Monday, December 29, 2014

Obligatory Year in Review Post- 2014

It's that time of year. It's time to reflect and set goals and intentions for the New Year. Since this month marks my one year anniversary of blogging, it seems only appropriate to make my final blog post of 2014 a reflection post. So, ladies and gentlemen, here's my year in review.

In January, I hired a personal trainer. I didn't really have an aesthetic or weight-related goal in mind. It was more about becoming a better me. I knew I wanted to take up running and possibly run my first race. Prior to January, I hadn't as much as run around the block. But, I wanted to stretch myself to do something I didn't think I could do. Well, it turns out I ran not one but two races this year, and have two others in mind for the first quarter of 2015. I'm still not sure I'd call myself a runner, but I definitely run, and that's a really cool aspect of the new me.
Also, in early 2014, I became a Zumba instructor. I figured I was already a class regular and dance was my happy place. Why not make a part time living at it? In fact, I left my full time salaried position and ventured into freelance work in order to make room for a life of movement and exercise. I won't lie. It wasn't easy. There were many meltdowns and moments of second guessing. But I can honestly say that it was a sound decision. I'm happier and more fulfilled in my work life. Sure, revisions will continue to be made, but I'm undoubtedly more aligned with my passion than ever before.
My personal life in 2014 has I witnessed single girlfriends who had nearly thrown in the towel, meet and marry men they love within a period of months. Another friend got pregnant and happily welcomed her first child. Other friends have dated quite a bit and enjoyed every minute of it. My life, on the other hand, has been crickets on the relational front. Even after reluctantly delving into online dating, it's still been crickets. I'd love to say I handled this gracefully. No. It frustrated me and a few more meltdowns ensued. But then, I decided to embrace it. I intentionally reached out and rebuilt my social network from the ground up. I cultivated new connections and deepened old ones. I opened my home and hosted parties. It was all for the purpose of establishing community. I wanted to feel like I could have an active social life and a sense of family, with or without a mate. In reflecting on this year, I can say I have that. I wanted the walls of my home filled with laughter and fellowship, so I created it. I think that’s pretty awesome if I do say so myself.
All in all, it's been a good year. Even with the emotional turns at each point, I can honestly say that I accomplished everything I set out to do. I was intentional and I generally got the results I wanted. This encourages me as I prepare myself for a new year. I'm not huge on resolutions but I do set goals. And if I set goals and a game plan to achieve them, I'm confident I will. So stay tuned folks. With all that's happened in 2014, there's no telling what's in store for 2015!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Second time around

In a couple of weeks I will run my second race ever. It’s hard to believe it’s been half a year since my very first one and amazingly I’m still running. This training experience has been a lot different than my first. It’s been much more solitary, which is one reason why I’m just now sharing it. I don’t say solitary to be self-pitying. In a way, it’s actually been freeing not to have to keep pace with someone. I’ve been able to focus 100% on running my own race, the metaphor of my life these days. In my usual fashion, I’ve spent time in reflection and then compiled this list of a few lessons learned this second time around.

There’s power in doing things in secret
My first experience with running was so completely new to me that I often sought feedback from others. I reported every miniscule insight to my veteran running friends. I wrote about fitness or running nearly every other post. That was fine for then because I was new. But this time around has afforded me some much needed perspective. There is absolutely no reason to broadcast every little thing I do. I’m just not that important and no one is that interested. Period. Besides, there’s something to be said about working toward a goal in secret. When you consistently hit the trail and put in the work without thinking about the cute selfie you want to take at the end of the workout, you build your character. It’s not about anyone else. The goal is about you. A basic life principal is this: whatever is done in secret will eventually be revealed. Don’t waste time boasting when you’re in the process. It undermines your effort.

You must learn to encourage yourself
My first time out I had more consistent support. I had a personal trainer who did many of my runs with me. This time, I might run with a friend every once and a while, but it’s mainly been me. Interestingly enough, no matter how good I’m feeling when I start my run, I almost immediately start talking myself out of going as far as I intended. If I planned to do four laps around the lake, I want to let myself off easy and just do two. The thoughts of quitting occur right away and come in such a rapid fire manner that I lose count how many times I hear, “Just stop. You don’t have to go all the way. You’ve gone far enough.” It’s obviously much easier to push through them when you have a running buddy. But sometimes in life, you don’t always have someone else there to push you through. You must learn to encourage yourself just the way a coach or trainer might encourage you. You have to tell yourself, “Don’t quit. Come on, you got this. Keep breathing. You’re doing great. Almost there. Finish strong.” When those persevering thoughts finally drown out the quitting thoughts, then I get a second wind and run even faster than before.

Maintain motivation between the monumental moments
Let’s face it. Every runner feels like a rock star on race day. It’s exhilarating. You get your bib. You chit chat with other runners. You feel the anticipation as people wait at the starting line. You feel energized when strangers call you by name (they’re just reading your bib, mind you, but still) and cheer you on. You usually get your fill of food and beer or wine at the end. And of course, you get a medal of completion and bragging rights for the rest of the day. All of that combined almost makes you forget the $50, $60, $70 or more that you paid for the experience. Nevertheless, race day produces a high and it keeps folks coming back. That’s all fine and well, but what happens between races? Can you lace up and consistently hit the trail when no one is cheering you on, when the weather conditions aren’t perfect, when your time is slower than your record because your body just isn’t feeling it? Can you be diligent, faithful, and committed when it’s boring? The test of character isn’t in how you meet the monumental challenges of a moment but how you conduct yourself between moments. Anyone can perform on command. It’s the pattern of conduct, the habits of person’s lifestyle that reveals who you really are.

Those are just some of my thoughts from training this time around. I imagine each training period will hold new revelations and each race will be different from the previous. I kind of like that. Each training period has its own story and its own theme. The theme for this time around is that if I ever have to go at something alone, I can do it. It’s not necessarily my preference and it’s not always necessary for each season of life. But if ever it’s called for me to run my race solo, I can do it because I have what it takes to endure.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Becoming a Zumba Mami

It’s hard to believe it’s been six months since I completed my Zumba instructor training. I started teaching my first class in May and now the summer session has come to an end. It’s amazing how time flies by. Since the year is half over I find myself reflecting on where my fitness journey all began.

My love affair with Zumba started two years ago when I joined a gym for the first time. It was the first class I took and I was quickly hooked. It wasn’t because I was that great at it. In fact, I felt pretty awkward trying to mimic the rhythms at first. Even though I was a dancer I had never danced in that style before. It didn’t discourage me though. While a part of me was unacquainted with the new way of moving another part of me took to it easily, as if I had always done it. Moreover, it freed me. I think if I had resumed the ballet and modern styles I was trained in, I would’ve been too technically focused and missed the bigger purpose in moving. Dance at this time in my life isn’t necessarily about perfect execution or proper alignment and technique. It’s about freedom, expression, and connection- connection to my forgotten self.

You can probably guess where the story went next. I loved it so much I decided to learn how to
teach it. Now, I have a few months of teaching under my belt and a few gigs on the horizon this fall. What excites me is that this return to my first love has taken priority in my life. It won’t just be an extra thing I squeeze in if I have time. I’m intentionally ordering my life so that I can do more of what I love. I’m not na├»ve. This reprioritizing doesn’t come without some sacrifices. I’m also mindful of the need to maintain balance and rest so this outlet remains a joy and not a burden. All in all though, I’m following my bliss, as they say. With each step of doing what I want to do and not just what I think I should do I’m inching toward my true purpose.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A brave new world

Well, now that the cat is out of the proverbial bag I suppose I can finally share a transition that’s been months in the making. No I’m not pregnant, nor am I engaged or buying a home. For some reason, that seems to be women’s big news but not mine at this point. I did quit my job though and I just finished up my last day at work. In some ways it feels surreal not to be signing on for another school year of counseling college students. In other ways, it feels like every decision I’ve made this year has brought me to this point…this place of venturing out into a new land.

If you’ve followed my blog, you’ll see a clear theme to 2014. It seems like every week I took on a new challenge or adventure of one form or another. I learned something about myself or about life. I attained every personal goal, however big or small. None of this is to brag on myself but rather to highlight how hungry I’ve been to attain the life I really want. It just finally clicked for me that if I only have one life to live I want to live it to the fullest and do what makes me happiest. Why should passion only be part time?
So here’s what’s next. I’m going full steam ahead into the fitness and wellness industry. I realized from my own fitness journey that the same things I love about counseling, I also love about exercise. They are both about relationships. You get to know people over time. You connect with them and to some extent do life with them, even if it’s just an hour a week. People enter your presence one way and then hopefully, by the end of your time, they’re feeling better and more hopeful.  I still plan to counsel clients. I feel called to the work of alleviating suffering and believe I’m gifted at it. It’s just that I hope to balance that work by promoting the good, not just fixing the bad.

There are still some internal battles that I fight regarding this transition, specifically in terms of legitimacy. You don’t really need a degree to teach fitness and certainly not a PhD. I wonder what it might say about me that I have zero aspirations to own my own practice and do hardcore clinical work the next 30 years. Is it because I can’t take it? Am I not good enough? If I ventured more into prevention work would I not be seen as a real clinician by those in my field? And if I don’t want to be a full time therapist or a full time professor, why did I incur a six figure loan debt in the first place? These might seem like reasonable questions to ask, but don’t be fooled. No matter how logical they sound, they are fears and doubts, plain and simple. I say that because if I entertained any one of those nagging questions for too long than I might reconsider my decision to leave. My friend gave me a helpful visual for when I started to freak out (a frequent occurrence during this time of transition). She urged me not to feed my fears because they’re always hungry. They always want snacks. Now, when I get scared I think of a creature or gremlin holding his hand out for food and I quickly shift gears.

The facts of my situation are what they are but here’s the truth. I was created in God’s image to do good works which He prepared in advance for me to do. Did it catch Him by surprise that I’d be making this move now? Absolutely not. He sees the end from the beginning and causes me to move and act according to His good pleasure. He knows what will serve the greater good, fulfill me, and bring Him glory and He continually works out those three objectives in every detail of my life. That’s the truth. It’s a truth that encourages and grounds me. I still feel afraid sometimes. When I do I listen to this song that’s become an anthem for me and many others. Courage is feeling afraid and doing what you have to do anyway. So, when fear comes I remind myself that He makes me brave and enables me to do what I think I can’t do.



Monday, July 21, 2014

Adventures in kayaking

I few weeks ago I checked another thing off my growing bucket list. I went river kayaking for the first time. The activity itself was a lot of fun. But what was even better was trying something way outside of my normal Crista box. Like I’ve alluded to before, 2014 has been the year of venturing out of my comfort zone. As I do so in various ways, I find that I learn really valuable life lessons. Here are a few from my kayaking excursion.

1.       It’s okay to have fun

I should mention I took the trip with several 20 somethings who do outdoorsy stuff all the time. At one point, a few of them (my kayak partner included) thought it would be fun to play bumper boats. There was an immediate war between my adventure self and my conventional, orderly self. Once I heard the internal voice of caution that sounded a lot like my mother, I decided to silence it…just this once. I knew we were going to be fine, so why not cut loose a bit and enjoy the ride?

2.       Remember to take in the view

Like anyone else, I wanted to not only do something awesome, but capture myself doing something awesome. Truthfully, I did get in a couple of shameless selfies out on the water. I couldn’t resist. But I didn’t want to trip to be so picture focused that I missed the experience itself. The river was beautiful. We passed an affluent neighborhood of huge houses on the water. We paddled in the early evening, so halfway through we were able to see the sunset. Then, my favorite moment of the trip was when our kayaks spontaneously gravitated toward each another. We were all huddled together, gently bobbing in the waves and taking it all in. It was a good reminder to just stop every once and a while to absorb the scenery.

3.       It gets hardest at the end

As with most things, towards the end it wasn’t quite as fun anymore. Exhaustion and a touch of nausea had set in and I was ready to get out of the boat. It felt like it was taking longer to get back than it had to row out and I felt a little annoyed that we hadn’t started to turn back sooner. I could’ve let myself panic and succumb to silly thoughts like, we’re never going to make it back. Instead, I decided to keep paddling, and in fact, I paddled a little faster. That was the only way to shore after all. The group decided to make a race of it, which reignited the sense of fun and adventure. Obviously, we did make it back and I was able to maximize those final moments instead of dread them until the very end.

4.       Be open to new connections

I think one of the coolest things about any new experience is the people you meet. I met a fun group of people I probably wouldn’t have met in any other context- free spirited, adventurers who enjoy life to the fullest.  My kayak partner even said, “Hey, we should be friends.” I thought it was really endearing that for some people the basis for friendship is just that easy. Hey, we shared this experience and it was really cool. Let’s do it again. Who knows if we will, but it really inspired me to see there’s a world full of really awesome people and all I have to do to meet them is be open to trying something new.



Monday, June 16, 2014

Bouncing back

I recently saw this clip of an athlete from several years ago who got back up and won her race after literally falling on her face. I went through so many emotions as I viewed the footage. There was immediate shock and concern when she fell. Was she okay? Then once she got back up and started making up the distance, I found myself rooting for her. I got chills as I witnessed her extraordinary ability to get back up and finish…and not just finish, but finish and win.

This is the definition of resilience- the ability to rebound and to bend and flex without being broken. I believe we all have this inherent quality inside. We all possess the ability to conquer our challenges of life. Yet, some people realize the gift they have inside and others do not. What makes the difference? I’d say it’s a matter of tenacity.

We all have something we hope we never have to face…something that we think would absolutely destroy us if it came to pass. For me, it was betrayal, rejection, and abandonment by a loved one. And despite my best attempts to safeguard against that deeply feared trinity, they happened anyway when a relationship ended badly a few years ago. I won’t lie. I went to a very low, very dark place. It was the kind of despair that puts you in the fetal position and makes you want to fall asleep and not wake up. But even when the pain was excruciating, something in me kept going. Giving up wasn’t an option. It was like my spirit saw my life beyond the moment and spoke to me to get back up. The steps were wobbly at first, but as I kept moving I gained stability. Then as I stabilized, I felt a fighter rise up inside. I refused to let that moment, that person, that loss knock me down and keep me down. I was going to overcome it because that’s who I am.
That’s what resilience is to me…that, “Oh hell no!” attitude toward obstacles. We all have a fighter in us. Sometimes the fighter lays dormant inside until just the right moment when we have to show ourselves and the world what we’re made of. Now hear me, it’s not about going out and seeking pain and trauma to endure. Truthfully, if you live long enough difficulty will probably find you without you looking for it. What I mean is try to get to a place where you embrace all facets of life- the abundance and the lack, the joy and the sorrow, the love and the loss. Whatever you’re facing today, you already have everything you need to overcome. But you have to keep moving. Even if you’ve fallen down several times, get back up. Get back up and finish your race.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Photo bombers

Yesterday I was catching up with a friend about another friend. I asked about the most recent guy she was talking to because I didn’t know anyone was in the picture. She replied, “Well, he was in the picture but he wasn’t the picture. It was more like he photo bombed.” We busted out laughing and went back and forth another ten minutes or so joking about different guys over the years that had “photo bombed” our lives. It tickled us, but maybe you had to be there. The point is it got me thinking about this relatively recent phenomenon where strangers just insert themselves in your pictures without permission. What is that about?


I tried to think of reasons people might do that. For some people, they know it’s wrong and they know they aren’t invited, but it’s part of the thrill to do it anyway. For the majority of others though, it’s probably more about being playful and wanting to be a part of the fun. Either way there’s a subtle but clear understanding that there are some who are actually meant to be in the picture and others who are not.

When you apply this idea to dating or any relationship really, it gets even more interesting. The contenders, as one friend says, are those who have serious intentions in getting to know you. They have expressed genuine interest and corroborated their intent with an honest pursuit. The pretenders, on the other hand, might have a casual, fleeting interest, or perhaps they are genuinely curious about who you are, but they have not taken steps to really know you on any deep level. That might be perfectly okay. Not everyone is marriage material or a BFF. The problem is when pretenders masquerade as contenders and get access to your heart space. Both of the friends above and myself can attest to the crappy feeling of realizing after the fact that someone struck an emotional chord even though they never should’ve been there at all.

So what do you do if your life has been photo bombed? Realize it happens to the best of us. Once you realize someone’s not supposed to be there, wrap it up and move on. Or if they leave first, let them go. Embrace that every detail of your life is divinely appointed, but especially relationships. Some are casual, some are seasonal, and a few are for the long haul. If you misjudged someone’s role in your life, who cares? Live and learn. Give them a funny nickname as my girls and I are in the habit of doing and find those connections that are meant to be in the picture. And next time just be a little more aware of potential photo bombers. It is beach season after all.  

Friday, May 30, 2014

The Power of You

Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.
-Judy Garland

We all have people we want to emulate. Something about them inspires us- their confidence, their ability, their humor, their energy. Whatever it is, we see something special and different about them and we want it for ourselves. It seems the best way to attain what they have is to study them, rehearse them, and then try to be just like them. That seems like it makes sense at first. The only problem is that it inevitably fails. Why? Because we’re not them.
It kind of reminds me of when I first became a counselor. I was so anxious about doing everything right and being just like the professors who taught me, that I struggled to just be with a client and relate like a normal human being. I was stiff and awkward and spent more time acting like a counselor than just being one. I’m not sure when it shifted for me, but eventually I let go and decided to be myself. I related to clients the way I would a friend or family member. I started integrating my style of humor wrought with hyperbole and dry wit. If a client told me something ridiculous, I would laugh at/with them and reply with a loving, smart aleck quip just like I would with a friend. Of course, this would depend on the person and the presenting issue. I would never make light of someone’s pain. But the point is, once I became a real person in the room, once I was me, people responded favorably.

I mention this only because I’m faced with a similar situation as I return to the creative arts. When it comes to music and dance I feel that pull again to mimic people I really admire. If I could just bottle up the best qualities of each of my role models and imbibe a potion of all of their awesomeness, I would be good to go. But if I’ve learned anything about human nature, it’s that people don’t want another copycat. We inherently distrust incongruence. The antennas go up when something about a person doesn’t seem genuine. We want to know you actually are who you say you are. You’ll be hard pressed to convince someone you’re genuine if you’re working overtime to be someone else.

What I’m realizing is this. Authenticity reigns supreme. Embrace all your quirks and idiosyncrasies. Wear them like a badge of honor. Embrace your way of connecting and relating in the world. People will appreciate you for it because you’re being yourself. We each have a unique light. It doesn’t matter if someone does that exact same thing we do. When we approach it we breathe a whole new life and energy to it because there is no one else like us. But that only happens when you stop spending your time trying to be someone else and you recognize the power of you.

Friday, May 16, 2014

After pomp and circumstance

I participated in graduation exercises last weekend. It was kind of surreal because I wasn’t a student anymore. I was a faculty member leading the way in full doctoral regalia. A friend of mind had commented that it was crazy to think it had been 10 years to the day we all graduated from college. I had no idea and the thought blew my mind. 10 years since college graduation? Seriously? In some ways, it felt like a lot had happened in my life. In other ways, it felt like I just blinked and I was in my 30s. How did I get here? Where did the time go?

Anyway, in typical commencement address fashion, the message was inspirational and it charged the graduating class to follow their dreams. Be open to possibilities. You never know where life will take you. You have a unique gift to share with the world. Blah, blah, blah. Don’t get me wrong. It’s all good stuff. I’m queen of inspiration, believe me. I just couldn’t help but notice that in addition to 10 years of gaining…uhm…maturity, I also gained a fair dose of cynicism. Life rarely ends up the way you expect.

Personally, I figured I’d be married with at least one kid in tow by now. I haven’t quite sealed the deal in the matrimony department though. Educationally, I knew I would go to grad school but never planned to get my doctorate. Now I have some big girl degrees and credentials behind my name that I only mention to highlight how weird it still is to me. I don’t have the six figure salary a lot of college grads want to make in their 30s. I do have a six figure loan debt, so go figure. I’ve met some awesome people and a whole lot of jerks. I’ve fallen in love and lost love. I’ve had a ton of crappy jobs and some impressive ones. I’d say I’m doing fairly well in life 10 years out of college. I’m thankful for my life thus far. But am I living my dream?


As I reflect on this year’s commencement, I feel like I received the same invitation as the class of 2014. I’m invited to consider the following questions: Am I doing what moves me? Am I living on purpose? Do I feel energized and renewed each day? Is my life fueled by passion and joy? Are there pockets of adventure amidst the daily routine? Is my soul truly satisfied or do I thirst for more? And if the pursuit of more (not money or things but soul satisfaction) requires me to deviate from the path of convention, do I have the courage to move anyway? These are the questions on my heart these days…questions that I hope will guide the next 10 years and allow me to say at the end of it, ‘I’m fulfilling my purpose and I’m truly alive.’


Saturday, May 3, 2014

What's next?

This is the question on my mind these days. The friends that I mentioned a couple of posts ago are now married. Another good friend who spent years on her PhD now has it. The personal training sessions I started in January are now over and the 5k race I spent months training for is now complete. After you wait, anticipate, work toward a goal and then finally meet it, what’s next?

If I’m completely honest, I usually feel a little down after I meet a goal. Sure, my initial feelings are elation and accomplishment. I relish in it for a couple of days. But then, not too long after, I feel a bit deflated. I wrestle with “what’s next?” It’s not that I’m a discontent person. I’m generally satisfied with my life and thankful for my blessings. I think I just miss the process of getting there.

When you work toward a goal it fills space in your life. Whether it’s getting a degree, taking on a fitness challenge, or planning for a significant event, it requires discipline, energy, and focus. It enlivens you in a way, because it allows you to escape from the monotony of your usual routine. Regardless of what else is going on, you have something that inspires you and gives you something to look forward to. Dreams and goals give you hope and that rare commodity is something our souls crave.

So, what’s next for me? Well, I’m pretty sure I’ll keep challenging myself in exercise and fitness. I’d like to develop musically now that I’m singing more regularly. I have some spiritual goals on my radar as well. But really, all of these are secondary to the process of learning about myself, forming new relationships, and growing in ways I never realized I could. Goals themselves are secondary to the hope they put your my heart. It’s the possibility of what could be that feeds you from the inside out and gives you a mental picture to strive for. And when you’re continually “nourished by the spirit of the future,” as Kim Clement says, you’re ever empowered to keep moving, progressing, and becoming the person you were meant to be.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Made it to the finish

I did it. After three months of training I completed my first 5k yesterday. Truth be told, I expected it to be really emotional at the finish. But it all felt pretty normal. It was like running is just a new thing I do- all perfectly ordinary.

It’s interesting how you wait for a moment to arrive, usually with a certain degree of anxiety and eager anticipation. Then it comes and goes and is no more. It’s over just like that. With that said I think I’ll keep this post as short and simple as the experience and just show the highlights.
Until the next challenge…  



Thursday, March 27, 2014

Just keep going

My trainer recently asked me what the hardest thing about running was for me. I imagine she was trying to get a pulse on where I was physically and perhaps mentally. I told her that it wasn’t so much fatigue in my legs and muscles. For me, running is just the most intense exercise I can do. I’m pretty sure I’m close to my maximum heart rate because my heart always feels like it’s going to beat out of my chest. I’m not out of shape either. I’ve been working out consistently for almost two years now, but running is by far, the most physiologically rigorous activity I’ve tried to date. Nevertheless, I want to improve so I keep at it.

Anyway, a couple of weeks back we were running a couple of miles to prep for the 5k. I was trying to play it cool because she made it look so easy, but I was panting like crazy and trying not to collapse. At some point though, after she’d gotten a few paces ahead, I slowed down to a walk. In a gentle, yet firm way, like any good coach would do, she urged me to keep going and try not to slow down. Miraculously, I made it back to our starting point without fainting or getting sick, thank you very much. Then, coach was gracious enough to let me catch my breath and hydrate before starting sprinting exercises. And it was the same…I wanted to be done and then I was gently, yet firmly challenged to go “one more time.” By the way, any trainer who tells you “one more time” is lying. They really mean three to five more times. But it’s just what I needed. If left alone, I would’ve stopped. But with a supportive guide there, I did more than I thought I could.

There’s a term in fitness called overloading. Essentially, what it means is that in order to improve, the body system must be stressed beyond its normal level and it will adapt. The mind and body are indivisibly connected. If you tell yourself you can’t, then you can’t. If you tell yourself you can, you can. It’s that simple. Then your physiology catches up with whatever internal truth you accept. It’s pretty amazing.

Here’s my take home from that session. There’s a lot to be said about just continuing to put one foot in front of the other. It’s not particularly novel but it is profound. While running your course, disregard the finish line. Sometimes seeing it can make the final steps the hardest ones to take. Just focus on your next steps. I’m a smart girl. I had a hunch my trainer was trying to pull one over with the whole “one more time” line. Yet and still, I shifted mentally and ran with my all when I told myself it was my last time. I drew upon energy I didn’t know was there. Such is life…keep running your race, one foot diligently in front of the other, challenging yourself to go farther than you ever thought you could, and you’ll be amazed when you reach the finish line. It doesn’t matter how you stumbled or struggled on your way there. It’s about persevering. But you won’t receive the victor’s prize unless you endure to the end.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Something to call my own

We all have different rituals and routines we do to ground us. One of the things I do when I move to a new area is get a library card. It’s a simple act but for me it’s my symbolic way of settling into a new place to call home. In the last four years I’ve gotten a new library card three times. And not just because I moved across town or over county lines. I made multiple out of state moves in those years, a bit disorienting to say the least. I was determined when I moved back to Virginia that I was staying in the region for at least the next several years. Too much change is draining for anyone. It’s hard to adapt when life feels too transient.

When I got back to the area, I decided in addition to getting my library card, I needed an activity to call my own. I decided that activity would be exercise and that’s when I joined the recreation center at my place of employment. Like I mentioned previously, it started with Zumba and a walking group. Then as I gained confidence in moving regularly, it spread to strength training and jogging. Now, it’s a regular part of my routine and my lifestyle and it’s hard to remember a time when this newfound friend wasn’t with me.

While the physical benefits of exercise are well known and the aesthetic benefits are much appreciated, neither of those reasons are why I move. You might have heard people say athleticism is 90% mental. I’d agree. More notable than any physical changes I see, it’s the psychological changes that keep me going. I’m challenged to reframe my view of the shy, scrawny teenager I used to be, to the woman who grows in strength and confidence each day. Exercise takes me out of the internal feelings of loneliness and disconnection I feel on bad days and shows me I am part of a community. There are fitness class regulars that smile when they see me and miss me when I’m gone. I matter. Exercise is also portable. I can do it virtually anywhere, with or without equipment, with or without company. All I have to do is awaken my body and start moving.

You might have heard people say the only constant in life is change. I suppose that’s true for certain aspects of life. I’m convinced that at least some things, however few they might be, do remain the same. These are our routines, our rituals, our habits of familiarity that soothe and comfort us and provide safety. They’re our “things,” the behaviors and activities that are uniquely our own. They’re the things that collectively define us, ground us, and stay with us and no one can take them away.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Moving forward

I did it. I signed up for my first race. I’ll be running my first 5K in April. It’s kind of surreal but after months of my running friends assuring me I could, I finally am. Add that to the list of things I’m knocking out this year that I never thought I’d do. It’s only March, yet I am kicking butt with this personal challenge/facing my fears list, if I do say so myself.

I’m also steadily progressing in my personal fitness which is really exciting. It’s really not so much about my body’s aesthetics changing that I enjoy as much as it is learning about myself. I’m discovering I have this awesome stubbornness about me that I didn’t realize was there. I find that if I struggle with an exercise, I discipline myself to return to it repeatedly until I master it. It’s like I have to prove to myself that I am able to face any challenge. Hiding and avoiding is no longer an option. It never really was. My true state is tenacious and defeat only pisses me off enough to try harder and win next time. I kind of like that about me.

What’s more is that as I venture into this new area of wellness and healthy living I’m meeting people with a shared passion. These new friends are mentors and guides to me whether they realize it or not. They inspire me to shift how I see myself. They don’t see me as shy or timid. They see me as confident and joyful. They see a risk taker and someone who is willing to at least try. Between the new people in my life and the old ones who have cheered me on all along, I feel ready to face yet another challenge.

So, I ask you this. How are you stretching yourself? What are you doing to meet your goals? In what new ways are you challenging yourself? What life experiences are your tutors at the moment? Who in your life is showing you who you are?  If you’re not progressing, you’re regressing. So devote yourself to finding what moves you and keep moving forward. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

It's never too late

When I was younger I wanted to be a dancer. I was somewhat of a late bloomer, starting in 8th grade, when most start around pre-school. I took to it like a fish to water though and I continued to excel throughout high school. I was so serious about it that I was debating over whether or not to attend a conservatory for college. At the end of the day, I decided that as much as I loved dance, I wasn’t sure I was up for living in New York, going to auditions, and living at the poverty level trying to make a go at it full time.

After college I departed from dance for several years. I was in full fledged grad school mode, an all consuming endeavor for those who might be unfamiliar with the experience. I only danced a handful of times during that 6 year period. I initially tried to convince myself it wasn’t a big deal. Sure, I danced, but dance was my identity. That might sound good but it couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that if you have a dream in your heart you won’t be able to rationalize it away. You might not actively pursue that path or operate in that role at the moment. But our dreams are unequivocally part of who we are. Our gifts are the driving force of our calling. They’re our breath, our life, and our unique imprint on the world. When we fail to become who we’re meant to be, we suffer and so do those around us because they’re not benefiting from our light.

For the sake of time, I’ll abbreviate the process of finding my way back to dance. Suffice it to say, I tried on a few different ways of integrating it back into my life on a regular basis. Then one day I realized the answer. It was like a dawning. How had I missed it before? My favorite part of the day was when I attended Zumba class. In that hour long class, I was happier and freer than I was any other time. My soul had reconnected with my first love and it was like oxygen to me.

I share all this to offer one simple message. It’s never too late. I’m reminded of Bruce Wilkinson’s book, The Dream Giver. Basically, we’re all given a dream in our hearts. There comes a time when that dream is tested. Perhaps you wonder if it’ll ever come to pass. You might even be required to sacrifice it in some way without the assurance that it will return to you. But here’s the exciting promise for all of us. The Dream Giver is able and willing to fulfill each and every one of our dreams. The fulfillment of the promise might look very different years down the road than it would have at an earlier season. But it shall come to pass.

Just look at me. I’m thankful for my educational opportunities. I’m humbled by my credentials. I feel a sense of purpose in the work I do. But when it comes to truly experiencing joy and soul satisfaction, I get that from dance. And my cup overflows at the thought of my dream to dance coming full circle. Wherever you are in relation to your dream…if you’re living in it, discovering what it is, or if you’re surrendering it for now, know that it’s never too late. The One who gave it to you is faithful to fulfill it. Just wait and see!


Friday, February 14, 2014

Love is a person

Valentine’s Day is here and it’s a celebration of romantic love. Romantic love is a wonderful thing. Like I said, I’m not throwing any shade this year on people who have that in their lives. I honestly think there should be a prize of some sort for each year of remaining faithful to one person. It’s a big deal to partner together and do life with someone. But for those who don’t have that, and even for those that do, there’s something even greater. It’s God’s love.

The image that always comes to mind when I consider God’s love for me is a scene with Liam Neesen and his daughter in the first “Taken” movie. It’s the one where he finally finds her. The daughter looks shocked to see him and with tears in her eyes she says, “You came for me,” to which he replies, “I told you I would.” Let me tell you, as a girl who never had a dad, that scene messes me up every time. It also perfectly captures a father’s love. He would’ve stopped at nothing to get his daughter back.
That’s exactly God’s sentiment towards us. He created utopia and human beings for fellowship with him. That was ruined when we believed there was something more satisfying than all that God had already given. Once we were separated from God, ancient law required that a sacrifice be made to atone for sin. Instead of punishing us like we would’ve deserved, God offered himself in the form of Jesus to be that living sacrifice. In laying down his life, he showed himself as being both just (because the law had to be fulfilled) and merciful (because he took the L instead of us).
The gospel is a love story. It’s about God’s fierce, passionate pursuit to restore us to himself. And he didn’t just do one act of love and then stop. He continually pursues us and invites us to know him intimately. This isn’t some guy that can’t be bothered to text you back. He’s not a lover that drops you after he gets what he wants. He is the lover of your soul who’s willing to go to the ends of the earth and back just for you.
On this Valentine’s Day remember that love is not just a feeling. It’s not just for those with a romantic connection. Love is a person and that person is Jesus.

*Here’s a playlist of my personal favorites that might help you feel the eternal love that God has for you
Your love is extravagant- Performed by Tribe of Benjamin
You know me- Performed by Steffany Frizzell-Gretzinger
Spoken for- Mercy Me
Everlasting love- Performed by Tony Terry
Divine love- Performed by Jaye Thomas

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Do what moves you

I have three great friends name Jennifer, all of whom I see and talk to regularly. They're all completely different from each other and yet very similar in the essential ways. They're each absolutely hilarious and down to earth. They each love Jesus, people, and food and that order (my criteria for lifelong friendship). And interestingly enough, they each share a love for running. Since that's an activity completely foreign to me, I wanted to interview them to learn more. What about running moves them?

Between the three of them, these rock star Jennifers have run 15 half marathons, 8 full marathons, and over 10 shorter races over the last few years. One particularly hardcore Jen ran the Mega which is pretty much a marathon/hike through the woods of Pennsylvania. I mean, seriously. Who does that? They all seemed to get serious about this “hobby” after age 30. If it were solely about physical fitness, I'm sure they would've eventually let it go, just like any other fad workout. The fact that they continue with this discipline after several years tells me that there's more to it. Something about running moves them figuratively and literally. When I explored it with them, this is what I Iearned. Running appeals to them on four key domains of wellness: social, physical, emotional, and spiritual.

1)      Social wellness- Each of them started because of a friend’s encouragement. One said, “After some conversation with friends where I said I could NEVER run a half marathon, they signed me up for it anyway…I got bit by the running “bug” and have been running ever since.” Someone in their life made them feel like they could, so they did. Then once they started, they became part of a community. Not only do their loved ones cheer them on at races, but so do complete strangers. There’s nothing like a crowd of people you don’t even know cheering you on and telling you that you can do it.

2)      Physical wellness- There’s lots of benefits to aerobic activity. It helps with weight management, prevents a sedentary lifestyle, and keeps the body regulated. One shared proudly, “My doctor has told me that since running my cholesterol looks good. My blood pressure is, and I quote her, “beautiful.” These Jennifers seem to eat better, sleep better, and feel better when they run. Sounds like good reasons to me.

3)      Emotional wellness- Each one mentioned running as a form of stress relief. It offers a solace to process the issues of life. One shared how healing it is for her. “When I was going through a painful time in my life, the marathon training helped me process my emotions and feelings by replaying what had happened until it stopped hurting so badly.” Running is her therapy.

4)      Spiritual wellness- Lastly, running is about nurturing their spirit. “It gets me outdoors enjoying God’s creation, and gives me time and space to clear my head and just get with God.” Through that consecrated time of prayer and meditation they learned these key life lessons: a) Keep moving, b) Be patient with yourself, c) Do it for you, d) Embrace all seasons, and e) You can do anything you set your mind to     

I have tremendous respect for the Jennifers in my life. I've heard their stories. I've witnessed their setbacks and triumphs. I'm blessed to be running life's marathon with them. They are truly overcomers and they inspire me. You might read this and not be any closer to running around the block, much less a marathon. But that's not the point. It's about taking this New Year and finding whatever your thing is. Discover what gives you life and teaches you about yourself. In this next year, I challenge you all to be like my Jens and do what moves you. I know that's my plan.