Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"Lefou, I'm afraid I've been thinking..."

"A dangerous pastime."
"I know..."

Well, we are down to the final pre-wedding countdown (38 days to go!) and it is crunch time for decision making and final plans. To say it has been a stressful few weeks would be an understatement but luckily I've got a few things to keep my sanity in check -- God, Brent, my family, crossfit (and/or exercising 4-5 days a week). 

The funny thing about decision making is it requires a lot of thinking... "why it's more than I can bear." ("More beer?" "what for? nothing helps.") I've been listening to way too much Disney Beauty and the Beast music lately. Mostly the "Gaston" songs. I feel like I am having Disney World withdrawals so I do and do not apologize for my over abundance of Disney references and/or songs, pictures, etc. 

Anyway, we were on the topic of decision making and thinking. So as you may or may not know, when you are getting married to your fiance who lives (insert number here) miles away in a little over a month, the conversation of "where are we going to live?"comes about pretty frequently. The most difficult thing about these decisions is that ultimately, they are not ours to make. Sometimes, we have to use faith and logic to see where our path is being directed. 

I've been reading a lot of devotionals lately and every time I open it up it somehow pertains to decision making and trusting and reliance... all things I need to be better at... especially now. So, I can do all the thinking I want, but the thinking will be nothing unless it involves praying. That's what I am being taught right now... trust and reliance. I need to trust in God's plan and rely on Him especially in the times when I want to forge my own path (because I'm human and sometimes my heart and mind aren't always in the right place). 

What I've come to understand from experiences in the past couple years is that no matter what my plan has been, when that plan did not come to fruition, something even better happened in my life. I need to remember that when I'm trying to walk on my own. When I (we) trust, I (we) find joy because I (we) know that God's plan may have ups and downs (zig-zags or circles) in our lives and our plans, but it will always cause us to rely on Him, to trust in Him, and to understand that He is always guiding us to what is best and that we cannot even begin to imagine how great His plans are for us.

One of the things I am looking forward to most about marriage is growing in a relationship with another person that will teach me how to love and trust better every single day. I cannot wait for the laughter, the tears, the moments, and the memories that marriage will bring. Most of I am looking forward to the fact that we will have been married for two months before this gem (Mockingjay Part 1) comes out in theaters on November 21, 2014. This way I already have someone to go to the midnight showing with me!

I have already partially prepared for the midnight showing of this and it may be proceeded with a re-reading of all the books and a re-watching of the first two movies. Although, I may be disappointed if I re-read the books so close to the movie and then realize they are missing something (like the Harry Potter series and Peeves... so sad). Anyway, I've got a hunger games training shirt, practiced my hair braiding, and of course mastered my archery skills. These have all been acquired over a few years so I may need a wardrobe upgrade. I probably also need to redefine "mastered" since in this case it means tried once and got the arrow to release from the long bow over two years ago... good thing I don't need those skills to watch a movie. All I need is my future husband, a giant cup of coffee (since it will be way past my bedtime), and to find my mockingjay pin (which is around here somewhere).

I can't wait to be married and I know that through all the craziness, the thinking, the decisions, and the journey of continuously learning to trust more it is going to be a fantastic, wonderful, incredible, amazing ride. Plus I'm marrying one of the best men I know! Lucky lucky lucky me.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

I Just Want To "Clean"

I think I need to rename my blog to "Whatever Miscellaneous Thing Danielle Feels Like Writing that Day" or "Jesus, Crossfit, and Disney - and everything in between". This isn't really the on topic blog I had intended... all about human dignity, women's rights (read my postings on abortion/contraception for more on that), and my journey of learning about NFP. As it turns out, my journey (I have been having a lot of these lately) towards exploring NFP while learning about the physical and emotional harms of contraception led me down another path... one towards actually and actively striving to take care of my body and health...which led to my discovery of Paleo and Crossfit.

It is no surprise that as a woman getting married in 2 months (*insert super excited smiley emojicon*!!) I have been looking for ways to drop a few extra pounds before the wedding. I tried counting calories with little success and was not eating a sustainable diet. I found out about "Paleo" from my doctor (purely for health reasons -- hormones and healthy gut  *blah blah blah blah blah*) and I poo-pooed it right away. Give up chocolate, sugar, and grains? Impossible. Inconceivable! Those are staples in my diet. I didn't want to do it at first, but I researched a little and found that it could have pretty good health benefits. I found a strict paleo 30 day diet... the "Whole30" and gave it an (honestly) half-hearted try. After it ended I dove into the nearest bowl of chocolate candy I could find because even though I knew I felt physically better, I didn't lose those 10-15 pounds I wanted in a month. Of course the logical answer to that was to find the closest unhealthy food I could. I was being very logical and completely unemotional in that moment...
That was over a month ago. 
When u eating dinner with ur bae and ur Hungarian

Today, I am 4 days into my second Whole30 and going in with a brand new mentality -- an improved me, a healthy me, a fit me. 

I started Crossfit about a month ago, worked my way through Foundations, and I get to join actual classes on Monday (yay!). The biggest thing I noticed was that food and the types of foods I eat directly influence my athletic performance and my future recovery (duh!!!) I re-started Whole30, bought the book for the program ("It Starts With Food") and I have been learning how the food we put in our body influences our psychological response, hormonal balance, immune system, etc. It's kind of scary to think about how certain foods disrupt and "trick" our body's normal regulation system. The book talks about a "skinny-fat" where you look physically thin but your thyroid and hormones are out of whack. I read that and all I thought was "me. me. me." I've been going to the doctor because my hormones are out of whack (which I learned from NFP and charting, then blood tests..) and if the food I eat can either balance them or put them more out of whack maybe I need to be more conscientious about what I am eating.. "It Starts With Food" ... the journey is coming full circle.. See all my topics are inter-related to the original intent of "free, total, faithful, and fruitful love".. The idea of free, total, faithful, and fruitful love (which is what Christ's love is) led to discovering NFP which led to discovering Paleo which led to Crossfit while Disney just has to be interspersed for it to be complete. It comes full circle. So maybe I have really been on topic this whole time. Have you been paying attention? See what I've been doing there?

Anyway back to Crossfit! In one of my foundations classes I had to learn a Crossfit move called the "power clean". As someone who has almost never weight lifted in their life, I was struggling to get the proper form and I just could not get it. I couldn't process the part where I had to get it to my shoulders. I left the box frustrated that day because obviously I should have been able to do that. Frustrated. Was this just something I physically wouldn't be able to do? The next foundations class I learned the power snatch and I rocked. We tried cleans again, and voila the miracle of all miracles happened... I could do it (did I eat better that day??). Every class since I have had to clean the bar up whether it was to do another Crossfit move or just to do more power cleans (or squat cleans!) and after my last foundations class all I wanted to do was more power cleans.

At my last foundations class we reviewed many of the previous technical moves I had learned and we did my final foundations workout... "Fight Gone Bad" It is a 15 minute workout. You do 1 minute of wall balls, 1 minute SDHP ( I forgot what this stands for), 1 minute of box jumps, 1 minute of STOH,  1 minute of rowing for calories, 1 minute of rest and repeat for a total of three rounds. The goal is to get as many reps as you can and all your reps get added up to make up your final score. It was awful. At one point I felt like I couldn't lift the bar over me head anymore, but as soon as I left box and caught my breath all I wanted to do was try it again and get a better score next time. That (below) is how I looked after my "Fight Gone Bad" and my score is the large number in red at the bottom.

That's the strange thing about Crossfit is it gives you something to strive for physically... stronger, fitter, healthier. So it has been a journey and it will continue to be. I have always wanted to be thin, thin, thin but all I want now is to be fit. I want to be able to do an unassisted pull-up, or 10, or 20. I want to be able to do as many overhead squats (my nemesis!) as possible. I want to strive for what my body can do and how I can push it to get there. For the first time I feel like it is actually possible. I am sore and I don't think there has been a part of my body that hasn't been sore since I started Crossfit. It brings me back to my soccer days where I pushed myself and I strove to better myself and my performance. I am doing that again. I will be faster, stronger, and fitter. I will be healthier and every small accomplishment (broccoli rather than chocolate or "one more push up") is going to bring me closer to that goal. So whether it is learning NFP and striving to love like Christ, eating Paleo (sometimes succeeding and sometimes failing), or getting stronger as I push myself to the limits, it is all part of my journey of self-improvement and it is all intertwined. 

Now I know you have been waiting for the Disney reference/relation so I will say that since I can't choose just one song to describe how I feel or what I want to write about, I will provide you with a medley. Life is a medley and how boring would it be if I stayed on topic? 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Love Never Fails

Sitting here on the airplane (okay I wrote this yesterday, pretty low-tech with pen and ink) thoughts fly through my head (see what I did there??) as I reflect on the series of events leading up to this moment in time.

Anyone that knows me, knows I am not a relaxed person. I'm high maintenance, I get stressed easily, and I often have a short fuse. All of these result in very unloving, untrusting, un-Christlike examples of living. Whenever I run into situations where my emotions are on overload, I often seek an escape to those feelings or that situation. My escape in these times is often my music. Not my music (I have not been blessed with stellar vocal chords or "called deadly for a killer show tune medley"... I've got a dream) but the music I listen to I consider "mine"... ** on a brief side note, no blog post would be complete without a Disney/Tangled reference. If you caught it, I commend you. If you didn't, check out the youtube video below. ;) **

As I now poorly transition back on topic, I was sitting on the airplane after a long, exhausting day and as I began drifting into the semi-dreamland that airplane rides allow a melody by Brandon Heath started playing through my headphones -- "Love Never Fails". If you've never heard it before, listen to it.. or else!... you are missing out on a really great song. The first few lines of the song go like this: "Love is not proud. Love does not boast. Love after all matters the most. Love does not run. Love does not hide. Love does not keep locked inside. Love is a river that flows through and love never fails you." (This song references the Bible in case you didn't know ... 1 Corinthians 13) When the song came on it really struck a chord (unintentional) with me.

I have been struggling lately. I've been anxious and stressed, trying over and over to overcome these emotions on my own accord. Sometimes (more often then I would like to admit) when I allow negative emotions to control me, it often results in me hurting those I love whether it is shutting them out or acting out of anger... so completely unloving. I'm writing a blog about how I am learning to be more loving and admitting that lately I have not been nearly as loving as I should be. Lately, I > anyone else. Lately, I have failed to love. Luckily for me, I have the intellect to learn and the blessings of knowing how loved I am that I can change. Using better terminology, I can allow myself to be changed for the better. The more I learn how to be accepting and trusting of the love from the creator of love itself, the more I will allow Him to change my heart to be one that is completely giving and completely loving. I can be changed to be a true example of love that brings true JOY.

JOY, J-O-Y. It is a small word that can have a huge impact especially for those who know where true joy comes from. True joy comes from the Lord. It comes from loving and trusting in our Savior and knowing that He is faithful. It is very clear to me that I am not always faithful or loving or trusting and there are times when I am a selfish human being. I fall. I fail. I struggle. God is constant. His love is constant. His love never fails.

He has reminded me of that a lot lately. That He hasn't given up on me and that He has no intention to. It's a sad thing when I choose "me" over anyone else especially my Creator, my Savior, my Helper and Guide because it emphasizes how I have fallen and failed. I (we) ultimately have two choices in this life that result in where we end up in the life to come. We either love God first, love others second, and love ourselves last (JOY... Jesus, others, yourself - in that order) or we love the promises of this world and ourselves above all others. We can choose to trust in His promises and give Him our struggles, our temptations, our fears, our anxieties, and our weaknesses to let Him heal us or we try to carry it all and solve it all on our own. We accept God or we reject Him. There isn't a middle ground. Accepting God is choosing to give up ourselves, our plans, our comfort zones, and our desires for a greater purpose and for the promise of eternal life in heaven with our Savior.

God's been "tugging on my heartstring" as my fiance put it. I was propelled into a journey of seeking a better relationship with Jesus about a year ago. I sought out Truth and discovered all these "truths" about what Christianity is. I got lost in different doctrines and systems of belief, worship, and praise. I was trying to find out what truth was complete and what to trust in rather than focusing on who to trust in.

I have a sticker on my computer. It says "Jesus, I trust in you." When I started trying to focus on what to trust in, I got reminders (in Church, in the car, at home, in a Lighthouse Catholic Media CD, and on Divine Mercy Radio) over and over again telling me to trust in Him. I need to focus on who (Jesus!) to trust in and the what will be revealed (yes it will take discernment and understanding and numerous blessings and gifts from that awesome helper the Holy Spirit) but the who comes first. The phrase "Jesus I trust in you" was re-iterated over and over in Church and the media I listen to. That should have been my first hint. I was being given what I needed but I was blinded or I chose not to listen. I still really believe that it is necessary to find the complete truth (as complete as God's revelation allows for me and my life) of Christianity (because relativism just doesn't cut it) but it is essential that I am trusting completely in the One who saves before any of that is possible. "Jesus, I trust in you." X as many times as needed. That will be my constant prayer and reminder.

I was reminded to trust again (this seems like a process... a very re-iterative one) last week at church and this week as well. Last week, the pastor talked about our daily walk with Christ and being rooted in Christ. I need to walk with Him daily if I am going to be rooted in Him... DUH (**gets hit on the head with a hammer or a, gets handed a Bible, an open a Bible full of God's promises**)

"Me. me. me., wedding planning, and major life decisions have been ruling my life the past month (or two) and here I am being reminded again to trust and not only being reminded but being taught ways that I can build up that relationship and that trust. I'm an engineer. I should be able to figure this out, correct? 1 + 1 = 2 (if only it was that easy). If a radio navigation box is put together without screws and installed into an aircraft, that radio is going to fail the harsh environmental conditions (vibration, probably thermal) because it is not complete. A door may fall off or something inside the box will break because it wasn't secured properly causing other internal failures to the circuitry and the components that keep the radio working. If I try to work, live, or exist of my own accord without God's grace, help, and mercy then I am the unsecured box trying to function in harsh conditions. I am not complete and I will fail. The initial failure mode will continue to cause other failure modes until I allow myself to be fixed, put back together, and secured properly to withstand any conditions. A human being without a Savior will live in a life of sin without healing and without hope.

We all struggle. We talked about that in Church this week. All the biblical examples of people who were chosen by God to fulfill his promises, struggled and sometimes (often) failed. However, they had faith. They knew their (our) Lord was worthy of trust because His promises are unmatched and fulfilled. We read Hebrews and they spoke of people who overcame and conquered through faith, but it also spoke of those who were tortured, condemned, and suffered for their faith. People who trust in the Lord's promises and believe in His unending love and grace find joy and hope and love in all situations.

There is a woman I heard about when listening to Catholic radio. She got pregnant with her first child and her and her husband were told during the pregnancy that the baby was going to die shortly after birth. The doctors tried to convince her to have an abortion but they decided they were going to give the child as much life as possible. The woman went through her pregnancy and the child died shortly after birth. She got pregnant again and they found out the same thing about this child as they had with the previous pregnancy. The couple made the same decision to give the child as much life as possible and the child also died shortly after birth. A third time, this couple got pregnant. The baby was healthy, but the mother had been diagnosed with cancer shortly after the pregnancy. She refused cancer treatment for the health and life of the child. The third child was born and the woman died from her cancer shortly after. Through all her trials she didn't stop trusting in God's promises or plans and she chose the life of another through love over her own life.

Pope (now Saint) John Paul II was shot in an attempted assassination. He not only forgave the man who attempted to kill him, but he befriended him. He showed him love, care, and concern for his soul. He knew of Christ's love and promises and he shared these with this man. I get upset when people hurt my feelings and find it difficult to forgive. How much strength it must take to forgive someone who tries to kill you. How much trust, joy, and life He must have found in Christ in order to be able to act out of love over anger.

There was another young woman I heard about named Chiara Badano (look her up!). She died the month and year I was born. October 1990. Chiara was so in love with Jesus. She was diagnosed with bone cancer and her response was "It's for you, Jesus; if you want it, I want it, too." How much trust this woman had to be able to declare through her painful, terminal illness her complete faith and trust in our Lord. She had so much love for the Lord. A Cardinal came to visit her in the hospital once. He asked her, "The light in your eyes is splendid. Where does it come from?" Chiara replied, "I try to love Jesus as much as I can."

Human examples of grace and love are not even close to Christ's love or grace but through the help of the Holy Spirit and knowing where to place our trust we can learn to love others better. We don't deserve what we have been given by Christ through His death and resurrection but He gives it out of love. We should be able to grown and learn to give love others in that way. We should try to love Jesus as much as we can no matter what life brings.

Everytime I thank Brent for being patient with me or for loving me when I am being selfish, he often (always) says "that's grace hon" because I'm usually asking for forgiveness and love when I don't deserve it. He loves me even when I am a pain, stressed, "bride-zilla" or a "scared of change-zilla" He forgives me and he continues to love me ESPECIALLY when I don't deserve it. That's an amazing human love. It shows me how much greater and how perfect God's love, grace, and forgiveness is.

I could probably write pages and pages of my sins throughout my life and even daily. I know everytime I sin, I'm choosing something else over God and that it hurts Him because He loves me (and you!) infinitely and perfectly. He never stops calling or seeking or tugging at our heart. Love is a two-way street. We have to not only acknowledge God's love, but we have to choose whether or not to accept the love and grace and we have to choose to love Him back just for who He is.

Choosing God means allowing Him to change you. It means making ammends with Him because you have hurt Him. If you love someone, you apologize and you make ammends for the hurt you have caused. You (we) need to be reconciled with Him and we need to open our hearts to allow Him to change us. Months and months ago on my journey, we were reading a Bible passage where we were described as clay in the potter's hands. An artist, a potter takes nothing and turns it into something. God doesn't tweak lives to fit into the mold, ideas, or plans we have. He changes lives in order to fulfill His greatest plans.