The Day I Shot a Gun

fullsizerender

 

All I could hear was breathing in my head. The two giant muffs protruding from my face made sure of that. And I felt so out of place. A girl from the suburbs with muck beneath her Converse, wearing those bulky earmuffs and safety glasses… who did she think she was? Out there clasping that cool metal pistol between her palms and with her finger on the trigger no less! Who did she think she was? Brave? Capable? Powerful? The breaths came out ragged between my teeth. Close your mouth. I thought. Before this thing goes off and you chomp into your lip. So I pushed my tongue down to feel my pulse beating steady in front of it. Wrists shaking, feet apart, one eye closed just like they told me… my shoulders ached from the tensing and my vision blurred with white fear. And I pulled. Slowly, steady, waiting for something to happen. BAM!!!! The open space became a cave surrounding me as the silence shattered into invisible glass. The rush washed over me and my shaking hands fell at last.

“You missed.” Said my uncle bluntly.

But I didn’t care! BECAUSE I SHOT A FLIPPIN’ GUN! It was something I didn’t think I could do. Something that even the thought of was intimidating. But I did it. I took all of that power in my hands and I used it. I got better at it the more rounds I fired, much to the surprise of my uncle, brother, and dad. But even hitting the bulls-eye couldn’t compare to the exhilaration of that first shot!

Despite the name of this blog, I am not a fearless person. I’m the girl who can’t squish a spider, give a nerve-less speech, or take the elevator without saying a prayer first. I don’t like planes, or boats, and anyone who goes swimming in the ocean is, in my opinion, looking to be on one of those inspirational shark attack TV shows. And when I’m honest with myself, I know that the one and only reason for all of this fear is my desire to be in control. Why was I afraid to shoot a gun? Because what if it kicked back too hard and I couldn’t control it? What if I was too weak to handle it and the bullet struck more than a cardboard box?

My desire for control is also exactly what led me to obsession over my body and food intake. When outside circumstances were beyond my control, I unknowingly turned inward. If I couldn’t control what happened to me, then at least I could control my body. But control turned quickly into imprisonment. Cutting out added sugars became cutting out ALL sugars. (Even fruits and more sugary vegetables like carrots) Running a couple of miles a day became running 4 or 5 miles, which would have been fine had I been eating carbs and had I not been literally rearranging my life to fit in my runs. Wanting to be fit became wanting to be skinny, wanting to see my hip bones, and wanting my legs not to touch. When someone would comment on my weight-loss I would get defensive, but then secretly feel proud at the less-ness I had accomplished. And it broke me. Made me feel trapped. I went from not even being aware of my body to over-analyzing every inch until I just didn’t want to live inside of my own skin anymore. I ate less and less, ran more and more, and when the chains of my control would finally break, I ate, and ate, and ate until I couldn’t see straight.

Coming out of that took a lot of prayer. It also took me admitting what I was going through to other people so that I had support. And it took some bravery too. Bravery to cast the control from my hands and trust my body to be what it is going to be. It’s so ironic that our desire for control is sometimes the exact thing that makes us LOSE control. I didn’t feel I had the freedom in my life to say “YES!” to ice cream. When my friends wanted to hang out, I couldn’t do it because I had to run that night. Does that sound like a person who has control or a say in what they do?

Ultimately, I had to lay this struggle in God’s hands. He had to take back the control that I had tried to steal from Him. Instead of running off my troubles on the treadmill, I took them to Him. Instead of hating my body, I learned to love it for the vessel of worship and service that it is to God. And today I celebrate the victories that have been won for me in my mind. I still have rough days sometimes. Days of not liking how I look and wanting my squish to be gone and thinking about eating a little less. But it’s in moments like today, when I shot that gun, that I’m reminded of how far I’ve come. Letting go of the control bit by bit until God can have His way with me. When I’m afraid to pull the trigger, He says “Do It. I’m with you”. And when I finally do, when the force kicks back and the sound echoes out, I’m left invigorated, changed, and even a little fearless.

2nd Timothy 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Just a Number

belly

I did a thing the other day. Something I had no business doing. After tossing my gym shoes in my closet and ripping the velcro of my sweaty training gloves from my palms, I did a thing. I didn’t plan on it happening. It was an instant of spontaneity and curiosity that I figured I was strong enough to handle. One foot, then the other and there I was. On top of that device resting on the bathroom tiles, anticipating the little blinking number that would soon appear between my toes. And boy what a number it was. I just stared at it for a moment, bringing my thumbnail between my front teeth. As I peeled my feet from the flat surface, I felt the panic rising in my stomach. “It’s OK! It’s just a number!” I assured myself. But walking back to my bedroom it didn’t feel like just a number. It was more like someone just told me that I had failed. That I’d gained 15 pounds and therefore should be scolded for what I had let happen. I tried to pray it off. I tried to be thankful for the softness that surrounded me, but I ended up just feeling defeated and willing the tears into submission. The whole entire day I was angry at myself. I wore lose clothes and vowed to up my cardio and locked myself in the bathroom just to pinch at my midsection and make sure that it wasn’t sticking out too much.

And then I remembered something: the promise I made to myself. It is simply this- “I will fuel my body properly, and I will treat it with respect”. I made this my mantra on the very day I decided to stop torturing myself over food and exercise. I reminded myself that it is not necessary to freak out over my weight. Weight gain does not equal unhealthy. I know for a fact that I am fitter, stronger, and healthier than I ever was when I was 15 pounds lighter. And it’s NOT because of the extra pounds, but because of the dedication to working out and eating intuitively that I am able to say that.

I do not plan on getting back on the scale any time soon. I really should have stayed off of it in the first place because I give it too much power over my mental and spiritual well being when I desire to know that number. Some people can know their number and not think much of it, or they use it to track weight loss for health purposes, but for the rest of us we might as well throw that darn scale in the trash because it can’t tell us much. Our bodies are infinitely more complex and wonderful than a single number that blinks between our toes.

So, to all the girls whose day has been ruined by a bathroom scale at one time or another: You are a person, you are not pounds. You can’t even be measured in pounds because who even knows what a soul is made of? But one thing that helps me when I have those days is I straight up ask God to help me respect the body that He has given me. Anything given by God has to be good!

Psalm 139:14  I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.

Not Every day is a “Fit Day”

img_20681

Whatever you’re going through today, make it a “fit” day! I read the caption beneath the picture and hit the “like” button. It was another one of those inspirational Instagram posts. You know the one: A woman flexing in the mirror, sweat dripping down her face, abs popping out of her skin, and training-gloved hands angling her phone camera. “Make it a fit day!”. Sounded like a swell sentiment on the day I liked the picture. The day when the sun was shining, and I was super motivated, and everyone I love loved me back, and I had all of my homework done, and the laundry wasn’t piled up, and I got 9 hours of sleep, and when I had a nutritious meal in my system. Today though, having a “fit day” doesn’t sound so great.

Oh, I had intentions. I was gonna work out Monday-Friday, get enough to eat, sleep, do school, go to work, practice piano… but here I am now where Monday didn’t come around until Thursday. Here I am now when I’ve cried every day this week, and school is still there, and work is still there, and the litter box is still there, and the loneliness is still there. Here I am now when (GASP) I’ve skipped the gym for 3 or 4 days. And guess what?! That is totally OK!

Many people (myself included) make the mistake of giving a workout plan a greater portion of their lives than is really necessary. I’m not talking about body builders and bikini body competitors here. I’m talking about the average, every day you and me who are passionate about health and fitness or who are simply interested in staying in decent shape. We easily get down on ourselves if we skip a session or skip an entire week. I went three days without running one time and I went frantically calling up all of my friends and saying things like “I’ve probably gained so much weight!” More recently, I’ve worried about my muscles shrinking overnight because I skipped some of my weightlifting sessions that week. These anxieties are not based in scientific fact, but rather in our desire to be perfect, put together, and motivated 24/7. And girl, you just can’t expect that of yourself. People tell me that all of the time, and I’m learning every day to really understand that although it is hard to accept.

The reality is that not every day can be a “fit day”. That doesn’t mean that you won’t reach your goals. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t motivated enough or dedicated enough. It just means that there are other things in life that you need to deal with that day. Sometimes you need to make it a “friends and family day”, “ movies in bed day”, “catch up on school day”, or (my personal favorite) a “cry your heart out for four days straight day”. Whatever you’re going through, you do not have to make it a “fit day”. So much life happens outside of the gym, don’t miss out on it because your workout regimen is too strict. I know what it’s like to feel obligated to work out, and it will only lead to obsession. Fitness is not obsession. Fitness is and always will be mind, body, and spirit. And you can’t always nourish all three in the gym. Finally, here’s a little told secret for you: That girl in the Instagram pic? Not all of her days are “fit days” either! She’s a person and a life just like you and that’s beautiful!

#ThatMomentWhenYouDieFromBeingAVegetarian

salad

 

I knew she was going to say something. The moment I sat around that restaurant table with my friends and their grandmother, I knew. As everyone around me gawked at pictures of burgers, baked chicken, and fried shrimp, I was scouting out my options around the salad section of the menu. As so many menus are, this one was largely unimpressive. But then I saw it. In good ol’ black and white: “Veggie Burger”. SOLD ! My ecstasy was beyond my control despite my desire to be discreet. I may or may not have squealed a little and bounced around in my chair… “YOU’RE GOING TO EAT THAT?” the robust old woman asked from across me. My secret was out. “You know, my niece DIED from being a vegetarian!” At this point I went into automatic small-talk mode, otherwise I would have laughed at the ridiculousness of her statement! “Oh, is that right?’ I said looking to my friend for help. “Grandma, Pam died from LUNG CANCER. She was an avid smoker…” I just bit my lip to stifle the grin forming on my face. It went back and forth like that for some time and by the end of the conversation she still wasn’t convinced that vegetarianism was a sustainable way of life. Our waitress didn’t help matters when I ordered my food and instead of writing it on her pad she dropped her pen to her side and asked “Now where did you get her from!?” Annnd… then they were off again debating the finer points of why they eat meat, while I sat quietly embarrassed.

As my fellow veg heads can testify, these situations happen literally all of the time. Many people say things like “I could never do that”, “How do you get your protein?”, and perhaps the most painful to our Veggie hearts “I wish I felt bad about eating meat, but I don’t”. I get it. It’s hard to listen to people disregard the life of the creatures that our convictions prevent us from consuming. There was a two-year period of time before I met Jesus that I was a full-blown vegan. Saving animals was my passion and my purpose, and anyone who didn’t agree with me was the enemy. They were evil and cruel, and I wanted nothing to do with those meat eaters. It wasn’t long before I viewed myself as above them. It wasn’t healthy. Spewing hateful words into the pages of my journal, being angry every time I sat in the kitchen with my meat-eating family, and obsessively drawing gory cartoons in hopes that they would convert one of the wayward ones. Then something happened that changed all of that: Romans 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; I realized I was no better. It was in those moments of newfound humility that God put a new purpose in my heart: LOVE. I gave up veganism. Not because I didn’t love animals, but because I loved people more. Veganism had become a barrier between me and those around me, and when I tore it down, I found beautiful souls on the other side. Even meat-eating ones!

Today, I am about 5 months back into a vegetarian lifestlye. But this time I plan on doing it right and for God’s glory. I’m a vegetarian for the animals, for my health, and for mindfulness. I also look at it as me taking responsibility for the stewardship of the earth that God gave to mankind. I’m a vegetarian because I refuse to fuel my life with death. But, when it comes to the issue of whether eating meat is “right” or “wrong”, “good” or “bad” I don’t think it’s quite that simple. A lot of people who live a meat-less lifestyle try to make it that all or nothing mentality, but I choose to challenge that. What about people who don’t have access to meat-less options? What about homeless people and those in third-world countries? What about the men and women warring against their eating disorders? Should we tell them that their physical and mental well-being are less important than the rights of creatures that God gave us charge over? What about your family and friends whose favorite meal is a medium-well steak? Should we tell them that they are ignorant and hateful and disrespectful? I used to. Until I realized that it was ME doing the hating. I do understand that factory farming is a huge contributor to poverty and water/ food shortages all around the world, but that’s not what I’m getting at here. The point is that people come first. Period.

Jesus didn’t leave Heaven to save the animals. He came for US. People. Human beings. And if your meat-less existence is not respectful of that, then it’s simply a vain thing that you’re doing. So instead of shaming people for what’s on their plate, how about we love people and just be honest about why we PERSONALLY choose to live meat-less. People are much more willing to listen that way and may even find they agree with you. But that embarrassment that I felt on the day I ordered a veggie burger, is the same way our friends feel when we get all uppity about their grilled chicken sandwich. And is that really what we want? A reputation for being stuck-up? Because that’s exactly what we will have.