I love social media. Despite its obvious flaws (trolls, mean girls, instant gratification, highlight reels, etc.), I prefer to see and use the good inherent in it. It connects me to friends that live across oceans, whom I would otherwise never see or hear on a regular basis. It provides me with opinion and viewpoints different from my own. On occasion, when others are brave enough to lift the Instagram filter veil, it lets me know that I am not alone in my struggles. I can only hope that I use my own social media presence to bring the information, encouragement, and happy entertainment that I seek for myself on these platforms.
This morning, on Instagram, Ann Voskamp’s feed gave me this soul nugget:
“The world has enough women who live a masked insecurity. It needs more women who live a brave vulnerability.” – Ann Voskamp
Let me get vulnerable for you. And don’t mistake it for bravery. This is just me working out my knots.
I’ve been struggling with a growing insecurity, trying very hard to mask it. It is deep sense of inadequacy that is directly connected to my body image. As the scale rises, as my closet shrinks, my self-confidence has dropped in correlation. As I made some preparations for trying to conceive (namely going off contraceptives), my stomach and hips have steadily grown. Despite increased efforts of diet and exercise, my hormones are in full control of my body size. I am insecure, embarrassed, inadequate in my helplessness to be the fit girl I identified as. I have connected a large part of my identity with health and fitness, also equating this with body image and body size. This is a mistake on several levels.
First, scientifically, your body size is not a reliable reflection of your actual health and fitness. A 2008 study in The Archives of Internal Medicine looked at several cardiovascular health markers, like cholesterol and blood pressure, in over 5000 adults of various weights. About half of the overweight or obese people in the study had concerning cardiovascular numbers. But that means that half of them were internally healthy! Thin adults were less likely to have unhealthy markers, but about 1/4 of them still had them. Logically, we know carrying extra weight can make you more prone for diabetes and heart disease. But this study clearly documents that body size isn’t a reliable indicator for overall health. There is MUCH more at play.
My head knows this; I have been lapped by many heavier runners on a race course. But it hasn’t taken root in my heart. Which brings me to the next part of my mistaken connection…
Second, and most importantly, body size is not an accurate representation of my identity. I am not my dress size. I am also not my health markers or my fitness level. If I were to get sick or become disabled, I am still the same soul. I am still a child of God, His creation, a daughter and sister in His family, a warrior for the Kingdom, and princess of the King. Every time I throw another too tight pair of pants in the growing pile on my closet floor, I feel like I’m losing a piece of myself. But this is a good lesson. I am learning that my reflection in the mirror doesn’t matter. It is my reflection in the eyes of God that I need to be worried about. I am still in the middle of this battle, but I see the way out.
Another of my favorite social media personalities, Jordan Lee Dooley, creator of Soul Scripts, posted this YouTube video. I want to watch it again and again and again.
One of my favorite parts about this conversation, is the recognition that being a child of God, embracing my defining identity as a Christian, does NOT mean that I am ‘letting myself go.’ I am still called to be a good steward of my body, God’s creation. It is a temple for the Holy Spirit, which calls that I treat it with respect and care. I am the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth; the stronger I am, the more I can do for Him. He is glorified in my strength, but He is also present and glorified in my weakness.
As the new year approaches, the temptation to jump into the diet and fitness craze is strong. There’s a motivation in the mob mentality of everyone getting fit, healthy, skinny for the new year. New beginnings are always exciting. I plan to take part in the idea of a fresh start and new focus on health, but I’m expanding the definition of that health to include mind, body, and soul. I want to accept and rejoice in my body, its limitations and its strengths, as a God-given gift. I want to devote myself to its stewardship for His purposes and His delight, not my own worldly concerns of dress sizes and flattering selfies.
We are barely one week into Advent, a time of designated waiting. In the church tradition, we are waiting for the birth of Christ, the Messiah’s entrance into the world. We are told to be watchful during our wait, to prepare for His coming.
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'” – Mark 13:33-37
The sense of anticipation and drive to prepare is echoed in our secular traditions. Advent calendars, Christmas shopping, holiday music… all of this increase our sense of excited anticipation. Children are the clearest mirrors of this, simply bubbling over with impatience for the day. We are all waiting and preparing for big parties and family gathers. I know I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed at the demands upon our time and budget. In our rush to please, we pack the calendar and our shopping lists. FOMO creeps in as we see others posting on social media about fun family activities, crazy Elf on the Shelf antics, and heart-warming charitable work. Yet we can hope and pray that all this frantic activity will mean we are fully prepared and can get the most out of the holiday. We are buying gifts, making lists, wrapping presents, decorating, cooking, sending cards, and generally scrambling to get it all done ahead of Christmas.
To sum it up, we are all waiting and preparing for fulfillment.
This time of year, whether you are religious or not, brings a sense of yearning to the front of our lives. Desire and anticipation. It is okay, expected, and encouraged to want for something around Christmas. Even in the Grinch-y-est of people, there is a sense of hope and possibility that the holes this imperfect world creates might be filled during Christmas. That we might get our wishes. That we might come out on the other side feeling complete. How else do we explain our love of Hallmark Christmas movies?
It’s pretty hope, with sparkly bows and angel trees. But it’s misplaced. And ultimately a dangerous lie.
As a stress-eater extraordinaire, I will never say that a bowl of popcorn or cup of hot chocolate can’t be therapeutic for your stress levels. But calories don’t fill that empty space in your soul. I know this on an intellectual level, though my stomach and will-power seem to still be in denial. While I get super excited when sweet potato casserole season arrives, that sugary pecan crust will not make me a whole person. Neither will presents, parties, wine, cookies, twinkle lights, Santa, shopping, or stockings.
Before you start thinking that I’m going to preach ‘Reason for the Season’ and beat that particular Bible over your head… that won’t work either. Even if you are putting forth all the effort in the world to create a Jesus-centered Christmas, with advent wreaths, Nativity scenes, and daily scripture readings. Let’s keep that Christian high-horse in the barn. True, you will likely receive much more personal spiritual edification that way. Anytime we genuinely come to Him for nourishment, we will be fed. But to imagine you will find complete fulfillment is denying a hard truth and setting yourself up for disappointment when the warmth of the hot chocolate and the glow of the candles die out. Our Christmas holiday does not fix our world. It cannot fix us. This world will reopen the wounds and create new holes as fast as we try to fill them. Until we go Home to Jesus or He comes to us , we are incomplete.
I’m not trying to depress anyone or dampen the Christmas spirit. We simply need to remember what we are waiting for and remind ourselves that we are still waiting for it after December 25th. The symbolic waiting and preparation of Advent culminates in our Christmas celebrations. We should certainly celebrate the birth of Christ because it is the birth of HOPE. Without Christmas, there is no hope in the future, no light in the darkness. But we wait for and celebrate a birth, a beginning. We are still waiting for the end of the story, for the true fulfillment that won’t come until He comes again.
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
with the mountains quaking before you,…
while you wrought awesome deeds we could not hope for,
such as they had not heard of from of old.
No ear has ever heard, no eye ever seen, any God but you
doing such deeds for those who wait for him. – Isaiah 63:19-64:3
I am over the Christmas rush, the stress, the expectations. Before it even began, I was over it. But I still love to play my Christmas records and decorate the tree. In the midst of it call, despite the frustration, we CAN recapture the innocent wonder and magic we felt as carefree children. We CAN remember that our traditions and activities are symbolic of a bigger picture. This season can teach us wait with watchful anticipation, and to carry that into the rest of the year. It can remind us of what we want for the world, for ourselves. Peace on Earth and goodwill towards men pair just as well with pool parties and cookouts as they do with carols and eggnog.
More videos coming at ya! I’m serious; if you aren’t subscribed to my Youtube, ya need to be.
Anyway, I’m getting pretty decent at this packing thing. I learn something every single time I go. And I realize I can take less and less each time. Next time we do this, I’m packing in a carry-on. For real. I know I can do this. I may check the thing so I don’t have to lug it around or find overhead space for it (as international flights usually include one checked bag in your ticket), but I just don’t need that much stuff. I’ll have to do a post about the necessary outfits you need, and then what you DON’T NEED (which might even be more important).
I have a T-Minus 1 Day Packing Tips video to share as well as a small series of ‘Must-Have Travel Accessories’. So here ya go!
Packing Tips for International Travel
Must-Have Travel Accessories
I’m all about weightlifting right now. Because I’m all about putting on muscle so I can EAT ALL THE FOOD. Seriously. Lean muscle increases your insulin sensitivity, increases your resting caloric burn, and has loads of other health benefits (strong bones, less disease, etc.).
So I’m super excited that Sagi Kalev is launching 5 new advanced weightlifting workouts on Beachbody On Demand this week. I’ll be reviewing each day and posting on YouTube. I’ll embed them here on my website too, but head over to YouTube and subscribe to my channel to make sure you don’t miss any awesome content.
Instead of posting 5 separate times, I’ll just update this post with all 5 videos as we go along. If you want to check out these workouts yourself, just head here for a free trial of BOD.
Here’s how I organize my own workout split, plan my workouts, and generally keep it together. There are dry erase boards and notecards involved. Because I’m an organization nerd. Now if that only extended into my housework.
If you want to do the Week of Hard Labor with me (I explain this in the video), even if you’re starting well after I do on the 4th, just send me a message on my website or comment below here. You can get a free 14 day trial of the streaming service I use right here: https://www.teambeachbody.com/signup/…
Other links to stuff I use in this video…
Dry Erase Calendar: http://amzn.to/2x3O7lC
Notecard Case: http://amzn.to/2vWANuu
My Favorite Pre-Workout: https://teambeachbody.com/shop/-/shop…
Workout Elastic Bands: http://amzn.to/2wyQEBe
Dumbbell Weights: http://amzn.to/2vXlstj
Yoga Mat: http://amzn.to/2wziYU0
*Yes, these are affiliate links, which means purchasing stuff through them could get me paid a wee bit. As always, feel free to google search for the stuff on your own if you have a problem with that. No hard feelings.*
I’ll always LOVE fitness and health. It’s my daily jam. But let’s be honest… working out is what keeps me sane in between vacations.
I can plan a trip like no one’s business.
Except Disney trips. I leave that to my BFF Ashlee. Theme parks intimidate me.
But random little places in the backwaters of Eastern Europe? I gotcha. Major historical reenactments? All me. Paying cash for a seat on a Russian chartered flight out of the Beirut airport to get into Northern Iraq/Kurdistan? I’ve done that. I’m not saying it was the best idea, but I’m still alive and benefited greatly from the experience.
I’ve realized over the past few years that many people will simply book a tour, join a group, or hire a travel agent. All valid choices. I will never knock someone’s efforts to see the world. But tour buses give me hives. While I have been on some good group tours, I’ve also been trapped in a few terrible ones, which tour guides being paid on the side to take you to the kitsch shops instead of the places you actually want to go.
I’m a lone wolf traveler. Wait…I might have to make that a hashtag. Anyway…the video series.
This is a four part series with ten total steps of how I plan the trip. All videos can be found below!
Please subscribe to my YouTube channel and like these videos. It really helps my channel, and it assures that you won’t miss any future videos!
If I didn’t love Beachbody On Demand enough, they bring me new content from none other than the motivation man himself… Shaun T!
You will know him from his crazy cardio programs like Insanity, Insanity Max 30, and Asylum as well as the fun dance cardio of CIZE and the ever classic Hip Hop Abs. We were all itching for the next level from him, and he BROUGHT IT.
Starting on Monday, June 12, Beachbody On Demand released a new Shaun T workout each day for the entire week. SHAUN WEEK! Kind of like shark week; less blood, more sweat.
Despite the fact that I had promised to fill in for a friend who was on vacation and teach P90X every day at lunch that week, I STILL took the Shaun Week challenge. I LOVED it. It was hard, but they were quick.
The schedule was simple… one workout each day… No accompanying meal plan. This isn’t a program that’s meant to completely change your body in one week. That would be impossible and unhealthy. It’s meant to get you moving, inspired, and motivated to keep going. If you can set a small goal and accomplish it, it sets you up for success with future goals. There is also a modifier that even uses a chair instead of getting down onto the floor. Shaun T wanted to make these workouts accessible to everyone, and they are!
And the program is short enough that you can finish it TWICE on a free trial of the BOD Streaming service. Just click here to check it out.
I filmed some of my workout each day and followed with a review. Without further ado…