The Body

One of the things I love most about life is relationships.

I love the excitement of meeting new people. I love the process of trust growing between people. I love intentionally walking alongside others in life and purposefully cultivating deeper relationships. I love those moments when I’m hanging out with a group of friends and we all suddenly realize how close we are and try to figure out how the heck it happened.

For those that know me this isn’t surprising at all. I am very much a people person. In fact, all of those strengths and personality tests I’ve had to take for team training and grad school point to the fact that I was indeed wired for relationships. Really I believe we’re all wired for relationships, it just also happens to be one of my favorite hobbies.

This is probably why the metaphor of the Church being the body of Christ resonates with me deeply. Read the metaphor in 1 Corinthians 12.

There are honestly so many different things I could say about this chapter. I could talk about how we are all different parts of the body and so have different talents and gifts.* I could talk about how we should encourage one another in our diversity. However, for the purpose of this blog post, I’m going to talk about why the body needs exercise.

*Side note: you should totally ask God what part of the body you are & how he uses you. It’s a fun way to know self and know God. 

Over the past few years my understanding and respect for physical exercise has been growing. I’ve run a few half marathons and have done different workout programs like Insanity and Fit Girls Guide. I’ve also been super inconsistent and have injured myself because of it. But hey, progress, not perfection.

A few weeks ago I realized the need for consistency and growth in this are of my life so for the past couple of weeks I’ve been doing the FGG work out plan with a friend. We’ve been consistent and I can honestly say it’s been the highlight of my day since being back in Costa Rica.

I think the turning point for me was in realizing my need.

Living cross-culturally produces mucho stress and anxiety in me. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it and think it’s good for me, but it is hard. Last week a friend told me that anxiety and stress and all those Scroogey feelings you get is the culmination of a bunch of chemicals in your body, and that working out kills those chemicals. It was definitely one of those “ah-ha” moments for me, and I’ve been able to experience how working out truly does help restore my peace.

But working hard to kill those chemicals sometimes leaves me sore and exhausted. There have been many a days lately where I’ll wake up and find it hard to get out of bed because my body is aching. It’s not a bad “I’m injured” kind of ache (believe me, I know what that feels like), but rather a “Oh, I didn’t realize that muscle existed before” kind of ache. It’s that kind of ache that points to a future strength. 

Just as our physical bodies need exercise, the body of Christ also needs to be exercised. This happens in the Church as a whole, but it also happens in smaller community settings. Sometimes we experience some easy to moderate exercise. This could take the form of starting new relationships or experiencing some miscommunication. Sometimes we go through some pretty intense exercise plans as a community. This could look like moving to a new country with a group of people or starting a business with some friends. Other times, we think we’ve signed up for a regular half marathon when what we actually signed up for was a full on adventure marathon that has mountains and creeks and not as many water breaks as we anticipated. This could look like a death in the community, a divorce, or heartbreak.

The point is, we may not necessarily enjoy exercising but it’s crucial to growth and living a healthy life. Relationships aren’t always easy and they aren’t perfect. They require work and commitment. However, it’s in relationships that we experience connection, joy, love, and Christ.

So may we discover and accept our roles in the body. May we take the time to know ourselves and to know God. May we push through the uncomfortable times of training so that we can push through to the finish line and receive our prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Fun fact: the picture for this post was taken after my first ever race; a Mujeres 5k in Montevideo, Uruguay in 2012! 

If you’re interested in learning more about honoring God with your body, check out Beltway’s Essentials sermon series here

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Vulnerability

Vulnerability and I have an interesting relationship.

I didn’t really understand what being vulnerable meant until I was 10 years old. When I was 10 my mother, brother and I were hit head on by a drunk driver. This wreck took 3 lives and drastically changed multiple families forever. You can check out more about the wreck here. The following two years I had to learn how to be vulnerable with my family. It was a struggle. I often floated between bitterness and pretending nothing happened because as a young child I didn’t really have the capacity to fully accept.

When I was 14, my mom made me learn vulnerability in a different way. To cope with what happened and to help prevent it from happening to others my mom, grandparents and I began speaking for Mothers Against Drinking and Driving. I was 14 when I had my first public speaking engagement. I was in 8th grade and was speaking to the juniors and seniors of the high school I was about to attend. Oh, and I cried the entire time I spoke. It was humiliating, but it was also freeing. I found that I rather liked being transparent with people, at least in this area of my life.

In college I learned true, deep vulnerability in friendships through the college ministry I was a part of. I learned how to be fully transparent with the good, the bad, and the seriously ugly. This is when I learned authentic connection with other people. I would share my ugly side with my community and they would encourage me by speaking truth and holding me accountable. By the end of college, I thought I had this whole vulnerability thing down.

I was definitely wrong.

Last fall I had a hard time adjusting to post-college life. Moving to a new country, starting grad school in a different discipline, living alone for the first time, having my first full-time job all made it a pretty stressful time. The thing that added the most stress, however, was not being willing to be vulnerable.

You see, I always want to be the best me I possibly can be. I think that’s important and I don’t think it’s inherently bad. Yet, I was convinced the best me that could possibly exist was perfection. So when I experienced culture shock or couldn’t handle everything I put on my plate, I got so mad at myself. I minimized all of my struggles and refused to give myself grace. This led to a huge amount of stress and anxiety that I honestly didn’t even realize I had. This also kept me from being open to my teammates about struggles I was having. I didn’t want them to know I wasn’t perfect.

The past two nights I’ve watched Brené Brown’s Ted Talk on vulnerability. It’s actually a little funny. During team training we were supposed to watch this video and talk about it, but I never got around to it. Sorry, Gary! 🙂 Anyways, in the talk Brené gives the old school definition of courage. She says, it means “to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart; the courage to be imperfect.” I know I’m not perfect and that it’s impossible to be perfect, but sometimes the dreamer in me has to be reminded that as well.

Brené also mentions that many of us numb vulnerability. It’s not necessarily a fantastic feeling. It’s kinda like that feeling you get right before the roller coaster takes off. Half of you wants to stay on the ride and experience it all while the other half of you wants to hurry up and get off the ride before it’s too late. The problem with numbing vulnerability, she says, is that you can’t selectively numb emotions.

If you numb the pain, you numb the joy.
If you numb the loneliness, you numb the connection.
If you numb the hurt of unmet expectations, you numb the delight of new discoveries.

Like many areas of my life, I want to grow here. I want to actively choose vulnerability.

Watch Brené’s talk here.

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A Little Like a Puddle

Sometimes I feel a little like a puddle. I feel shallow. I feel murky. I feel like a tiny little space in the earth where all sorts of filth comes to fester. IMG_0726

Sometimes I feel like the beautiful clear blue oceans I see on vacation ads. I feel transparent. I feel like people can see who I am deep down inside. I feel inviting.

Sometimes though, sometimes I feel like a puddle.

No one really wants to be a puddle. Puddles are messy. Puddles get you dirty and leave mud on your shoes that gets tracked throughout the house. Occasionally someone will want to play in a puddle, but only for the experience. After they’re done playing they’ll go inside and take a shower. All traces of the puddle gone. No one ever really wants to be a puddle.

It kinda bothers me that I sometimes feel a little like a puddle. Puddles can’t do anything good, can they?

One thing I noticed about puddles the other day is that if you stand in just the right place they reflect the sky. I could still see the mud around the edges of the puddle, but the center was pure blue and purple sky.

It was mesmerizing. It was beautiful.

So I suppose it’s okay if I sometimes feel a little like a puddle. I just hope that those who find me in these moments are standing in just the right place, with just the right perspective, to see the sky.

The fun thing about metaphors and creative writing is that it can be interpreted in many different ways. I encourage different interpretations because I encourage creativity. Now that you’ve read this post and have come up with your own interpretation, I’d like you to know mine.

Humanity is sinful in nature. Even after dedicating our lives to Christ there are times where we still feel stuck in muck of our old sinful lives. That’s normal. Being a Christian isn’t about being perfect. Being a Christian is about growing closer in relationship to God and looking more and more like Christ. It’s a life-long journey. Sometimes, we feel closer to our sinful nature (like a puddle), and other times we feel closer to Christ (like a clear ocean). The beautiful thing is that even when we feel too close to our sinful nature, God can be reflected off of us. His power and divinity is shown greater in our weakness. 

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