Archive for the ‘ goals ’ Category

Self-Discipline

A friend recently sent me an article on why self-disciplined people are happier than and not as deprived as some people think.

Psychologically speaking, the immediacy of a short-term (small) reinforcement is infinitely more powerful and reinforcing than a long-term (enormous) negative consequence.  Hence the reason why smokers don’t quit smoking, at least not very easily: the immediacy of the (relatively small) “fix” from the cigarette is much more powerful than the (enormous) long-term negative consequence of poor health, lung cancer, etc.

“Discipline,” the way I have always defined it, is being able to place higher value on the long-term reinforcement (e.g. living a long, healthy life with clear lungs) and lower value on the “pain” of forgoing the immediate reinforcement.  I am thankful that I am “disciplined,” as it were, because like the article said, I think in the long run I am happier and healthier and avoid certain problems.  I feel like this is just the way God wired me, it isn’t something I make an effort to do, per se.  That’s why it is a bit strange when people tell me that I am disciplined as if it is a compliment, because to me, it’s just the way I am wired and it comes naturally to me.

In contrast, while there is debate as to whether there is truly an “addictive personality,” in my mind, the characteristically defining feature of an addictive personality is the inability or at least the extreme difficulty of weighing the future consequence into the equation at all.  The power of the immediate reinforcement is even greater than for the average person, and the long-term negative consequence just doesn’t exist.  I have read that an addict has a different concept of time than the average person, that for the addict, nearly all thinking is about the present or very near future.  Delays and the distant future have no place in an addict’s mind.  There is a great misunderstanding about addiction: addiction has little to do with substance abuse (the behavior) and nearly everything to do with thinking and psychology.  Thus, someone can be clean from drug use but still an addict, because of his/her pattern of thinking.

Some people say I am disciplined because I eat very healthy and I exercise every day.  In part, it is because I place a higher value on the long-term positive benefits, but there are also short-term and more immediate benefits, as well.  If there weren’t, I don’t think I would stick with it.  For instance, it’s just simpler to eat the same thing every day, it’s less of a hassle.  I enjoy the feeling of having my endorphins kicking around in my body when I exercise, I like being able to sleep more soundly and restfully, I like the feeling of being physically active after a long day in front of my computer.

Incidentally, I have heard it said, and now I truly believe that there is such a thing as a sugar addiction.  For a few months, my husband brought home a lot of sweets (apple pie, brownies), and I started eating some of those sweets in the evenings.  I’m not even sure why I ate them, just because they were there, I guess.  He finally said he wanted to cut back, so he stopped bringing home these types of sweets.  For a week or two, I experienced a sugar craving each evening.  Eventually, the craving subsided, but it was weird because I don’t even like sweets all that much, but I saw how I became addicted to the sugar.

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Thankful in 2012

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Reflecting on 2011, I have so much to be thankful for:
 –       I am most thankful for God, and the gift of grace I receive because God sent Jesus Christ to live the life I should have lived and died the death I deserved to die so that I might have new life.

–       I am also hugely thankful for my new wonderful husband, who I married in 2011.  At times it still seems surreal that I am actually married.  I feel so accepted and loved by him, far more than I deserve. 

–       I am thankful for my renewed relationship with my mom, the part she played in my wedding planning and ceremony this past year, and the quality time we spend together on Sunday evenings.

–       I am thankful for my friends who I seem to need now more than ever, who are like family to me, and who made me feel so special and loved at my showers and my wedding this past year.

–        I am thankful that I got a sister this year, as my brother also got married in 2011!  I have never had a sister before.

–       I am thankful for my job and coworkers, my stable employment, work I enjoy, and coworkers who are edifying and nourishing to my spirit.

–       I am thankful that God has increased and deepened my faith in Him and my trust in His plan for my life over the past year.  Through struggle and hardship, I have realized more of the depth of my dependence on Him to sustain me.  I am thankful that He has a plan for me, because my plan for me would have turned out disastrously.

–       I am thankful for My rich times with God while riding in the car over the past 3 months in particular: being able to listen to the Bible and sermons and pray and listen to worship music – a surprising blessing that has enriched my personal worship times.  I am spending a great deal more time in the car over the past few months than I was previously. 

–       I am thankful, too, for the struggles I encountered in 2011, which have exposed some of my sin and increased my dependence on God.  I am thankful for the hardships that help unite my husband and I, and working through conflict with him: apologizing, repenting, and growing in relationship with each other and with God.

My goals for 2012:
–       Finish listening to (or reading) the entire Old Testament.  I am currently on the book of Joshua.

–       Pray that God will strengthen my weak areas, specifically my impatience and inflexibility.  Seek to surrender to His will for my life daily.

–       Learn better ways of responding to conflict or stressful situations.

–       Learn how to better love and serve my husband.

–       Continue healthy eating and regular exercise, maintain my weight and body fat percentage, strength, and general health.

Marriage Purpose Statement

As a new wife, I am hungry for wisdom on how to be a Godly wife.  I am currently reading Linda Dillow’s book, “What is it Like to be Married to Me?”  She suggests that wives imagine themselves at their own funeral, their husbands as the key speakers who will reflect back on the role their wives played.  She asks wives what they would want their husbands to say, what character traits they would have wanted to exude, how their husbands will remember them.

Dillow uses this exercise as a springboard for wives to write a Marriage Purpose Statement, which is a way for wives to be intentional about their goals for their marriage.  By thoughtfully articulating our goals and prayerfully surrendering them to God over time, I believe God will be faithful in helping us be the wives we long to be.  We will never be able to perfectly live out our goals, because we are sinful.  We can use our Purpose Statement as a guide for prayer for our marriage, and we can reflect on it on anniversaries, examining where we need God’s help and thanking Him for answered prayers.

Here is the Marriage Purpose Statement I came up with, along with Scripture references:

My purpose is to glorify God through my marriage to Smith. 1 Corinthians 10:31- So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

I choose to view struggle in my marriage as God’s plan for sanctification and for my good.  Romans 8:28 – And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

I aim to focus on my own sin and wrong responses.  My prayer is “Lord, change ME.”  Matthew 7:3 – And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?

I will be encouraging, cultivate an attitude of thankfulness, and dwell on the positive.  Philippians 4:6 – Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

I will consider Smith better than myself and aim to serve him through my actions.  Mark 9:35 – Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.

I aim to be a Godly wife, to love Smith with a gentle and quiet spirit.  1 Peter 3 – You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.

I will respect Smith through my actions and submit to his authority as God commanded.  Ephesians 5:22&33 – For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord. . . The wife must respect her husband.

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.

Single Again

I’m single again.

And surprisingly, it feels pretty damn good.

The deep longing of my heart is to one day be married. I feel that God designed me for and intends for me to be married. And there are many aspects of dating and relationships that I enjoy. Yet, I have a strong sense that I am exactly where I need to be right now.

I was reading “Let Me Be a Woman,” by Elisabeth Elliot last night, and she wrote in the book, “Let not our longing slay the appetite of our living.” I get frustrated with people who exhort, “Be content in your singleness.” God put a desire on my heart to be married, and I see clear evidence of Him preparing me for a marriage relationship. God wants us to long for what he intends for us and not be merely “content.” But He also wants us to live today. This is the place I am in right now. I long for marriage, but singleness is God’s path for me today, and I will live to the fullest in that.

I have a friend who is involved with Celebrate Recovery, a Christian-based addictions recovery program that is similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. She reminded me yesterday to take life one day at a time. And she is right. I get overwhelmed at times thinking about the future. At times, I feel overwhelmed by the prospect of meeting, dating, and marrying my future husband. But God dispenses His grace one day at a time. He gives me exactly what I need for today. And thankfully, this enables me to rely on Him every single day. So today, I trust that I am where I need to be. Single.

The past few weeks, I had been feeling increasingly unsettled with the guy I was dating. I hate to admit it, but I knew he was not right for me, yet I was reluctant to cut it off because I liked his personality. And I did not really want to be alone. I have a great support network of friends, but I enjoy the particular feeling of companionship in a dating relationship. I like having someone to talk to before going to bed. I like knowing someone is thinking about me during the day.

I have been feeling insecure, as well, the past few weeks, much more so than is usual for me. Like anyone, I have some insecurity, but for the most part I am pretty confident and well-adjusted. Now that the relationship is over, suddenly, my confidence is back. When I opened up to my ex about how I was feeling (while we were still dating), he told me that my insecurities were coming from inside me, he denied any part in it, and his words led me to doubt myself. Now that I am out of the relationship, I see that it wasn’t that anything is wrong with me, he just wasn’t right for me. And perhaps, as well, I was reacting to his emotional unavailability.

In my Bible study group today, we discussed Philippians 1 and the importance of fellowship. One of the benefits of having true friends who love us (more specifically in the context of the passage, Christian friends), is that they desire to see us grow and be happier and healthier. If our true friends give us criticism or negative feedback, we can trust that they are saying it out of love because they truly want the best for us.

One of my weaknesses is that in dating relationships, when the guy gives me negative feedback, I want to believe that he is saying it in a loving way because he truly desires that I be a more Godly and better person. However, I think in reality, a lot of times guys say things to me out of their own insecurities and weaknesses. Perhaps they are projecting some of their own insecurities, but whatever the reason, the negative feedback is not said out of a sincere heart. Unfortunately, I have a hard time discerning when this is the case, and I take their comments seriously, which in the case of this most recent relationship, made me question myself and feel some insecurity.

As my pastor David* said, “Don’t date guys in the gym. They are screwed up.”

No, that’s not the quote I meant, although he said that, as well. He also said, “Don’t fall in love with the icing, which consists of personality and physical attraction. We need the cake, the substance, to fill us up. The icing is delicious, but when we eat only the icing, we will end up with a headache.”

If I am really honest with myself, my most recent ex was icing. And I ended up with a headache.

Now that the sugar crash has cleared, I am looking forward to working on myself and becoming more emotionally and spiritually healthy. I am also excited to have the opportunity to look for a man of substance, a man whose heart belongs to God.

One of the best books I have read is “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality,” by Peter Scazzero. He avers that spiritual and emotional maturity co-occur. (Side note: My recent ex-boyfriend was not at all spiritually mature, hence, he cannot truly be emotionally mature, either. It is not my intent to be critical of him, as he has many great qualities. But I admit that I conveniently overlooked the spiritual issue because I was attracted to him, and I wanted to date him because he was tasty icing. However, I probably should have known better.) In Scazzero’s book, he has one of the most informative charts I have seen that lists the characteristics of an emotionally healthy person. You can view this chart here. Jesus functioned at 100. He was both perfectly confident and perfectly humble.

For now, I will work on my relationship with God first and foremost. I am also seeing a counselor who can help me grow emotionally and psychologically. Beyond that, it is my aim (with God’s help) to put my trust in God when it comes to relationships. I desire to follow His will for me and not to date someone just because he pursues me or seems attractive. I want to look for the substance, the heart, the cake. I wish to fully and intentionally rely on God to provide what I need, particularly in the arena of dating relationships.

While I do wish to be in a relationship that is headed towards marriage, I am not going to go out and specifically seek to date. Rather, I wish to follow God’s direction. For now, at least, I am discarding my old List of qualities and characteristics to look for in mate, and I am going with my friend Emily’s* list, which I have written about previously.

1. He loves God more than he loves me.
2. He supports my ministry by encouraging me and praying for me.
3. He truly understands God’s grace, and is thus able to love the Lord and be forgiving.
4. He fights for me and for our relationship.

Today, I am very thankful for friends who are praying for me and encouraging me. I am thankful for the amazing people that surround me daily. I am thankful for the healing that God has brought into my life. I am thankful that my happiness, joy, peace, and hope comes always and only from Jesus Christ. I thankful that I feel confident in my identity in Christ.

*Names have been changed.

Wellness

I have been pontificating on some ways I can take better care of myself. These are my wellness goals for the upcoming months.

1. Eat more fruit, even if some of it is in the form of fruit juice.
2. Consume more protein by drinking three protein shakes per day to supplement my vegetarian diet.
3. Mix glutamine powder with my post-workout protein shake to aid in recovery and healing.
4. Take iron supplements every day.
5. Supplement my diet with a probiotic every day.
6. Get to bed by 10:30 pm every night.
7. Spend time each day focusing on my identity as Christ’s beloved daughter.
8. Take a day off from the gym each week to rest.
9. Stay away from emotionally unhealthy people.
10. Practice assisted pull ups twice a week until I am able to reach my goal of 10 unassisted pull ups.

Ephesians 3:16-19
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

The Dangers of Food

People always ask why I am a vegetarian/vegan. Their first question is often an insightful and intelligent one: “Do you eat chicken and fish?”

To me, this is the most annoying question anyone could pose, yet it is the most common one I get asked. Vegetarian means no meat; since when did chicken and fish classify as non-meat items (unless you are referring to McFish or McChik Nugs, in which case your question is probably a legitimate one)?

I did not gain the so-called Freshman Fifteen when I went to college, but after graduation I began putting on some weight, so I started dabbling with exercise. To educate myself and to maximize my gains, I began reading about fitness and nutrition, and after some research, including reading a book called Food for Life by Neal Barnard, I decided to stop eating meat, primarily for health reasons. Barnard maintains that there are four important food groups: fruit, vegetables, legumes, and grains.

Since then, I have alternated between vegetarian (nothing with a face) and vegan (no animal products). I am also addicted to weight lifting and intense cardiovascular exercise, and yes, I get plenty of protein.

Over the past year or so, I have not consumed dairy or eggs, which means that my primary source of protein intake has been soy: soy yogurt, soy milk, soy protein powder shakes, organic cereal with soy, soy crisps, soybeans, and soy protein bars. I know that some of you have no doubt been frightened by the alleged dangers of soy, but since nothing is safe to eat these days (pesticides on fruit, mercury in fish, genetically modified vegetables, antibiotics and steroids in milk, and trans fat, to name a few), I figured it was the lesser of two (or rather, multiple) evils.

Because I am a perfectionist, and because I am a woman, I am dissatisfied with my body. I am on a constant quest to better myself intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. So, I am making some changes in my diet basically just to see what happens.

I have decided to resume consumption of whey protein, a dairy product, because it supposedly boosts the immune system after intense exercise, it is absorbed more quickly than soy by the muscles after working out, and I will hopefully reduce some of the negative effects of so much soy consumption, such as increased levels of estrogen and water retention. I plan to drastically reduce my soy consumption and replace some of the soy products with rice milk, whey protein bars, and black beans, for instance. I also feel that I eat too much peanut butter, so I am cutting it out of my repertoire for a while.

I enjoy experimenting with my diet and workouts and am curious what the effects will be.