How He Sees You (Prayer Devotional for the week of November 1, 2015)

I dressed up as J.J. Watt (defensive end for the Houston Texans) for some costume fun at work on Friday. The boys were exchanging costume ideas for themselves, and one of them joked about padding his sleeves to look like muscles. Then, one of them piped in and said, “Mom’s arms are so buff, she doesn’t need to pad her sleeves. She’s so strong, she could lift a truck!” My first instinct – and I’m glad I bit my tongue – was to correct him and say that although I am pretty strong, my arms are pudgy, not muscular like J.J.’s. In that moment, though, it dawned on me that he saw me through a completely different lens from how I see myself: he really believed that I was so strong I could pick up a vehicle, if need be.

 

My son doesn’t see the tired, overweight, falling-apart body that I walk around in every day. He sees a strong and powerful woman. Wow, if I could just channel some of that confidence to myself! I’ve struggled with my appearance for a very long time. Even back in the day when I swam competitively and performed with the Colorguard, I was limber and muscular but never curvy or skinny like the popular girls, so I assumed I was too fat. Three babies, a couple of decades, and a bum knee later, and I only wish that I was as “fat” as I thought I was back then!

 

Psalm 45:11 is a verse that I have held onto for many years; it talks about how God sees beauty in us, and we are to honor him above all else. It’s easy to get wrapped up in our own view of ourselves and forget that we have a loving heavenly Father who sees us through his own unique lens of grace. Do you ever dwell on your inabilities or rehash sins that have long since been forgiven? God has so much for us to see, if we’d redirect our attention to him and let him show us.

 

Remember that God has equipped us with so much more than what can be seen externally. In 2 Timothy 1:7 (NLT), we learn that God has given us a spirit of “power, love, and self-discipline,” as opposed to timidity or fear. It doesn’t matter how the world sees you – or even how you see yourself. Through Christ, we have a brand-new identity (2 Corinthians 5:17). And if that isn’t enough convincing, Philippians 1:6 says that God will not leave the good work that he began in you unfinished! You are enough, and you are loved eternally.

Second half of 2014 goals

I don’t usually make New Year resolutions, and besides, the main thing on my mind eight months ago was finishing my dissertation so that I could graduate. That goal is in the books — hallelujah! — so now, in my abundance of free time (<<that’s sarcasm, in case you missed it), I’ve decided that I have no more excuses to get my body back in shape.

Inspired by Amy at FitMommas and Andrea at I’mperfect Life, I have set 10 personal fitness goals for the second half of 2014:

  1. Plank for 40 secs (I have not done a baseline test to see how long I can do this right now, but I picked 40 seconds because of my milestone birthday coming up this fall.)
  2. 10 pushups (I make the boys do pushups for various infractions at home, so I figured I should be able to do a minimum amount, at least!)
  3. Walk a 5K (I participated in an event a few months after my knee surgery, and it was brutal. Some of the half-marathon runners finished their race before I finished walking 3 miles! Overachievers.)
  4. Swim 400yds (This should be the easiest goal to reach, and I wanted to include one that would motivate me positively.)
  5. 20 squats (I had to do these during physical therapy for my knee, ugh. I can do about 5 in a row right now (maybe 10 with a rest), so this will be a challenge.)
  6. Walk another 5K (If I don’t find an event to attend, then I’ll just aim for 3+ miles.)
  7. Bike 4 mi (My knees hate cycling, but I think I can work up to 4mi on a stationary bike, at least.)
  8. Walk stairs at work 30x by October 31 (I report to my new office on the 4th floor on Monday, Aug. 18, which gives me 11 weeks to reach this goal. That’s only 2-3 times per week to take the stairs, so I think I can make myself do it.)
  9. Walk around the block 50x by Thanksgiving (There are four months until Thanksgiving, so if I walk around the block 3-4 times a week, then the goal is achievable.)
  10. 10 burpees (This goal is a stretch, because I cannot even do ONE right now.  I have difficulty kicking my feet back (have to walk back one foot at a time) and then jumping back into a squatting position (though I could do it in two little pounces). I like the way this guy showed how to do them … not so much pressure on the knees.)

So, there you have it. I’m writing the goals down here for accountability’s sake. In addition to being more active, I know that I need to eat better. I think my new schedule (i.e., not having to be at my desk from 8-5 everyday) will be more conducive to eating prepared meals from home (rather than eating out at breakfast or lunch) and planning for my own meals throughout the day, instead of just thinking about what to fix for dinner. Not to mention, it will save money!

The Great Outdoors (Prayer devotional for the week of June 29, 2014)

What comes to mind when you think of summer? Even as blazing hot as it is, I still think of the great outdoors—especially anything having to do with water. I spent my summers on swim team and love the water! Playing in sprinklers and drinking straight from the hose, swimming in the lake and pool, collecting shells and rocks at the beach, going canoeing at church camp, having water balloon and squirt gun wars … there are so many fun things to do outside.

There is something about being in and around water that is so soothing, so inviting, so relaxing. Watching waves on the beach or listening to nature sounds at the lake seems to slow down time and re-center our perspectives.

And yet, water can also be unsettling … to the Gulf Coast resident bracing for another hurricane … to the adult at the pool party who never learned to swim … to the tent cities in Haiti during the rainy season.

I’ve often heard that even the poorest in America are far richer than the poor in many other places of the world. It is hard to fathom, but let’s try to think about it. I wouldn’t particularly want to bathe in Lake Waco or the Bosque or Brazos Rivers, but any of those options would be better than a sewage-laden, stagnant gutter. If worse came to worst, I could walk into just about any public building around town and take a non-toxic, free drink from the nearest water fountain. When I turn on the faucets in my house, I expect clear water to come pouring out. We may be under drought conditions, but we still have washing machines, dishwashers, sprinklers, bottled water and swimming pools accessible to us. None of us will die of thirst tomorrow.

Yet, some others will.

So, as you head to the lake/pool/river to celebrate during this holiday weekend, let’s turn our hearts to God in thanksgiving for the blessings of our freedom, to be certain, but also his creation. Take time to thank him for “little” things – like indoor plumbing and the fact that we can worship freely in church today – and lift up those who cannot.
Originally posted July 3, 2011

Anchors don’t look back (Prayer devotional for the week of June 8, 2014)

Much of the time, the star athletes have the first turn. There are starting pitchers in baseball, starting point guards in basketball, starting quarterbacks in football, etc. In these sports, you want to get on the board first and stay in the lead.

A different strategy comes into play when the sport is a relay race, however. Certainly, the lead runner or swimmer needs to be a strong athlete, and those in the middle of the race need to maintain a swift pace, but the star—the one who will bring home the win—is the powerhouse anchor. The last one to leave the starting block is the one people look to for the finale. The anchor breaks the ribbon with one final stride; the anchor stops the timer with one final stroke.

In life, though, we don’t always like being last … do we?

When you are the anchor, you don’t start on 0:00. You start at whatever point your team made it to before your leg began. You might already be in the lead; you might be trailing everyone. Regardless, it’s your job to kick it in gear (pun intended) and either maintain the lead or earn it.

Likewise, we don’t have control over many of the circumstances that have affected our lives in the past. We can’t usually undo past mistakes. You can’t choose your parents; you don’t pick your siblings. You can influence but not force change in your spouse and children. You can’t single-handedly fix corporate lay-offs or the tumbling stock market.

You may be running the anchor leg in life, but don’t give up! God doesn’t expect you to run the whole race alone, but he does expect you to keep on keeping on. Check out Romans 12: 11-12: “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder” (The Message).

So, if you are looking over your shoulder at the past, then you are not focusing on the race ahead … and anyone who has ever seen a horror flick knows that looking over your shoulder while running is a bad, bad idea. Stay alert; don’t quit.

Originally posted May 22, 2011

2014 Word

I’ve finally figured out what my word is for this year: Set.

As in: On your mark, get set … go!

I don’t quite know what the “go” part looks like yet, but the past few years have been building up from “on your mark,” and now I feel like it’s time to “get set” and wait for the launch whistle.

dolphin kickI remember years of swim meets — my main race was backstroke — and hearing the announcer call out: “On your mark!” We would pull up into a loose crunch position on the board. “Get set!” and we’d pull up tighter and hold, legs quivering in anticipation to launch. “Go!” then thrust up and backward into the water, hands entering first, then head and arced body already rippling in a dolphin-kick motion. I would go about halfway down the length of the pool underwater before I came up for air. A few strokes later, it was almost time for the flip-turn. Count strokes from the flags overhead, then flip and twist, kick off from the wall and launch back toward the other side.

Competitive swimming was exhilarating and challenging … kind of like how my life has been for the past several years, now that I think about it. The loses were tough. Miscounting strokes and charging head- or shoulder-first into the wall was really painful. And yet, touching the finish line a fraction of a second before any of the others is a rush like nothing else I can describe. Knowing that you gave it your all … and you won … is amazing.

This year has a lot of potential. Lord willing, I will finish my doctorate in just a few short months. It’s possible that I may also have a new job opportunity(ies) later this year, but that remains to be seen. The majority of my kids (3/5) will be finished with elementary school this year. I’ll have TWO teenagers. I’m renewing my efforts to lose weight and stay healthy. Who knows what else the future holds? Whatever comes down the pike, I’m going to “get set” and be ready to fly.