Archive for July, 2011

Grocery Baggers

 

Smith and I went to a popular grocery chain in our area last weekend to pick up a few staples for our pantry (tortilla chips, avocado, bananas for smoothies).  As we pulled into a parking space, we spied a store employee wheeling a woman’s cart to her SUV for her.  I went through the mental checklist: was she disabled in some way?  No.  Did she have young children with her?  No.  This woman appeared to be young, fit, and was sans toddlers.  Smith and I self-righteously chuckled at her apparent laziness. 

Today I patronized the same grocery store.  One of my “things” is that I refuse to use a buggy, or what some of you refer to as a “grocery cart.”  Instead, I grab one of the hand-held baskets, and if I need a lot of items, I load it until I can barely lift it off the ground.  If you know me personally and wonder why I work out so hard, this is why.  Strong biceps mean no buggy is necessary.  If I load the basket to full and heavy and I still have items on my list, I carry them in my other hand, or I simply head for the checkout without some of the items.  I can always come back later.  But usually I can squeeze them all in.

Yes, I would rather make two separate trips to the grocery store than use a buggy.

Anyway, during my recent shopping trip, I purchased what I would consider a “medium-sized load” for me, which amounted to three plastic grocery bags.  I think that in some twisted way, cramming groceries into the hand-held basket, seeing how many shopping bags the bagger will use (the good ones use fewer bags, the bad ones put 1-2 items in each bag so you’ve got 47 bags and you’re bound to miss one of the handles when you pick them up and condiments come spilling out) is a bit of a game to me. 

When the nice bagger was finished, he asked if I needed help carrying my groceries to my car.  (For three bags?!?  Perhaps the employees are trained to ask everyone in the name of good customer service.  Okay, fair enough, they are not making assumptions.)  I replied, “No thanks, I got it.”  As I picked up the bags myself, a different bagger descended on me out of nowhere like a vulture and practically yanked one of my bags out of my hand.  I said, “I got it, thanks.”  He continued to be pushy, saying, “I like to walk, let me get it.”  Me: “No thanks, I got it.” Him: “Really, I want to help.”  Me: “For the love of Brussels sprouts, I can handle it.”

It really made me rethink the healthy young single woman I saw last weekend whose bagger pushed her cart out for her.  Perhaps all she had wanted to do at the end of a good shopping trip was wheel out her groceries herself.  Maybe she, too, was accosted by a bagger who insisted on “helping.”  Perchance she simply had poor boundaries and was unable to draw the line with him.

Learning to Respect

Do you ever take those quizzes that are published in magazines like “Cosmo,” because the “right” answer is plain as day, just so you can feel self-righteous and assure yourself that you are not psycho?

 When your boyfriend has had too much to drink and starts flirting with a female friend of yours, do you:

a)     B*tch slap both of them and storm out of the bar in a huff?

b)     Start making out with the nearest random guy?

c)     Wait until you are both sober and clear-headed and calmly explain your feelings to your boyfriend?

 Last night, I was reading “Love and Respect,” by Emerson and Stacy Eggerichs.  As I was reading, I felt good about my answers to some of the questions the authors asked: “you listen to his work stories,” “you tell him that you value his work efforts,” “you trust his ability to analyze things and offer solutions,” and “you let him know you appreciate his desire to protect and provide for you.”  Of course I do not do these things perfectly with Smith, but I am aware of these needs and strive to show him how respectful and appreciative I am in these areas.  He is a good man and a good provider, he works hard and is great at what he does, and his work stories are so entertaining!

 I was sailing along through the book, mentally checking off all the areas where I feel I am doing okay, and then I got to the section on “Relationship,” one of the six areas of men’s needs outlined in the book.  As I began reading the chapter, I had to admit to myself, with a mixture of humility and amusement, that this was one of the times when I had to admit that I have not been meeting Smith’s needs.  At all. 

 With the same mortification as if I had chosen answer (a) in the question at the beginning of this essay, I had to choose the “wrong” answer. 

 The authors opened up the chapter with an example of a husband and wife who were not getting along in this area.  The husband would call the wife into the room he was in, asking her to sit with him.  The wife would come in and sit, and the husband would continue to watch TV or read the paper.   She was baffled because he did not seem to want to talk or interact, there was no specific agenda for him wanting her in the room (from her perspective), and she would get frustrated about this since she had other things she could be doing (laundry, etc.).  Even though he was concentrating on something other than her, he wanted her present in the room with him.  The chapter goes on to explain that men want women’s presence, even when they are not talking or when he is engrossed in TV or a project around the house.  Apparently, this helps build the relationship from the husband’s perspective.

 There have been a number of times when Smith turns on the TV or is doing some other task in our apartment.  At times, probably far too often, I leave the room because I am bored, and it seems pointless to sit there while he is absorbed in something else.  Yet I have noticed that he is aware of my presence or absence, and he seems to want me to stick around.  Up until this point, I have dismissed his desire for me to sit with him, yet not interact with him.  To a woman, it makes no sense!  Like the wife in the example from the book, I have sadly thought that there were better things I could be doing with my time.

 I now see the error of my ways.  I had no idea that what the authors call “shoulder-to-shoulder friendship,” or just being present with your husband, sitting with him while he is doing something else, can build the relationship!  I am tickled to find out that this is a real need for men (important enough that the authors devoted an entire chapter to it, and that it is one of six primary needs that men have in a marriage).  And I am intrigued that Smith is far from the only man who seems to feel this way.

 I am thankful that God is providing insight into what is important to Smith.  I am also thankful that Smith is such a forgiving and gracious man, that he will not hold my mistakes against me.

Healing Through Relationships

 

 

I grew up Catholic, so I was exposed to religion for most of my life, but I first heard the gospel and came into a personal relationship with God not quite six years ago. To clarify, the gospel I speak of maintains that I am a sinner deserving eternal punishment, but because Christ lived a life free of sin, died on the cross, and suffered the agony of hell, my sins have been paid for and I am declared clean before God. My righteousness (cleanliness) is not based on anything I did or could do, but solely on the work of Jesus.

 Prior to my introduction to the gospel, I was finishing a graduate degree in counseling. In many ways, I use my formal education in virtually every relationship, no matter how superficial or deep. In other ways, as I have grown in my understanding of God and as He has worked to change me (to die to myself and become more Christ-like, though I am still very far from that, and can never achieve it in this lifetime), I have come to refute some of the truths I learned in school.

 For instance, my undergraduate education in psychology was strongly rooted in behaviorism. Behavior is the product of conditioning (association, reinforcement, etc.). I was under the impression that children’s behavior – or misbehavior, as it were – was a product of reinforcement. The reinforcements in the child’s life are likely very complex, as no one lives in a controlled laboratory. I could take this tangent much deeper, but for the sake of the point, I will leave my curious readers to learn more about behaviorism on their own, and say simply that children’s behavior is shaped by the reinforcements in their environment.

 However, after talking to my friends who are astute, insightful Christian moms, and observing young children interact with the world, and after coming into a deeper understanding of humanity from a spiritual perspective, I realize that children’s misbehavior is a product of their sinful nature, with which all of us are born. Don’t get me wrong, reinforcement works, but it is far from the whole story.

 It seems as though my thinking is expanding in the spiritual realm in such a way that the formal psychology and counseling education I endured only occupies a small part of the puzzle of life, and that in many ways, those lectures I absorbed are very far from the big picture. At times, I feel almost discouraged by this, though I don’t completely understand why. Do I feel that my education was a waste of time? (Not really. But something in that direction.)

 Today I had an insight that helped encourage me in connecting the psychological and spiritual. In graduate school, my professors always said that it is the relationship that matters. Your specific technique as a therapist is important on some level, but change occurs in the context of the relationship itself. You as the whole being are the crucial piece of therapy. This is where the counseling educators and therapists are right on target.

 I had a discussion with a friend who has a huge blind spot in her life as a result of long-standing family dysfunction. I was thinking to myself hours later that the only way she will grow and change and be able to eventually see the blind spot and heal is if she has healthy relationships with others, in part so that healthy communication is modeled to her, which will help reveal the unhealthiness in the family relationships. The other part is that God can work through these relationships in ways that are difficult to articulate, and part of what we call the mystery of God, as our finite minds can never fully comprehend His ways. My friend (and all of us) needs a healthy relationship with Christ, and also healthy female friendships that can model Christ’s love to her. It occurred to me, also, that this is exactly the aim of formal therapy. While many therapists are not Christian, the overall goal is to model a healthy relationship where growth can take place for the client.

 As I pondered all of this, I was immediately reminded of a passage I read recently from one of my new favorite books entitled, “Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands.” The author, Paul David Tripp, writes that “God’s redemptive activity always takes place in relationships,” both with God and with others. I did not think of relationships as being as crucial, really the only thing, as Tripp stated it, but the more I think about it, the more I see his point. He goes on to write that “our relationships do not belong to us, but they belong to the Lord and are holy.”

 I am thankful for my relationship with God and the healing that has taken place in my own life. I am thankful for my female friends who model Christ’s love for me daily. I am extremely thankful for my relationship with my mom, which after years of hurt and dysfunction, God was able to redeem it, and I can now call my mom my friend. I love her dearly.

On Being God’s Instrument

 

A plain ball-point pen in the hands of an average human being can make some cute doodles, but a pen in Rembrandt’s hands can create a masterpiece. It is not the pen – the instrument – that matters. Rather, it is the Author and Creator who can wield a glorious work of art from simple tools.

 When I was younger – a child, a teenager, a new college grad – I had big dreams and goals for my life. I observed grown-ups and thought to myself that few of them seemed to be very goal-oriented or intentional about personal growth. Most of them just seemed to live to get through each day. I have known a small handful of individuals who have admitted to keeping a list of goals for their lives, often arranged in categories, like physical, mental, spiritual, etc., and this has impressed me. I have often thought to myself through the years that I did not want to lose that sense of purposeful learning, growing, and striving.

 Periodically, maybe a couple of times a year, I pause to glance back through the recent past and imagine the future, and I am inspired to work towards a particular goal. Sometimes these goals are personal and internal, like training for a new goal in my workouts or learning how to create a new crafty project. Increasingly, the goals are spiritual, and I sense they are promptings from God, who is always growing and changing me (Phil 1:6: “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”).

 The theme of my thoughts and prayers lately has centered around being an instrument of God. Over the past few years as my relationship with God has developed, I have been intentional about Him working *in* me; I have taken classes and read books to learn more about God, to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to die to myself and to live for Christ. While God has worked *through* me to some extent, I have not been as intentional about allowing Him to truly and deeply use my life.

 Providentially, as I have journaling and praying through these thoughts over the past month or so, our pastor’s sermon this weekend focused on this very issue. He quoted 1 Thessalonians 2: “We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.” I do not wish to just learn about God and allow Him to change me, though I do want to continue to be intentional in that way, and I do not desire for God to use only my skills, but I want Him to use my life. This year, I want to focus on intentionally becoming God’s instrument.

 As I have begun thinking this way, God has revealed to me several occasions where to say “yes” would be to serve another person, yet because of my selfishness and desire to avoid discomfort, I am tempted to say “no.” What kind of ambassador for Christ am I if I am praying that God would use me, yet the moment it infringes on my personal comfort, I shy away? I am thankful God is revealing these occasions to me.

 I have been reading the book “Instruments in the Redeemers Hands,” and Paul David Tripp, the author, writes that “everybody ministers and everybody needs ministry. . . I need to wake up in the morning and say, ‘God, I am a person in desperate need of help. Please send helpers my way and give me the humility to receive the help you have provided.’ And I need to pray further, ‘Lord, make me willing to help someone else see himself as you see him today.'” That passage is powerful to me. I want to be God’s instrument to help others see themselves as God sees them.

 There is much to unpack in these paragraphs, but blogs beg for brevity. Today I am thankful for a sweet love note from Smith. I am thankful for my health and strength. I am thankful for our cozy home and that I get to live with my best friend.

Newlywed

It’s been a while.  I miss writing, I miss the creativity and outlet for processing my thoughts.  Often, I feel that if I am going to post an entry, I have to write something profound, and I have nothing like that, so I do not write.  Yet, writing is therapeutic, and I enjoy reading my friends’ blogs, the light and entertaining posts.  So here I am. 

 Smith and I got married about a month ago.  Marriage is interesting, and so wonderful.  On one hand, it is surreal.  I realize that I never truly believed I would get married, and I certainly did not think I would get to marry such an amazing man who is my perfect match.  Smith and I are extremely similar, and he loves me deeply through all his actions, big and small.  I am deeply blessed by his presence in my life and his role as my husband.  On the other hand, our marriage feels so normal, like this is what I was meant for all along, and it was only a matter of time before it came to fruition.  In a sense, this is true.  God is outside of time and thus knows our past, present, and future.  He knew he would bring Smith into my life, and he spent many years preparing me for this wonderful, precious man.

 I have read in a few places recently that marriage is designed to make you holy; the sole end is not personal happiness.  Having this belief and understanding changes conflict completely.  God has blessed me with this insight, so that conflict is not a terrible monster to be avoided or swept under the rug, it is an opportunity for growth and sanctification.  I wonder how many couples really view marriage this way.  I certainly did not, until now.  My understanding of this concept is very basic, as I am a newlywed, yet I feel like a new student with a box of fresh school supplies, eager to learn more about Smith, about marriage, about communication, and ultimately, about God.

 Viewing a spouse as a means to personal happiness means when there is disagreement, each person is a threat to the other’s “kingdom.”  But when we view God as king and view each other as a gift from God, meant to help us in our path to spiritual maturity, conflict becomes something different.  We are no longer a threat to each other, but we are on the same side, striving towards the same goals: personal growth, and a deeper love for each other and God.

 A 40-something single acquaintance of mine asked if marriage really does bring out selfishness.  The answer is yes, but not quite in the way I expected.  This concept is difficult to articulate.  I am being confronted with my sin in a new way, because there is another person off of whom it is reflected.  When I feel frustrated or anxious, I am more aware that I am feeling those things, and there is more motivation to examine myself and the root behind those feelings.

 Today, I am thankful that the weekend is about to begin, as I am eager for rest.  I am thankful that Smith opens up and shares his life with me, his disappointments and excitement.  While I wish I were a better listener at times, I love that he feels safe in opening up to me.  Knowing him deeply and intimately, in a way that no one else gets to know him, is a gift beyond comprehension.

Nutrition Guidelines

There are so many opinions out there, and a lot of bad advice, and everyone’s body is different.  What works for me may not work for anyone else. 

 Here are a few basic tips that I follow:

  1. Eat about 6 meals per day, 250-350 calories each, depending on your overall calorie needs. 
  2. Eat enough.  Never go below 1,200 calories a day because it will slow your metabolism, and you may need significantly more, depending on your body and your goals, (e.g. whether you want to gain muscle).  I eat about 1,700-1,800 calories per day and have actually lost weight at that level.
  3. Eat a lot of protein.  I try to aim for 50%/30%/20% breakdown of my calories from protein/carbs/fat, respectively.  Jamie Eason writes about this on her website: http://www.jamieeason.com/projects/nutrition/is_counting_calories_necessary.php.
  4. Good carbs are necessary, but the more you “cheat” with “bad carbs” like white bread, sweets, cereal, juice, soda, etc., the less definition you will be able to achieve.  It is okay to cheat once in a while or in small amounts, but it does affect your results. 
  5. Eat simple, non-processed foods.  Don’t get your protein from hot dogs and expect results.  Again, Jamie Eason gives a great list of foods that are good for you to eat: http://www.jamieeason.com/projects/nutrition/healthy_grocery_shopping_list.php
  6. Track what you are eating.  I use www.myfitnesspal.com so I can see the amount of carbs, protein, and fat I eat per day.  I do not go by their recommendations, since I think they figure 15% of calories from protein or something ridiculous.  You can go in and customize your settings to 50%/30%/20%.  I don’t stay exact, but it does give me an idea of what I’m really eating.
  7. Do a lot of strength training, which is a lot more important than cardio, and use free weights if possible.  Always work to add more weight (each set, each workout).