When You Feel Like a Failure

I know this post is longer than what I usually write, but stay with me. I want to take a break from my travel posts to share something that has been on my mind for the past few weeks.

This week I feel like I’m sitting in a big puddle of failure. It is soaking through to everything and it sucks. Emotionally, physically, spiritually – everything! My house is a total mess. I made some dumb financial decisions at the beginning of the month and so I’m suffering financially. I am slacking on my diet. I am snapping at my husband when he doesn’t deserve it. I have missed not one, not two, but THREE workouts in a row. This is not me complaining about my life, this is me sharing things that are all completely and entirely my fault. I’m screwing up.

So what do I need to do when I feel like I’m a total failure and everything I touch turns to crap? I know some people who would say I just need to get a positive attitude and focus on changing my self. But what if that is not enough? I need something more than self-motivation.

I know some people would say that I should turn to my husband and my friends, that I should ask them for encouragement. But what if even they aren’t enough? What do you do when even the words from the people you care about the most aren’t enough to lift you up?

No matter how many times you try to motivate yourself, no matter what people say to encourage you, there are times it just doesn’t work. And I know I’m not the only one that this happens to. You can say your mantra of peace and remind yourself of the things that you know are true about yourself, but some days you need more.

Where do you escape to clear your mind and renew yourself? Traveling? Pouring your heart into your work? Picking up a new hobby or skill? Changing your hair cut or taking a day off? Buying a new outfit? Tell me, did it work? Is it long lasting?

No… I don’t think those are the answers. All these ideas are temporary. The newness wears off after awhile and you feel the same. Then the cycle continues to repeat over and over again until when…?

Before you start spiraling into depression by just reading this post, there is something else I want to share with you. Truly, I wish that you were sitting here in front of me so that I could take your hand and tell you this in person.

Today out of the blue this verse came to me, a verse that I haven’t thought of in a very long time. It brought me encouragement, and I ask you to read it, even if you aren’t a spiritual person. The prose is still beautiful even if you are not a believer in Christ.

 I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
 He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him.

For me that verse is extremely meaningful. It changes things in my heart. I feel like I need a whole other post to explain why that is so encouraging to me, but I will try to be brief.

When we accept our failures, it means that we give up trying to be perfect. We realize that we can’t do it all alone. And that is freeing to me – not because I will forever be imperfect and depressed, but because I have someone to help me. Not just someone who will tell me I look pretty or to keep my chin up. This person reaches deep inside my soul and is capable of mending the very fiber of my being. He touches pieces of my heart that no one else can reach. God hears my cries and is here to lift me out of this pit of all my failures. I am not just talking about feeling better for a few days, or forcing a smile on your face. I’m talking about healing. Do you know what that feels like? In Christ I am a totally different person. When God looks at me, he doesn’t see all the things that I’ve done wrong, or all the ways that I feel like I’m screwing up. He sees perfection. Complete and utter perfection.

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Maastricht, Netherlands

I have not been to the Netherlands since I was small, so I was eager to go back while my mother-in-law was visiting us! I still want to go back in the spring to see the tulips blooming, but I was not disappointed with our short day trip across the border.

*Side note for my technology challenged family members whom I love dearly- you can click on any of the pictures in this blog in order to see them larger*

Maastricht is filled with lots of cobblestone streets that look much like the one bellow. There are hundreds of little shops, apartments, and restaurants around any given corner. There are no yards or grass to be seen along the road unless you peek into someone’s courtyard and they happen to have a little garden. Shh… the door was open, okay?

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I was totally blown away by this cathedral that is has been converted into a bookstore! Wow, wow, wow. It was so incredibly beautiful. I felt like Belle from Beauty in the Beast when the Beast takes her into the library for the first time. We stayed in here quite a long time. I can’t even imagine how long I would get stuck here if all the books were in English…

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Overall the theme of Maastricht seemed to be bicycles. Lots and lots of bicycles. We had a terrible time finding parking, so I understand why. After we got out of the bookstore, it was pretty overcast outside and sadly most of my pictures of cool looking buildings did not turn out. But later on in the evening we were able to catch the sunset over the Meuse River. We stood on the bridge for a long time just admiring the view and watching people pass on their way home from work.

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IMG_2962I’m so glad we got a chance to visit such a pretty little town and I can’t wait until next year when hopefully we will get to see some windmills and tulips!

The Taboo Tattoo

In Christian circles tattoos can often be a topic of heated discussion. The Bible clearly speaks against them in Leviticus 19:28, which says, “Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourself. I am the Lord.” It seems pretty straight forward in this verse, so why is there so much disagreement? Why do some people have extremely strong convictions against them while others seem to feel no guilt at all? I have done a fair amount of research into both sides, and I would like to share some of my findings.

The History of Tattoos

To help you understand a little bit more about what tattoos meant to people around 1440 BC, you need to understand the reasons why certain people chose to get tattoos. Tattoos during this time were not meant for decoration. No one’s tattoo story started with, “I just went into the tattoo parlor and picked it out because it was pretty.” Tattoos were primarily marks of ownership, which can mean several different things. The Romans used tattoos to identify a person as a slave or a criminal. Other cultures used tattoos to show which God they served, and the Egyptians believed that tattoos created a spirit connection with dead family members. This way you would be able to find your family members in the afterworld. (http://www.thetattoocollection.com/history_of_tattoos.htm)

What does this have to do with Leviticus 19:28? 

In Leviticus 19:28, God gives instructions to the Israelites to keep their bodies pure and free of markings. Why was this important? Because God wanted his people to be separate from the cultures around them. They did not need tattoos to show which God they served or which master – they all served him. He was their Lord. Allowing the Israelites to have tattoos would have been equivalent to allowing them to worship other gods (In my opinion). They did not need markings to prove who they belonged to, they were his people simply because he chose them. He did not need them to mark themselves to prove his ownership of them like those of pagan cultures.

There are a lot of different commandments in Leviticus chapter 19. Some of those commandments are ones we still follow today, and others are not. Leviticus 19:19 commands the Israelites not to wear clothing woven of two kinds of material, and also not to plant two kinds of seed in one field. Leviticus 19:27 says not to cut the hair on the sides of your head or trim your beard. Leviticus 19:26 says not to eat meat with blood still in it. There were very good reasons for those laws to be put in place for the Israelites. These laws set them apart as a culture, as God’s people who kept themselves holy.

So… what does this have to do with tattoos today?

Tattoo’s today have a very different meaning. We no longer use tattoos to denote ownership. We use tattoos to express a message, but they unlike the tattoos of the 1400’s they do not define us.

My personal reasons for getting a tattoo: 

I chose a tattoo after 6 months of careful consideration. It was not a decision I took lightly. I chose a tattoo that reflected the person that I am, and the person that I want to be. I chose a tattoo that glories God and gives me an opportunity to share the gospel if anyone asks about it. I chose a location that can be easily covered up, and researched tattoo parlors to find a reputable location.

I believe that my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. This is why I chose to get a tattoo – as an act of worship.

Some Questions to think about…

All this is not to say that tattoos should be taken lightly. I do believe that some people get tattoos for the wrong reasons. A tattoo is something that will last forever on your earthly body, and so there are many questions to consider.

1. Does this tattoo honor the Lord? If your answer is no, then think about why you are getting it. Do you want the cute butterfly/jellyfish/flower/whatever just so you can show it off to your friends?

2. Am I getting this tattoo for myself or for other people?

And there are also some practical considerations:

3. Will the location of my tattoo prevent future job offers (depending of the type of job you want, some employers do not allow visible tattoos)? 

4. Will I still like this tattoo in 10 years? 20 years? 30 years? 

In closing…

Some people will not agree with this post, and that is okay. If your convictions are so strong that you believe it is a sin to get a tattoo, then you should absolutely not get one. Romans 14:14 says that if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. In other words, for those people who do believe tattoos are acceptable, don’t flaunt your tattoos in front of someone who thinks they are wrong and try to convince them to get one. For those who are against tattoos, stick to your convictions and do not do anything that you feel in your heart is wrong.

Belgium

A few weeks ago Jason and I visited the lovely city of Brussels, Belgium for their biennial Flower Carpet Festival. Here are a couple of pictures from the trip!

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The Hotel de Ville, also known as the Town Hall. It has been in Belgium since the early 1400’s, and it’s tall spire can be seen from all around the city.

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The Royal Palace of Brussels is the official palace of the king and queen. It is still a young building having been opened in 1934. It is quite large – as you can see I couldn’t even get the entire palace in one photo!

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This is just a lamp post… sorry, no crazy story to tell you here!

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Snapping a selfie in front of the palace!

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This is a statue of Godfried of Bouillon before he headed off on a crusade. Supposedly he shouted, “God wills it!” as he lept into the sunset, which I think is quite ironic considering that I doubt God’s blessing was on any of the crusade ventures.

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In front of the Church of St. Jacques there is appropriately a statue of, well, St. Jacques. I really enjoyed the shadows on the folds of his clothes at this time of day.

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A view at night of the flower carpet! It was lovely. Also very hard to get a picture of because of all the people, so unfortunately this is all I have!

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I told you that you could see the Hotel de Ville from all over the city! Voilla!

And there you are! A quick snapshot of our trip to Brussels. More ventures will follow!

Are All Religions Essentially the Same?

A few weeks ago, I was confronted in a conversation with the idea that all religions are essentially the same. The person who shared this with me believed that all religions pointed to basically the same goal: try to be a good person and treat everyone with respect. This person also shared the thought that, “Religion goes wrong when someone tries to say that their religion is better than someone else’s.” I understand where this person was coming from, but I have to say that I disagree. I have been thinking a lot about this conversation over the past few weeks and I’d like to share my thoughts.

First of all, I use the term religion here to help people who are unfamiliar with Christianity to understand where I am going and to keep from having to explain myself constantly. I do not believe in having a religion from the standpoint of adhering to a specific set of rules and traditions, rather I believe in having a relationship with a holy God. With that being said, I will use the term “my religion” in this blog to refer to my beliefs and my standards.

Second, while I do respect all other human beings and their desire for a religion that differs from my own, I do not respect all other religions. The term respect means to hold something in high regard, and to see it as having importance or high value. I do understand a lot about other religions. I understand the desire and the need for a human being to have a religion, and I understand that it might be different from my own. I will not devalue another person based on their religion. But I cannot, and I will not hold differing beliefs in the same regard as my own.

Third, I do not believe that all religions are essentially the same. Consider this: I believe my actions do not determine whether or not I go to heaven or hell. I base this belief off of Ephesians 2:8-9 which says,”For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” The term works in this verse simply means an act or a thing being done. In contrast to this idea, Hindus believe in karma, the law of cause and effect by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words and deeds. This is from the 9 basic beliefs of Hinduism. These two beliefs are in opposition with one another. One says that there is nothing that I can do change my eternity, another belief says that it is entirely up to me and my decisions. In other words… both beliefs are not the same, in fact they are in exact opposition with one another.

Fourth, I would like to address the idea that it is wrong for a person to say that their religion is better than someone else’s. My religion states that believing in Jesus is the only way to attain eternal life. If I choose not to believe this, I choose not to believe in Jesus. If I say that you can get to God by believing in yourself, or that you can get to God by worshiping nature, or even that you can get to God by being a good person, I can no longer call myself a follower of Christ.

Essentially, by saying that all religions and paths to God are the same I disown my own religious beliefs.

I do not write this because I believe that I am better than someone else. On the contrary, I am no different from any other person on this planet. The only thing that sets me apart is the grace of God. This grace is his gift to me, and I did nothing to deserve it.

I encourage you to comment or email me if you have questions/disagreements/comments about what I have written or about my beliefs.

Fest, Fest, and more Fest!

A fest is simply a festival, and the Germans know how to do ’em right! They have festivals for EVERYTHING…all the time. Jason and I have been to three festivals in the past month, and I am pretty sure we missed several. 

The weekend we got back from Belgium we went to the Pig Fest in a town called Wittlich, about 20 minutes from our house. Pig Fest is exactly what it sounds like: pork everything. Not the festival for the animal lover or vegetarian. They have giant pigs roasting on a spit, any and every kind of Brautwurst, and pig themed souvenirs. There were also two live bands, an entire section of the city devoted to a carnival (complete with a Farris wheel and small roller coasters), loads of shopping booths, and of course plenty of drinks to be had for all. Jason and I both had a Brautwurst filled with cheese… and wrapped in bacon. Oh dear sweetness. These things are like an invention from the heavens.

(Don’t forget that you can click on any picture in order to see it larger!)

IMG_2562This is a picture from the Farris Wheel looking out over the carnival portion of the Festival. 

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Just a goofy picture from the Farris Wheel! Who am I kidding… we look like this all the time. 

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This is one of the roller coasters, we didn’t ride it but we enjoyed watching it! It is amazing how they can have such build huge rides like this so quickly and then tear them down within a few days. 

Last weekend Jason and I went to the Medieval Fest in Mandersheid, a town also about 20 minutes away. This town has a castle (or Burg) and so it was perfect for a festival dedicated to all things old-timey. This festival included jugglers (with fire!), dancers, live bands with strange instruments, jousting, and a fireworks show to finish everything off. And as always there was plenty of Medieval themed shops selling everything you can imagine: swords, leather bags, wooden plaques, glass welding, metal works, belts, flower wreaths… the list goes on! 

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View of the main portion of the castle from one of it’s towers. Most of the castle’s here are not in great shape because of course they are all hundreds of years old. There are very few that don’t have crumbling pieces. Also, I apologize for the weird vintage looking coloring on this photo, as well as the one bellow. I tried to fix them but whenever I import them they keep reverting back to this washed out look… who knows why. 

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This is a view of some of the shops closer to the castle. It was set up like to be as if you were walking through a Medieval open air market. 

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This was the main section of the festival, looking down at it from Burg Mandersheid. 

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One small piece of the fireworks show! Be sure to keep an eye on Jason’s facebook page in case he posts more. He took some really gorgeous shots! 

Yesterday Jason and I visited Wine Fest in Bernkastel, about 30 minutes from our house. I am sure you can guess what the theme of this festival was! Being near to the Mosel river, we are surrounded by vineyards everywhere we go. The wine here is delicious, and there is something for everyone. I am a total wimp and I love my süß Weißwein (sweet white wine)… my favorite flavors basically taste like fruit juice! Jason is a little bit more “cultured” than me, and he likes to branch out to heartier flavors. Wine Fest is set up so that you pay a 2 euro deposit for a wine glass, and then you can walk around the festival and sample as many wines as you like for usually about 2 euro a glass. Which is cheaper than in a restaurant where you will pay about 3.50 euro for a glass. At the end of the festival you can turn in your glass and get your 2 euro back (or if you have had a bit too much like we discovered many people had, you may find your glass floating in the Mosel or lying broken on the pavement… we were fortunate not to be in this category!). There was a beautiful fireworks show at the end of the festival which Jason and I watched from a bridge that crosses over the river. 

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This is a panoramic shot of the Mosel River with the castle off to the upper left side of the picture. Lovely view, and an absolutely gorgeous day! 

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Looking up at the castle from the bridge. 

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Everyone waiting for the fireworks to start! This is nothing, by the time the show finished, the place was so crowded it took us 30 minutes just to walk back to the car through the crowd. Crazy! 

I also have a video of the fireworks that I can’t post on WordPress. Check out my facebook page for the video 🙂

That is all the Fest action I have for now! Enjoy! 

 

I Will… because I LOVE my body.

So many of the reasons that I fail in my own fitness and health journey are because I focus on what I can’t do instead of focussing on what I can. The view we have of our bodies is extremely important, and most of us look in the mirror thinking about what we wish we looked like instead of focusing on the things we like about ourselves. Think of your body as a permeant home, one that you can never leave no matter how far away you go. Yes, someone else might have a bigger home or a smaller home than you. Someone else might have more expensive things, or less expensive things. But comparing your home to some one else’s doesn’t change anything about your home – all it does is make you miserable. What changes your home is your desire to be a happy home owner. When you say, “I love my home, and I want it to be the best that it can be,” then it truly begins to flourish. If you love your body, it doesn’t matter what anyone else’s body looks like. 

Now with all that being said, I do want to emphasize that part of a healthy view of your body is taking care of it. Yes, I am a firm believe that you are absolutely perfectly beautiful the way that you are, and don’t let anyone try to tell you you’re not. BUT that doesn’t mean that if you have a great self esteem you can never exercise and eat poorly. On the contrary, if you love your body you should treasure it. Give it only the best, and push yourself to your limits. 

Not so that you won’t have any jiggly parts. That’s not enough. Do it because you are worth it. Because you deserve to have a body that functions at 100%, full of energy, and able to do all the things you want. Because God created our bodies to do incredible things, and you are missing out on some great opportunities because don’t have enough energy. Because keeping our bodies healthy is an act of worship to God

This might seem like all talk and no action to you. So how do you begin to love your body? Some of my first steps are making a contract with my body that is filled with “I will…” statements to remind myself that a healthy lifestyle should be empowering, not discouraging. 

 1. I will strive to meet my own personal goals that are matched to my body and my abilities. 

2. I will say one positive thing about my body every time I look into the mirror.  

3. I will continue to work towards improvement, even when I feel discouraged.

4. I will eat when I am hungry, and stop when I am full.

5. I will eat dessert every now and then… because life is too short. 

6. I will encourage others in their fitness journey.

7. I will put foods into my body that are real foods, pure and chemical-free as much as I possibly can. 

8. I will love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength! My body is a temple and I will worship him by treating it with love. 

 My fitness instructor has been taking this challenge, and I thought some of you might be interested as a way to start treating your body with the care it deserves. It is called the 28 Day Love Your Body Challenge.

http://mollygalbraith.com/2014/03/cellulite-stretch-marks-and-a-love-your-body-challenge/

 

 I do agree with most of the things in this challenge, but for myself I also wanted to keep a spiritual mindset during this challenge. Some of the quotes here seem sort of new-age to me, and I want to remember during this challenge that my ultimate goal should be glorifying God, not myself.