Posted in Faith, Health, Weight Loss

Little Victories

It’s a good feeling.

Strive for progress, not perfection.

After a week, I figured an update is beyond due! I have been tracking my meals and exercise with my Create365 planner (lets me see and reflect on it all in one place) and MyFitnessPal (which gives me the amount of calories in what I eat). I’ve been drinking more water, which is huge for this soda- and juice-lover. I ate at home far more often, and just overall made better portion size choices to stay within my caloric goal. I made sure to eat less than 500 calories whenever we ate out, except on days when I exercised in the pool, which gave me some extra calories for a little reward ice cream (though I noticed I feel worse physically after indulging). I lost 5.4 pounds this week. I’ve been trying to make small progress, not perfect progress. That’s another biggie for me.

I am definitely a perfectionist when it comes to myself and my goals. It’s all or nothing. Either I lose weight or I give up and binge. Either I know everything about health and exercise, or I tell myself I’m not ready to begin. Either I keep up on my meal tracking, or I give it up and think I can’t do it. Either I go for daily runs or if I miss a couple days, it’s game over. It’s self-sabotage and ain’t nothin’ but the devil.

After 32 years of existing on this earth, I’d like to think I’ve learned a thing or two. Now that I see my habits clearly, I can begin to combat them. Gretchen Rubin’s book Better Than Before has helped shine a bright light on my preferences and idiosyncrasies, which has shown me why I’ve failed in the past and what I, as an individual, need in order to create lasting change. I’ve learned that I am willing to meet others’ expectations of me but not my own, thus external accountability is essential to my progress. That’s one of many things I’ve discovered and can exploit on this journey.

In order to create lasting change, you need to know yourself objectively, without judgement, and use that knowledge to patiently and compassionately adjust your habits bit by bit.

That’s taken me many years to figure out. I wallowed in self-loathing whenever I made small mistakes. I used every excuse in the book in order to give up. I tried to force myself to work the way self-help books told me I should work, even when it made me miserable. I told myself I wasn’t good or smart or strong enough to make healthy choices, therefore maybe I didn’t deserve health anyway. I don’t think I’m alone in doing all that. I tell you, it is no way to live.

Small steps toward progress is still progress. Failure and mistakes are still progress as long as you learn from them and refuse to give up. And when you do, it’s important to forgive yourself and have some compassion. It’s sometimes easier to be patient with other people than with ourselves. We’re human, my friend. We’re going to screw up, probably often. If God can forgive us, I think we can find a way to do so, too.

You don’t have to be perfect to make progress. You just need to know who you are, who you are in Christ, and stubbornly try, try again.

Posted in Faith

“Slimmer Summer”

Let the competition begin!

The trouble with always trying to preserve the health of the body is that it is so difficult to do without destroying the health of the mind. – G. K. Chesterton

I joined a three-month weight loss competition group led by an old friend, called “Slimmer Summer.” There are 18 women participating via Facebook from several states. It begins today.

Through reading the book Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin, I’ve discovered that I’m an Obliger. In other words, I let my own expectations slide but attempt to meet outside expectations all I can. It means I tend to be motivated by external accountability. This group is one way for me to get exactly that. I have to report in every day or lose points. I put money into the pot so I answer to my husband if I waste the money he’s earned from work.

My goal here is to see how much I can safely and happily lose in 12 weeks, to feel healthier and stronger in general, and to begin to form better habits to last me a lifetime. I’ll keep you all posted on my progress (another form of external accountability).

BUT–

As the quote by Chesterton above says, it’s all too easy as humans to get obsessed by the number on the scale and fad diets and lose sight of what really matters: our souls. It’s not about how I look or what other people think of me. It’s not about living as long as possible or finding fulfilment through something I’ve created.

Getting healthy should be about respecting the temple God made your body to be.

If we don’t seek God first, we won’t have an accurate theology of the body (holla John Paul II), and then we won’t ever be successful in finding true health. To help with that, I’ve focused on scheduling in plenty of time with God, spiritual readings, and the Sacraments to shift my perspective and focus on what I really need to be concentrating on: My Heavenly Father.

I want to get healthy and feel better in my body, yes, but I also want to be at peace with the vessel God gave me through which I navigate the world. I want to respect it properly. I want junk food to be put in its place: the trash. I want to discover the physical as God meant it to be. My hope is that I will be a better role model for my son, and that God and I will be ever closer for this journey.

Posted in Faith

No Summit

Keep going.

No longer is man subject to his base wants and lusts and desires, but is released to strive for the summit of perfection. – Fr. Richard Heilman

My consecration to Mary was incredible. As a parish, we held Mass and said our consecration oath together after Communion. There were people saying it in English, Portuguese, and Spanish, all of us at the same time, so that it sounded like jumbled, discordant noise, but it was still beautiful. It was lovely because of what it meant: individuals united to a common purpose and a common God. It felt like a piece of heaven. Mary’s children promised ourselves to her and thus to her Son.

Lightning didn’t strike. My problems weren’t all miraculously solved in that moment. But it did feel like a new beginning, if I keep my feet on that path.

I don’t think perfection is something we can reach in this life. Perfection is only found in God and in heaven, so I would say we can’t reach the “summit of perfection” (as Fr. Heilman puts it) on earth. However, I do think we should always be striving to reach it anyway.

I pray that my consecration will be one of many steps toward that summit, steps I can only make with the Spirit within me, God ahead of me, and Mary next to me. I pray that for all 150 of us who consecrated ourselves that day!

Posted in Faith

Day 33 of 33: Consecration

Our Lady loves roses!

The reading of this book (True Devotion to Mary) was a decisive turning-point in my life. I say “turning-point,” but in fact it was a long inner journey. . . – This “perfect devotion” is indispensable to anyone who means to give himself without reserve to Christ and to the work of redemption. – St. Pope John Paul II on St. Louis de Montfort’s book

It’s finally here, the day when I give myself totally to Jesus through Mary! It’s a day that will change the rest of my life, just as it did for John Paul II. Whenever we do anything spiritually momentous, the enemy attacks with intensity. He is doing exactly that to me today.

Satan, being proud, suffers infinitely more from being beaten and punished by a little and humble handmaid of God, and her humility humbles him more than the Divine power… – St. Louis de Montfort

He does not want me to make this consecration. I knew that going in, so I’m able to recognize it. My mind is plagued with doubts and insecurities; Anna’s illness gets worse; I get headaches; life gets demanding and exhausting. Anything the devil can do to diminish my commitment, he will do.

But today is between me, My Lady and Jesus Christ. I will remember that throughout the day and do my best, which is all I have to offer. Pray for me, though, friends! I’ll post sometime in the next couple days to let you know how it all went. I know it’ll be so worth it.

Posted in Faith, Marian Consecration

Day 32 of 33: Covenant

My humble prayer.

…Covenant is oriented to the establishment of kinship… – Dr. Scott Hahn

Tomorrow is consecration day.

I’m nervous, excited, and a bit nauseous as I wonder whether I’m truly ready for this. But I also know that these doubts ain’t nothin’ but the devil. I have done the best I could during the past month, and I know that is all Our Lady and Our Lord ask for.

The actual ritual of consecration is a heartfelt prayer, a vow. Some view it as a contract, but I see it more like a covenant.

A covenant is different than a contract in that it is:

A solemn promise, fortified by an oath, concerning future action. The oath might be expressed in words or in a symbolic action… – Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas

And that is exactly what I am doing here. I am giving Mary my oath and establishing an even closer kinship and bond with her.

There will be a pre-written prayer that I recite with my parish tomorrow night during a special Mass, but I want to write my own. I want to write an oath that is personal, that I can recite daily if I like. No words will be adequate, and I’m a bit shy posting it, but hopefully it shows you that your own prayers are always adequate, even if they are only one desperately whispered word. So here goes.

My dear Mother and beloved Queen,

What little I have to offer is yours: my heart, mind and body; everything I call my own inside and out; and any merit at all that I may receive past, present and future to distribute as you will for the good of God’s Kingdom.

I entrust to you my relationships and responsibilities, needs and wants, hopes and dreams. I know that your love and mercy are greater than I will understand in this life, and that all of these things are safe with you.

I ask you to please lend me strength and wisdom all my days so I can serve you and Jesus more and more. Guide me to your Son and never let me stray. Renew this covenant and that of my baptism, and receive my love, insufficient as it is.

In gratitude and joy, My Lady, I am totally yours.

Posted in Faith, Marian Consecration

Day 31 of 33: Refuge

This is where I wanna be right now. I envy this cat!

So your strength is failing you? Why don’t you tell your mother about it?…Mother! Call her with a loud voice. She is listening to you; she sees you in danger, perhaps, and she–your holy mother Mary–offers you, along with the grace of her son, the refuge of her arms, the tenderness of her embrace…and you will find yourself with added strength for the new battle. – St. Josemaria Escriva

I’m learning more and more about how much Mary loves us. I’ve been reading books and quotes by:

  1. St. Louis de Montfort, of course
  2. St. Pope John Paul II
  3. St. Maximillian Kolbe
  4. St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta
  5. Venerable Fulton J. Sheen
  6. Dr. Scott Hahn
  7. Dr. Edward Sri
  8. Her messages at Medjugorje, Fatima, Guadalupe, and Lourdes

What I’m coming to know slowly, through study, prayer, seeking her throughout the day, and reflecting upon each day, is that Mary loves each of us deeply. She is the most perfect (created) role model we have. She is an incredible gift that God gave not just to His Son but also to us.

As an ex-Protestant, I can only smirk at myself when I type the above words. I used to think loving Mary detracted from loving God, that praying to her was idol worship. I wouldn’t go back for anything in the world.

I’m not ashamed of my Mother. I’m totally hers in just a couple days. In her arms is exactly where I want to be.

Posted in Faith, Family, Marian Consecration

Day 30 of 33: Stuff

You could literally bury me alive in the books I own.

Avarice is an inordinate love of riches and the good things of this life. Jesus Christ, to cure us of it, was born in extreme poverty, deprived of all comforts. He chose a Mother who was poor. He willed to pass as the Son of a humble workman. – St. John Vianney

I like to shop. Online, in-store, books, home decor, gifts, food, anything. I especially like to spend when I’m stressed or bored. It’s like I believe that buying things means I’m taken care of and secure. It gives me a good hit of dopamine, too. But then there’s another thing I end up with: buyer’s remorse.

Today, I found clearance shelves at Hobby Lobby, several rows of huge wall art up to 75% off and all kinds of nick-nacks for a couple bucks a piece. I’ve been on a home decorating kick these days, buying interior paint and decorations to fill up my walls, when it’s really not necessary. Something within me thinks that once I liven the place up, I’ll be happier. So I spent $75 at Hobby Lobby, $90 at an antique store, and $36 at Home Depot, all in the last week. I can’t afford that, but I still spent it in a flurry of enthusiasm. Now I would rather stuff it all in a closet and burn the receipt as though it didn’t happen. But God forbid I return it all, because I believe “stuff” will make me happy.

Then I remembered the poverty that Jesus chose to live in on this earth. I remember how little Mary and Joseph had, at least compared to the (practically) mansions and abundant “stuff” and food that we have today in average America. Why was it that way? God could have chosen a rich family to be born into, but he didn’t. He chose humility. He chose less “stuff.”

What does that teach us about God, about Mary, and about ourselves?

I think it shows what our priorities should be. Money is not our God, and neither are things. God is the One Who provides. If we were rich, happy, healthy, and perfectly content, what would we need a God for? Poverty teaches us trust, reliance on God, humility, empathy, generosity, all sorts of good traits I could argue for. All the material goods in the world won’t make me happy; only God will.

I want to strive to follow Mary’s example. She was satisfied with less. She didn’t complain, and girl had her priorities straight. She made wherever she was home, just with her loving presence. God provided everything she needed every step of the way, and she trusted that implicitly. I’m going to emanate her and leave my credit cards at home! More books and more artwork on my walls won’t make me happy. Only intimacy with God will fulfil me on the level I’m looking for.