Fitness, Letters to My Kids, Ministry

A Call to Self-Discipline

Dear Daughter of Mine,

As your Daddy pastors our church and I learn ministry alongside him, we both hold deep convictions that discipleship must remain our core focus. As individuals, as leaders, and as a church, we must be in constant pursuit of Jesus, to know Him more and be changed into His likeness.

This morning at the gym, I was challenging my arms with some slow reps of heavy weights. The work was hard, but it felt good. I knew I was becoming stronger through the pain, being a good steward of the body I’ve been given. I want to be an example to you, my daughter, of how to respect your body, how to care for it, and how to continually make it more holy. Yes, I believe our physical body should be in pursuit of God’s holiness – the wholeness He created us for – just as our spirits ought to be.

I paused to take a breather and stretch my shoulders. And the metaphor hit me like a ton of bricks:

Christian discipleship is a mirror of physical fitness. Each individual is in charge of their own spiritual and physical health. No one can force us to read our Bibles or pray in earnest. No one can force us to develop a workout routine and stick to the challenge. We must embark on our personal journey of self-discipline. We must decide in our own hearts to pursue Jesus more deeply, to go through the dark parts of our souls, to confess sins hidden, to learn passion for the Scriptures. We must decide in our own minds to go to the gym, to lift heavier weights, to go a longer distance, to increase resistance, to love the strength we build.

And in both cases our work is never complete. We may reach a new milestone in our Christian discipleship or cross a physical limit in our workouts. We may experience “highs” when we feel like we’ve found the center of our purpose in Christ, or when we can’t imagine living life without fitness. But self-discipline comes into play when we realize that we may have achieved a goal, but our job is not finished. We cannot take a few weeks off and expect to maintain our strength. We cannot say, “I’ve done it. I’ve reached my goal. I’m finished working out (or I’m finished praying.)” It’s ludicrous in both cases. Even the healthiest person – spiritually or physically – realizes their humanity, sees how far they have to go, and knows there are many challenges ahead of them.

The process of physical fitness and the journey of Christian discipleship are never complete. We must embark on their paths with the Spirit God gave us…the Spirit that does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7). We ought to anticipate the hard days, the lazy days, the pitfalls, and pursue holiness in our bodies and our spirits. Let us not give up strict training. Let us run the race marked out for us so as to get the prize (1 Corinthians 9:23-25; Hebrews 12:1).

Loving you,
working to be all I was created to be,
longing to be a good example for you,

Mama

IMG_4060-with words

Standard
About Me, Confessions, Fitness, Holy Yoga, Jesus

Why Yoga

As of May 8th, 2015, I have completed my 225 hour certification program to become a Registered Holy Yoga Instructor (R-HYI). The journey to this moment is many years long, winding and God-led. Allow me to share. Holy Yoga Logo

In 2009 I began exploring the blog world and happened upon the writings of a girl named Mandy {originally called shebreathesdeeply, now writing at mandyreidyoga.com}. She was about my age, married, loved Jesus, and was always talking about this Holy Yoga thing. I began corresponding with Mandy via email, asking her some questions about yoga and the Holy Yoga ministry in particular. Before long I had ordered two of their instructional DVDs, and I was hooked. As I learned the physical practice of yoga, I began discovering the Truth in this accent physical exercise. Many Christians struggle with yoga, believing it can only be rooted in Eastern Mysticism, using our bodies to worship self or earth. I believe yoga is just a tool, as money is a tool. Both can be used for good or used for evil.

In the time I began spending on my mat, I was experiencing worship and intimacy with Jesus Christ in a whole new way. Not only was I praying and centering my spirit and mind on the Holy One, I was engaging my whole body in worship. Spirit. Soul. Body. This resonated with Jesus’ words from Mark 12:30 –

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

For the next many years, I continued practicing yoga in the privacy of my living room, either with my two Holy Yoga DVDs or with my own flows and worship songs. I learned about the Instructor Training program and I thought to myself, “I would love to do that!” For the next few years, the desire stopped there. I couldn’t convince myself to spend the money, nor did I believe my community was ready for something this spiritually “edgy.”

This past January I took a risk and invited the people of our church to join me in a Saturday morning Holy Yoga practice. I used my HolyYogaTV.com subscription to guide us through a gentle flow, the whole time wondering what people were thinking of this new fangled idea. That first Saturday, we had eight people show up, age 17 to 75, of all physical abilities. And it. was. AWESOME. Everyone loved it and couldn’t wait until next time.

And just like that, God gave me a big booming, “YES!” My community needed this. They were ready. Holy Yoga would be a means of drawing our congregation and our town together. It would allow us to become physically vulnerable and honest with one another, to struggle alongside, and forge the way to be spiritually and emotionally transparent. We would learn how to experience the grace of God through physical activity (and inactivity; shout out to shavasana) and in worship. I went home and signed up for the 225 Hour Program.

promos_community (5)

The next nine weeks were spent pouring over Scripture, reading material like Eugene Peterson’s Eat This Book and spending the first half of the weekly two hour webinars in Bible Study. The leadership team at H0ly Yoga insists on our foundation in Christ and the Word. Each class must begin with a Scripture meditation and devotional (or mini-sermon). Each class must incorporate worship music, songs and lyrics to focus on praising God and relishing in His goodness.

Additionally, I spent an hour each Tuesday in a Guided Prayer small group, via a group phone call service. We were taught the practice of Lectio Divina and spent time at the end of the call sharing our personal reflections or God-inspirations from the Scripture Passage. It was deep and raw and intimate.

The second half of our nine-week training module focused on the practical aspects of yoga, teaching us the postures, along with detailed physical anatomy. For every pose we received repetitive teaching, including two books with pictures, our manual with additional directives, and then a verbal instruction from our trainer online. Repetition is the key to memorization.

Finally, all 140 of us traveled to Arizona (Lost Canyon: a Young Life Camp) for a six day retreat intensive. Here we received in-person demonstrations of poses and were given opportunities to work on the postures and teach each other step by step. The word “retreat” was slightly misleading. Our schedule started at 5:30am every morning (with a guided prayer and meditation), and was booked every subsequent hour of the day through 9:30pm. We had two full yoga classes each day, plus 4-6 hours of classroom instruction. The only time we sat in chairs (and not on the floor of the amphitheater or practicing yoga) was at meal times. I snuck in 20 minute phone calls to my husband when we were given bonus breaks between classes.

It was beautiful. It was intense. It was the most emotional I have been in a year. It broke me. It built me. It was a God-thing.

The community I formed with my small group cabin-meets was absolutely incredible. Those women spoke into my life with God-given prophecy and exhortation. We loved each other instantly, shared honestly, and prayed almost continually. Since Retreat, we have continued communication in group texting. What a gift.

2015-05-06 12.57.37

But I did it! I graduated along with these beautiful souls. I am officially a R-HYI (Registered Holy Yoga Instructor), and am teaching my second class this Saturday morning. I have dreams and plans for what the future of this ministry job might become. I am praying and struggling through doubts and disbelief in my ability and qualification. I am waiting for God’s leading. Training Group

So until I launch the full-fledged Holy Yoga Monroe, I will continue hosting classes each Saturday at 9 in the fellowship hall of Monroe Free Methodist Church ($10 suggested donation). The first Saturday of each month will be a FREE class, perfect to check it out and see if Holy Yoga is right for you. Men and women of all ages and stages are welcome. You say you’re not flexible? Then that’s the perfect reason to come to Holy Yoga. It is a practice, every day our bodies respond differently and every week we see new struggles and new improvements. Let do this together!

Standard
About Me, Confessions, Fitness, Letters to My Kids

Running Rhythm

Dear Little One,

I have a confession to make – after 5 weeks of not being able to run due to an ankle injury, I finally just entered into an honest place of grieving. This may sound totally ridiculous. Why would anyone be sad that they’re missing their runs? But for for me running is a part of my life’s rhythm, the breath of my days. I love to run. And it comes naturally to me which reminds me what a grace it is. It’s as if God is saying

Here, Child. I know you need this. I’m going to give this time and this body and this ability. Use them well. 

Ten years ago if you would have told me I’d be calling myself a “runner,” I never would have believed you. I always classified myself as un-athletic. Looking back I realize how unfair I was being to myself. I had developed this misconception of my body as chubby and uncoordinated, and I became the girl who just wanted to stay out of the way when it came to sports. But had I known I could run, then maybe I would have been brave enough to join the cross country team. (That’s one of my few high school regrets.)

Despite the lackluster entrance into the world of running, I have come to rely on this ability. Not only is running a good workout, but it’s therapeutic. My mind starts going stir crazy when I haven’t spent some time pavement-pounding. Running refreshes my soul, connecting me to my own breath and thus the Holy Breath – the Spirit of God. I don’t need music or the chatter of a podcast, the company of a friend or even a conscious prayer. The rhythm sweeps me into a space of refreshment that soothes my deepest angst all while straining my physical body to the limit.

And I finally cried about it on Monday. The devastation sunk is as I was trying to explain to your dad how taking time off for my ankle means I’m someone who’s not getting to do what they love, what they’re good it, and what’s become an integrated part of their schedule...for well over a month. It’s a loss of sorts.

Child, I tell you all this because I want you to know a few things about me. I want you to know that running is a beautiful part of my life, and I can’t wait to use that jogging stroller I found at a yard sale 4 years ago. I want you to know that running is a talent given to me by God, and I often struggle to use it with humility. I want you to know that I might need to leave you at home with your dad because I just really need to go for a run. I hope you’ll understand.

And in the meantime, I’m praying in earnest for complete healing of my ankle and restoration of my strength. I’m praying for God to be near in my time of withdrawal, endowing me with the grace to wait.

Resting and doing lots of Holy Yoga,

Mama

Standard
Fitness, Friends, Letters to My Kids

More Than Just a Degree

Dear, Sweet Child of Mine,

I don’t know what plans the Lord has for you.  I do believe that, like Hannah, there will come a time when I’m going to be required to give this living, breathing, part of my heart – YOU – back to God. I can hardly fathom that moment from where I stand. The yearning, the deep desire to have you in my life makes the sacrifice seem incomprehensible. But God will give the grace when that time comes.

You might go off to a foreign land, studying abroad or serving as a missionary. You may go to a local community college or a vocational school to pursue a dream. Perhaps you’ll venture a few states away and attend a university we’ve never even heard of, convinced it’s where you’re supposed to spend the next four years of your life. Maybe you hope to be a professional editor, a graphic designer, a pediatrician, or a music teacher. Or you might be totally and completely lost, feel like you have no real hopes and aspirations, but think you ought to go to college anyways. That’s kind of what I did.

When the time came for me to graduate from high school and test my wings, the only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to go to college. It just seemed like the right choice. Those first three semesters at Spring Arbor University I changed my major no fewer than three times…more if you count all of the “I wonder if I should major in [insert hypothetical four year plan here]?” To be completely honest, I’m still not sure I made the “right” decision (graduating with a Philosophy/Religion degree). I certainly don’t regret the choices I made; I just don’t think there is only ONE RIGHT PATH and if you miss that exit the rest of your life is RUINED. I believe God is bigger and better than our declared major in college (or any other decision we make…big or small.)

Today I was reflecting on my years of living on a college campus. I learned so much in the classroom, studying textbooks, taking notes, meeting with professors. But here are a few lessons I learned outside of decree pursuits. 

_2006:7:5

1) How to worship in music. I learned so much about the musicality behind instrumental worship as well as how to engage the whole body, soul, and spirit with Jesus through song. This prepared me wonderfully for the past five years of worship leading at our churches.

2) How to debate. Or, at the very least, how to disagree with someone’s opinions, share your own, and still like each other in the end. This one lesson has changed me completely. Disagreeing is a healthy process toward growth. Even if you passionately believe in your own perspective, debating can serve to strengthen your ideas and open your eyes to new (and potentially better) ways of believing. 

_2007:10:1
3) How to share life with others. Living in close proximity to 8-28 girls from a wide array of backgrounds, lifestyles, and convictions teaches you a LOT of patience, the ability to deal with the awkwardness of confrontations, and the perspective to appreciate new ways of doing things.

_2007:12:10
4) How to pursue a healthy lifestyle. Though I certainly was not the picture of health for those four years, it was during my college career that I learned how to incorporate running and exercise into my daily routine. I learned how how many hours of sleep I required to function fully and how to handle the teasing when I told friends, “It’s bedtime.” I learned how to refrain from eating that delicious dining commons soft serve ice cream for everysinglemeal. Looking back, I realize how much I miss having a parent to tell me what I could and could not eat and serve perfect proportions. The sky was the limit and I had to learn my limits.

_2006:10:2
5) How to fall in love and stay in love. I got a phenomenal husband out of my college experience. I call that a major win. (disclaimer: I am in no way saying you should get a spouse out of your years on campus. It just worked out beautifully for us. Marriage can be a result of campus living, but it is not a necessity.)

I am looking forward to watching you learn your own lessons, and anticipating my own struggle with letting you go, letting you make your own choices, even letting you fail. But know this, Child:  Jesus always holds you close, even when I can’t. Look to Him to teach you when I’m not there. He will be faithful to you just as He always has been to me.

Love,

Mama

Standard