Friday, December 30, 2016

16 in 2016

It's time again for me to highlight some of my favorite books from the year. I love going back and remember all my quality reads. I've also decided that once it hits 2020, I'm going to keep it at a top 20. If I can maintain the reading of 20 excellent books a year for the rest of my life, I will be happy with that.

This year, I worked extra hard not to play favorites with the books I read most recently. I combed through my journals from throughout the year and carefully considered each book

In no particular order  -

1. The Gospel of John. Last year it was Luke, now it's John. This gospel took my breath away a hundred times this year. I even memorized the first fourteen verses and enjoy meditating on each one.  In the beginning was the Word...

2. The End of the Perfect 10 by Dvora Meyers. This is a book for gymnastics fans, coaches, athletes, and history buffs. It is an amazing commentary on the evolution of the greatest sport of all time. But I'm not biased at all, of course.

3. Ruined by Ruth Everhart. This book has a huge trigger warning on it for sexual assault. It is the true story of Everhart and her roommates, whose home was broken into and robbed at gunpoint while the two perpetrators took turns raping each young woman. It is also her journey towards her healing and her overcoming. A powerful read.

4. How to Survive a Shipwreck by Jonathan Martin. This book is about what happens when you crash. I actually wrote and entire post about it when I first read it in July. It's an encouraging book for those who feel pressured to be the same after tragedy happens to them. You will not be the same. But you will survive.

5. When We Were on Fire by Addie Zierman. Zierman is my author of the year. This is her first memoir, an authentic telling of the fiery faith of her youth, and its evangelical subculture, and her growing out of it and longing for something more. I thought of Christina immediately and she sent Addie the most incredible email about her story and asking if she wanted to be friends. Addie replied and was kind and personable and of course she said yes. If you are tired of he Christian cliches, this is for you.

6. Night Driving by Addie Zierman (I told you). This is her second memoir, and tells her story as a mom of two still trying to find her way.  This book is about a beautiful, simple, ordinary, holy faith. It's not always about eliminating your darkness, it's learning how to see in it. Glory.

7. The Cake Therapist by Judith Martin. I swear I try to read novels. This was a good one. I love books about people using their intuition and gifts to help other people in profound ways. In this book, the protagonist has a cake shop and uses a keen sense of smell and perception to create the perfect,healing, celebratory cakes for her clients. Delightful read from start to finish.

8. Finding God in the Ruins by Matt Bays. This one was recommended by Zierman. Go figure. In any event , like Shipwrecked and Night Driving, it is a beautiful book about the way God is always with us.

9. You are What You Love by James Smith. It seems a book about idolatry often creeps its way into my yearly list. It is so necessary for me to constantly check in and see where my affections are going. O Lord, tune my heart to sing Thy grace.

10. Unashamed by Lecrae. The most anticipated book of my year, I was not disappointed. It tells the artist's life story, but what I most appreciated was his social commentary and his approach to engaging popular culture. Really stellar read for all Christians who create (aka all of you!).

11. Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord by Michael Morales. This is the thickest theology book on the list this year, and it's all about Leviticus. I feel so encouraged by the fact that I've always spent time in a church that preached the gospel throughout the entire Bible, but this book lends even more depth to a connection I already knew was rich. Please do not be intimidated by this deeply valuable commentar
12. God is on the Cross by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I love church history and the celebrations of seasons. This is an excellent book to take up during the season of Lent, and was a new addition to my usual Lenten readings that I will be adding to my traditions.

13. Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler. I first became transfixed with the word steadfast after I read a praying life by Paul Miller. The Hebrew word is hesed, which lends the connotation of a loyal, faithful, complete love. This is, of course, the love that God has for us. He is so faithful to hear us and is doing everything in our lives to draw us closer to Him. Chandler's book clearly deponstraes her own intimacy with the Lord and draws readers into it as well.

14. A Year With CS Lewis by CS Lewis (duh). A year of daily readings from Lewis' works. I usually have a hard time with daily books like this, and it was hard not to read them all at once, but I did it! I enjoyed visiting these classics every day.

15. He Speaks in Silence by Diane Comer. This is Comer's story of losing her hearing and finding her full identity in Christ. It is a truly intimate and vulnerable story for everyone.

16. Harry Potter by JK Rowling (All 7 books). This is totally cheating but I don't care. I binge read these books in just over a week and it was really fun. I hadn't read them in a long time and doing them all together like this allowed me to appreciate how gifted and clever Rowling really is. Except the afterward to book seven was totally unnecessary and should have simply ended with Harry in the Gryffindor common room, wondering if Kreacher will make him a sandwich. It was the perfect ending. Sigh. Also, don't talk to me about the Cursed Child. I'm pretending it didn't happen.


Clearly, I love memoirs/biographies.

Honorable mentions: Messy Grace, Carry On Warrior (I have complicated feelings about this book, which I actually liked most of but had strong objections to some parts, but I have a strong conflict about the author's second book and some of her personal revelations surrounding the book's release), The Gospel According to Ezekiel, The Memory of Lemon (sequel to The Cake Therapist), and The Candidate in the Rye (read for a good laugh).






Monday, November 28, 2016

Black Pants Review

As of the winter session, my company is requiring solid black bottoms for all coaches. In an effort to scope out the best, I have reviewed my favorites, and have the ones worth mentioning here.

My criteria include:

Price. I will rate with $ for 20 or less, $$ for  $21-$50 and $$$ for $51 plus. This will reflect full retail price, and not any sales, discounts or deals you might find, but these will be noted.

Fit. For reference, I am just a hair under 5'6" and a size 0-4 depending on my mood and the clothes, and wear a waist size 25 in pants that use this highly superior sizing system (cough, gap, cough).  The rating will include what size I have and how it works.

Feel. Over all comfort.

Foam pit. I work with kids. I spend time around foam almost every day, and I don't need to take it home with me.

Sweat. How do they do in hot yoga? I often go from studio to gym to studio to gym and I want pants that can make a quick transition.

I've also divided things into categories:

High Waist (which I think are pretty much superior to just about anything else)
Regular Legging
Sweat Pants

(I have a couple pairs of shorts, but 1. it's not a priority right now and 2. I'm not super particular about them, so I'm not going to be reviewing them right now)

I will * my top pick in each category

High Waist

*Girlfriend Collective
  • Price: $$$, however, they are currently running a deal where you are only paying for shipping from their factory, and it's $20. I highly recommend this before the opportunity runs out! 
  • Fit: I ordered an XS and they fit perfectly. 
  • Feel: These are so soft! Definitely high quality feel. 
  • Foam Pit: No foam pit at home for me! 
  • Sweat: They stay nice and dry, no matter how hot or humid the room. I can run to the store or whatever right after and not feel gross 
Overall: It's no secret, I love this legging. They're a local (to me) company using recycled water bottles to make excellent leggings. For $20, they are so worth it! I also intend to make another purchase when the company officially launches next year.

90 Degrees by Reflex
  • Price: $, and prime shipping from amazon
  • Fit: XS, fits great, nice and long to tuck under my heel
  • Feel: Nothing special 
  • Foam Pit: No pit here! 
  • Sweat: They rate surprisingly well here. I didn't expect much, but they hold up quite well in that hot room. 
Overall: These aren't anything special, but they are pretty cheap, so if you're not picky, they could be a solid bet for you.

Old Navy Active Go Dry 
  • Price: $ 
  • Fit: XS, great, extra long 
  • Feel: nothing special, like the 90 Degrees 
  • Foam Pit: plays nice 
  • Sweat: Again, better than expected
Overall: You'll be hearing more later, but I was disappointed in these. They are solid, and I wear them enough, but they are not a favorite.

Alo High Waisted Airbrush
Note: I technically only have these in navy, but you'll here why I wouldn't order the black 
  • Price: $$$
  • Fit: XS, a little gapey in the back sometimes 
  • Feel: A little thicker than other leggings 
  • Foam Pit: Attack of the pit pieces! It is my biggest problem with Alo. 
  • Sweat: Good but not great 
Overall: I love these leggings. I do. I think they look great and I especially love them when I'm going to non heated classes, or for contortion or other things, but they are not the ideal hot yoga or preschool gymnastics coach pants


Regular Legging 

*Old Navy Active
  • Price: $
  • Fit: XS, great 
  • Feel: So freaking soft 
  • Foam pit: No issues 
  • Sweat: Awesome
Overall: Once upon a time, a coworker was selling some clothes she didn't want anymore. I bought these leggings from her for $7 and they have remained a favorite to this day. I have scoured Old Navy looking for this legging to come back, or for something similar and have been unsuccessful. It is very annoying. 

Fabletics Salar Capri 
  • Price: $$ 
  • Fit: XXS, good. In general I don't like capris, but these came free with something else so why not. 
  • Feel: Pretty average 
  • Foam Pit: Nothing 
  • Sweat: Good. They can feel a little thick or heavy, but they do stay dry. 
 Overall:  These are ok, but they mostly sit near the bottom of the drawer unless my shorts are dirty and pants seem too hot. They get more action during the summer than other times of year. 

Alo Coast Legging 
  • Price: $$$
  • Fit: S. I got them from a coworker who couldn't return them. They fit fine, but an XS would probably be better 
  • Feel: These have mesh detail and stirrups and are pretty soft to boot! 
  • Foam Pit: the pit hates these pants 
  • Sweat: Pretty good. This is one of the lighter feeling alo leggings to me and a favorite of mine in the hot room 
Overall: These are super cute. I get a lot of compliments on them, and the stirrups are so fun! I wish they did better with that foam pit though. 

Lululemon Reversible Wunder Under
  • Price: $$$
  • Fit: A 4 works great here 
  • Feel: Soft, but nothing special  
  • Foam Pit: nothing too crazy, a mild attraction 
  • Sweat: they can feel a little warm, but mostly keep it dry 
Overall:  What's great about these in my situation in particular is that I can have a solid black legging on one side and a solid magenta one on the other. But beyond that, they're nothing extraordinary. 

*Onzie Women's Long Legging
  • Price: $$ 
  • Fit: XS. It says long, but I think they're pretty normal. 
  • Feel: My favorite part - they're so light they feel like you're not wearing pants! 
  • Foam Pit: no attraction 
  • Sweat: Super quick drying 
Overall: These are a great legging. They look nice, feel good, and will take you anywhere. 

Gap Active Mesh Detail 
note: totally not what they are called, but I don't know so I'm just being descriptive
  • Price: $$$
  • Fit: S, a little weird around the ankles 
  • Feel: So soft. The mesh is so minimal that it's not weird or scratchy or anything
  • Foam pit: pretty good 
  • Sweat: A little thick, pretty dry 
Overall: These leggings are another really cute looking pair, and they're functional enough. Good luck finding them again. Gap's active wear is so hit or miss for me and I haven't found any more of their pants to be worth trying in a long time. 

Sweat Pants
Note: in general, I dislike sweatpants. However, there are times when it comes in handy to have a pair you like. I tried two pairs. 

Alo Revive Pant 
  • Price: $$$
  • Fit: S, roomy and comfy 
  • Feel: crazy soft 
  • Foam pit: much better than expected 
  • Sweat: n/a  
Overall: These are so cozy and great for lounging around the house or sleeping in. However, they don't look super professional and aren't my favorite for at work. I still do it though, especially if I'm coming right from a shower at a studio.

*Champion Jogger
  • Price: $$
  • Fit: S, Elizabeth told me they were too big 
  • Feel: Not crazy soft, but cozy enough 
  • Foam pit: no issues 
  • Sweat: n/a 
 Overall: I like these, and they've become my go to when I'm wearing shorts underneath anyway. Maybe an XS would have been better. I also love the pockets. 


To recap: If you're still reading this, get your butt over to Girlfriend Collective and order yourself the best $20 leggings you'll find. Beyond that, may the odds be ever in your favor.
 

 

 


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Why I'm Not At Your Church

My church recently closed, and although I wasn't looking forward to finding a new home, I didn't think it would be too difficult.

I have been on 4 first dates with churches in the city, and let me tell you, it is hard (to be fair, I didn't hate one of them but it only meets at night and that's harder for me).  I fell in love with Jesus and His Word first, the local church some time later, and the city I call home some years after that. Finding their intersection has proven to be quite the task.

Although I try to be open minded everywhere I go, I had to walk out of a service today. I walked in and wanted to leave. It was loud, and felt like every Christian millennial stereotype had come to life. The music was unfamiliar and not only bad art, it was about people and our feelings. I was there for 40 minutes and never heard the name of Jesus, never any iteration of his gospel. I had never felt so alone in a room full of people. I was growing more and more uncomfortable every minute I was there, and when there was a message without a single word of Scripture, I had to leave.

While I was still there, I took a moment to reflect on the church cultures and communities I've engaged in lately and wrote this list of why I'm not at your church


You preach based on emotion and feelings and never open a Bible. 

You will quote a sociology book before the Word of God. 

You will preach a biblical topic but use only maybe one verse or two stripped from its context to support your point. 

You sing lame "worship"  music about people and our feelings instead of Jesus. 

You go through half the service (or more) before saying the name of Jesus or reading His Word. 

You elevate marriage to the end all be all and leave no place for the content single. 

Your idea of community is confined to once a week dinners and don't know what to do with those who work evenings. 

I love my Jesus and the church He died to save. I love my city and the people who are desperate for light and hope and abundant life. I am a 25 year old happily single Bible nerd, lover of church history and cherisher of old hymns. I value belonging to and serving a local church. I'm not giving up on my search for a Bible-loving, preaching, believing and living church in this city, but it's Sunday afternoon. I'm a little worn, a little sad, and just in case you are too, I wanted you to know I'm here.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Bible in 66 Haiku

On December 31st, 2014, I started a Bible reading plan of epic proportions: read every book of the Bible, 20 times in a row. I added the challenge of turning each book into a 17-syllable haiku, and today, I wrote the last one. I alternated between the Old and New Testament and am aso thankful for the deep time spent in each book. The first few times I read a book, I was really just trying to understand what was happening. After awhile, you start finding these nuances and repetitions and how these small things play a big role in an even bigger story. Reading each book so many times in a row let me get past the average Bible study or sermon outline, and see things I'd never seen before.

Although every book was a tremendous and rich experience, a few stood out to me*: Deuteronomy, Exodus, Ecclesiastes, Philemon, Hebrews, James and most of all Luke. Luke was the perfect book to have such a strong experience to, as it came so early on and really set me up for the following year and a half I'd be spending on this project. I think more than anything else, reading Luke helped me remember what it's like to be hungry for God's word. When you're a Christian in America, the Bible is not in short supply. There are Bible teachers available online, even on your phone, not to mention your own local church. You can go to Bible studies and meet freely, you can have the Bible in any translation on your phone, your tablet, your kindle, your computer. You can go to Target, Barnes and Noble or a hundred other places and find entire shelves of options. Diving into Luke encouraged me to take advantage of this! I would read a chapter or two on my phone waiting in lines, or pull out my kindle waiting for an appointment or killing some time. I wanted to enjoy the riches of His grace.

In these last 20 months or so, I've read the Bible the equivalent of at least 20 times all the through, not including the reading I did outside of "the plan" (which I did quite a bit of), for Bible study, for Sunday School teaching, and for church itself. Just this morning, the last thread of binding gave out, and the five pieces my Bible was in turned into six. It's a beautiful and emotional, tender thing for me to see, this Bible, well-loved, because I know the time spent there and how God met me in those pages. It turns me soft just looking at it. I had decided awhile ago not to replace it until I finished all the haiku so I could write them all in and have them in one place. But I am also really excited about the new Bible because it will be nice not to have to worry about losing pages.



And as much as I loved the reading, I really loved writing the haiku. It was a creative balance to the intellectual and theological challenge of doing the intense reading. And now, I have the entire Bible in 1, 122 syllables.

Genesis
It was as God said
We disbelieved His goodness
He did as promised

Exodus
God is who He is
He gives the slaves their freedom
Back then, and today

Leviticus
Yahweh has rescued
He gives His laws to make us
Happy, holy, His

Numbers
Following the Lord
Is what's best for His people
Trust Him. He is good

Deuteronomy
Remember your God
His ways will be life to you
By His word, you live.

Joshua
Be strong, and let God
Fight all your battles for you
He's never failed you

Judges
Follow the leaders
Given to you from the Lord
They point straight to Him

Ruth
To love is to put
The interests of another
Ahead of your own

1 Samuel
They wanted a king
And said God wasn't enough
Look what that got them

2 Samuel
David had his faults
But God used him to shepherd
His flock. Go and do.

1 Kings
Sol had wisdom, but
It wasn't enough to keep
From falling apart

2 Kings
God's people left Him
But even in their exile
He remained faithful

1 Chronicles
Don't ignore the past
It will help you understand
The kingdom of God

2 Chronicles
Church has always been
Broken people God loves and
Leads despite themselves

Ezra
God's covenant is
The prevailing force throughout
Human history

Nehemiah
Devotion to God
Is best displayed in public
Fear no one but Him

Esther
God rules over all
Kings, times and people, even
Such a time as this

Job
We do not have to
Understand the mind of God
In order to worship

Psalm
This is who God is
He is worthy of our praise
Now and forever

Proverbs
Are you in a place
To receive wisdom from God?
Get there - run, don't walk!

Ecclesiastes
If life is a breath
Consider the One who breathed
Your life into you

Song of Solomon
Husbands and wives were
Designed for intimacy
And we are Christ's Bride

Isaiah
Your rescue will come
Undeserved, unexpected
You will see the King

Jeremiah
I know your failure
But I am coming for you
You will be made new

Lamentations
When all hope seems lost
Remember the Life-Giver
His mercy comes new

Ezekiel
God brings renewal
To the driest of dead bones
He loves to give life

Daniel
At the end of days
There will be one kingdom
Messiah will stand

Hosea
God's pursuit of us
Does not depend on our faith,
But on His great love

Joel
Repent, Christ will come
All rebellion will be judged
Every promise kept

Amos
Judgment does not mean
God forgot His covenant
It means He's kept it

Obadiah
God rules the nations
Out of the depths, His people
Find resurrection

Jonah
If you know the Lord
But you don't know who you are
You've missed the good news

Micah
Nations will be judged
The royal ruler will bring
Peace for God's people

Nahum
God is still sovereign
His enemies will perish
His people will thrive

Habakkuk
In the best of times
In the worst of times, God is
Still doing great things

Zephaniah
The day of the Lord
Will come; how will you be found?
Seek Him, and rejoice

Haggai
Rebuild the temple
All things are for My glory
I will be with you!

Zechariah
Remember what was
Repent, and look forward to
The One who will come

Malachi
God loves the faithless
He's coming to the rescue
Watch, and be amazed


Matthew
The prophets told us
Messiah would come - He did
Christ died and He lives

Mark
Jesus is God's Son
When we gain this knowledge, we
Respond in worship

Luke
Jesus knows our hearts
He wanted them so much that
He died to heal them

John
Jesus is the light
By which we see everything
This light is our life

Acts
The name of Jesus
Is our saving foundation
Let us build on that

Romans
We who died to sin
Have life in Christ to be shared
With one another

1 Corinthians
Dear Church, I love you
Get over your sin and live
United in Christ

2 Corinthians
Oh! Hello again!
Your life is all grace - live it
Spread knowledge of Christ

Galatians
There is only one
Gospel that leads to life
Love it and live it

Ephesians
You are now in Christ
You have been saved by His grace
To be His body

Philippians
Christ brought Himself low
That we would count all as loss
And have peace in Him

Colossians
Live as people who
Were created for God's glory
You are with Jesus

1 Thessalonians
The gospel means we
Have the truth with which we can
Encourage the church

2 Thessalonians
God will be faithful
To the body that stands firm
And clings to Jesus

1 Timothy
Jesus came to save
Now, this is how a redeemed
People should respond

2 Timothy
Remember Jesus
You won't regret anything
You do in His name

Titus
We have seen God's grace
He's redeemed us from our past
So, we do good works

Philemon
Slaves become brothers
The bound are called beloved
By the work of Christ

Hebrews
You know the high priest?
The atoning sacrifice?
His name is Jesus

James
Works cannot save you
But when you have faith in Christ
You won't do nothing

1 Peter
Your reality
Will always be the gospel
You are safe in Christ

2 Peter
Don't be tempted by
The false promises of sin
God is truth. Live it

1 John
To the beloved
Christ Jesus is your whole life,
The eternal life

2 John
Brothers and sisters,
Love one another; obey God
Abide in the truth

3 John
Beloved, love truth
Abide in it, work for it
For God is the truth

Jude
You who have received
The truth of God's salvation
Don't be led astray

Revelation
We look forward to
The fullness of victory
We have in Jesus

*Now that I've gone back and read all the haiku, I am totally enamored with every book all over again, and I'm pretty sure they're all my favorite.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Before and After and After

For the last week and a half, I haven't been able to stop reliving one of the most stunning moments of my life. I couldn't figure out why it was on my brain, and then I realized it had been one year since it happened.

I've written about my friendship with Christina and how it's grown both of our faiths and our whole lives, but I appreciate September 1st, 2015 more now than I did then.

Sometimes when I'm at PCC, I remember standing in the aisle trying to pick a flavor of sparkling water, and finding out some of my most desperate, pleading, raw prayers had been answered. I remember talking to Christina on the phone - a rarity for us - and hardly understanding a word that she'd said. I remember thinking the only response that made any sense at all was Praise Jesus.

Sometimes I go back to that time in March 2014 when Christina's pastor and counselor asked her to gather people to pray specific things over her for a season and she invited me into that. Because I'd already been praying for her, with a love far above the capacity of my own. I'd been praying for her in the first messes of our getting to know each other, through her time as a weary counselor as a Christian camp, through the time she stayed with me right before her already crumbling world completely shattered.

There was a before, but it was really setting us up for the after.

I remember praying for the best case scenario, while praying strength through the back up, and help in coming to terms with the worst. I remember feeling so conflicted about these tiers, because I absolutely believe that God can do anything, but I also know that sometimes what His plan is not ours.

I remember when it looked like the worst was inevitable and still trying to believe that God was able to do the impossible. If you have ever prayed for something impossible with all your heart, you know. You know how to wrestle with hope and conviction that God is sovereign and Jesus is King, but understand that even if He doesn't move how you most desperately desire Him to, He is still after your good and your joy.

I remember when the worst was happening right before our eyes and it looked like God was about to do a miracle.

I remember those 24 hours of waiting, when we'd find out if it was a sick joke, or absolutely real.

And I remember with every fiber of my being receiving a message:



It's over.



Relief. Beauty. Awe. Glory.


It's been a year since then, and the darkness hasn't been magically transformed into rainbows and sunshine. I don't think the darkness will fully lift until the new heavens and the new earth are established and the Son of God is the only light we need. And I also think that if things had been the worst, we all would have been held and we would still be here a year later saying that "Until now, the Lord has helped us", ebenezer!

The moment is in the grocery store is an ebenzer for me, a moment that I can hold on to and point at and said "Look! Look at what God has done" But even beyond the miracle He did there, the work he did in my heart was tremendous. He led me through a place of wilderness, of coming to terms with the even if not, the even if He does not respond to me the way I desire. It was not a "If You do this, I will love, trust and praise You", it was a "If You do this, I will love, trust and praise You, and even if not, I will do the same".


Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. 

Job 1:21 


I have been hunted like a bird by those who were my enemies without cause; they flung me alive into the pit and cast stones on me; water closed over my head; I said, 'I am lost.' 

I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; you heard my plea, 'Do not close your ear to my cry for help!" You came near when I called on you; you said, 'Do not fear!" 

You have taken up my cause, O Lord; you have redeemed my life. 

Lamentations 3:52-58 






Saturday, August 20, 2016

Friendship

On my 25th birthday, I shared these beautiful words by Nayyirah Waheed

And I said to my body, softly, 
"I want to be your friend" 
It took a long breath and replied, 
"I have been waiting my whole life for this" 

This is my intention for this year, and for the rest of my life.

My body has done amazing things for me, as a gymnast, as a sprinter, as a distance runner, as a pole vaulter, as a coach, and now as a yogi. But I have never been a very good friend to it. This spring, when I was struggling again - so much that several of my coworkers were concerned - I returned more or less to normal physically, but mentally, I asked why instead of how.

I imagine that there are people who get a message from their body about a need, and ask how they can fill it. They are tired so they sleep, they are full so they stop eating, they are cold so they put on a sweater, their clothes are too big so they alter them or get new ones, they are hungry so they eat.

I, on the other hand, have made why my home, why does my body think it needs that? Why is it trying to trick me?

I am tired, so I drink coffee 

I am full so I throw up

I am cold so I start moving more

My clothes are big so I blame vanity sizing for making extra smalls to big, or age for wearing them out

I am hungry, so I consider all I've eaten and done and ask if I really need anything else.

If you are in the first camp, this may sound insane to you, but it has often been my reality. I read Waheed's words, and I feel like now, finally, I am ready to accept the friendship my body has offered me.

I had the privilege this week to have some beautiful pictures taken by a photographer visiting from LA (@nyamaste on instagram if you want to check him out). I am finally seeing the beauty in myself that others have been telling me about from the last year or so. All my body wanted was yada - to know, to be known, to be deeply loved and respected.  I think I can do that now.

Here are some of my favorites:

 









Can you guess which one is my number one ;)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Beloit - Did you like it?

This week, my dear sister in Christ Abigail was killed in a tragic car accident, along with her fiance. There's not really a gentle or casual way to say it. I was shocked, I am sad, but I am also sure, sure that she is with Jesus, sure that I will see her again.

Yesterday, an incoming senior in high school considering Beloit asked me if I liked it. I've written before about how much I love and appreciate Beloit, but this week, the sentiment feels especially strong. Watching the Beloit community mourn Abigail and Darrell's deaths, and celebrate their lives is so striking, so beautiful, so warming.

Beloit is a place where you are known. While there are some anonymous beloiters, they are few and far between. I don't have the words to express what my heart feels for Beloit this week, but suffice it to say -

Yes. I liked it very much.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Dialoguing With Discomfort

A lot of people hate trying new things. But I really really really hate them. You can ask my parents. I bet my dad could still tell you what I ordered at subway as a child because it was the exact same for years on end. I've read the same books, watched the same movies and series, over and over dozens of times because I like them and don't want to try to invest in a new one. I had to be dragged to track in high school and refused to pole vault until the intimidating men's coach pulled me out of a workout one day and told me I was going to. Every time I've been about to begin a new journey - most memorably my internship after my freshman year of college, studying abroad - I've spent the week leading up to it figuring out how to get out of it at the last minute. Most social situations are extraordinarily uncomfortable for me. I've been thinking about visiting a new church for the last several months, but have bailed the last three weeks I said I was going to. (I am absolutely going to tomorrow.

I feel like I've made some progress over the last few years, but there are still moments. I can get physically sick from it, as though I have the flu. I get anxious every time I go to a new yoga studio, even when I know the teacher. My chest can get unbearably tight at the thought of change or something new.

I can't even really pinpoint what causes my severe aversion. I like being comfortable, but so do most people. And not everyone has such a hard time.

My schedule changed at work this week, and even though it's good and I like it, I still need time to process the change. Talking about my anxiety made me anxious. And there's a pending new church visit tomorrow. So even when people I like asked me to do something I really like, I still turned them down. I couldn't possibly be social today because I need today to feel normal and easy.

 I walked to yoga this morning and I laid on a block with my heart open and I started crying. These things really do manifest in your body.

Speaking of reading the same books over and over again, every time I re-read Hellbent: Obsession, Pain, and the Search for Something Like Transcendence in Competitive Yoga by Benjamin Lorr,  I find something new to ponder. While these quotes are references to the physical pain and discomfort in extreme postures, I find them applicable to the emotional trauma that reveals itself in movement. 

"When you do a posture, you must choose to remain in it. You must choose to ignore the pain, choose to continue to explore your body. The pain is a phantom; ignoring it is a choice. Yoga makes us confront that choice. It makes us free to choose" 

"To really backbend, you have to become intimate with pain, not as an informational entity that raises awareness, not as a warning, but as a phenomenon, a presence you can dialogue with. You have to engage the phenomenon every time it comes up, and ultimately move through it while it screams in you face" 

This is the only pose I can think of that I am actually afraid of. It makes me so uncomfortable, not because I'm not strong or flexible enough, but because it feels unstable, unsafe.  Letting myself be in it, and stay in it, is how I open up that conversation with discomfort.


Saturday, July 9, 2016

Beginner's Mindset

(Written 7/5 in my journal)

Today, Tina and I went to her first yoga class. She told me on the way in that seven months ago, when she mentioned to her therapist that she wanted to start yoga, her therapist was all on board. Better late than never.

We chose a studio near her house with a wide range of classes, times, heat levels, and a solid intro special. I'm glad we got to do this together, and it turns our one of her friends was also there and will be a good buddy once I'm gone.

For Christina, the class was difficult but not unreasonable. For me, it was really easy and I added in as I went. But it was also an opportunity to remember what it was like to experience the practice for the first time, to find something new in the familiar. I found myself paying more attention - my fingers connecting in a bind, the knife edge of my foot pressing into the mat.

It's fun to keep pushing forward into new discoveries, but this too has value: going back, back to the beginning.

Quotes from the novel, The Yoga of Max's Discontent  by Karan Baja

Man's soul cries for the infinite in a finite world

Anything which makes you forget your small self and become one with the infinite is yoga 

Shipwrecked

I had so much time to breathe and relax while I was on vacation visiting Christina. We have a friendship that grew out of vulnerability - from the beginning, we've trusted each other with our whole selves, the silly, the juvenile, the sad, the ugly, the serious. It's given us a sincere ease with each other. We don't feel pressured or judged, we don't feel like we have to impress or pretend. We just are.

So I read 5 books while I was traveling, some on the plane, but a lot laying on her couch while she edited photos (she is so talented and constantly amazes me! She owns her own business and is a year younger than me! Oh and she's going to be a substitute math teacher this fall). Mostly novels, but I did read one theological gem, Shipwrecked by Jonathan Martin.

Shipwrecked is all about what happens when life doesn't go as planned, and although the author says he brought his shipwreck about himself, most of what he writes is applicable to storms that come about on their own.

This book reminds me a little of Coming Clean by Seth Haines, in which he chronicles his journey to sobriety, and how he has to sink his own ship day after day to recognize his dependence on God. Whether you're sinking your own ship, or have it turned out from under you, the end result is the same: when Jesus is all you have, you may find that Jesus is all you need.

I'm just going to share some quotes.

Almost nobody who survives a shipwreck would ever sign up to do it all over again, a second time. Nobody can exactly say they were glad it happened. And yet repeatedly, I hear people say the same thing - that they also under no circumstances would choose to go back and be the person they were before. 

In you is the capacity to love and to live without needing the world to work out a certain way in order for you to be okay. 

If death is not the final word, and chaos produces creation rather than destroys it, then many of the stories of the life you thought were long over are far from over yet. 

If there is no other evidence in your life that God loves you, is there for you, or provides for you, consider the evidence of your own breath - each inhale and each exhale carrying with it the message that God is choosing you all over again, now, in this moment - in this breath. 

Returning to our breath is a way of returning to reality. 

When we breathe, slowly, intentionally, mindful of the source of life that fills our lungs now - we return to who we really are. 

God is at home in the chaos - it is the place from which he started the universe. 

God is not the cosmic enforcer of karma, making sure we get what we deserve. God is the one who interrupts the cycle with grace.

Christian hope is ultimately not that the sea can be survived but that the sea will one day be eliminated - in the time when time as we know it is no more. 

The world that is coming will not be marked by ambiguity, angst, and chaos. Instead, the Spirit who brooded over the waters from the beginning brings the creation project to its final end - where the seeds of the dark void finally give way to endless flowers. 

Death, in the end, is not an ally God cooperates with to bring about his good purposes for the world, but an enemy he will overthrow. 

I believe God has exactly one plan - and it is to bring the reign of heaven into the depths of the earth, eliminating the sea of our shipwrecks once and for all. 

 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

By It I See

I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else. C.S. Lewis

Some people like to say that religion is a crutch, just something to hold onto when life gets hard or confusing. And maybe, for some, there's truth in that. But I honestly don't know how you can look at this world and think it's easy to believe in a sovereign God who upholds the universe by the word of his power.

118 black lives have been stolen THIS YEAR by police brutality

Donald Trump is an actual presidential candidate

There are so many displaced people that they formed a refugee team for the Olympics

Mass shootings devastate entire communities

A privileged young man RAPES a young woman, is found guilty and has his six-month sentence published along with his swimming times instead of his mug shot

Sometimes I have to wonder if it would be easier to believe in chaos theory or existentialism or really any number of things. Because believing in a ruling and reigning Christ can be hard to handle in a world that looks like it's falling to pieces.

Really, God?

But this is where we are. This is what happens when every person decides he is the one who knows best. The serpent in the garden is still very much at work, whispering in our ears, "Did God really say?" We are the creation groaning for, limping towards full redemption. This in between is not pretty. But I believe the God who created light still controls it, that He is working to bring that light into all places, and carry all of His creation out of darkness. This is the light by which I see: the Light of the world, the Light that shines in the darkness and is not overcome by it.


For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 
2 Corinthians 4:6 


For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Romans 8:20-25 

Beautiful

I spent this week in Atlanta, with the one and only Christina. It was a simple trip - we'd made some plans, but there was a lot of rain and not everything went as expected. And it was still perfect.

Because our friendship started with a lot of Big Feelings and we've had a lot of Major Life Events to work through together. And when all you know are those Big Feelings and Major Life Events, the most beautiful things in the world can be laying on the couch cuddling with a cat, getting caught in a Georgia rain and eating giant bowls of noodles at nine o clock at night.

It's "a lot like Wisconsin: a series of repetitive ups and downs, the natural rise and fall of the road that stretches before you. Boring. Beautiful. Ridiculous"
Addie Zierman, When We Were on Fire

Monday, June 27, 2016

Elizabeth does True Strength Evolution (aka blocks and socks)

Me: You've just started Dylan Werner's Cody App plan, True Strength Evolution. What kinds of fitness activities have you been involved in lately besides this?

Elizabeth: Um. Sweaty yoga and pretending to run

Me: How does TSE compare to the rest of your routine?

Elizabeth: well. It's different, I don't know. I guess it's harder but I cheat more.

Me: What made you want to do TSE?

Elizabeth: Well my roommate Kate was doing it so I figured why not?

Me: You just finished day 2 of 90. What are you looking forward to in the next 88 days?

Elizabeth: uh gettin' swoll. Just kidding. Feeling less like a weakling

Me: What's been your favorite part so far?

Elizabeth: um like always, the savasana. and the complaining that I get to do

Me: What's been the most challenging exercise or series?

Elizabeth: today was harder but that's because I'm weak and also my hands hurt

Me: What is your greatest strength in doing these workouts?

Elizabeth: the complaining. Do I have a greatest strength? I'm really good at modifying. Cheating without anyone noticing.

Me: Do you have anything you like to say to Dylan during these workouts?

Elizabeth: I have a lot to say to him.

Me: Anything else you want people to know about this plan? Or your life in general?

Elizabeth: trying to adult is hard

Me: Can I take a picture of you for the blog? With your blocks and socks?

Elizabeth: Is that going to be the title of this? Block and socks?

Me: Where's the other block?

Elizabeth: I threw it at D-bag

Me: There. Nice plank. Your toes are even turned under

Elizabeth: It's just for the picture

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Privileged to Love

This morning at church, our pastor preached the beginning of Haggai. My heart was full and my mind set on Tina, my beautiful, brave sister in Georgia who is suffering now. I ache for her. She is one of my absolute favorite people in the world, and I so deeply desire her joy, especially that full joy Christ came to deliver.

The apostle Paul wrote,

I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. Romans 9:2-3


That Paul could love a people so much that he'd rather they know peace in Christ than himself used to be an utterly incomprehensible love to me.

Enter Christina

I don't know what it is about her. We are such unlikely friends. It is amazing we even met. There have been countless more opportunities to let it all go than to pursue each other. We see each other once or twice a year if we're lucky. We're deep introverts terrified of phone calls. We are busy, with our own communities and opposite sides of the country. But despite all this, she is my person. I can't help but recall Hazel and her dad in the Fault in our Stars, talking about her short lived relationship with the terminally ill Gus, "but it sure was a privilege to love him, huh?". It is a serious privilege and gift from God to love Tina.

Our pastor today in Haggai said that we get so caught up in what God might be calling us to in our futures, that we forget what He has already called us to right now. He said, "If you don't know where to start, read your Bible and love people. Your friends. Your neighbors. Your kids. Your spouse. God is calling every one of us to love right now"

I think loving Tina feels like such a gift, because she keeps offering it to me, gently, day by day. When hurting people let you be their people, it's a big deal. I have never taken her trust lightly. Loving her has been wild and messy and aching and silly and a chaotic. But behind it all, I've seen Jesus so clearly, drawing us to each other, to Him, and to the redemption for which all creation groans.

What a privilege indeed.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The New Testament: Haiku Edition

For the last year and a half, I've been working my way through a Bible reading plan that involves reading each book 20 times in a row. I added the twist of writing a haiku to summarize what I learned from the deep readings. I've been alternating Old and New Testament, but since there are more books in the Old than the New, I have now finished the New Testament.

Matthew
The prophets told us
Messiah would come - He did
Christ died and He lives

Mark
Jesus is God's Son
When we gain this knowledge, we
Respond in worship

Luke
Jesus knows our hearts
He wanted them so much that
He died to heal them

John
Jesus is the light
By which we see everything
This light is our life

Acts
The name of Jesus
Is our saving foundation
Let us build on that

Romans
We who died to sin
Have life in Christ to be shared
With one another

1 Corinthians
Dear Church, I love you
Get over your sin and live
United in Christ

2 Corinthians
Oh! Hello again!
Your life is all grace - live it
Spread knowledge of Christ

Galatians
There is only one
Gospel that leads to life
Love it and live it

Ephesians
You are now in Christ
You have been saved by His grace
To be His body

Philippians
Christ brought Himself low
That we would count all as loss
And have peace in Him

Colossians
Live as people who
Were created for God's glory
You are with Jesus

1 Thessalonians
The gospel means we
Have the truth with which we can
Encourage the church

2 Thessalonians
God will be faithful
To the body that stands firm
And clings to Jesus

1 Timothy
Jesus came to save
Now, this is how a redeemed
People should respond

2 Timothy
Remember Jesus
You won't regret anything
You do in His name

Titus
We have seen God's grace
He's redeemed us from our past
So, we do good works

Philemon
Slaves become brothers
The bound are called beloved
By the work of Christ

Hebrews
You know the high priest?
The atoning sacrifice?
His name is Jesus

James
Works cannot save you
But when you have faith in Christ
You won't do nothing

1 Peter
Your reality
Will always be the gospel
You are safe in Christ

2 Peter
Don't be tempted by
The false promises of sin
God is truth. Live it

1 John
To the beloved
Christ Jesus is your whole life,
The eternal life

2 John
Brothers and sisters,
Love one another; obey God
Abide in the truth

3 John
Beloved, love truth
Abide in it, work for it
For God is the truth

Jude
You who have received
The truth of God's salvation
Don't be led astray

Revelation
We look forward to
The fullness of victory
We have in Jesus

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Revelation 7:17

For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. 



I can't get enough of this verse. Talk about servant leadership. The God who knows us because He wa with us who reigns over death because He first submitted to it. Jesus is the shepherd who can wipe away tears because He was first a tender lamb who cried.  He is a great leader because He humbled Himself to His Father's lead. This is Jesus, the servant-king.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Satya by the grace of God

Satya is a word that has been rolling around my mind lately. In sanskrit, it means truth. In yoga, it's one of the five yamas, "the virtuous restraint from falsehood and distortion of reality in one's expressions and actions".

Restraint from falsehood.

If you've never struggled with an eating disorder, please let me tell you how they love to lie. ED is fluent in deceit and a master of trickery. He loves to confuse you and warp what you know to be true. He is the serpent in the garden, the most crafty of all beings, forever asking, "Did God actually say...?" (Genesis 3:1-2).

I am currently living in almost daily, often hourly, tension. I value discipline. I value what is right over what feels good. And of course, this is where my enemy attacks. Because when I'm tired, when I'm sore, when I'm restless, when I don't know if I should take another class or be still, when I don't know if I should eat, what I should eat, I lean in and try to hear the God who says

Be still and know that am I God 

Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest 

My peace I give to you 

But I end up hearing

Doesn't Jesus always meet you on your mat?

You're just being lazy 

You'll feel better if you take class 

Don't be so entitled

Make a better choice  

And I do firmly believe that sometimes you have to do things that don't feel good, that you don't feel like doing. That's often where sacrificial, others-centered love comes in. That's the heart of servant hood and at the root of personal holiness. But self-denial (a good, biblical virtue) turns rotten in the hands of ED. That's what the enemy does. He doesn't have the power to create; instead he takes the good that God has made and he twists it. He distorts reality.

And what is satya?

Restraint from the distortion of reality.

Yoga has always been more than a physical practice for me. Right now, for me to practice satya is for me to ignore ED, which is much easier said than done. It's confusing and it's hard and I don't always get it right. But there is grace for that. I think one of the biggest graces I've recognized lately is that it is much harder for me to go without eating than it once was - I get extremely lightheaded and dizzy and it makes it almost unbearably difficult for me to do my job. How is that grace, you ask? It's grace because God loves me enough to make it nearly impossible for me to self-destruct. It helps me with the practice of satya because I have to confront reality. I have to see myself as I actually am.

"The grace of it all is the same grace that God offers me when I'm in my most self-destructive wounded places - they very weakness we feel in our image of ourselves is the place God will meet us most deeply. The way toward healthy body image isn't by ignoring our desires to be thin or muscular or shapely, but by stepping in closer to them. Every time we think 'fat' when passing by a mirror is an opportunity to notice and attend to our own sense of loneliness and inadequacy, a place that God's love and presence can meet us - if we'll open the door" Tara Owens, Embracing the Body

 

 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A lot of fight left

I forgot how hard it is to start blogging again once I stop! Carving out even a half hour to sit down and write seems so impossible, but I know it just takes discipline.

This is really more like two separate posts so I'll put in a big space between thoughts. They're related, but I'm not invested enough to make it satisfyingly cohesive.

Related to my last post, I'd like to keep talking. Talking about struggling can be really difficult for me, because I'm generally a joyful and independent person. I smile a lot. I'm often the person other people talk to about their burdens. Not to mention, I don't even know how to start the conversation half the time. I remember trying to tell Elizabeth last year that I was in counseling and we took a whole class together and walked home and I was trying to work up the nerve the entire time and then we got home and she went upstairs and I finally had to text her to come down because I had something to tell her. And we lived, worked and often played together! But sometimes it is harder with the people you're close to.

Anyway, I have a newer friend and we were just starting to get to know each other when I was in the thick of things several weeks back. I was scared to tell him what was really going on with me because I didn't want him to have to deal with my hot mess. I think there was also some fear that if he knew that part of me, he wouldn't want to hang around. But being honest and vulnerable was the best thing that could have happened. He has amazed me with his patience, care, encouragement and wisdom. I couldn't have dreamed of anything better.






This has been bothering me for over 24 hours now:
Yesterday morning, a woman at yoga with whom I regularly practice said I looked skinny. "You look skinny. Not that you weren't before, but there's a difference". We chatted, and it was apparent she meant it as a compliment. First of all, I dislike the word skinny. I don't know why - it's like how some people have an aversion to the word savory or moist. So right off the bat, it made me uneasy. Secondly, there have been times in my life where it was not meant as a compliment. It's been a question, "Are you ok?" "Do you need help?" and it's been a plea, "You need to take care of yourself". I am as guilty as anyone else for noticing, judging, criticizing, commenting on, and praising other people's bodies. But I've been trying to figure out why we do it. What makes it feel like it's our right? When it's people we love who are clearly unhealthy (on both ends - disorder-style thin, or obese), who are putting themselves at risk or even in danger, I think that our love for them should cause us to say something. I am so thankful for the people who have been brave and kind enough to say the hard things to me, even if it meant I didn't like them very much at the time.

But in other cases, why does it matter? Why is it our business? With yesterday morning, for example: I know that woman didn't mean anything harmful by what she said, but it triggered a lot for me. At first I wondered if she knew my "secret" (I say "secret" because it's on the internet so it's public but it's also not something I walk around advertising or talk about with many people) and was cautiously expressing concern. Then the darkness tried to tempt me: if she thinks I'm skinny and look good now, what if I was thinner? I'm moving past that now, but it could be a really awful thing. I'm doing pretty well now, but that might not have been the case. I just think there's no way to know what someone else could be dealing with and we should be considerate and careful with our words.


Thank you for hearing my truth. I have been absolutely loving Fight Song by Rachel Platten. Here's a little video of me doing the pre chorus and refrain. It's not awesome, but it's all just fun.


video


Because I've still got a lot of fight left in me



Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Pain Before Peace

I am reading a beautiful, raw, haunting book called Finding God in the Ruins by Matt Bays. He writes about the hard, messy stuff in his life: being molested as a child, a broken family, his sister's cancer, his alcoholism. This is not the pretty kind of white middle America mega church Christianity. 

He talks a lot about the importance of living in the hard places, and telling your story and your truth. He writes, "The path of recovery is painful before it is peaceful". I identify with that a lot, especially right now. I've written before about my eating disorder and about the freedom I found for so long.

And then I had a day.

And a week.

And two weeks.

And a month.

A car accident, musical roommates, difficult work tasks, a death of a young student, a longtime coworker gone.

I tried. I tried more yoga. I tried less yoga. I tried reading. I tried sitting. Coloring. Walking. Singing. Running. Cooking. And when nothing else gave me the relief I wanted, I just stopped eating again.

It's scary how easy it felt. How comfortable. I don't even think I've told more than two or three people, and now here I am telling everyone at once. I went to see my counselor probably a week after I should have, but I went.

I don't know who first said it, but addiction is often likened to having a pet tiger. If you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, your recovery is about learning to keep your tiger in its cage. No one expects you to casually be able to go to a bar or have just one drink. But recovering from an eating disorder is about learning to take that pet tiger for a walk three times a day. And even when he's been on his best behavior, things can go wrong fast.

For me, watching my tiger run wild all over again was like watching your child have a very public tantrum: embarrassing. shameful. out of control. helpless. as if people were judging me.

But Matt's book is encouraging me in the best ways right now.

What if we aren't going to 'get better'? What if our sufferings and doubts are necessary components - or even the very essence of our faith? 

You might feel that going back will break you, but maybe it will make you instead. 

 My counselor said she was so glad I reached out. I scolded myself for not being better and talking to her sooner, but she said I did a great, brave thing in asking for help. And part of all of this is believing that she's right, that even if going back, digging deep, and being honest feels like the worst, most terrifyingly awful thing in the whole world, and it happens a fraction of an inch at a time, it's one more fraction of an inch towards wholeness than I had before.

Isaiah 45:7 says

I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord who does all these things

 God is the author of all things, so to reject the pain and the rough edges is to reject a fundamental part of who He is. As Bays writes,

When our faith is built upon a theology of no more pain, we fail to hold dark and light together and cannot experience the fullness of God. It could even be said that we willfully reject His fullness.
I'm learning that even this part of my story has a plot twist, that the neat and tidy ending I thought I had was only part of its arc. I'm learning to be ok with that, and I'm learning that I still have a lot more left to write. I want that wholeness and even if it's hard and I feel like I'm breaking, I'll keep pushing back.



You might feel that going back will break you, but maybe it will make you instead. 



 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The more you do it, the less it hurts

When I'm teaching the kids and we're stretching, it's not uncommon to hear them say "this hurts!" 99% of the time, it's not an injured or bad kind of pain; it's a sensation that's unfamiliar and uncomfortable. My response is always the same:

Want to know how to make it hurt less? 

The kids who are newer to me look up like I'm about to tell them the greatest secret in the world. I smile, and before I can open my mouth I hear a chorus of my long time students, sometimes with excitement, sometimes with an eye roll,

Do it more! 

You don't learn something new by staying the same. I love the song Painting Pictures of Egypt because it talks about how hard it can be to leave what we know, even for something we know will be better

It's not about losing faith 
It's not about trust 
It's all about comfortable 

The future feels so hard 
And I want to go back 

Familiar things are never easy to discard 
I was dying for some freedom 
But now I hesitate to go 
I am caught between the Promise 
And the things I know 


I like routine. Stability. Familiar. It's not hard for me to find ways to be uncomfortable. But I think it's really important to challenge ourselves because if you only ever do what you know, how will you grow?

I didn't even know this expression of bow pose (dhanurasana) existed until six or seven months ago, so to say I "finally" got into it with ease seems unfair. But bow pose and I have had a love hate relationship for as long as I've been practicing. I have one memory from about a year ago where I requested it specifically because I was having a hard time with it, and the other woman in class (yes, that was my tiny yoga class) said she disliked it. I said, "So do I, but that's why I wanted to work on it". She said, "Huh, I guess that's a good perspective". Even though I have a lot of mobility in my shoulders, flipping my grip has also had quite the learning curve with me, and that combined with the fact that I actually don't have a lot of natural flexibility in my back, has made this pose a challenge.



I kept working on flipping my grip in poses that were easier for me, even though it was still not always comfortable or easy. I worked on one side at a time until today when I could actually grab both and feel good and yes, breathe.

As Coach Kate would say

The more you do it, the less it hurts 





Sunday, April 10, 2016

Trophies Laid Down

Earlier this week, my coworker and I had a alk with our level 2 kids, who are completely scores obsessed. In Washington, they award only all-around and team, so the individual event scores really don't matter. They are so often caught up in waiting for scores to appear on the screen, that they neglect a competing teammate and then talk over their routine. Frankly, it's just annoying and can even be rude.

We told them where all our trophies and medals are today: goodwill, given away, in a box in our parents' basement. We told them they will have a lot of meets and a lot of scores in their lives, but that's not what you look back on. You remember the workouts that seemed impossible until you pushed through and did it. You remember whta it felt like to get a skill you struggled so hard with that you cried about it after practice. You remember the encouraging words of your teammates who always had your back, and you remember the moments your coaches said they were proud.

I was still thinking about this when I was at the gym cleaning party yesterday morning. I was sorting through team trophies for only the most current ones to remain on display. I thought of my old gym and the trophies on the stairwell and in storage closests. I went to the Pacific Rims gymnastics rhythmic competition and had the surprise opportunity to sit with and talk to one of my all-time favorite gymnasts, Nastia Liukin. She was a stunningly beautiful gymnast who overcame a lot of difficulty in the sport, and eventually won the coveted Olympic All-Around gold, but that's not what makes her so impressive to me. She's about to graduate from NYU. She's written a book. She travels as a speaker, encouraging girls of all ages to be themselves and pursue their passions. You can achieve a lot of things, but a closet full of trophies won't give you your joy.

Solomon learned this:

I said in my heart, "Come now, I will test yo uwith pleasure; enjoy yourself." But behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, "It is mad" and of pleasure, "What use is it?" I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine - my heart still guiding me with wisdom - and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life. I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herd s and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kinds and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the sons of man. So i became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept from my heart no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands have done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun. Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 

You can build an entire empire for yourself, but what will it come to? What will actually give life and joy?

I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; als that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in ll his toil - this is God's gift to man. I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away. Ecclesiastes 3:12-15

God has so much more for us than the pries of this world. Its hard sometimes not to get caught up, but I take a lot of joy in knowing the Holy Spirit gives grace to recognize that Jesus is revealing Himself in the friendship, in service, in struggle, in laughter and in freedom.

I love the hymn, The Old Rugged Cross, because it talks about laying our trophies down because Jesus is our ultimate forever prize. 

So I'll cherish the old rugged cross 
Till my trophies at last I lay down; 
I will cling to the old rugged cross
And exchange it someday for a crown 

Jesus is the One who makes us worthy and gives us victory. We are crowned in His glory and grace, not by what we've done, but by who He is. This is the big picture for all competitors to remember. What God does is forever.

For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord! Psalm 117:2 

 
 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Boring. Beautiful. Ridiculous.

I let things go quiet for almost exactly two months. Honestly, I haven't been writing much. I've been reading a lot of Bible and writing my haiku and I've been reading some other books and keeping track of quotes and a short thoughts on my life, but mostly I've been coaching or doing yoga or too tired for lots of writing and reflecting.

Earlier this week, I sat down and wrote out some thoughts about my yoga practice. I didn't realize how many feelings I was having until I started writing. There were a lot of different directions and offshoots, but they all led me to the same place:

I should take less classes.

If you don't know, I usually take 3-4 classes a day. I take the 6am, teach a couple gymnastics classes, take the noon, teach some more, and then take the 7:45 and the 9 if there is one. It's been my rhythm, but I've felt something nagging at me for awhile now, and I wanted to flush that out.

I started thinking about when I first started practicing and how it made me feel - not so much physically, but emotionally and spiritually. It was soft and satisfying and grounding and freeing all at once. I spent almost every practice "thinking greatly about the greatness of God" (John Owen), meditating on a verse or attribute of God. Even power classes felt deeply restorative to my soul.

Lately, I've felt more disconnected from my faith in my practice. The other day, when I was just outside breathing and moving, I felt very drawn in to the God's presence - the movement felt like responsive worship again. I wasn't doing anything but creating the space to meet God where I was in that particular moment.

I started asking myself what my motives are in practicing, especially some of the difficult postures and variations I do. I think it's wonderful and exciting to push into learning new things and discovering what the body is capable of. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with handstands and deep backbends and full expressions, but I do think it's important to keep asking myself, "What am I doing here?"

Am I trying to learn more about this body formed by the Lord of all creation? (Psalm 139) 

Am I tuning out the cares and concerns of this world in order to see and hear Jesus more clearly? 

Am I stripping myself raw so I can come to the cross for healing, wholeness and grace? 

Am I experiencing what it means to have been dead and made alive ? 

I've been told I must have discipline to be so dedicated to my practice, but I think practicing less might actually be evidence of a greater discipline in my life. I think it will be more purposeful, focused and intentional. Quieter, but still beautiful.

I recently read both of Addie Zierman's memoirs, and I have a few of those quotes in mind as I write and reflect now

Faith is a lot like Wisconsin: a series of repetitive ups and downs, the natural rise and fall of the road that stretches before you. Boring. Beautiful. Sometimes ridiculous. When We Were on Fire

I wish someone had told me then that eventually the fire would go out and it would be okay. That it didn't mean my faith was dying. I wish someone had told me that the fire doesn't make me whole, that I am whole because of Jesus, whether I feel Him or not. Night Driving

Love doesn't always look like romance and faith doesn't look like fire and light doesn't look like the sun - and this matters. Night Driving

And this verse, running strong through each practice this week:

For now I see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.  1 Corinthians 13:12 

 I am already fully loved and fully known; this is my comfort. And my hope is that one day, I will know what it is to be truly united with God through Christ and that is the best fullest expression I could ever imagine. I admire those faith and practices that are like Wisconsin. Maybe it's because I was born and raised there, but would it really be so bad to live an entire life like that?

Boring 

Beautiful 

A little ridiculous 

 Me, at the beach today, finding joy in the Giver of life and breath and everything

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Rest and Recovery

This year, I boldly declared that I would take one day completely off each month. Well. With my coaching enthusiasm, I ended up scheduling a lot of privates and clinics and then I would justify not skipping yoga because I needed to preserve my sanity somehow. So I missed January, and my resolution got off to a rocky start.

Then this week, I earned myself a shoulder impingement and inflamed rotator cuff by way of a dislocation that popped itself back in on its own. Stubbornly, I refused to take time off. It didn't help that the pain kind of came and went - from severe Tuesday morning to not awful Tuesday night to absolutely none on Wednesday night through Thursday afternoon to ICE ME NOW from Thursday to Friday night. After Josh and Nicky and Elvis harassed me enough, with no coaching scheduled on this particular Saturday, I agreed to take a day off of (almost) all physical activity [I say almost because I did go for a long casual walk but I really don't think that even counts].

A physical therapist assistant friend gave me some exercises to do to help stabilize and strengthen my shoulder, and what surprised me is that I already knew many of these exercises: a massage therapist had given them to me almost 10 years ago! In all honesty, I was not diligent about them then, and that therapist knew it every time I came back to her table. I've had on and off back and shoulder issues for a long time. I can't help but wonder what the difference ten years of stabilizing could have made.

Which is all to say, what you do with your body really matters. The importance of physical activity has never been lost on me. But I have always resisted slowing down and prioritizing proactive self care. This week has really made me think: I don't want to be somewhere even worse 10 years from now wishing I'd been more careful.