May is for Superheroes: The Teacher Homestretch

I’m exhausted.

Last week I had a student ask me if he could play me a song on his nose.

Befuddled, I nodded. They didn’t teach me how to answer that question in college.

He proceeded to place a finger on the side of his nostril and create a rattly humming sound as he “played” me a very unique rendition of Jingle Bells. I stood there in the hallway, questioning my life, and listened. Listening turned into singing as I joined my student in the medley. There I stood in the middle of the hallway, performing a nostril duet to a Christmas song.

Tomorrow is May 1. The official start of the homestretch (according to the calendar based on my opinion and perspective).

Like most teachers, I am looking ahead to the last day of school like it’s a light at the end of the tunnel. A shining beacon of hope that calls me to keep walking as the days feel impossibly long and the list of spring commitments grows impossibly more extensive.

I have reached the point where I would rather pull my hair out than say “Bummer” one more time.

Yes, Timmy, it is a bummer that you tied your shoelaces together and now you can’t walk.

I probably say “bummer” as many times as I hear my own name in one day (70,000).

I’ve reached the point where I have heard about so many lost teeth that when they tell me they lost a tooth, I tell them “I hope you find it” and laugh hysterically at my own joke.

It’s the time of the year that I’m questioning everything:

Can I do this? No, like seriously; is this actually possible?

Will I make it until June 14? Will those around me make it until June 14 having to deal with me?

Am I actually losing my mind or does it just appear that way in every facet possible?

I am so tired. Everything in me wants to auto-pilot the next 30 school days, getting through them with caffeine and a prayer. And while I will use both of those things in excessive amounts over the next month or so, I really want to fight the urge to mentally check out.

As summer break draws near and even as the curriculum winds down, those kids still deserve the best version of me. I think it’s possible to still look forward to summer yet live mindfully over the next 6 weeks.

In many classrooms in my district, we have been focusing on mindfulness with our students. With so many distractions, being present in the current moment is now something that really has to be taught, especially to some of our children who struggle behaviorally.

If I am going to practice mindfulness over the next few weeks, I am able to still be excited for summer, however I can’t be living there.

I can look forward to the pool time without inflating the floats and sleeping on them nightly.

The kids in front of us in May need us as much as they did in September. It may feel like we have nothing left to give: no ounce of creative energy, no ability to write another learning objective, no patience to respond kindly when a student still hasn’t learned an appropriate time to ask to use the restroom.

But the month of May is where the inner-super-hero comes out. Somehow we do it, year after year. We make it until the last day of school, sometimes with sanity hanging by a thread, but we do it.

We are going to make it. We are. The goal I am putting in front of myself is to not wish away each day, because the days go fast. The year has been like a  movie roll: month after month changing the calendar in the front of the room wondering, “How did we get here?”

I don’t want to wish away the years of my life, looking only forward to the next chapter (no matter how needed or well-deserved it is).

Even the day that feels the longest flies by and the years whiz past right along with them;  I don’t want to wish them away.

The weeks that are left, as exhausting as they will be, still have little moments that are going to feed my soul. They will have giggles and “aha” moments and new discovery. They will have dry markers, broken pencils, squirrelly behavior and probably some tears on my end and the students. But we are going to make it because that’s what we do.

Finish strong, stay in the moment and caffeinate regularly. Recommended dosage is 4 cups a day. Superheroes need their fuel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Old Has Gone

 

On rare occasion I get into the type of mood that can only be described as the “Perfect Storm.” I am overly caffeinated and faced with a large chunk of time to myself (which is why this is so rare) , when suddenly it’s like all the clutter around me becomes unbearable.

All at once, instead of seeing specks of dirt, I see mountains of grime and skin cells and coffee rings. The crumbs on the floor come to life and speak to me, taunting me for eating pretzels in bed again. The laundry I haven’t put away turns into accusing shouts that I am the worst person in the world because I own FAR too many clothes and wear none of them.

The piles around me begin to close in and the room spins and traps me in my own personal nightmare (not to be dramatic).

95% of my life I live in the land of piles.

Piles in my bathroom. Piles in my car. Piles in my classroom.

Piles are THE BEST because you can make things look neat and organized, but truthfully under the stack is an old kleenex, a magazine for 2007, last year’s tax return and 30 days worth of junk mail. Piles are the perfect tricksters to make people think you have things under control.

Every 2-3 months, my roommate will gently move my beautiful piles into my room, forcing me to confront the issue.

Tonight, in that mood, I decided it was time to get rid of everything and anything I didn’t need anymore.  This was project 1 of many, as I simultaneously texted Max that I wanted to open a new credit card and then rearrange the furniture in my room. He is trained to recognize and talk me down whilst in these moods, so he lovingly told me I needed to focus on one thing at a time. So I went after the piles with a fiery vengeance.

I started shredding mail that was lying around, filling up garbage bags of trinkets and broken phone chargers and sticky notes.

It felt so good to get the clutter out- the stuff I just didn’t need that was taking up so much space.

Then I went into my closet and stared at a pile that has been bothering me for awhile.

On the top shelf of my closet sat eight colorful journals, pages filled with the documentation of my life up until about a year ago.

I haven’t journaled much this year; maybe a few pages, and ironically, the last 12 months have been the healthiest, most life-giving, blessed, beautiful redeeming months of my life, yet I couldn’t bring myself to open the pages and begin to write.

They are the stories I have waited my whole life to tell- full of love and growth and laughter and grace- but I didn’t tell them.

This year was the result of surrendering my life to God and submitting to His plan for me. This year was beautiful. But I didn’t write.

This year, I couldn’t bring myself to journal because I didn’t want to remember where I had been.

Those old journals are pages filled with self-doubt, cycles of sin, destructive relationships, life crippling  anxiety, body image issues and wrong decisions.

Part of me thought that opening those pages again would somehow erase the work God has done in my life the past year. I feel SO totally different than the person I used to be, that even the same process of journaling was too close of an association.

So I kept them hidden.

Seeing them up there would many times trigger a physical anxious response in me.

Opening them meant re-visiting a me I wish I never was.

They have been a pile haunting me for awhile.

Those journals represent darkness, but that’s no longer where I am.

I am walking in the light.

Tonight I decided it was time to let them go.

I stretched up to the top shelf of my closet and I lowered the heavy pile of floral journals.

I thumbed through a few pages and immediately regretted it as I flashed back to situations and memories I wanted to forget. I put them next to each other and I began to reflect on who I am now and from where He has brought me.

He brought me from brokenness and restored my heart.

He showered every dark situation from my life with his beautiful, bright light and forgave me and changed me and made me whole.

He gave me a new standard for living, a new understanding of His word and His law, and transformed a heart hardened by fear into one overflowing with His love.

Back then, I wanted instant change  and relief from my struggles, but instead the past  year I  have begun to understand the slow, steady,  painful process of sanctification.

I’m not sure why I kept those journals. I guess I never even considered the idea of getting rid of them. It was my past and I am stuck looking at it and being reminded of it- the punishment fits the crime.

But I am not who I once was. I struggle still and I have hard days. I battle insecurity, but no longer do I live in bondage and fear. Visiting those pages was like reading the words of a stranger. I do not need to keep those memories as proof of God’s redeeming work in me.

The proof of His redemptive work is in every breath I breathe.

I will sing of His glorious transforming power until the day I die, but I don’t have to live  in the past anymore. I don’t have to punish myself with flashbacks in order to measure my growth.

I loaded up the bags of trash to take out to the dumpster. Typically one for pomp and circumstance, I usually would want some dramatic ceremony to celebrate being free from the past and this giant step in moving forward.

But God’s work in me was not flashy. It wasn’t always pretty. It usually didn’t feel like a celebration. It worked into the top layers of my heart until it penetrated the innermost parts of my soul.

I took a deep breath and I flung the bag of journals into the dumpster.

And I walked away.

Thank you Jesus for setting me free.  I’m never going back.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old things have passed away. Behold, all things have become new. 

Jenna

 

 

 

**Also, if you are in a junkyard and happen to find a bag of flowery looking journals, please either burn them in a bonfire or turn the plots of the journals into a made for TV movie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

IMG_6302.jpg

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.

img_6721

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Matter Where You Are On Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s 2009: Went to Pizza Hut on a double date, saw “He’s Just Not that into you” and promptly broke off the relationship the next day (got back together 5 days later)

2300_51660363804_1731_n

Brittany and Ryan. And Pizza Hut Pizza. #valentinesdoubledate

Valentine’s 2010: Young and in love- Went to a banquet where no dancing was allowed so we just took pictures

19635_292731388804_391317_n.jpg

19635_292731298804_8324227_n

I had just learned how to curl my hair. Amazing.

 

*As I was going through pictures, I realized that I was pretty much always with my college roommate, Brittany around the Valentine’s holiday. Since I obviously am not going to post pictures from my own relationships, (that is a WHOLE new level of Taylor Swift), I am having pictures of me, Brittany and Ryan tell the stories. I don’t technically have permission to do this but I just group texted them letting them know.

IMG_3780

**Brit just texted back: we are all good

IMG_3782

Valentine’s 2011: Young and in love- celebrating a 2 year anniversary and all things Valentines in Chicago

168931_10150096234138805_3170199_n

Cookies and coffee circa 2011

Valentine’s 2012: Heartbroken, country playlist on repeat for the remainder of 2012

395761_10150608562928805_1219218222_n

February 2012 with my roommate. Pretending to be happy but slowly dying inside.

Valentine’s 2013: Still kind of heartbroken, but back in the game

13096_10151413836718805_403169052_n-2

Starting to feel bad that I spent pretty much every Valentine’s weekend with her….Sorry Ryan #needyfriend

 

Valentine’s 2014: Got into an argument over dessert, made Valentine’s dinner with the peel still on the shrimp so had to spit out the skin onto napkins. Ordered iHop for breakfast the next day to make up for the fight.

IMG_7632.jpg

Pancakes fix everything

Valentine’s 2015: Reeling from a breakup 4 days before. Worked in the church nursery, went to Applebee’s at 11pm with a friend. Was in email communication about of buying  $800 hypoallergenic cat to fill the empty spots in my heart

choc.female3

A picture of the  actual $800 kitten I almost bought myself

 

Valentine’s 2016: Absolutely, totally content 5 days a week. Need reminders about God’s plan and encouragement from friends 2 days a week. Loving and appreciating contentment in this stage of my life. Thankful for amazing friends, the most precious nephew, and an incredible family. Crazy about my job. Happy. On a sugar high from Valentine’s cards from the kiddos:

IMG_3783.jpg

Thanks, kids.

IMG_3756

The strongest romantic feelings I have currently are about lipstick. And that’s fine with me.

 

Over the past 7 or 8 years, I have experienced pretty much every emotion about Valentine’s Day.

 

Hating it.

Loving it.

Indifferent to it.

Feelings are temporary. Rough patches don’t last forever. Broken hearts mend,  time passes. God heals, friends encourage.

Wherever you are this Valentine’s Day, take it for what it is. A day in a season of your life. A day. Not a day that defines you. It’s not even a day that says anything about you at all.

It’s a 24 hour period that may evoke some emotions within you, and that’s okay. Because before you know it, it’s over and nothing has changed. This is a moment in the timeline of your life.

I never thought I would be where I am this Valentine’s Day of 2016. But over the years, I have learned that some of my most intense disappointments have been God’s biggest blessings.

It has been a journey of ups and downs: Pizza Hut and cats and Applebee’s and pancake breakfasts. But you know what? I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Happy Valentine’s Day, no matter where you are on your timeline.

xoxo

Jenna

 

 

 

When God Closes a Door, He Can Do More Than Open a Window.

I don’t particularly like the saying, “When God closes a door, He opens a window.”

As someone who has walked face-first into many of her own doors (both figuratively and literally), I find this line a little depressing.

Because my doors have been really pretty.

My doors have had some really awesome stuff behind them, just waiting for me to experience:

Leaving a job I already loved for an  ‘even better dream job’ 3 years ago

Marrying the person I thought should have been the right one

Being Captain of Safety Patrol in 5th grade

Playing college sports

Getting cast as ANYTHING in the Civic Theater’s production of “Annie” in 1999. (I still rehash that audition in my head. I totally blew it).

I decorated my doors and tested the waters…maybe putting one foot through, anxiously  tasting how it was going to feel when I was FINALLY able to pass through it.

I planned what I would do when I finally walked through the door. I stood at the doorsteps and looked as far into the future as I could, dreaming, planning, plotting, and organizing. (Can you tell I almost NEVER get ahead of myself?)

Since I like to do this thing where I plant one foot on the other side of a door even when God hasn’t told me to pass through yet, I do all I can do to make it harder for God to tell me that door is not for me. Sometimes I think I can trick God, like “Oh you accidentally thought I wasn’t going to get this job! Whoops! I have already started planning and buying things for my new classroom so looks like you got it wrong, Big Guy!”

He will thank me for all the laughs one day.

When God tries to gently close doors in my life, I do this adorable thing where I use my upper body and push back against Him and the door. I let Him know that I understand He is trying to close it, but He must not see that I have already planned my life on the other side of the door.

I know some faithful servants of God that trust Him enough to notice Him gently shutting a door, so they back up and walk away, although it hurts, their faith carries them to obedience.

With them, God is able to gently and gracefully close a door, ever so slowly, in a much less painful fashion. They are so tuned in and they are so faithful and trusting, they get clear out of the way for God to carefully close the door.

Yeah, not me.

If my upper body’s strength fails me, I have also been known to get down on the floor and put both feet on the door, and use every ounce of energy in my body to kick the door down so it isn’t closed all the way.

I will sacrifice a foot to keep my door ajar, just in case what God has for me instead isn’t going to be better.

So due to my stubborn pride, God has had to slam a few doors in my life.

And I can truly say looking back, while at the time I was angry and confused as to why the door had to SLAM shut in such a dramatic way, it was for my own good and my own protection. (Okay and maybe  because I was literally kicking and pounding on the door in a mild state of refusal when He tried to close it softly.)

Looking back, I see where He tried to gently coax me away from most of those doors. Warning signs. Red flags. Nudges in my gut.

But again, in my stubborn pride, I politely said, no thank you, I want this door.

So…

I got rejected for the job I thought I wanted more than anything.

I went through a painful breakup instead of an engagement.

I was chosen as Lieutenant of Safety Patrol and had to answer to the Captain, (Lindsay, you did a great job, no hard feelings).

I injured my throwing arm so badly junior year of high school, that I never pitched again.

I never even got a call back for Annie.

So when you tell me that when God shuts a door He opens a window, I find it depressing. 

When God turns our life around and doesn’t give us what we want, He is going to do a lot more than just open a measly window.

I think the issue with the window analogy has been my view of God.

I look longingly back at my own pretty door, dark mahogany with a beautiful brass doorknob and an adorable welcome mat, and then I see the window that I have set in my mind is God’s plan for me.

It’s covered in cobwebs and has dust all over it.

I try to open it but it has those frustrating locks that you can’t figure out which way to push the levers.

The glass is dirty and when I look down it’s a pile of branches and dead leaves.

When God closes doors in my life, that is how I see this hypothetical window.

Oh, how wrong I have it.

Did I really think that if God was going to close the doors that I built with my own hands, that His alternative would be me crawling through a dusty, dirty, tiny window?

Did I really doubt purpose in the pain?

When God closes a door, He can do so much more than open a window.

He can construct a beautiful alley covered in Spanish moss and gorgeous tiled floors.

He can blow the roof of of the little house in which you hold your dreams.

If only we trust Him.

If only we remember there is purpose in the pain of closed doors.

Sometimes we learn of the purpose on this side of heaven, and others we are left to trust only by faith that one day we will.

For me,

If I would have gotten that job 3 years ago, I would be missing some of the deepest friendships and greatest joys of my entire life at the job I stayed in.

If I would have walked through my own door in the relationship I thought I wanted, I would have spent my life in unnecessary turmoil and a state of constant anxiety.

My tenure as Lieutenant of Safety Patrol in 5th grade was riddled with parent complaints about me abusing my power and “taking my job too seriously”. Clearly, the position of being Captain would have been too dangerous for the tyrant that was 10 year old me.

Stress and anxiety almost got the best of me in college, let alone if I would have played college sports. I never could have handled the demands. God protected me.

As for the Annie audition, I still have no idea why I was not cast in this production. I was a natural talent and a perfect fit for one of the older orphans, so this one still confuses me. I hold on in faith that one day I will know.

I guess what I am trying to say is that, if I would have had a greater view of God during all of those moments of my life- some serious and some not, it would have changed so much.

Of course we grieve for the plans that we build that never come to fruition.

I have pounded on doors that God has closed in my life.

I have wept on their doorstep.

I have yanked and shook the doorknob violently, desperate for it to open.

So many times in my life, I have refused to turn around and walk away from the door and look at what I just knew would be a small, dusty window covered in cobwebs.

Blinded by the pain of the sound of a door slamming shut, I didn’t want to consider there could be something even more beautiful in another direction.

So if God has shut a door in your life lately, hang on. You can grieve it. You can pound on it if you want.

But then walk away.

It might feel like a dusty, dirty window at first as you crawl and blindly feel against the walls for support as you walk in the new and unknown.

I am not saying the path where He takes us will be without pain or without obstacles or without confusion, but I am saying that there is purpose.

 

But whether you find out on this side of heaven or not, there is SO much more than a rickety window for you.

Take comfort in what Paul wrote to the Ephesians in chapter 3:

‘ For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 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 Lord’s holy people, 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.

 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.’

Blessings, not chins

Jenna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Resolutions I Wish I didn’t Have to Make

IMG_1410

 

I am certainly the definition of a “Half Adult.” I prance through life blissfully unaware of what is happening.

Here are some New Years Resolutions I wish I didn’t have to make this year, but I do.

  1. Scrape my back windshield when it’s icy, instead of reversing blindly and hoping for the best
  2. Figure out what it means to have a 401K
  3. Stop eating cereal in bed and sleeping amongst crumbs
  4. Open all mail addressed to me, even if it’s not pretty looking
  5. Stop leaving dishes in my car
  6. Pay attention to the tags on clothes detailing how they are supposed to be washed
  7. Remember what doors I entered in large department stores without taking pictures
  8. Make sure to confirm it is a costume party before wearing a costume
  9. Start washing fruit before eating it
  10. Use more socially appropriate conversation starters with people I just met.

Wish me luck!

 

Blessings, not chins,

Jenna

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