What is Healthy?

I believe that the greatest gift you can give your family and the world is a healthy you.
~ Joyce Meyer ~

I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I’ve been.
~ Winnie the Pooh ~

It seems that my life journey is a constant peeling of layers of poor self-image and self-condemnation.  So, as I write yet another blog, or journal entry, or whatever this thing I keep doing has become, I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but living in China has deeply challenged my view of healthy. This has been a year of little to no weight loss, devastating and disappointing attempts at Whole30, yet areas of strength and growth physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

Two and a half years ago, I began this journey of discovering new definitions and ways to be healthy.  For me, it started out of obedience to God and doing a Whole30 challenge as I felt his prompting for me to do.  It was wildly successful.  I had a strong support system, and a  lot of things shifted for me.  I lost about 20-25 pounds, and did remarkably well on Whole30.  I began to use that as a way to change my life.  I had ups and downs for sure, and I learned many lessons in that period of time.  A little over a year ago, I had been at my lowest weight in a long time.  It was a total weight loss of 55 pounds, but then transition happened. 

Transition made Whole30 and Paleo extremely difficult.  It took so much time and energy for me to maintain that lifestyle, so when our life went up in the air, we gravitated toward the things that were comfortable and easy. And then transition led to a stressful year of teaching, in which, once again, we gravitated toward what was comfortable and easy. Healthy is rarely comfortable and never easy. Not only that, but I tried really hard to lose weight the way I used to, and I couldn’t do it here.  Ingredient lists were in another language that was hard to translate.  Eating out was impossible for the same reasons, and I was just flat too tired to put in the effort, especially if Stephen and I can both go eat cheap Chinese food for about $5-6 (USD). 

And that essentially led me to this place of evaluating what healthy is. At my lowest, I was willfully eating junk food every day because it wasn’t worth the effort to fight it.  Sandwiches, chips, chocolate, and cheese, all my go-to binges.  Carbs, dairy, and sugar, repeat. That was right after I decided that without weight loss, it wasn’t worth it, and since I wasn’t really losing weight, I might as well give up.  Then I wrote this blog, essentially coming to the conclusion that trying and failing feels so much better than not trying. 

As I begin to still work out the details of what living healthy looks like for me, there are a few things I don’t want it to be, and there are a few things I want it to be.  First, here is what healthy is not going to be: 

  1. Healthy will not be counting calories, stressing over ingredients, and obsessing about every item that goes into my mouth.  If we are out eating pizza with friends, I’m going to eat pizza.  If we go to the movies, I’m going to eat popcorn.  Life is short, and food is delicious.  I want to enjoy both. 
  2. Healthy will not be weighing in and checking my “progress.” Healthy is not weight loss. When the clothes don’t fit, I’ll buy some new ones and measure progress by how many sizes I’ve lost. Weighing in just leads to obsession, guilt, and shame. Weight loss is just a byproduct, and I will not make it the supreme focus of my attention.  My mind and emotions will be the focus. My only reason for wanting to lose wight is because I do not want to be held back.  Whatever adventure, I don’t want to be told no because of my weight.
  3. Healthy is not skinny.  I will not chase a size.  weight-this-is-not-your-worthwill not chase a number.  I will chase becoming better than I was the day before.  I’m competing against myself because comparison to any other standard will only lead to defeat and frustration with the body God has given me. I can’t change me, but I can choose to make it healthier one choice at a time.

That said, here is what healthy is going to look like. 

  1. Healthy is working out because it makes me physically and mentally stronger. It pushes out the negative self-image and self-condemnation and forces me to push against what I think I can do.  And the biggest measure of progress for me is going to be how far I have to go in order to continue to push myself.  Right now it doesn’t take much, but as I grow and progress, I will have to push myself harder and stronger in order to taste the painful yet healing process of exceeding my perceived limits. Pushing your limits doesn’t feel good, until you have overcome that limit.  That is the victory I will fight for. 
  2. Healthy is making healthy choices as much as possible and “unhealthy” choices that make me happy with careful attention and moderation.  Cutting out all chocolate and sweets is not going to happen, but choosing when and how much is entirely in my control.  One cookie is ok, the whole batch is not. And if I already had a sweet, I don’t need another later that day. 
  3. Healthy is growth.  It is changing the little things now and moving forward.  In the wise words of Pooh, “I always get to where I’m going by walking away from where I’ve been.” (Christopher Robin, 2018) Moving, growing, trying, are the only ways forward into my healthy life. That can be mental, physical, or spiritual growth, but just as a healthy plant continues to grow, so a healthy a me must continue to grow wherever I am planted. 




Lessons and Exams

Do you ever feel like life is one giant, never-ending year at school and that God is the teacher? In our before school training this week, we have learned about the importance of intentional lesson planning.  We do not test or assess students on something they haven’t been taught.  We want to introduce it to the kids and see what they know, then plan the unit to meet the kids at their level.  We assess as we go to monitor their progress, and we grade the unit exam to see what they have learned.  Each lesson needs to be intentional to point to the key concepts of the unit. I feel like God has been taking me through a unit on Intentionality, Obedience, and Consistency for the last few years.

As you can imagine, I have a lot of thins on my mind with the start of the school year.  I definitely was feeling unprepared to start the year, especially from an American standpoint.  My classroom is still not fully set up.  I am still finishing my job board, and I don’t know what else I am putting on my bulletin board at this point.  I think it will be a questions board or something. That’s a different blog for a different time.  I still have to hang up the word wall.  I still have writing posters to hang up.  I still need to buy a carpet for my reading corner.  It seems there is a never-ending list of things I want to finish so that I can focus on the important things.

And I find myself feeling once again that there are all these important things I would like to achieve. I feel like I am so close to getting there, but I am just trying to get settled to where I feel like I can move forward in them.  And instead of reaching up to achieve them, I am reaching down to stop them from falling beneath me.

So as I enter the weekend finally getting more than 5 or 6 hours of sleep because of late nights at the school, and as I look to start my checklist of the many things I would like to accomplish in my classroom before Monday, I find myself wondering if this has all been a test.  Like in all the times before now that I tried and tried to learn intentionality with my husband and my cleaning.  And in all the times I was feeling challenged to build routine when my schedule was in such flux, maybe these were times God was teaching me to prepare me for my current situations.  And as I self-assess, I want to do better on the test than I am doing. Perhaps I am not so good at learning life lessons as I am at learning algebra and trigonometry.

And perhaps I just need to stop over analyzing life, put aside whatever my idea of perfect is, and just intentionally reserve time to seek the Perfect One. I struggle with that kind of focus when life is in chaos. I feel like I am in chaos.

Ducky with an Afro

Being a substitute teacher, sometimes kids will ask me the most random things.  Once during a morning meeting and sharing time, all the kids shared something good that happened or is soon happening to them.  They then asked me what good think I wanted to share.  After some thought, I told them about the poetry writing I have been doing.  After sharing one of my poems, one little girl comes up to me with a big smile and asks, “Can you write a poem about a ducky with an afro?” Well, dear readers, here is what she got.


Ducky with an Afro

Ducky with an afro,
you think you’re so fantastic.
Really you are noting
but a crazy hair fanatic.

You have painted your hair blue,
and you have cut it short and stout.
You have made it look all messy,
and gone a year without.

You have braided it with wire
and made it stick straight up.
You have even made it look
like a golden winner’s cup.

You’ve striped it like a rainbow
and striped it like a skunk.
You’ve shaped it like a treetop
and shaped it like a monk.

Ducky with an afro,
you think you’re super cool.
But really,
I gotta tell ya,
you look like a fool.

7 Reasons I’m Excited for Summer

I, like most people, am a woman with many hats and responsibilities, and even though I am only a substitute teacher, I greatly struggle at juggling them all. So, I am very much looking forward to the summer when I can work on things I need to work on without work getting in the way of productive and energetic work.  And here are seven things I am going to work on (with one that is not work at all) that make me so excited for the next two weeks to be over and for summer to begin.


1. Working on Sleep.  Precious, precious sleep.

This may be self-explanatory, but I find myself stuck in this tug-of-war between what my body deems necessary (sleep… precious, precious sleep) and what my spirit deems necessary.  You may say, “Go to bed earlier.”  And you know, in an ideal world where I can be secluded from everyone and have no other relationships to maintain and invest in other than mine and God’s, that might be easier to do, but the fact is, I will probably always struggle with this because I love my husband.  In my ideal world, I would wake up early to work out and do my devos, but if I were to go to bed early enough to get all that accomplished before work, then I would be going to bed as he is getting home, and I would have like zero time with him.  I’m not ok with that.  So, I am stuck trying to find that balance between taking care of me: body, soul, and spirit, and maintaining relationship with my best friend.  But I also need to put away my idea of “ideal” and start figuring out how to make the best of my 6 am to 10 pm day and quit blaming other things for my lack of self-discipline.

2. Working on My Personal Bible Study Time.

I have gotten better the last couple weeks, but if I am honest, my time with God gets very dry and rigid very easily.  I want to work on that.  I want to be able to wake up refreshed, have some quick bible reading and worship, go to the gym to really wake up, come home and have some time of real worship and prayer, pressing into the throne room, asking for revelation, praying what He leads me to pray, learning a deeper side of who He is.  In a lot of ways, I feel like I treat God like a long-distant relationship that I catch up with on the phone every once in a while.  It is as if somewhere our communication with each other is getting lost in the mail, yet I know He is right here with me.  I don’t want a long-distant experiential relationship with my Lord.  I want to have a deep, intimate, close friendship with Him, and I know He want it, too.  And don’t get me wrong, there is a definite level of deep intimacy with God, but I want deeper.  I want Him to invade all of me. Everyday.

3. Working on My Health.

I’m 289 pounds of food-loving obesity.  That needs to change.  It takes time.  I have not gone to the gym, and I have not necessarily been eating healthy.  Something has to give, and I need to start figuring out what.  I was told by a close friend that it took her two years to love running and working out.  That scares me. Why can’t it be instantaneous? Perhaps I need to start treating it like I do things in the spirit realm.  Perhaps instead of fretting, stressing, hating on the things that make the health journey difficult I need to start declaring that I love it, that it makes me stronger, that it makes me feel better.  Ultimately, I know those things are and will be true, but I have to invest the time and discipline.  God has given me lots of wonderful ambitions to do in my life, and I need to get healthy if I think I’m going to achieve them.  He has equipped me with the body, and I need to make sure it is ready.  It isn’t yet.

4. Working on Writing Curriculum and Other Planning for Children’s Church.

I have been coping with this responsibility.  Straight up.  I have lots of ideas and lots of plans in my head, but without writing them down and beginning to act on it, I can’t expect my kids to flourish.  If they do not grow under my teaching, that is on me.  I am not ok with them staying where they are no more than I am okay with me staying the way I am.  I want to challenge them, I want to teach them, I want to build a godly relationship with them, and I want them to all become the amazing men of God that I know God wants them to be.  I may not have a classroom of 30 kids to pour into, but I do have these four boys, and I need to focus on doing well with what God has already placed in front of me.  That means I need to write the curriculum I am doing for the next few months as well as get the behavioral checks and balance in place (We are working on some positive reinforcement, incentives, and things of that nature). You may be seeing a recurring theme of time, but it is so true.  I have a ton of work to do every week, and I feel like I barely get it done.

5. Working on Maintaining My Home.

I’m pretty sure this doesn’t need any commentary.  My home falls apart… often.  I want to work on that self-discipline of doing what I hate because the outcome is what I love. My goal is to clean for just 30 minutes every day.  Power clean for 30 minutes, surely I can do that!

6. Working for NISE

NISE is an organization I work for that hosts Chinese students here in Colorado Springs and teaches them about American customs, giving them an opportunity to practice speaking English.  It is wonderful, and I have loved doing it the last two years.  Each year, my responsibilities have increased, but I am so thankful to be a part of this organization that I love and get paid for it.  And pretty soon, we will be really cracking down on the logistics and planning, my favorite! There is a lot yet to do in preparation for the students and a lot yet to do while they are here, but hopefully my co-teacher and I will have been able to invest the time leading up to their arrival to make our time with them as fun and stress-free as possible.

7. (Not) Working at Comic Con

And the best for last, my husband and I are going to Denver Comic Con for our anniversary.  It will be three days of pure nerdy goodness as we go to forums, meet celebrities, and just hang out with each other and invest in an experience with each other. That is what we try to always do, invest our time and money in experiences with each other.  Meeting Alex Kingston won’t be too bad either.


What will you be working on this summer?

To the One Who Holds My Future

My Dearest Abba Father,

You made me cry.  You made me sit in my car for close to thirty minutes weeping.  You made me wake up with a heavy heart and more weeping.  And I don’t get it.  I want to be mad at you, because we clearly disagree on what my near future should look like.  But I know you are the only one who can get me through the pain.  I’m hurt and deeply wounded. I feel like a loved one has died or like I have just gone through a painful break up.  I want to eat buckets of ice cream and watch sad movies.  I want to blame you.  You are the one who holds my future right?

I want to give up.  I throw in the towel.  Every time I follow peace and every time I apply to a job as a teacher, I’m rejected. Every time.  Do we just have the wrong signal.  I know long term that teaching is not the ultimate goal, but have I just missed something?   Have I completely missed your present call on my life? Either way, I don’t know what you want from me anymore.  If I can’t get a job as a teacher what am I supposed to do? It is starting to feel like the only thing I am good at is being a cashier at a small town grocery store.

But I can’t shake the feeling I get when I am teaching either, when I am reading what kids have written.  When kids are writing, I feel like I could fly.  When I am helping them make their writing better and develop ideas, I feel as though nothing can stop me.  I can’t shake the sense of purpose I get when I am teaching kids.  They love me.  I love them.  Why can’t that be enough?

I need you to take my broken heart.  I need you to give me a glimmer of hope because right now, all I see and all I feel is the pain of no, the pain of shattered dreams, the pain of misguided steps and misguided faith that this was going to be it.  I was finally going to be a teacher.

I will always chose to trust you because you are God and because you are for me not against me.  I will choose to trust you because I know you love me and you want what is best for me.  I will trust you because I know you are grieving with me and you hate that I am going through this pain.  I will trust you because you are the only thing I truly want in this life and I will not let Satan destroy that over a shattered dream that in the scope of life will fade and diminish to nothing compared to eternity.

I know you have a powerful call on my life that involves kids, lots of kids.  I know it involves teaching.  Is it unconventional? If so, please Lord, show me.  I can’t walk down another path that leads nowhere.  I just can’t.


Your little Warrior.

My Vow as a Teacher

On Friday, at our teacher professional development, we talked about making a meaningful signature on our kids.  We talked about how we have the power to tell them they are talented and valuable, how we have the power to encourage them to chase any dream, no matter how big. We talked about how we can encourage them to ask “What if” and push them to their fullest potential.  We talked about how we have the power to influence their lives for good because, unfortunately, they don’t always get it at home.  And I couldn’t help but think of the story of the Boy and the Starfish. It goes like this:

One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide.  As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.  Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing.  Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, sir.”

The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you.  What difference can you make?”

The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, ‘I made a difference to that one!”

When we returned to the school after our seminar, we gathered in the gymnasium to talk about suicide prevention.  I was amazed by how young some of the kids were that have committed suicide this year in our county alone.  In 2012, there were seven school-aged suicides, three of which were 14 years old.  What would happen if someone took the time to minister to that one or those seven with an attitude of love that says, “I made a difference to that one.”

We ended our time signing our names in stone with a sharpie, and this is what they remind me when I look at them. As a teacher, this is my pledge:

I will live each day to seize every opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life.  I will seek every day to love God more, so in turn I can love my kids more.  I will tell them they have value.  I will tell them they have purpose.  I will tell them they are able to do anything they set their mind to do.  I will push them to their academic and personal success, because I am more than a teacher.  I influence generations with the Love of Christ. I vow to make a difference to that one.

Hindsight Blessings

Last summer, I had hoped to get a full-time teaching job.  I thought my dreams were going to come true when I was called for an interview on a first grade position.  I knew first grade was not what I wanted, but I thought I could handle it.  I thought I could still be a good teacher and that I could still learn a lot.  That may have been true, but I will never know.  I didn’t get the job.  It hurt so bad.  Everything within me ached.  I felt rejected and inadequate, and I mourned almost all day as if my dreams had literally died. It felt like they had.

A friend encouraged me that we never know what the door holds in store.  If we know God is an all-knowing God, if we know that He works everything for the good of those who love Him, if we know that he is a loving and worthy God, than we must also trust Him to have known the hardship that may have been behind that closed door.  The perspective helped me a lot.

As a sub, I have subbed for first grade a couple of times.  I realize there is an aspect that is different when you are a sub versus the real teacher, but I will not even apply for a first grade job anymore. If I had got the job last summer, I am sure I would have created an atmosphere of love that was run on a million procedures, and I am sure I would have eventually found a system that worked. But do I really want my first teaching job to be a mountain climb of behavioral issues that are compounded by a lack of experience, a lack of well maintained pre-taught lesson plans, and a lack of everything else that makes a classroom run smoothly.

A new teacher has to create her systems of organization.  She has to create all her bulletin boards.  She has to create all her lesson plans.  She also has the meetings, grading, copying, and planning.  Her plate is already full and can create long over-time hours.  After a few years, it all starts to pan out as the bulletin boards she has saved get reused every year (less planning and creating time), as her lesson plans can be tweaked, or certain projects she better learns how to execute them. It takes a few years for a new teacher to get a smooth groove.  Do I really want to add major behavioral challenges on top of that?

The point is that I am convinced I am not made to teach little scatter-brained first graders.  I am made to teach writing to upper elementary students.  I am made to urge them to be creative and celebrate their success.  I am made to focus on the joys of teaching and not the struggle of teaching behavior.  Hats off to all the teachers that make life easy in upper elementary, to the amazing kinder and first grade teachers that begin the process of teaching kids academically and behaviorally how to do school.

In hindsight, though it was rough when I got the rejection e-mail, I am so thankful that I was not hired.  God knows me better than I know myself, and I am so glad I can trust Him with all my life.  I’ll work toward what He has put in my heart and trust Him to take care of the logistics of it all.

In their hearts humans plan their course,
    but the Lord establishes their steps.”
Proverbs 16:9 NIV

Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.”
Psalm 139:16 NIV