Saturday, August 27, 2016

Enduring Summer

You don't "endure summer" right? Isn't summer supposed to be the best time of year? Well, if you are a mom with school age children, you likely have had to endure your share of parenting challenges this summer. The routines are off. You need to line up childcare, day camps, overnight camps, fun activities and vacations. Having time to yourself is a major luxury. It’s hard to keep up with the daily chores that seem simple when the kids are in school. Forget being able to think straight…especially if you have multiple children and/or children with special needs. Summer feels like a marathon on the hottest day of the year.

Endurance: the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions; stamina.

I realized the other day as I was scrolling through my own instagram feed: “gosh, it looks like we had this amazing summer and I look happy and peaceful, like I’m having so much fun.” Don’t get me wrong - there were many fun times and moments that were very happy, peaceful and will forever remain in my “happy memories” bank. However, the reality of my summer is that I am tired, drained and some days I think it’s very possible I may lose my sanity…”STOP ASKING ME QUESTIONS I CAN’T ANSWER!!!!” When it’s 3 of them coming at you like you’re Google it gets old after the first week…okay day. 

In my quiet time with God the other morning I was reading scriptures about endurance and almost all of them stated in some form that enduring through suffering and hardships is the way that God helps us build character, patience and endurance. Honestly, as I read the scriptures I really felt like telling God, “thanks but no thanks”…if this is the process for becoming patient and strong and of good character just forget it! It’s the end of August and it’s been a long summer and I just really don’t feel like doing it God’s way at the moment.

“We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Romans 5:2-5 ESV

But obedience. Hmph. The Bible tells us we are to be obedient to God’s word. It doesn’t say we can pick and choose which words we will obey and which we won’t. We know, because the Bible tell us, that God’s way is always better than doing it our own way. Every time, always. And what we get when we are obedient to His word: joy and peace even when we are enduring challenging times and situations. 

“The reality test on whether or not we love God’s children is this: Do we love God? Do we keep his commands? The proof that we love God comes when we kep his commandments and they are not at all troublesome.”
1 John 5:2-3 MSG

Coming to terms with the fact that God’s purpose for me in this time is to raise my children for His glory has not been easy for me. I had much different plans for myself. And when I realized that His purpose for me was to focus on raising His children I had the mindset of “I HAVE to do this. God is making me do this right now.” But God’s been dealing with me and showing me that I GET to do this as a ministry for Him. It’s still a process and I need to check my attitude on the daily but I have made great progress which has brought contentment to my heart and my life. 

As mothers we often feel unappreciated and taken for granted - like nobody sees and nobody cares how hard we are working and what we are “giving up” to serve our families. And when we feel this way we must remember that God sees and God cares. After all, we’re ultimately doing this for Him. 

And may appear on social media that other moms have little angels and things are going marvelous this summer, she's getting it all done and making amazing memories with her children. We all share our highlights, our shining moments. I don't share my kids' meltdowns or sibling fights, I share the smiles and the fun. You are not alone. Every single one of us is struggling to do it right and keep our sanity. I will repeat are not alone.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Your Body, His Temple

I’m pretty sure the only times in my adult life that I actually took care of my body in the way I was supposed to was during my pregnancies or during the times I was trying to conceive. When I reflect back on years past, I honestly cannot remember a time other than the aforementioned that I actually took care of my body in the way that I should have.

I’ve always worked out and most of the time I worked out as a way of self punishment or maybe even self loathing…but definitely and almost always as a means of distraction from reality. My attitude was always about being perfect, working harder than yesterday and constantly improving…oh yeah, and being faster and stronger than everyone else. Wait! Don’t forget I had to be the perfect weight and size too, which brought the nutrition into play. I’ve always been a “restrictor” when it comes to food. Binging has never been an issue for me. Cravings? Bring it! I have willpower of steel. I knew every gram of every bite I put in my mouth and my list of “forbidden foods” was lengthy. Forget social eating.

Social media didn’t become a “thing” until my mid 30’s, so I’ve lived most of my life without that influence and what I know as a result is: the influence of social media on the way we treat our bodies is immeasurable. In case we weren’t living in extremes before, we can thank social media networks for taking extremism when it comes to health to the next level. 

We’re encouraged to overtrain by “going hard or going home” and “train or die.” We are told that “thick thighs save lives” and having a “thigh gap” is a thing to be desired. We should eat only organic, non GMO foods and on the other hand, we are encouraged to eat donuts and Fruit Loops if it fits our macros…#becausegains. Are you confused yet? 

Our bodies are deeply connected to our self worth for many of us women. Regardless if you’re overweight or underweight, chances are there is something about your body you would like to change. Maybe you train too much and eat too little because you strive for that “perfect body.” Or maybe you know you need to stop eating junk food and start moving more but you just can’t seem to discipline yourself to do so. Whatever your tendency when it comes to your health….health nut or couch potato or somewhere in the middle…we are more than likely not taking care of our bodies the way God has instructed us. 

“So then, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you may do, 
do all for the honor and glory of God.” 
1 Corinthians 10:31

Did you know we were supposed to eat and drink for the honor and glory of God? I most certainly did not until I got born again-again a couple years ago. I certainly was not beating myself to death with contest prep training and cardio for the glory of God. Nope, I was punishing myself for so many things I won’t bother to list them. So you mean my body is a reflection of God? Yep.

“I will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”
Psalm 139: 14-15

Let that verse sink in for a minute.

These scriptures have been life changing for me. As a former figure competitor/bodybuilder, everything I did revolved around my body. My daily routine was structured around my training and my nutrition. I was consumed, okay obsessed, with my body. I did not believe that I was fearfully and wonderfully made, that God made me unique and had a specific plan just for me. I didn’t realize that I was in competition with no one.

I’m sure you’ve heard the prayer, “break my heart, God, for what breaks yours.” I’ve since wondered if God was heartbroken in those years I spent beating my body into submission, training my body to look better this person or that person, to bring home the coveted tiara.  I believe that it breaks God’s heart when we treat our body disrespectfully - whether that is physically, in the gym or sexually by way of promiscuity or other sexually degrading measures. I believe it breaks God’s heart each time we look in the mirror and magnify our flaws. Even when we overindulge in food that we know is not good for us or when we turn to food or alcohol or anything else to satisfy us, instead of turning to Him. 

God designed us specifically and uniquely. Our bodies are His temple: 

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own, you were bought at a price. 
Therefore, honor God with your bodies.”
1 Corinthians 6:19-20

So what does all this mean? It means that God has given us our bodies as a means to glorify Him. That means we are to discipline ourselves to take care of it. We need to move it often, even when we don’t feel like it. If that means getting up at 5am so you can get a workout in, so be it. It means choosing to eat foods that nourish your body rather than foods that clog up your arteries and cause health problems. It means being diligent with your vitamins, water intake, and rest. It means not trying to impress followers and people on social media with your #bootywork selfies and pictures of your meals.It means trying to impress God and only God. It means that you need to make taking care of your body a priority in your life…but only after God. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Memory Maker

I’ve always had this work-yourself-to-exhaustion mentality. As a result, I’ve always had this sneaky, underlying guilty feeling inside of myself when I take time to relax, have fun or rest. In those moments, I can’t help but think of all the things I really “should” be doing. I have worked with enough women in my career that I know this is an epidemic among us, especially women who are mothers. 

This happens to be the nicest week of our summer so far. It also “just happens” that my children are not in any camps this week, they are home with me. Each day they beg me to take them to the beach and so far, I have obliged. We get our chores done in the morning and then spend the afternoon frolicking in the sun. We’ve been to the beach several days in a row now and this morning as I was getting some work stuff done that old guilty feeling kicked in.

“You really have a lot of things you should be doing instead of going to the beach.” 

“The kids can just watch tv and play in the neighborhood. They’ll be fine.” 

“Maybe you should take the kids somewhere that has wifi so you can at least be productive while they play.” 

And then I remembered a few months when my 12 year old son said to me, casually: “Remember a couple years ago when you cried all the time? And you slept all the time?” I suddenly realized, I’m somewhat in charge of the memories my children make. My son will never forget me being severely depressed and crying all day and all night, barely functional. My only purpose was to take care of my children’s basic needs. I had no will or energy to do anything more than that. Is this the mom I wanted my children to remember when they thought of their childhood? 

Absolutely not. 

Maybe I was trying to justify it to myself in part, but I decided that this whole beach thing, this week with my kids, is an opportunity to make memories of the way I want them to remember me as their mom. I want to be the mom that wasn’t too busy to take them and play on a summer day. I want to be the mom that watches her kid beam with pride when she passes the swim test to swim in the deep end and jump off the dock. I want to share memories of fun and happy times. 

We’ve been through some tough times, my kiddos and me. We won’t ever forget those times but I realized this morning if I don’t make a conscious effort to take the time to make other special memories with them, that’s all they will have…the hard times. 

I know I’m not the only mom who suffers this guilt when playing instead of working so it is my hope that my revelation today will also inspire you to make a conscious effort to create some lasting memories of fun, happy times with your children this summer and always. Life is too short and there are no do-overs. The dishes and laundry will still be waiting for you when the fun has been had. Part of our jobs as parents is to enjoy our children - and we all know that can be very hard to do sometimes. So seize those moments. 

Remember mamas: you’re in charge of so many of the memories that will be stored in your child’s mind for the rest of their lives. Make some fun ones that they will cherish for always. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Little By Little

Do you ever feel overwhelmed when it comes to making a big change in your life? Maybe it’s a career change or changing residences. Maybe it’s not so much a physical change but a lifestyle/relational change - maybe it’s kicking an addiction or removing yourself from a toxic relationship. Any of these changes I’ve mentioned can seem daunting and often, overwhelming…like, where do I even start? 

A few years ago a major event happened in my life that rocked me to my core. I hit the proverbial “rock bottom” and it was a time in my life that I knew I was going to have to make some major changes or I was going to continue a downward spiral, taking innocent passengers along for the ride. 

I remember feeling like the dark hole I was in was so deep I was never going to be able to crawl my way out. Daunting, to say the least. Discouraged, hopeless and depressed was the way it felt at rock bottom and to get where I knew I needed and wanted to go I knew was going to take wicked determination on my part (thankful for my previous bodybuilding days).

I used to be one of those people that when I decided I wanted something to happen, I wanted it to happen RIGHT. NOW. Just go. None of this “take your time” sort of thing. At rock bottom I became aware that this mind set was part of what led me to the pit. And so, I knew that this time, it was going to be a process of “little by little”, one day at a time (which most days at first was one hour, one moment at a time) 

It’s been a minute now and I have the ability to look back on the last few years and see how far I’ve come. I’m nowhere near “there” yet and I won’t be until I get to heaven - always a work in progress. But I can now look back and see how much I have changed, how much my life has changed. Anything but easy and definitely not quick. 

Day by day it is difficult to see God working. There were
many days I would cry out; “God, are you still there? What’s up? I’m ready to be done now.” Some days I felt like it was 2 steps forward, 1 step back but every time I felt Him encouraging me that I was on the right path and to keep going. His plan is often unknown and doesn’t seem to make much sense to us. We want to know exactly where we’re going and precisely how long it will take to get there. The beauty of hindsight is being able to look back at my life and see God in every single season, even the seasons when I was far from God, he was still near to me, loving on me and carrying me through. I can’t tell you how many occasions I look back at and see that God saved me from a complete disaster. 

When we concern ourselves with what God is doing or not doing in this moment, we will get discouraged. We have to have faith that His plan is good and keep doing whatever the last thing He told us to do was. Maybe you don’t think you ever hear from God - that “inner voice”, your intuition, your gut - that’s God. It’s often a gentle pull or just a nudge but it’s relentless. We have to be willing to walk it out even when we can’t see or understand what He is doing. We have to keep taking that next step in faith. He is never not doing something. God is ALWAYS working. He requires us to TRUST Him and put our complete FAITH in Him. 

When we put our faith in His good plan, we make progress, little by little. When we look back to what He brought us out of we see His hand in all of those days, weeks and years. Keep walking it out. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Unavoidable Hurricane Season

The Caribbean is my favorite vacation destination. It feels so far “off the grid” for me and it actually allows me to feel like I’m escaping the real world for awhile. The problem with the Caribbean is that you need to plan your travel around “hurricane season.” Hurricane season occurs every year in the Caribbean and many other parts of the world. In fact, almost every region has its storm season which is less than desirable climate. 

How many times have you been going through a stormy season in your life and thought to yourself, and maybe said out loud to a couple close friends and maybe ten thousand social media followers: “I can’t wait until this storm is over! I am ready for life to be easy for awhile?” I know I’ve said it more times than I care to admit. 

I’ve never known a life free of storms. My life has always had it’s “hurricane season” and it seems just about as frequent and unpredictable as the weather patterns in the Caribbean. I would be willing to bet that you can agree with that statement as well. I have yet to meet someone who has a life free of troubles and challenges. 

Here’s what I know for sure: Hurricane season is unavoidable…for the Caribbean and for you and me. I’ve learned to stop asking “why, God, why?” and I try to embrace the challenge even though it often hurts. I know what my God has promised me and I know that all things work together for my good. 

“And we know that in all things God works 
for the good of those who love him, 
who have been called according to His purpose.”
Romans 8:28

Sometimes God needs to send a storm into our lives to get our undivided attention. When everything is going along just great, we tend to take credit because we are doing such a great job of running our lives. But as soon as it starts to rain and we get a little wet we often realize our deep need for God. He will use the storms to draw us closer to Him, to remind us that without Him, it’s impossible. 

When I am going through a storm in my life I am made acutely aware that He is my ROCK. It is HE who makes me strong. In my weakness, His strength is made absolutely perfect. When life is going great, it can get easy to start thinking “hey, I got this.” We don’t grow when life is easy. We grow when we go through the storms. During our storms is when God can build our character as our relationship with Him grows stronger and more intimate and we learn to trust in Him and have faith in His perfect plan for us. 

God uses the stormy times of our lives to reveal what is in our hearts. It’s like squeezing an orange - what comes out during the storm - that’s what is in our hearts. Sometimes the condition of our hearts is not very pretty. We can have some ugly stuff in those hearts that we’ve been carrying around for a very long time - bitterness, anger, jealousy, pride, greed. The storms build our character, they humble us to a place of forgiveness, peace, joy, contentedness and love. 

If we will take deep roots in our relationship with God - lean on Him, study His word, immerse ourselves in His promises and if we will spread our roots wide with strong relationships with other believers who we can be vulnerable with and who will hold us accountable, then like the palm tree, we too, will be able to withstand the hurricane season. 

Enjoy the calm. Praise Him and thank Him for the calm between the stormy seasons. He is good. All the time. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


They say a picture speaks a thousand words. Not this picture. This picture is a fraud. I’ve never been shy about calling it what it is. I can’t tell you how many clients have looked at this picture as we’ve discussed their fitness goals and declared…”THIS is what I want to look like.” I replied every time, “No, you don’t” and followed it with the truth behind this picture.

You see, just moments before this picture was taken, I was back stage, on the floor with 2 paramedics tending to me, allowing me only tiny sips of water and my friend feeding me spoonfuls of jam. I was severely dehydrated and my body was tired of cooperating with my less-than-kind treatment. After spending 14 grueling weeks training and dieting off 30lbs there was no way I wasn’t going to “shine” in this moment. So I rallied. I grabbed my 5” heels and ran out on stage, smiling from ear to ear. 

I look at the picture now and I realize…I was thirsty. In every possible way I was thirsty. I wasn’t just dehydrated in the physical sense but spiritually I was bone dry and as thirsty as I felt that September morning on the floor backstage…ready to give up, ready to quit, but knowing I had to find a way.

As I look back at this picture, it’s really easy for me to see what was missing and what I was so desperately thirsting for. That’s the easy part…looking back and knowing now what you didn’t know then. I was looking for fulfillment in all the wrong places - my business, my clients, bodybuilding, relationships with the wrong men. I would use any distraction that I could find that would totally consume me. It’s like drinking alcohol when what you really need is a big glass of water. I only became more dehydrated and my thirst more severe. 

Are you thirsty for something in your life? Are you looking for fulfillment in all the wrong places - people, things, careers, money? I was too but none of those things I grabbed ahold of could fill the hole that was in my heart. None of those things could give me the unconditional love I so desperately craved. When we search in the wrong places it can help initially but over time, it only leaves us feeling emptier than we were before. Empty, discouraged and possibly depressed. 

When we are unsatisfied and discontented in our lives, it is because we have a spiritual thirst. I had no idea. And to be honest, I had no intention of believing in God and giving up my Sunday mornings to go sit in church with “a bunch of religious folks.” So I baby-stepped…or rather, I took tiny sips. It started with reading a Joyce Meyer book which lead to watching Joyce Meyer sermons, which lead to Henry Cloud books, which lead to more sermons by other people. After about 6 months of this “spiritual sipping” i was thirsty for a “faith community.” I was feeling ready to branch out and fellowship with other believers. Slowly my sips turned into gulps and I was daily drinking from the Word in some way or another. 

As time went on, I found that I was able to release those things that were draining the spiritual life out of me. I found that I was being filled up spiritually and as a result, I no longer felt the need to hold onto the things that left me empty and searching for fulfillment. 

Quenching your thirst starts with a sip. A verse a day, a Christian book that gives you new hope or encouragement, a sermon on YouTube or a Podcast on your commute to work. There are lots of easy ways to sip and have your thirst quenched. It’s jus like drinking water - the more you drink the more you want to drink. Drinking 8, 8oz glasses of water a day seems daunting at first and before you know it, you’re drinking a full gallon because your body craves it. Jesus is the same way - get a little and pretty soon you need a lot. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

You've Been Rescued - Live Like it!

For some time now, I’ve been struggling with my writing. It’s not that I have writer’s block or a lack of ideas or topics but every time I would write something, I would hear that voice of the Spirit telling me…”Don’t post that.” It wasn’t like I was writing anything that was not in alignment with who I am or my mission but…it wasn’t in alignment with where I want to go. It was a continued look into my rear view mirror and I could tell that God was telling me to stop looking at my past.

But how am I going to share my message? How am I going to help other women and families like mine? I can’t possibly do that if I don’t drudge up the past day after day…after day. “But you can”, I kept hearing. 

I stopped writing for awhile because I really needed to give myself some time to process this idea that in order to truly move forward in life, I was going to have to stop living “my old story.” For years, I had let my past define me and define what I was about and I realized that because I was carrying it around day after day, I was still weighed down by it. I really thought in order to use my experience to help others, I would have to tell it and retell it and retell it some more and I really did not like the way that felt. It was heavy. It was too much to carry around. 

We do that, you know..we carry our past for so many reasons. We carry it because we feel guilty…this is our burden to bear, so bear it we do. We carry it because we don’t recognize ourselves without our old story. We carry it because we think if we do it will help someone else. All of these reasons, while usually well-intended, keep us stuck in an old story and for many of us, keep us in victim mode, making it impossible to enjoy today.

As I was spending time processing this idea that I had to stop telling an old story on repeat, I realized that God was telling me He rescued me from that. He rescued me not so I could carry it around but so that I could have NEW LIFE in Him. Keeping that old story on my bookshelf and pulling it out everyday to re-read was not why God rescued me. He rescued me so I could leave it. So I could walk away and have something better, have joy that I had never experienced before. His plan does not include us feeling guilty forever, day after day. His plan is to make beauty from our ashes and He can’t bring that to completion if we won’t let go of yesterday. 

Has God rescued you from your past but you keep hanging on? That’s not the point of the rescue, you know. God didn’t give us New Life so we could carry around the baggage from the old one. If you are like me, I would encourage you to let go of the chains of the past that are keeping you from experiencing the JOY and PEACE that God wants for you to enjoy right NOW. Your story has a purpose but wearing it like a badge or scarlet letter is not the purpose God had in mind.