I Want Abs

I want abs.

I.  Want.  Abs.

The core.  The abdominals.  The stomach.  I want it.

Have I been persuaded by the Instagram personalities on the interwebs, slyly smiling a coy grin while holding up their shirts for the world to see their perfectly tanned midsections, to invest in a waist trainer, to purchase colon cleanses, to shrink my waist to nothing?

Have I forgotten the years of battle, the checking in and out of eating disorder units because my quest to eliminate the little-to-non-existent roundness of my stomach forced me to restrict my daily meals to one Subway sandwich a day?

Let me reassure you that I could care less if my midsection doubles as a cheese grater.   I take off my shirt at the beach, not caring that when I sit I get the inevitable rolls of stomach because, well, I’m human and eat and that’s what happens to skin.  What I mean when I say “I want abs!” is that I want to be able to function, to move, to twist and turn and bend forward and back.  I want to be a human being.  I want a body.  I want a life.

In reality, abs are a muscle.  Everyone has them, so it’s pretty ridiculous to say one “wants abs.”  They are there.  We are born with them.  We will die with them.  It is a part of the body, a necessary part of the body, that without would cause one to literally keel over.

So yes, I want a body.  I want to feel the security of bending down to pick up my toddler son, knowing that I can carry him up flights of stairs.

I want a body.  I want to be able to heft four bags of groceries up the stairs without stopping because I can’t keep an upright torso.

I want a body.  I want to be able to walk around my classroom, to turn to talk with students, to engage in games and activities with them without trepidation.

There was a time when I was scared to move.  Literally, scared to do anything besides lie down.  I wasn’t sure that my frail skeleton-like body could support the weight of me doing anything other than be horizontal on the sofa.  Ironically, my quest to “have abs” left me with “no abs.”  I had little muscle.  I had little strength.  I had, well, little of nothing.

It was then, during that time when I was laying on the cushioned pillows, wondering, pondering, praying that I would be able to one day have the energy to live and move and breathe and live, that I decided I wanted abs.  But not of the six-pack variety.  I wanted strength.  I wanted a body.  I wanted a core, a solid feeling of being that could one day house a child, that could one day become a home to another human.

I wanted abs.

And many years later, almost two decades later, I was able to have the child, and then another.  My abs were able to be their protection, their shield.

And yet I still want abs.  Because as time goes on and the wrinkles around my eyes get more distinct, I realize that abs are still necessary, if not even more important.  The body is slowly breaking down.  Sadly, the ability to move, to function how I once did as a kid and young adult becomes more of a challenge.  With every year and decade that passes, it is that much more vital that I have abs.  I want a body that will sustain me to do God’s work.  I want a body that can be a light to others.

I want to have abs when I’m fifty.  When I’m sixty.  When I’m seventy.  And beyond.

So, yes, I want abs.

I.  Want.  Abs.

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Sweetest Success

Emily Dickinson had it right.

Success IS counted sweetest by those who neer succeed.

Yesterday, I was death.  I woke up with an ache in my lower back and was feeling a bit warm.  The norm, considering it is summer in Hawaii, I am 38 years old and old age is slowly creeping up on me.

But my stomach.  I didn’t know whether to vomit or sit on the toilet.

So I did a little of both.  For the next two hours.  And I still had my little two-year-old to take care of.  I called my mother-in-law to see if she could watch him while I got a few hours of sleep.  She was going out to lunch and wouldn’t be at home.  My parents were in Las Vegas.  My husband was working.

I almost started to cry.  Almost. But then I stopped, took a deep breath, and prayed:

LORD, PLEASE HEAL ME.  NOW.  PLEASE.  LET ME BE FILLED WITH YOUR HOLY SPIRIT AND BE HEALED.

And you know what?  My little toddler boy fell asleep for a nap!  For 3 hours!!  And you know what else?  My husband finished work and took the kids to Ala Moana and BJJ class!!!  And I slept 12 more hours!!!!

Needless to say, I woke up this morning sans body aches, stomach in tact, and feeling, well, pretty good.

Now what does my 24 hour bout with the flu/cold/illness have to do with Dickinson?  It is this fact:  one really is unable to grasp the grandness of what she has until it’s gone.  And then in those moments of desperation and emptiness, she can say that in fact, yes, things were pretty grand.

Health is one of those things we take for granted until it starts going downhill.  Flus and colds that diminish us to beings wrapped in blankets, laying on the bed, unable to eat anything make us appreciate the time we could go about our daily business without a second thought.

School is another.  I sometimes wish I could go back to college, where the only job one really has is to learn.  Imagine that!!!  A person is purposefully devoting all of his time to reading, discussing, engaging, learning!  When I started my freshman year of college, I was livng in the inner cities of Los Angeles as a USC Trojan.  I loved the campus.  I loved my student fellowship group.  I loved the hustle and bustle of the city.  But health issues hit, I moved back to Hawaii, and ended up graduating from UH-Manoa.  Now don’t get me wrong, UH is a wonderful institution as well, but knowing all the cultural experiences, relationships, and growth as a student at that California campus I could have had there makes me a bit wistful of the time I did spend in LA.

And the kids.  Ah, the kiddos.  I really do love my two kids, no favorites here.  But when I look at my youngest, I remember how a year or so prior to his delivery, I was bawling on the sofa, having just miscarried what I believed would have been our second child.  You can’t believe the emptiness and desperation deep within my core after having the joy of “Yay, I’m having a baby!” be replaced with “God, why take this child from me?”  It took awhile to come to terms with the fact that we would be a family of three, and then low and behold, a blessing occurred.  An ultrasound showing a little bean with a beating heart.  A little boy.  A family of four.

Success is counted sweetest.

Success IS counted sweetest.

So what to do now that I am fully recovered from my flu/cold/illness?  What do I do now that I graduated with an English degree from UH? What do I do now that we have a wonderful husband, daughter, and son?  Do I remain trapped in the doldrums, looking at what was lost and not focusing on what is?

Sadly, I do tend to do that at times.  Just for a minute.  I think it’s natural.  We wouldn’t be human if there weren’t times of discomfort, sadness, and pain.  God created us with feelings and emotions, and to try to hide them or say they don’t exist is basically saying He didn’t know what He was doing when He formed us.  The danger lies if we remain in that depressive state, only thinking of what once was.  Because you know what?  Something great, something grand, something absolutely wonderful could be just around the corner.

24 hours later, I am feeling like the Lauren of old.  Heck, I’m even able to type out this blog post.  So what am I going to do?  Go out and play with the kiddos.  Enjoy a dinner with the family.  And praise God for the sweet success He has given to me.

 

I am dense.

I am dense.  Really, I am.

 

My husband likes to joke that public school kids have more common sense than private school graduates (that’s up for debate, by the way), but I truly am dense.

 

Sad to say, but no amount of great college prepatory education could make me any more aware, any more knowledgeable about Jesus and His plan for my life.  I love learning.  I love being informed.  And yet, there is one area of my life—my walk with God—where I am truly dense.

 

I try my hardest to “undense” myself.

 

I pray every day to hear from God.

 

“God!  Show me what you want me to do!!!  What is Your will?!?!”

 

Crickets.  Silence.

 

Or so I think.

 

Could it really be that God is truly speaking to me, but I just don’t hear (or am unwilling) to hear Him?

 

Many times, it takes a big whack on the head or some kind of major upset for me to then realize “OOOHHHHH, that was God all along.”

 

For example, my broken left wrist.  Way back when Misha was a little toddler, still running around with chubby little legs and drooling over mashed peas, I decided to enter the Honolulu Triathlon.  What propelled me to do it?  Well, Kyle was going to do the race and my competitive spirit was lit.  I hadn’t rode a bike in well over a few years, I rarely swam, and was much more invested in my work as a yoga instructor and personal trainer.

 

And yet, I wanted to enter.

 

Sadly, the biggest (and only) reason I decided to pay the $100-something dollars and dust off my black biking tights was to prove to my husband (and myself) that I “still had it”, whatever that “it” really was.  I was trying to force my identity from one steeped in God’s presence to one wrapped up in medals and athletic accolades.

 

I had completed a few sprint and Olympic distance tris in years past, but after burning myself out on the sport, God showed me that that type of endurance activity was NOT what He wanted for my life.  At the time, I was too obsessed over running a certain amount of miles, getting in a swim xxxx amount of times a week, and practicing my biking technique since I was still very new to the art of balancing on two wheels.  Instead, He wanted me to find my self-worth in Him and not my split-times or age group distinctions.  So I gave up the sport and felt pretty at ease with it.  Until the Honolulu Triathlon reared its’ ugly head, and with it, my competitive and self-absorbed ego.  I felt God urging me not to do it.  For what?  Why?

 

But I ignored His voice, and I did it.  I dusted off the old Huffy (I didn’t even have a road bike—my husband was using the only one available), ran a few laps around the neighborhood before the race, schlepped myself to the pool a few times, and deemed myself ready.  Obviously, God was speaking to me.  Loud.  And.  Clear.  It was a small voice at first, that voice that seems like one’s conscience saying, “Uh, maybe you shouldn’t do this race.  What for?!  Do you really need to?”  As the date of the event came closer, that voice got louder and with it, this uncomfortable, unsettling pit of fear grew in my stomach.

 

“It’s just pre-race jitters.”

 

But then the day of, I knew, I felt it in my core, that I should just hang up my shoes, not jump in the ocean, and sit out.  God was speaking to me, and my hands were literally shaking because I knew the right decision to make—not do the race—but was too scared to back out.

 

What would people say if I didn’t compete?  What would my husband say?  I would be a failure.  A.  Failure.

 

And so to make an already long story short, I jumped into the freezing cold ocean water, swam my 800 meters, hopped onto the Huffy, and started down the street for the next few miles.  It was during the bike portion, however, when I made a sudden turn because SURPRISE!!! I was going the wrong way on the course, that I fell off my bike, breaking my wrist in two areas.

 

God spoke to me that day not to do the race.  He spoke to me the days before when I looked at my bike and thought, “Darn, hope I don’t fall off during the race.”  He spoke to me weeks before that when I’d stare at the rubber wheels and ruminate over how I am very inept at riding.  He spoke to me when I signed the waiver to register for the race, my eyes glazing over the fine print that “one could get seriously injured from the event.”  But I didn’t listen, and so God had to majorly intervene and do SOMETHING to grab my attention.

 

Back then, I was dense.  It usually took a big sign to make me realize what I was doing and what God wanted me to do were not always in agreement.  But slowly, surely, with each passing day that I’m journaling and meditating on His word, I am becoming more sensitive to His spirit.  I have been praying for revelation, for His will to be made manifest in my life, and you know what?  He hasn’t let me down yet.  What is His speaking to me like?  It’s a nudge.  A feeling of peace.  The calmness that invades my spirit.  I’m learning more and more to trust Him, which is challenging because like I mentioned in other posts, I am a creature of habit and control.  But I’m tired of being dense, and I’m tired of breaking bones.  It’s turning my “I AM dense” to an “I WAS dense.”  I love that I can hear the soft nudge of His voice, recognize it as His, and follow through.

 

It’s liberating.

 

It’s freeing.

 

It’s living a life of faith.

 

Freeing faith.

PASSION

Inspiration.  Motivation.  Discipline.  Passion.

 

I hear these words a lot when I’m at the gym (case in point:  the guys with the bulging biceps yelling, “GET SOME!!!” while their friend’s face twists into grimaces of pain as he curls dumbbells equal to half my body weight) and see them in action even more whenever I scroll through my Instagram feed (for example, the memes of a svelte runner glistening with sweat as she traverses up a rocky mountain with words like “STRONG IS THE NEW SEXY” plastered on the bottom of the picture).

 

But what do they actually mean?

 

I recently listened to a Revive Stronger podcast where Dr. Mike Israetel spoke about the difference between these nouns.

 

  • Inspiration—It is fleeting. It rears its’ head when one sees an emotionally charged image (aka IG posts).  It is not long lasting.
  • Motivation—It can last a day. Maybe even longer.  It can make a person want to do something out of his normal routine.
  • Discipline—It is steeped in routine. It can be viewed as mustered up energy or will power.  It is created when habits are formed.
  • Passion—It is long lasting. It is deep rooted.  It is devotion.

 

It was in the middle of listening to Dr. Mike’s words that I literally stopped what I was doing, paused the podcast, and felt the Holy Spirt telling me, “THIS.  IS.  YOU.  WHERE IS YOUR PASSION?”

 

I am not too proud to admit that my walk with Jesus has dwindled from one of passion to one of inspiration and (at best) motivation.

 

When I initially accepted Christ into my heart, I was all in—reading the Bible for hours at a time, carrying my journal with me to restaurants, and going on mission trips and conferences were not out of the ordinary.  I loved Jesus.  I wanted others to love Him.  I desired for others to see the Holy Spirit in me.

 

Over the years the same passion I once had, that deep rooted, unexplainable zeal to break out in praise, dwindled.  What was it that led me from leading Bible studies to finding it hard to muster up the energy to attend a small group?

 

My own control.

 

I still love God.  I still call Him my Savior.  But I was (and sometimes still do) try to muster up my own will to “make” myself open my Bible and read.  I thought I needed control over, well, everything, to be the kind of Christ follower that Jesus wanted me to be.

 

Why did I think that?  I memorized all the scriptures that told how my body was an act of worship onto the Lord, and that faith without works is dead.  And so I rationalized I needed to

DO ACT DO ACT DO ACT DO ACT DO ACT.  And the only way to behave like a Christian was to have as much control over my mind and emotions as possible so I didn’t let the world distract me.

 

Oh, the irony.

 

Discipline can only do so much, and as the trials of daily life sank in (work, kids, home), my physical body became fatigued.  I was weighted down.  And so I thought maybe I was feeling this way because I needed to put forth MORE effort and exert MORE control over my time.  Couldn’t I muscle my way through waking up early to read Scripture or force myself to sit and meditate?  If I could, wouldn’t I then be able to draw closer to Jesus and reestablish that passion I once had?

 

Sure, that scenario worked great—for about a month.  That kind of discipline, setting up an alarm for 4am to read Romans, stopping playing with the kids in order to journal—can only last for so long.  Yes, doing an action over and over will eventually lead to it becoming a habit (i.e. brushing one’s teeth), but I would like my walk with Jesus to be more than just a rote exercise in reading, praying, and journaling.  I want my walk with Him to be one of passion.  Of substance.  Of inexplicable joy that only comes when I am whole-heartedly devoted to Him.

 

And really, it is passion, discipline, inspiration, and motivation all working hand-in-hand to produce a healthy, vibrant, thriving relationship with Jesus.  One of those elements are not independent from the others.  Sometimes there may be more discipline involved, whereas other instances require some inspiration.  But at the root of it is passion.  That kind of internal drive will never be extinguished and can drive a person to change his entire life.  It is that kind of passion that is individualized to meet each person where he is at.  And the best part?  Once Jesus reveals the beauty and power of that internal drive to a person, it’s mighty hard for that flame to be totally extinguished.

 

I am on the road, the road to REALLY re-discovering the supernatural passion and joy that only Jesus can bring.  My flame did not die—it is still alive but in dire need of some wood to re-fan the flame.  How will that passion grow?  Will it require me to give up many of the thoughts, actions, and behaviors I’ve held on to for so long?  Yes.  Will it require me to relinquish control?  Yes.  Will it be incredibly challenging and difficult?  Yes.  But thankfully, I have a God who has a plan and purpose for my life, and it is this plan and the promise of a passion-filled relationship with Him that I look forward to with bated breath.

POP! POP!

I feel like Britney.

Oops. I did it again.

Pulled my rib, that is.

Is this a sign that I am getting old? That my body is slowly starting to fall apart?

I am reminded of our school’s alma mater whenever I picture myself growing white hair (which I have none of, thank you very much) or wrinkles around my eyes (those I do have, sigh):

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength
They shall mount up with wings as eagles
They shall run and not be weary
They shall walk and not faint
Teach us Lord, teach us Lord to wait.”

I teach at a local Baptist school, so if the refrain sounds familiar, it’s because it’s from Isaiah 40, one of my favorite chapters in the Old Testament. There’s something grand and breathtaking about these lines.  To me, it’s reassuring that during those moments of weakness and fatigue, God is there. AND He’s not just “there” to watch us to be a cheerleader with His megaphone and poms-poms proclaiming, “Wow, that’s tough. Keep on going!” He’s actually there to endure with us, to lift us up out of the ashes, and to give us, well, LIFE.

But our victory is contingent on the fact that we must wait. We must be patient.

And that is a lesson I am still learning.

To back track a bit, I pulled my rib on Tuesday night, exactly a week ago. Previous to this, I was in a semi-I’ll-take-a-break-from-lifting-and-exercising phase. Why? Well, I’ll probably write about that later, but basically, my body was saying to me STOP. STOP. STOP. In all capitals. And in bold. And italicized.  So with the zeal of the Holy Spirit behind me, I said to myself, yes, I will take a break and let my muscles heal, let my systems reconnect, let the peace of the Lord wash over me.

And…that lasted about three days.  No, actually two and a half.

Lack of patience?  Lack of waiting on God to make things right?  Yup.  But why?  If I know Jesus to be Lord, to be the maker of all good things, why could I not listen and wait on Him to heal my body?

Selfishness.

Because as a person obsessed with exercising, training, wanting to be better, faster, stronger, I couldn’t resist the lure of the barbell.  I craved the instant gratification of sweating dripping down my face after doing hypertrophic squats gave.  I wanted the feeling that I was accomplishing SOMETHING by setting up to bench.  I needed to feel validated, that I was working hard to attain some lofty powerlifting goal.

So I went to train on Tuesday night and on the board were squats and deadlifts.  About an hour into training, I bent over to get a grip on the bar for my umpteenth deadlift.  I took my breath, sat back, and POP.  It wasn’t audible, but I sure as heck felt something like a bubble explode on my side.

Yikes.

Oddly enough there was no pain–well, no pain until later that night when I couldn’t lie down or sleep because taking a breath, rolling over, basically moving hurt.  So I took the day off.  No, actually, I didn’t take the day off, as I had “things to do” and “places to go”.  School was starting on Thursday, so I had to get everything set for my classes and my kids needed mommy to run around with them.  Also, I had to go to training, because, well, you know, lifting weights is LIFE (that was sarcastic, by the way).  And so I went to train on Thursday (I know, CRINGE!!!!), but prior to getting to the powerlifting facility, I said a short prayer.

Lord, protect me.  Let me know what you want me to do.  I am not sure that I should be training, so please make it clear if I should go to the gym or stay at home.

And wouldn’t you know, the coach was locked out.  He was there.  We were there.  But we couldn’t get in.

Kismet.

Flashforward to Friday, and miraculously, the pain started to dissipate and I could move around fairly easily without discomfort.

Winning.

And so I started thinking about what I could do for training.  What movements could I work to help with my weak deadlift form?  Could I bench?  As all of these thoughts ran through my head, I bent down to pick up my shoe and POP.

Again.  I pulled my rib.

This time the pain was immediate and in the front.  I couldn’t stand up straight or take a breath without excruciating pain.

Many thoughts raced through my mind as I sat down, doubled over with fear and the feeling of stabbing needles radiating through my body.  I had to teach.  Could I even give the English lesson for the day?  I didn’t think I broke anything because there was no traumatic accident this time, just a feeling of something shifting.  Would the pain lessen if I tried maneuvering the rib back into place?  Should I go to urgent care?

It was at that time that I sent up this prayer.  Lord, I am sorry.  I am sorry for not listening to you.  I know you want me to rest, and I couldn’t listen to you.  I was so focused on myself and what I wanted, that I was blind to the fact that you are giving me this time to draw closer to you and seek you for healing–inside and out.

So here I am, four days later, and after a good chiropractic and acupuncture session, I am feeling better.  Still not perfect, but at least I can move around without needles shooting through my side.  And even better, I hear God very clearly right now:

REST.  REST.  REST.

I told Him I would, and honestly, it is HARD.  I am not sure how long I will be away from the barbell and weights for, but slooooowly, God is revealing more to me about WHY I want to even be in the gym in the first place (more on that in another upcoming post).

So here I am, praying for Jesus to renew my strength and help me to soar on wings like eagles.  More importantly, I am praying for the patience to listen to Him and wait for Him because our fallible, fragile bodies are only made powerful and whole by the hands of the great Creator.

Ramblings and Revelations

I can blame it on genetics, since my mother weighed less than 100 pounds on her wedding day and my father entered the army after high school measuring in at a hefty 115 pounds. I can say that I have a small boned frame as I am half Japanese and half Okinawan. I can also claim that my body is just made to be “small”, as even when pregnant I never weighed more than a whopping 125 pounds. But the fact of the matter is, I am still in need of putting on some pounds.

This is not a crazy revelation to anyone that has been around me, oh, for the past year or two. After giving birth to my son in July 2015, the act of nursing plus working full time plus being a mommy to my daughter plus keeping the house in somewhat clean shape whittled my weight down to a whopping 100 pounds. During this time I was still hitting the platform to clean and jerk and snatch, and while I could heft my bodyweight (and even a little more) overhead, I wanted to add more plates to the barbell. I saw Mattie Rodgers’ biceps bulging while maintaining her wide-armed front rack position, and I ogled Morghan King’s meaty thighs as she exploded out of her high bar squats. Basically, I wanted to be stronger, more thick, just MORE. But in order to do so, I needed to gain weight.

So I tried doing a variety of options—I went back to seeing my old eating disorder dietitian but that didn’t work out. I enrolled in our gym’s Transformation Challenge (muscle gain category, mind you) in order to keep myself accountable to gaining weight, and sure enough, I saw the scale move up five pounds in a span of 12 weeks. I felt victorious, as weighing 105 pounds awarded me first place in the female muscle gain category, yet fast forward a few months, and I was once again back down to 100 pounds. Well, more like 102. Regardless, I was not where I needed to be. I knew I needed some kind of eating regimen to follow, and Paul Salter with Renaissance Periodization gave me a wonderful template. He started me off on maintenance, meaning I first needed to just get used to eating regularly throughout the day a certain amount of fats, carbs, and proteins. Maintenance agreed with me, and I was soon heading off into massing land.

This is where the rubber met the road, and where I am still struggling. I would gain a pound or two or three, and then internally freak out. Why should my heart be filled with fear when what I wanted was to get stronger and the only way to do so was to gain weight? Paul is great in that he basically told me that by not following the template he provided, I was throwing my money down the drain. His statement was true, and so every time I was faced with having to eat another bite of peanut butter or chicken, I thought about my hard earned paycheck, and how NOT scooping myself another mound of rice was akin to a check being chewed up by the garbage disposal.

And yet, I cut corners. I would save up my allotted fat and carb servings for the end of the day because I was fearful that I’d crave them at night and then overeat. But by the time my bedtime snack was ready to be eaten, I felt physically full and couldn’t stomach the thought of adding cereal or nuts to my already dense mound of casein pudding with peanut butter, almonds, and banana (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it). Every Monday and Thursday when I’d report to Paul on my eating consistency and weight, I’d feel this huge letdown—I imagined him opening up my email, already expecting to see that I was missing a fat serving on my food log and stagnating in weight gain. I felt like a failure on multiple levels.

During this time I was still lifting weights, and in fact competed in a powerlifting meet where I weighed in at 45kg. My daily training was taxing as heavy deadlifts and squats will take its toll on the nervous system, especially on a system that is being under nourished. I still looked forward to putting on my knee sleeves for leg workouts or wrapping up my wrists to bench, but I was beginning to feel a sense of monotony. I can’t quite explain it, but I felt stagnant, in my lifts and in my mind and spirit. I’d bench up to 100#, and then feel like that was it. I had no more to give. I’d squat 135#, and anything above that felt like arduous work.

A few weeks ago I was prompted by D’Lissa to meditate on scripture like it was medicine, so I opened up Psalm 23 multiple times throughout the day. Reading about Jesus as the shepherd opened my eyes, yet it was a recent conversation I had with a friend in California when God spoke loudly and clearly. The morning started out like any other, as I had just gone through Psalm 23 during my quiet time. The one line about walking through the valley of the shadow of death, however, leaped out from the page. Mind you, I am nowhere near dying, as my heart is beating well and I can function at work and home. But there are signs that my spirit is ill. How do I know that is so? It’s because I feel gray. My heart bursts with unspeakable joy when I see Shogun smile or hear Misha sing, but I don’t have the capacity to connect the joy in my heart to the joy I know I am missing in my spirit. My emotional mothering side can feel, but my spirit side cannot. The passage reaffirmed this revelation, and so I mentioned this to my California friend immediately after putting down my Bible. I described to her that it is like when I have a cold and my head feels disconnected to my body. That is my situation from when I wake up to the moment my head hits the pillow at night–fuzzy, unclear, and BLAH. My California pal said that I should pray on it more, but that maybe separating the identity I have in God from my athletic achievements will clear the fogginess.

My identity in Christ? What? Don’t I already know what that is?

I like to think that I do, but in fact, I am still grappling with it. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit, considering I just talked about identity at one of our school’s Christian Emphasis Week seminars. But I am falling back into relying on a title more than Jesus to define who I am.

Remember when I said I was always small? Being the “small but strong girl” is a title that I didn’t realize I clung to until I sat down this morning after my conversation with my California friend. I like other people recognizing that I am slight of build but can move around weights that are massive in comparison to my size. Since I look for that athletic validation from friends (“Wow!!! You lifted that? How much do you weigh again?”), there is fear in what will happen when I do gain weight. What if my squats still feel heavy and I don’t add on weight to my bench? What if friends and family make comments about my suddenly burgeoning stomach, legs, and arms? I know what I can do as a 102# lifter, and it actually is pretty remarkable to be able to handle the weights I currently do given the stressful schedule I have as a mother, wife, and teacher.

But what can I do at a higher weight? It’s unknown, and that lack of knowledge leaves fear in my spirit. My coach and Paul say that at a higher body weight my lifts will definitely improve, which is somewhat comforting. Heck, even my husband who has no experience in powerlifting says the same thing. Yet I’m still fearful because gaining weight will make me lose my title. What title will I then have?

I know I can title myself as a “child of God” or “a person made in God’s image.” But that is hard to describe and feel. I am very right-brained, so I want the facts and figures, the numbers and black and white outline, to tell me what my title is. But in reality, do I even NEED a title??? Why do I feel the desire to have to label myself? Is it so that I can get validation from other people so that immediately upon seeing my title, they will accept and “know me”?

Maybe. I am still praying through all of this, so excuse this long-winded post, as it’s basically everything that’s in my head erupting on the computer. I definitely need more time to process this all, as even thinking about being made in God’s image is mystifying. God is so many things: a Father, a lover of my soul, a comforter, a provided, a healer, a king. The list goes on and on, so how do I even begin to come to terms that I am made in that image?? It literally leaves me in awestruck wonder. I will return to this blog and document more about my processing of this identity issue.

The challenging part about processing is being bombarded with images on Instagram and Facebook. I see powerlifters, short gals with thick thighs, tall women with lanky legs, and I compare. And so for a week, yes, just a week, I am challenging myself not to add to those barrage of pictures and videos of deadlifting females. Instead, I am refraining from putting up any athletic-centered posts. This challenge may not seem grand to the normal person, but my husband (and many of my friends and family) know that I put up a lot of lifting shots on my IG page. A. LOT. I love going on Instagram to zone out on pictures (Look! A cute dog! Look! Food!), but if all my feed produces are videos of my squatting, benching, and deadlifting, then something is amiss because the Big 3 are not my life. God is. My family is. My friends are.

Anyway, that is the plan for now. Refrain from posting on social media all of my normal gym stuff. That, and really following the plan Paul has set for me TO THE TEE. I don’t need an accountability partner, as that is what I am enlisting Paul’s help for and I am an adult who knows what I need to do. But I need to just take that leap of faith. Become bigger, not just so that I can lift heavier weights, but to break the title, the label, that says I am the “small girl.” Because in reality, didn’t God make me for a wondrous and glorious purpose, and NOT just to be looked at as “the tiny girl who benchs a lot”?

If you lasted this long reading this post, thank you. ☺ I will surely update you all on the new revelations God is giving.

I Shall Not Want

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.

Those are two sentences I’ve repeated over and over again, so much so, that they are emblazoned on my heart and in my brain. But in reality, do I really think about what those words mean?

No. I don’t. Prior to this Fall Break, my prayer and quiet time life was in a solid rut. I still read my Bible every morning and shouted out a few “Amens!” on the way to school with Misha and Shogun. But the “thank yous” and “please watch overs” were becoming rote. Monotonous. So much so, that with glazed eyes, staring off out of the car window at 6:30am every morning, even Misha was imitating my lacksidasical “…and please watch over mommy and daddy and Shogun and Puna and Papa and Grandma and Grandpa and amen.”

Eek.

So when D’Lissa from Breath of Life Ministries suggested that I spend time throughout the day meditating on scripture to heal my fractured, stressed, and overworked spirit, I immediately felt a pull to start reading His word. Now. For the past week I’ve looked at Psalm 23, one of the most well known passages and one that my mother dearly loved. When dealing with the possibility of cancer taking over her life, my mom clung to this psalm and found extreme comfort in David’s words. I still remember her furrowed brow relaxing into a content smile as she read and reread the six lines over and over again.

And so on a quiet Monday morning last week, when the husband and kids were still nestled in their Kauai hotel room beds, I stared at the first verse. And read it. And stared. And read it again.

The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.

“What are you saying, Jesus? What exactly should I ‘get’ out of you being my shepherd?” The thoughts roamed in my head and the more I stared at those black printed lines, the revelation came to me.

I want many things in life. Achievements in work, achievements in the gym, achievements with my family. I want to come home and not feel the uncomfortableness that I have a zillion problems and issues to deal with, but rather, I want to be perfectly at peace and to let the worries fall off my shoulders like a waterfall cascading down worn and weathered rocks. I want to feel loved and accepted even when I’m awkward and fail. There are so many things that I “want” and if I were to dwell over each of these items (Did I achieve all of the goals I set out for myself? Am I being the best mother, teacher, wife, and friend I can be?), I’d be a BIG MESS.

Sadly, I was hemming and hawing over these details from the moment my eyes opened to when I laid my head down at night: What if I don’t plan my English lessons perfectly and the students end up not being able to analyze a piece of fiction effectively? What if I miss this set of deadlifts and end up injuring myself? What if I don’t spend enough time reading with Shogun or talking with Misha? Can my relationship with my husband be stronger? What am I doing wrong?

The “what ifs” were killing me, causing my already tired brain to work overtime. It was only when I sat with this first verse from Psalm 23, that I realized that David was feeling the same as me, yet he did the complete opposite of what I was doing. Rather than attempt to handle all the questions himself, he turned to God, the shepherd.

I live in Hawaii and rarely (if at all) do I see sheep, so I had to actually look up what a shepherd’s job entails. Basically, this man guides and directs the flock to where they need to go–sometimes he must ward off predators to ensure the sheeps’ safety and other times he must discipline the sheep so they don’t stray. Either way, the shepherd is there to do the “hard work”, all the steering and rearing. If God is my shepherd, and he will be guiding me to a place of safety with His mighty hand, why SHOULD I “want”? Do sheep worry about wolves coming and attacking them? No. Do sheep worry about where there next meal will come from? No. Why so? Because they have complete and total trust that the shepherd will be there. If sheep can have that kind of trust in their shepherd, why can’t I have that same type of trust in mine?

It’s a process I am still learning and growing in. I am used to wanting to do any and everything on my own terms. Giving control to my shepherd is challenging, especially when it comes to situations that I have no control over but want control in (more on that in another post). But hour by hour, day by day, the more I sit with these two sentences, the more I am leaning on God rather than my own actions and thoughts to bring peace.

One last quick example of Psalm 23 in action: After returning from Kauai, I took the two kiddos to a crazily crowded mall for lunch. By myself. I was at my wit’s end, what with a person stealing a parking spot from me, the toddler whining for juice, and the six-year old saying she wanted pizza RIGHT NOW. Besides being completely overwhelmed with all the noise and stress, I started questioning myself. “What are you doing? You should be more prepared. Why didn’t you bring the juice from home? Your child shouldn’t be crying this much.” But then as soon as that incessant negative voice started its’ tyrannical talk, I thought about the Lord being my shepherd. Yes, the little guy was crying and yes, it totally got my blood boiling when a Mustang swooped in and grabbed the parking spot I was waiting for. But why worry? God was watching over me. He was guiding me. He was protecting from way back when and will continue to help me. So I repeated that first verse over and over, over and over. And you know what? The tension in my head, the knots in my shoulders, the overwhelming urge I had to cry out in frustration dissipated. We found a parking, the boy got some OJ, and the girl got her cheese slice. Jesus provided peace (and food and drink), and although it was for something as small and incidental as a crazy shopping expedition, there is solace in knowing that I DON’T need to “want” because God is truly the only thing I “want” and need.