Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Bible's Next Top Model...?

Last week I was at the gym when a woman looked at me and said:

"You always look cute. I hate you."

I was slightly offended. Call me crazy, but I actually don't like it when people hate me. Now, I realize she may not actually hate me, but the feeling also wasn't warm and kind. What is it with us women that we think everything is a contest and we want to trip all the other girls running alongside us?

This week I've been working on a Bible study on Esther by Beth Moore. It's not your typical Bible study. Let's just say this book of the Bible could be set in modern-day America and make an excellent soap opera. There are wild parties, banished queens, a beauty contest, harems, plots to assassinate the king - and that's only in the first two chapters! I was having so much fun working on my homework that I sat for two hours and did all five days of work in one sitting. I imagine that part of that motivation was due to the fact that the topic really hits home with me: this week all centered around beauty treatments.

Did you know that Esther was basically picked by the king in an ancient version of "The Bachelor". Yep, king Xerxes sent scouts looking all over Persia for the prettiest girls. They were then brought to the palace for a year's worth of beauty treatments. A WHOLE YEAR! Maybe that sounds fun to you, but I also learned that the girls who weren't chosen to be queen joined the king's harem where they would sit their whole lives unless the king called for them by name. Talk about some pressure! Either look good, or spend your life competing with a group of other women for one man's attention! No thanks.

I spent some time thinking about how I would handle a situation like the one Esther was in. The Bible says that all these "Bachelor candidates" had anything they wanted at their disposal. I'm talking spray tans, gel nails, the most expensive make-up, jewelry from Tiffany's, anything you wanted off the rack at Nordstrom's...whatever that ancient equivalent was, of course. The odd thing is, Esther asked for nothing. Here is an excerpt from my study:

"The girls could request any extravagance to make themselves more appealing, but Esther asked for nothing. Esther does not reject all beauty aids, but only avoids asking for more than she is offered. Her virtue is not abstinence from heathen luxuries but self-effacing receptivity and passivity. Somehow I'm relieved. Please tell me I can still be a godly woman who can walk acceptably before her exalted King without abstaining from some well-earned beauty aids! The point is not that Esther abstained, but rather was restrained."

Just in case you got lost in that paragraph, what it says it that Esther didn't make herself plain - but she didn't look like Snookie either.

I'm not sure if I had to stand before a king that I would have the confidence to restrain myself from doing everything possible to look better. Esther really makes herself stand out by doing so. The Bible says she "won the favor of everyone who saw her" (Est. 2:15). Beth Moore says "Brace yourself for a shock: that included the other women! You and I both know that a rare woman indeed is beautiful from a male perspective and favored by other women."

I've really been trying to think of what makes a woman attractive to men, yet liked by other women. I can think of a few women I know that are certainly beautiful, but never make me feel like I'm not. It all comes from the inside: they are kind, warm, friendly, and secure. Not perfect, but healthy. Attractive, but not showy. Eye-catching, but not attention-stealing. That's the kind of woman I want to be.

Obviously, the woman I saw at the gym wasn't a friend of mine. Most of my friends know I'd give them a good jab-cross combo to the boob if they told me they hated me. Plus, my friends also know that I wake up with scary hair, breakouts, and wish I didn't have love handles and jock thighs on some days. I'm thankful we have make-up, and I'm even more thankful to know that having inner beauty can be a force capable of  capturing even the attention of a king. I don't need to attract myself a king, but I love finding ancient stories that have principles for modern-day life. Where can I exercise restraint in my life, and how can I work on being a woman that is favored by other women? I'm inspired to find out...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Work Minus Motivation = Monday?

I really don't feel like writing tonight.What I feel like doing is grabbing a key lime pie martini & sitting in a bubble bath.

Don't you love doing things when you lack motivation? How many times have you been to the gym where you were far more interested in making conversation with people than getting on the treadmill? How about preparing dinner after a long day - "Yep. Taco Bell it is." Maybe you've had to sit at work late and miss out on being somewhere you really wanted to be. Regardless of the reason, mustering up motivation when it's AWOL isn't an easy task!

I found an article in Women's Health magazine that provided some fantastic points for time-management - which doesn't magically provide motivation - but it was just what I needed as Monday rolls around and I have a stack of things on my desk a mile high. Even when you lack motivation, I think it's easier to tackle something with a plan.

1. LOG OFF FACEBOOK - Women's Health says that "people average seven hours a month on the social site." Seven hours a month? That has to be accounting for people like my grandpa and brother who get on once every two months - I'm willing to bet it's even higher than that for many people. I made it a new goal not to dink around on Facebook unless I had already had some quiet time & gotten in a workout for the day.

2. SAY NO! - I am terrible at this. As soon as the word "yes" has escaped my mouth, I wonder why I have agreed to something I know I don't have time for! Exercise your "no muscle"!

3. PLAN YOUR DAY - "Schedule your biggest task of the day for when you're most focused and productive. You'll get it done more quickly than if you try to tackle it during a natural low point."(For example, two in the afternoon - I can do nothing productive at 2pm unless someone gives me a red bull and some candy!)

4. PUT IT IN INK - "You find time for everything on your calendar because it's there in black & white." Block out time for things like workouts & quiet time like you would for any other appointments.

5. SET A TIMER - Set a kitchen timer for tasks that tend to eat up more time than they need to - like surfing the internet or sorting through old pictures - and when the timer goes off, stop!

6. TOUCH IT ONCE - "When a paper comes across your desk or an email hits your inbox, deal with it right away. Piled-up paper and messages create distracting clutter, and you waste time revisiting each issue again (and again)."

7. GET UP 15 MINUTES EARLIER - Ugh. Seriously? "The most nocturnal of night owls can roll out of the sack just 15 minutes earlier. Even if you don't use that extra time for your workout (or quiet time) you'll get to the office sooner than usual, so you'll be more likely to take that 15 minutes for yourself later in the day."

Those were just a few of my favorite points, but I'm glad to have some tools headed into the workweek that will help me be more productive, balanced and focused. Maybe I'll even make it through a few days with only ONE latte!

Now, for that bubble bath...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A loss for words....

Okay, first of all, I have to say that I am really getting sick of talking about workout clothes. I mean, seriously, where's the creativity? Trust me when I say that I am sick of thinking about it! I had a little pep-talk with myself to hurry up & figure out what God was trying to teach me, so we could all move on...

I started this post a week ago, but found myself struggling to finish it. As anxious as I was to move past this, I was trying to resist slapping some frequently-quoted-Bible-verse-bandaid to the end and really wrestle with what was going on. Hang with me here for a minute, and we'll pick up at the end where I left off: 


Have you ever been on a crash diet?

I have. In our society, we want easy results, and we want them fast. Crash diets typically go something like this: drink 2 shakes a day, and then have one of our amazingly tiny bars that really don't fill you up at all, and you will lose 5 pounds in 7 days! What?! You mean if I drastically cut my calorie intake, I will lose weight? You're kidding...

It doesn't take a brain surgeon to find the flaw here: as soon as you go back to eating in your pre-crash diet fashion, you will gain all the weight back. Why? Because you haven't fixed the problem - poor eating habits - you've just temporarily changed your behavior.

I had an epiphany today.

It seemed like a fantastic idea to make a commitment to quit shopping for a couple of months. My hope was that if I just forced myself to have a little self-control, the satisfied heart would follow. In the same way that a crash diet might help you lose weight, but not affect lasting change, I realized that temporarily changing my behavior in regards to shopping wouldn't fix the root problem - having a unsatisfied heart.

Paul lays the smack-down on the Colossians:

“Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

 Paul is saying, in effect, "Why are you making all these rules about things that don't last? You think it makes you look good, but  it really isn't working to restrain you from indulging."

So what does restrain me from indulging?

And that's where I left off - with a question - rolling around in my brain for 2 weeks. What does restrain me from indulging, and also, why do I want to?

Like most moms, my life is jam-packed with lots of good things: work, playdates, coffee with friends, Bible studies, church commitments, life group, exercising, spending time with my husband, etc. You know the drill. Sometimes I just hit the wall, and get completely worn out - know what I mean? I was having a particularly challenging day when the words of a song came to my mind.

"You, oh Lord, You are my hiding place."

Doesn't a hiding place sound amazing? Somewhere no one can find you, no one needs anything and you can find peace and quiet?

If you're wondering how this relates to workout clothes, that's good. I was too.

It finally occurred to me this week that I was trying to use online retail-therapy to hide. I knew there was nothing wrong with shopping, but I also knew I was spending too much time and energy there.

Have you ever felt like pond scum? I mean, like, want-to-crawl-into-a-hole-foolish? That's how I felt after watching this video on You Tube. What a waste of energy to hide in something so frivolous! I'm thankful the message of this song brings me back to what I need to hear when I feel like hiding: HE LOVES US! OH HOW HE LOVES US!

Do you know what Jesus did to give us a hiding place, safe in God's presence? Maybe you're like me and just need to be reminded:

Life does get hard sometimes. It really does. But Jesus paid the price, so that we don't have to do it alone. And on those days we feel like hiding, he's waiting, because he loves us - oh how he loves us!