to get alone with the Lord and the Bible and ask Him to help you listen to what He is telling you."

Those words have been echoing in my mind all week - try to stop at the soonest chance to get alone with the Lord & ask for HELP!

I came running home from my morning meetings to sit alone at my desk and listen to this song:

It's still a process. I'm learning. :-)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The battle to find contentment continues...

This week I signed myself up for the all-women's Diva Day 5k. Participants are encouraged to put teams together and dress up for fun. Our team decided to go with an 80s theme and call ourselves the "Fast Fondas". I purchased a hideous purple leotard with geometric print, leg warmers and a cropped t-shirt that hangs off one shoulder.

In true 80s fashion, the leg openings of my leotard come all the way up to my bellybutton. I laughed at myself in the mirror and wondered who EVER thought this was sexy.

Speaking of workout clothes, as I shared last week, I have been absolutely obsessed with lululemon athletic wear. I really felt like I HAD to have a new outfit from their store. After hours of scouring ebay, and selling two pairs of my old shorts to my next door neighbor, the money was burning a hole in my pocket, so I bought myself a pair of leggings and a new tank top. I checked the mail every day until my new outfit came. When it did, I put it on immediately and wore it around the house all day. Later, when I actually went to the gym, I beamed with pride as a woman recognized the brand of top I was wearing and complimented me on how cute it looked. Not even an hour later, I saw a friend of mine on the way out of the gym. She had a really cute outfit on. It was lulu. I completely felt like a spoiled toddler mentally stomping my feet and thinking "I want it! I want that one too!"

All week as I struggled through wanting something I knew I didn't really NEED, I kept waiting for God to intervene and magically change my heart. It never happened. Instead, he let me have what I wanted - after all, I was pretty bound and determined to get it. It wasn't until I had what I wanted that I realized I wasn't even satisfied. It didn't make me any happier. It didn't really change anything. I felt foolish as I looked at my purple 80s leotard. 30 years ago, someone probably really wanted that leotard. She probably wore it proudly to the gym - butt cheeks hanging out everywhere - and felt really cool. Now, its value is pretty insignificant.

The problem is definitely not the workout clothes - it's my heart. There's certainly nothing wrong with wanting new clothes. The problem comes when you think that some thing - a new outfit, a new job, better pay, a different spouse, different circumstances - will make you happier; it might for a little while, but there are always more outfits, better jobs with higher pay, and people that seem to have it made. Paul says in 1 Timothy that if we have shoes on our feet and bread on the table, that's enough. I looked at those verses in 20 different versions, and I couldn't find any of them that said that you needed cute workout clothes too. Shoot.

I'm really kind of embarrassed that I'm even having this struggle. A year ago, I gave up lattes to support a little boy in Uganda, who needs help just to keep food on the table. I learned so much from that small amount of sacrifice. I think it's time to make another commitment, and do it publicly so I have some accountability. For the next two months - until my birthday in November - I am not going to buy any new clothes, shoes or accessories. I'm having a small heart attack thinking about how hard this will be for me (which may seem ridiculous to some people - except my husband who will probably get up and dance when he reads this). I just want to have a heart that is content, and I know it needs a little work. I'll keep you posted on how it goes...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Absurdly, Ridiculously Over-Priced Workout Clothes

In the past, I've posted to my blog after I felt like I had learned a lesson, or had some neatly-wrapped story to tell that ended in inspiration and warm, fuzzy, good feelings. Someone recently pointed out to me that good blogs are posted to frequently. It occurred to me that if I only posted when I had the time to sit down and thoroughly mull over some topic & wait until I learned what God wanted me to, we might all be waiting a loooong time. It also occurs to me that if I do said frequent posting, that you all will see me in the middle of learning lessons. Uh-oh, this could get ugly.

In all seriousness though, I don't think we've ever done each other any favors when we pretend we've got it all together. I certainly don't have it all together, and as I've mentioned in the past, I often stubbornly learn things the hard way. I can be so childish sometimes that something as simple as clothing can be enough to steer me off-course, and completely distract me from what's really important.

This week, I was completely distracted by lululemon athletica.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this absurdly-ridiculously-expensive work out clothing, I would encourage you to stay oblivious to it's magical powers. When I was training for the marathon, I went through about 15 million pairs of shorts trying to find a pair that would let me keep the skin between my thighs. (Okay, it was like 5 pairs of shorts, but that's still annoying) Well, one of the girls in my running class suggested lululemon shorts. I was willing to check them out. I drove over to the store, and had some serious sticker-shock when I got there. Fifty-four dollars for a pair of shorts?! Fifty-eight dollars for a tank top?! No thank you. Fortunately, I found a pair in the sale bin for $35, and decided to give them a shot. Sure enough, no chaffing! See? Magic.

I have to add here that I looooove clothes. It's really pretty silly. Growing up, I wore a lot of hand-me-downs, which I never minded, but as soon as I was old enough to have a job, the majority of my income went to various stores in the mall. Now, before you judge me, I must add that I am one of the best bargain shoppers ever. The only thing I have ever bought full-price is a pair of jeans.

Since getting married, my clothing purchases have been a little bit reigned-in. My husband, whom I love very dearly, does not view purchasing new clothes as a need. He will wear something until it falls apart, and even then he'll wear it to the gym. I am thankful for this trait, because it is his frugal nature that has enabled us to purchase a nice house and be somewhat financially secure even when we weren't bringing in much income. It doesn't make it any easier not to want to buy clothes though!

A couple of months ago, I started a financial profile on (the link is at the top of my page - it's a free & fantastic website!). I set a budget for myself, and have been determined not to go beyond that spending limit. I've also been trying to work on the root of the issue - to have a heart that is content with what I have. Just a few weeks ago, I had a clothing-swap party at my house, which enabled me to get several new outfits - for free! I decided since I got free clothes, I would forgo spending any money on clothing the following month.

This is like a totally predictable movie where you know exactly what is going to happen before it does, right? Of course if I commit to not spending any money on clothes, EVERY SINGLE store I go into will have something I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT. Plus, I cleaned out my workout clothes drawer, I decided I toooootally needed some new workout clothes. The old ones were so dingy and sweaty. Ewww.

I 'stumbled' upon the lululemon website the other day, and picked out an outfit I decided I needed. I heard a quiet "no" in my spirit.

"BUT...." I started.


"adefhawefadjfh asdkrawieru. Commitments are lame. Fine."

Except then I kept checking the website every day, for waaaay too long. And E-bay. And the store in town.

So, I decided to let it go, somewhat publicly. One of my favorite things about blogging is to be able to look back and see how God changes me. I love that God cares about everything - even absurdly, ridiculously over-priced work out clothes. But more importantly, he cares about my character, and even more than I want some really cool shorts with built-in pockets for gel packs, I want to change. I want to have a heart that is content.

Stay tuned to see what God the meantime, I'll be happily working out in dingy, sweaty workout clothes ;-)

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Master Plan

No one is in the house, and I am watching Monday night football. I am sort of wondering what is wrong with me. How many other women do I know that would watch Monday night football alone and enjoy it? Not many.

I've shared this before, but the reason I love football is because my dad coached a high school team throughout most of my childhood. The sounds of the whistles, helmets crashing against each other, players yelling - they all remind me of being little and looking up at my daddy who was my hero. I got excited when my dad did, and I was disappointed when he was. I loved being on the sidelines and feeling like I was part of the team. Because of those experiences in my past, I enjoy the sport today.

Whether good or bad, our past experiences influence how we perceive our present situation. As a former single mom, my experience of having to do everything solo at times, makes me appreciate even the little things, like now having a second pair of hands to unload groceries. More recently, I discovered that my past experience of getting pregnant twice, unexpectedly, while trying to prevent it, led me to believe that if I actually tried to conceive, surely it would happen immediately. Past experiences can be powerful influences.

Yesterday, we honored the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I was literally glued to the TV for three days watching specials, listening to stories of those who sacrificed their lives to save others, stories of miraculous survival, and stories of bitterness and anger. Surely all who were involved were significantly affected in some manner, and would never be the same because of what happened. As I watched, I found myself wondering how some of them would ever be able to move on, to live without thinking of their past every single day.

In my own life, as I try to navigate around my own past, I've found myself asking God: "What are you trying to teach me?" I was overwhelmed at the verse that came to my mind this evening. I've read it a thousand times, but tonight it suddenly had new meaning. Proverbs 3:5-6 says:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding [or past experiences]. Seek HIS will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take."

Yesterday, as I helped in children's church, I was reminded that God has a plan for all of us. We each have our own, unique set of influences, past experiences and circumstances, but God has a unique and perfect plan, that takes into account every event that shapes us into who we are. Trust that God has a good plan for your life, and that

"ALL things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." Romans 8:28

He is big enough to carry our hurt and our disappointments, and He is not deterred by our mistakes. He only asks for our hearts ['those who love God'] and our trust.