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The word competitor and it’s definition scare me. Like wet my pants right now scares me. When I get afraid thinking about competition in a sport (my sport happens to be Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, it’s like wrestling) , these are the kind of things I catch myself saying, …

“That’s just not me.”

“I love that other people can bring it like that, but that’s just not in me. I’m so not wired to be aggressive.”

“Nothing about me ever wants to compete with others … I’d rather play solitaire or Sudoku where I’m my only competition, (laughing to myself as I say), because no one can bring it to myself like I can (nervous chuckle) … says the recovering perfectionist.”

But lately I’ve allowed myself to put this card with the word competitor written on it on the table for discussion. I’ve starred at it, tilted it on its side, flipped it, and examined it against the feelings it provoked in my heart. Why does it have so much power, come on people, the word immediately activates my bladder like please give this girl some DEPENDS before she has an accident. 😉

But why?

Is it really that the world is full of people who have a competitive edge and those who don’t?

Do I have a legitimate out and excuse because I’m on the pre-destined B team (Non-competitive team) by birth and personality make-up or type?

Dr. Caroline Leaf a brain specialist and researcher says that our thoughts are either motivated by love or fear. She shows a diagram of a healthy thought and it looks like this healthy branch and then she shows a toxic thought motivated by fear and it’s this black withered up tree looking thing.

Every time I think about fear winning the battle in my mind I think about my brain being full of all these toxic thoughts that look like black weeds and it upsets me. Something begins to rise up in me that says, “Heck NO! You don’t win … I win! I have the power to choose, you ugly trees don’t get to choose me.”

It’s in moments like this, I scare my own self … but I’d rather be the one scaring me than bowing to the same fears that kept me passive for years.

The fears that told me not to try things I wasn’t good at because failure is embarrassing. I let that fear became a truth to me when I was in 4th grade when it was my turn to unscramble words at the chalk board during a brain puzzle game competition and I froze. I couldn’t get one word right for my team and I still remember the way it felt when my team was disappointed in me because they lost. I also believed in that moment that there are people that can do some things that others can’t. I made this little promise in my heart to never feel that way again, so I changed the way I navigated my life so I wouldn’t.

That seems minor until it’s met with bigger and bigger experiences that seemed to validate it as a truth because as a young person trying to figure out who she was never questioned the reality of it’s truth.

Then there a really big deals, those ones society teaches you not talk about, more out of fear of making others uncomfortable. And I apologize in advance if my story does that for some people but there is one thing I want to say to anyone one who has had a traumatizing event happen in their life, who have come through abuse and survived, addiction and survived, I speak to the survivors of truly difficult circumstances … do not for one moment spend your life saving others from your story and never take the time to be saved yourself. People will get over it, they will make it, but most of all … you are worth getting your voice back, your hardships are worth being validated so you are no longer trapped in time in those place you were hurt. It’s necessary and important to go back and set that person free from the past.

I remember when it would make people feel uncomfortable in church settings when I would talk about the years I was addicted to crystal meth, a street drug. I would get the feeling from some like, “Do you have to keep talking about it, that is in the past like everything is good now, so, let’s talk about the good stuff.”

Ya, I have to talk about it.

Because it’s how I truly found Jesus and His love.

I had been sold some Jesus over the years, I had been sold church, but it was when the love of God overcame me in a country bathroom when I was 19 years old (strung out on drugs), that He won my heart over with the words, “I will do wonders in your life.”

I didn’t buy into Jesus, I fell in love with Him with my life.

It was His love and free grace that marked my heart, and I’m gonna have to talk about that forever.

And truly, now, so many know that about me and I think the only thing that throws people off guard a little is how open I am about talking about being raped when I was 15 almost 16 years old, it was my first time having sex. I know, that’s harsh … right?!?! It wasn’t a stranger, it was someone I knew and liked from school. It wasn’t a maybe she means yes kind of no, it was a stop trapping me, I’m hitting your chest, I’m yelling “NO!’ loudly, I’m crying and I’m fighting. I fought and I lost. (If you want to read more of that healing story you can read that here, because that is not all this blog is about.)

This was beyond a fear of trying, this was a fear of protecting myself and losing, I made a promise to myself to not fight because fighting and losing was worse that just giving in. I know, screwed up, but that’s how abused people begin to self protect and that’s why it is important to tell your story and go back and deal with the truth about the situations you’ve been through.

Just like I deserved to know it wasn’t my fault, that I was worth more than what happened to me and that my voice mattered, in the same way anyone that has gone through hardships deserves the same freedom.

It may seem weird that it’s so easy for me to talk about, but it’s truly because those things just don’t have power over me anymore because I went back, took the shame away from the me that went through those things, let myself grieve the things that happened to me and also deal with choices I myself had made.

You see what has happened to me is not who I am. What I have done cannot define me or tell me who I am. I actually have legitimate excuses to be jacked up by fear and if I let them master me I’d live like a victim, but I’m not a victim. I am one who frees and overcomes. I believe that is in you too.

I spent too many years passive, too many years were I gave in and gave up because of fear.

I say it for all of us:

No more.

It. Is. Time.

To move past the past.

It’s a fear break out!

For me it looks like pushing myself to put myself out there to fail, to train at a sport I took up at 36 years old. To be more aggressive as a competitor when I don’t even know if that is inside of me. But I deserve to find that out about myself. So I’ve decided to dare to wrestle that out in front of others literally, to harness my inadequacies, weaknesses and fear into strength … who knows (I sure as heck don’t) what that is going to look like on the other side. Maybe I’ll  choose to lay it on the line and put it all out there and lose a whole bunch, maybe I win some and lose some and maybe I win. I’m going to train like I want to win because just the first step in the right direction is winning for me. Overcoming fear looks like winning to me, over my thoughts, over my fears!

My coach said to me one of his favorite quotes from me is, “Greatness is in everyone,” that meant a lot to me, like A LOT. Well, number one because I truly and passionately believe that in my heart and that it actually translates, that’s always cool. Secondly, that what I truly believe would come back thru someone else to deeply encourage me, that’s even cooler.

It’s my turn to believe that new greatness that I haven’t seen before is in me.

Maybe it’s time for you to believe that about you too!

I believe it’s how we work being strong out in our lives, when we allow ourselves to be challenge by God’s truths about us and our situations. I’m not going around talking all this new stuff about living the STRONG life and then I’m not over here working it out in my life too. It doesn’t work that way. We need each other, especially those who know God to talk about it so we can grow to new places. A leader is simply a person that says, “I’ll go first,” so he can take others where they have traveled and maybe, hopefully, remove some of the unnecessary obstacles for others to cross over into stronger lives themselves.

So in the presence of fear and a need to maybe wet my pants, I’m stepping up to the mat in my heart, with my little card in my pocket that says competitor on it and I’m saying …. “Let’s go diggin’! Let’s find out what is really in there.”

I know you have your own “mat” to step up to in your life, I pray you have the courage in the face of your fears to go after that thing God is holding out to you saying, “Come and get it!” I believe in your ability to hear God and do it! Everyone is worth finding out the GREATNESS that is inside of them.

Great LOVE! ~Ris (Marissa Star)

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Don’t be too shocked. I know it’s been awhile since I’ve written on my blog.

I guess I needed a break, (or so I felt), from writing neat and grammar groomed articles. They are great and needed and loved every moment of getting to write monthly for Destiny in Bloom, a Woman’s online magazine for almost four years. Because of the way God has spoken to me this last year and taken me through physical journeys that mirrored what he was doing spiritually in my heart, the journey was all so raw and tested so many limitations I had placed on myself it felt intimidating to try to make that neat and tidy, so I didn’t. Ironically I need to get over that too. 😉

So I’ll write more on my blog. I’m not going to worry if you like it or not or if you tell me I’m a good writer or … not. Like one of my favorite quotes right now,

“I’d rather be honest … Then be impressive” …

So, here is to writing off the cuff.

Now to get to the title … let’s talk Leaders.

I’ve noticed, observed and literally walked with dear friends that have experienced this and that is …

Many leaders desire to be honest and vulnerable (many I know even work hard at it), while others struggle with it, not that there is not desire, but the ones that they lead see weakness as a lack of spirituality.

And my goodness it’s not like we haven’t been trained to think there is some special place to arrive, we’ve all wanted to get there at some point in our spiritual journey. You know that place where it gets easier … where you suddenly have learned enough, studied enough, know ‘Gaawwd’ (heavy southern accent implied) enough where faith becomes effortless and ahem our prayers are always answered quickly and on time. Except it seems to me, maybe we’ve been taught to arrive at a place as leaders or followers where we no longer NEED God.

How horrible to finally check off our spiritual to do lists and realize His presence is not there or the sense of His pleasure, the way favor feels like a hug or the way His love washing over all our inadequacies actually feels like strength.

I don’t think God is looking for spiritually “well-groomed”-“have-it-all-together”-“purrfect”-leaders … I’m pretty convinced He is looking for good listeners, people who let God lead them with His voice, obey His promptings which actually produces in a leader … a good follower.

A God follower.

I know I want to led by THAT kind of follower. Actually I have been. That kind of leadership that has acknowledge their need of God in their weakness, embraced honesty, led from the place where light wins and darkness losses, shame is defeated, vulnerability has happened … Oh the ways I’ve seen my God show off in these people’s lives. It’s not a one-time thing. It requires constant stewarding of a hearing ear and a seeing heart and a willingness to obey … to be lead … to follow.

Good leaders are good listeners and good followers.

I wish someone years ago would have taught me that your leaders are NOT just there to take care of you. Leaders need to be taken care of as well and not just by their leaders.

Let me just throw this at you … maybe it’s just as important to the development of the character in the one being led by a leader to care for it’s leader as it is the responsibility and integrity of the leader to lead.

One day the one being led will be the one leading especially if that leader has done a good job. :) It’s not guaranteed to you in return but paying forward the love and care you would one day want in return will always be an investment into the favor you walk in God with. God will always honor integrity.  Favor and influence and weight to your words come from the hard times you wrestled and overcame … it will never be because someone put a stage under your feet.

Let God speak to your heart, dream with Him about what “being a leader looks like on you.” Don’t minimize for one second, we all lead. People are always watching … but they are looking for if there are things in your life that are worth modeling or pursuing. You decide that.

In the mean time think about the leaders God has put in your life. Have you held them to a standard that is not grace driven? Have you judged them? Have you released them to be honest in every pursuit and journey of change in their lives?

Because here is the deal it’s in the refining of the heart, the tension of growth and death (that doesn’t always look pretty), the stretching of ones faith, the facing of fears, the testing of loving people that don’t know how to love in return yet that produces the life giving flow in a leader that flows down fresh goodness on the ones they lead.

No struggle. No goodness. No growth. No change. No love. No compassion.

Simply wrapped up: Be good and gracious to your leaders. Love them, care for them, forgive them, restore them, encourage them … look for ways to bless them with no strings attached. Then be that leader to others.

Hmmm … I guess that all I wanted to say today. ~Ris

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AppleToday’s blog is about pursuing a fitness journey and how it effects some relationships when you do, although the principles I am going to address apply anytime one person in a relationship chooses to … change.

I’ve been asked and messaged this particular question lately:

How to deal with when it’s hard on your friends when you choose to get fit?”

It’s a fully loaded question and can go from small annoyances to the loss of friendships, so be prepared, I’m going broad in places.

If we really want to unmask the prominent boss of the culprits at play… we have to address the confrontation of change, most people, in some area have a resistance to outward change. Outward change, for example, having to change your route to work, moving, having to adjust your schedule, someone changing plans on you, etc. These can be frustrating and definitely an opportunity to be flexible but can be easier to communicate about then when a person in a friendship/relationship chooses to make changes that then changes the entirety of the person and how they relate to the world and others.

It can feel imposing and intimidating on the person who hasn’t chosen those changes. They can feel judged by the person’s choice to get fit when it is not the intent nor in the communication of the one changing that they would need to do the same. If a friend struggles with their weight, self-image and identity they may feel a sense of failure inwardly for not pursuing similar goals. Recognizing why we respond the way we do to each other in the event of people changing is key to connecting us to the real issues in our hearts. Relationships are alive and require nourishing and growing to evolve. A lack of identifying why we feel the way we do can lead to avoidance because of fear of conflict and/or lack of communication, which are both life stealers in healthy growing relationships.

Not every thing in every relationship needs to be addressed. Sometimes you can simply train someone how to treat you in regards to your fitness journey simply by how you talk about it and how you navigate the conversation in a way that doesn’t allow for negativity. Most people who are acquaintances or casual friends pick up quickly in conversation subtle boundaries. Usually these relationships because their roots don’t go down deep don’t have the power to hurt you if they don’t agree or approve of all your choices, even thou someone’s idle words can play games with your heart. After a little processing and some grace you can silence the pesky voices.

Then there are relationships that experience “the bunge” (as I call it, like how the skin crinkles between peoples eye-brows when they are perplexed thinking about things). It’s that feeling that there is some kind of underlying conflict that can be felt in the relationship where one or both persons have made a judgment of the other based on the effects of change and how that has made them feel. Most likely neither person can identify or communicate this at first sign of conflict so always remember in relationship to give space for reflection because the goal in working thru conflict is always to remember to use behavior that reflects who you really are and to show mutual respect. Anger, disappointment, hurt are all very real feelings and need to be experienced with God alone where you can hash out all the ugly with Him, so you can come back having separated the ugly from what is beneficial to say to others that offers the hope of growth. Easier said then done, but very doable.

NOW, that I’ve set that foundation … let’s just throw the stuff on the table.

We are human, we struggle, we experience all kinds of yucky feelings and we don’t know why at first. We sure as heck don’t like to give those feelings their proper names like jealousy, discontentment, offense, judgment and comparison. Change, because it shifts the plates of our comfort levels can definitely be the stimulus to some inner earth quaking and reveal things in our hearts that routine life simply does not.

Because if we were honest we don’t like it when things mess with our comfy … we love our comfy … and we keep our comfy safe from the danger of change. So at first we look for ways to place responsibility outside of ourselves, but I believe if we are to live the strong life rooted in God and His ways we must dare to choose a higher way. A way in which we are true to ourselves governed by love operating in mutual respect. That was the nicest way to say what I will elaborate on in some simple boundaries to consider in conflict below :) .

Just expose it and get it over with

When I say expose it, this is what I’m NOT saying;

  • Call another peer and talk through how someone’s choices makes you feel in a way that sets up one person to be more right in a situation than another.  When you are exposing yucky in your heart it’s important also not to get caught up in the yucky of gossip (remember: rule of thumb: 2 uglies don’t make a pretty.)

What I am saying:

  • First go to God and expose what’s in your heart to Him, most of the time this should be enough. If you need talk to someone to process, find someone that is more mature than you and someone you’ve seen deal with conflict in a Godly way. Ask God for the wisdom to know the difference between what could simply be prayed out and what would need to be actually talked about.

What you give to the light has no power

When you let light in on a conflict and expose it’s root (‘the why’ you feel the way you do), the root loses it power to control you and the situation. Things that stay in the dark fester and before you know it have grown so big you can’t even go back and pin point what started it. Making a habit of letting light in will safeguard your heart from offense that leads to bitterness. Practice believing the best of people even when the best is not what you think it should be. Give as much grace to others as you know you need yourself. Remember the more light you let in, the lighter you live. Darkness is heavy … love is light.

Make it your goal to communicate in a way that honors who you really are

It’s often our initial response to want to defend our actions or ourselves when we feel we are being judged. Consider instead of arguing what you feel is unjust or a lie by presenting the truth. I’ll give you two different examples:

Ex. in marriage: “You never pick up your socks, I feel like you just don’t love me or respect me when you do that!”

Ex. of defending: “I just picked up my socks the other day, I just don’t know what you’re talking about! You always do this, what about the stack of dishes you haven’t done in the kitchen, no ones asks me how that makes me feel!”

Ex. of presenting the truth: “I love you and it is my goal to let you know you are respected, it is not my intention on the days my socks don’t make it to the hamper to communicate anything less to you. It’s highly possible that I’ll forget to pick them up again in the future but please know that it doesn’t reflect my love for you just shows I may need more grace as I continue to work on that.”

Ex. in fitness: “I feel like you always talk about your workouts and weight loss goals, I feel like it’s obsessive and selfish. All you do is post pictures of your progress, never can eat what everyone else eats and seems like you care more about what’s going on with you than others.”

Ex. of defending: “I don’t always talk about my workouts, just yesterday we talked about that new movie that is out and I really just workout three times a week. And I do care about others you would know if you stopped judging me and saw what I did for so-in-so last week!”

Ex. of presenting the truth: “I really value our friendship and care about what is going on with you. I’m really excited about the decisions I’ve made about my health lately. These decisions have required refocus in several areas of my life and I’m still finding my groove in what that looks like. I work really hard in my workouts to stay motivated and determined so I enjoy getting to share that with others. It’s always my intention to be equally excited about what is happening with my friends and family.”

It true Ris (Marissa)-style I’ll leave you with a couple of challenges;

Here is the challenge for the person changing to keep in mind:

Regardless how big your weight loss or fitness goals are making a change in your life in this area is going to require some purposeful intention and hard work, it requires you be a little of the good selfish to give to your body what it needs to run well for you and respect the vehicle God gave you to do life in. The bigger the goal or medical necessity it may take up a lot of your focus to retrain yourself. You may have to encourage yourself with inspirational quotes and pictures daily, this may be a big change for others and that is ok. Put God at the center of this journey and ask Him to continually pastor your heart in right thinking, guard your heart from the temptations of quick weight loss tricks or over the top workout regimens that promise quick change but don’t teach you how to have a balanced life of a good clean diet and a lifestyle of fitness.

Once you find what works for you, be careful not make people feel like your way is the only way and they need to do it that way. No one stays fit that ever feels pressured to be fit, it has to be a personal decision of quality if it will become a life change. It is everyone’s right to choose when that decision is right for him or her. Always be the change you want to see, using the least amount of words :) .

Always be considerate of medical conditions that make it harder for some to lose weight or the sensitivity of fitness to some. People are always more important than what we believe about a subject, but never be afraid to ask for the grace to change instead of just expecting it.

Here is the challenge to the person reacting to change:

It’s important to always identify why we feel the way we do so we can own our reactions and behavior in a way we can be proud of. I’m not a minimizer, it can be really hard to relearn how to be in a relationship with someone who changes even if the changes are good. It’s totally appropriate to experience some disappointment that a way you experienced life together has changed, especially in families where they bond around food. It literally feels like a loss or a death and may need to be grieved as such without guilt. Sometimes there can be shame in not being happier for people than we are, so the challenge is first to get the shame in the light so it loses it’s power, grieve any loss you have experienced in the relationship and then to ask God ways to genuinely see the other person in the fullness of their new self and be a part of encouraging that change.

A part of loving people in a healthy relationship is giving space for growth of every kind; none of us should be the same next year as we are today.

So I attempted to address the question of, “How to deal with when it is hard on your friends when you choose to get fit?” but conflict and change really is no respecter of life categories. I believe some of these simple keys can help any relationship when you have the right attitude of mutual honor in dealing with conflict. I would not share them if I hadn’t had my own practice in conflict, and here in lies the beauty of all conflict; it has the same opportunity to bring people closer as it does the ability to bring a great divide.

It is my encouragement as much as it is in your power:

Choose closer.