Lent: week 2

Guys, I totally cheated some the second half of this week.  I have been eating Whole30 for meals, but I also ate some junk food with friends.  I blame Spring Sing.  ‘Nuff said.

Anyways, I am still going to continue with my Whole30.  I’ve decided to allow myself to use butter for cooking because I feel that it’s healthier than using vegetable oil.  I’m also debating leaving the option open to do some Paleo baking (with nut flours and honey as sweetener) on the weekends, but I’m not sure.  I did it this weekend and I definitely notice that I do feel better when I stick to healthier foods.  However, baking is a huge passion of mine and is something that Calvin and I have really enjoyed doing together, so we’ll see.

I’ve been really surprised this week at how much reflection Lent has prompted.  I mean, I knew the purpose of it was to provoke thought, but I didn’t expect this sort of depth.  I feel like I’ve learned several things about myself this week, including the following:

  • I’m impatient.  This surprised me a little bit because I’ve never really thought of myself as an impatient person.  I’m the oldest of 8 and I work with kids on a daily basis as part of my job, so patience sort of goes with the territory.  However, apparently that’s just something I’ve cultivated in that specific area that doesn’t extend into all parts of my life.  It should NOT be as hard as it is for me to delay gratification and wait a few measly weeks to have sweets.
  •   I’m self-centered.  I don’t mean in the way that I promote my self-interest at the expense of others.  Rather, I’ve realized that I tend to fall into the “I deserve _____” mindset far too often.  I feel like this is a very American phenomenon – we’ve all been quite effectively trained to believe that we should never feel any discomfort.  It’s interesting to me that I learned this in conjunction with food, as I believe that this mindset plays a large part in America’s obesity epidemic.  Instead of being viewed as normal, hunger is viewed as something which must be fixed right away.  This also leads me to my next point.
  • I have a warped relationship with food. Although I’m at a very healthy weight and don’t have an overeating problem, this week has shown me that I don’t have a healthy relationship with food.  I’ve noticed that I tend to link food with happiness and relaxation – if I want to feel happy and relaxed, I feel like I need to eat.  This is a link I’d like to break as I know it will really come back to bite me as I get older.
  • I’m imperfect.  When I think about how difficult it is for me to make some simple changes to my diet for just a short period of time, it really leaves me in awe of Jesus’ example of devotion and self-control throughout his lifetime.  It gives me a newfound respect for what it really meant for him to be subject to all temptations known to man and yet to remain pure.  I mean, he willingly subjected himself to 40 days without ANY food, and then refused to make bread for himself!  That’s some pretty serious determination right there.

Overall, I feel like this has been a good week for me.  Although I didn’t stick to my goals perfectly, deviating actually taught me some valuable lessons.  I learned that I really do feel better when I eat better, and as I listed above, it also provided a lot of food for thought regarding my spiritual growth.  I’m actually looking forwards to getting back on track and feeling better in the coming week!

Lent: Week 1

Well, it’s actually only been half of a week so far, but whatevs.

I started my Whole30 on Wednesday of this week, so today is day 4.  It’s definitely been interesting to have to pay such close attention to what I eat – it’s like a throwback to my early days of being gluten free.  I’ve been at that so long that it’s practically second nature now and I hardly ever even think about it any more, but eating Whole30 compliant involves a whole new level of thought about what I eat.

Overall it’s been going well. The first day I ate a piece of valentine’s candy without even thinking about it, but past that I have been able to stick to the plan.  It’s interesting to me how my first inclination around many types of food (mostly candy) is to pop it in my mouth without a second thought.

My body is having to get used to getting its fuel from healthy sources – I’m definitely having lots of sugar cravings!  Weird confession: I’ve even started a recipe board on Pinterest for all of the things I want to make after Lent is over.  The list is quite extensive.

As for the spiritual aspect of all this, it has definitely given me a pretty big reality check about my perspective on life.  When I realize that the thought of going without cookies or ice cream for 40 days makes me feel like I’m dyyyyyying, I’m reminded of how Jesus went 40 days in the wilderness without ANY food.  It also makes me start thinking about the many people around the globe who subsist on little more than bare necessities, and yet here I am groaning on about a break from my chocolate.  Definitely some food for thought.

Well, that’s my first week. Hopefully by next weekend I’ll be better adjusted to the sugar withdrawals!  I’m interested to see how my taste in food changes as my body detoxes from my major sweet tooth.

Listen to me: you are not unreasonable.

Today, I saw this article posted on Facebook.  It’s a worthwhile read and does a great job of identifying many traits of abusers that may often fly under the radar.  After I read it, I took a look at the comments on the Facebook post and found one that read:

This is a good article in some ways, but I did kind of think unless the guy is Jesus incarnate, he won’t make the cut.

And that makes me sad.

Abusive people are tricky.  They have an uncanny way of imperceptibly shifting your view of what is normal until finally your own version of reality doesn’t match up with real life.  They are exceptionally gifted at making you feel guilty for their actions, and one way they do this is by making their victims feel as though they are being unreasonable by holding to a certain standard of expected behavior.

Listen to me: you are not unreasonable.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect absolutely zero physical violence.  None. Zip. Zilch.  It is not normal for someone to physically harm you in reaction to ANYTHING.  This also includes things that may not hurt but are intended to frighten you, such as refusing to let go of your arm.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect someone to be able to handle any concern you have over their behavior.  Refusal to listen or angry outbursts are not normal or acceptable.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect acceptance of a differing opinion.  Normal people do not feel threatened when someone else’s thoughts are not the same as their thoughts, but for a manipulator, this is a sign that his control is slipping and will trigger frantic scrambling to get you to “come around”.  Don’t come around.  You are entitled to your own opinions.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect someone to be truthful.  Period.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect someone to treat other people with common courtesy.  All other people.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect and insist on respect for any personal boundaries you have set.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect to be treated as an equal.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect communication without yelling, berating, or belittling.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect someone to own up to and take responsibility for their own actions.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect autonomy over your own self and your actions – including what you eat, drink, wear and do, who you spend time with and where you go, what job you hold, etc.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect someone to deal with any negative fallout resulting from their own actions without shifting the blame or expecting you to come to the rescue.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect someone to take the initiative on any personal change they want to enact without requiring your involvement.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect for your own needs to be given weight and value.

It is absolutely reasonable to expect someone to take no for an answer.

Finally, it is absolutely reasonable to set and adhere to standards of expected behavior in others.

To a healthy person with healthy relationships, all of these seem to be plain common sense.  To someone in an abusive relationship, any of these can seem almost sacrilegious.  They are not.  Please, please take the time to really look over these and let them sink in.  If anything mentioned here makes you uncomfortable, that should be an enormous red flag that somewhere, something is seriously wrong.

You are equal to and have just as many rights as every other person on this planet.  Always remember that.

You are not unreasonable.

Listen to me.

Why I’m Observing Lent

I made a decision a few weeks ago to observe Lent, which begins on February 18th this year. This will be the first time I’ve done so, and I’d like to attempt to blog as a way of journaling through the process. My plan right now is to post a recap at the end of every week.

Since this is my first experience with Lent, I guess it’s pretty obvious that I’m not Catholic.  So why am I choosing to observe Lent this year?  I have several reasons, but first I’d like to talk about reasons that are not a factor in my decision.

Reasons that are NOT why I’m observing Lent:

  • Because I’m Catholic.  I was raised in the Church of Christ and still attend one today, although I don’t feel particularly strongly about identifying with a certain denomination.  Because of this, Lent has never been a part of my religious experience.
  • Because I believe that Christians are called to observe Lent. I do not feel that Lent is a command, but rather that it is a tool which some people may choose to use if they find it helpful for their own spiritual journey.
  • Because I think it will make me holier.  I do not believe that any actions I can do will make me “holier” or more acceptable to God.  In a weird way, you could almost say that this is something I’m doing for myself and not for God, in the sense that I’m doing it for my own spiritual growth and not solely to please him.
  • Because it allows me to share in the suffering of Jesus.  I’ve heard this explanation of Lent before, but I’m not sure if it’s a view held by the who actually observe it or one held by those who don’t understand it.  Either way, I think it’s incredibly degrading to compare your suffering from lack of chocolate to the suffering Jesus felt while being crucified.

Well, now that that’s out of the way, I’d like to discuss why I did decide to observe Lent.  I’ve put a lot of thought into this during the past couple of weeks, and here’s what I’ve come up with.

Reasons why I am observing Lent:

  • Because it’s a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice.  Although I stated above that I do NOT think Lent allows me to share in the suffering of Jesus, I do think it is a great way to turn my mind towards the sacrifice he made.  Every time I think of or desire whatever I’ve chosen to give up, it will be like a little post-it note reminder to think of what he gave up.
  • Because it’s a physical manifestation of a spiritual matter. It seems to me that some people greatly benefit from being able to have concrete physical experiences of God, while others get along perfectly well without.  I think I’m one of the former.  I’m choosing to observe Lent because what is happening with the body mirrors what is happening with the soul. I feel that it will be helpful to me to have a physical expression of the spiritual.
  • Because it’s a useful tool.  This is sort of a re-statement of both the point above and the earlier point about how I don’t believe it’s a command.  I don’t feel that everyone is called to observe Lent because I don’t believe it would benefit everyone in the same way.  For me, I think it will be helpful to have a sort of kinesthetic, hands-on experience.

So what did I decide to give up for Lent?  I’m glad you asked.  Originally, I was leaning towards giving up sweets, because I have a major sweet tooth and end up craving them in some form every day.  However, after a little more thought, I decided to expand on that and do a Whole 30 challenge (only modified for Lent, so it’s actually a Whole 40).  I feel that it’s the perfect thing for me for several reasons:

  • It will require conscious effort at each meal, which will give me ample opportunities for reflection.
  • I like the sort of physical reflection it is for the spiritual: you’re taking careful control of your body and feeding it the same kind of things (whole, pure foods) that you want to feed your soul.
  • In the same vein, you’re removing things like sugar that are pleasant at the time but are not entirely healthy.  This also mirrors an ideal spiritual situation.
  • Finally, it’s something I’ve been interested in doing before, but I’ve never quite had the motivation.  I feel like this is the perfect opportunity to help me stick with it and at the same time receive benefits that I wouldn’t have from trying it at any other time.

Well, there are my thoughts on that.  As I said, I’m hoping to post a recap at the end of every week containing my daily thoughts on how this is affecting me physically and spiritually.  If anyone else is choosing to observe Lent this year, I’d love to hear your experiences as well!

Girls, it’s time to stop dating losers.

But for real though.

I recently overheard a conversation between two of my college-aged peers during which one commiserated to her sympathetic friend about her guy troubles.  Basically, they were a “thing”, but then they broke up, but he says he still loves her and she loves him, but he won’t get back together with her and he keeps changing his mind.  And so then he calls her at 4 AM to pick him up because he’s drunk and they end up sleeping together, but they’re still not really together, you know? Oh yeah, and this has to be kept a secret from all of their friends, who are totally clueless (but not really) about their relationship status.  And she really just doesn’t know what’s going on and it’s so confusing and she wishes he would just make up his mind already.

Sound familiar?

This type story isn’t shocking.  In fact, I’d bet that every girl high-school aged or older has multiple friends or acquaintances who could tell a version of this same story, and that’s if it hasn’t happened to her too.  For some reason, this sort of “relationship” is now viewed as the norm.  No one likes it, as is evidenced by everybody bemoaning complicated relationships to their bestie, but most women seem to see it as an inescapable reality that they’ll have to trudge through if they ever want to find true love.

That’s a lie.

Girls, it’s time to stop dating losers.

Believe it or not, it’s not inevitable.  It’s time to stop accepting the lie we’ve been fed that it’s ok to put up with bad treatment because that’s just how dating works.  I’ve done quite a bit of thinking on this subject lately, and I’d like to offer my thoughts on a few vital points of this issue.

1.  Good relationships start with self respect.

This is true in any area of life, not just in the dating world.  Ladies, your self respect is contagious. As a general rule, no one is going to respect you more than respect yourself.  If you feel that you’re only worth bad or mediocre relationships, they are what you will end up with.  Realize that you have just as much of a right to respect as anyone else, and don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and demand it.  You’re worth more than mediocre.  In the words of Christopher Robin: “You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”  Take some time to build your sense of self worth and don’t settle.

2.  All guys are not like that.

photo 2

Me & my guy

I feel that perhaps the most pervasive part of the jerk-dating phenomenon is the belief that “guys are just like that”.  I’m here to tell you that, shockingly enough, men do exist who will value you for more than just a drunken fling.  I’ve been in an amazing relationship with an absolutely wonderful guy for nearly two years now, and having first-hand experience with being loved and respected only makes me see more clearly the contrast between this and the way that many guys use girls.  When it comes to dating, you’ll end up with the kind of guy you’re expecting – so make sure your expectations are high.  There are guys out there looking for girls who care.  Promise.

3.  People will live up to – or down to – your expectations.

This point is really just an extension of the two above.  I’ve mostly heard it used in the context of working with children, but boy, does it ever apply to relationships as well.  If you expect men to treat you with respect and integrity, they will – otherwise, you wouldn’t be spending your time around them.  Conversely, if you expect to be used and objectified, you will allow yourself to be treated in ways that you shouldn’t.  In many ways, relationships are a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy – your preconceived notions about how things should be, even the subconscious ones, will eventually play out.  It pays to re-examine your beliefs and make doubly sure that you are holding the bar high enough.

4.  You don’t need a boyfriend.

Think about this concept.  I know it’s flung around to the point that it sort of goes in one ear and out the other, but take a minute to really think about it.  You don’t need a boyfriend.  In fact, everyone needs some time without a boyfriend.  You need time from a single perspective to figure out who you are and realize that you are a pretty awesome person all on your own.  You need to learn to love and respect yourself so that in the future you are able to hold others to that standard as well.  It sounds counter-intuitive, but before you have a boyfriend, you should be in a place where you are comfortable with not having one.  To have a strong, healthy relationship, you need to be able to love the individual you – and to realize that the person you truly are isn’t in any way affected by your relationship status.

I’m writing this post with the hope that I can help you to realize how much you truly are worth.  I know of so many people who deserve so much better than they are getting and don’t even realize it.  Please, don’t let that be you.  If you need to, take some time off of dating to get to know yourself again.  Learn to love yourself and cultivate a healthy amount of self-worth.  Realize what a perfect and unique creation you are.  As Dr. Seuss says:

“Today you are you; that is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is you-er than you.”

Girls, always remember that.  Don’t let anyone treat you like you are anything less than the insanely amazing person that you are.

Because you are worth it.