Arnold Classic Africa 2017

This weekend, South Africa presented the 2nd Arnold Classic Africa – the biggest multi-sport event on the African Continent. This signature event is completely moulded by design and delivered in conjunction with the Arnold Classic International Partnership Events in USA, Brasil, Australia, Asia and Europe. Athletes, spectators and fans were able to enjoy a complete multi-sport program involving more than 50 sporting disciplines, exhibitions and championships, as well as a fitness and lifestyle expo.

I received my invitation to Arnolds at the South African Championships in September last year and it has been a whirlwind 8 months since. It has been amazing to meet new people and make friends from all over the world. This was definitely a highlight for me and my heart is full from all the messages over the weekend.

I came into the show happy with the work I had put in, while still training for the Comrades Marathon. After two days of competing in the Bikini Fitness Divisions, I participated in the Family Fun Run on Sunday, with Arnold Schwarzenegger counting us down to the start. This was another highlight for me and being the first lady to cross the finish line was an unexpected blessing too!

Many of us didn’t place but we can still keep our heads held high as we stood next to top class international athletes and did our country proud. The dedication and discipline that this sport demands is something few people can do and they look up to us for this very reason.

18402998_10154463573500598_335873972401804974_n

This comes with a responsibility, which is why I think it is important to say again that we often look at photos (and stage pictures are a good example) and incorrectly think that these athletes must all have perfect lives and no worries. There are misconceptions that we live in a fantasy world, when it couldn’t be further from the truth. Behind the tan and fake lashes is an ordinary person and yes, I am passionate about competing and running, but that is only a part of me. Not all of me.

I am flawed and have insecurities and my smile hides things few people will ever understand. Let’s not make comparisons and rob ourselves of joy. Don’t be ashamed of your story or past and rather celebrate with each other when we do well and allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Be slow to judge and give each other grace and space and compassion.

“In a world where everyone wears a mask, it’s a privilege to see a soul.”

A Spoonful Of Peanut Butter

Our attitude plays a big part in determining the kind of life we are going to have. Today I choose to keep my thoughts and words positive (it’s a daily decision!) but this wasn’t always the case. God has really helped me in this area and I have had to work hard, as it didn’t come naturally to me.

I know now that I need to focus on God and this gives me perspective of my situation, but it doesn’t mean I ignore what is happening or deny that I have tough times ahead of me. I am always honest with myself and others about being real about my struggles and having days when I want to give up, but maintaining a positive attitude is vital if we are to enjoy our lives. Often it is not our circumstances that make us miserable, it is our attitude toward them.

Some days it is simple and you just have to put a peanut butter smiley face on your crumpet to cheer yourself up (peanut butter has tremendous power to brighten even my darkest days!) Other times you have to remind yourself that God is greater than your circumstances and instead of wasting your time being upset and worried about the future, trust Him and go out and enjoy your life.

If you let Him, He will use your problems and let them be a testimony to others.

20160429_072656

Sticks And Stones

facebook_1477416101768

The 16 Days of Activism for No Violence Against Women and Children is an international awareness-raising campaign that takes place every year from 25 November to 10 December. South Africa adopted the campaign in 1998. There has been a lot of media coverage recently around this topic, to draw attention to the many ways violence against women and children affects the lives of people in various communities.

The stories I have been listening to are all different but the effects are similar. Many of the women interviewed described feeling unworthy and unsafe and sadly many believe they deserved to be treated in this way. As well as physical abuse there is verbal abuse and emotional trauma and these words have left them insecure, with a twisted view of themselves. They fear they are not good enough and deep down something is wrong with them.

If you had to bump into one of these brave women in the street, you may never guess anything is wrong. Many of them admitted they live with this secret and appear to have ‘normal’ lives. We are all good at playing that game. Outwardly, many people seem to have it all together but on the inside they are wrecks. If you look deep into the eyes of most people you come into contact with you will find pain. Unfortunately, this cannot be avoided in our broken world, where we often determine our self-worth by how others treat us.

‘No pain, no gain!’ is a phrase I hear thrown around the gym but I think it is more appropriate if applied to this situation. We cannot be afraid of pain. I now realize it is better to go through it, than fight it. We are conditioned to hide our hurts and cry in the shower (or maybe that’s just me!), which is a terrible way to live. It is easier to put up defensive strategies and shut down, rather than face the pain, but the more you dread and resist it, the greater the effect it has.

We need to go through it in order to begin healing.

Hang onto the belief that God can and will heal you and set you free from these wounds, allowing you to be who you were meant to be. Your brokenness can be used to heal other people’s brokenness and give hope and faith to others that God can do the same for them:

“My brokenness is a better bridge for people than my pretend wholeness ever was!” (Sheila Walsh)

Healing is painful but when you are hurting anyway, you might as well endure the pain and reap a positive result, rather than be stuck for the rest of your life in misery. It is a journey, I am still on it and I’m sure you are too. The lesson I have learned is to live your life while you are healing. Move forward, never stop progressing, share your story to encourage others and be patient with yourself.

Sleeping Scabs, Part 2

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19 In the last post we talked about forgiving ourselves, forgiving others and letting go. Instead of dwelling on the past and using this as an excuse to remain stuck in a pit, we need to stand up on the inside and decide to move forward with our lives. Change won’t just happen, so it is up to us to make a choice every day to control our thoughts and do things differently. At times I feel my scabs and scars are insomniacs and refuse to remain quiet. They itch and fight for my attention, tempting me to pick at them and climb back into the pity-pit. This is when I need to get myself off my mind and find somebody else to help. It has been said that time doesn’t heal wounds it’s what you do with that time that does. Reaching out to others and sharing your story is a great way to use your time and personal experience for good. By owning your struggle and loving yourself through the journey, it encourages others to do the same. Laughter is key and this is something my husband has taught me, as he loves to joke around, even in the most serious of situations. In the beginning I used to battle with this approach but now I do my best to embrace it and it is often my favourite method of coping too. I can be in the middle of an ugly, heart-wrenching cry and one line from Bruce can turn that around (or occasionally cause the dam wall to break even further but mostly the sobs break into smiles!) I have given myself permission to not put my happiness on hold, to try new things and choose joy, without feeling ashamed that I am no longer grieving over past hurts. I don’t always get it right but I am better than I used to be. Sometimes the more you resist pain, the stronger it becomes, so let it do its work and move on, stronger than before. “There is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it.” C.S Lewis “After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. “ 1 Peter 5:10

Sleeping Scabs

I received a card from a friend recently and in it she wrote this quote: “You will find it necessary to let things go, simply for the reason that they are heavy.” I have been weighed down lately with worries and burdens that I have no business holding onto. They are issues outside of my control, yet I waste time letting myself wallow in the sadness of my past and use this pain as an excuse to make poor choices today. This has been frustrating because I know better, yet find myself going around the same mountain over and over again.

The truth is often we are depressed or bitter because we are allowing ourselves to remain that way. We all have had bad things happen to us and it is easy to blame the past and make excuses to explain our behaviour in the present. You may have valid reasons for feeling the way you do but you cannot use the experience as an excuse to dwell in self-pity and be miserable. If you are not careful, you will get stuck and let it become the focus of your life.

In the same way that a wound will never heal unless you leave it alone, we need to let go of past hurts and pains and trust God. In the last post, I mentioned that faith is not denying that you have problems but rather facing the facts without being disheartened by them. Keep that in mind. Stop dwelling on what might have been. Forgive others, forgive yourself and let go. Instead of picking at your scabs and tearing open old wounds, take what God has given you and make the most of it.

“Don’t ever be ashamed of a scar. It just means you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you.” (unknown)

Comrades Ate My Cheeks

IMG-20150529-WA0008 - Copy

I didn’t plan on writing a blog today. This is a spontaneous entry to clear my scrambled thoughts, which means you are in for a bumpy read with no clear direction or destination! Exit anytime.

Last weekend I ran the Comrades marathon. It was an honour to be a part of it. The training this year has been tough (both physically and emotionally) and a few days before the race, I was still not convinced that lining up on that start line was the right thing to do. However, I was blessed with a strong run, an improved time and incredible memories. I even achieved my goal to ‘finish with a smile’ and was told I looked relaxed and happy throughout the day.

After all the exercising leading up to this point, it felt strange to relax for a week, re-feed the body and brain and reflect on the hills we recently climbed. Repetitive long distance training takes a toll on me physically and naturally as Comrades drew nearer, my face started to look rather hollow. However, I am pleased to report that my peanut butter and couch potato script has had a positive influence on my cheeks, which started to fill out again almost immediately. I am highlighting my cheeks here, and being a bit silly, because my cheeks (or lack thereof) became a hot topic of conversation last month, which I suppose is human nature, but it was hard to swallow and eventually gave me indigestion!

If you are constantly worried about what other people think, you will be distracted from your destiny. I had other medical factors that came into play last month, which had nothing to do with Comrades training, but also negatively impacted my appearance. Those details are nobody’s business, yet we are creatures who love to speculate and I understand why people did. Luckily, my hollow cheeks were a temporary side effect, and we also have short attention spans, meaning #debbieneedsafacebra soon moved further and further down newsfeed. Despite my outward appearance, I was stronger than ever been before and could run 87kms sensibly and comfortably. Case closed.

One’s physical appearance is a personal subject and being called names triggered memories of rejection, which is never fun. Everyone has hurts from their past. Although my heart is healed, there is still a human part of me that feels incredibly sad when I think back on certain events in my life. Sometimes I can brush them off but other times it makes me angry, defensive, even hungry (this is where pity parties are tempting, and they usually come with an abundance of tasty treats too!)

I am taking a risk, being vulnerable as always, no tongue in cheek here, and hope in doing so it encourages you to do some reflecting too. Is there something in your past that causes emotional emptiness, even today? Does this trigger you to numb your longing for healing with a temporary physical pleasure? Often issues are big and complicated (I know mine are) and you overcome one layer, only to realize there are many layers still to go. Like peeling an onion, it leaves you in tears every time. There is no easy solution, but I find it helps to think of something good that has happened despite the pain from the event. (I used everyone’s doubts and rude remarks as fuel on my run and I never ran out of energy!)

With chipmunk cheeks or chiselled cheekbones, I can smile either way, despite what the crowd has to say. I have learnt to pay more attention to what God says about me, than what the grapevine does and I challenge you to do the same.

More Peanut Butter, Less Peanuts

peanut-butter-quotes-7

I love peanut butter and can easily eat an entire jar in one sitting (but generally stick to a few teaspoons a day!) A large helping of ‘peanut gallery’ gossip on the other hand, leaves a bitter taste in my mouth and I do my best to avoid such indulgence. I am responsible for controlling my appetite and these temptations but I can’t control the actions of others. This is hard to swallow at times, especially when the peanuts are being thrown my way.

I have felt embarrassed because of what people have been thinking and saying recently and my confidence level has been tested. I have learnt from experience that not everybody is going to approve of me and God will give me the grace to keep going, even when it is emotionally hard. It is far easier to add fuel to the fire, instead of taking the high road and being kind and courteous. Forgiveness is something we have to do on purpose, sometimes daily, even if we don’t feel like it.

I may not want to share my last teaspoon of peanut butter with the gallery just yet, but I am working on it and keeping an open heart, as communication often clears up confusion. I don’t always get it right, and I desperately want to defend myself against my critics but I trust God to take care of things. Everywhere we go people are hurting and discouraged, even those sitting in the peanut gallery. They often have their own unresolved issues that have nothing to do with us. It is hard not to let bitterness take root when we are wronged but we need to persevere, spread God’s love and compassion (thick and generously, like we would peanut butter on toast!) and help heal those wounded hearts.