Friday, December 30, 2016

An introverted end to 2016

As I write another end of year reflection post, it would be easy to join in on the laments of how awful the year has been, what with the iconic celebrity deaths and the political climate. I could offer a more positive, upbeat post on the highlights of my wellness business this year. I’m sure I could even come up with lists of 16 or 17 lessons learned, goals to attain, and what to let go of or grab hold of in the New Year. But this year, perhaps even more than in previous, I’m feeling quiet and reflective. Therefore, I want to write from that contemplative space.

I’ve never been a big New Year’s person. I would always much rather watch the “When Harry met Sally” New Year’s party scene than actually go out to one. The thought of being somewhere crowded and crazy like Time Square or Vegas for New Year’s makes me itch a little. Even in the year 2000, when it was finally appropriate to party like it was 1999, I went to a watch night church service with my friend’s family and then slept over. Sad, I know. I wish I could say I made up for it in later years, but that would be a lie.

It’s not that I dislike New Year’s. I’m all for toasting with champagne and singing a few rounds of Auld Lang Syne. I just prefer to do it in the comfort of my home, preferably before 11pm. It’ll still be a new year when I wake up the next morning, right? Again, it might seem kind of sad, but I like it that way. After all, the 525,600 minutes that make up a year are so loud. By the time we reach New Year’s Eve, I generally want to slow down and enjoy a quiet space. It’s the only way I can hear the voice inside and discern my next moves for the new year.

So, what’s on my agenda this weekend while the rest of the world is kissing, toasting, ball dropping, and praising, from one year to the next? I’m not exactly sure yet. But it’ll include some remembering, some thanksgiving, and a chorus or two of Auld Lang Syne. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Soul Trainer

A few weeks ago, I shared this month marks my one-year business anniversary and my three year blogiversary. It’s so weird to look back at my old entries. It’s like re-reading old journals. I’m still kind of amazed that I decided to chronicle my life experiences and observations in such a public forum. As I said before, it’s cool to see how things change and remain the same.

I started my blog after a huge life transition. And in the last three years, there have been several more. I’ve written about career, relationships, hurts, and healing. I’ve written as a (hopefully) wise friend, guide, and co-journeyer. I’ve demonstrated how fitness and movement have become my metaphors for overcoming in life. Basically, I feel like I’ve found myself, healed my heart, and discovered purpose in this blog- to promote health and strength from the inside out.

So, when a life coach friend of mine told me one day, “You’re like a soul trainer,” it totally resonated with me. Yes. I suppose I am. And I’m not a counselor-trainer who will just give you the prescription and rattle off book knowledge without having gone through the process myself. If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I have been walking through it all right along with you. It only makes sense then for me to finally settle into a more appropriate blog name. Soul Trainer. Nothing will really change as far as what I write about. I’m just clarifying my focus in a way that captures what I really do. Let us continue to grow together in strength, joy, and wellness.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Open hands, open heart

I just started a new journey...a journey toward openness. That might seem weird because many people experience me as pretty pleasant and agreeable. Am I warm and friendly? For sure. Big-hearted? Absolutely. But open? Um...yeah, no. Honestly, I haven't minded my aloofness. It's been very protective and I've appreciated the safety it's given me. But as with most coping mechanisms, they work until they don't. They are helpful until they cost you something or interfere with meeting other needs. In my case, my standoffish demeanor has kept me from the connection I crave. Therefore, I figured it was time to do something about it.

I met up with my yoga instructor friend over the weekend. I just had a simple request. "Can you show me some heart opening poses?" As corny as it sounds, I just wanted to bypass talk and use my body to invite love into my life. Romantic love, sure. But also a deeper experience of God's love...more intimate encounters in friendship love...more work related opportunities to express love. Basically, I wanted to learn how to be a big ball of sunshine radiating love and light...without opening up, being seen, and letting people in, of course. Sadly, you can't have it both ways. Boo!

At any rate, my friend guided me through a spontaneous heart opening flow. I breathed. I expanded my chest. I noticed the areas of tightness and discomfort and moved through them. I noticed my fears, validated them, and then gently disputed them with truthful affirmations. It was just a one time session, so there's lots more practice to do. But I believe making this a regular practice will manifest powerful things in my life. I just had to create space in my heart for it.

It's important to know that I will still vigilantly guard my heart. I care for and want to protect it. Not everyone who feels attached to me will gain entry to my sacred space, just as not everyone that I attach to will grant me access to theirs. And that's okay. You can't say you truly love someone without also honoring their limits. But now I understand that you can guard your heart and still keep it open. If I'm lovingly attending what I need and communicating sincerely with others, I don't need to be afraid. All I need to focus on is giving myself when I'm moved to give and do it with open hands and an open heart.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Happy Anniversary Gambrell Wellness

There’s something about the last two months of the year for me. It’s almost as if my personal season for change and renewal can’t wait for January 1st. I tend to get a jump start in November and December. I suppose that’s why I launched my wellness business one year ago and my blog three years ago this month. Since it’s a milestone and all, I figured it only made sense to dedicate my posts this month to my babies- my business and my blog. And since it’s Thursday, I see no better way to kick things off than a throwback post. Here is my very first entry. Pretty cool to see how amidst all the change some things remain the same.

Getting in the arena

I guess I’ll begin this blog like I did my very first tweet. This is me getting in the arena. I have long avoided social media. I’m not entirely sure why. I suppose I can thank my mom for instilling a healthy dose of paranoia in me- you know, those loving, cautionary reminders that anything you put in writing and on the internet is out there forever. While that is true and I think lots of folks need that reminder, what that message did for me was scare me into hiding. Now, I love my mom and I certainly don’t blame her for my reticence to enter the public forum. There’s a whole host of personal insecurities and life experiences that I can thank for that. What I will say is that it’s taken me a while, but now, as a 30 something year old woman, I’m ready to take a risk and be seen. I’m ready to share my ideas even if they’re critiqued. I’m ready to be my authentic self and hope to be rewarded with meaningful connections to other people.

So, who am I? I should probably mention I’m a professional counselor. That doesn’t make me an expert or a know it all, and no I’m not analyzing you. My profession does afford me a practical skill set of being able to connect, as well as offers insight into human nature. I’m also a Christian. Not a “Jesus on my neck-a-lace, -ace” (Ke$ha) kind of Christian, but a compassionate, sincere one. My faith informs everything in my life so that will be the underpinning of most of my posts. You were warned. 

Lastly, in this blog I hope to speak to soul matters, the stuff that gets us at our core. I'll offer stories and ideas that have inspired me. They might be sad and painful. They might also be funny and joyful.  I want to share ideas from the perspectives of both a friend and a co-journeyer. I want to meet people where they live. Most of all, I want you (whoever you are) to connect with my words and somehow, through the time and space that separate us feel seen, heard, and understood. It’s quite an ambitious endeavor but I’m up for it.

So until the next post, may you prosper and be in good health even as your soul prospers and gets along well...(3 John 2).

Originally posted December 18, 2013 hence the Ke$ha reference.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Stay on the mat

Recently I finished reading "Love Warrior," a memoir by Glennon Doyle Melton. In it, she shared personal and relational struggles and the tough work of becoming whole. She wrote with such refreshing transparency. I feel like we could be friends. She shared how healing yoga was for her during a crisis period in her marriage. One day, however, she wandered into a 90 minute hot yoga class by mistake. She had almost made her exit when the instructor greeted her. Now, she was stuck. As everyone went around the room stating their intentions for the practice, you know, stuff like, "I want to be one with myself," or "I want to illuminate love and light," etc., she had something else in mind. When the teacher asked her what she hoped to gain, she kept it 100: "I'm just going to try to get through whatever is about to happen, stay on the mat, and not run out of here." Yep. Totally my kind of woman.

Throughout the rest of her yoga session as well as the book she kept returning to that metaphor. Stay on the mat. It came to mean doing the hard work and not squirming out of it. It meant staying present when tough feelings emerged. It meant remaining grounded in a difficult conversation or emotional moment, rather than checking out, shutting down, or hiding behind your walls. I simultaneously love and hate everything about that. I know intuitively that it's necessary for a healthy relationship with ourselves and others. It's also incredibly uncomfortable and even painful.

I'm reminded of that during this love season. It's all fun and games until it hurts, until there's misunderstanding to sort through, until there's conflict. But when reactions get visceral and things get real in your relationships, vow to stay on the mat. Try it with me today. I know it's going to be hard, but all you really have to do is breathe, stay present, and stay open.

When someone you respect reveals a deeply held belief that opposes yours, stay on the mat. When everything in you wants to rage, wail, or numb your emotions altogether, stay on the mat. When you feel hurt, misunderstood, and invalidated, stay on the mat. When you're starting to feel happy and you're struggling to trust it, stay on the mat. Stay present. Stay open. Stay loving. Most of all, stay connected- to your feelings and to others. Next time it gets heated and feels hard, remember this. You are a warrior and you can endure. Don't punk out. Stay on the mat.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Bougie discomfort

A couple of weeks ago I was talking with a client. She is a therapist in training, so in addition to discussing her personal concerns, we usually end up chatting about psychology concepts. You know, because we're cool like that. Anyway, in our last session, she introduced me to a mindfulness practice called bourgeois discomfort. Since I like to colloquial term "bougie" a little better that's what I'll use.

Basically, bougie discomfort is a way of training yourself to cope with unpleasant situations. For instance, if the temperature is not to your liking, rather than rushing to turn on the heat or the AC unit, just sit with it for a while without frantically trying to change it. Another example might be to sit in an uncomfortable position for a short period of time. Sit. Breathe. Notice the discomfort and notice that it either lessens or you just adapt to it.

I practiced this a little during my birthday travels. Most of my trip was spent in the middle seat on the plane and in a cramped back seat of a car. I also had a different eating schedule than I'm used to, so I got to practice whenever I felt hungry or slightly nauseated. I was never in pain or facing any harm, of course. In fact, I imagine it's called bougie discomfort because you're not facing real suffering. You are just practicing being a little less comfortable than usual, definitely good practice for people with first world problems. The hope is that as you learn to adapt to different uncomfortable conditions, then you're better able to cope when things actually get real.

Give it a try. How can you offend your bougie sensibilities today? Can you sit through a boring meeting? Can you breathe through a traffic jam? Can you hold that plank position a few seconds longer? Can you settle into a sensation without rushing to fix or change it? I bet you'll find you can withstand way more than you realize. That, or you'll realize, at least in some cases, the things we desperately try to avoid maybe aren't so bad after all.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Mimosas and soul chats

If you follow my blog, you know that all summer I hosted a book club with friends themed around female-empowerment non-fiction. It concluded yesterday with a discussion around my book, "Healing Through Movement: Getting Back up after a Broken Heart." Of course, it's always an awesome time because I'm blessed to know some incredible souls. But, it was so much more than just mimosas and great conversation. It was a powerful afternoon of heart-to-heart connecting, showing up and being seen, and sharing our stories.

It started with me since my book was the topic of discussion. Let me just say that it is incredibly vulnerable to open up about who you are- not just the polished image that's socially acceptable, but the honest, gritty, not-so-pretty elements of who you are and what you've been through. But even though it's the muck and mire that really shape a person, we are still reluctant to share much beyond the perfectly coiffed public persona. But, you know what happens when you do? Magic. You give others permission to share their true self.

Two friends in the group are especially reserved. Yet, as we discussed the challenges in relationships, they opened up about their pain. It was such an honor to have people who do not typically share, not only make a contribution, but also make themselves incredibly vulnerable. It felt like holy ground. It's truly a sacred exchange when people who had learned not to trust take a risk and trust again.

Let me be clear though. This wasn't a sappy gathering of victims. We didn't commiserate over all the ways we had been 'buked and scorned in love. It was quite the opposite. It was an honest reflection about what we allowed in our lives because of our lack of identity. We talked about the ways we turned a blind eye and didn't want to face the truth in front of us because of our perceived need for someone else. Then a shift happened. Just like I talk about in the book, we all had some sort of encounter moment and we finally awakened to who we are and what we deserve. It was a game changer. But as powerful and beautiful as personal transformation is, it is so much better when you find shared experience with someone else.

If you aren't currently a part of an authentic, open-hearted community like this, I encourage you to pray for it. Ask God to bring you meaningful connections with like-minded souls. Also, be willing to create spaces like this as well. You might have to take the first step of sharing who you are. I can almost guarantee though that when you do, then others will take the courageous leap to do the same. A few mimosas don't hurt either.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Dr. Crista's Girl Power Book Club

I enjoy reading. Fun reading that is. I consider fun reading anything that is not required academically or professionally. Since the summer affords me a slightly slower pace than my norm, I figured it was a perfect time to prioritize reading again. I gathered together girlfriends who live near and far and created an in-person and online book club. I felt like I needed some female-empowered non-fiction, so those were the picks. Here's a brief review from Dr. Crista's Book Club.

Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes
First author up was Shonda Rhimes and let me just say, all of the yeses to the "Year of Yes." This was our first pick and we knocked it out of the park with this one. It was a funny, yet substantive read about how she challenged herself for a full year to say yes to whatever scared her. In doing so, her life turned upside down in the best possible way. It was very inspirational. We've all been afraid. We've all been bored in life. We've all felt like something was missing. This book offered one way to start to turn things around.

Bossypants, Tina Fey
Let me say that I love Tina Fey. She's funny. She's smart. She's feminist. She's a great writer. I was certain all of those qualities would yield another good read. Unfortunately, "Bossypants" just didn't do it for us. We actually didn't even finish it because no one in the group was really feeling it. It's hard to even put a finger on what wasn't clicking. It had humorous anecdotes and an overall relevant theme. Perhaps it just wasn't meant for our group at this time. No shade, Tina. We still love you.

Why not me?, Mindy Kaling
Although this wasn't selected by the book club, this was my second book of the summer. Here we have another comedy writer and woman of color. She shared various stories from her personal and professional life in essay form. Her humor had just the right amount of self-deprecation, while still feeling genuine. Her journey was essentially about becoming comfortable in her own skin. She made it clear she has not arrived, which kind of gave me permission to be patient with myself if I haven't either.

Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert
The next book club pick was one I absolutely loved in an equal but different way than "Year of Yes." "Big Magic" was all about creativity and inspiration. It's a wonderful book for any artist or creator, and according to Liz, that's anyone who's breathing. She began by challenging readers to consider, "Do you have the courage to bring forth the treasures within?" This book really lit a fire in several of us to get moving on some things that have stirred within for a while.

You are a Badass, Jen Sincero
The last book of the summer that we're concluding this week is the popular, "You are a Badass." First of all, kudos on the title. I bet the title alone sold copies. Why? Because just like we've all been afraid, we've also felt insecure, insignificant, and less than. This book honored that feeling while still giving a swift kick in the arse to readers to quit pouting, quit giving up your power, and do something to change your life. You can look at it like this. If Shonda Rhimes and Liz Gilbert gently invited and inspired action, Jen Sincero gave the final shove to act now.

So, in a nutshell, this has been the summer of saying yes, accepting the skin we're in, bringing forth the treasures within, and owning our inner badass. This book club has been instrumental in finally doing what's been in my heart to do for a few years now. I have finally decided to share my story in a self-published book titled "Healing Through Movement: Getting Back up After a Broken Heart." It's a personal story of getting knocked down pretty hard when my relationship ended. But more important than the fall, was the process of getting back up. I interviewed women who had also endured painful endings and summarized how we figuratively and literally moved through the healing process. Interesting how it kind of goes along with this summer themes of courage and power, huh? I invite you to check it out at the link below. Maybe you can add it to your own girl power book club.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

What Family Reunions, Zumba, and Michael Jackson Teach us about Black lives matter

The last eight days have been so incredibly refreshing. I haven't wanted them to end. I made a trip home to visit my immediate family as well as meet a good friend's new baby. Then, over the weekend I had my big biennial reunion with extended family. Not only was it wonderful to get a break from the usual work grind. It was great to get a moment of respite from the week of grief in the news.

It was interesting to gather together and experience so much joy, while the backdrop for the rest of the nation was anger and grief over racially motivated police shootings. Of course, the senseless killings hit home for us as well, as a family who identifies as Black/African-American. I just also think we have a unique experience with race relations because there's so much multiculturalism among us. Interracial relationships are almost the norm in my family. Therefore, we have always embraced white in-laws and any other cultural group, just like our own. Provided they are good people (which they always are) that can fellowship over drinks and off-color stories (which they generally do), then they're part of the fam. We're not color blind and we don't want others to pretend to be either. It's just that once the bond of love is shared, any noticeable differences just don't matter as much anymore.

In thinking about that, there was a moment when I got a little choked up standing in front of several family members. I led a Zumba class as one of the weekend activities. I looked out at my awesomely diverse family jamming out to dance rhythms and music from all over the world. As Shakira's "Waka, Waka" phased out, she said, "We're all Africa." Then, we transitioned to my favorite cool down song, Michael Jackson's, "Will you be there." Towards the end of this beautifully written song, there's a really touching speaking part. It always moves me because: 1) I love MJ and believe he was a phenomenal talent and genuine soul. 2) It felt especially poignant at my reunion as I considered how relevant his words are to what's happening today.

So, I'll close with his words and echo his sentiment. We are all just looking for love and belonging. We are all someone's child and loved one. We are all connected to something bigger than ourselves, whether we realized it or not. We all want to know we are seen for who we are, we are loved and valued by others, and, at the end of the day, there's at least one person in this world who will be there. I'm blessed beyond belief to have a whole tribe of people who are there for me.

In Our Darkest Hour, In My Deepest Despair
Will You Still Care? Will You Be There?
In My Trials And My Tribulations
Through Our Doubts And Frustrations
In My Violence, In My Turbulence
Through My Fear And My Confessions
In My Anguish And My Pain
Through My Joy And My Sorrow
In The Promise Of Another Tomorrow
I'll Never Let You Part
For You're Always In My Heart.

- Michael Jackson, Will you be there

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Just keep swimming and other life lessons learned at the pool

This summer, I decided to take up swimming lessons. It was one of those life skills that passed me over as a kid. I splashed around in the pool when I was younger, of course, but never formally learned how to swim. I did take a P.E. course in college. Unfortunately, because the majority of the participants were deathly afraid of water, it mainly ended up being a class in how to minimize panic and not drown. Since I wanted to actually learn some strokes and get more comfortable with the deep end, I recently signed up. As with any new movement adventure, I learned several lessons that can apply to life.

Think, but don't think
Swimming is tough at first because it's a total body exercise. You have to engage your core, keep your hips at the surface, your kicks must be fast and hard, but not too big or too small. You have to move your feet and arms one way, while your head goes another. It's a lot of coordination. To execute everything successfully, you have to think about what you need to do next. But, you also can't overthink the mechanics so much that you stop moving. Ain't that a word? You have to be mindful and also know when to get out of your head and into action.

Know when to breathe
Now, it's obvious that in order to engage in any physical activity, you need to breathe. But with swimming, you have to breathe at the right time, because humans have this weird thing with not being able to breathe underwater without drowning. Breathe at the wrong time and you could do just that. Therefore, it's all about rhythm and timing. You have to know when to take a big inhale in, when to brace yourself and hold, and when to exhale everything out. What do you need to do in this very moment?

There's nothing there
The first time my coach took me to the deep end, I was a little nervous. I started with a flotation device and then went hands free. Once we got to the deep end, she prompted me to look at the bottom of the pool. I did. Then she smiled and said, "See. There's nothing down there." I laughed a little because I didn't even realize I imagined something was. That must be a common fear for many people. Just because my feet can't touch the bottom, doesn't mean a monster lies in wait to devour me. Not in a pool, at least. Now, in a lake or ocean, who knows. Swim at your own risk. But seriously, what fearful thing do you imagine lies beneath that might not be there at all?

Just keep swimming
Once I got some exposure therapy in the deep end, I've practiced swimming back and forth a few times. You really have to commit to the path once you move from the shallow to the deep end. You don't really have the luxury to freak out in the middle. So, if you don't want to plummet to your death, you should just keep swimming until you get to the other side. I suppose that Finding Nemo phrase was right after all. Much of life is just that, after all. Just keep moving forward and you'll get to where you're going.

There's a thin line between fear and fun
A final lesson I've learned so far took place when I was learning to tread water in the deep end. My coach looked over and said, "Fun, right?" I just nodded and smiled or maybe grimaced, I can't be sure. While I had relaxed somewhat, glad to still be alive, I hadn't exactly gotten to the fun part yet. After all, I was focused on keeping myself up in 12 feet of water. I was still in survival mode. But I've seen people thoroughly enjoy themselves in the water. I know it's possible. I just have to push through a little more fear before I get to the fun.

What ways are you challenging yourself this summer? Are you pushing your limits? Don't let a whole season go by without trying something new and stretching beyond your comfort zone. There's so much to learn when you humble yourself to acquire a new skill. You might even get a new mantra out of it. Apparently, mine for the summer is just keep swimming.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Don't wanna? Do it anyway!

It's been one of those weeks. It hasn't been bad, by any means. I've just felt drained and low energy and haven't wanted to do much. Unfortunately, for me, I've had a lot to do. Blowing things off wasn't an option. I had to push through.

It's been a bunch of small things. I had forgotten I agreed to sub a Zumba class on Monday. That meant I had to cancel my personal swimming lesson, which frustrated me a little. But, I had committed to it weeks ago, and therefore, I had to follow through. I also ended up teaching for just two people for my Wednesday class, even though I hoped we could cancel and I could go home early. But, I had promised a student a special birthday fitness mix and I knew it meant a lot to her. Therefore, I pushed through. I had a few other appointments this week that aren't usually on my schedule, making for longer days and less personal recovery time. And even as I write this, I'm facing some other upcoming obligations that I'm not looking forward to. But once again, if called upon, I have to step up to the plate and fulfill those as well.

Part of the issue is that I over-extended myself. I obligated myself to a bunch of extra things and found myself resenting it later. That's on no one but me. I'll modulate my time and energy better next time. In the meantime, I have to honor my commitments.

I recognized the value of this even more when I was talking to friends on Twitter this morning. We were discussing how frustrating it is when people don't follow through or make good on their word. It not only erodes personal trust; it bodes poorly on your professional brand. All we really have in this life is our name and our word. Why sully them by being a flake?

If courage is feeling the fear and doing it anyway, then discipline is not feeling it at all and doing it anyway. Let me assure you that I have not perfected this and I don't always execute it well. I just come from a long line of relatives who instilled a suck-it-up-buttercup work ethic, which has served me well in life. Feelings were seen as a luxury and weren't taken into consideration at all when -ish had to be done. You just did it. It's about duty and honor. It's about maintaining integrity in a world that doesn't seem to require it as much.

I still have growing to do, for sure. I need to not only do what's needed but also be positive about it. And if not positive, at least neutral and not mean mug my way through it. There are no brownie points awarded for doing stuff with an attitude. But hey...progress, not perfection right?

It's hard to do what you don't want to do and to not do what you do want to do. Human nature would rather only do what feels pleasant. It would rather do whatever it feels like doing in the moment, regardless of what previous commitments were made. But a disciplined person, one of honor and integrity fulfills commitments even when it hurts (Psalm 15:4). Basically, he or she intentionally does what needs to be done whether it's easy or not.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Bloated, blah Mondays and practicing non-judgment

It was a rainy day in my neck of the woods...the kind that makes you want to curl up and take a nap after work. I felt like moving a little might be good though. Maybe I should go lift, I thought. Um, no. High intensity interval training? Uh, hard no. I didn't even feel like going to the gym. So instead, I opted to do a yoga-style flow at home.

Before I started, I set an intention of just moving mindfully and non-judgmentally. I didn't have a pre-choreographed routine and I wasn't following anyone's instruction. I was just going to go with the flow and see where my body took me in 45-50 minutes. Here's what I discovered...or perhaps, rediscovered. 

Non-judgment is not about being nice to yourself and it's more than about not being mean. It's about removing any labels or evaluations at all. It's about simply noticing what's there. Instead of labeling it or expressing opinion about it, you train yourself to witness it, observe it, and describe it. It's learning to be neutral and tabling bias. [I say tabling because it's very difficult to be totally bias free]. I'll give you examples of how to neutralize a statement by using a few judgments I noticed throughout today's practice.

I'm lazy. I should go to the gym.
It's important to listen to my body and give it what it needs, even if that means a lighter workout at home.

I really don't like my stomach. I wish I had a six pack.
I notice I am bloated in my midsection today. The skin around my core feels soft to touch.

I'm hairy and gross and need to get rid of it.
I notice the stubble on my legs (and chin for that matter).

My balance sucks today.
The balancing poses feel challenging today.

I wish I could do hardcore inversions.
I am where I am today. 

Get the point? I don't overcompensate and say an affirmation. That's more like self-love. I don't accept a false reality. There's nothing mindful about denial. I just remove the sting of judgment by staying neutral and being present with what is right now.

Give it a try. First, it'll take becoming aware of your judgments. Then once you are, practice removing the opinions and assumptions from them. Take away all evaluations and shoulds. Just notice, observe, and describe. See if practicing this stance as a way of life doesn't transform you and everyone else around you. At the very least, you might find relief in this gentler way of relating.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Many ways of mothering

It's Mother's Day. I just got off the phone with my mom. She lives out of state, so unfortunately, no brunch plans for us. As far as I can tell, it'll be a routine Sunday for me, except it'll include seeing a steady stream of Mother's Day pictures and posts in my timeline. Truth be told, holidays on social media tend to aggravate me because I'm generally not included. I started to anticipate feeling left out again until I realized something very important. I'm a mother too. No, I haven't had children yet. But I am a mother because I nurture. That looks a lot of different ways.

I taught at a Zumbathon event and a few students from my regular Zumba class came out to support. They loved it. And I'm not entirely sure why, but one of my students is truly my biggest fan. Even on my worst day, she sings my praises and feels inspired by me. That's teaching and that's mothering.

I met a group of women as we were all leaving a wine festival. They were clearly lit. After an amusing exchange, I urged these strangers whom I had never met to please drive safely. Then, I said a prayer for them on my way home. That's protecting and that's mothering.

I counsel lots of clients in my practice who have strained relationships with their moms. Many struggle because of their mom's inability to love in a healthy way. While I can't actually be their mom and heal every wound, I can provide a consistent, safe base. I can be an example of a secure attachment. That's role modeling and that's mothering.

I have prayed for one of my friends for nearly four years. For some reason, I've been deeply moved in my spirit to do so ever since I met her. At times, I've wept in earnest petition to God that she would fully realize who she is and reach her potential. That's interceding and that's mothering.

The list goes on. My point is this. There are many ways of mothering. If you've shouted for joy when someone you love succeeds, if you've shed tears of sorrow over someone's poor decisions, if you've poured out your life to others without knowing if anyone notices or cares, if you've loved fiercely and deeply, wishing nothing but the absolute best for another, then you are a mother and this is your day. Happy Mother's Day to all the natural and spiritual mothers of the world.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

To all my single girls out there holding it down...this PR's for you

Do you ever look back on a situation and think, "Yes! I did that like a boss!" That's how I felt after my 5k last weekend, but not for the reasons you might think. I had a huge victory in the area of owning my singleness. No one but me knew it, but that was the real challenge I faced that day.

Let me explain. For a couple of weeks leading up to the race, I was dealing with some major grief and loss issues. Some birthdays and milestones came up and triggered some difficult memories. I had not been in a good place emotionally. Therefore, I was already a little sensitive going into the race. I had committed to running it with friends though and I was determined to make the best of it. Because I was already in a tender spot, something told me to prepare for both of my friends to bring a plus one. Sure enough, they did. One friend brought her boyfriend along and the other brought her homegirl. Thankfully, I was mentally ready.

You might be wondering what's the big deal. If you've been partnered for a while or you date frequently, you might not know what it's like to walk in a single girl's shoes. Let me assure you, it ain't easy. There can be a lot anxiety walking into new situations and connecting to new people. While others might not treat you differently (most won't even notice you're alone if you're cool people), it's easy for you to feel self-conscious and internally wrestle with being the fifth wheel. Bringing buddies along at least helps minimize some of the awkwardness. But, sometimes, you have to face it alone.

In situations like these, it's tempting to get quiet and isolate from the group. That, in turn, makes things weird for everyone. Instead, do you want to know what I did? I warmly greeted the friend I hadn't seen in months. I didn't try to address why it got distant in the first place or share how sad it made me. I was just happy to see her. I interacted with her boyfriend and tried to make him feel comfortable and included. I talked and laughed with the other two friends. Every chance I got, I tried to link everyone together in the conversation, so no one felt left out. Basically, I totally rocked a potentially awkward social scenario and managed to enjoy myself in the process.

Did I mention I got a personal record on my run? That was icing on the cake. Like I said, the real victory that day was facing my fear of rejection and ridicule. I swear, some days my relationship status feels like a scarlet letter on my chest. However, unrealistic or imagined it is, the shame of being alone seems huge, very real and very scary. When I made the decision to face it instead of avoid it, I was able to overcome it.

I ring this PR bell for myself and for all the other single girls out there who know exactly what I felt like that day. There are many of us who often fly solo and do it with enormous grace and dignity. To all of you beautiful women, stay strong, keep holding it down, and hold your head high. This PR's for you.

Good sport

Recently, a newer friend of mine came in town to visit. We had only really interacted online, so it was nice to see she had the same positive energy in person that she exuded through technology. At any rate, she came out to my fitness boot camp and I had her doing a few things that were a little out of her comfort zone. After the workout, I jokingly called her a good sport. It amused me for a couple of reasons: 1) Because good sportsmanship is usually a term reserved for kids who demonstrate prosocial skills and 2) Because another friend has been known to call her husband a good sport when he rides the waves of her emotional tides. I was being playful, but when you really think about what it means, I think we can all benefit from being good sports in life. Here are a few things adults can learn from this childhood concept of being a good sport.

They play well with others
This is key. People who relate well to others win in life. We all know back biting complainers. Most of the time we avoid them because no one wants to hang around negativity. Good sports, on the other hand, are warm, positive, and likeable. They can establish rapport quickly and relate to others genuinely. Because of those skills, these individuals tend to go far in life.

They laugh easily
Another thing about good sports is they are good-natured. Some of my favorite people in the world are the ones that don't take themselves too seriously. These people can find humor in themselves and most situations. In doing so, they help lighten other people up too. Good sports use humor wisely and seem to always know when it's the perfect way to break the ice.

They are open

The last thing I'll mention is that good sports are open. They don't put themselves or others in a box. They're willing to try new things, even if they are a little scary or uncomfortable. Because they have a healthy outlook on life, they have confidence to face challenges. The fear of failure doesn't keep them from trying. As a result, they usually succeed.

Ask yourself a few things. Are you the person people want on their team? Does your encouraging style make you a motivating leader? Do you bring out the best in others? Do you lighten the mood and maintain a positive atmosphere? Do you have a healthy hunger for adventure and the openness to try new things? Then, you might be a good sport. It's definitely something I aim to be and I'm so thankful for having so many wonderful examples of people who embody just that.

Monday, April 11, 2016

No more discounts: I'm a dime piece!

I recently had a thought. I am in my feelings about something nearly every day. It's not just because I'm a counselor either. It's my own stuff and it's exhausting. I would love to not vacillate so much between loving everything about me and wondering if I matter at all. Thankfully, I am starting to see the triggers and it's high time to do something about them. It's not a lack of self-esteem. I am quite pleased with my endowment of looks, abilities, credentials, and spiritual gifts. It is an issue of value, however. As awesome as I know I am, I still struggle when I feel like people do not see it. And then my vain attempts to get them to see it, I sell myself for a discount and that doesn't feel very good. I'm realizing this looks a few different ways.
Giving it away for free
And I mean this literally. Since starting my own wellness business, I've found myself offering free promotional events or significantly reduced rates. I reasoned that free offerings would strum up business. I am learning that this is a no-no, a major rookie mistake.

There's psychology behind monetary exchange. When something is free or inexpensive, people do not value it as much and certainly do not invest in it. When something is given a moderate to high price, it is seen as in demand. If something is not easily accessible to all, then it must be more valuable. Freebies every once in a while are fine. But having extended offers where I share my pearls and get nothing in return, doesn't bode well for feeling worthwhile and appreciated. Undercutting the wisdom and knowledge I have to offer serves no one, especially not me.

One sided pursuits
Another thing that chips away at one's self-worth is unequal relationships. I have written about this before. All of us can take on the pursuer or distancer role in our connections at different points. But the healthiest, longest lasting relationships are the ones where there is equal investment and shared power. Despite knowing this, I still find myself trying harder with some acquaintances than others.

For instance, I appreciate random just thinking of you texts. When I think of someone, I will generally text to tell them so. I like that about me and don't think there's anything wrong with that. The problem, however, is when I don't get the response I would prefer. If someone doesn't respond as warmly or enthusiastically to my gesture as I might hope, it bothers me. Or if it seems as though I am always the one reaching out to say hi and they rarely check in with me, that begins to wear on me as well. Am I not good enough to be in someone's thoughts throughout the day? Is it so inconceivable that someone might want to reach out and tell me they care? These questions are rooted in emotion, not facts, I well know. But on the days when I'm already "full of the feels," as one friend would say, I am tempted to question my worth.

Which brings us to bribery. It's hard to even admit to doing this at times, but let's be honest. If you give someone something out of the goodness of your heart, not expecting anything in return, it's a gift. If you give something in hopes that it'll endear them to you, invoke a reciprocal gesture, or bring them closer to you, it's a bribe, plain and simple. But how often are we all guilty of this at different times? Maybe you have a non-committal friend or significant other who only spends time if you foot the bill. Maybe he/she is always busy with this or that, but then suddenly frees up when you agree to cover them. Again, every once and a while, treating is fine. But it goes back to reciprocity. If someone rarely, if ever, extends the same courtesy, it's imbalanced. The lack of balance can really wear on your soul.

What am I saying? Don't be generous with your time and resources? Don't be thoughtful and considerate of the people you care about? Don't be warm and openhearted? Of course, I'm not saying that. Those are wonderful qualities that everyone should cultivate in increasing measure. The issue is when you give and expect too much, ask too little, and all but beg people to love you and validate your existence, that's when you have problems. That's when you're likely to get hurt and stay hurt often. That's when your self-worth begins to erode.

So, let's end by saying this. Stop it. Just stop it. Let's stop allowing unconscious behaviors and relational patterns to keep triggering the same childhood wounds. Let's stop creating personal or professional situations (that's right, creating, because we play a willing role in it) where we feel rejected, passed over, devalued, and less than. We already know from painful experience that it doesn't feel good and we deserve more. I don't know about you, but I'm done with being in my feelings everyday. I'm done with the emotional roller coaster brought on by my need for others to validate me and assure me of my worth. I'm tired of living life from a one down position. That's not who I am. I am an incredible human being, full of love and light, created to be a blessing on this planet. In a word, I'm a dime piece and I'm done giving discounts.

Friday, April 8, 2016


Yesterday on the trail I ran my fastest 5k. It didn't come easily. I knew in the first half mile that it would be a push. I think part of what helped me PR (personal record) was not wanting to embarrass myself next weekend when I run with my younger, more athletic friends. The sad thing is that even though I did my best and ran my fastest, the moment was instantly robbed by the thought that it wasn't good enough. All I could think about was how my friends could easily shave 3 minutes off that time.  It made me think how often the good enough gremlin plagues me, at least in my fitness journey.

I wish I could tell you it ends with the running comparison, but it doesn't. Over Christmas my cousin-in-law and I were playing around with partner workouts. I knew she was into heavy lifting so I asked her to squat me. She put me on her shoulders, all X number of pounds of not light me, and proceeded to squat me three or four times. I thought that was so hard-core that I wanted to do it too. I told her that I would be able to squat her by the next family reunion. Well, I'm three months out from that family reunion and I am nowhere near ready to squat a grown woman. I haven't trained for it. And realistically, I know there is no functional reason for me to do so. But because I can't, I struggle with not feeling good enough.

Is that the end? No. When I see yoga friends and people I follow doing crazy inversions and balancing poses, I feel like I'm failing at life because I can't do the same. And when I see gorgeous fitness models posting their bikini pictures, part of me wonders if I should do it too. Maybe if I really shredded, waxed, and baby oiled my body, then I would be like the pretty cheerleaders who were on homecoming court and always had a love interest. Because that's not me, I fear I'm not good enough.
I'm sure I could offer many other examples, but you get the point. I feel silly writing all of this out, but it's true and I want to be authentic. Even as a therapist, who challenges cognitive distortions like this all the time, even as a body positive personal trainer who preaches function over form and strength over aesthetics, sometimes I'm still vulnerable to these plaguing thoughts. 

I would be lying if I did not acknowledge that fitness, at least in part, is about finally being in the cool kids club. I never played sports or even had the confidence to try out for teams. Now that I've found fitness and I've become fairly decent as my own version of an athlete, I want even to push even more. There's nothing inherently wrong with striving. Striving to reach your potential is a good thing. Striving for personal validation is not.

The whole good enough battle is a slippery slope. When is it ever enough? When you're an elite athlete? When you get a certain degree or certification? When you win a competition? When you lose a certain number of pounds? When you're a certain percentage of body fat? When you do finally hang with the cool kids? No. None of those external things will ever make you feel worthy. None of them. You know what will calm the anxiety and replace it with peace? These grounding truths: You are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). That's right. Imperfect you is lovingly and perfectly designed by your Creator. You know what else? You are God's workmanship, His poem, created in Christ's image to do good works which He's prepared in advance for you to do (Ephesians 2:10). He delights in you, His handiwork, and everywhere you lack, He becomes more than enough for you.

So, going back to my point from the beginning, I ran my fastest 5k yesterday. The moment was initially robbed by the good enough gremlin, but thankfully, it didn't last for long. I was able to say, "Enough!" to the good enough gremlin and celebrate my PR. And what's even better is that my performance didn't even matter. On my best day, on my worst day, I am 100% loved and accepted by God and that makes me enough.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Four years strong

It's hard to believe this summer will make four years, well, two years since it was official. We met in July 2012 on the campus of Old Dominion University. We were already casually acquainted before we met, but had no real expectations. Little did I know, once I opened up, I would be instantly swept off my feet. My life would never be the same. I fell in love. It's been almost four years since I fell in love with fitness. You thought I was talking about a guy, right? Yeah, sorry. No. But, I do think there are lots of relevant parallels between relationships and my journey with fitness.

Take this evening, for instance. It was kind of a mundane day for us. I came home from teaching two classes. One was actually cancelled due to poor attendance and the other went on as scheduled but was pretty small. To be honest, it's hard to have the same energy and excitement with two or three participants as you do with a larger group. I still love moving and helping others be well, of course. It's just some days I'm not feeling it like I used to feel it. I'm still committed to this life. I can't imagine any other. But occasionally, I fear the thrill is gone. Since walking away from the fit life is not an option, here are some ways I try revitalize my relationship.

I remember
You know what helps the most when the loving feelings start to wear off? Remembering how it was in the beginning. I re-motivate myself with a playlist of the songs I heard when I was a student. I remember what I was doing when I would spontaneously light up like a Christmas tree. I remember rushing to stand in line so I could pick my preferred spot in my favorite instructor's class. Basically, I recall what made me fall in love in the first place and I intentionally do those things again.

I refocus
Remembering how it felt when I was a student also helps me refocus on what matters. Sure, I fell in love with fitness in a state-of-the-art recreation center with mirrored studios and large windows. But, my students now, have only known classes in a windowless gymnasium. I might have known classes with forty or fifty people, but they've only known classes with five to ten. And guess what? They don't care. They love moving. It's their happy place just like it was mine. The ambiance isn't as important as the feeling. If people walk away feeling happier and stronger, then I've done my job.

I reconnect
Lastly, I try to get alone with my love. Just like couples might do date nights or weekend getaways to reconnect, I try to have private time with movement as well. I imagine it's kind of like families who have kids. That's what teaching exercise classes or personal training is like for me. It's still enjoyable, like I said, but it becomes a different thing when another person is the focus. It isn't my personal time anymore. It's about someone else. So, if I want to find my way back to what I love, it requires intentionally setting aside time for just the two of us- taking a walk outside, doing a yoga flow on my balcony, freestyle dancing in my living room...just getting back in touch with what movement means to me, what it meant when it was just the two of us.

Four years. It's long enough to still like the one you love while also long enough for the new and shiny to have worn off. I'm learning that in order to sustain a joyful, long term relationship of any kind, it requires remembering and doing everything that made you fall in love to begin with, refocusing on what really matters, and intentionally reconnecting with the one you love.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

These three words

I walked into work today and got a sobering message that a colleague passed away. Any loss is sad, of course. It seems especially upsetting when someone relatively young passes suddenly. She had only been ill about a month. Loss like that changes things. It offers a higher perspective.

My coworkers handled it so gracefully. We were all shocked and upset. We met together, prayed together, and cried together. I'm fortunate to work with other therapists. We're naturally good at being supportive and in tune with each other. And today, we all seemed to make it a point to chat a few minutes longer, leave our doors open between sessions, and offer crestfallen smiles through moist eyes, as if to communicate, "I see you every week. I'm glad you're here. I don't know you in a deep, personal way, but I appreciate you."

If my coworkers were anything like me, they also reached out to family and friends. That seems to be what people do in times of loss. I sent a group text to my mom and sister letting them know. I reached out to a friend in Florida. I even texted my brother. I love him dearly too, of course. Guys are just different. We don't call each other, but the love is understood.

But today, even though it's often a little awkward for me at times, I was a little more free saying these three words...sweet and simple...short and kind...I made it a point to tell people, "I love you." When was the last time your loved ones heard you say it? 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

My almost entirely about me day

If you follow my blog, you know last time I wrote about my need for a therapeutic hour....basically, my own space and time to recover from life. While it's an honor to support others in their time of need, I was starting to feel like I need some me time. So, I took off from all three jobs, even my fun fitness job, and I dedicated a random Wednesday to self-care. Here's how my almost entirely about me day went.

I woke up refreshed after a rare nine hours of sleep. God graced me (yep, just me) with a sunny 75 degree day. I enjoyed every drop of my Starbucks grande vanilla latte before getting a professional massage. God bless massage therapists. I'm sure they can relate to mental health therapists in what it's like to give to others all day. But thankfully, it wasn't my responsibility to attend to her needs today. It was my time to indulge and I relished every minute of it.

I floated out of the massage school to my car preparing to do a mini shopping trip. I have a function this weekend and I wanted to get a couple of cute new outfits, also something I rarely do. When I glanced down at my phone I thought, Uh oh. I missed a call from one of my friends. Normally, I wouldn't have thought anything of it. But since I had missed two other calls from her this week, I figured something was up and she really needed to reach me. I hesitated to call back at first, to be perfectly honest. I felt bad, but if there was a crisis of some sort, I didn't want it to undo the woosah I had just attained from the massage. Then I thought, this isn't a client. It's my friend. She's nowhere close to being needy. So, if she's calling for support, it means she really needs it.

I went ahead and called her and I'm so glad I did. She was really upset about a professional issue that had gotten ugly. I could hear her fear and was totally present for her. Not only was I able to see her situation clearly and offer her wisdom, but it didn't take much energy for me to do so because I had just been recharged. We hung up. She was grateful. I was glad I made the time to support her. Then, I went on to the mall, found some classy and sassy items on sale, and went home. I took a nap. I later went for a run. I sat in quiet reflection. Finally, I sat down to write this blog.

Here's my conclusion. Unless you escape to a deserted island, you will probably never get an entire day of solitude. We live in community and that's a good thing. We are designed to both receive from others and give love to others. At times, we serve and other times we need to be served. We do not live solely for ourselves and yet, our individual needs are important. Living in community, as we all should live, is a beautiful system of interdependence. We simply need to steward the balance.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Therapeutic Hour

If you have ever seen a counselor, you know the average session time allowed by insurance companies is about 45-50 minutes. It's called the therapeutic hour because it isn't really a full hour. Clients can really get lost in time and it seems to fly by. Counselors, however, feel every minute of least I do. It's not because I'm bored or disinterested in what's being shared. Usually, it's quite the opposite. My mind is working overtime to figure out the most helpful response, even if I'm silent.

As you share your story, I'm discerning the best time to summarize and reflect what I've heard. I'm crafting just the right questions to take the conversation deeper. I'm figuring out how much further to push without going too far too soon. I'm wondering if we'll have time to contain all the emotions that emerged so you don't leave feeling psychically exposed. It's all in a day's work for counselors. It's a tremendous gift to clients though, because when you think about it, how often to do we allow ourselves to indulge in time?
It's not something I often do. I have enjoyable activities, of course. I teach Zumba and fitness classes, but usually, I'm thinking about cueing the next step. It's not really my workout in the way that it used to be before I started teaching. Reading is fun, but I'm still looking at the clock and thinking about what's next. Even TV shows I enjoy keep me focused on time. Will this drama be resolved within the hour or is there going to be a Part 2? My point is anyone can put their phone or computer down for a moment. But how often are you so engrossed in something that you forget where your phone is and you don't care? Time completely slows down and nothing is being asked of you in that moment. It's completely yours.
When's the last time you felt that way? When's the last time you were completely lost in time? What were you doing? Who were you with? And how can you do more of that? It's not just therapists that give of our time. We all do. So in order to recharge, how about designating your own moment on a regular basis to focus entirely on you? Create your own therapeutic hour. That's my goal.

Gambrell Wellness LLC is here to help! As a licensed professional counselor and certified personal trainer, Dr. Crista Gambrell is dedicated to helping you achieve your goals for total health, both inside and out. Begin your journey to wholeness today. Visit for more information. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Doing the most, swine flu, and not rushing the process

The last year of my PhD program I was a woman on a mission. I finished comprehensive exams, obtained survey approval, and passed my proposal defense in record time. I was ready to be done and move on with my life, whatever that meant. About four weeks into data collection, I realized I made a grave mistake in my haste to get 'er done. Due to a coding error on my part, I was unable to view any of the demographic information in my survey. I had to start all over. As you can imagine, I had a complete emotional breakdown. Then the following week, I, who never gets more than the common cold, came down with swine flu. I don't know for sure that it was H1N1 because the lab results were inconclusive. I say it was because it makes for a more dramatic story. The point is this: rushing ahead to get to the next thing only got me in bed for a week.

I recently thought of this story because I've spent the last three months building my wellness business. I've been feeling all the same drive and intensity that I did in grad school. I have a vision for where I want to go and I want to hurry up and get there. So, I've been event planning, content producing, advertising, hashtagging, networking, and seemingly everything short of begging people to support my brand. For an introvert like me, it's been completely exhausting. Fortunately, I learned a thing or two from the PhD experience and now I rarely run myself into the ground like I did that year. I know my stress cues and my personal threshold and I can tell when it's time to take a break.

Here's a reflection question for other Type-A, high-achievers of the world. What's the big rush? It's one thing to passionately pursue your goals. When you race to the finish though I can't help but wonder if that has more to do with anxiety than ambition. It's almost like you want to hurry up and fulfill your dreams before they're snatched away. Sure, people might applaud your motivation based on what they see on the outside. Internally, however, the consequences of doing the most like that are fatigue, perhaps illness, but most assuredly burnout.

What if you had this outlook instead? What is meant for you is held for you and can never be taken away from you. All you need to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other and positioning yourself to receive it. Don't be afraid to work hard and make sacrifices. Just leave time for rest and recovery in the process. If the process precedes the promise anyway, you might as well enjoy it.

Do you need help slowing down and enjoying your season of life? Gambrell Wellness LLC can help! As a licensed professional counselor and certified personal trainer, Dr. Crista Gambrell is dedicated to helping you get to where you’re going while appreciating the process as well. Begin your journey to wholeness today. Visit for more information. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Love is a person

As we know, Valentine’s Day is a celebration of romantic love. Romantic love is a wonderful thing. 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 us 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. 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.

Originally posted: February 14, 2014

Monday, January 25, 2016

Just take a seat

I normally don’t participate in the silly #ManCrushMonday stuff. If I did, my man crush would be the legendary Bruce Lee. I only have a general knowledge of his work. What I know about him though impresses me. How he moved his body alone made him a work of art. There was more to him though. It’s his philosophy that continues to live on and inspire to this day, especially his demonstration of stillness.

Take this scene from Enter the Dragon. Like I said, poetry in motion. He was really kicking butt for a while. However, if you wait for the ending, you’ll see that he gets captured. One by one, the walls close in on him and it becomes apparent there’s no way out. What does he do when there’s no way to escape? He sits down. To me, that act of sitting down demonstrated more skill and power than all fighting that preceded it. How many of us could discipline ourselves to sit and be at peace when life closes in? I can tell you that’s definitely not my first reaction.

Sure, I might appear relatively composed on the outside (at times). But I’m usually freaking out on the inside. I try to predict what’ll happen. I fuss, fight, and rage against a certain outcome. I expend needless energy resisting reality. Then, usually when I finally take a seat, it’s more like collapsing in surrender rather than holding my peace. Can anyone relate?

There’s a balance to this. A posture of peace isn’t passivity, nor is it resignation. It’s not about learned helplessness where you refuse to act when it’s in your power and expect someone else to save you. Rather, it’s the maturity to discern when to fight and when to be still and accept reality for what it is. Here’s the challenge. In my opinion, if you can master your soul you can master your life. Seek wisdom and understanding about when to stand up, when to move forward, and when to just take a seat.

If you are looking to cultivate more mindfulness in your daily living, Gambrell Wellness LLC can help! As a licensed professional counselor and certified personal trainer, Dr. Crista Gambrell is dedicated to helping you achieve your goals for total health, both inside and out. Begin your journey to wholeness today. Visit for more information. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Time to be gangsta

“You’re allowed 5 emotional minutes a day and then you’ve got to be a gangsta” (Unknown). I knew I liked this quotation as soon as I came across it. It resonates with me on so many levels. You see, I live in the feelings realm both personally and professionally. It’s part of what makes me an effective helper. I can discern the subtlest shifts and changes in people. I can anticipate how they might feel about something even if they don’t have the language for it. There is a downside to an empathic nature though. When you feel everything so intensely, when you are so sensitive all the time, then you end up hurting a lot. And it’s just not healthy for anyone.

When I saw this charge to, “be a gangsta,” I knew there was wisdom to it. Don’t get me wrong. You don’t want you to ignore and stuff your feelings down. There are definite consequences to blocking things out like they don’t exist. You just can’t live in your feelings as if they are 100% true. They’re not. I think we’ve all heard the saying, “Don’t believe everything you feel.” Again, there’s wisdom to that. Your feelings are valid. Your feelings matter. Your feelings are not, however, the entire reality of a situation. They are simply reactions to what you perceive in a given moment. Just consider how you feel differently once you perceive differently. If feelings can change that easily, can you really afford to place full stock in them?

I once heard it explained this way. Think of your feelings like a wave. They come up to the surface and then they go. When they come up and get stuck, then we have problems. So, here’s how we find balance. Leave room each day (5 minutes or more) to check in with yourself and make sense of what’s happening inside. Notice what you feel. Honor what you feel. Process it. Discuss it. Express it. Then, let it go. No more losing hours, days, or even weeks stuck in your feelings. It’s time to make moves. It’s time to be a gangsta.    

Do you need more balance and stability in your emotional life? Are you ready to manage your feelings so they aren't managing you? Gambrell Wellness LLC can help! As a licensed professional counselor and certified personal trainer, Dr. Crista Gambrell is dedicated to helping you achieve your goals for total health, both inside and out. Begin your journey to wholeness today. Visit for more information or like us on Facebook at

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Why dreamers ride the hardest

Last Sunday I started a new year’s tradition that I hope to continue. I had several friends over for a vision board party. It was a lovely afternoon of snacks, wine, crafts, and conversation. Even though I was the only link between everyone, it didn’t take long for my guests to connect and laugh together like old friends. As one friend was leaving, she remarked on the pleasant vibe among all of us. “It was just such a nice atmosphere. Everyone was so warm and encouraging. They weren’t mean girls. This was just so awesome.” I thought to myself, well yeah, I’m generally not friends with jerks. After more reflection though, I realized there’s more to it than that. People who are actively working toward a vision support others who are doing the same. Here’s why.

People who are chasing their dreams face countless obstacles before that dream is realized. It doesn’t just happen overnight. There’s usually a climb and a bit of a discrepancy between the time you start toward a goal and the time others see the results. Therefore, it’s incredibly vulnerable to say to the world (or even to yourself), hey, I want to use my gifts to make a meaningful contribution. I want to do something good and help others. I want a platform to influence people in a positive way. I think most of us want those things. It’s just that some will be relentless in our pursuit of them and others won’t.

In Dr. Brene Brown’s book, Daring Greatly, she has a message for all the haters and naysayers.

If you aren’t in the arena getting your butt kicked too, I am not interested in your feedback. For example, if you’re in the cheap seats, not putting yourself on the line and just talking about how I could do it better, I am in no way interested in your feedback (Brown, 2012).

Can we just pause right here and say Amen? This is so true. The ones that are trying to start a business, write a book, grow their performing career, continue their education or invent something new, generally aren’t going to be snide and discouraging of other dreamers. They know how much courage and perseverance it takes to step out and go for something. They are your biggest cheerleaders. The biggest critics, however, are usually the ones on the sidelines. They are vocal about other people’s faults, but they don’t have the willingness to make themselves vulnerable and get in the game. Although they are the loudest, these people matter least. Until they step out and do something really hard, they really don’t get a say.

With it being a new year, I think most of us have some goals we’ve set or dreams we’re ready to pursue. Over the next few months, I encourage you to reflect on people’s response to your aspirations.  Whether it’s friends and colleagues you’ve known awhile or newer associates, consider who is supportive and encouraging of your goals. Who is open and collaborative? Who shares resources with you and follows up on how things are going? Who offers constructive critiques from a loving place in order to help you improve? Who genuinely cheers when you make it? I bet you’ll find it’s the ones who are going after something too. It’s been my experience that only fellow dreamers ride the hardest for you.