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Silhouette woman run under blue sky with clouds
 (I asked my friend Dana Hodge if she would write her inspiring fitness story to be shared as a guest writer on my blog and shared from The Strong Life on Facebook. I’m thrilled she agreed. Stories of overcoming and change on any level, getting to share those with you so you and others can be inspired to similar change … well that is a passion of mine! YOU can do ANYTHING you put your HEART into! You can live The Strong Life.)

 

I have always been the tallest girl out of all of my girlfriends. Don’ let that fool you, I never played sports or was athletic. I was always a long string bean until I hit 20. Nothing too out of control, just extra pounds that I didn’t need.

My first year of marriage I experienced 2 personal heart breaks and found myself with 20 extra pounds on top of the extra pounds I already had. Food had become my pain medicine, my stress reliever, my go to when I was lonely. Little did I know at the time, it would cause this massive spiral downward effect for me emotionally and physically.

I became pregnant with our first child and became a stay at home mom. I actually lost some weight after having my son. Not intentionally, but from experiencing some postpartum with him being such a fussy, colicy baby. The pounds I had lost crept back on. At this time, I was starting to realize I was not liking the person I had become. Because of my insecurities and disgust with how I felt like I looked and the pain it was causing, I was turning into this person that was not very nice.

I hated the summer time! I would layer my clothes with hoodies to try and hide my body even though I was burning up because it was 90 degress outside. I was misrable in so many different ways. It felt like it had been years since someone had told me I looked pretty or that I felt pretty myself.

I live in Colorado Springs which is a very athletic town. Lot’s of runners, bikers, hikers, etc. I wanted to be able to do all these things these “mountain women” were doing. :) I felt like I was stuck, that I would always be over weight and continue to grow this hard shell because of my low self worth.

I had started working out regularlly, taking fitness classes at the YMCA for a couple of years. I never really lost the pounds because I didn’t want to change my eating. It was my comfort, my medicine. I loved working out but still hated how I looked.

I had our daughter when my son was 4. I tried going back to the gym. She never would take a bottle and always cried, so the childcare teacher would always have to come and get me. At the time I thought, I will be nursing my daughter until she leaves for college and always be 45 pounds overweight! I would walk around the indoor track with her in a Baby Bjorn until she was 15 months. I would walk by the fitness room with the loud music blaring and see these “fit women” busting there butts in there boot camp classes while I still had these extra pounds weighing my body and heart down.

January 1, 2012. This was the day I had decided that 8 years of being over weight was long enough and I was going to make a change on the outside as well as the inside! First, I started with my foods. I was hard core, absolutely no sweets and no fast food! It was veggies, protein, fruits and nuts. It was not easy! At times I was a raging machine! My body was craving those sweets and bad foods.

April 2012 I was done nursing my daughter so I wanted to start taking fitness classes again at my gym. At this time I had lost pounds from my healthy eating but still found myself a little intimidated to “go in”. I stood my ground and refused to let fear and intimidation grip me! After all, I wanted to change! I took hard classes and worked out next to women that were in great shape purposefully because I wanted to be like that; strong, healthy and athletic. I went at it like gangbusters! I was making a lifetime change!

June 2012 Six months into my weight loss journey, I found myself with a painful broken heart. I so easily could have gone back in my old ways of self-medicating my broken heart with poor food choices. No! Not this time! This is when I became a runner! Something I had never done before. At 33, I started running for the first time ever. Instead of feeding my tears with food, I ran to help release my pain. With Gods help and healthy exercise, I was able to heal.

January 2013 One year into my journey I found myself healthy, 45 pounds lighter, a better wife, mother, daughter and friend. Through all of this hard work, I not only changed my outside, but my insides changed as well. It was painful recognizing things about myself, but I was determined to not give up.

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June 2013 I have kept my extra weight off and ran my very first half marathon last April. I would not have been able to be successful in my journey without the help of a couple of fitness instructors and some elite runners I became friends with along the way. They believed in me when I had no belief in myself. They trained me, set up running training schedules and pushed me because they saw my potential that I didn’t see. I will forever be grateful for the things they have taught me and the friendship we have developed.

Women should celebrate each other. I used to be judgmental towards woman that would spend a lot of time working out. That was steaming from my own jealousy of wishing I was in better shape and had their drive. It takes dedication, drive, and self control to be healthy and active. Be happy for those that are making healthy changes. Cheer them on, they need it! It’s not easy! Become friends with people that are good at the things you are not. Don’t ever think, “It’s too late,” because it’s not! Set goals and achieve them! Surround yourself with people that will help challenge and push you. If you fail in the process, don’t use it as an excuse to give up. Keep going!

You too can do this!

Dana Hodge

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red heart on the palms of a woman

Yes. You read that right. We are talking about God and our bodies.

Yes, that human body God so ingeniously created to be the thing that we grew into, the vehicle we would occupy as we journey through our destined-before-time lives.

Our bodies tell the genetic story of the lives that came before us, each one of us so full of history: the shape of our ears, the curve of our noses, even the length of our fingers taking on an essence of the lives that fused together to create our unique person, the person we see when we look in the mirror everyday.

I’ve always been amazed by the human body, how intricate and unique each one of us is. There is not one like another. Bodies; they are strong and they are fragile. Our bodies can get sick and yet they have the built in abilities to heal themselves.  The more you study them it’s fascinating and amazing, every new fact I learn about the body further convinces me of the love and care of a beautiful story telling creator God.

A God whose design for us included the reality of our tangible body, He created us, beings, who are made up of three components; spirit, soul annnd … ahem … body.

Bodies are amazing.

Why as Christian woman, or men for that matter, do we make it so taboo to talk about them? As if we weren’t aware of them or as if it would be less spiritual to do so? People, male or female, have been completely aware of their bodies and their changes since they were children, anyone would be in complete denial to confess anything less. They are active, functioning containers of the daily miracles of being alive.

Your heart that beats, your lungs that breathe, your eyes that see, your skin that responds to touch… and if that was not crazy-amazing enough, your body holds your brain, where you experience memories, and a heart that feels joy, happiness, sadness, pain, and all the feelings that make you know you are indeed ALIVE.

Why, for the last several generations, have we been so mean to them? Why are we starving them, torturing them, neglecting them, and cutting them; as if they defined us? What if it was possible to see them in their proper balance? What if we loved and respected them out of pure amazement at the one who saw fit to create them to be the container of His voice and presence on this earth.

I guess I struggle with this, because I’ve had a couple questions in my heart to bring to the table of this discussion:

Could it be possible we’ve let our bodies suffer the abuse of our pain, our fears, our need for control and power or the expression of the lack there of?

Is it at all possible we’ve lacked balance because we didn’t know how to teach that balance to others in this crazy society of narcissism and fast food? Have we been crippled by our own caparisons and the insecurities we’ve allowed them to bring because we’ve been inundated with images and messages of what beautiful should look like? So much so that we’ve lost sight of the simple wonder and appreciation of our alive uniqueness wrapped in our one-of-a-kind epidermis?

I’m just curious.

I want to stir your heart and get those brain juices flowing.

What do you really think? Why?

I’m not trying to be controversial, if you know me at all; you know I’m not that person. I’ve asked these questions. I’ve brought them before the God I know and wrestled with them, wanting my own personal freedom and peace with my own body.

I cringe when people act like I’ve been that girl who’s always been thin, or never struggled or they assume because I’m thin now, that somehow self-image or the feeling of beautiful is easier for small people. As if being small makes a healthy, whole person or brings identity.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The body was never meant to define beauty or establish identity … any time it does that, it has crossed over to occupy a place that only God should occupy and that becomes something called idolatry.

I think we’ve seen the body idolized and it’s cause us to shy away from seeing it rightly. Or we have compared ourselves to images that society has idolized and felt like we came up short, so we shy back from body health completely. Having healthy body self-image has nothing to do with a worldly standard but everything to do with God’s original design for our humanity.  I believe He desires that the way we live and relate to each other would show us and teach us more about our Creator and how He created us in His image.

If you remember correctly, He formed the man from dust (He formed a body) and then He breathed the breath of life into him on the 6th day of creation and then He called what He had created good. (Gen. 1:27-31)

He called the body good. One more time …

HE called YOUR body good.

Long story short, we know the story, Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (tempted by the serpent, satan). For the first time they were aware that they were naked, they were ashamed, they covered them selves and hid.  Because of their choices, our bodies (who some say were meant to never die or grow old) began to age and eventually our bodies would die. Our bodies weren’t the only thing to suffer when sin was introduced into the picture, we also deadened spiritually being disconnected from the life of His truth. (Super paraphrased from Gen. 3)

Leaning fully on the knowledge of good and evil we learned to navigate through life with over-developed souls. Our soul consists of our mind, will and emotions. Our soul is where our self-life happens, it’s where we think, feel and will to express what we think and feel into our behavior.

I’m so grateful that in the garden God had a plan to redeem us to walk with Him again in truth, our spirits being awakened and coming alive in Him as we became aware of God’s great love for us.

That great love for us, manifesting itself in His son Jesus, redeeming us from our sin and shame with His very life as the sacrifice; it’s when we believe, confess and receive that gift that our spirits are awakened to life in God. Life in God being the place we live from where we connect with God, hearing His voice and experiencing His presence. It’s our spirit that receives the truth of our identity by who God says we are, not what we’ve experienced, been told by other people or the imprint of our society.

I know that was a lot of theology in order to say what I really want to say, but it is important that we think rightly so that we can experience the freedom of having a properly aligned whole and healthy personhood. Proper alignment being that we would live from our Spirit that hears truth from God and that the soul and body would be subject to the spirit.

Our souls, apart from our spirit, will struggle to find peace with our body, it will struggle to find identity in the way it looks or what we can make our bodies do. Our souls will strive, compare and compete causing cycles of body shame and condemnation in a world that defines beauty in numbers and shapes. It has caused men and woman to self-loath and a generation of young women to starve and torture themselves with eating disorders.

I understand it’s taken many of us years of programming our souls to think and feel wrongly about our bodies and that’s not easily undone in one day.

However, I DO believe when we surrender our souls (our mind, will and emotions) to the truth our spirits receive from God about His original design for our bodies we can return to the awe of how truly amazing our bodies are. I believe we can find the peace and inner resolve to love and respect our body the way God would intend.

Which, finally, leads me to the permission to take care of your body and not think it’s unspiritual to do so. Taking care of your body is one of the best things you can do for your overall person.

What you put into it matters. Keeping active and healthy matters, for your overall health, both for you and your family. Taking care of your body includes your overall diet, activity level and giving it proper rest. I love the scripture in the bible that talks about taking care of the temple of the Holy Spirit, the place He wants to dwell, inside us, our body. (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Just like I think it’s bad religion that excludes the Holy Spirit, I think it’s unhealthy to our wholeness to neglect the care of one third of our whole personhood.

I have not always loved my body. I have fallen prey to comparison, self-judgment and despair. I know what it feels like to not feel beautiful because I looked for worth and value in what I looked like and a number on a scale.

It was when I was 200lbs crying my eyes out to God for help that a true revelation of my beauty came. I choose to believe everyday weight had nothing to do with who I was or with my beauty. I began to rock beautiful long before I lost the weight.

Through that long journey I did learn how to take care of my body, to make a lifestyle of health with my soul submitted and accountable to the truth God feeds my Spirit. I love working out and I love fitness but I also intentionally steward my body’s proper place in my heart. Stewarding healthy body image is progressive and not always a one time deal, I wish I could tell you it was, but God is so good to us that He continues to free us to greater levels as we vulnerably open our spirit to hear Him.

During a recent conversation with a friend, my heart was really confronted with something I had not let go of with my body.

Driving away in my car, the Lord whispered to me,

“Ris, can you say you love your body?”

“Yes Lord, I love my body.”

“Can you say, I love my stretch marks?” (I have a lot of those from having my four sons)

I felt sick to my stomach, it took my breath away.

“No, I can’t. I don’t love them. Actually I hate them.”

Then I heard myself and was reminded of a quote I love, “Be careful what you say to yourself, yourself is listening.”

I heard it. I knew it. The power of life and death is in our words. Right away I knew hatred was NOT in the heart of God for me to feel towards any part of me.

So I told the Lord, “I think in this moment I’d be lying to say that I looooove them, but I do give you permission to speak your truth to me about my stretch marks, I give you permission to do the heart surgery you need to do so I think rightly, Your thoughts, about my body.”

I could feel Him put His hand on my heart and gently say, “I promise to take every scar and make it your story, I’ll take every trail of your heart and make it your testimony … I redeem everything. I can redeem how you think about your body.”

You know … tears … love that washes away shame … peace … God hugging my humanity … making Himself known to my spirit … taking care of my soul.

What is the Holy Spirit speaking to you about your body? Is He wanting to wash over you with new truths about how you see your body? Is He showing you ways you could surrender some soul-ish thinking so your spirit can love your body with God’s truth?

The truth is …

You are amazing. Your body is amazing. And today is a perfect day to hear God and make peace with that.

Originally posted on Destiny in Bloom Jan. 10th, 2013

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I have a friend who is a guest writer on my site today with her #killingmonsters blog. She is an Anonymous contribution for specific reasons. This is her story.

Pick me! Pick me!  That is the monster chant in my head. Day and night, day in and day out.

I am a child waiting to be praised – to be good enough.  I am a teen waiting to be selected – to be good enough.  I am a young adult waiting to be hired – to be good enough.  I am a wife waiting to be loved – to be good enough.  I am a stay-at-home mom waiting to be validated – to be good enough.  This monster journey has manifested itself throughout my life in many ways but the desire is always the same – to be good enough, to be picked, to be special.

On the outside, I had all the trappings of success and a happy life.  A great childhood, followed by a great education and subsequent job, later yet a nice house, a nice car, great kids, a hard-working husband, lots of friends.  So, why was I so empty?  Why was this not enough?  Why did I still feel – well, you guessed it, not good enough.  I kept thinking if only I was thinner, stronger, prettier, nicer, I would be happy.  My focus became the destination; I would be happy when I achieved those things or even one of those things.  The problem was I was never quite good enough to get to that destination and it left me feeling empty, sad, alone.   I looked in the mirror and hated who I saw.  Why would anyone want to pick me when I didn’t want to pick myself?  My monster chanted away and I heard that monster in every perceived rejection, hurt, reading of the scale, disappointment, failure.  Nobody would guess this pain though because I hide my monster very well.  From the outside I looked like I had it all – served up in a pretty package.  My insides not matching the wrappings I put on my outside.  That flower in my hair was not a sign of self-confidence, it was a sign of “focus on this” so you don’t see my thin hair, the weight I want to lose, the things I want to change, the things I don’t want you to see – the less than perfect side of me, the monster inside of me.  If I could pretend to be perfect, maybe I would feel better.  But it doesn’t work.  The inside still did not match the outside.  I had always been a believer, but I confused the idea of being worthy of HIS love with being worthy of other people’s love.  I kept striving to get to that destination.

One day, I received an invitation to Bible Study.  I hardly knew this person but I felt pride in the fact that she had “picked me” to send an invitation to!  Somehow I related the invitation to some sort of acceptance and achievement so, of course, I had to go.  I went and eventually found myself confused by my new friends talking about hearing God talk to them.  I asked them  “how do you know when God is talking to you? I have never heard Him.”  I was confused.  But, like other goals I sought to attain, I kept working at it.  I wanted that relationship everyone talked about.  Then one day, a couple years in, HE spoke to me.  Actually, let me clarify, I FINALLY heard HIM!  I had the moment where I knew God was talking to me.  It was at that moment that I realized, in order to hear God, you have to be trying or willing to listen.  For the first time in my life I was not trying to be in control.  I was not trying to be good enough for others, I was simply desiring a relationship with my FATHER.

As God spoke to me, I worked harder on hearing HIM.  I found myself periodically hearing HIM louder than the monster, but not frequently enough.  However, I found my relationships with others were changing along with my pursuit of God.   Over time, I found that my desire to have the perfect package on the outside was just an empty shell.  My husband and I did not share our faith, so how could we share anything deeper than the tangible surface.  I had to be willing to let go of the package in order to experience the journey and not seek the destination.   As I walked through my divorce, I felt God beside me, reassuring me, showing me a new path, providing the hope I needed to move forward even though it was risky and required faith.  To walk by faith was not something I was used to…..I was scared.  However, I knew God was beside me when my ex told me along the way that he had watched my faith grow especially through our separation and that a year prior he might have mocked it, now he hoped that one day he could find the peace that I had found.

Fast forward.  That should be enough, right? I mean, I found my relationship with God, I chose to risk the “package” for an unknown future and I am doing just fine.  I should be okay, the monster is dead, right? Well, the answer is no, its not.

My monster surfaces when people let me down.  I question whether I expect too much of others, why are they not “there for me”?  I feel like the child waiting to be picked and nobody chooses me.  I step on the scale and the number does not make me feel “enough”, in fact, it makes me feel “too much!”.  Ugh. I look in the mirror and see my aging body and think, “oh no, how can I present THIS to the world so they don’t see my inadequacy?” I wait for someone to make me feel loved, to be someone’s enough because then I will be enough.  I am still looking outside of me for love.

Then I remember, it is not the destination I truly desire, it needs to be the journey.   I am enough for God and it is not when I achieve my monster’s perfection that I will be happy, rather I can be happy right now in God’s perfect love.  I am worthy of my Father’s love.  I am enough.  I am picked by God to be His child.  I am HIS and He loves me.  He picks me.

I am a work in progress.  But every time I can acknowledge God’s voice and seek to hear HIM, my monster is silenced.  I desire to silence that monster forever.  I want to look in the mirror and see what God sees.  I want to stop expecting and waiting for others to validate and love me because I have perfect love from Jesus.  He is my warrior, slaying the monster over and over again.  Until finally, as we are on the journey together, I will be sure of my destination and know it is bought and paid for by the blood of Christ and therefore, I am worthy.

~Anonymous submission

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