fearless, not situationless

If you follow the blogs of anyone who works at Adventures In Missions, you probably know that every Monday morning we start our work week off with an hour or so of worship together. The whole staff gets involved, there’s a revolving door of worship leaders each bringing their own gifts and flavor, there are prophetic teams and prayer teams, and a huge open space to shout it out for the Lord.

This morning found us singing

From my mother’s womb
You have chosen me
Love has called my name
I’ve been born again
Into your family
Your blood flows through my veins

I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God

Over over we sang the chorus until it finally sank in. The Lord was speaking, and it was directly to me.

2 Continue reading “fearless, not situationless”

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sorry is not the solution

This week I’ve been spending my time as CGA Cruise Director. It’s Welcome Week again- the first week of each CGA semester when new apprentices are asked to come away from distractions, noise, technology, and their daily norm (usually only 3 days after they arrive in our little town), and spend time refocusing and re-orienting themselves to their purpose: why they’re here, what they want from their season with us, and how they hear from the Lord.

It’s one of my favorite parts of the semesters.

I’ve been noticing, however, that there is one major phrase that keeps getting repeated:

Sorry.

It’s everywhere.

“Oops! I bumped into you. Sorry!”

“Haaa, I’ve been calling you the wrong name! Sorry!”

“Excuse me, just need to step over… Sorry.”

“Can you hand me that thing? Sorry.”

“I’m sorry, but I don’t agree.”

It feels like an epidemic. We’re just one huge sorry bunch of people.

It’s not only the apprentices- my girlfriends, my college roommates, my high school crew- we pretty much apologized for anything and everything- being women, asking for something, potentially disturbing someone else’s quiet… the list goes on.

We, especially women, have been taught to soften the blow of a request, an accident, a statement, a sneeze. We have been encouraged to apologize for living, just in case it offends someone else.

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Brene Brown, author of Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection, says “Even to me the issue of “stay small, sweet, quiet, and modest” sounds like an outdated problem, but the truth is that women still run into those demands whenever we find and use our voices.” She quotes research from Boston College, as well: [The researcher] asked, ‘What do women need to do to conform to female norms?’ The top answers in this country: nice, thin, modest and use all available resources for appearance.

This says a lot about the culture in which we girls were raised.

It’s no wonder that our automatic response to any situation that has the slightest potential to result in someone else’s discomfort, disturbance, interruption, annoyance,  or displeasure is “Sorry.”

We apologize for little, inconsequential things and big, unhealthy things (like being ‘too much’ or ‘not enough’ or anything that isn’t in alignment with what someone else decides we should or shouldn’t be).

I have been chatting with a few different girls this week about boundaries- what they are, if they’re okay, how to create them…. and the biggest question I hear repeated in their soft, sweet voices is “What if my boundaries hurt someone else?”

GUYS. This is a serious problem.

First, many of us were raised without access to boundaries- the knowledge or the establishment or the maintenance of them. Our parents’ generation by and large did not discuss things like boundaries, so how could we possibly have known from an early age how extremely important and healthy they are? Now we’re all in our twenties and thirties, and not only have we missed out on how to establish boundaries that encourage health and growth, but we’ve been conditioned to apologize just in case we accidentally make a boundary and it hurts someone else’s feelings. Or pride. Or steps on the toes of what they require from us.

It’s hard to respect someone else’s boundaries if you don’t have any of your own.

This is a topic we could talk about for DAYS, but to save us both from that, I’ll just share one point. A point I think is most important when discussing boundaries, group dynamics, or even personal living.

Saying ‘sorry’.

Friends, ‘Sorry‘ is not the solution. Apologizing for the sake of softening the ‘blow’ of standing your ground, squeezing past someone in an aisle of Kroger, listening to someone else’s tale of woe (think about the last time you listened to someone’s hardship- was your response “I’m so sorry”? or something like “That’s such a hard thing”?), or breathing a little bit out of line is not the answer to how to be more feminine or what can I do to make people like me more. It is an offhand response that makes us smaller. A throwaway that takes up the space we’re meant to occupy.

And it needs to stop.

All you have to do is think about it. In any situation, when your programmed response is about to whip itself out, just think “Am I sorry for this? Genuinely apologetic? Do I need to be sorry for picking up this cereal box that is within 5 feet of this other person? Am I truly sorry for asking someone to pass the salt?”

And then you can choose for yourself how you DO feel about the situation.

If I’m not sorry, what can I then say to make myself known?

“Excuse me.”

“Please.”

“Thank you.”

And that’s about it. It honestly comes down to those three simple statements that we learned in childhood, right alongside the devious sorry.

You shouldn’t apologize for asking something of someone else, particularly if it doesn’t cause them discomfort. You shouldn’t apologize for setting boundaries that protect your emotional, physical, or mental health. You shouldn’t apologize for breathing and taking up space.

It’s one thing to walk around offending people. It’s another to take up the space you take up and not apologize for it.

And those are my thoughts this rainy morning. Maybe it’s a little haphazard, maybe a little too quickly thrown together, but you know what? I’m not sorry.

 

my gym taught me about the holy spirit

When I was in college, our university decided to spend a whoooooole lotta money building a state-of-the-art health and wellness facility. A fancy schmancy gym, in other words.

This gym had it all: a climbing wall, bouldering walls, group fitness rooms, massage rooms, several basketball courts, an indoor track, and-of course- a fitness area, with stationary machines and free weights. It seriously had everything, and my friends and I loved being there. It was even one of the places I taught yoga after I graduated.

It was beautiful.

One of the things that sticks out most in my mind, surprisingly, was a biking machine. Just your run-of-the-mill stationary bike machines… but with a flat screen for tv watching or progress keeping. WHAT.

The idea of watching television shows (especially the favored guilty pleasures like America’s Next Top Model or anything on MTV) (oh c’mon, you know you watched them too!) just floored me. It was like I wasn’t even working out!

But then I discovered the progress feature.

Continue reading “my gym taught me about the holy spirit”

bust out the china!

I am a hoarder. I know I don’t look like it, and maybe you couldn’t tell from the way I keep my home or my work space, but I am.

I am a hoarder.

There are good things that I hoard, like sentimental notions and every wedding invitation or Christmas card I receive.

And then there are the bad things that I hoard: china, the “good” coffee mugs, my single box of frosted mini wheats, my favorite dress. A good friend of mine gave me a spectacular bottle of champagne when I moved to Georgia two months ago and it’s still sitting in my refrigerator, untouched.

When I went on the World Race we were encouraged to bring little koolaid packets to throw in our waters to make the water taste less like soil. I hoarded those, too. I kept telling myself I could just push through and that I needed to save them for a reeeaally bad cup of water. What happened was that I choked down yucky water on a regular basis and ended up “free-tabling” a whole sandwich bag full of koolaid packets at our final debrief during the last week because I hadn’t wanted to use them yet.

What is wrong with me?

I am a celebrator. I love to celebrate all things- birthdays and promotions and anniversaries and that time you crushed a presentation even though you were throwing up just prior because of your nervousness about public speaking. I love to celebrate when your crush called you for the first time, and when The Professor surprises me by visiting me at work in the middle of the day. I love to celebrate college acceptances and winning a trivia tournament at a local pub. I love to celebrate your new hair style and how you lost those 10 lbs when you told yourself you wanted to eat healthier and live healthier (me too, girl… me, too).

But there’s something in me that is still holding back.

I don’t have china yet, but if I did, I would only use it for suuuuper special occassions… like Christmas. And only when the (soon-to-be) in-laws are coming over. I don’t let girlfriends borrow my favorite dress- I don’t even wear it, because it’s waiting for just the right occasion… which will probably never come. I don’t share my frosted mini wheats at breakfast, and 6 out of 10 times I buy the discounted version of cheese or crackers for a party.

Why?

Why do I feel the need to “save” things?

I was listening to a Graham Cooke soaking this morning, and at one point he said “I want to think of my life as a treasure that I’m spending, not hoarding.” I felt like I’d been hit in the chest with a ton of bricks. This particular soaking was full of really incredible truths about The Father that I needed, but this one hit me like a freight train. I felt the Lord asking me how I was really spending my life. As Mary Oliver once asked, “What are you planning to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I have to start spending my life, my time, my resources, and my energy rather than hoarding them for a rainy day.

Or a special day.

Or just in case.

I’ve been given one wild and precious life. I’ve been given one chance to live well, love hard, and celebrate what God is doing in people’s lives- the big things and the little ones. He has given me a special ability to feel out the little things in someone’s heart and I have been wasting it.

It’s time to bust out the china. Even on a Tuesday. It’s time to toss in the koolaid packets and give some away, too. No more waiting, no more hoarding. Life is meant to be celebrated! People are meant to be celebrated! God, the Ultimate Celebrator, proves this in everything he does! He celebrated his awesome creation by topping it off with mankind. Jesus celebrated a wedding in his community by creating wine from water. He even celebrated his imminent death (and the freedom and glory that it would bring soon after) by providing a dinner theatre of sorts for his best friends. Even the Old Testament, full of all its laws and demands, is fraught with feasting and celebrating.

Why can my life not reflect the same celebratory attitude of the Father’s?

Well, it’s gonna.

This is my prayer- that God would bless me with His heart for celebrating and spending, rather than saving or hoarding.

So let’s bust out the china! It’s time for a party!

jesus and honey

Like a waterfall of honey
let Your love be poured out on me

As the body of Christ, we sang this song in worship this morning. It was new for me. I hadn’t heard it before and, as with all songs I have yet to learn, I stood and listened and let the words and the music and the voices flow over me.

What a beautiful song. What a great concept- to not simply allow but to feel God’s love being poured out on us, dripping down like honey from a honeycomb.

There are a lot of beautiful things about honey.

I recently moved to Georgia. Did you know? And Georgia has some crazy amounts of pollen. Because the Professor and I are getting married outside in the springtime wilderness of Georgia, it was suggested to me to start taking local honey every day to begin preparing my body for the inevitable onslaught of allergies.

That’s amazing, isn’t it? That something as simple and natural as honey can help protect our bodies against illness. Wow. And when our bodies become injured, honey works as a natural antiseptic- it can be used to heal scrapes, cuts, and burns. Further, its natural sugars (glucose and fructose) act as an energy booster and they help to prevent fatigue during exercise. Amazing.

Honey is also incredibly sweet. You can throw it in almost anything as a substitute for sugar or chemical sweeteners: tea, coffee, oatmeal, cakes. It’s just enjoyable. Effortless, smooth, thick, delicious. That’s what honey is.

And as I was thinking about God’s love being poured out on me like a waterfall of honey… I began thinking about all the ways that God’s love is so sweet to me. It can make difficult things easier to handle. And I thought about all the ways that God’s love protects me from pain and hurt. And all the ways God’s love heals me when I’m down, and energizes and sustains me when I need it most. I thought about all the ways that, like a pouring out of honey, God’s love covers me completely- no inch of me is left untouched. Thick and heavy and sweet and smooth, God’s love is a waterfall of honey. And I’m so blessed to know the feeling of the weight and the glory of that protection and love.

Thanks, God.

hiking revelations

This morning I met up with my sweet friend Kate and we drove around north Georgia to find a great hiking place. We settled on one of the plentiful state parks in the area, parked our car, and headed up a trail into the (completely unpredicted) rain.

It was supposed to have been sunny all day.

But that dampened neither of our spirits as we laced up our shoes and took a few deep breaths before launching into long-winded updates on our lives.

There are times for utter silence in the woods.

And then there are times for external processing and heavy breathing and beautiful revelations about and from The Father. This was one of those times.

We shared our Christmas stories of visiting family and friends. We discussed things that had our hearts burdened. We laughed and celebrated new beginnings and hope on the horizon and stories about how funny and charming the Lord is. And He spoke to us. He really did. And this is what He shared with me:

I am a do-er. I was created to be an accomplisher of great things. I have always identified myself as a “do-er” even to the point of missing out on how awesome it is to just be me. I have passed over on opportunities to sit and be still, to relax, to be silent, to receive, all because I felt the need to get up and do something. God created me to do great things for His Kingdom. And do them I will. But He also created me to be amazing. I am passionate and witty and kind and sexy and brilliant and fierce and beautiful. I am whimsical and emotional and dramatic and enthusiastic and I sometimes take things too seriously. I am made to be a shoulder for people, to be a sounding board for their pain and their celebrations. I am a storyteller and a performer, I am a planner and an organizer and a nest-er. I am beautiful. I am strong. I am exactly who I need to be. Just because I Am.

And you know what?

The God Of The Universe is captivated by my brilliance and beauty. Utterly captivated. He is delighted that I am who I am and that He knows me. He thinks I’m a treat. He believes me to be so special and so unique and so worth it.

And you know what?

He thinks that about you, too.

You captivate the God of heaven and earth. You are clever and generous and lovely. You are tender. You are strong. You have what it takes. And when you feel like you don’t, you really do. And you are wise and charming and necessary. You are so necessary. And enchanting and satisfying and enjoyable. You are grand.

And the God who reigns over all is completely and devastatingly and totally captivated by you. Exactly as you are. Right. Now.

It’s time we start living like it.

So what are we to do now? Well, I can tell you how I feel about it. I’m going to stop saying negative things about my body. I’m going to start saying awesome things about my body- like how it’s so useful for getting me to and fro, for doing all the things I ask it to do without hesitation, and for how beautiful it is. I’m going to start moving and eating and sleeping and drinking like I love my body, and I’m grateful for it. I’m going to stop saying hurtful things about my personality. I’m going to embrace all the goodness and all the flaws and all the quirks and all the humor that comes with being me. I’m going to love it. I’m going to stop feeling so insecure about myself around other women, or other professionals, or other yoga teachers, or people with straight teeth. I’m going to start celebrating how awesome other people are. I’m going to tell them how great and fierce and fabulous they are. I’m going to remind myself that I’m fierce and fabulous and breathtaking all the time. I’m going to enjoy where I am today, even if I’m working on it. I’m going to breathe in and fill up with joy and exuberance and peace and hope and love for all people and all things. I’m going to breathe all that goodness out onto whatever or whomever happens to be in the same zip code as me.

I am going to own how good God has created me to be. Stopping with the excuses and the complaints, I’m going to embrace exactly who He has designed me to be, and celebrate that no one else on earth can be me.

Just like no one else on earth can be awesome, funny, delightful, terrific, beautiful, gifted, fantastic you.

And God is captivated by that.

i just wanted clean skin!

My name is Andi… and I have adult onset acne.

That’s right.

I never struggled with acne when I was growing up. But the second I graduated from college? POW! Take that, Successful Adult Woman! How does it feel to be back in middle school- the RIGHT WAY?!

I like to think it has something to do with genetics… Isn’t that better? To be able to blame our families for stuff like this? “It’s not my fault, it’s just what I was given at birth.”

I like that solution.

But I guess if I really think about it, maybe it only has part to do with that, and part of it was all the chemicals I rubbed on my face all through college. It started when I was a freshman and was chosen by a talent agency to go to this huge convention in Florida where I would meet producers, directors, casting agents, modeling agencies, etc… and would have the opportunity to perform for them in categories like Sitcom and Spokesmodeling. For months before the convention, we all met routinely with the managers of our agency and went through all kinds of crazy workshops: how to walk on a runway, how to pose for different kinds of photography, how to cold read, etc… One of the workshops we attended was on creating a Clean Skin regimen. It was, as you can guess, all about creating a routine that kept pimples at bay- if you could stop them before they started, you won the war.

ok, if my face could look like her face, the war is definitely worth winning…

That was when I bought my first facial cleansing ointment. I think it was an apricot exfoliating face scrub or something that sounds like that. I went from having a naturally smooth, lovely face, to having 4 pimples overnight. WHAT IS HAPPENING?!

I kept up with it for another 2 weeks, and rather than have these facial monstrosities disappear, they all seemed to get together, throw an inappropriate party (wink wink) and breed new ones.

Yuck.

So I threw out that nasty bottle of facial cleansing CRAP and went back to old faithful: a dumb old bar of unscented soap. Instant clearing of the acne.

I should have known then.

Fastforward a year or so and I, along with most of America, become enraptured by the Proactiv commercials. You mean Jessica Simpson had acne and Proactiv gave her the skin we see on tv and in magazines?? Sign me up, baby!

I order a membership. The stuff shows up on my doorstep. I dump the stuff all over my then-radiant skin.

Instant overnight acne. Only this time I legitimately look like someone who has had an serious allergic reaction to something fatal, and instead of dying, her face exploded. But I’m not one to quit and I thought to myself This is just my face cleansing itself of all the germs and bacteria under the top layer of skin. This is normal, this is what is supposed to be happening. I’ll stick with it and we’ll see.

Three months later the acne has grown nothing but worse, and I finally call up the customer service helpline and ask to have my account deleted (or whatever it is you say to make the pain go away). I spent a solid 20 minutes on the phone with a guy who was absolutely trying to convince me to stick with it and it’ll for sure go away.

Listen, buddy. My face looks like a pizza. Get off my back and get rid of my dang account. I don’t want to wear a paper bag over my head for all of eternity.

apparently the GC also struggled with this affliction

Finally convinced of my seriousness (and maybe some pms, too), he agrees that I can get rid of my account and won’t be sent any more crap (he had the audacity to call it “supplies”) and I wouldn’t be charged anymore.

Thanks.

It took another 3 months of using- yep- a bar of soap to clear up all the teenager-y from my face. And I moved on.

Or so I thought.

Over the next several years I would be completely taken in by pretty labels, fun commercials, and friends who thought they had the answer to acne issues so they use XYZ products and they TOTALLY WORK.

I am SUCH a consumer

I did come across the Mary Kay TimeWise stuff once a few years back. And surprisingly it made my skin feel like silk. I loved it. And the best part? It WORKED.

But then I left for the World Race. A full eleven months without products or clean water. Or sometimes even any water at all! When I came back home, I thought, you know what? I need to get me some of that Mary Kay glory! It made my skin feel like it was made of liquid glass…but in a good way.

So I got some more stuff…. and I used the stuff…. and on came the acne. This time acne that lasted. This stuff clung to my chin and my cheeks and my forehead like it was MRSA on a power trip. It was NOT about to hit the road.

After using every ounce of my travel-sized facial cleanser, I came to a decision: I am allergic to clean skin.

Just kidding!

I have decided that, just like my mom and grandmother have always, always told me: the only thing that will clean and protect my skin is an ordinary dang bar of unscented dial soap. I started using one about a week ago and my skin is GLOWING. And not in a radioactive serves-you-right-for-using-other-stuff kind of way; but an actual, honest-to-goodness, I’m-an-adult-let’s-start-having-nice-skin kind of way. I’m proclaiming it to you all now: it’s just soap for me!

And to all those of you who struggle with the unmentionably embarrassing acne-after-adulthood, I just want to encourage you: there is hope. Maybe just try a bar of soap for awhile? We’ve tried just about everything else under the sun. Maybe all those pioneers in the 1800’s were right: all you need are the basics. Everything else is just a chemical.

Let’s hear three cheers for clean skin!

DOWN WITH ACNE

third time’s a tithe

Let me tell you about this cool thing that happened between me and God this weekend:

I didn’t really learn about the meaning or importance of tithing until I was already out of college. For the most part, regarding paychecks, I thought, this is hard-eared money that needs to go toward my bills, or any variation of that idea, really. And I spent a lot of my time living paycheck to paycheck and/or in debt. I didn’t understand the correlation between tithing and blessing/financial maturity. It took some well-meaning (and emotionally strong) spiritual leaders in my life to help me begin to break this pattern.  I spent much of my adult life learning the value of what it means to pour my sacrifice, my first fruits, into my church, into the body of believers of which I am a part.

And then I got it! Painful or not, 10% of everything I brought home became a ritual sacrifice for me, and always always always ended up in the offering plate/hat/box/basket. There is value in giving no matter how you feel or think, but there is also value in believing in what your church is doing and choosing to support it (even if/when you don’t agree).

There is theology behind this that we could discuss for a long time but, alas, I digress from the real point.

Coming home from the Race I found myself in a bit of a spot financially. All my personal money had gone into my race account, everything I owned had been sold and that money had gone into my race account, and then I found myself back in the states sans job (see: paycheck), plus bills (see: no paycheck). When I finally did take a job, I immediately started using 100% of my earnings to get my feet back under me. I thought, I know the importance of tithing, but I also know the importance of being a good steward of my finances and also of making wise financial decisions. Surely God understands that I need to get to a stable place again. And I felt that way through two entire paychecks.

Until I started experiencing the guilt and remorse of someone doing something they know they shouldn’t… or, I guess in this case, not doing something they know they should.

Enter last Friday. I receive my paycheck, which was considerably less than I usually make, but I attributed it to poor weather, dangerous driving, and thus less hours. No big deal, it was enough to make my car payment and another bill, and so I wasn’t super concerned. I did, however, know that this meant one more week without tithing. I had just enough to pay those bills and buy gas, and that was legit it.

But because I could live under the yoke of guilt and regret no longer, I went ahead and made a terrible decision: I asked God to step in. “God? I know I need to be tithing… and I know it’s so important…. but I also have these bills that I need/want to get paid off. So… would it be possible.. could you maybe understand… if I perhaps didn’t tithe again this week, and I’ll start next time?”

What do you think was His reply?

….

“Nope.”

Ok, great. I knew that was coming. And I think before His answer came, I already knew what I was going to do. It would be a sacrifice, and a rough one, but…. I know, I know. I needed to tithe.

“But are you sure? It’s not wise or responsible to postpone a bill payment…”

“Do you trust Me?”

Well, wonderful. Of course that’s what He’s going to ask me.

“(big deep breath) Yes. I do.” So I head to the bank to make my deposit, I get my pocket of cash out (how I’m being paid currently), and low and behold it is two hundred dollars MORE than the first AND SECOND time I counted!

WHAT?!

I had to count it all again. Twice. Three times.

Yep, my paycheck was a full $200 more than I thought, and plenty big enough for all my bills, my gas, and my tithing.  I had asked God three separate times if this was important enough for me to set aside my- for lack of a better word- secular responsibilities to do, and three times He answered yes. He asked me to trust Him. And then, when I finally took a breath and let myself trust Him, He showed up in a seriously miraculous way! He’s done this kind of thing before: “Trust Me, Trust Me, Trust Me. I am Your Provider. I will take care of you.” And even if and when I don’t feel like He will come through and take care of me, because earth is not heaven and life is not cake, He always always does. Sometimes it’s not the way I’d like to be taken care of, and sometimes the sacrifice on my part feels weightier than the promises on His part, but He has never let me down, and never, ever will.

Tithing is just one of many things we are called to as believers in Christ. It has its place among many spiritual disciplines. But I’ve learned my lesson well: trust, fall, and be caught by Jesus.

He’s so good.

do you want to be an olympian?

This past weekend I heard a marvelous- and hard- teaching at Vineyard Community Church Richmond on suffering. PJoe has been in a series called “Olympic Life” and it’s about finding strength, power, and perseverance in Romans 8. It’s been a fantastic series and has really encouraged me to live a little louder, a little stronger, and a little bolder. This Sunday he spoke on the suffering and agony we go through before we get the brass ring. He opened with this statement:

We often see the winners on the podium. What we don’t see
is the suffering, the agony, of those who didn’t end up there.

He said, “We don’t often think of or understand the suffering that comes with a hupernikao life (Greek; meaning “more than conqueror”). It is entirely impossible to live a more-than-conquerors life without it happening.

PJoe went on to give illustrations from previous Olympics where athletes had experienced terrible accidents, had broken or torn different parts of their bodies, and yet still went on to compete. They knew that to push through the pain meant something. I was personally reminded of Kerri Strug, every little girl’s hero in the mid-90’s. In the 1996 Olympics, competing for gold, she sprained her ankle and badly damaged a tendon on her first of two vaults. When told that her team needed her to do the last vault, she sucked it up and went full-out despite the pain she was in, landing her dismount perfectly, and finally hopping onto her uninjured foot. I remember watching (from our tiny television set) her coach carrying her from the mat, and then later onto the podium for the gold medal. She knew what it meant to push through. She knew what was needed to get to that next level, and she decided it was worth the momentary agony to get there.

I was also powerfully reminded of my own days competing for Team USA- not in the Olympics, but in the WKA World Championships. PJoe had started to talk about what it meant to train like an Olympian, to agree to live with pain every day, to live with exhaustion every day, to intentionally put yourself in positions where you could get injured. He discussed what it was like to consciously sign up for the inevitability that you will get hurt, that you’ll go to a doctor or surgeon, get cut up and sewn back together, push through therapy, and then get back on your feet as soon as possible, because what you were working toward was worth so much more than this moment that hurts like nothing before. He talked about even when we go to the gym- the act of lifting weights literally tears our muscles, and when they grow back, they’re a little stronger than before. That‘s why Olympians keep going out over and over, even if/when/after they are injured: because through pain and suffering come growth, strength and healing.

I found myself nearly in tears as I reminisced on my time training in martial arts. I competed for a place on the National Team on the morning of my Junior Prom. I competed later that year- the beginning of my senior year of high school- in my first World Championships. I came home with jet lag, about a hundred bruises, and four bronze medals. I competed in two more Worlds- one in Switzerland and the other in Canada, and brought home three more bronze medals, two silvers… and my GOLD. I won the Gold Medal in 2004, 9 years after beginning my training with Lantrip’s East West Karate. The amount of muscle and bone bruises, pulled and torn muscles, hip joint displacement and pain, ripped toe nails, sprained everything, bleeding feet, bloody noses, deep blisters that I walked through to get to that place are innumerable.

blistersbruise

I can remember training with a school just outside of Washington DC for a month one summer before the Worlds, and thinking to myself I don’t remember the last time I woke up without pain. But the thing is I never second-guessed my being there. I never considered what life would be like if I didn’t train the way I did, or the amount I did. Every single second I spent working in or out of a studio was completely worth it. It was nothing for me to sign up for that kind of pain because I knew what the prize was, and my eyes were locked on it.

Is that what my life with Jesus looks like? Do I have my eyes locked so singularly on the prize of being with Him that the pain or agony or suffering I feel in this moment does not for a second make me second-guess my devotion to Him? Or do I get sidetracked or even sidelined with how it feels when I hurt a little. Was my devotion to some tiny piece of metal more deeply rooted than my devotion to the Son of God?

I, like PJoe, am not trying to downplay the real suffering that goes on in life. Relationships are broken, parents or children are lost, jobs are ripped away, health is stolen… These are examples of the real agony that we go through in this life. And it’s okay to feel hurt, brokenness, and anguish. I feel those things, too. But my hope is that these things we go through are fleeting moments that only serve to grow and strengthen me. If, through Paul’s writing, God does indeed say “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” then I am all in. Through trial and turmoil, through storm and famine, I will- I must– keep my eyes on the ultimate prize, and lean into the inexhaustible power of Christ. The bruises, the sweat, the blood that it takes is- and I apologize for the cliche way this may come out- is worth it.

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth
comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Romans 8:18

 karate karate1
karate3
completely worth it

 

primal rhythm

I’ve been experiencing some really crazy sleep patterns for about the last week or so. I keep attributing all my body’s weird issues to lingering effects of a year spent overseas. But maybe it’s not. Or, at least, maybe that’s only part of it.

I’ve been going Dairy/Gluten/Yeast free since New Years (with the rare-but-occasional girly meltdowns into chocolate). I’ve also been supplementing my diet with multivitamins, oregano extract (blech), olive leaf extract, and a yeast cleanse in order to get my body back under control. I really prefer homeopathic and natural path remedies to illnesses or physical issues, so I’ve found that diet control and body cleansing really work for me. My hippie roomie Mary Alice also made me a vial of different essential oils that, when combined altogether, make for a grounding, calming scent that you rub on the soles of your feet, on your heart and cervical spine, and the insides of your wrists before bedtime. It’s called “Peaceful Child” and was a recipe created by a woman whose son had Tourette’s and Oppositional Defiant Disorder and nothing else would ease his stress. It’s also helpful for people who suffer from PTSD, anxiety, insomnia, Autism, and a variety of other restless neurological issues. It’s a totally organic, non-chemical-laden, homeopathic way to deal with what I believe I’m dealing with: a strange form of insomnia.

Here’s what’s been happening: I usually get into bed around 10 pm, maybe a little earlier, maybe a little later. I read a book until I get sleepy, which usually takes about 20 minutes, and then I fall into a blissful coma, certain that I won’t be waking until morning. Around 2 am, every morning, my body wakes up with joy and enthusiasm. Good morning, world! I am here!

It’s not a pleasant experience, let me tell you. I struggle to stay in bed with my eyes closed, and to quiet my mind in order to force myself back to sleep. Anytime between 4 and 5 is usually when I fall back asleep, and then I oversleep. Before these episodes started I was usually up-and-at-em without an alarm between 5 and 7 am, and I liked that very much. Now with these nasty wake-up sessions, I’m usually finding myself awake between 8 and 8:30. Which is dumb, and my day begins by feeling already wasted. This has been going on for a little more than a week now.

even though i live in one of these at night... thanks, world race
even though i live in one of these at night…       thanks, world race

So what’s wrong with me? What’s up with my body being all “Let’s wake up at a weird time and then never go back to bed??”

Mary Alice thinks she has come up with the answer. She read an article awhile ago about “first sleep” and “second sleep”. I actually found it this afternoon: What “first sleep” and “second sleep” can do for your mood. I also Wikipedia’d it.

The former article talks about the primal circadian rhythms that the human body is naturally supposed to abide by and what happens when we don’t. Both articles state that humans should fall asleep with the sun, wake up nearish to midnight, stay awake for an hour or two doing quiet, relaxing activities such as journaling, meditating, or praying, and then fall back asleep until the sun rises. They say that this particular way of sleeping “probably played a large role in helping people to regulate stress naturally.” Which sounds fabulous to me!

So maybe there isn’t something really wrong with my body. Maybe there is something really right. After spending the last 5 months of the World Race with little and definitely unreliable electricity, a nutrient-poor diet, and tons of sunlight, coming home to a lack of sunlight but tons of artificial lighting, noisy and distracting television, internet, and heavy food choices makes for a restless Central Nervous System. Also while being on the Race I never had to worry about what was next. I may have wanted to know all the time, but I wasn’t searching for a job or wondering how we would pay the bills. Now those things are a legitimate reality. So on top of crossing multiple time zones, moving into permanent winter with a record-making amount of snow fall and little sunlight, attempting to find a job, pay bills, and buy food, perhaps my body is simply trying to do what my mind has been struggling to do: find a natural way to deal with stress. For my mind it’s homeopathic remedies. For my body it’s finding a way back to a primal sleeping/wakefulness rhythm. So maybe I’ll embrace this new sleep pattern and use the waking time to draw a little closer to Jesus, maybe do a little yoga, maybe journal out some feelings. Maybe I don’t mind this new-found extra time.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

doesn't bedtime look appetizing?
doesn’t bedtime look appetizing, though? i stole this from the internets…

divine circumstance

Ever had one of those conversations that makes you feel like deja vu is just a reminder that it’s all going to work out and all the stars have aligned and God has heard you and is answering in a blinding and butterfly-inducing way??

I had one a couple nights ago.
There were some things weighing on my heart and my mind as I drove home from a recent trip to Georgia, and I was going to be couch crashing my friend Caroline’s parents home. I arrived overly tired from driving (a decently rare phenomenon), and Caroline and I decided to hang out on the couches in the living room with her dad. He put a movie in, I popped out my crocheting (I know you’re all very surprised by this), and we began what I figured to be a relatively chill evening.

Then Caroline’s stepmom came home.

And my soul leapt for joy. Kathy is just one of those women who does not meet a stranger. Full of joy and a way of communicating that totally disarms her listeners, I felt right at home in a conversation that got super serious super fast. She opened it up by asking about yoga. Which totally disarms me anyway, because I love it so much and am so passionate about what it can do for your body and mind. But the conversation quickly turned to other things, the things that had been pressing on my heart. I won’t share a lot of information about it because it’s all still working itself out, but one thing that really stood out to me was the frequency of crazy coincidences. I would share something or ask a question, and it was exactly what they had experienced personally. Or it was a specific facet of their education. Or an actual question they had asked one another. The longer we talked, the more peace I felt about all those crazy things running around in my mind and keeping me from sleep.

Not to be cryptic, but I am so thankful God puts people in our paths that so deliberately and intentionally remind us that He is listening, that He does hear us, and that He uses people, places, and circumstances to answer our questions and put our hearts at ease, if we just listen.

I’m so grateful for this evening and all the incredible things I learned, and the sweet new friend I made in Kathy. I will not soon forget this night, for this was the night I heard God answer me.