Monday, June 23, 2014

Confessions of a Transformed Heart

I love to read, and I read a lot. But this past spring I read a book that shook my heart and brought me to my knees in tears....that doesn't happen to me very often.

The book was Confessions of a Transformed Heart by Nancy Sheppard. Nancy and her husband traveled to Liberia in the 1980s to work as missionaries. The book follows their missionary journey through war, hardship, celebration, and grief. Her words are simple, but her message and humility is profound.

While I could write an essay about my thoughts on this book, I'll leave you with the 3 areas this book most specifically challenged me in:

1. My Relationship with God

From the first chapter I was struck by Nancy's passion for our Savior, but even more so I was struck by her obedience and quest for improvement. Several times Nancy wrote about God calling her out on ____ or her need to improve on ____, and her subsequent journey in obeying God's call. I am not so good in this area. First, I often feel as though I act and then seek God's direction. Secondly, if I do feel God speaking to me, I often shy away from requests that make me uncomfortable.

While reading a certain portion of this book I felt immensely convicted about my actions and attitude towards 2 individuals. As awkward and uncomfortable as it was, I apologized. While I was immensely touched by the grace and forgiveness of these two ladies, I was even more overwhelmed by the pure joy I felt from obedience.

Nancy's continuous strive for improvement in her walk with Christ and life as a Christian was also inspiration. Not only would she seek out character traits to work on, but she went about such work with vigor and diligence. Far too often I find myself falling into a place of complacency - not examining where I need to improve or ignoring what I know needs to be changed.

2. My Relationship with my Husband

I've only been married for 5.5 months, but Brandon and I are already on the cusp of making some pretty significant decisions about our future - particularly where we will be living come this fall. There is a pretty profound point in the book where Nancy is dreading returning to the mission field. Due to civil war, her life in Africa and work on the mission field has become extremely uncomfortable and emotionally and physically draining - and she is ready not to return. At this point her husband tells her that if it is that she cannot return, they won't, but if it is that she simply does not want to return, they will head back to Africa.

It would have been easy for Nancy to say she couldn't. But she didn't, and the joy she talks about afterwards that came from following God's will and submitting to her husband's leadership is so powerful (and beautiful!).

At this point in my reading, the tears were flowing. I love my husband, but while my mouth was saying that I would follow him to the ends of the Earth, my attitude was screaming that I wanted to stay put! God has blessed me with an amazing husband, and he used this book to open my eyes towards and area where I was not respecting him or trusting his decisions. The conversations B and I have had over the last 2 months have been amazing.

3. My Relationship with the Things I Value

Nancy herself sums up my favorite final takeaway in an interview she gave with SharperIron. When asked what she hopes readers take away from her book she states:

"One by one God took away the many "idols" I was worshiping - security, friendship, affirmation, ministry, comfort, control, etc. etc. etc. All I had left was Christ. I believe he did so for a grand purpose. He wanted me to know-and tell others-that He is enough. If you lose everything, God is enough."

Have a summer reading list? Even if you don't, you should start one - with Confessions of a Transformed Heart at the top.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Confessions of a Former Exercise Addict

This weekend I ran my first 10k. It was a pretty big deal for me - not just because I’ve never run that far before (yes I know it’s only 6 miles, but it was still double the furthest I’d ever run before), but because it was another step in recognizing that I really have recovered from the tangles of anorexia.

When I was first diagnosed with having an eating disorder (spring 2004) the doctors labeled me as having “exercise-induced anorexia.” It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like, I had become obsessive about exercising and was expending more calories than I was taking in. Over the past several years its been very difficult for me to get back into having a consistent, healthy exercise routine. I either end up falling back into my obsessive tendencies, or I rapidly lose weight.

Actually, I don’t think my compulsion is that out of the ordinary. Negating the eating disorder aspect, I know several women who I would argue have an unhealthy relationship with working out.

“Addict” is defined -
1. (noun) a person who is addicted to an activity, habit, or substance
2. (verb) to habituate or abandon (oneself) to something compulsively or obsessively

After a lot of thought and prayer, I dove into training with some goals and guidelines that ended up making a huge difference in my approach to exercise.

Physical Goals:

1. Don’t lose weight. I know, this sounds completely ridiculous considering weight loss is probably the primary incentive for the majority of people who exercise, but I knew from the beginning that I had to make a strict rule for myself - if I lost weight, I had to stop running until I gained it back. Amazingly, I never had to stop and actually ended up gaining weight in the process (and being okay with that!).

2. Make the distance. This is the more obvious goal of training for a race. I really hate running, but I love LOVE the feeling you have when you finish a run. The more miles I was able to run, the more accomplished I felt.

Mental Goals:

1. Don’t Obsess. Easy to say, harder to do. Here are a couple of things I did to make sure my mind was in the right place when dealing with exercise:
  • Mix up my training routine - Meaning I occasionally deviated from my original schedule of when I would run and how long I would run. This helped me avoid the “but I have to exercise today” mantra.
  • Focus on being healthy - not weight. Shouldn't this be the ultimate goal for everyone? Being healthy is comprised a lot more then a number on the scale. I’ve learned a lot over the last few years, one of the most important being a better understanding of the nutrients and calories my body needs. Remember this and realizing I was building muscle helped me a lot when my weight started to go up.
  • Have an accountability partner. My dear husband was always around to keep me in check - asking me how I was doing, pushing me to reach my next mile goal, and filling me up with pasta :) He is pretty darn amazing.
  • Focus on something other than yourself. Yes, exercise is a personal activity, but I get distracted by thinking about just how many calories I’ve burned, how many candy bars I can eat now. Something that really helped with this race was finding something to distract myself with. My running time became a really special part of my day - my prayer time.
We have become a country that obsesses about weight and weight-loss. Don't allow the world's obsession to become your own.

Refueling on crepes post race

"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; you were bought at a price. Therefore, honor God with your bodies."
1 Corinthians 6:19-20