The Struggle is Real… for Everyone. 

The A/C has been out for 3 days and it’s 85 degrees in our apartment. James and I are both sweating, sitting on the floor in front of the box fan we bought from Target last night. There are puffs and toys all over.

I just spent the last 30 minutes taking all the dirty dishes out and unscrewing the filter from our dishwasher (dishwashers have a filter??) to see if that’s why it wasn’t working, while trying to distract the little one climbing on everything next to me. 
Well, turns out it’s not the filter. We left the cool of the fan to feed baby James dinner-time purees when I get a phone call. It’s my landlord, probably calling to get an update on the window sill we just had fixed, or the broken A/C or the broken dishwasher.
I decide I can’t answer it right now because I’m about to start preparing dinner for my husband and I to eat when he gets home. But then I remember how desperately hot my child is and how he’s been struggling more than usual to sleep, so I decide to call the landlord back. James starts screaming to get out of his high chair, and to quiet him down, I move him to his exersaucer. As I’m on the phone with my landlord who has me on speaker phone with the lady at Home Depot asking questions about my dishwasher, I calmly try to explain to them what’s wrong. In that amount of time, baby James takes the food pouch out of my hand and squeezes it out everywhere. All over me, and him, the exersaucer, and the floor.

[Don’t panic Rosemary]

As I’m still talking, I take him out, strip him of his clothes, and he makes a dive into the same chair that he previously pulled on top himself.  See here.  Luckily this time it was just a little bump on his head, but the screaming followed. Mid sentence, I hung up the phone and focused on calming him back down. Home Depot called me back and James grabbed the phone and hung up on them again…

This saga went on and on, playing phone tag with different contractors, scheduling time to get things fixed, cleaning up the ongoing mess, trying to figure out why our internet has been out all week, and finally deciding to just wait to fix dinner until after James went to sleep…which he did for all of 30 minutes before waking up and crying again…

Oh, and the next day our car battery randomly died for no apparent reason. 

The day above comes not too long in the lineup after James and I had an epic car ride home from visiting my in-laws, where the little boy cousins 11 weeks apart got to play! James hates his car seat, always has since he was a newborn. Of course the minute we got on the road, screaming commenced and escalated to gagging and full on hysteria. I ended up pulling over every 5-10 minutes…an hour had passed and we had gone maybe 5 miles. I’ll spare you the exhausting details but it involves going through some sketchy areas of town, getting visited by the police while pulled over, and peeing in a water bottle…

These funny stories are just my average days. Lots of fun, lots of laughs, lots of tears, lots of frustrations, the ups and downs of fussy days or weeks… balancing sleep schedules, teething, nursing, figuring out solids, walking, crawling, dinner, cleaning, errands, bath time, laundry, cleaning up blow outs, prepping to lead bible study, prepping to teach workout class, fighting sciatica pain and carrying James, the diaper bag, and 4 grocery bags up the stairs to our 3rd floor apartment etc. etc.

Some days this all seems like the most complicated thing in the world (especially those of you out there with multiple littles!), but most days it feels like the BEST job in the world. It’s easy to look at the craziness and want to just tap out… but all of this matters. I remind myself often: What you do matters and WHO you raise matters.  It is a beautiful mess. As much as I occasionally get frustrated, I do LOVE these days with all my heart. And just because they’re hard days, doesn’t mean they can’t also still be very good days. And I’m learning, as many moms have advised me, to just let go of some things — the most important thing is that my son knows and feels he is loved and cherished.

I share this craziness because in our overshared, “liked” and commented social media lives, we often don’t see it. 

You know those models on instagram that post the beautifully edited, posed photos holding their babies in the cutest outfits and you feel like their life is perfect?

It’s a lie. 

Well, some of it. That moment when their child was snuggling was calm and sweet. But don’t be deceived by what seems to be picture-perfect…I bet that same kid decided to color the couch with sharpies right after that… Or maybe that mama is struggling because her husband is deployed or she’s just lost a parent or she’s self conscious about her post-partum body… Everyone is going through SOMETHING. And if they’ve had a good day or good week, maybe they’ll be going through something next week or next month.

It’s easy to see how we can look through the highlight reel and the smiling photos on someone’s profile and think, “Their life is perfect. I’m the only one struggling.” But the truth is, you’re not.  I tell you these funny little snapshots because I don’t want you to look at anything I post and think “they must have it together!” When I look at this picture below I see extreme exhaustion and the anxiety I battled trying to leave the house, but I also see so much love and joy and wonderful memories with family. Sharing joyous moments isn’t “bad” by any means—it’s encouraging! We just sometimes need to step back and realize maybe that person went through valleys before they got to that mountain top. 

My sweet boy! A highlight from our week!

On the floor, sweaty, and tired. Not picture ready 😛

 

Everyone has “hard”, you just might not see it unless you’re “doing life” with him or her in person. Don’t forget, to every picture there is a much deeper story. To every person there is a soul that’s weary, trying to find their balance and their purpose. To every life there are highs and lows, ebbs and flows. We all carry burdens, whether they are big or small. Look beyond the cute photos and ask someone how they are really doing. This is your friendly reminder that the struggle is real… for everyone. You are not alone. 

The Soul Strong Life Update

My page was originally called Soul Strong Fitness…. Why the change?

Soul Strong Fitness was born in January 2015 out of the desire for me to help people see their health and exercise as a change that started with, and was rooted in, their spiritual lives. I saw in my own life, in my personal training clients’ lives, and in my online support groups, that the only way to make lasting change was to work past the superficial reasons and excuses, and get to the core of what we really should be living for. Behavior-change starts from the inside out.

Society has long bombarded us with the message that exercise is to make us skinny and look good in photos. It is a message of push yourself because you’re not good enough. In fact, most “fitness stars” today (the majority of whom are flaunting lots of skin on the reg) are drawing us to worship the body, rather than the One who created it. I wanted to be a opposite voice to remind people to love our bodies as living temples preparing for heaven. It isn’t “sexy” so the message doesn’t sell as well; but still, for those that were looking for something different, something positive and genuine, I felt compelled to offer it.

While I have seemingly always have had some connection to fitness over my life, I also am passionate about many other topics that relate to our whole well-being– staying healthy physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I’ve expanded some of my blog posts over the years to be more than recipes or workouts for you to try, but to share my personal reflections on related topics like body image, miscarriage, relationships, motherhood, lifestyle balance, natural living tips, and more. Because I enjoy writing on these topics near to my heart, I’ve decided to expand to encompass not only our fitness, but also living the Soul Strong LIFE, and to have the title of my blog reflect that. 

What is the Soul Strong Life? This means that the call to love God is with our physical muscle AND with everything we have available for honoring God — which includes in our relationships, what we eat, how we move, what we love, how we spend our time, what we wear, and what we struggle with…loving The Lord with our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Whole-hearted, life-encompassing allegiance to God should be the priority of our life and the desire of our souls. This is our motivation, and the greatest commandment, but the journey is hard. We are all works in progress in this life, and this blog will chronicle mine!

Whether we’re eating or singing, jogging or blogging, texting or drawing, mourning or rejoicing… love for God is to be in action, and seen in everything we do. I hope through this page & my blogs to follow, to encourage you and ME to put the daily focus back on Him while running this race. With a strong soul, the rest of life follows.

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Don’t be Afraid of Accountability

A couple weekends ago, I went on a “girls weekend” with my two childhood besties. We had all experienced a sort of transitional year, and needed the time with just the 3 of us back together like the good old days. As of last year, we all are now married, living in different cities, balancing school, part time and full time jobs, which makes it difficult to spend as much time together as we’d like.

The weather ended up being super cold and rainy, so we sat and talked from literally Noon until Midnight… it’s a female skill 🙂 At the end of the weekend, surprised I hadn’t lost my voice, I felt tired but so refreshed- so happy. I felt strong with the two of them in my court and me in theirs, knowing they were praying for me and loved me, despite my shortcomings.

There’s something hard about sharing the tough stuff with someone,  sharing the messiness of life, re-connecting in a deeper way, but when you DO share it and go through it together, it’s raw and real genuine friendship. It’s freeing! Good and godly friendship brings hope.

In one particular conversation, we all realized that many years ago, the 3 of us were each struggling with the SAME THING, but we didn’t tell each other. SHOOT! We could’ve been there for each other! We could have kept each other accountable and held each other up. We could have supported each other in a time where it counted the most! Heck, maybe we could’ve avoided some pain along the road too.

But it’s hard. It’s hard to be vulnerable. It’s hard to admit you need help. And it’s hard to break through the facade of perfection we are “supposed” to maintain. We had to admit to each other that life is messy and we all went through things that didn’t make us “bad”, but were part of our growth.

We took away an opportunity away from close friends to let God use them to minister to us, to correct us, and love us though it. So we promised, complete openness from here on out!

All of this got me thinking about accountability… the thing we resist but we so desperately need for abundant living. Accountability is the glue that keeps us committed to the life we know is worth living, not the one we sometimes settle for.

The Christian life is not a solo sport. There’s nothing that Satan loves more than to make you feel lonely, stuck in sin and defeat, doubting your purpose and isolated from your community.

The cool thing is, this can apply to pretty much anything! As humans, we need community to sharpen and better each other to live out God’s calling in our lives.

If you’re battling gossip, stuck in an unhealthy dating relationship, fighting against an eating disorder, struggling to stop spending so much money,  desperate to lose weight and find energy, trying to avoid thinking highly of yourself, or doubting your faith, you need the gentle accountability of a friend to build you up no matter what you’re facing.

If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! -Ecclesiastes 4:10

Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

We are called to invest in each other…We are called to be there for each other through the joys, yes, and also in the struggles. In a world of critics and pitfalls, let’s be encouragers to one another! Let’s sharpen each other and serve each other to physical and spiritual health.

I don’t know where I’d be with my workouts, with my prayer life, with my emotional well-being, with my marriage, and with plenty of difficult situations that have come my way, without someone coming along side, stirring me on to make the right choice. Whether it’s one of my fitness challenge groups with likeminded motivated people, or just a simple Saturday making cookies gleaning wisdom from a wise old friend, accountability has surely been good for me. Not easy, but good.

What in your life do you need accountability and support with? Who in your life can help you do that? Don’t be afraid to get real and tell them you need them! Don’t be afraid of accountability.

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We Can be Free

 

“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” {Galatians 5:13-17, 22}

You were called to Freedom. Wow.

First of all, let it sink in that we are called by the God of the Universe, out of darkness, out of the law, out of the curse, out of our own selfishness, out of our doubt to have freedom for faith working in love. We were given liberty not to have license to be sinful and indulgent, but to have the opportunity to mature and grow and to become all we were meant to be! When we live by the Spirit, we don’t gratify our desires that we don’t really want.

This is not freedom FROM rules, this kind of freedom is freedom TO… a positive freedom that gives us the opportunity to choose what we really NEED (not just what our emotions or impulses want).

Sounds exciting and all, but how does this apply to our health?

Put it this way, just because there is giant chocolate cake on the table, and you are free and allowed to consume it, that doesn’t mean that it is the best choice.

  • Does eating that cake mean you are going to be trapped in guilt?

 

  • Does eating this one piece mean you’re going to have another and another and another until you’re caught in a vicious cycle?

 

  • Does it mean you’re going to become a slave to sugar?

 

  • Are you eating it after being indulgent in plenty of other “treats” this week?

 

  • Do you feel the cake calling your name, taunting you, like you can’t say “no” to it?

 

We are free to choose, but we are free SO that we can choose the best God wants for us. I’m not saying never ever have a piece of cake. Cake is wonderful on birthdays, especially if it’s something yummy like this! I am saying that cake will never give us true happiness, and no one needs cake. It will never be the beneficial choice for your body. Don’t hate me, hate the science that proves that 🙂

What to do?

Sow into the Spirit. Ask Him for the fruit of self-control…you know the last fruit on the list that often gets over-looked? The fruit of love or peace seems a little more pleasant, but the fruit of self-control requires a battle within us. It means denying something in the moment for something even more glorious in the future.

It means we have to switch our thinking from a society that says you always deserve to have whatever you want and have it your way, to a kingdom mindset that says it is good for us to deny ourselves sometimes.

And it’s when you finally get to a point in your health journey that you tap into the power to deny those cake temptations that come chasing you, that you actually DO feel free! You didn’t feel out of control, forced into eating something, regretting it later, eating it because it’s what you’ve always done, friends pushing you into that extra cookie, or just in a mindless binging state… you THOUGHT before you ate and actually chose what made sense for you.

“Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial. Everything is permissible, but not everything builds up. “ {1 Corinthians 10:23}

When I was recovering from being a binge eater myself, this verse above was my go-to script to find strength. I would whisper out loud,”everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial…”, and it almost always gave me that extra encouragement I needed to continue healing, instead of clinging to my former ways.

Self-control isn’t always fun, but in the long run, it is the most gratifying 🙂

Lord, I thank you for winning freedom on my behalf so that I could have the fullest, most abundant life through new life in You. I pray that you give me the strength and the knowledge to not abuse that freedom. I desire to choose right and not be controlled by my fleshly desires, but it is a hard battle to fight. I ask for the fruit of the Spirit to be made evident in my life. Grant me greater self-control so that I might walk in a manner worthy of my calling. May You get the glory of my self-control victories. Amen.

 

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Weighin’ in

In my adult life, my body has mostly fluctuated on a 20 pound spectrum.

I’ve been an unhealthy, trapped 125. I’ve been a muscular 130 and a junk food, food-dependent 135. I’ve been a tired and empty 115, and I’ve been a thriving (more) balanced and free 120.

And I honestly don’t know how much I currently weigh. That’s not because I don’t think it can be a valuable measurement when someone needs to get into a heathy range or has a particular role in helping you gain information to access where you are on your fitness journey. It’s because I know for me personally, it doesn’t dictate my health anymore; my mindset and habits do.

I may not have had an extreme weight loss success story, but it’s often what that weight loss represents that makes the biggest difference. It’s the way you feel and how you’re now capable of living your life and your dreams more fully. THAT is why people want to lose weight most of the time, and those same victories and changes are possible at a variety of weights.

Every person at every weight has challenges to overcome obstacles, shut out negativity, avoid temptations, develop mindful eating habits, find the appropriate amount to treat his or herself, make time to sweat, and make peace with their body.

When people comment that I work out way too much or am hyper-focused on what I eat, it’s pretty much the exact opposite! I am joyful that I’ve been given an opportunity to choose things that heal rather than hurt me, and don’t want to take my health for granted.
I have had an external transformation to become stronger, more consistent and more energetic; but even more so, I’ve had an internal transformation…
-stronger will & discipline
-VEGETABLE lover. what? how did that happen?!
-feel stronger and like I’m not settling in multiple areas of my life
-have learned how to cook healthy meals
-deeper sleep & less stress
-confident in my body, dwelling less on appearance
-not as controlled by my emotions with cravings
-free from my sugar addiction! this one is huge.
-gained productivity and clarity from exercise to apply to my job
It has taken years to get to this point! And I know I’m still a work in progress and will have even more valleys on this road. The goal is to never stop giving up on learning, growing, and trying because your body deserves to be treated like the gift that it is. Transformation is happening every time we choose well, whether the scale moves today or not.
Today, don’t forget to celebrate those NON-SCALE victories! Your worth is more than a number. The internal transformation is always what guides the external.
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Hungry

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What are we really hungry for?

Our humanness usually experiences physical hunger, emotional hunger, and spiritual hunger.

In an ideal world, we would be balanced and filled in each of those areas. Our stomach usually tells us when we are missing a meal, but when we are lacking in the other categories, we may feel a void, anxiousness, boredom, deprived, or even depressed.

I had finally reached a point in my health journey where I was consistent with morning workouts in our apartment, and feeling so happy and balanced! I was no longer obsessing over every little calorie or number on the scale, but was able to bring God glory by overcoming certain temptations and treating my body as a living temple.

I started to see those morning workouts as a non-negotiable for my day, even if it made me slightly late for work here and there or I didn’t have as much time to get ready. It was my daily accomplishment, my daily energy, and my stress relief. I knew I was doing something that God wanted me to do for my physical body with finally the right mindset!

One day, a thought hit me like a ton of bricks on a day that I was having a bad attitude. I realized that in my pursuit of a healthy lifestyle, I had been neglecting a very important area.

I began to ask myself, “am I seeking that non-negotiable time with God like I do with my workouts? Am I spending the same amount of time in the silence and presence of the Lord as I am working out for Him?”

I began to feel the spiritual hunger–that draw to just dive into Him. And thank goodness for hunger, so we are prompted to seek what we are lacking.

We made a deal.

I would try to start each morning with prayer. And as much as I LOVED my morning workouts, if I didn’t wake up in time to do BOTH a workout and a quiet time, I would choose my prayer and study. In an ideal world, I’d do both. My goal is always to wake up with enough time to feed my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Some days, that’s worked and is so awesome! And others, I have to choose my devotions, and hope that I can squeeze in a workout before bed or get more steps during the day.

So many different things are fighting for our time… and very GOOD holy things included! God is happy when I workout so that I can be physically equipped to serve and so that I can be taking care of the body He has given me. I do see exercise as a form of worship to God, but it is not a replacement for nurturing my mind and heart, the true wellspring of life and the very place that drives my words and actions.

“For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:8)

There are some questions we need to ask ourselves when we think our balance between the physical and the spiritual life is off. I put together a short “check list” to help you think and pray about re-calibrating your daily habits to hopefully be filled with what satisfies.

where do I find my greatest joy?

what am I thirsting for? what do I CRAVE everyday?

what consumes my thoughts?

when do I feel most beautiful and confident?

have I been feeding my mind and heart as much as the needs of my body?

when was the last time I felt positive and energized?

am I feeling low on “fuel” in my tank and apathetic about using my time to do purposeful activities?

did I do something to train my body today?

have I had a genuine and uplifting conversation with a friend this week?

have I created my life’s mission statement and stuck to it lately?

how can I say “no” to a few extra things to have extra time to take care of myself?

Marriage and Your Fitness

As I was working with a personal training client of mine who was “sweating for her wedding”, we were talking about the commitment it takes to be FIT. Suddenly, what we were describing sounded like we were actually talking about a relationship. She made the comparison that preparing for her marriage physically has a lot of the same characteristics that she’ll need to have a happy, healthy relationship with her future spouse.

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Think of people who have been married for 50+ years, or the 80-year-old lady who still walks 8 miles a day… we are so inspired by these love stories AND these super dedicated fitness people, but we need to be reminded that these people didn’t get there by accident.

They didn’t stay married because it was easy. They got there because they found a way to make it work no matter what. They found a way to push through in the struggles until it was something they LOVED because enduring unconditional love was the most rewarding thing in the world, and they felt purpose in taking care of the one body they get in this life.

I started listing out all the ways the two are VERY similar. Maybe some of these slogans will help you find a bit of encouragement when feeling doubtful in either category…

You can’t cheat and expect it to work.

If it’s broken, put in the hard work to fix it instead of giving up altogether.

Be willing to self-evaluate. When there is a problem, be willing to look within to find if there’s anything YOU can do to change.

You may find your groove for a while, but there will always be valleys to conquer. Don’t ever get “too comfortable” in your same old routine.

Switch it up. If T25 isn’t working for you, maybe CIZE is your thing. You can always make changes that are still GOOD to stay committed, but may involve adjustment or compromise to a different system that works better to maintain happiness for both people. Communicate about what’s working and what’s NOT, and try new things together!

If you’re not fully committed, you won’t get the results you want.

Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s. Your marriage and your fitness are yours alone and don’t have to keep up a particular appearance that society “expects” of you.

It’s a slow, day by day imperfect process, where you learn to extend grace in your weaknesses. You’re always a work in progress!

It may involve getting up early, staying up late, or expending energy when you don’t want to, but it’s always worth it.

It takes a heck of a lot of prayer and focus to do the right thing, even when it’s difficult. Say no to temptations.
You have to constantly remind yourself why you started… why you loved in the first place. WHY did you decide to start on this journey?

The more you invest in it, the stronger you get. AND you have to stretch to become more flexible.

You can’t go through it on your own! It takes accountability, support, and communication with other people to keep you on track.

It comes down to respect, and showing love to yourself (and your spouse) day in and day out. Not the gushy kind, but the going out of your way to show you care kind.

It might start out like a leap of faith, but anything is possible if you work for it! There is no quick fix and no lost cause.

It’s not just about YOU and your needs, but how you can help and serve the other.

Intimacy with your spouse is a 3 legged stool: physical, emotional, and spiritual connections. Your health is a balance between nutrition, exercise, and sleep. All 3 must be in sync to have the proper steadiness and peace.

Appreciate your body not just for what it can do but for what it is. Appreciate your spouse not just for what they do, but for WHO they are.