Friday, August 19, 2016

A Fast End to A Fast

I had to break my fast. In case you didn't read my post the other day, I decided to do a "numbers" fast for three days. Are you wondering how I did? 

Well, on a scale of one to ten, I'd give myself about a five.

I discovered that it's impossible to ignore numbers. I didn't quite make it through the third day.

Hubbles and I decided to take a hike after work yesterday (Day 3). By the time we got home from work and decided on where to go, it was almost 5:30. There was a smaller section of a larger trail in our town that we'd never hiked, so we decided to try it. The only problem was that we didn't know how long it was or how long it would take. We estimated about 4 miles. That was doable before dark.

How could I "fast" numbers? Basically I was trying to ignore them. But if you set out on a hike in the woods a few hours before sunset, ignoring numbers is just plain stupid. How would I sound if I had to call the ranger for help? 

Imagine this scene: We're in the middle of a dense forest, and the sun is quickly fading. Before we can return to the car at the trailhead, we are plunged into darkness. Naturally, we've forgotten to bring flashlights or headlamps. Mary decides to call the park ranger (she just happens to know the number).

Me: Hi, we're out here somewhere and I'm not sure where. Can you come get us? It's dark, and we can't find our way back.

Ranger: What time did you set out? How long have you been hiking?

Me: I'm not sure. Time was irrelevant. We've been out for awhile. I'm not really at liberty to put a number on it.

Ranger: (long pause).

Me:  Are you still there?

Ranger: Yes, ma'am. Uh...what are your GPS coordinates?

Me: I don't know.

Ranger: Look on your phone (Ranger proceeds to tell me how to do that). 

Me: I'm sorry. I can't. I'm fasting numbers.

Ranger decides it would be best to leave the crazy woman in the woods for the night.

I do not suffer from OCD. In fact, I don't obsess over numbers. I obsess over certain things, and I'm not even sure it can be called obsession. Sometimes I dwell on them too long. Think a little too much about them. Like the bank or credit card balance. Wishing I had just a little more in one and a little less in the other. But thinking and wishing won't make money appear or get the card paid down. 

Making wise choices with money will.

Turning off the clock on my run was great because it showed me that I'm too hard on myself. A performance mentality fuels my competitive nature, but I needed to realize that it's not a race and I'm don't need to compete with myself. There is nothing wrong with my being competitive. It's how I'm wired. But, like money, I need to use it wisely. 

When I no longer enjoy something, and it's become work, I know I'm out of balance. 

The decision not to weigh myself was a good one--a practice that I'll continue (or maybe discontinue would be more appropriate). I realized that I am afraid of gaining back all the weight I worked so hard to lose, so weighing myself daily gives me a (false) sense of security. But even my doctor told me, "It's not about numbers. It's about how you feel. Your body will know when it's hit its goal weight." 

She was right. Focusing on the possibility of failure only invites fear. 

Numbers can thrust us into bondage or they can motivate us, keep us accountable (pardon the pun), and help us to stay on track. Numbers are necessary and helpful. As with anything, we can become obsessed if we allow our mind to get stuck.The key is balance. 

Knowing what is good and beneficial. 

You say, "I am allowed to do anything," but not everything is good for you. You say, "I am allowed to do anything, but not everything is beneficial."
Romans 10:23 (NLT)

Oh, and if you happen to go to the Kay Environmental Center where the above sign sits, please don't mention my name to the park ranger.

Kay Environmental Center, Chester, NJ at sunset
Blessings Along the Path,

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Our Flag is Still There

Yesterday I decided not to clock my run, and I'm so glad. If I had been in my typical "numbers obsessed" state of mind, I may not have stopped.

There I was, jogging down Main Street past sleeping shops yet to be opened, when I passed a flag laying on the sidewalk. It was on a pole, so I assumed it must have fallen or was blown off the side of one of the shops. I continued running, but suddenly realized, "Hey, that was an American flag and it was laying on the ground. That's just not right." I was taught that we should never let our flag touch the ground (Flag Etiquette).

Not right, but not wrong enough for me to stop and pick it up. I kept running. But it didn't sit right with me. 

I take pride in my flag. 

I display my own at home. I couldn't leave it there. 

I turned around and ran back. I picked up the flag and looked around. Where do I put it? I found a small rock garden surrounding a tree, and pushed the pole into a hole. It wobbled, but stayed up. I let go, but the flag fell to half-mast and drooped onto the ground. I propped it onto a branch. It would have to do. Then I stepped back and looked at the pitiful thing. It was backwards. 

As I looked at the sad flag, I realized that it was symbolic of the state of our country.

I rarely "preach" or state my opinion on political matters--mostly because I'm a self-professed ignoramus. However, I feel strongly about what follows. Right or wrong, it's what I believe, and it's what my discarded flag showed me.

Our leaders are fallen, our country is at half-mast, and our morals are backwards.

Yet we proudly display this pitiful imitation of a flag for all the world to see--we are politically correct!  And if we prefer not to, we don't have to pledge allegiance to a flag--or a nation that has outdated laws and morals that are measured by what feels right for each individual. 

We are no longer one nation under God. 

How can we be if we keep taking God out of the equation?

We have divided ourselves into opposing camps with insulting criticism and intolerable tolerance as our weapons. 

We give liberty to and demand justice for one group, while another has theirs stripped away. 

Then we argue about which group is better, more powerful, or more entitled. We accuse others of being too narrow-minded or too broad-minded. We point our self-righteous finger at those who believe otherwise--ignoring the three that are pointing back at ourselves. 

We are no longer the united States of America. Sadly, we are becoming the divided States of America. 

I write this through tears. I feel sadness deep in my soul when I see how we've cheapened our flag, ourselves, and our country. Shame on us.

This country was founded on the principles of the Bible and was created to be "under God." In fact, the original pledge was penned by Colonel George Blach in 1887 and said this:

We give our head and hearts to God and our country; one country, one language, one flag!

But Francis Bellamy, the author of the Pledge of Allegiance as we know it, called it "too juvenile and lacking in dignity." You can read more here:

Background on The Pledge of Allegiance

We can take God out of the equation and even out of the Pledge of Allegiance, but He will always be on the throne. And during this tumultuous time of turbulence in our nation, it gives me great comfort to know that I need not rely on myself or on corrupt individuals to set things right. I place my trust--my head and my heart--in the one true God, the one I pledge allegiance to.

Blessings Along the Path,

He controls the course of world events; 
He removes kings and sets up other kings. 
Daniel 2:21 (NLT)

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Numbers Fast

I have an obsessive personality. Is there even such a thing? Or does everyone obsess about something?

I started reading Lisa Harper's, Stumbling into Grace about a week ago. If you're not familiar with her, my goodness, check her out on Youtube. She's hilarious...then packs a theological punch. I don't know how I never knew about her until now!

Anyway, for a change, I decided not to blow through the book so that I could check it off my "I read this!" list (if you're counting, that's obsession #1). After reading chapter three, I realized that by skipping over the discussion questions and journaling suggestions at the end of each chapter, I was missing out on something great that God wanted to do. So I started over. I never expected revelation to come simply from journaling, but boy did it come. 

Nothing that wasn't new. Mostly the perfectionism (I refuse to call it mine, thereby owning it), I constantly battle.

But here was something new: I obsess over numbers.

My weight. My triglycerides number (which I can't see, so that magnifies the obsession--which leads to counting the amount of sugar I allow myself to have). My daily caloric intake. My time when I run. The miles I run. The credit card balance. The number of paychecks it will take to pay that balance off. The bank balance. The number of days I run. The number of days I don't run (giving me an excuse for self-flagellation). The amount of library books in my pile to read (leading to anxiety). The amount of time I write should be writing don't write (leading to guilt). What time it is and how much time I have left to_____. Don't even get me started on social media. 

And then I go to work. Did I mention that I'm a bookkeeper?

I wondered why I have this obsession, and what it has to do with perfection. 

Numbers aren't like emotions or people. They don't lie. They don't change. Yes, my weight or run time might change, but that number itself is definitive. Numbers are reliable. The number three is always the number three. 

If I make a mistake with numbers, I can find the error and fix it. Numbers are something I can control. And when I control things in my life, everything is perfect. Until it's not.

So I decided to do a "numbers fast." 

The idea actually came to me after I decided not to turn on "Map My Run" this morning. For the first time in a year, I didn't clock my jog. I just ran. 

At first, it felt wrong. I long for that automated voice to tell me that I've just run one mile (even though I know where that mile is on my route), and I wait expectantly for this robotic woman whom I rely so much on to tell me I've run that mile in less than the time I expect. Sometimes I do. Often I don't. So I push harder, ignoring the praise music in my ear.

As I started my run in the dark this morning, I thought, I should fast numbers altogether. For like three months, since three is the number of perfection. 

Really, those were my exact thoughts. The irony was not lost on me. 

Then I thought, Well, maybe let's try three about we start with three days and see where that goes?

Why am I still putting a number on it???

Because of the extreme heat and humidity, I haven't run in a week (yes, I counted), so I immediately felt the burn. Around the half mile mark, I hit my stride, but I was obviously still counting.

A little over the mile mark, I followed the sidewalk instead of continuing on my normal route, which would cut my run short. But something happened when I turned the corner. I followed my feet instead of my head, and I no longer cared how far I would run. And it seemed that in those seconds, the first glimmer of morning light appeared. I settled into my run and actually enjoyed the exercise, the endorphins, and the joy that suddenly filled my heart, breaking the sadness that had engulfed me when I had awoken.

I felt free and unencumbered by the performance perfection that I so frequently place on myself.

Then I encountered something that, had I been "on the clock," I may have ignored. But since I've already written well over the suggested 500 words for a blog post, you'll just have to wait until tomorrow. ('s hard to break those habits). Until tomorrow...

Blessings Along the Path,