Let’s Talk About “Can’t”

I decided a long time ago that running outside is harder than running on a treadmill. I’d love to be able to make this a short and sweet blog with the next sentence being, “but one day I decided that that was all in my head and ran four miles on the road like it was nothing! The end.” But alas, I was right. Running on the road is harder. But I’m wondering if I’m right about how much harder it is.

My preference has always been to run on the treadmill, and while I am training, and will continue to train, for outside races, I can be quite the indoor girl. I like the steady pace and the fans over my head. *shrug* However, coronavirus forcing my gym to close has forced me out on the roads sooner than I was planning to get there. On my first run since then, as I was planning my distance, every thought included the phrase, “if I can.”

I was thinking about blocks, not miles, folks. But the fact that I would be putting those miles on my shoes outside automatically told me I should lower my expectations for myself. And while I am a firm believer in giving yourself grace, I am also a believer in setting yourself up for success, and that that starts in your mind.

So, when you say you “can’t” do something, what does that really mean? I think it’s shorthand for something a little more complicated than, “cannot.” When you say it to someone else, like when you’re asked to make plans but you have a conflict, you might say, “Sorry, I can’t,” but what you really mean is, “I’ve made another commitment and I’m choosing to honor that.” Or when you’re asked to make a compromise you’re not comfortable with, “I can’t” means, “I have a moral objection to that.” Those alternatives sound stronger, right? Less passive.

But what about when you say it to yourself?

“I’d like to run a marathon but I can’t.”

“I know I should quit smoking but I can’t.”

“It would help my family if I changed jobs but I can’t.”

“I want to go back to school but I can’t.”

In that case, what you mean is more like, “I’m not physically capable at this time,” “this addiction is powerful and I don’t feel I can conquer it,” “I’m afraid to start something new,” or “I’m uncomfortable with change.” And I think, more often than we’d like to admit, “what would other people think if I tried and failed?”

Sometimes when I try something new, I tell myself, “I can’t,” way too early in the process because I get scared of being seen failing and I convince myself that I’m just being honest with myself. That “I can’t” is essentially, “this is not available to me and I acknowledge that.” It seems easier to have an oh-well-it’s-just-not-for-me attitude than it is to say, “this is going to be really hard for me and people might see me fail before I meet my goal but it means something to me so I’m going to risk being uncomfortable.”

And you know what the worst part is? I’ve drug God into that negative self talk before. If something doesn’t come to me easily, there have been times that I’ve resorted to thinking, “oh well, it must not be in God’s plan for me to succeed at this, so I’ll just move on to something He does have laid out for me.” Feel free to take a sec and count all the problems with that. You may need your fingers and toes. I mean, Jesus did say, “with God all things are easy,” right? No? That’s not the verse? Dang.*

I’m still new to hearing God’s voice. But one of the first things I ever heard clearly from Him was, “I didn’t say it would be easy. I said it would be possible.” Here it is another way: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV)

You can. Stop relying on just yourself. Stop thinking it should be easy. Think of yourself as a person who succeeds, even if it takes longer than you want, even if it’s uncomfortable. Find joy in that discomfort, because you are getting stronger. You are a goal crusher and with Jesus by your side, you cannot be stopped.

I’m here for you, girl. And I’m rooting for you.

*Matthew 19:26 is actually, “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'”

Workout Thoughts

You can, and should, love your body as it is. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask it for more.

You can love how you look, and still want to look better (whatever that means to you).

You can love how fast you can run and still want to run faster.

You can love how strong you are and still want to be stronger.

You can tell God “thank you” for your body, and prove your gratitude by caring for it, therefore improving it, in one way or another. But don’t wait until you think you look better or until you can run faster or until you’re stronger to love your body.

The shame that results from not loving your body as it is is so crazy to me. And I don’t mean that I’ve never felt it. I mean that whenever I have felt that way, I feel like I’m Cady in that part of Mean Girls where she goes to the Halloween party dressed for, oh I don’t know, a Halloween party, and finds out she was supposed to dress like she’d just sprung from the pages of a Victoria’s Secret catalogue. When that shame hits, I feel like I don’t look how I’m supposed to look.

But that’s crazy right?! The idea that the way your body looks can make you feel that “I shouldn’t have worn/brought/said/done this” feeling. That embarrassment, self-doubt, insecurity. Whenever you feel that, remember, that’s God’s daughter you’re talking about. Show her some respect. Give her some grace. She is fearfully and wonderfully made.

Girl, you will be a work in progress your whole life. You can’t wait to be happy with yourself until you’re “done.” You’ll never be done. You need to love yourself now. As you are. And the changes that you make on yourself, inside and out, have to come from that place of love. If you try to shame yourself into changing something, it actually might motivate you (for all the wrong reasons), but here’s the thing. When you’ve made that change, you won’t be happy. You won’t be at peace. You won’t love yourself then if you don’t love yourself now.

When you do try to change yourself, whether it’s your thought patterns, or diet, or workout habits, do it because you love yourself enough to know you can do better. If your motivation comes from anywhere else, you’re not improving yourself.

You’re punishing yourself.

And if you know that God has forgiven you and isn’t going to punish you for lying or gossiping or mouthing off to your parents in your teenage years (sorry, Mom and Dad) or whatever else you might have done, then girl, why do you think you need to punish yourself for eating a dang cupcake?!

If you set yourself back on a goal, forgive yourself, and do better next time. Have reasonable expectations for yourself. This is my biggest struggle. But feeling guilty about a bad choice has only ever made me feel shame, and that’s not the right mindset for lasting change. Know yourself as God made you to be, and love yourself enough to be the best version of yourself possible.

This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me

Anyone else ever caught themselves thinking that? Or maybe another version of it:

“This isn’t what my life was supposed to look like.”

“This isn’t where I’m supposed to be.”

“I’m better than this.”

“I deserve better than this.”

Can we talk about it? About how entitled we are for feeling like we deserve more that what we have? About what we’re really saying: “what I have is not consistent with the life that God owes me.” And, maybe even worse, “there are people who deserve this, but I’m not one of them.”

Y’all. There is no such thing as deserving anything. Literally anything. (I know, a millennial preaching against entitlement. I’ll give you a minute to gather yourself.) Everything we have is given by God’s grace. We didn’t earn it and we don’t deserve it.

In fact, as Pastor Rick says, we should be grateful that God doesn’t give us what we deserve. It wouldn’t be the money and fame and fancy cars that we like to associate with good fortune. He saves us from what we really deserve just because He loves that much. And He loves us each individually; it’s not one of those “I guess I have to give all my kids the same gift so that no one throws a fit” kind of things. If that doesn’t fill your heart with gratitude, sis, I don’t know what will.

But we don’t ask ourselves those questions when it’s something good happening to us, do we? We don’t think about how undeserving we are when we get a promotion or a raise, when we find the love of our life and live happily ever after, when we get into our first choice of grad schools.

But when we get sick? Or laid off? Or gain 20 pounds by eating Taco Bell at midnight every night for a year? Then we’ll say, “I don’t know why this happened to me.” (Okay, fine, I knew where the 20 pounds came from.)

When was the last time you looked at your life in awe of the doors that have been opened for you? I’ll go first: I don’t remember. I’ve been so wrapped up in my quarter-life crisis and pouting over the fact that I don’t know where I’m going and my life isn’t quite what I pictured yet (’cause you’re supposed to have everything together and be conventionally successful at 25 right?) that I can’t really pin down the last time I looked around and thought, “wow, I’m blessed.” But I am. And I haven’t been un-blessed even when I failed to see how good I have it. And I bet you haven’t either.

He is a good, good Father, sisters. That doesn’t mean our struggles aren’t real. It doesn’t mean our pain is insignificant or our anxieties don’t matter. They do. Tell God about them. But they shouldn’t be the only thing you can see. Looking for God in the hard things as well as the good things is a skill, and honestly I’m not awesome at it yet. Sometimes gratitude requires intention and attention, but there’s always something to be grateful for. If you’re not sure where to start, refer to Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” He made you, He saved you, He loves you, and He has a plan for you. (Spoiler alert: it’s better than your plan for you.)

If you needed this attitude adjustment as much as I did, feel free to count your blessings in the comments below.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” Proverbs 17:22

1 Corinthians 10:31

“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

I chose this verse to conclude this series on loving your body because it highlights and simplifies the most important thing: “whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

What’s your motivation? What’s your reason for eating healthy? For exercising? Is it to glorify God through the use and care of your body, or is it to glorify you through the appearance of your body? Listen sis, if that question hits hard, and you feel like you’ve cared too much about how you look, and your first reaction was guilt, I want to free you from that.

We live in a culture that encourages women to feel ashamed and guilty about their appearance. We live in a culture that teaches women that their entire value is wrapped up in how they look. There are a lot of reasons for that and some of them will lead me down a path of feminist ranting and while I think I should provide that here sometimes, let me start with probably the least controversial explanation: when we feel insecure, we look for a solution. Then a cosmetics company, for example, offers that solution and takes our money. (Btw, I love makeup and I’m not saying that beauty products themselves are the problem! But I think it’s worth examining why we use them and how we feel if we don’t.)

I could say a lot more about this, but to stick to my main point, it isn’t your fault if you’ve been feeling insecure and tried to improve your insecurities by changing your appearance. It’s literally what we’re taught to do as women. But that’s so far from where God wants us to be.

We’ve learned to turn to ourselves and to our culture to find our confidence. But here’s the problem: if you learn to judge and criticize yourself that harshly, you aren’t going to magically be free from it when you hit a certain weight, or when a certain pant size fits. You’ll just find something new to judge yourself for.

I’m learning that we as women will only feel truly free from our insecurities when we view ourselves the way that God sees us.

I’m still learning exactly what that looks like. But I know He doesn’t care about my jean size. I know He wouldn’t love me more if I weighed less. I know that if I do everything for His glory, He’ll watch me and say, “well done,” and I want that more than I want compliments from the world.

Thank you for sticking with me on this series! Please drop a comment below to let me know how this spoke to you, or if there’s something else you’d like to see covered! I’ll see you back here soon.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”

“You are not your own.” People don’t like to hear that. I think the connotation culturally is oppression, but this is the opposite. If your view of yourself is that you are not your own because you were bought by Jesus on the cross, then you know that that, my dear, is the only true freedom. Jesus died for us to free us from sin and shame. You can never earn that, but that doesn’t release you from the responsibility to do your best with what you were given.

That’s right. I said responsibility. We have answer to God for the way we treat others but also for the way we treat ourselves. And when it comes to your body, it isn’t just you. Remember how I started this whole thing saying your body is your house? Well you aren’t the only one who lives there. The Holy Spirit is your roommate and nothing you do to your house is unnoticed by the one who lives there with you.

Your body was gifted to you and it was not cheap. It wasn’t regifted. It wasn’t bought from the clearance rack. It was designed specifically for you by the same God that built this beautiful planet we get to live on and you are even more beautiful in the eyes of God.

When God gives you a gift, He expects you to use it for His glory and ultimately give it back to Him. That’s why we’re to tithe the first 10 percent of our income. But you can do that with your body and your life too. What do you want to do with what God has given you? How do you want to honor Him with it? What do you feel God putting on your heart with this message? What are you going to do better?

Drop a comment below to tell me how you could better use your body for God’s glory! And as always, feel free to get social with me on Instagram, @torigwrites. I look forward to hearing from you!

Ephesians 5:29-30

“After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body.”

Now, some of you that know this chapter of Ephesians really well have probably already started thinking, now that verse isn’t really about self-care or exercise – it’s about the relationship between a husband and wife – so you’re taking it out of context and …

Settle down, Karen. 

Yes, that is where Paul is writing about Christian households and the marriage relationship. He’s been through the “wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do the Lord” (which, by the way, does not mean do whatever they tell you to do, but we’ll address that another time) and has moved on to “husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy….”

So, in this verse, feeding and caring for your body is a metaphor for the way that Christ cared for the church, which is a metaphor for the way that husbands are to care for their wives. There’s a bit of a breadcrumb trail to follow, but I think they’re easy dots to connect. There are a couple important points to make here:

We are to care for our bodies the way that Christ did for the church. To reiterate, that means to give yourself up to make it holy. Now, I think moderation is important, so I’m not saying if you’re eating anything but green smoothies you’re disobeying. Sometimes they serve cake at church. Jesus made bread and wine. But if you’re starving yourself to achieve an aesthetic, that’s not God’s plan for your body. (No, intermittent fasting doesn’t count as starving yourself.) If you’re drinking to excess, that isn’t God’s plan for your body. If you don’t do any type of exercise at all, that’s not God’s plan for your body. See my point?

We are to care for our bodies the way that we care for our spouses. Read that again, ladies. Women especially tend to care for others first and put ourselves last on our own lists. It seems selfless, right? Except that when you do this, you diminish your ability to care for others. Not getting enough sleep? Not nourishing your body with food that’s good for it? Not moving your body in a way that feels soothing, healing, challenging, or however you like your workouts to feel? Then how are you doing for your spouse, kids, friends, coworkers? You need to give to yourself the way that you want to give to them, or you won’t be able to.

And if that’s not enough, I included verse 30, “for we are members of his body” to remind you that we are all part of the body of Christ. When you think of it like that, like your body helps make up His, how does that make you want to care for it?

Thanks for stopping by! Stay tuned for more Biblical inspiration for self-care! Feel free to drop a comment below, use the Contact Me page, or DM me on Instagram @torigwrites.

Romans 12:1

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.” (NIV)

Your body was gifted to you. You received it from your Father who loves you and the true and proper worship of that Father is respecting the home he gave you to live in.

Girl. I wish I had read this before lunch. I got ice cream.

None of us are perfect at this. The point is that you change your mindset, change your view of your body to one of gratitude. God gave us bodies to live in that we’re supposed to use to worship Him and essentially give back to Him in that way. So, how? What does it look like to offer your body as a living sacrifice?

The most important thing is to think of God first. Think of His plans and desires for you before you do what you want. His plan is better right? He wants you to have a healthy body and mind. It’s important that those go together because you can work out every day and eat all the kale but if you do exercises you hate just to watch the number on the scale get smaller, how’s your mind doing?

So care for your body in ways that feel right to it, remembering that it belongs to God and that you’re to use it to glorify Him. If you run to see how far God will take you, excellent. If you lift so God can show you how strong you are, wonderful. If you walk around your neighborhood to take in the beauty of the world He created for us, amazing.

Same thing with food: don’t use healthy food to punish yourself for not making it to the gym or unhealthy food to reward yourself for running an extra lap. (Note: There is a difference between balancing your habits and punishing yourself!) Find healthier foods you like, but let yourself have a treat sometimes. I think we’re built to be happier this way. We’re built to sacrifice because we’re created in the image of the one who sacrificed everything.

Got a suggestion for a verse in this series? Comment below, use the contact me page, or DM me on Instagram, @torigwrites

Thanks for stopping by!

Don’t be Mad at Your House

Do you remember that scene in A Christmas Story where Ralph opens the bunny suit his grandmother (or aunt or someone) had made him and he really didn’t like it but his mother made him put it on because it took a lot of effort to make it?

So putting aside the fact that no young boy hoping for a BB gun would probably want to put those bunny PJs on, and that his attitude about it stunk but was great for comedy, his mother was right, right? When someone gives you something, don’t you say “thank you?”

So then why do you treat your body differently? Your body is the house God gave your soul to live in for your time on Earth, and our Western culture spends most of its time telling women their amazing, beautiful bodies are like those bunny suits. As a result, so many women go through so much of their lives mad at their bodies, dieting and crunching and starving and sucking in to achieve some aesthetic that society tells them they need.

Your body will tell you what kind of care it needs, so don’t push it to do things you don’t even enjoy to look a certain way. Concentrate on how you feel and what you can do. Allow yourself to love your body for what it’s capable of, whether that’s running a marathon, carrying and feeding your babies, achieving crazy yoga poses, bouncing your grand baby on your knee, or hiking up a mountain. Appreciate where your body has carried you. Love it for who gave it to you. And treat it well.

This is the introduction to a series I’m starting on verses for loving your body. Stay tuned for counter-cultural inspiration straight from God’s Word! And if you have a suggestion for a verse you want to see discussed in this series, leave a comment on this post, reach out via the “contact me” page, or slide into my DMs on Instagram, @torigwrites.

5 Ways to Grow your Relationship with God Daily

In the last week as I’ve been brainstorming ideas for more blog posts, I felt really strongly on my heart that I need to write more things that I myself need to hear. I’ve been feeling myself growing a little more distant from God over the last few weeks as my schedule has gotten more packed. When I heard someone say on a podcast a few days ago that her relationship with God is getting stronger every day, my first thought was, “wow, mine isn’t.” Then, “why??” Then the defenses (read: excuses) started.

I’m really busy.

Everyone’s really busy. You find time for everything else don’t you??

Barely. Anyway, I’m too injured to run right now and that’s how I worship.

No, that’s your favorite way to worship. There are other ways to spend time with God.

So I decided I had to write about how to grow your relationship with God daily, and start doing those things. So here it is:

  1. Give God your full attention, even if it’s only for a few minutes a day. Maybe you really are very busy and only have time for 5-10 minutes a day. Maybe you barely sleep and work long shifts and then care for family and have very little time to yourself. (PS If that’s the case you gotta do something about that sis, ’cause that’s not gonna work.) Say that’s your situation at the moment. Okay. Give God your first 10 minutes after waking up and pay attention only to Him. Spend those 10 minutes with your eyes only on Him. I’m talking phone on silent, TV off, if there’s music it better be worship music. Don’t be thinking about your to-do list and what you’re going to do the minute you close your Bible.
  2. Read the Bible. God wrote it for you. He wrote it for you to know Him and love Him and be like Him. He wrote it so you’d know He loves you and how to love Him back. You can’t get that without spending time in the words He sent for you. You don’t have to spend hours on it a day. The important thing is that when you read it, you’re giving it your full attention. See No. 1. If you’re short on time, get the Bible app on your phone set it up to get a notification with the verse of the day when your alarm goes off every day. Read it on your phone before you even get out of bed.
  3. Pray. You can’t have a relationship with someone you don’t talk to. Tell God your thoughts, feelings, desires, needs, fears, and hopes, and do it confidently because He already knows. You’re not keeping secrets from God by not talking to Him every day. And show gratitude. Thank God for what He’s given you. We don’t earn what we have; we’re given everything by God’s grace and generosity. Finally, ask Him for help. You don’t have this, not by yourself. Tell Him you’ll do it how He wants you to.
  4. Listen for His response. You’re not just talking to yourself are you? Shouldn’t you be as interested in what He as to say as He is in what you have to say? For the longest time I just didn’t believe people were really hearing God when they said they heard answers to their prayers. I fell for the classic “I haven’t experienced it so it must not exist” fallacy. Then I experienced it and dude, it is real! Just make sure what you’re hearing doesn’t contradict biblical truth, and ask Him to show you signs to confirm what you believe you’re hearing. You don’t want to make big decisions based on something that you could have misinterpreted.
  5. Finally, obey. You give God your full attention while reading the Bible, praying, and listening for answers, then you have to be obedient to what you hear. You read the Bible so you know if you’re hearing something that contradicts it. You discuss what you hear with a community of believers for the same reason. But as much as your relationship with God is a friendship, remember He is also your parent and you are here to obey Him. If you know He’s telling you to do something, you’ve gotta do it, sis. He knows better. His way is so much better than yours. This doesn’t mean be irresponsible. Don’t quit your job because you feel God calling you to go back to school if that isn’t financially feasible. Maybe you have to take classes at a slower pace. Maybe you or your spouse will get a raise and you’ll be able to cut back on your hours. The point is, when He tells you to do something, it’s for your own good, for the good of your family, for the good of His Kingdom. If you don’t do it, He’ll put it on someone else’s heart. But there’s a reason He picked you.

Please leave a comment or use the “contact me” page to engage in further detail or if you have suggestions I may not have thought of!

Patience with your Progress

I didn’t run that 10k y’all. My foot still hurts and I went a few weeks without training. It didn’t happen. I probably would have hurt myself worse if I had tried. The lesson? It’s not about my timing. This is what I love so much about the way that running has brought me closer to God. Every goal I do or don’t meet has so much more meaning now. Without that part of my journey, the whole story would be, “I registered for a race I couldn’t run cause my freaking foot hurt too bad and now I look like a wimp because people can see I signed up for the half marathon and ran nothing so wow that’s an expensive t shirt.”

Instead I’m feeling, “I made a donation to a children’s hospital and got a free t shirt that will motivate me to train better next year. In the meantime I spent real quality time with my Father and heard Him speak things to me I’ve been needing to hear but refusing to listen to for a long time.” It’s a better reward than a medal.

The night of the race I was working and trained a new scribe on his first day. When I told him I got a degree in psychology then doubled back and started a second program, he said, “at least you didn’t get 10 years as a psychologist in before you realized it wasn’t for you.” Well, that’s fair. And then, “that would have been tragic.”

Wait a sec. Tragic? I remember being 20 and thinking that way. And I’d be lying if I said I went cold turkey on that thought process since then. But really, tragic? I’ve learned a lot in this time. First of all, a psychology degree is never wasted because as long as you’re a human you’ll use the things you learned. But I’ve also learned a lot about myself in this time, and those lessons will serve me the rest of my life. There’s been no tragedy here.

The timing isn’t up to me. Not really. Because even if I forced myself through whatever doors I opened on my own, if it wasn’t what God had laid out for me I wouldn’t feel the peace of knowing I’m living my purpose. I could run the half marathon on my own but if I’m not talking to God at the same time it’s not as satisfying or rewarding for me. I’m learning to surrender and be obedient. To accept God’s timing and follow His instructions, and to put Him first.

As I’ve learned to do this, I felt this laid on my heart while I was running one day:

Progress is a fact, not a measurement. It’s not mathematical or linear. Don’t look ahead saying “I only have to do what I just did x times again.” Don’t look back and say “I don’t know how I made it this far.” Where you are is just where you are. Enjoy the steps, don’t count them.

It will happen when you’re ready, and that may not be when you think.