A Simple Sunday

I really wanted to write a blog post today. I ran a half marathon this morning, was feeling a little weary afterwards and thought it would be a great idea to sit quietly and put pen to paper while resting my tired legs. “Faith, fitness and fertility” are the main themes of my blog and sometimes I wonder if I need to have a complete break from these topics but after scribbling several notes and scrunching up sheets of paper in frustration, I realised I am most authentic when I draw from personal experience and therefore am going to stick to what I know!

“You can’t put a question mark where God has put a period.” This was a great line to read over the weekend, as lately I have been stewing on what I “should have, could have, would have” done differently over the last couple of months. I know better than to let the regret of yesterday destroy the dreams I have for tomorrow, yet sometimes I find myself dwelling on past disappointments.

Let go of the past and make the most of each day. That is my short and simple message to myself this afternoon. God always has another plan and if I stop feeling sorry for myself and trust Him, then I can enjoy where I am right now and be excited about the great things He has in store for me.

Whistle While You Wash

I read an interesting definition of meditation today, which prompted me to write this post. It described meditation as rolling something over and over in your mind and to mutter it under your breath. I challenge you to do that next time you are tempted to speak negative words over your life. When faced with a difficult situation, or when you feel you are drowning in your circumstances, don’t say, “I can’t take this anymore!” Instead meditate on a scripture such as, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and repeat it out loud and often. If you do this daily, your feelings will catch up to your words and you will begin to see your situation in a new light.

If you can only be happy when things go your way, then you are in trouble. You need to make the effort to renew your mind and think about what you are thinking about! Get your eyes off yourself and onto God. He does not always give us what we want, but He does ultimately give us what will work out for our good. Even if it doesn’t feel right now, it will work out in the end. Trust Him. If we don’t get our own way, many of us will immediately go into self-pity mode. We allow ourselves to be completely controlled by our circumstances: when things are going well, we are happy, when they are not, we are sad. I used to be like this years ago and remember pleading with God to help me change. I was tired of wasting my time being upset and living on a permanent emotional roller coaster ride. I wanted to be stable, and have peace and joy within, no matter what was happening around me. I don’t always get it right, but I am a lot better than I used to be and I am growing in this area all the time. We all have our bumps along the way and I still feel my bottom lip quiver and frustration or pity start to stir up inside me at times, but I have learnt to recognize it, and can now at least prevent a full blown meltdown before it gets to that stage!

As I typed that word ‘stage’ it reminded me of the fitness competition I did last weekend. I think physically I looked almost identical to the time before, but although my outer appearance hadn’t changed much, inside I was a different person. I was more relaxed and content, knowing I had made peace with the judge’s decision ahead of time. We need to do the same with every day life. Decide in advance that you are going to keep a positive outlook no matter what comes your way, and don’t approach unpleasant tasks with dread. For example, I had a huge pile of dishes to wash this morning and my first thought was, this is not the best way to start a Monday…but I quickly changed my attitude. (The best I could come up with, was that the water would be nice and hot, and that would warm my cold hands!) I also tried to hum a tune (I can’t whistle) while I did the deed. Washing the dishes is something I had to do anyway, so there was no point being miserable about it. That would only make it worse. The same can be said of any circumstance you are facing right now. You feel the way you feel, because you think the way you think. Renew your mind, meditate on something fresh, uplifting and positive and why not hum a merry tune while you’re at it!

Sunny Side Up

Last week I wrote about letting go of disappointments and allowing God to do a new thing instead. We talked about how we cannot ‘unscramble eggs’ and the need to rise up and move forward again. I had to apply this lesson shortly after writing that, as we celebrated Mother’s Day here, and it was a particularly tough one for me. I was tempted to dwell on the terrible disappointments I had endured and felt that yet another year had passed and nothing had changed. My arms were still empty, I might as well give up hope. But no matter how many setbacks we’ve suffered, God still has a great plan for our lives. We have to keep hope alive in our hearts and never give up on our dreams. The good news is that nothing is impossible for God and He can take those scrambled eggs (your mistakes, heartache, broken dreams) add his own ingredients and turn them into a delicious breakfast fit for a king! He doesn’t want you to have to scrape through life and barely get by. He wants you to have a life filled with joy, peace and fulfillment.

I was wondering what to write about today, and as I was peeling a boiled egg, and glancing outside at the brilliant sunshine, the title ‘Sunny Side Up’ popped into my head. It made me smile and the fun, happy thought of a fried egg, sunny side up, reminded me of that scrambled egg analogy from last week and I think God was using this connection to speak to me. He wants me to know, and the same applies to your situation, that we need to keep our confidence up and believe that although we may not see anything happening, God is at work on our behalf. We need to have faith and picture our circumstances turning around. I am making a commitment once again to having a positive outlook for my life and not allow disappointments to defeat me.

In the middle of this sunny moment with God in the kitchen, I was interrupted by a knock at my front door. As I went to answer it, I imagined opening the door and finding a woven basket on the mat, covered in a blanket and an envelope with my name written on the outside, stuck to the handle. (Do you know what I mean? Like you see in the cartoons or movies? Inside the basket would be a baby of course!) However, that thought bubble burst as soon as I opened the door, and there stood my elderly neighbour, holding an empty jam jar. He gave it to me, said he was out of milk and asked if I’d mind giving him some.

At least there was some common ground between my neighbour and the imaginery baby in the basket: milk! But seriously, the lesson I took away from this was that we have to have the correct vision and conceive our dream in our hearts through faith, even though it may seem impossible in the natural. We may not know how God is going to solve our problem but it isn’t our concern to figure it out either. His ways are above our ways and our job is to believe and trust Him. Stop focusing on what you cannot do, start focusing on what God can do and always look on the bright side of life!

Supersize Those Sprinkles Please!

This is a follow-up piece from my post “Avoid Comparisons” (09-03-2013) I was fighting this battle earlier today, which has prompted me to share some new thoughts on the matter to clear my head. I have been guilty of wishing I was more like a particular friend or relative or even a complete stranger (a mother with two kids in her supermarket trolley was a trigger for me this afternoon!) This is actually covered by one of the Ten Commandments: “You shall not covet…” (Exodus 20:17) It is a passage many of us are familiar with, yet perhaps do not give enough thought to and instead we end up constantly lusting over what others have, which is a guaranteed way to leave you feeling miserable.

Imagine standing in line waiting to pay for your bowl of frozen yoghurt. A lot of time and effort has gone into choosing the flavours and additional extras smothered on top. Perhaps you’ve been thinking about it for days! You are satisfied with your choice…it looks delicious…you’re salivating and maybe even have a little taste. You’re in a happy place right now. Content. But then you happen to glance over the shoulder of the person in front of you. Splat! Your dream is squashed and suddenly your bowl isn’t so appealing anymore…What just happened?!

What happened was simply this: You saw his selection of sprinkles and decided they looked better than yours. The colours appeared brighter, he had double the quantity and there were pieces in there you didn’t even know were on offer! Suddenly you aren’t so excited about what’s in your hand anymore. You feel cheated, disappointed and may even start resenting the poor person standing in front of you, simply because they have something you don’t. Okay, I’m having too much fun with this, let me stop there.

As the commandment says, “You shall not covet”, which means we are not to lust after what others have. This includes not only their possessions but also their looks, their personality and yes, maybe even their frozen yoghurt topping! As I mentioned earlier, seeing a mom with children is often a trigger for me. I start comparing myself to her and I am left feeling inferior, a failure. This is an area where I have to constantly check myself when it comes to coverting – motherhood. (The sub-heading of this blog is “faith-fitness-fertility” and I will make reference to my struggles with infertility from time to time, but do not want it to be central to my writings and will only bring it up as an example, if I feel it will be helpful or serve a purpose. I will see where God leads me.)

In closing, let me remind you that contentment is worth more than all the material possessions you can accumulate in life. Nothing you have or will have in the future is worth anything if you are not satisfied on the inside. Keep your internal dialogue positive and affirming and appreciate what’s right in front of you.

Say Cheese!

I often smile at people, including strangers, simply to be friendly. Earlier this week one such smile was received and returned in such a warm way, that it literally stopped me in my tracks. I met a man who humbled me with his sincerity and stories. We chatted about all sorts of things, including my passion for fitness and my past running achievements. I have run the Comrades marathon; he has done the equivalent in distance, walking 90km across his homeland Uganda, herding cattle overnight. He said I have big arms for a little lady! I laughed proudly, while lifting my hands to cover my blushing cheeks. As we parted, he thanked me and said I was a shining light. He was to me too.

There is a lot that can be unpacked in that exchange, but how it began and how it ended are my focus for today. A smile. I knew God was speaking to me, when later that same day I received this unexpected message: “…knowing what you are going through made me realise that people who appear to be happy, are sometimes struggling with all sorts of issues…” I wasn’t even aware that thanks to my cheery disposition, I was being a witness to my friend in this way. God is concerned about our countenance. It is even mentioned fifty-three times in the Bible. I may be going through trials but my joy comes from God and my facial expression was able to reflect that. This is an example of smiling by faith (I do it often!)

Smiling sends a message to your whole body and it releases chemicals that make you feel better. In general, a smile will help you get along with others more easily and earn you more favour than someone who is unfriendly and looks sad all the time. It has been said that if you’re not using your smile, you’re doing yourself a disservice. I completely agree! I think we’d enjoy our lives much more if we developed a habit of smiling. It is so easy to allow the burdens of life to weigh us down and settle into enduring each day instead of enjoying it. My advice for you this week is to make a decision to smile by faith. This means that even if you have many problems you’re facing and don’t ‘feel’ like smiling, do so anyway.

We all have tough times to deal with and heavy burdens to carry but we mustn’t allow them to steal our joy. Don’t allow negative people to do the same either. You can’t always change people but you can put a smile on your face, keep a positive attitude and hopefully be an example to them. There is no use in waiting until your circumstances are perfect. When your current challenge is over, there will be another one coming soon enough. That’s just how it is. So best you decide to enjoy your life (and smile) regardless of the situation, or you’ll miss the joy of living! Remember a smile is not only good for you but it is a positive witness to others too.

Avoid Comparisons

The main theme of this blog is “Choosing Joy” and the joy that I am speaking of today is found in doing the best we can, with what we have and not comparing ourselves to others.

We are constantly fed the lie that we need to be something other than what we are and that a certain product or prescription or lifestyle can help us achieve greater recognition and happiness. However, if we strive for this illusion, we are guaranteed to end up miserable. Confidence begins with self-acceptance. Personally I think the only true way that this is possible is through a strong faith in God’s love for you and His plan for your future. That is something you need to pause and think about for a while. God loves you. Once you accept God’s love for you, you will realise that being loved and loving, make life worth living.

God does not require you to earn His love and He does not look for people who are worthy of His love either. His love is unconditional and He looks for people who need His love – that’s you and me. I think this topic deserves a few future blog posts of its own, but I wanted to introduce it now, as it came up at my posing practise yesterday (I am pleased to report that walking in heels is getting a little easier!) One of the ladies in the group saw me vibrating from fear before doing my solo routine, and said “God loves you, be confident in that”.

It was just what I needed to hear and to be reminded that I have what it takes because I am a child of God and He is pleased with me and I can do all things with His help. So can you! If you are always comparing yourself to someone, you are in fact rejecting the very person God created you to be. Entering the fitness industry this year is a real test, as it is easy to feel critical towards myself, especially when you are literally lined up alongside others and it is automatic to start comparing and wishing you were more like the woman next to you. These negative thoughts and defeated attitude can become rooted and sadden our spirit, while also preventing us from achieving higher and becoming all God intends for us to be.

This doesn’t mean you cannot make progress and improve. I do look to others for inspiration but we can’t let them be the regulation or rule that we follow. God won’t help you be someone else. Recently, while at gym, I caught myself thinking, I’m never going to have long, shapely legs like ‘Mary’ next to me and immediately this train of thought started to bring me down. Wishing won’t get me anywhere. It won’t help my calves and quads develop! Instead, I can work hard to build the best legs that my unique body and structure can possibly achieve. While comparing ourselves to others isn’t beneficial, negative self-talk isn’t either. I lay awake in bed at 4am this morning (our alarm went at 3:30am for my husband to get up and run a race and I couldn’t fall back to sleep) because I was rehearsing all my mistakes from the day before and stewing over how I battled to present myself in a confident manner at posing practise. I had to quickly shake off those negative thoughts and replace them with positive affirmations about my improvements from the previous week and instantly a new level of boldness rose up within me. A friend had complimented me during class but I struggled to receive the praise. You believe what you say about yourself more than you belief what someone else says. Unless you change what you believe on the inside, nothing is going to change on the outside.

Reprogramme your mind and pay attention how you talk to yourself. Always remember, God loves you. Be content with who you are and don’t compare yourself to others. Celebrate your uniqueness! And finally, appreciate others for who they are, while being confident and enjoying the wonderful person that you are too.