For the past year or so (probably longer), the Husband and I have been struggling with our health. As much as I even hate admitting it out loud – or on paper – we needed help, and we knew it.

When we look back, it’s easy to see where things went south. We’ve both been pretty healthy people – when Kevin was living in California he worked out all the time. Health and fitness were a priority to him – both for his personal life and in his profession.

For me – I started working out fairly regularly when I first moved overseas. I’ve had ups and downs, but I always maintained a somewhat regular fitness routine. And I prided myself on how I ate. I’ve been on a mostly Paleo diet for a couple of years, I completed several Whole30s…it was a part of who I was. Even before I decided to go Paleo, I’ve always been the one in my family who chose vegetables over dessert.

However, a few months after we got married we hit a series of trials in our personal life that led to a lot of stress. When added to the extreme Virginia winters, all we wanted to do – all we did – was stay home and feel sorry for ourselves, or go out to eat and feel sorry for ourselves. We thought we were helping each other out by offering comfort food when the other was having a bad day, when before we would have suggested something active like a run, or a hike, or a walk around the neighborhood.

Little by little we started to feel worse. Our clothes weren’t fitting…we were unhappy all the time…and we knew something needed to change, sooner rather than later.

My husband was the first to take action. A few months ago, he approached me with a meal plan he got from a nutritionist friend of his. When I first it, I cringed and immediately started to think of a hundred reasons why it wouldn’t work or why I wasn’t going to do it. It was pretty restrictive, with very low carbs and almost no sugar at all. It also limited portion size which is something we both desperately needed. At first I wanted to say no. I told myself that all I needed to do was another Whole30 and I was confident I’d get back on track. But my husband needed this, and in support of him (and because I needed it too, whether or not I wanted to admit it or not), I agreed.

He also approached me with something I’ve been adamantly against for years.

I’ve done some crossfit type workouts in the past, although admittedly never any of the Olympic weightlifting stuff. Most of what I did was body weight exercises like squats and burpees and sprints, not that there is anything wrong with any of those exercises. It was the crossfit stereotype that I had no interest in – trying to push tractor tires around, working so hard you throw up (no, thank you!), pushing other people so hard they throw up, snubbing your nose at any other type of workout…it wasn’t a crowd I wanted to be a part of.

But then Kevin found a crossfit gym in our area that he was really interested in. The biggest sell was their mission statement, which includes a line on Faith: seeking to put other’s needs above ours as we live out our Christian values. He loved the fact that faith was so important to the coaches/owners that they wanted to be known for it and I agreed wholeheartedly, although I still didn’t want to go to a class. However, they also offer a free Saturday morning class for people who just want to come and try it out.

As previously mentioned, I was not one of those people.

Unfortunately (or fortunately?) for me my husband was one of those people and so he signed us up. And when he approached me about it on the Friday night before, I agreed to go. When I woke up on Saturday morning I was singing a different tune.

Admittedly, I was cranky. And rude. And I’m surprised that he didn’t just throw his arms up in defeat (or disgust) and leave me at home, which is what I deserved. Instead he put up with my bad attitude, handed me a travel mug of coffee, and packed me into the car.

I was nervous when we pulled up in front of the gym – a nondescript office in a nondescript office park. I didn’t know what to expect and in my head all I could think about was the stereotype.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The Saturday morning classes are tailored to people who have never done crossfit but want to see what it’s all about. They don’t use any barbells or do any Olympic weightlifting – in fact, members must complete a mandatory two week “Basics Class” to learn all the proper techniques and moves prior to participating in any of the regular weekly classes. On Saturdays they do a group warm-up; then they review all the moves of that day’s workout, and then we go!

I was relieved when I saw the WOD (workout of the day) written on the whiteboard:

5 rounds of 1 minute each:

– Row or run (200 meters outside if running)

– Dumbbell push press

– Double unders

– Burpees

– Box jumps

All moves that I knew how to do – hooray! Not only was the workout a lot of fun but I pushed myself, felt great, AND met a lot of new and friendly people. By the time we left Saturday’s class, I was hooked.

We signed up for the two week Basics course that same day, and I quickly learned that this gym is not at all like the stereotype. For one thing (and probably the most important thing), the coaches are incredibly focused on good form and technique. Instead of pushing someone past their limits or forcing them to do more weight, they make gentle (or sometimes not so gentle, depending on the situation) corrections to form, and they always want to know if there’s something going on that might require you to take it easy during that day’s class. Don’t get me wrong, there have been more times than I can count where a coach (correctly) suggested I should add more weight, and I never once regretted it. That said, if I try something that’s too heavy and my form suffers, they are more than quick to tell me to decrease the weight. The other thing I like about our gym ties into their faith-based mission statement. Although our gym doesn’t have crossfit classes for children, it’s very family oriented and it’s not unusual to see a pack and play set up off to the side holding a bouncing toddler cheering us on. Also – this may be insignificant to some but to me it’s important – it’s a very positive, upbeat community. There’s no (okay, there’s limited) swearing, and instead of screaming at others to push harder or to add weight, everyone cheers each other on during the workouts, particularly if someone is having a rough time on it and needs some encouragement to finish their sets or reps. It creates a welcoming, friendly environment and Kevin and I have come to view the coaches and other members as family.

Needless to say, I am so glad Kevin dragged me to class that Saturday! It’s a decision I don’t think either of us will ever regret.


On Blogging, Part One.

I had somewhat of an “a-ha” moment recently, where I realized that I am never going to make it big as a blogger. That may seem pretty obvious to those of you who read my blog more than once, considering weeks will pass between posts and my recipes have gotten more and more sporadic, but I never really sat down to think this whole “being a blogger” thing through until just recently.

I didn’t start this blog with the intention of becoming instantly famous so that I could quit my 9-5 office job and start working at home…although I’m pretty sure everyone who starts a blog secretly hopes, at least at one point, that will happen to them. Staying in my sweatpants all day and calling it work? Yes, please! No, I started this blog because I love to write, and blogging is an easy – and immediate – way to broadcast your writing to the world. I’ve dabbled in short stories, I’ve taken a couple online classes, I’ve even started (but never finished) several novels; but anyone who has ever aspired to be a writer or an author has I’m sure heard the same line – that unless you have a platform nowadays, publishers won’t even look at you. My first thought was, “what the heck is a platform?” So I did a little research and figured it out, and then I started a blog.

I’ll be honest. I get frustrated (and I’ll be the first to admit it – I get jealous) when I see yet another blogger announce that they are writing – or publishing – a book. What makes it especially frustrating is when the writing – and I somewhat apologize for this next statement – isn’t that great. Don’t get me wrong, there are great blogs out there; blogs that are funny and witty and even somewhat addicting to read – but I’m somewhat of a grammar nazi, so when I see yet another blogger publishing a book it makes me wonder, “would this person get published if they didn’t have a blog? if they weren’t a well known internet persona?” Most likely that answer would be no.

But the thing about blogging – and writing – is that it takes discipline. A lot of discipline. And I’ve written before about how I have a serious lack of discipline in my life. But those bloggers I mentioned who get their books published? They do have discipline. They put in the work and the hours required to become the popular figure they are, and it pays off for them. I simply don’t put in the time. I think about writing all the time, but very rarely do I ever act on any of my thoughts. I used to write on a daily basis – I would wake up around 0500 and write for a good 30-45 minutes before I had to get ready for work; in the evenings I would work on recipes and write blog posts; but then my work scheduled changed; I moved to a different building with a longer commute; I got married; we’ve been dealing with some stressful circumstances; and slowly my writing and blogging started to peter out. I’m just making excuses, I know. If I wanted it that badly, I’d find the discipline and sit down and do it. The heart of the issue really comes down to one question:

How bad do I want it?

I watched an interview with Olympic speed skater J.R. Celski where he discusses a time in his life where he was ready to quit skating for good. During a short hiatus he decided to make a documentary about the rapper Macklemore, who made a statement that hit me pretty hard and stuck with  me, enough that here I am writing about it four months later. He said, “to be great at something you have to have done it for more than 10,000 hours.” (Which inspired Macklemore’s song, appropriately named 10,000 hours). He went on to say how you need to sacrifice everything, train every single day, you need to give up everything in order to be the best at your craft. So let’s say you train for 8 hours every single day, seven days a week – that’s 1,250 days. Break that down even further, that’s 3.4 years. If you tweak that a bit and take weekends off, working 8 hours a day, 5 days a week – that’s 4.8 years. That’s a lot. That’s more than I can fathom, really. And Celski? Celski turned around and jumped right back into speed skating. He wanted it. But as motivating as I found that interview, I haven’t found the discipline to sacrifice anything, let along everything, to get back into writing. And why not? Why is it so hard for me to set aside one hour a day to write? I have the time, but most days I end up wasting it on the internet (reading the blogs of people who do make time to do what they love) or loafing around on the couch or reading a book (although I love to read even more than I love to write, so I don’t count that as a waste). There is no excuse for why I don’t use some of that time to do more of what I love – writing.

I need to focus less on being a “food blogger” and focus more on just being an “online writer”. I’ve written about direction before; it’s something I struggle with a lot. I love cooking and creating recipes, but it’s not my main focus. (Plus, it’s expensive! We’re on quite the budget right now, so we’ve been eating a lot of the same, inexpensive meals over and over again.) I love writing, but even that isn’t my focus most of the time. What I want is to be intentional. To write about things that mean something to me; things that I believe in, things that I care about. To write for God, and not for an imaginary online audience. I don’t want to blog, I want to write. So that’s what I think I’m going to do. I’m going to write when God puts something on my heart, and see where it goes. And if it goes nowhere? That’s OK, I’m still going to write.

Writing is what I love.

The Armor of God

Based on the quantity of my blog posts lately, to say nothing of the long stretches of time between posts, it should come as no surprise to hear that I’ve been struggling lately. Let me tell you, Satan is a jerk. I don’t know why I’m always so surprised when I realize just how deeply he’s got his claws sunk into me, but I am. So it was quite a shock this morning when I read in our devotional the following:

That’s exactly how Satan works. He begins by bombarding our minds with cleverly devised patterns of irritation, dissatisfaction, doubts, fears, and reasonings. He moves slowly and cautiously (after all, well-laid plans take time). Satan is never in a hurry. All he needs is an opportunity to inject unholy, self-centered thoughts into our heads. If we don’t kick them out, they stay. And he can continue his evil, destructive plan.”

(from Battlefield of the Mind, by Joyce Meyer)

Wowza. Satan certainly has been injecting unholy, self-centered thoughts into my head and I have been doing an absolutely horrible job (read: I’ve done nothing) of kicking them out. I’ve been stomping around all cranky and irritable, feeling sorry for myself and taking my feelings out on my husband, who most certainly doesn’t deserve any of it. Oh, how I love him even more for putting up with me!

The verse that went along with the devotional this morning is a powerful one. “Our fight is not against people on earth but against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness, against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly world.” Ephesians 6:12 ESV I’ve certainly been fighting against people of this earth, and this really knocked me back into the reality of what’s really going on. The person my anger is focused on isn’t responsible for what’s happening to me – Satan is. Satan is just using my circumstances for his benefit, and I’ve been playing right into his slimy, evil trap. Which leads me to the continuing verses in Ephesians 6:

 armor of god (source)

“So stand strong, with the belt of truth tied around your waist and the protection of right living on your chest. On your feet wear the Good News of peace to help you stand strong. And also use the shield of faith with which you can stop all the burning arrows of the Evil One. Accept God’s salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times with all kinds of prayers, asking for everything you need. To do this you must always be ready and never give up. Always pray for all God’s people.”

What gets me most about those verses is actually the last six words. “Always pray for ALL God’s people.” It hit me as I sit here typing this that not only should I be praying for God’s strength in dealing with my circumstances, but I also need to be praying for the other people involved in my circumstances, the ones I want to focus my outward anger on. They may not yet be believers in my God, but they are God’s people, and they need my prayers just as badly as I do. It’s a hard pill to swallow, don’t get me wrong, but it’s what we’re called to do. Take that, Satan!

And speaking of circumstances, I’ll leave you with another great tidbit from my devotional this morning. This comes from Streams in the Desert and I cannot recommend this devotional enough. Today’s message ended with this:

Faith does not say, “I see this is good for me; therefore God must have sent it. Instead faith declares, “God sent it; therefore it must be good for me.””

I may not see the good in my current circumstances; in fact most days I want to crawl under the covers and never come out; or yell and kick and scream and shake my fist at Heaven. But God has put me here in the middle of these circumstances – he brought me to this perfect place in His perfect time; therefore, it must be good for me.

Can I get an Amen?