Angela | Keep the Faith
A decade ago, I was fat. Not just a little bit fluffy, but officially obese. I’m short – 5’-3” if I stretch and wear boots – and I was packing around 223 pounds. I was never overweight as a kid, or as a college student, or even as young mother. Somewhere in-between the births of my two sons, though, I quit paying attention and started packing on pounds. “I’m too busy to exercise;” or “I’m too tired;” and even “It’s just not that important.” I had four small children under the age of six to care for. The years rolled by, and I had a part time consulting job that was necessary for making our budget ends meet over tuition payments. I had volunteer obligations at church, I had a Girl Scout troop to lead.
I was hiding behind my busy-ness to avoid admitting that my priorities were seriously out of whack, and that my health was sliding downhill fast. My blood pressure was sky high. I couldn’t keep up with the kids on field trips. My epiphany came with a visit to the optometrist. My eyesight had deteriorated to the point that I was sitting at the computer desk with the screen pulled right up to my nose. I just chalked it up to tiredness and aging, but I heeded my husband’s plea and went to the eye doctor. He took one look at my retinas, looked me straight in the face and said, “You have diabetes. Go see your doctor.” I did, and she confirmed the optometrist’s diagnoses, reassuring me that the damage to my eyes (and kidneys!) was not permanent and that they could heal, if I lost weight, started exercising and got my blood glucose levels under control.
I went into full blown ‘I-will-take-control-of-this’ mode. I researched weight loss methods, I re-educated myself how to eat properly, I forced myself to move. I figured out how to exercise and learned to love it. It took me a year to lose almost 60 pounds. I was determined to make myself happen. I. Me. Me. Me.
And there’s the rub. Me. My focus was on me, how I was taking care of myself, how great I was doing, how amazing I was now that I was thin again. I stupidly left God out of the process, and it all came undone in a single day. I had a stroke.
I gained 20 pounds in the aftermath thanks to the medications that kept my brain from exploding while it healed. I was furious at the weight gain, and frantic to get it off my frame. I spent hours on a treadmill and pedaling all over creation on my bicycle. And, I prayed. I prayed because I was out of my mind with fright that I might actually die before my kids reached adulthood. I prayed angry prayers of “Why Me?” ranting to heaven at the unfairness of it all. I was officially a mess.
My brain eventually healed, and amazingly, so did my soul. There was no blazing moment of realization, no flash of perfect understanding, just a gradual calming of my spirit as the months smoothed by. I no longer prayed “Why Me”; instead, I found myself praying “Show Me the Way”. And in His every loving, ever abundant Grace, He did. I began to recall memorized Bible Verses from my childhood, one in particular.
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.”
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 NABCE
There were incredibly coincidental homilies at mass about stewardship, and further nudges from the Holy Spirit: books that came my way, visited Bible studies and prayer groups where the conversations would tend towards health, a new job with access to a free gym and a trainer, seeing my children getting involved in athletics, growing stronger every season. Finally, my little brain made the connection.
Our physical bodies are truly a gift from God, and we are called to be good stewards of them.
We are fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s own image. How can we not take care of ourselves? It’s our duty, just as important as tending the needs of our husbands, our children, our parish families! Think of flying on an airplane and the little speech you get before takeoff, the one about putting on your own oxygen mask first before you help others. Exactly. We have to be good stewards of ourselves, so that we can serve others.
So, if you’ve been slacking in the stewardship department when it comes to taking care of yourself, where can you start?
First, as my Mom will say, get your head on straight! You need to identify your own reasons for losing weight, getting healthy, and gaining strength. Write your reasons in a card and tape them to your bathroom mirror, and the fridge, and the pantry door. For me, vanity just isn’t enough of a reason any more. I mean, yeah, it’s great to be a Hot Mama (Jenny’s term!) and wear cute clothes, but vanity isn’t enough encouragement for me to keep walking past the cookies in the office kitchen, or to bike an extra ten miles on a hot day. Staying alive is! Having the strength to care for my family is! Keeping the Holy Spirit’s temple standing strong and upright IS enough of a reason!!
Second – brace yourself – get ready to work. Stewardship takes a certain amount of commitment.
Third, find your patience. Just like raising children, rebuilding a temple doesn’t happen overnight. It took me a while to wrap my head around the idea that care for myself is just as important as serving my family. Losing weight, gaining strength, getting healthy will take time. Most of those twenty post-stroke pounds are gone now, but it took me two years to do it. I have fifteen more to go to get to a weight that both my Doctor and I agree will be a healthy place for me to hang out for the rest of my life. I hope to get there in 2013.
Finally, share your journey. Life is more fun with friends. Learn from their experiences, share what you know. I’ll be doing just that this year, posting Public Service Announcements with the bits and pieces of knowledge that I’ve gathered over the past several years finding my own heath again. Hopefully, it will help you, ease your frustration, and remind you to be a good steward of yourself, too!
Rebuild your Temple. Keep the Faith
Next Week – A Simple Truth