After what was for me, a fairly brutal week, I am driving downtown to the Volunteers of America building where they house their “Fresh Start Recovery” center.  It is a relatively new and desperately needed program where the mothers of opioid addiction are allowed to keep their children through the grueling process of recovery.  It is a beautiful provision in an ugly situation.  It is by grace alone that I have been allowed to work with these women who are far braver than I will ever be.  It is a sweet breaking of my heart, and a bitter reality to face.

I’m wearing a shirt my husband, in his kindness, had made for me, per my specifications, featuring our logo and the word “FEARLESS” embroidered on the front.  I had wanted our ministry to project boldness in a broken world…at least that was my intent…but, as I drive, I am filled with what I can only describe as fear itself.

As usual, I left the house in a series of random scurrying movements, always underestimating the amount of time it takes me to do basic things. My dog-owner guilt is in the red as I leave Sherman without a walk, suffering from an ear infection and food allergy that is costing me more money than I have.

The week behind has been filled with boxes checked and schedules filled.  I completed a certification exam I had expertly procrastinated and had long been dreading.   We had our very first board meeting as a fledgling non-profit.  Up until this point, I had no idea what “bylaws” even were and, after sitting through a two and a half hour meeting Wednesday night, I am discouraged to think that I still don’t really know…I’m cold, I’m behind at work, I’m tired, discouraged with feelings of inadequacy, and despite my best efforts, crying.  Ah yes…just what everyone wants to see as they roll up alongside someone at a stop light…a messy haired, pasty complexioned, white girl… weeping…claiming to be FEARLESS…inspiring.

148 ministries began as a quietly held breath in my mind over 2 years ago as I sat one morning at 4 am in the middle of reading a book by Christine Caine called “Unashamed.”  I had found myself in a circumstance I never expected to be, in a place I didn’t want to be, and working a job I had told myself I would never again be working.

There I sat, divorced after 9 difficult years, in Michigan, on a horse farm.  In those small morning hours, I would read, or pray, or cry, or do all three at the same time in an unexplainable feat of emotional acrobatics. 

There, for the first time, I became aware of the trafficking exploitation of women and children with all of its global proportions, and its moral implications.  And like waking up to a sharp pain, I adjusted my cramped, narrow position.  I am not formally educated, I am not degreed, I am not even easily focused, and yet in that moment I knew I wanted to use the only thing I knew, as the Lord chose to lead, to serve in the healing of His daughters.  As I turns out, I understood only too well the scars of physical and emotional abuse, about the self-inflicted lies that bind all women in fear, and the healing, proving ground that physical stress and unconditional support could have.  I did not know how or when, but I did know God was speaking there, and admittedly with some fear I trusted that He knew the plan, and that it was to give me a future and a hope. (Jer 29:11)

Still a bit sulky, I haul what feels like 497 pounds of workout equipment onto my person and trudge through sloppy snow to the front door, I’m buzzed in by the always cheery attendant, and without a hesitation force an equally cheery face that must have been on retainer for such occasions as this. 

I rush to clear the all-purpose room of tables, I accidentally set off an alarm that could wake the dead, and follow that up by locking myself out. I am helpless as I wait to be rescued from the hallway…ln defiance, I crank up the grittiest Christian rap I can find on Pandora but get annoyed by it and land on a fairly clean station featuring Jenifer Lopez…whatever…I’m not proud.  

Around 10 minutes past the time I have been scheduled to start, girls uncommittedly filter in.  There are six.  Two are quiet and look like they hate me.  One is pregnant.  Two others are uncontrollably running around and disorienting the equipment I strategically laid out. One leaves because she has reconsidered her choice of pants…she may or may not return. None of them have reasonable shoes.

I don’t know how…every time I’m pretty sure I black out…but the next hour is a mess of introduction, warm-up, explanations, instruction, adaptation, exasperation, laughter, complaining, quitting, explaining again… and again.

They are unconditioned, unmotivated, and pretty unimpressed by my attempt to share my love of fitness.  

Heroine or Meth or some other drug I’ve never even heard of has rung their lives out.  Every day, every moment, for them is suffocated with the overwhelming call of a chemical relationship that can numb their pain and remove their shame.  Every moment they have to fight to love their kids more than they hate themselves.  Every moment they have to be fearless.  

We sit stretching in a circle on the floor.  Some tell their story while I fight for the ability to relate.  I cannot.  I am out of my league here too.  I ask if they want help with workout ideas they can do without equipment, if they have questions about nutrition or weight loss.  Some do.  I ask if they have anything they would like me to pray for or with them.  In doing so, I am asking them to give me the privilege of their trust I don’t yet deserve. Some do, and I pray with and for them.

They filter out. I pick up the 497 estimated pounds of crap I hauled in there…somehow its lighter…and leave the building without setting off an alarm this time. 

I sit in my car and exhale that quietly held breath.  

I am not without fear.  I am not without anxiety, sadness, anger, or complete disorientation.  Somehow I thought this would be easier, but I had no idea just how perfect.  No idea how an incomprehensibly good God could use my clumsy effort to show a few women on a Friday afternoon that hears them when they pray.  148 Ministries was a thought placed by God, a path provided for by God, with a human effort protected by God.  I know for sure just how insufficient I am, but I also know just how sufficient He is. 

Driving home, I know there is infinite work to be done, plans to move forward and expand and to step into a mess I don’t even understand.  Tears start to fill my eyes again, but this time with the overwhelming recognition that I just got schooled in His undeserved faithfulness.  God provided a way for the last thing and He will provide a way through the next thing.  I can step forward, not without fear, but in spite of it.  Not because I am good, but because He is.  Not because I am strong, or smart, or steady under pressure, but because He is steadfast, and patient, and He works all things according to his purpose and timing.  In that promise I can rest fearlessly.

I write it at the top of a new entry, 1/1/18.  This is the first time I have written it out and acknowledged the existence of a new year.  I am sitting comfortably in an over sized  chair,  wrapped in a ridiculously, large blanket, in a cozy room decorated with my particular style of “random things I like”.   I am married to a man who knows me fully and still loves me…even likes me, have a job that is a blessing to me, and a ministry in the hopeful stages of beginning before me.

I am overwhelmed.  I am weary.  I am speechless. I am unworthy. I am fearful, grateful, peaceful, purposeful and just plain in awe of what the turning of 365 days can do.  The last 3 years…arguably the last 10 years, perhaps even 20 if you’ll allow me to dig that deep have been a constant cycle of nomadic, restlessness, lonely, and without grounding or purpose.  Held captive by wandering, discontent with contentment, limited by my own arguments, and arguing for my own freedom.

I have landed, it seems by grace, for a moment, in a place where I feel loved, where I feel my home is.  I am where I feel that illusive lightness of knowing that I am cared for, protected, and safe.  I am shocked by the power in such simplicity and am led to consider that once we leave home for the first time under the pretense of autonomy, we are from that point forward working to re-create those feelings we once knew as unconditional love and unchallenged safety.  No matter what we end up doing in the world of adulthood, we are nevertheless only doing it so that (If we had a good childhood) we can reestablish the feelings of a safe family unit, and (if we had a bad childhood) we work to create what we think that may be.  In opposition and far more destructive, are those who passively attempt to forever remain children or passively slide into further dysfunction.  Neither is desirable but are nonetheless working from a frame of reference that they believe will bring comfort.

As I see it, we long for peace, community and everlasting acceptance.  The moment we realize that these are not the characteristics of this present world, we are forever straining consciously or unconsciously to create at least a pocket-sized version of protection.  

So, yes, after 20 years I feel at home, and yet, I am not.  If I see myself rightly, I see a nomad.  Walking the earth for a breath and then gone.  Our lives are short.  I am perhaps half way through my own if I allow natural decay to run its course and avoid stepping in front of a bus.  When I consider its brevity, I become sometimes painfully aware that if there is a point, I am missing most of it when I settle for what makes me comfortable and safe.

1 Chronicles 29:15 states “For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were.  Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding…”

I still sit here, comfortably in my chair, grateful for a moment of rest but mindful that I am transient.  This life I take hold of, and all of its pitfalls, glory, disappointments, and joy, cannot be taken lightly.  I tumble through it like so many bulls in so many china shops. I fail.  I fall.  I break things.  I learn.  I rest.  I move again.  All the time I recognize that fearing the journey is a waste of time, and falling hard is a result of running hard.

Be mindful of what you are searching and longing for, but know that you won’t find it here.  We are created for relationship with God, for work in His kingdom, and for resting in His presence.  Regardless of where your journey takes you, that is where you are home.

You don’t get a divorce because you’re emotionally healthy, flourishing, content, or strong.

You don’t leave your home because you feel safe and loved.

You don’t walk away from everything because you are whole and confident and rational.

You don’t hear logic when you feel shame. You don’t seek community when you crave isolation. You can’t take the advice given in truth when you don’t trust their love.

You don’t seek approval, or grasp for identity, or turn your life inside out…you just don’t.

But when you do all of those things and you are also a Christian you are left on the periphery of a moral question.  You are both shunned and pitied. You are a demonstration of grace and an example of destruction. You are a subject of what I like to call prayer request gossip and you are seen through a filter of fear and confusion. 

Christians know what to do with Unbelievers; they know how to treat the poor and the disenfranchised.  They are filled with love enough for the whole heathen world, and yet when it comes to their own, panic sets in.  What do you do with a girl who’s just a bad Christian?…what do you do with the bad girl?   How can she really be a Christian and fail to keep her list of sins within the “acceptable” range…like gluttony, or hatred?… How did she miss behavior modification at the moment of conversion?

I learned more about grace going through a divorce than I ever did sitting quietly through a sermon.  I learned about a God who walked with me moment by moment through loneliness, bitterness, fear, and self-loathing.  I learned that there were limits to my goodness, kindness, self-control, and long suffering and I learned that when I could do nothing but fail, He loved me still.  My faith stands in spite of my circumstances. The fact that I could do nothing other than what I did and that it cannot be undone only serves as a continual reminder of what Christ does for me daily. Only when I could no longer make anybody believe I was good, did I learn that we walk well only as we understand we are loved without deserving it.   We lose the ability to stand on our own self-righteousness but we find instead we are covered in His obedience.  Behavior modification alone is merely a parlor trick creating false comfort for distant judges and a paralyzing fear within the offender.  

Humans have a very finite threshold for experiences they do not understand.  I lost friends…mostly strong Christian friends.  Through no fault of their own, I simply became too much of an inconsistency.  These are strong girls… good girls…girls with a healthy fear of consequences and perhaps a stronger faith.  Our sins and failures often cast a shadow and sometimes that is in the love we lose.   I cannot and I would not change the path I chose or the place I now am.  I crawled through a pit to discover a God who is worth my faith no matter what my circumstance.  My repentance is in a life lived forward for His glory.  Because He first loved me and always loved me, I can operate from a position reflecting that love.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” – Ephesians 2:8-9.

When you are a Christian woman and you find yourself at the end of yourself, you make decisions with the knowledge you have and the will you have left, and you fall at the feet of a God who still calls you daughter.

I have an ugly past with men, and I react with venom to anyone who has the potential to hurt me.

I have a somewhat sordid relationship with my own self-worth.  I can be a man hater, a victim, a workaholic, and a people pleaser…and after a time of self-reliance in these areas, I wind up not only exhausted but seething with anger. 

I have used exercise in unhealthy ways to escape and I have used it in healthy ways to find strength, ability, and control where I thought there was none. There is no straight forward formula here.  Exercise and nutrition can help heal your broken parts but it is only a band aid to your brokenness.

I have used food and fitness both to punish myself and as an outlet for extreme hurt and frustration… and I am not alone in this.

I  know countless women who abuse their bodies in the name of gaining or keeping love or power. I know just as many women who abuse food as a means of controlling one variable in their seemingly out of control lives. I know women who starve, I know women who binge in secret, I know women who workout for hours to punish themselves for binging, I know women who refuse to workout with any real effort because they fear failure….and at different times; I have been all of these women.

 I can tell you from experience that our failures and hurts run deeper than the last cookie we ate or workout we skipped.  The symptom is revealed by the disease and I have experienced enough to know that an obsession with our bodies is often the result of a deeper sickness.

Some of you are in the middle of an affair and others of have been cheated on…

Some of you are still married or single but you are desperately lonely.

Some of you have perhaps lost control with your children using your force or your words, and some of you come from a background of abuse.

Some of you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, and some of you have been the victims of an addicted person.

Some of you are so consumed with maintaining the façade of perfection and comparing yourself to other women, that you haven’t experienced real peace since childhood.

The question is this, how will you move forward? 

Are you stagnating in guilt or are you stagnating in fear?  Either way there is only rot and waste.

My heart breaks for women who have been hurt, physically, or emotionally. My purpose in fitness is  to strengthen women where they have been damaged.  I am not however, interested in investing  in an attitude where we are forever victims  either at the hands of someone  whose love we are desperately trying keep, or by our own hands, as we claw desperately for love, attention, and control in a broken world.

So what has broken the stronghold of an eating disorder, compulsive working out, insecurity and fear in my life? 

It wasn’t standing in front of a mirror shouting affirmations… not that there is anything wrong with practicing a positive declaration of self… it’s just that I could never fully buy into It… I know the truth about myself and that while I am loved and created for purpose; I am also capable of self-destruction.

 It is not that I needed to think more of myself. In fact, I already thought of myself too much…In every phase of life,  in different ways I was obsessed with myself…with my  inadequacy…I was obsessed with changing myself physically for all the wrong reasons…my eyes were constantly on every flaw,  and those to whom I compared.

I had to stop allowing the pain in the past to drive my reactions.

I had to discover the beauty of my own purpose outside of anyone else’s opinions

I had to seek the one who created me to discover the value He placed on me.

We move forward when we stop wallowing and start looking forward. 

 My relationship with Jesus Christ grew out of the complete implosion of my marriage and personal life. Loneliness, exhaustion, and desperation allowed me to see for once that all my efforts were not only vanity but wasted in light of eternity.

It is not that I need to think more about what I am or am not.

It is that I need to think more of who He Is. 

Hebrews 12 tells us to “lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfector of our faith.”

It is to this passage I turn when my heart is weary or my head is swirling with rage. 

If you are frozen by failures, and in bondage to your past…stop looking at yourself and stop looking at others. and fix your eyes ahead.

Are you good looking? Is that the limit of your self-definition? …fix your eyes

Are you popular, admired, even envied? …are you working constantly to keep that idol fed?

Are you consumed by your flaws,  do you wake up daily hating your body?…fix your eyes forward.

Have you been hurt, beaten, insulted, and marginalized? … fix your eyes

Are you fearful, prideful, independent, or codependent?…fix your eyes

Do you want to break the cycle of strongholds in your life? Whatever they are, Stop looking behind you or around you, and fix your eyes on Jesus the author of your life and the creator of your purpose.

I’m sure not everyone reading this is a Christian and this may seem like pointless advice.  But it has been the only thing that has broken the cycle of obsession and eating disorder in my life and I would be a liar to pretend it were anything else.

When you dwell on being hurt you only condition yourself to be hurt and to hurt others.  When you obsess about your inadequacy, your inadequacy will be your only expertise.  When you continually work to build a veneer of perfection, reality will outlast the fantasy every time.

When you focus on Jesus, you are reliant on HIS perfection, who he created you to be, and what he created you for…

Working is replaced with resting,

Frustration is replaced with peace,

Hurt is replaced with healing.

You cannot force a false self-worth, you will always fail to measure up to the perfect standard in your head,  your value system has to  change. Physical beauty, male attention, failure, addiction, and every manner of thing that can weigh us down become dim in the periphery of your obsession when you realize you are fearfully and wonderfully made, loved with and everlasting love, forgiven without boundary or hesitation, and created for purpose.

We know its a time suck. We know it is a filter of flaws, a posed perfection, and a poor excuse for interaction. 

Still… social media is embedded in our culture like so many leeches in 19th century medicine.  Life-sucking and ugly but nevertheless, the acceptable methods of the day.  Every one is equally subject to the subtle parasite. 
Some of us are consumed by it, Some of us are forced into it, and some of us are big, fat hypocrites who make a big freaking deal about not being on it when the rest of us totally know you are…Some of us have been all three. 

As much as you or I may want it to, this Pandora’s box is never closing.  The world will never return to a place where your dinner isn’t something I have to know about, and you will never be free from experiencing my internal journey played out in real time… Filter-less, Awkward, and sometimes inappropriate…

Yet, the insidiousness of social media is in the brave new world of social etiquette.  It is in the nuance of offence and the fantasy of false community.  Its crazy, and its making us even crazier.

Many times, sometimes daily, I hear normal people, well adjusted, college educated people fuss over the invisible social snub of an “unliked” post.  
I, myself, often find myself casually scrolling and subtly thinking hateful, judgmental, hypocritical things… things like;

“…you’re an idiot…”
“No one cares about your workout… put a shirt on”
“No one cares about your cat…why is it wearing a shirt?!”

It turns me into a person I’m not entirely proud of and it turns you into someone I am also not entirely proud of.  So lets all just take a long sober look at the Frankenstein of human interaction we have created and perhaps consider that we have all in fact, gone insane.  

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GUILT
We may not have seen or spoken to them for 27 years but we’ve wished them a Happy Birthday for every one of them.  The guilt of neglecting this obligatory post is almost overwhelming and at times causes us to offer a belated birthday wish with apology…and then we ask how they’ve been when we clearly don’t care.  The only thing left to do is offer the sacrificial smiling face emoji and pray for next year.

THEY LIKE ME, THEY LIKE ME NOT
Go ahead, this is a safe space… admit that you know exactly how many “likes” that post got and from whom. 
Admit that you were offended when so and so didn’t “like” your vacation update but “liked” whats his names post about whatever…
Admit that you know who failed to  “like” something and then assumed a hidden agenda that has no basis in reality. 
Just admit that, and bask in the freedom of the self aware.

THE SILENT GUEST AT EVERY POST
We all know you are there…  Judging,  studying, condemning every Facebook  regular and yet, never getting into the mess yourself.  You never make your presence known, most people have forgotten they befriended you, and yet…you know and see all.  
Its just weird.  Stop it. 

I LOVE YOU, I JUST DON’T LIKE YOU 
You may be siblings. You may be childhood friends. You may have “liked” and interacted with everything they’ve ever done, but the moment they piss you off…nothing…not one encouraging “like.”
It is the social media equivalent of religious shunning.  Your interwoven friendships and connections are abuzz with activity, but to you, they are dead…even really funny stuff… you don’t respond…you withhold your “likes” and  “lol”s from them.
Stand your ground.  Make your point.  Above all, don’t attempt a real conversation.

THE MIGHTY “POST” OF JUSTICE
I see you attended a parade for human rights, or the humane society, or  sponsored a polar bear…whatever… you’re not better than me….

Honestly, I can go on and on.  From your emotional manifesto we don’t know how to respond to, the wedding anniversary ballad that rivals Beowulf,  to the lunatic asylum that is the comments section of any article or blog post…we are a culture adjusting to the new normal of faceless interactions.  

Its not pretty.  It leaves me to deeply consider who I am apart from the veil that it provides me.  It reveals the petty, the small, the dark, of my character and the abrupt limit of my “goodness”  I frequently have to force myself to pull back and measure  my motivations. I frequently become disgusted with its ability to bring out my worst while simultaneously exhibiting my prettiest and best. 

We hide our pain, our flaws, our struggles, and our ugly. We control our image in the very real hope of finding connection at the very deliberate sacrifice of intimacy.  We argue with phantoms and develop a genuine hatred of people we’ve never met.  Left unchecked, It empties us of empathy, fills us with bitterness, and exposes our crazy. 

So, maybe go check your Facebook…and then go have an actual human interaction.

Plenty of us are ready to champion a cause for victim hood.  We are armed with our pain.  We are poised to tell our story.  We are unlikely heroes waiting to sympathize with fellow sufferers and march down streets with paper signs.

I get it….I not only get it, I am driven by a desire to uplift downtrodden women.  I am driven because I no longer want to feel that pain anymore.  I have seen the devastation of emotional and physical abuse played out on my character and I am desperate to step in the gap between and scream directions to others who feel just as helpless…just as hopeless.

I meet with people daily who have been wronged, deeply and legitimately.  I have met so many hurt people, so many who are scared and limping.  I have seen the injustice of poverty, the heartbreak of rejection, the manipulation of the powerful, and the emotional scars of physical abuse.  If you give anyone time enough to talk they will tell you of someone who has hurt them by one means or another.

…and yet, I have never met a villain.

Wounded lay everywhere and yet no trace of the weapon can be found.

Where are the villains? Where are the vindictive, the vengeful, the hateful, and the heartless?
We can think of a million ways we have been wronged but when we turn to see carnage in our wake,  a  sanctimonious amnesia sets in. If we do own any of our sins publicly, it is only from the safety of a historical setting… With the persuasion of our redemption, with an eye on our goodness…with the memory of a victim.  I’m gonna be honest here, I am tired of hearing from saints who have been wronged; when I feel so fully the weight of being wrong and when I know the damage I’m capable of and the circumstantial sainthood of us all.

We never heal the superficial wounds because the deeper we carve, the more we discover that our villain was once a victim and you are now holding their knife.  The simplicity of hatred has to evolve into all kinds of empathy and grace and we are forced to own a measure of the damage.

We’ve all heard it said “hurt people, hurt people,” But its so much easier to proclaim the hurt than to admit the hurting.  I am the hero of my own story but when I look closely enough I am also the villain.  I can show you my scars and justify my stabbing. I can tell you a story that would bring you to pity my misfortune and explain away all of my actions.  In the next moment, if I am brave enough to stay in it, I can see the pain I caused, the people I failed, and the trust I broke.  It is a humbling moment, nauseating and intensly uncomfortable.

That is where I meet the villain.

That is were I am compelled to fall down; exhausted from the pretense and the battle to maintain my veneer of innocence. That is where is see that I am both the adulterous woman and the pharisee poised to cast a stone…  Guilty. Shamed. Defensive. Angry. Vengeful. Accusing.  Desperately needing grace, but caught between fighting for self righteousness and falling on my face to beg for mercy.
(John 8:10-11 – “Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you? “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”)

When we are brave enough face it, and tired enough of pretending, God gives us grace enough to know ourselves.  If we are honest enough, we will have grace enough for others because we know the villain we are capable of being and the mercy we are so desperately in need of.

When the victim acknowledges the villain we are compelled to forgive much as we have been forgiven of so much…
.(Luke 7:47-48 – “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”)

We are blessed to know a God who knows our heart and blesses us with unmerited favor.
We serve a God who has subjected Himself to our weakness and sin.
We love a God who by grace love us infinitely more.
Remember that when you are exhausted with the fight. Remember When you are failing, When you are discouraged, when you are ashamed, when you lack confidence or courage or conviction…
He sees your heart. He has felt the pain of rejection and even hatred to the point of death. He knows your weakness. Your thoughts and struggles and exhaustion are not unfamiliar to Him. 
I love the image of being able to come before God boldly regardless of the temperature of our heart … That he knows us intimately and only waits for us to approach and ask for help. It seems so beautifully simple…help in time of need… But there it is…
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” – Hebrews 4:15-16

“I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 

4:11-13

We all know the end of this verse, but we seldom see the introduction.  
I, myself like to pretend the prelude is a weak option.
“To be content in whatever circumstance I am in…humble means and hunger…”
We live in America, we don’t know what humble means and hunger even look like. 
We wake up, get into expensive cars, drive to fairly safe places to earn money so we can buy too much food and things to fill our big bellies and ridiculously large houses…And if we can’t do these things for whatever reason, we pray for the right to them…for the fulfillment of our entitlement to them…
If we are unhappy, unloved, or under appreciated we find distraction by any means necessary and pray for relief as soon as yesterday.  We stare at screens and say ” i can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. But we don’t accept that those things may never me comfortable or glorious. 
I am thinking about contentment today. I am considering what it looks like over the course of a lifetime.  I don’t think it means I have all the money I need, the clothes I want, or the love I feel l deserve.  I think it looks like emptying myself of my reliance on these things and finding that I am helpless before a God who wants more for and from me. 
Who wants me poured out in the field of service to others. 
So that it can be said, 
“I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith…” – 2 Timothy 4:6-7
Today is a good day to move forward.  Whatever has been holding you back, whatever you can’t seem to move past, whatever is that “thing” you have not given up.  
There will be direction and strength enough to move if I can simply trust. 
“Do not call to mind the former things,
Or ponder things of the past.
Behold, I will do something new,
Now it will spring forth;
Will you not be aware of it?
I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
Rivers in the desert.”

 

Isaiah 43:18-19
I’ve witnessed it more times than I can count.  I’ve seen countless new clients lose that buoyant youthful step as they move through week after week of programming.  Their heads droop just a little, their water bottles have become worn and ever so slightly musty, their once festive spandex are now sweat stained, and their social media friends have moved from supportive to annoyed.  It is the process of time and familiarity that makes victims of us all.  The weight that once “just fell off” is a bit more resilient, the bones and muscles are painful from overload and stress, and even the excitement of instagrammable health food has lost its appeal.
 
 As odd as it sounds, this is the moment I look forward to as a trainer.  This is where the honeymoon ends and the real relationship can begin.  Inevitably along the way a client will drag themselves in, flop down on the nearest chair and confess that they are tired, bored, defeated, angry…. They know they should,  but they just don’t have the time, energy, opportunity, ability, confidence to…. fill out a food journal, workout on their own,  go grocery shopping,  stretch, walk…you get the idea.  That’s when it comes out.  That’s when I hear any variation of phrase “I’ve just lost all my motivation!”  As if it was a pot of gold to be hoarded, or a thing to be held.    They look up at me waiting for a magical solution, a remedy, a meme that is going to reignite that once hopeful feeling that they once had.  With all the wisdom I can muster, I just say, “GOOD!”
 
Before you stop reading this entirely to go scroll Facebook for a better quote than “good”, allow me to address the topic of motivation.  Without exception, there is a phase in every new season of life that leaves us feeling refreshed.  It is the solution to a problem, it is movement in a positive direction, or it is a new, hopeful relationship.  As time goes by, emotions give way to reality. and in our weaker moments they can leave us questioning, even regretting, those once positive feelings.  When you begin to work out for the first time, those first few months are a bit of a joy ride through instant gratification.  Your body is changing rapidly. If you had no previous exercise experience, you are now doing things perhaps for the first time you never thought possible.  It feels like everything is right with the world and at long last your life is going to change.  Then, as it always does, life gets complicated.  Something happens with your job or your family, something changes… or perhaps nothing changes.  Perhaps it’s been weeks or months since you have seen any encouraging results from your workouts.  Your health may have become less of a priority, your body isn’t changing quite so fast, the adrenaline is spent, and the routine begins.  I am prepared when clients fall off the cliff of motivated feelings because I know that it is where the real growth begins.   As a trainer, this is where I get to meet people in reality and call them to seriously think about what it is they are hoping to get from working out.   Like a job you love, like a marriage, like anything good that becomes part of the everyday experience it is important that you are intentional about how you continue working on and evolving with that relationship.  So now that you know that, know this; this is only one of many, many cycles of funk you will experience.  Have hope, each one you work through will only reinforce your resolve to continue, grow, and press toward the real reason you started in the first place.
           
GET OUT OF TOUCH WITH YOUR FEELINGS AND DO THE JOB
I’m going to say this as gently as possible; your life is not a commercial for Gatorade.  You are not always going to “kill it”, you are not always going to feel strong, or crush goals, or sweat sparkles.  No matter how many times you play Thunderstruck in your car before you go to the gym, you may still want to drive around the parking lot 10 times before deciding to go in. Social media is a toxic salve to this wound and when comparison gets thrown into an already defeated environment, it is an almost certain guarantee of quitting.  Please understand, I am all about getting Jazzed up for a workout, but to expect that feeling to keep me going is a house of cards.  If you only went to your job or worked when you felt “motivated”, I’m going bet you’d only go once in a while… if ever. Nothing worthwhile would be accomplished and eventually you’d just quit going altogether because it was a fruitless waste of time.  Instead, you go to work whether you feel like it or not because it is in your best interests to do so. You have a plan, you have a schedule, and you set and meet goals because if you didn’t then what the heck are you accomplishing?!  There are seasons we are excited about when it comes to fitness and there are seasons where it is just our job.  Yet so many times we treat our health like a hobby.    We participate only when we feel motivated or have some “extra time”.   When it becomes inconvenient,  we get discouraged and look for a way out, an excuse, or a reason to quit.   Recognize that this is a job.  It demands discipline and routine regardless of your emotional state.  In the case that you have allowed your health to decline and your weight to incline, then it is a job that will demand priority.  You will need to set a plan, schedule and goal around it if you want to accomplish anything. 
 
GET IN TOUCH WITH REALITY AND HAVE A ROUTINE
 
Frequently, there is a disconnect between what we want and the time required to fulfill that want.  Take a good hard look at the structure of your current lifestyle and take stock of the situation as it really is.
How much time do you sleep?
How much time do you really need for work including commutes?
How much time will you need for your family?
How much time and how many days per week are you able to workout?
How much time do you spend making, shopping for or waiting for food?
There are non-negotiables and there are things you can do to create margin for working out and planning how you will eat.  Determine what is a non-negotiable. Determine where you can make changes and then execute the plan.  Recognize that your health is your JOB and it requires all the attention you would give any job.  You have to establish a routine that is not contingent on how you feel or disrupted by whatever distraction is calling your name.  Routine is your friend when your fair weather feelings abandon you.  Look at the reality of the demands on your time and consider the priority level your health needs to take. Plan ahead. Work the plan.
 
GET BACK UP, AGAIN, AND AGAIN, AND AGAIN…
Proverbs 24:16 says “a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again.”   After years in the health and fitness industry and even more as an athlete and workout enthusiast, I can tell you I have been through my share of funks.  I have failed, I have been wrong, I have been bored, I have both given and taken bad advice and l’m still here. Every season of stagnation is an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of what really motivates you.   Keep going. Keep trying. Keep pushing. The reason you began may not be the reason you continue, so constantly be in touch with your purpose for working out.  Most of the time, it comes down to the simple fact that life is better, and longer and fuller when you take care of the one body you have.   Fitness is a long term relationship. It doesn’t end until you do. That’s right… death is the only excuse I will accept for quitting.   If you think fitting into your old jeans or showing up hot to some reunion will mean lifelong happiness and the end of your fitness journey, for you there will be numerous disappointments ahead. You have to keep changing and growing your goals as your body and life changes.  Adapting to stress, injury, vacations, holidays, family and jobs is all normal and by no means a reason to feel discouraged.  You have to keep pressing forward. You have to take another step and then another.  Yes there have been days when I did doughnuts in the gym parking lot and then drove home and ate an entire bag of Doritos…those days happen.  The next day I’d get back up and go at it again. I’d try a new class, drag a friend along, re-structure my diet, whatever it took to keep me actively engaged in my own health.
 
Have you hit your first funk? Or maybe your fifth?  Good.  Now the real work begins, and with the work, the real reward begins.  It may not be in beach body you were fantasizing about, or the clothes you’d thought you’d squeeze into, or the attention you wanted, but it will be in the person you become, the strength you find, and the life you live.  Keep going.  It only gets better.