for my birthday.

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In two short months I will be 37. Aging doesn’t bother me so much. I’ve been known to be awkward and I’m still hoping to grow out of it. Smiley face.

But I do feel sad about some things. Like the fact that even though I promise myself that this year will be the year I’m finally free, I have spent all of my adult life handcuffed to my body and how I feel about it. Lately, I’ve found myself settling for that lesser freedom. I just don’t feel like doing the hard work. Sure. I guess that is liberty. But. The way that I limit myself because of how I feel about my figure is not freedom. I want that greater freedom.

As I’ve been studying Galatians, I’ve been reading so much about being free. At the root of that little word I found this definition: true freedom is not living as you please. True freedom is living as you ought to. All the things God dreamed up for you? That is true freedom. Walking in who you are because of what the gospel says about Him and you? True freedom. Continuing to walk in frustration and insecurity and fear of what others think of you and guilt because it’s too hard or you just don’t care or you want what you want? Sham freedom.

I want to live free. True freedom. So I’m going to focus on that. I had some crazy dream of pounds lost by my 37th year but instead I’m going to focus on living free. And it means some hard work. And probably a plan. So, here’s mine:

- A healthy bedtime of 9 pm on a regular basis.

-Wash my face every night. I’m woefully bad at this because I stay up until I’m too tired to even think about it. I’m reaching the age where my skin is not so forgiving. I just want to take care of it.

-Do hard work. I signed up for a 5K next month so I’m back to running. There’s a teensy weight room at my husband’s work that is just enough to do a bit of muscle work. Three runs a week. Three cross trainings a week (weights).

-Eat healthy, clean and whole for the majority of the week. Enjoy an exception or two on the weekend. I mean really enjoy without guilt that snowballs into a slide into brownie batter.

-Focus on my identity in Christ. This should be the first thing on my list. No looking around. No comparing. Just accepting my little handful of life and thanking Him for the smooth and rough spots.

I don’t know. It’s probably too vague and generic but it’s where I’m starting because what I really want for my birthday is a good dose of freedom.

What would it look like for you to live free?

P.S. Please read Jessi’s beautiful post from Tuesday.

 

heart stuff.

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I couldn’t think of a title for this post. So I called it heart stuff. You’re welcome.

Recently, I heard a morning radio show host commenting on a woman’s weight loss. She had lost 110 pounds in 10 months by walking 20 minutes everyday. I’m sure there were other changes that accompanied the walking but every bit of emphasis was on this one small change that produced huge effects.

It’s meant to be inspiring. For me, it’s maddening. That is not my story. I have already made a million little differences–at least I feel like I have. And so when I hear that I only have to make ONE! SMALL! CHANGE! I feel defeated. What about all of the other small changes I’ve been making? Even more importantly, why do I fall prey to making one person’s victory a commentary on my own defeat?

The answer comes in staring wide-eyed at the state of my heart. It’s an ugly, gruesome train wreck and I want to look away. I can’t. I’ve been struggling with paralyzing insecurity about my appearance. It’s a bigger mountain than I’ve faced in a long time. But I’m finding hope in a small thought that is going to turn everything upside down if I can get behind it.

I use words that are not in God’s vocabulary. We use words that are not in God’s vocabulary.

Fat. Plump. Skinny. Buff. Failure. Not enough. Damaged. Perfect.

When God looks at us, He sees us through His love. He sees us through Jesus’ mending grace. And I’m just beginning to accept that these are not words He even uses to qualify us. Instead, He sees a beautiful creation that He made without mistake and on purpose, even the weak parts. Instead, He sees the tenor of a heart turned toward Him. Instead, He sees a home to shine through.

He is not interested in making me perfect–where everything is easy and I never know the sorrow of defeat. But He is interested in being perfect IN me.

So. What does all of this mean and what in blue blazes does it have to do with the woman who lost all of that weight? It certainly doesn’t mean excuses. I don’t need to change my body to walk under the beautiful grace and wonder of Christ. I don’t need to lose weight to be more loved by God. Losing weight won’t make me perfect.

But I want to. I want to feel better about myself. I want to know the freedom of making good choices instead of running after bad ones over and over again.

Here is where I confess that if I make it through this summer maintaining where I am it will be a victory. It’s harder here in the humid, loose days of anything goes. And when I heard about that woman I was overcome with defeat. Where is my progress? After all of these years, why can’t it come more quickly for me?

But that’s not how God works. Not always. Sometimes the best step forward we can take is just to plant our stake right there in the midst of the buffeting wind and hold on tight. Just stay put (I’ve been reading Susie Larson’s book Your Beautiful Purpose this summer with some friends. She has some beautiful things to say about standing strong).

As my friend Scooper says, rest is fruitful. In this product and task driven society, it’s easy to fall prey to measuring progress by numbers and evidence. God works on a deeper level. He won’t rush. He makes change at the foundation and He makes it in His time. It’s strong and good and shuffles everything we build upon it.

It requires something of us, though. We have to wait. Even when we want to run ahead, sometimes we have to stay right there in the hard part learning over and over again.

PS-As always, this isn’t easy for me to write about. I cringe. I cringe. I cringe. It’s me. I’m weird. But thank you for being grace to me.

commence cringing.

rootsandthingsYou guys leave the best comments. I want you to know that. The last time I posted about this journey of mine, I was so touched by how you took up arms with me. Every time I sat down to respond it was time to go to another end of the school year function. But. I want you to know how thankful I am for you.

Did you know that I hate to talk about this subject? I H.A.T.E. it There are lots of reasons but mostly it’s because I’m afraid of what you think of me. Maybe you think it’s about time. Maybe you think I’ll always fail. Maybe you think I’m not working hard enough.

Yesterday morning was a hard heart morning. I was walking under the cloud of why-doesn’t-this-go-faster-for-me even though I’ve lost a teensy bit more weight. Still, I felt defeated. On Saturday I had wanted to quit. Just throw in the towel. Quit having to think so hard about what I eat and why I eat it. And so there I was trying to get ready for church feeling defeated and seeing everything I’m self-conscious about bigger than big. My sweet husband was trying to help me fumble my way out. It was hot and even though I knew it would flatten my hair, I laid down underneath the fan just to feel it brush air across my face.

The Holy Spirit comes in that sweet breeze sometimes and I remembered–He reminded me–that this? Right here? This is not freedom. And that is why I have to keep going. I do not want to settle for the false, lesser freedom that quitting offers. I want a greater freedom: from feeling defeat and worrying about my appearance and not being able to put down that cake. I want all of that. So I will keep going.

I can’t leave my heart behind. I’ve got to deal with that junk, too. And it’s a long journey with years of lies to unearth. I want to keep pace with it.

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Somehow? Even though I hate talking about this whole thing? It ends up that I’m offering a class through the Influence Network tonight  at 9pm EST. I’ve been digging through God’s Word looking for wisdom about how to navigate this crazy world of heart and body and I’m anxious to share what I’ve found. I hope you’ll be there!

And even though I always get the most embarrassing screen captures (Seriously. Why? I’ve even googled it. Am I just destined to awkward captures?), I made a tiny, little preview video.

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roots and things.

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Last month my neighbor and I stood over this little knock out rose. We hemmed and hawed. It was scrawny. I don’t know what I’m doing. She does. And so we decided it should move where it would get more sun and generally be happier.

It has filled out and produced more blooms than ever. It’s still a bitty thing but this little plant is growing stronger by the day. All it took was a brighter spot and some good compost.

I wish the process were a bit easier with my heart and body. It’s the same but my own roots seem to hold on a bit stronger than my pinky little rose plant. Last week was a hard week for me, one fraught with comparison and defeatist feelings. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the thought that the only way to get where I want to go is to make my whole life about weight loss. And that is not a possibility.

Tom and I had a few hours alone together on Saturday afternoon and we rumbled around in my maze together, talking through the pangs of comparison and the reality of where I am. I have a deep down knowing that if the heart change doesn’t come first–or at least keep up–it won’t matter where I end up. I won’t have actually gotten anywhere. These heart things are not symptoms, the kind that are easily smoothed with some balm and some good medicine. This basic disbelief is actually the cause.

I don’t believe Christ’s grace covers what I look like. I don’t believe His resurrection power is at work in me. I believe I can do every other thing but this one thing through Him. I don’t believe the very words I wrapped around my little shorty girl last night, that this thing with legs housing my heart IS fearfully and wonderfully made.

I’m not sure how inspiring this is. Or how encouraging. But. It’s true.

Here’s something else true. I enjoyed a fried green tomato BLT this weekend. And it was worth every delicious bite. Every single one.

In other corners of my heart, I am beginning to see that sometimes the mystery of Christ in me is to just do the very little that I can and wait for Him to be bigger in me. Eventually, faithfully–and even when I can’t do a thing, He unfolds beautiful workings in my heart and life. This is grace: this waiting in my imperfect offerings and even a fried green tomato BLT can’t derail me when I trust that He is doing His good and perfect bidding in my heart.

So. Here’s the nitty gritty of where I am. I’ve lost 12 pounds. I’m trying to celebrate that without rushing ahead toward how much farther I want to go.

Here’s my very little part for the next two weeks:

  1. Survive the end of the school year without falling face first (mouth open) into a big bowl of brownie batter.
  2. Do what I can. Walk the dog for at least 30 minutes every day. And sometimes? Run if I can unsaddle it from weight! loss!.
  3. Go to bed earlier.
  4. Get in front of my emotions by making more margin in my life.

That’s 542 words about me. You’ll share now?

whole ladies: one month.

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Well, it’s time for another awkward screen capture. Every time. But! The good news is that I finished my whole30 yesterday. I’m not sure I trust myself beyond these 30 days as I’ve felt lots of emotional reactions to foregoing many beloved foods. I talk about this in the video but I think I’ll be sticking pretty close to what I’ve been doing this month with possibly a cheat meal once a week.

 

I do feel great. I have lost weight (got on the scale this morning). It was so freeing to slide that thing away and not think about it for a month. I’m really leaning toward taking the same approach this month: food and heart first and then weighing after really working on the internal issues.

Let’s talk in the comments! Are you an emotional eater? Do you struggle with understanding what really makes you lovely? What were your struggles and victories this month?

Be sure to head over to Jessi’s for her part of this conversation.

whole ladies: halfway

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It’s Wednesday and that means it’s time to talk Whole Ladies again. Jessi’s got a post up today, too, so be sure to head over there.

Somehow here I am with another video. It’s probably because y’all were so nice. But. Let’s just acknowledge one thing: I get the most awkward screen captures ever. This week’s video is a little longer.

New Project 7 from ellen parker on Vimeo.

You can read more about Whole30 right here. Read my other posts right here.

This week we really, really enjoyed Venison Butternut Squash Chili, Berry Breakfast Sausage and Carrot Souffle. I’m too lazy to dig up pictures.

Ok. You’re turn. Smiley face.

whole ladies. an update.

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So. It’s Day 9 for me of a Whole30 and it’s a day to check in and talk about this journey with food. Somehow I let Jessi (Stop by her blog for a video, too!) talk me into recording a video. It is totally outside of my comfort zone and I am probably cringing right this very minute as you are reading because somewhere in my spirit I know someone is watching me talk into a camera thingy. But we want this whole thing to be a conversation and this talking to a camera thingy seemed to fit.

I’ll be sharing three things: a lesson, a challenge and a goal. Oh, I do so hope that ya’ll will chime in down there in the comments. I love to interact with you. Love to. It’s my favorite part. So, please share what God is doing in your heart and mind and body when it comes to taking good care of this thing with legs He gave us to house our hearts.

New Project 6 from ellen parker on Vimeo.

Now. On to the food. I ate some good food this week.

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This chicken was a favorite family wide.

And on Sunday I made the most delicious sweet potato soup.

Pioneer Woman Pot Roast. Are there words for this? It really is perfect even when you are out of beef broth and you substitute water and balsamic vinegar.

This recipe for turkey meatballs was tender and so good. I went with my own recipe for marinara and served it all over roasted spaghetti squash.

PS. Still cringing over here.

whole ladies. day one.

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Six months ago my dear friend sent me a text message.

So. I’ve been vegan for a week now.

Just like that. She jumped right in. All these months later, she’s still at it. I’m so proud of her. And when we sat in her kitchen just before Christmas and she talked about the freedom she’s felt in the most powerful ways, something turned a tiny cog in my brain and I’ve been wondering about what it means to be free ever since.

She can’t and doesn’t go through too many drive throughs. They eat out less. I picked up a veggie wrap for her the other day and I had to be really specific. It is work. She gave up some things. She’s gained a strong body, lots of energy and the knowledge that food doesn’t ever have to master her again.

We’ve been set free to be free.

I’ve only talked about this struggle of mine a handful of times. I’m a serial dieter. Weight Watchers. Clean Eating. Low Carb. Low Fat. The Zone. I’ve done them all. I’ve gained and lost weight over and over again. After Christmas I just decided to be. Eat. Be active. Stop striving for weight loss.

What I’m really looking for is freedom from feeling less than. From feeling a far cry from beautiful. From feeling like I’ll never succeed. The truth is that these are heart issues with one treatment. The Truth. Ironically, instead of turning to God’s Word I’ve spent most of my life turning to the very thing that keeps me from losing weight: food.

That’s what drew me to doing a Whole30 (you can find out all about it from the creators by clicking <— right there). It’s not about weight loss. It looks hard as blue blazes. I’ll feel weak at first. I’ll miss grains, legumes, sugar, sugar substitutes, dairy, Diet Dr. Pepper. But we all know what happens when we are weak. I’ll learn to say no. I’ll face down some major food triggers. Full disclosure? I hope I’ll lose weight but I’m pretty sure that will only happen when I stop focusing on it so much and learn to be more healthy about my food choices.

I mentioned this to my friend Jessi as we were texting back and forth last week. I’m in, she responded.

We start today and we’re inviting you. We’re going to be open about this. The heart stuff. The hard stuff. All of it. I’m choosing not to get on a scale the whole 30 days. Jessi will be doing it differently. But. We’ll be doing it together. We’ll share what works and what doesn’t.

We’ll share on Instagram. Twitter. Pinterest. And we’ve got a few ladies joining us. Will you? Even if you don’t do a Whole30, will you be honest about your struggle and join us in spurring each other on? We’ll be back next week with all the rough and the raw of giving up french fries and doing hard things and leaning in to the Lord.