What God Does in the Discomfort

Patience and perseverance are not two of my strongest qualities.

Unlike some of the Olympian greats, I prefer not to work hard, push through tough circumstances or wait extended periods of time to arrive at what I want.

I prefer instant results with the least amount of work and discomfort possible. (Someone write this on an inspirational poster.)

Max and I have been working out together lately, and I am fairly certain he has started to realize that getting me from the parking lot of the gym to actually being inside the gym requires much more emotional and physical energy than the workout itself. The 100 yards from the car to the gym doors require a mental toughness and the patience of a practicing Monk.

The monk and me in happier times.

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Last week, we had to run into the store before working out, and I told him I wished I would get caught shoplifting and taken to jail so I didn’t have to work out.

*Disclaimer: I do not steal and have never stolen. This simply illustrates the emotional turmoil I experience the minutes before working out and the lengths, in that emotional state, I feel I would go to avoid it

I came up with many ideas of things we could do besides work out: eat, snack, lay around and watch TV; all of which sounded much more appealing than the gym and would feel much better in that moment.

On the walk from the car to the gym, I can come up with 10,000 reasons not to enter it.

I’m too tired.

My brain hurts.

I have other things to do.

I hate it.

Sadly, there have been many times I literally arrive at the gym, pull in the parking lot, park and then turn around and go home. No thank you.

But Max held firm to our scheduled work out, knowing full well that in one hour, when the workout was over, I would feel energized, happy and proud of myself for being physically active. It would be worth it for me.

We get into the gym, change in the locker room, and I meet him by one of the machines to begin the experience of physical activity. After just a few minutes, I whisper

“How much longer until this is over?”

Max just looks at me.

However, without fail, as I begin to put in the work, break a sweat and get active, I feel so much better. The endorphins start flowing, and all of a sudden I announce how much I love working out and how maybe I could even train for a marathon or do one of those 30 day cleanses to purify my system so I could be a spokesperson for healthy living.

Again, he just looks at me as I have gone from one extreme, preferring prison over the gym, to sudden motivation to push my body to the highest level of athleticism.  He knows we will go through the same emotional roller coaster together in 2 days. He continues lifting.

If I have learned anything over the years, I have learned that my emotions and my feelings cannot be used as tour guides or directors for arriving at what is best for me.

In the past, some of the best paths the Lord has placed me on felt like way too much work and  and way too painful.  Many of the best decisions I have made were often the most terrifying and the most uncomfortable. Choosing another way would have felt so much better at the time.

Looking back now, Praise Jesus I fought through that pain and held on. His greatest blessings came through my biggest disappointments and challenges that felt horrible.

Look at the stakes in this tree: I bet that tree is pretty uncomfortable. He wants to be free of that discomfort and stand up on his own. All the other trees look big and full and healthy, and these stakes feel as if they are getting in the way of that. But those stakes are designed to support, protect and make the tree stronger in the long run, allowing roots to grow. He will feel full and healthy when he makes it through this. Although momentarily painful- enduring this season is important for this tree if he wants to withstand the winds and storms that are coming his way. His roots have to be developed and strengthened. It’s not his time yet.

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While making decisions based on  feelings may satisfy short term discomfort, like the stakes in the tree, long term joy and fulfillment comes when you push through tough situations, do the hard, but right thing, and hold fast through the discomfort.

Unfortunately, most times in our lives, the results are not as instantaneous as how we feel pre-workout and post-workout.

A lot of times, like the tree, you may have the uncomfortable stakes in place for years before you can see why they were necessary in the first place.

How many times in my life have I thought I knew what was best for me?

I can actually answer that question by saying almost every single day.

Almost every day of my life, I could believe that what is best for me is what would make me feel good at that moment.

What quick decision or step could satisfy this longing, desire or discomfort?

In the case of right and wrong: agreeing with someone and not standing up for something I know is Biblical because it feels yucky and offensive.

In the case of friendship and relationships: holding on to bitterness because forgiveness feels so much harder.

The hard conversations that would be easier avoided.

In the case of the gym: going home and laying down with a jar of peanut butter.

Clearly I am using the gym as a deep and academic metaphor for the times in our life where God is using a little bit (or lot bit) of discomfort to achieve a purpose bigger than us.

Something where you know God has you there for a reason, but it would be super easy to take the escape route to avoid the pain.

 

But what is God doing in the discomfort and the stretching?

What purpose or lesson is God teaching me or using me for in that season?

There are many situations in life that feel so uncomfortable at the time, but prove to be the very things that shape us and grow us and mold us.

Throughout my life, I have done everything in my power to manipulate circumstances to quickly achieve whatever the desired outcome was. God usually takes longer than I prefer, so I have been known to take a step before the path is ready.

The results are usually faster, but never, ever better than the outcome God had waiting for me.

Like clockwork, my premature actions trying to band-aid and quick fix my momentary discomfort results in a messy explosion, me laying my plans at His feet and Him ultimately having His way in me. His better way.

My human tendency is going to always be to try to weasel my way out of discomfort to get momentary relief, or an illusion or cheap substitute of what I want.

To take off the stakes that are supporting me and developing me. To leave the gym as soon as I get there because I’m in a bad mood. To leave a situation before God is finished working on it.

 

I’ve been on a journey the past few years to stop letting my ever-changing emotions make decisions for me.

The walk from the car to the gym can be a long one. You want to turn around and take the easy way out. The stakes might be uncomfortable. You want to remove them.

But I’ve learned, and am still learning, to grow in the discomfort, push through the things that don’t always “feel good,” and believe that when it’s all over, I will look back, stronger, happier, healthier and so very glad I didn’t go home to snack the night away on Schuler’s cheese (with a hint of horseradish) and crackers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For everyone trying to lose 10 pounds this New Year: Love yourself first

I have cried over the number on the scale.

I’ve lied about it, too. (Even to treadmills at the gym. It’s almost 2016 and machines totally have the ability to judge us).

I have Googled the number and stressed over the number, desperately wishing it were different.

I’ve spent most of my life trying to lose 10 pounds. A lifelong diet, if you will.

The number on the scale has always been an issue for me.

I am not considered heavy by any means, and if you looked at me you might even roll your eyes that I even struggle with this, but due to a muscular build and a wider, athletic frame, I have always weighed a lot more than I would like.

 

I have learned a lot from being on a lifelong diet. I am still a work in progress, but have come a long way since crying over the number on the scale.

Here are some things I have learned from always trying to lose 10 pounds:

  1. Maybe this is the way my body is supposed to be

We are all made differently and no matter how many times I stare at a picture of a supermodel, or no matter how many times I choose broccoli over brownies, I am simply not going to look like her. My body was not designed to look like that.

Perhaps being healthy and average is what my body was made to be. I love to push my body physically, but even in the best shape of my life, I am only going to look like the best version of myself. No one else.

     2. Celebrate what my body is, instead of what it isn’t

I have stood in front of a mirror for too many wasted hours in my life.

I could pick apart a dozen things I would change about it. Over the years, I have learned to re-focus that criticism to reflect and celebrate the things my body is. I have strong legs that run and squat.

I have wide hips that will someday make child-birth possible. I have a body that does amazing things every second of every day.

When you look at your body for what it is, an incredible machine, it takes the focuses off the things you consider imperfections.

    3. Just eat the cookie- The broken pieces still count as calories

I am the ultimate grazer. I won’t actually sit down and have a piece of pie, but I will wander into the kitchen with a fork and take a few bites out of it every twenty minutes. I am known to skim the top of the carton of ice cream with a spoon (seven times a day).

I’m a smart girl, and I don’t know who I think I am fooling doing this. I have these little rituals that prevent full enjoyment.

I could sit down with a beautiful piece of cake (yes, beautiful is a totally acceptable word that describes cake) and enjoy it. Talk with family, lick the frosting off my lip.

Instead, I deprive myself of the experience, and then get a cheaper, less fulfilling version of it through sneaky bites.

Those calories still count. Just sit and eat the cake.

    4. Life is too short

It really is. I am an absolute advocate for healthy lifestyles and everything in moderation (though I don’t always take my own advice), but living a life  of constant restriction and fear of gaining weight robs you of so much joy.

I can’t tell you how many times I ordered a small salad while my friends enjoyed a nice dinner out, and instead of being present in the moment, I was obsessing about the food I was putting into my body…and stealing fries and onion rings from my friends’ plates.

When you struggle with eating issues, food has a way of taking residence into every part of your mind.

Once, I was so deep into my unhealthy, low-carb diet that I struggled to even take communion at church. I wasn’t supposed to eat carbs and that small wafer was certainly not on my food list, and don’t even get me started on the sugar in the grape juice.

It’s a joy stealer. Be present, order a meal that you love, and enjoy it.

Life is too short to obsess over every calorie you put in your body.

5. Unconditional Relationships don’t change

As far as I know, my mom still has extravagant love for me even when my pants fit a little tighter.

My best friends don’t see “gross” or “fat” when we are rolling on the floor belly laughing over something we heard on TV.

Despite how you may feel about yourself, the people that love you in your life don’t see what you see. They don’t. And even if they did, they would love you the same.

 

    6. If you don’t love yourself 10 pounds heavier, you won’t love yourself 10 pounds lighter.

I have been ten pounds heavier than I am right now, and I have been ten pounds lighter than I am right now.

My clothes fit me differently, but how I feel about myself at the core does not change.

It doesn’t.

If you don’t love yourself how you are in this very minute, I can promise you won’t love yourself ten pounds from now.

You might look a little better in a bathing suit.

You might have a few less rolls.

But losing ten pounds will not make you love yourself.

You have to love yourself exactly where you are right now.

Learn to love yourself now and make your decisions for your body from a place of love, and not a place of self-hate and criticism.

I am not saying that trying to lose weight is a bad thing. In fact, after this holiday season, most of my pants don’t currently fit me, and it is time for me to start watching what I eat again. However, what I have learned trying to lose 10 pounds is that the condition of your mind and heart is everything.

Like millions of Americans, I am going to try to make healthier choices this coming new year, but unlike my mindset for most of my life, I am not doing this to impress others or finally accept myself. I love who I am right now, bulging pants and all.

I am doing it out of a place of love for my body and a desire to feel good about how I am treating it.

So, if you’re thinking about losing a few this new year, please keep in mind that you are beautiful and accepted no matter what that scale says. If you succeed and totally dominate your resolution, be proud.

But your worth does not change based on what you weigh.

You are beautiful on January 1, and you are beautiful on February 17  if you throw in the towel and head for the cheese fries.

Count blessings…and calories in moderation.

xoxo

Jen