Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Whole Life

I believe that the Lord is calling me to a “whole” life, one that no longer ignores the body and the soul, but nurtures all three: body, spirit and soul. What does this look like? I’m not sure. What I do know is that I’ve neglected body and soul.

I thought that the only good thing was my spirit. My spirit, as far as I know, is what communes with God. My spirit makes me spirit-ual, eternal; it endures when my body has passed away.

So I worked hard nurturing my spirit, thinking that it was my job. I interceeded for the world and my family, friends, and unsaved neighbors. I studied the Word – completing my Bible study homework, digging deeper into the answers that I didn’t fully understand, getting lost in a question that I had… I prepared sermons and talks for Sunday mornings, women’s ministry meetings and the retreat. I planned meetings and vision for the next year. These were all good things to do, but I was constantly WORKING for God. I never stopped to REST with Him. To “practice His presence.” It was like He was waiting for me to put my pen down and just be with Him.

My body… well, the easy answer is that I had two babies in two years, and they didn’t like the gym, or the gym didn’t like them. Either way, I hadn’t been in one for four years. I fasted occasionally, sometimes weekly, and the Lord began a work to deliver me from an eating addiction… more like, eating idolatry. I ran to food when I was sad, happy, anxious, tired. When Finn was an infant, he screamed for hours at a time. I hit the chocolate chips hard in those days. My post-baby weight was inviting friends over, instead of falling off. I began to get serious about honoring the Lord with eating, so I guess I wasn’t completely neglecting my body. But I did seem to focus on NOT eating, instead of enjoying eating what I had… 

When I did finally go back to the gym in April of this year, I felt guilty about it. I was leaving my children during the best part of their day (the morning), so that I could exercise. I felt like a stereotype: the stay-at-home mom at the gym. The rich, tan mom, with lots of diamonds and a perfectly sculpted %@$, whose children were cared for by another lowly person while she worked on her work of art, her body. When the truth is, I was just a woman who had been neglecting herself and had lost her own identity in motherhood and ministry.

Taking care of my body in exercise was the first step for me in rediscovering myself. God made my body. He even called it “very good.” (I’ll take it!) He made me a steward of that body, just like the servant with the talents. I am the caretaker of God’s wonderful masterpiece. It is every bit spiritual for me to exercise. And I often find myself worshipping with abandon during spin class. “Hallelujah! Thank you Jesus for techno music! Thank you for the healthy body you’ve given me! Thank you for strong legs and arms and for sweat and endorphins and for a community of people to exercise with, so I’m not alone in this fight to take care of my body! Thank you for bringing me back to the gym! Thank you for the wonderful child care workers who give me a break, so that I can go back home and give more to my kids!” Sometimes I hear really clearly from God right in the middle of spin class. Or on a run. I get ideas that seem heaven-sent. I can clear my head as I exhaust my body. For a while I started listening to podcasts (sermons) while I exercised. I found myself dreading the gym… I was making my body work into spirit work. Exercise was a break from my constantly moving mind. When I added some deep theology, the same release was not accomplished. So I went back to Rhianna on the elliptical. Much better. I can listen to “We Found Love” about 400 times in a row. It totally motivates me to do one more set of crunches. (I once tried to put that song on the play list at my mom’s 60 birthday party. It was like the dancing stopped, the crickets chirped, and everyone stared at me. Oops. Never put Rhianna on the playlist when the average age is about 60.)

Oh, one other thing. Ive been counting calories. I tried cutting out sugar completely for a while, but I was miserable and depressed. I LOVE making cookies with my kids. So lately Ive just been counting my calories with an app on my ipod. I’ll never (OK, probably never) drink another caramel Frappaccino ever again. They are like 500 calories! Holy cow! Who knew? But my favorite homemade peanut butter chocolate chip oatmeal cookies are only 170 calories each. ONE of those suckers almost satisfies my sweet-tooth for the day. SOOO good. (I’ll give you the recipe if you want.) AND, I got to make them with my little boys, who love to eat the dough, and we love making them together. It's just as fun to make them as to eat them. We literally had a cookies for lunch today. Who needs PB&J (400 calories)? Taking care of my body, and sensible eating, doesn’t mean never eating fun, yummy food. It just means balancing it out. I’m honestly finding freedom in the self-control.

As for my soul, I’m still figuring this one out. I am trying to discover what I love. Besides Jesus, Todd, and my kids, of course. But what in this “unspiritual” world do I really enjoy? (Perhaps it’s all spiritual when we see it through the right lens.)

I have discovered a few things I love. I like country music. Carrie Underwood especially. And jazz. I have found that jazz relaxes me just as much as a bowl of ice cream at the end of an exhausting day. (Seriously!) I like art musuems. And cities. I just went to Boston with my mom, and we started at the Musuem of Fine Art. I felt alive, and cultured, and stimulated in a way that I’m not usually. I stared long and hard at paintings of George Washington in his youth, and a woman (I forgot her name) who was a revolutionary in her own time, yet was painted tending a garden. Perhaps, like me, she felt more comfortable with a pen than a trowel in her hands. I loved riding the “T,” people watching, wandering in and out of little shops along Newberry Street, eating my way through Quincy Market (Yeah, that wasn’t a good calorie day. We won’t talk too much more about that one.), drinking chilled wine and hot coffee. I love the energy of the city.

I love to read. And not just Christian books. Novels. Magazines. Home design books, which are just picture books for grown-ups. I like going to the library by myself, so I can pick the books and movies that I like, without a toddler yelling in the adult section, or the rest of my crew running around like untrained children. (“Who are those children? They certainly aren’t mine! Ughh!”)

I like to meet friends out for a coffee or a glass of wine. I do try to connect with my friends during the week with my children. But there is GREAT blessing in connecting with my friends without my children. Uninterrupted conversation is greater than gold, and good friends are like apples in settings of silver. (Or something like that.) A fabulous cabernet sauvignon is a bonus. And Italian bread dipped in olive oil. Yum. (300 calories)

I’ve always loved home design. But I want to learn more. I want to use the sewing machine that my grandmother gave me. I’m hoping to take a home d├ęcor sewing class and learn how to make curtains and slip covers for my dining room chairs and new pillow covers and duvet covers for my bed. I recently wandered through a fabric store and collected all the little free swatches of fabric I liked. Then I put up some corkboard in my home office and displayed them all, by room. I feel like a proper designer. Problem is I don’t have the budget. Or the time. Someday.

I’ve struggled to be still in this season of rest and wholeness that God has me in. It feels weird not to put most of my free time towards planning some meeting or some sermon. But it’s also freeing. I feel more whole than I have, perhaps, ever. God is loving me in this season. He is loving me body, soul, and spirit.