Tuesday Victories | 3.13

antonio-ron-225145-unsplash

Tuesdays are hard. They’re the sophomores of the week- you’re fully invested but not close to the end yet. Instead of feeling drained and irritated (ask any of my students- Tuesdays are the worst for me..whoops!), here are a few small victories- words, things, and moments- getting me through the week:

Ready or Not Blog

1. Ready or Not: Leaning into Life in Your Twenties by Drew Moser and Jess Fankhauser- Because my friends and I are coming up on the 3-4 year mark of being out of college, a lot of us are starting to wonder about what’s next, especially vocationally, and this makes the timing of this book so perfect. Drew and Jess work at the college where I graduated, so I learned about this book through social media and immediately applied to be on the launch team. I’ve already read the first few chapters and if you’re a twenty-something wondering about what’s next or what to even do with this decade, you’re going to want to pick this one up for sure!

2. Jean days- it’s the week before our two-week spring break (any prayers would be appreciated by allll the teachers please and thank you) and there was a fundraiser where faculty and staff could pay to wear jeans for the week and I was all in. Honestly, putting on jeans and a fleece this morning made getting up today a tiny bit easier. It’s the little things, people.

IMG_2397

3. This adorable little face- friends, if you haven’t already, meet our little Harper! Matt made my puppy dreams come true for my birthday this year and now we have our own fluffly, spunky, cuddly bernedoodle! She’s four months of energy and chewing and all the toys and kisses and we just adore her. Just look at her face! She’s the absolute cutest and we’re obsessed. If you want to follow along with all of her adventures, follow her on Instagram @harper.the.bernedoodle

4. The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growthby Christopher Huerst–This book was an incredibly helpful and insightful resource to learn about the more about Enneagram through spiritual lenses. I’ve known about the Enneagram since college, but really started to dive in about 6 months ago and now I’m officially all in. It truly has given language to my motives and things I have always done and I’ve already found it to be a helpful tool for my spiritual growth and marriage. I’ve also started listening to the Typology podcast, went to a two-day workshop led by Ian Cron here in Indy (incredible) and have had tons of conversations with anyone who’s interested. It’s been so, so great and I’m committed to learning more. (also- in case anyone is wondering, I’m a 2 with a strong 1 wing)

whitney-wright-286731-unsplash

5. Ingredient Substitute Charts- I’ve been following a strict anti-inflammatory diet with a nutritionist for the last 10 weeks and I’m just really grateful that people who are good at cooking and baking and chemistry took it upon themselves to make sure ingredient substitution charts are easily accessible via Google when I need an answer sooner than my nutritionist can provide one. I owe them for the best banana bread I’ve ever made with ingredients I can have right now (and keep making about once a week…so good). Thank you, kind people who are good at food.

6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury– My teaching team decided to last minute have our sophomores read this book and although I was a little hesitant because I hadn’t read it before and dystopian isn’t my favorite, I am completely surprised about how much I’m enjoying this read. Fantastic writing, great characters/plot and reading it in today’s society is fascinating because there are a lot of parallels, even though it was written in the 50s. Having conversations about it and seeing students make important connections reminds me why I love my job; it’s certainly one of my favorite things I get to do. If you’re looking for a good classic, I highly recommend this one!

morais-66036-unsplash.jpg

7. Expedia and Travelocity- for making planning our kinda spontaneous trip to Arizona over spring break possible and cost-efficient. You’ve aided us well and we cannot wait to leave so soon and hike and watch baseball and not be cold for a second (ya know, since Indiana decided it wanted snow this week. NOT MY FAVORITE).

chris-chondrogiannis-48560-unsplash

8. Tennis courts- because I’m assistant coaching tennis this spring and I’m loving the opportunity to play again and work with a really great group of girls in a sport I’ve always enjoyed, but haven’t played much of in the past several years. 

9. Party of One: Truth, Longing, and the Subtle Art of Singleness by Joy Beth Smith– Although I am married, this is the second book I’ve read on singleness in the past year. I am drawn to these books for a lot of reasons: it’s a conversation I don’t think the church as a whole has handled very well and I love the church and am committed to its growth, I mentor middle/high school girls and want to provide solid, true, God-honoring advice about dating and singleness that’s not simplistic, and because I desperately needed a good book about singleness when I was in college and it just didn’t exist. But now this one does and it is GOOD. This one is especially great for those who grew up being fed purity-culture dating advice and wasn’t/isn’t satisfied with it. I found it to be helpful tool to debunk some misconceptions about dating relationships and a resource I’m going to be using for a while.

10. Puppy pictures- because if you thought you were leaving this blog post only looking at one picture of Harper, you are sorely mistaken. Also she’s just adorable and looking at pictures of her makes me happy. Hopefully it brings you some joy as well!

Bible in a Year Reflections and Hopes

It’s that time again for resolutions and goals and both reflecting on the year past and dreaming about the year to come. I love this time of the year, quite possibly more than any other season, because it seems so fitting that immediately after we spend a season remembering that Jesus came to save and serve and love, we get to walk into something new and try again. I think there’s a lot of beauty and grace propelling us forward in this season, and that gets me excited and anticipatory for the coming year. 

As I’ve reflected on this past year, one of my very favorite things I did was read through the whole Bible. This is the second time I’ve done this, the first being in 2016, and I’ve decided to make it an intentional practice every year to come because of how it moves me closer to the Lord, more knowledgeable about the God I serve and love, and molds me into a better wife, friend, daughter, teacher, and sister.

IMG_1573

My year of reading Scripture in 2017 was so, so good. I intentionally read from one Bible all year and took notes in the margins every day, thanks to the popularity of journaling Bibles. I used the reading and note-taking skills that I teach to my students and became a student again myself, every morning, practicing interacting with the text that was in front of me. In 2016, I worked through a first reading of the Bible, and in 2017, I was able to engage with the words on the page more deeply because I already had a context of what was happening. And being married to a man in seminary means that every morning I had access to Matt across the table, who is a wealth of knowledge on all sorts of Biblical things, and also his massive commentary/resource library to draw from, which I turned to often.

It’s really beautiful to look back on the year and pinpoint major events by where I was at in my reading plan and realize how the Lord was teaching me, comforting me, and challenging me through His word during those times. I recently heard in a sermon that the purpose of spiritual disciplines is for intimacy, not mastery. And that’s how I feel about this past year, more intimate with the Lord because his words ring over every major memory I have from 2017. His character and his presence were clear because I practiced recognizing them, and friends, this certainly changed how I lived and loved.

But just as a traveler learns after every place visited just how much more there is to explore and discover, the more I read the Scriptures, the more I realize how much more there is to learn about the Lord and how much more I can grow in Him and in my relationships and in my calling.

And although this can be disheartening, I remember that the point of spiritual disciplines isn’t mastery, but rather intimacy. I’m not practicing this to become perfect at it, but rather to grow closer to the only One who is perfect.

IMG_1916

In the coming year, I get to read the Bible again and learn more about a really incredible God and how he wants my heart. I get to read about how he provided a way for that to happen through Jesus. I get to learn, again, about how I don’t need to do anything to be loved, but rather I serve a God who fiercely fights for his people over and over and over again. And I get to grow closer to this God who is love and be transformed more deeply to who he’s called me to be.

This is why I commit my mornings to Scripture, even when it’s hard or when I’m tired or don’t feel like it. Because growth happens in the in-between moments, right? I’ve found this to be true and I want to continue living in this way with even more intentionality this year. Here are my Scripture reading goals and resources for 2018:

-Use the M’Cheyne reading plan– four chapters a day and it goes through the Old Testament once and the New Testament and Psalms twice. (I used this plan the past two years)

– Use the new She Reads Truth Bible in the CSB translation (I used this journaling Bible last year and I’ve been eyeing this one to use next year)

-Take notes in the margin of my Bible

– Journal through Scripture at least twice a week

-Join Well-Watered Co’s Word before the World challenge– not getting on social media/email until I’ve spent time reading Scripture. The founder of Well-Watered Women has a great blog post explaining the challenge here.

I would love to know what your Scripture reading goals are for the year and walk with you this year! Let me know in the comments below or on social media @kelseylietzen

Tuesday Victories | 12.5

Friends, it’s officially Christmastime! And a Tuesday, so it’s time for some victories that are bringing me joy and meaning and reminding me of Jesus during this season.

ornaments

1. Childhood ornaments- when I moved to Indy, my mom gave me a handful of ornaments from growing up. Some are the ones my Granny gave each of the grandchildren each year and some are my favorites from growing up, especially the Cinderella and Snoopy ones. Matt and I decorated our apartment a few weeks ago and it’s always so fun to sort through them each year and to see them illuminate from the lights every night.

2. Amazon- because 2 day shipping and Christmas shopping work really well together. And the reason we’re basically done with both of our lists. Thanks, Amazon.

advent

3. Advent studies- with Christmas comes Advent, the season of expectation and longing and celebration of a Savior who came to save. I’m going through the She Reads Truth advent study, which is the one I’ve done for the past few years, and Matt is doing the He Reads Truth one. We typically do Advent and Lent studies every year, and I love that She and He Reads Truth provides resources for both of us! It’s not too late to start! Ladies, check it out here. And guys can head here.

4. This shirt– oversized long-sleeve shirts have been a favorite of mine this fall, and this one is pretty, looks crazy comfortable, and says “Give me Jesus plus nothing” which is my favorite and also a great conversation starter. This one made my Christmas list this year!

5. Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Kettle Corn– discovered this seasonal treat at the grocery store this past weekend and it accompanied our movie night perfectly. I love all things chocolate-sea salt-y and Matt loves kettle corn, so it was the perfect match.

bible

6. The book of Hebrews– I recently read through Hebrews in my reading plan and shoot dang, I forgot how incredible it is. This book is set up to prove and discuss and celebrate how Jesus is better in every way and I loved it. Such a great way to lead up to Advent. In fact, I wrote a scripture study over Hebrews 9 and used it as a catalyst for a discussion about Christmas at the girls small group I lead at school on Fridays. You can find that resource here!

7. My husband’s Christmas message from last weekend- I love a good sermon. Love them. And one of my favorite voices that I get to learn from is my husband, which is just beautiful and exciting and fun. He taught at the youth ministry he oversees this past weekend and just killed it; I know I was not the only one with tears in my eyes by the end. He told me it will be online later this week, and once it’s posted, it deserves a listen (which you can do here). Crazy proud wife over here, friends.

IMG_4049_grande

8. This bag– The Reformation nerd in me is obsessed with this tote bag and it’s also officially on my Christmas list. This bag is perfect for toting around a Bible and a journal! And also another great conversation starter. I have a weakness for tote bags and love Scripture, so this was a fun find for me. (picture credit)

9. Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren– I’m still slowly working my way through this book, but it’s challenging me in ways that are all sorts of hard and good and beautiful. She discusses how ordinary moments are meaningful to our spiritual life (one of my favorite very favorite things) and challenges her reader to be more intentional. Warren is a minister in the Anglican tradition and brings in her knowledge of the church liturgy and applies it to our ordinary moments. I’m finding this aspect to be particularly fascinating and challenging, especially since I didn’t grow up in a liturgical church. This book is encouraging me to slow down and make intentional changes, like waking up early to journal with paper and pen instead of scroll on my phone first thing in the morning, and it’s been so, so good.

10. The Office season finale- Matt and I started watching The Office this past summer after we drove through Scranton, PA on the way back from Maine and he realized I never actually watched the entire series. It was a tough moment in our marriage. We finished watching it last night and people. What a solid finale. I was skeptical of whether I would continue to like the series after Michael left, but I did and the last episode was so. great. All the feelings. Definitely a worthwhile show to watch all the way through, which is what I’ve been told for years, but now I can whole-heartedly recommend it.

To quote Pam Beasely from the end of The Office, “There’s a lot of beauty in ordinary things. Isn’t that kind of the point?” In this season, I’m finding a lot of reminders to slow down and pay attention to the beauty in ordinary moments and I want to invite you to do the same. What are some victories or moments that are bringing you joy or pointing you to Jesus or challenging you today? Comment below or on social media (Instagram is my favorite) @kelseylietzen. I’d love to hear from you!

The Better Way

Every week, I have the joy of leading a girls small group at the public high school where I teach. Preparing for and being a part of this group is one of my very favorite things I get to do; I’m constantly grateful for the opportunity. Here is some content that I’ve prepared for them, and I hope it’s encouraging for you too.

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 9:1-15

It’s officially Christmas time! As crazy and exciting, and even hard, as this season can be, as Christians, this gets to be one of our favorite time of the year for a deeper reason than just the food and parties and presents, even in the midst of our loneliness or exemplified reminders of brokenness. This is the time where we get to collectively celebrate that Jesus came to save. And while this can be such an overused phrase, how sweet it is when we dig deep to understand– to understand what exactly we were saved from and how Jesus changed everything when He came.

People in the first century were waiting, longing for a Messiah, a Savior that God had been promising for centuries. There were 400 long, bloody, law-memorizing years in between Malachi and Matthew, the end of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New. To these people, Jesus finally arriving was an answer to a promise of a second, better covenant that was given generations prior, a promise that had been remembered through storytelling and tradition and rituals.

Jesus came to change the game– the game of the Temple and the priests and the hundreds of sacrifices. Of the lampstand and the glory seat and the sacred, exclusive Holy Place that fulfilled the first covenant God made with His people. He came to take a law that was once written on stone and write it on our hearts instead and to become the better Priest who only had to make one sacrifice, Himself, instead of shedding the blood of many animals. He came to take the temple, a once Holy, external place, and put it in his people instead, securing the way through his death and resurrection. He came so that we could live life from what he already accomplished instead of striving to a place where he would accept us so that we could be reunited with our Creator.

And he did this because of his love and because of our sin. Because of the Father’s character and our separation from him. He provided a better way for his people, one where we are already the good and faithful servant, where we are already holy and unblemished and free the second we say “yes” to his calling. Friends, it started long before the first Christmas, but the plan was set into action the minute the angel came to Mary. Everything. Changed. And this deeply matters for us still, enough to remember and celebrate in community and to sit quietly in gratitude and awe. Jesus came to save and to make a better way to the Father, one that we have full access through today. How good and glorious of a thing this is!

Discussion questions:

According to verses 1-7, what were the rituals the priest and high priest had to perform in order to wash away the sins of the people in God’s eyes?

According to verses 8-10, why was this system not the best way?

In what ways in our daily lives do we try and earn God’s love? Do you feel like it’s ever enough?

In verses 11-14, how is Jesus the better priest and sacrifice?

As stated in verse 15, what does this mean for us, today, as people of the second covenant?

Tuesday Victories | 10.17

Tuesdays are hard. They’re the sophomores of the week- you’re fully invested but not close to the end yet. Instead of feeling drained and irritated (ask any of my students- Tuesdays are the worst for me..whoops!), here are a few small victories- words, things, and moments- getting me through the week:

pumpkin patch

1. Little Local Pumpkin Patches- Matt and I stumbled upon a local fall festival last weekend and it was just adorable! Right in the middle of a neighborhood with a beautiful brick house on the property with parking in the grass and apple cider slushies and donuts. Perfect Saturday afternoon outing.

IMG_1573

2. Hosea 6:1-3– I’m reading through the prophets in my Bible reading plan and while they made no sense to me last year, research and questioning and intentional reading strategies and prayer are leading me to understanding. These verses have been ringing in my head for weeks as I trust that the Lord tears us down so that he may heal us and strikes us down so that He may bind us up. Getting rid of sin is hard, but if reading Scripture is teaching me anything, it’s that God never ends in the anger or destruction of our sin, but rather in the redemption and the binding up and the healing.

3. One by One: Welcoming the Singles in Your Church by Gina Dalfonzo– I had read a few articles by Dalfonzo in Christianity Today before finally picking up this book and shoot. dang. I read it most of it in one sitting during a work day at school while my students wrote essays because I could not put it down. She offers a fascinating critique of the “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” purity culture as a potential reason for the increasing number of singles in the church and how the church can best respond to this incredible group of people who often feel left out and abandoned in mostly family-centered church cultures. And it’s more than just a critique, but also a beautiful picture of how all people, regardless of relationship status, are to live in community together in the local church. The audience for this book is really for anyone who is invested in their church and looking for a better way forward for all people to belong.

IMG_1584

4. Companies like this: I went back home this past weekend and my mom treated one of my best friends (who is married to my brother’s best friend), my brother’s girlfriend (who we adore!) and me to painting custom wooden signs at a local business. We spent a few hours painting wood pallets and chatting and retouching our mistakes and all walked away filled with conversations and beautiful art for our homes. It was the best!

5. Q Commons– Indy friends! This event is one of my favorites. First of all, if you haven’t checked out Q Ideas yet, go do that now! Q Ideas is an organization that asks questions about current culture and how, as a faith community, we can respond lovingly and intentionally to a hard world. They have local events all over the world on October 26, including one downtown Indy, and the topic this year is “Healing our divided nation” because hello, that’s important right now. There will be 3 national talks live streamed and then 3 local talks from people in indy regarding this topic. Matt and I will be there and we are so looking forward to learning alongside people in our city (also- Q Commons was where we went on our 3rd date two years ago, so it’s also a sentimental thing for us too!). If you’re not in Indy, see if your city is on the list! Get tickets here.

6. Free of Me: Why Life is Better When It’s Not About You by Sharon Hodde Miller– THIS BOOK. Goodness gracious YES. Talk about a book that is deeply needed for right now. I finished this book this afternoon (thank you for extra reading time, fall break) and I already want to read through it again. Miller challenges her readers to, instead of covering insecurities and struggles with positive self-help talk, look to Jesus, since this is the better way according to Scripture. She explains what it really looks like to die to self and live in Christ and it’s through this truth that I’ve been finding so much freedom during the past several months.  Miller’s writings have been one of the chief voices the Lord has been using to usher me into this better way of submission and abundance with Jesus and I’m excited to see how the Lord is going to use her to teach more women about this truth.

Image 10-17-17 at 4.59 PM

7. Dance, Stand Run: The God Inspired Moves of a Woman on Holy Ground by Jess Connolly– I have been talking up this book for months and it comes out NEXT WEEK! Get ready, friends. It’s a good one. Currently looking for women to read this with, discussing either through the web or in real life or both! Let me know if you’re in. Pre-order this book now! I promise you’re not going to want to miss it.

 

Tuesday Victories | 9.26

September has been quite the month! It’s been filled with games and traveling and conversations and needed moments of rest here and there. I’m so thankful for every moment, and here’s a collection of victories from the past several weeks for this Tuesday. 

donuts

1. Longs Donuts: Matt and I live five minutes from one of the best donut places. It’s a small, unassuming cash-only bakery with amazing pastries that are super cheap. We hadn’t been in awhile, and decided to a few weekends ago before a soccer game and it was so. good. Donuts? Fall? Done.

2. Free of Me by Sharon Hodde Miller– I’ve mentioned Sharon on here before because her writing has been such an encouragement and challenge to my faith, and her first book is releasing on October 3! I preordered it a few months ago and downloaded the pre-order gifts last week, which included the introduction and first chapter of the book. I read them yesterday on the bus to an away game and oh friends, it’s going to be a good one. Miller focuses on how everything in our lives is better when we stop constantly looking at ourselves and instead on Christ, the way we’re called to live in the first place. I cannot wait to read the rest of the book in just one week! If you want to preorder the book, go here and then receive your pre-order gifts here.

IMG_1468

3. Honey crisp apples- I love fall. Every stereotypical part of it. And I’ve had a honey crisp apple in my lunch every day for the past week and I look forward to it everyday. They were on sale at the grocery store, so Matt picked up a bunch and we’ve been savoring them!

4. This sermon– Steve DeWitt is the pastor of my home church in Crown Point and this sermon from this past weekend is fantastic. He talks about the history of the Reformation and why it’s so crazy dangerous to add anything to the Gospel. I’ve always been fascinated by the Reformation and this is a great overview of some important historical moments for the Protestant church.

5. The Lone Bellow- Matt and I went to Nashville over Labor Day weekend and stumbled upon a few free music festivals. The Lone Bellow was playing Saturday night at one of the festivals and it was the best. They put on such a great show! If you’re looking for some new music, check them out!

pumpkin

6. White pumpkins- now that it’s officially fall, I’m loving all things festive and these white pumpkins are my current favorite. I found some mini ones at Trader Joe’s for 70 cents, which was a steal compared to Target or Hobby Lobby (granted– they are real and will only last for this season). My wallet and home are happy now.

7. This download from Christianity Today- this is a special edition collection of articles about women and discipleship and church and I devoured it this past weekend. Such wisdom from women who have been there, studied it, and can write well about their experiences and findings. I highly recommend it!

Tuesday Victories | 8.29

Tuesdays are hard. They’re the sophomores of the week- you’re fully invested but not close to the end yet. Instead of feeling drained and irritated (ask any of my students- Tuesdays are the worst for me..whoops!), here are a few small victories- words, things, and moments- getting me through the week:

Psalms

1. Psalm 103– My reading plan takes me through the Psalms on Wednesdays and I haven’t been able to get this one out of my head since I read it last week. The entire chapter is filled to the brim with specific attributes about the Lord: that he is a forgiver, a healer, a redeemer, a satisfier. He is righteous and merciful and gracious and always loving. I need to be reminded of who the Lord is, everyday, and Psalm 103 is helping me this week.

IMG_1306

2. Fat Dan’s Deli in Indy— Matt and I first stumbled upon this place last winter and have been raving about it ever since. It’s an unassuming place in So-Bro but shoot dang, their food. It’s definitely a place to indulge, and their fries and wings are the best we’ve had in Indy. It’s a Chicago-style place, so tons of Cubs gear on the walls and Italian beef on menu and everything is amazingly delicious. My parents came into town on Saturday to watch me coach and my girls play and then treated Matt and me to lunch afterwards. I remember thinking how much my parents would love the place after we visited the first time, so it was a blast watching them love their experience. And the food!

3. GHS Soul Sisters– At school, we have this hour in the middle of the day where students get to choose where they want to eat and hang out. It’s also a time where clubs can meet during the school day. With the help of my two of my best work-friends and the enthusiasm of some students we all have relationships with, we launched a Christian-community group for girls on Friday during this hour and it has been AMAZING. The girls are pumped and inviting everyone they know and this past week we had 30 girls reading Scripture, talking about who God is and why that matters. Friends, this is incredible. To be able to disciple in a public school with students we see every day has been such amazing thing to be a part of. So thankful for the space and freedom to watch the Lord do his thing. Go follow us on Instagram @ghssoulsisters

4. You all!– Friends, your responses to my last blog post about body image was incredible. I received so many texts and messages and comments that were so encouraging, especially since I was crazy terrified of posting something so honest and raw. Thank you for sharing your struggle with me– I so value your vulnerability. I want to continue having conversations about body image and the balance between working out and eating well from a place of gratitude and worship rather than a place of obsession and self-gratification. Hopefully this will be a place where that can happen.

20622115_1907621539560304_4218404709179386582_n

5. Dance, Stand, Run by Jess Connolly— I know this has been one of my victories a few weeks ago, but the more I read, the more it’s changing, challenging, and encouraging me to step into a place of holiness and grace and mission. I cannot recommend it enough. Go ahead and pre-order your copy here! You will not regret it, promise.

I’m in the full swing of a busy fall, but life is so, so good right now. But, I’m still needing to remember the victories that make my weeks particularly sweet. Let me know what some of your favorites are in the comments or on social media @kelseylietzen

The One About Body Image

_STU8922

I spent a lot of my engagement worrying, controlling, and trying to work my body into something different– something thinner, smaller, leaner. My worries would ebb and flow, typically depending on how I ate that week or how many times I was able to get to the gym.

During my first dress fitting, I remember feeling immediately discontent after looking into the mirror because my reality of how I looked didn’t meet my expectations. And then I felt angry and sad and ashamed because my thoughts clashed with what my mom and the alteration lady were proclaiming and what I knew Matt would think- that me in the dress was perfect and beautiful and stunning.  

I wish I could say that my worries about my body only started a year ago, but they didn’t. The earliest memory I have was in middle school. I was looking around at my peers in the hallway and I realized that my body wasn’t as lean or tiny as some of the other girls and I hated it. I didn’t understand why my body was betraying me– I had always been able to measure up to the skinniest girls before.

This struggle has lasted through high school dance dress shopping and band concerts with unflattering uniforms. It was present in every sport I played, where I was never the best or most fit, and in the locker room after my personal fitness class for two years. It carried me through prom and graduations and dorm life where comparison is hard to avoid. And it followed me to my wedding– the very place I didn’t want it to show it’s face and even though I hate to admit this, when I look back on my otherwise beautiful engagement and wedding, my struggle with my body was there, looming in the background of every fitting and party and picture.

A few years back, I ran my second half marathon. Finding time to run during the week and the stamina to complete long runs on the weekend was tough. Runs that used to be seemingly effortless in college were now difficult and this defeated me. After an intended 9 mile run turned into a 4 mile run, I plopped down in front of my mirror, fuming and angry at my body and myself for not being able to push through to complete the miles I needed in order to stay on track in my training schedule. At the time, I was on the launch team for Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan’s Wild and Free. I had been praying and thinking of aspects of my life where I needed the Lord’s freedom and I remember entertaining the idea of what it would be like to be wild and free from the strict expectations I put around my body and fitness and diet. What if how I looked and having the perfectly balanced diet all the time and logging in so many hours at the gym just didn’t matter as much as I perceived it did?

I hate admitting that this is really the first time I had considered this. This is the first time I really acknowledged my negative body image as a legitimate problem and pondered the reality that the Lord is strong enough to free me from the shackles of comparison and discontentedness and control– all I need to do is accept and receive Him, every minute of every day, again and again and again. And gosh this is hard, not impossible, but hard to believe and do in a society that pushes us to be perfectly fit and healthy and thin.

I want to say that I’m done struggling, but I’m not. I fought my body image battle through the past few summers and my engagement. While this summer was so, so good as Matt and I enjoyed our newlywed-ness and our trips to different places and feasting with family and friends, once all those things were over, I took stock of how the experiences took their toll on my body and started shaming myself over not being disciplined enough at the table or the gym and found myself in the depths of comparison and control once again.

We clearly live in a society that values physical health. The benefits are proclaimed over and over– we’ll have tons of energy and can mentally process better and have an all around better attitude in life if we’re eating well and exercising often. And I’m all for this- I love eating well and exercising and I think they can be done in a worshipful, God-honoring way because we are called to steward our bodies. But when I go into a Whole30 or the gym with the wrong motivation, it stops becoming healthy. When I’m trying to control my body into something smaller in order to feel better or happier or to prove that I’m good at life, I’m just feeding myself a lie that those things can satisfy something in me when really, only God can.

Writing these things down is hard- I’ve never done this before. But after another summer of attempting to shame and control my body into something better so that I can feel good about myself, I walked into work for another school year and I heard my coworkers and students and players echoing the same comments and aggravations I had all summer. And I thought that there has to be a better way– enough of us are struggling with this and there’s got to be something better.

And friends, there is. The answer isn’t seeking flattery and reminders of our beauty or enoughness. The answer and the way is Jesus- it’s always Jesus. This may be our weakness, but the Lord is sufficient and he’s really good at using our lack to prove that He is enough to a people who desperately need it– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 promises us this. He came because of love and died because of love and now we get to play in his grace and enter into holy places all because of Him, but only when we admit our weakness and confess this hard, prideful, controlling sin. The way is learning to submit to the Lord’s purpose every single day, deeming it our own by walking in it, trusting that it’s better.

Our purpose is not our bodies. It’s not how we look or how we feel and while we should pursue health, we can’t forget to pursue Christ first. We can’t forget that our purpose is to love Jesus and to love the people around us well. I’m preaching all of this to myself first– stumbling into submitting to the Lord every day. My steps are shaky and I fail often, but repentance and grace are helping me move forward anyway. If you’re here too, walking this hard, broken path with me, please know that you’re not alone and that Jesus is always, always better.

 

So many of my ideas were derived from Jess Connolly’s new book Dance Stand Run. I’m on her launch team and this book is WRECKING ME. Such great stuff. Preorder it here

Also- from this sermon by Scott Sauls. He’s currently doing a series on Romans 8. AMAZING. Go listen now. You’ll find that here

Tuesday Victories | 8.8

Tuesdays are hard. They’re the sophomores of the week- you’re fully invested but not close to the end yet. Instead of feeling drained and irritated (ask any of my students- Tuesdays are the worst for me..whoops!), here are a few small victories- words, things, and moments- getting me through the week:

school

1. Sharpie Pens– School started last week, which means I got to break out all my school supplies! And people, I just love new pens and pencils and paper. Such a geek- I know- but at least I’m in a profession where it’s fitting. Sharpie pens are my new favorites this year and I’m excited to have a few colored ones to grade with! (The things teachers get excited about hah!)

2. Routine- I know this one is more abstract, but during the last few weeks of summer, I was craving routine and being an extrovert, I was missing being around people for a majority of my day, so I definitely welcomed the start of school. Except the 5:30AM wake-up. I didn’t miss that.

worship

3. The song “Saved My Soul” by City Alight– Friends, I LOVE finding new worship music. And thankfully Spotify aids me in my searches through their Discover pages and this song came on during my drive home today. I played it on repeat the whole way home. I cannot wait to listen to the rest of their album this week! Here’s a good one if you’re searching.

4. Matt’s wasp killing skills- So Matt is the best husband for a billion reasons, but our apartment has had some wasp nests around it (NOT MY FAVORITE) and I came home to him yesterday attacking the nest on our balcony with Raid. And gosh darnit, those wasps are all gone and I’m not mad about it. Whatta champ.

Holy Ground

5. Jess Connolly’s new book– I’m on the launch team for Jess’ new book that comes out in October and it’s just incredible. It’s called Dance, Stand, Run: The God-Inspired Moves of a Woman on Holy Ground and she gets crazy honest about her past few years learning about how grace and holiness intersect and it’s beautifully Gospel-centered, challenging, and authentic. You can pre-order it here and if you participate in the pre-order, you can claim some goodies here

6. The Lumineers Spotify radio station- Matt is currently working towards a graduate degree and I’m back to teaching, which means some of the free time we have together at home is spent working– reading and writing and grading. Since Netflix would just be super distracting, we’ve found a few Spotify stations that we love and The Lumineers station is one of the best ones to be playing in the background while we work.

I hope you’re enjoying your Tuesday today! And maybe some of these victories made yours a little better, too. Share what’s getting you through the week in the comments! 

Tuesday Victories | 7.25

Tuesdays are hard. They’re the sophomores of the week- you’re fully invested but not close to the end yet. Instead of feeling drained and irritated (ask any of my students- Tuesdays are the worst for me..whoops!), here are a few small victories- words, things, and moments- getting me through the week:

whitney-wright-286731

1. Eat with Joy: Redeeming God’s Gift of Food– my Whole30 journey started and then ended after four days. I didn’t quit because I necessarily wanted to give up, but rather because it wasn’t the healthiest decision for my body and mind. Because I’ve been thinking a lot about food lately, I’ve been reading about eating and I stumbled upon this book and downloaded it immediately. I’m about halfway through and it’s challenging me to think about the way and reasons why I eat, which is an incredibly challenging process. I’ll let ya know how it goes and what I’m learning in a blog post sometime.

neonbrand-265875

2. This sermon by Scott Sauls- Matt introduced me to Scott Sauls (not personally- just his writings/preachings) several months ago because Sauls is a preacher Matt greatly respects. I’ve been on a podcast kick this summer, mostly when I’m driving or working out, and downloaded this one yesterday from the Christ Presbyterian’s podcast channel. This sermon is such a treat. It is challenging and beautiful and packed with truth and Jesus and I didn’t want it to end. I’m excited to listen to it again and take notes!

3. Chat Pack– this is a product I got at a conference as a catalyst to start discussion among students, but Matt and I used it a bit when we first started dating. It’s just a box filled with cards that have interesting questions on them, but they’ve sparked so many great conversations for us! We hadn’t used them in the past year, but Matt found them last week and we went through a bunch and it was such a blast to learn things about each other or see how our answers have changed. And it’s always my favorite to connect over intentional conversation, so I’m thankful for that time with him!

4. This carnitas recipe– Although Whole30 turned into Whole4, we still had all Whole30 food in the fridge for the week. We made these last night and they. are. amazing. Easy to prep, pretty inexpensive (I used a pork shoulder rather than a tenderloin) and super healthy. Matt and I both agreed that this will be one of our go-to repeat recipes.

luca-upper-97759.jpg

5. This Philippians study– I mentioned Sharon Hodde Miller’s Twitter feed a few weeks ago and she just released this study on Philippians. We’re only two days in, but so far I’ve loved the what I’ve learned contextually about this church and this time period and where Paul was at while he was writing this letter. Philippians has always been my favorite book of the Bible and I’m so excited to dive deeper!

A shorter list for today because I’ve been running around getting ready for school to start next week. Ah! If you found some victories this week, and I certainly hope you did, let me know what they are in the comments!