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

Comrades Ate My Cheeks

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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.

Conquering Criticism (part three)

Sometimes we are in danger of spending more time worrying about what other people think, than we do thinking about our own dreams and goals. This weekend I took part in the African Naturals Bodybuilding competition and placed second. It didn’t take long for some hurtful comments to come my way and for my achievement to be labelled as insignificant, owing to the relatively small number of athletes that participated and so forth. It almost robbed me of celebrating my victory, but I soon realized this could only happen if I allowed it to and I was the one in control of my attitude and needed to decide to enjoy the moment and be grateful for another incredible experience. Even the drug testing procedure was new to me and there were lots of laughs to be had in the bathroom while little plastic tubs were passed around and I think my blushing could be seen right through my tanned cheeks!

I almost didn’t start my journey as a fitness athlete, simply because I am a people-pleaser and was afraid of what others would say or how I would be judged. It saddens me to think what friendships and opportunities would have been lost if I had given in to that fear of rejection and I am determined to never again allow that to stop me pursuing something that I believe in my heart I am meant to do. Not everyone is going to be excited about your dreams. Joyce Meyer always says “new level, new devil” and this is true. The more visible you are, the more critics will want to take stabs at you. However, God is in control and He has the final say, so stop listening to the critics. Don’t be a people-pleaser, be a God-pleaser.

I was told at the start of this journey that I needed to toughen up and grow thick skin and I understood and appreciated this advice. It came from a friend who had my best interests at heart. I have not let circumstances, like the negative feedback this weekend, make me become hard or bitter, nor have I let the critics change me. I have learned to not take things personally, and I am happy to say I have stayed tender on the inside and true to myself. One example is I always wear a big smile on stage and while some say it is my best asset, my expression has also been called ‘cheesy’ by others. However, I really don’t let this bother me because it is who I am and I am not going to change from being who God made me to be.

Don’t let the way other people treat you determine your value. Be confident in who you are and stay focused on what God has planned for 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.