I have been trying faithfully over the last 8 years to convince my body that it doesn't need to carry around 40 extra pounds. I have struggled through early morning workouts, freezing South Dakota winter workouts, drippy hot, humid workouts. I have flipped tires, jumped rope, squatted, lunged, done push ups, sits ups, tricep dips, step hurdles, tire runs, back peddles, weights, plank jacks, mountain climbers, battle rope, punching bag and anything else I could think of. I have inhaled fresh morning air, late evening air, post-rain air and a few bugs. I have had blistered feet, a cyst in my wrist that grows/hurts/bursts/repeats, sprained ankles, bursitis in my knees, a pulled hamstring and a stupid hip that aches. I have endured constant fatigue and exhaustion, struggled through depression, and battled self doubt. I have fought through it all and worked harder than I have ever worked in my life. I have also spent the last 15 years trying to become a better mother. More patient, kind, loving, caring, spiritual, righteous, and humble. The results? Nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch. I am the same size I was when I started this battle 8 years ago after giving birth to my last child. I am still the same impatient, stubborn person I was 15 years ago. I still lack in all areas of my life.
Frustrating? Yes. Depressing? Yes. Discouraging? Definitely. My word this year is persevere. I have hung tight to that through the early morning hours and the feelings of exhaustion and frustration. I have done my best to continue to put one foot forward and keep going even though the results are not what I wanted them to be.
I look in the mirror and get so discouraged. I see all the things I am not. I am not thinner. I do not look stronger. I am not patient enough with my children, my husband or myself. I am not kind enough or caring enough. I am not spiritual enough. My light does not shine bright enough. It's hard to see the good when the bad is right there laughing at you in the mirror.
This last year has been especially hard. I went back to work fulltime after 13 years at home. That was a huge adjustment! A huge blessing too! We moved. A stressful time but another huge blessing! Five of our six children were in sports. Our son was diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome and ADHD. We've had financial struggles. Basically, we have experienced life. Life comes with heartache, challenges, joys, triumphs, sadness, happiness.
This morning, as we hauled branches (not little branches) from here:
Across the driveway and through the trees:
I felt different about this overweight, asthmatic body of mine. I could haul those branches and throw them up on the pile. I could climb up the ditch bank on either side of the driveway while dragging a limb three times bigger than me. And I could do it over and over again. And it felt good! I love working like that because it makes me feel strong. It makes me sweat. It hurts sometimes, but it is a good hurt. I get scratches and cuts. I get stabbed in the head from protruding branches. The bun in my hair is decorated with sticks, grass and the occasional bug or sap (depending on the tree). It feels good. And it makes me look at myself differently.
My body, though far from perfect, can do hard things. It can carry me while I work. It lifts limbs and logs. It splits and stacks wood. It mows lawns. It weeds flower beds (although it hates doing that). I can carry a 50lb bag of feed from the back of Runnings out to my car (don't laugh! 50lbs is still heavy for me). My body, the one that I spend so much time being mad at, carried 7 babies (one for only a very short time) and delivered 6 and it did it in 6 1/2 years! My body still carries the scars from those years. My body has loaded and unloaded moving trucks more times than I would like to count, as we would begin or end our journey to a new chapter in life. My body has spent nights up with children or worries. My body has spent hours in the gym, on the sidelines, running across golf courses and standing at finish lines, cheering for my kids and their teammates. My body has spent hours in the kitchen baking and cooking so my family and others can be fed. My body has spent hours at church serving and worshipping. My body, the one I wish was smaller and firmer, has carried me to bed every night after an exhausting day and gotten me up every morning so I can go at it again.
I know I have told this story before, but it applies so I am going to tell it again (I can do that, it's my blog). When I was 21, I served as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I served in Ireland. As missionaries, we walked. A lot. After being there for a little while, my feet started hurting so bad from all the walking. At night they would be swollen so much that my toes couldn't touch the ground. In the morning, when I would try to stand on them, pain would shoot through them and the first few steps were very hard to take. I would pray (very arrogantly) and remind Heavenly Father that I was doing His work so it would be really nice if my feet didn't hurt. Yet, they continued to hurt. One morning as I was getting out of bed, feeling the pain as I started walking, and wondering why Heavenly Father was not helping me, I was overcome with a very quiet, peaceful thought. He let me know that He was there helping me. The pain was still there, yes. But every morning He was there to help me up and get me going. He didn't take away the pain. He gave me the strength to continue on despite it. It was a tremendous learning experience for me.
It helps me still today. As I fight through exhaustion, depression and a busy life, He gives me the strength to continue on. He doesn't take away the pain, the tiredness or the extra weight, but He is there to help me up and get me going every morning. He is there to walk me through the stressful times. He is there to comfort the hurt, ease the frustrations and strengthen my weaknesses.
Today, as I drug those limbs across the yard, I felt gratitude. Gratitude for this lumpy, almost 40 year old body. Gratitude for a fallen tree to allow me to see and feel a little different. Gratitude for a Heavenly Father who allows me to have the strength to do all that I have to do.