That phrase has been echoing in my head–and my heart–for more than a week now.
We’re one week into the new year, and while I haven’t done anything ‘official,’ I do feel like I’m on the cusp of a change. Or at least wanting a change. I have a love-hate relationship with New Years’ Resolutions; on the one hand, I’m a sucker for finding ‘significance’ in starting something new and fresh and good on January 1st, while on the other hand, ‘resolutions’ without a commitment to a life-change don’t last long, do they? I’m not interested in gimmicky fad diets or self-help mantras; I want lasting results.
But here I am, feeling like I’m in some sort of middle ground, knowing something in my life needs to change. From the outside, I probably look as healthy and fit as can be and appear to have it all together.
BUT. (You knew there was a ‘but,’ coming, didn’t you?)
There are other areas of my life–those little crevices we keep hidden or maybe only allow a few to see–that aren’t so ‘put together’ as I’d like them to be. Or, really, as they should be.
Like my prayer life. Or my budgeting skills. Or my stress level. Or even the complete lack of self-control I’ve exerted over my sugar intake these past few weeks. (Or months.)
And so that’s where this ‘moderation’ comes in. When I think of ‘moderation,’ I think of food, but the concept can be applied to anything. I’m not a dieter. Diets don’t work; lifestyle changes do. And the fact that my weight (even by as few as 10 pounds) continues to go up and down tells me I haven’t made a complete lifestyle change. There is more work to be done in this girl’s heart.
So instead of ‘resolving’ to cut carbs or give up dessert this year in the interest of losing weight, I’m deciding to practice moderation–in all areas of my life–in the interest of improving my QUALITY OF LIFE. (And probably Andrew’s, too.)
Over the past week or so, I’ve been mentally writing this blog. There are things in my life I’d like to moderate, such as sweets and overspending and stress, and another category: things I don’t want to moderate, like prayer and even reading.
Lord, help me practice moderation in…
1. Eating. “Nothing tastes as good as ‘thin’ feels.” That’s something my boss used to say, and I try to remember it whenever I’m faced with yummy temptations. It’s so true–I’d much rather be happy and healthy and at peace with my body than take an extra piece of cake…yet I don’t always make the right choice. So many of us struggle with overeating–in big ways and small ways–and I’m convinced it will be a lifelong battle for me. I can, however, be victorious in this area of my life. Each semester seems to be a roller coaster; I start off well–counting my calories, working out, losing weight–only to get to midterms and do a complete 180 and gain those pounds back in the form of mindless munching. This past semester–with its 5 a.m. wake-up call–was particularly challenging. I’m being REALLY real here when I say that even my ‘big’ jeans are tight and there’s a jiggle in my middle (comic relief–I couldn’t resist). I’m tired of the scale going up-and-down and want to (finally) get this area of my life under control. Some of my strategies include serving myself ‘half’ portions, counting my calories (my OCD-tendencies made me spend an hour tracking the last six days from memory since I didn’t start on the 1st) and limiting desserts. Victories come in all forms, from limiting myself to a single pancake or chicken wing, to choosing to take a walk instead of have a snack. This isn’t about dieting or making anything off-limits; it’s about making wise, healthy, God-honoring choices with my food. (And when even that doesn’t work, I can always remind myself of what I’m working toward with a quick glance in an Athleta catalog.)
2. Spending. With the beginning of a new year, Andrew and I had the inevitable budget talk. Contrary to popular belief, I’m not out recklessly buying shoes and clothes and makeup, but rather I’m overspending at Wegmans and Target or even Lowe’s. Perhaps my greatest weakness, other than being a foodie, is that I don’t remember the money I’ve spent. If I buy curtains one week, I have no recollection two weeks later that my ‘house projects’ budget is that much less. I also have trouble wrapping my head around the fact that it will cost upwards of $1000 to ‘finish’ the extra bedroom, despite Andrew showing me the numbers on paper. (How in the world can a few items like bedding and frames and a rug add up to so much?!) So, while I desperately want to buy all the things my little heart desires for our house, for my running habit or at Wegmans, I want to be responsible with our money MORE. I’ll be tracking my spending throughout each month in a little notebook and have already started filing our receipts in an old coupon organizer.
3. Unrealistic Expectations. Aren’t these fun? I might be the worst offender on the face of the planet in this category. A few of my recent doozies: “Lose weight over the holidays? No problem.” “Be able to strip and paint a bed frame on a random weekend during my school semester? Why not?” “Cook a three-part, all-from-scratch meal every night of the week? Of course!” WHAT WAS I THINKING?! I see ways in which I’ve grown and let things go, like not vacuuming as often as I feel it needs to be done, but I still have a long way to go. Which brings me to number 4…
4. Stress. All those ‘unrealistic expectations’ just end up unmet and the cause of stress in my life and in our house. I’ve made an effort this winter break, especially in the days following Christmas, to actually take a break. I’ve read a book. I’ve watched movies. I’ve skipped the gym. I’ve baked. I’ve cut my to-do list short. And it’s been great. (So great, in fact, that I’m starting to fear real life beginning again at the end of the month…) I’ve realized that adjusting my expectation of productivity doesn’t mean failure; it simply means I’ve chosen to NOT kill myself just to check an item off my list. (Don’t get me wrong; I’m still the uber-productive, energetic, high-strung chick you all know and love…I’m just trying to chill out a bit more.)
But there are also areas I don’t want to moderate. In fact, I want them in ABUNDANCE.
Prayer. Joy. Love. Gentleness. Wisdom. Peace. Even patience. And reading and rest.
All too often, I let my circumstances (which are usually shrouded in unmet, unrealistic expectations) dictate my level of joy, love, gentleness, wisdom, peace and patience levels. Not anymore. I’m starting each day with a devotion–I’m finally going to use that ‘Devotions for Women on the Go’ book I’ve had for years–and I started Jan. 1. I want to get to a point at which it becomes second-nature to pull out my Bible first every morning. And speaking of good books…I’d really like to do more reading. I always enjoyed reading, but have had trouble finding time for it in recent years. We’re all busy, and being in school is a particularly difficult season of life, but I’m a firm believer that we make time for what’s important. So, instead of mindless television or Facebooking, I’d like to read more. I’ve (re)read one book so far this break–The Hobbit–and I have four more on the docket. (And if I don’t get them all read before school, I’m going to try really hard not to stress about it.)
So, hopefully, this year will bring change to my life and to our house. I don’t want to feel burdened by extra weight, irresponsible spending or unmanageable, self-inflicted stress. And my prayer is that even after school starts–when I get busy and stressed and tempted to throw in the towel of moderation–that I persevere. I’m tired of letting each semester dictate my eating and spending habits and my stress level. Perhaps at the end of this year, I’ll not only have practiced moderation, but I’ll also have experienced true FREEDOM.