Picture© Uschi Hering | Dreamstime Stock Photos
If I could tell you every moment that led to this point I would. But you don't have that kind of time and I don't have kind of memory. There have been moments that were so huge in huge ways they are seared in my memory forever. And then there have been moments that have been huge in teeny-tiny, seemingly minuscule, sort of ways. Like today.

Today at a group I am part of the speaker asked us to write 3 things on a post-it-note that we're burdening us. 

I started with the obvious. I am feeling burdened for my sister, her kids and their move. I am excited beyond words to have them coming to live near us and yet I know my sister has so much on her mind and heart…that burdens me. 

Second…finances. I mean how many of us can't write that one?

Then came the kicker. See, this office space for Zone Conditioning, even if temporarily, has fallen in our laps. I mean really, out of the blue clear sky, as only God could have managed. And it's a gift…a beautiful gift. But as I wrote my burdens on that little yellow post-it note I found my pen writing, "My fear of success." WHAT!? Did I really just write that? Did I really come this far to fear the thing I've wanted. I've read about this fear, but I had never experienced it. Or had I?

In a moment, a rush of clarity and emotion told me that I had been fearing it all along. I fear being successful at many things because I fear losing it. Whatever that it is at the time. I fear joy because I fear losing that joy. I fear happiness…real happiness, because eventually it has to go away. Right?

Then the speaker asked me to take the trash can, crumble up my burdens and toss them into the can, which I did. I then had the great honor of taking the can around the room and receiving the burdens of every women in the room into the can I was holding. It was beautiful. It was overwhelming. It was a Kairos moment!

I sat the can back in the center of the room and returned to my seat and fought back tears. 

Here's the thing. 

No, happiness does not last forever. Yes, there are going to be circumstances, people, and things that come to steal my joy. And yes, success can be lost. But today. Today, I have them all; happiness, joy, success, and today I have them all to the fullest! Just today! I don't need to worry about tomorrows joy, that just steals today's joy. The thief of today's joy is tomorrows worries. 

So I am practicing awareness. I'm practicing presence. I'm practicing to be where I am. Just there…here. No where else. (All of that repetitive crap was for me, not you…have to keep telling myself.) And it's not something you do with your head only. You have to bring your body. And you have to have awareness in your spirit. That is living fully in today. 

Lately I've been pondering the words, The Kingdom of Heaven

I've been using this awareness, this presence of mind, body and soul to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. To me. 

Every time I am able to bring awareness and presence to a moment and fully find myself there, I think, I have brought the kingdom of heaven to my day…to my life…today. Living fully. 

Here is where I sit today:

"As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give."

Friends, the kingdom of heaven is near. It lives and breathes in each of us every moment of every day. The only requirement to find it, to access it, is awareness that it is there and acceptance that it is real with each breath, because there is no fear of success in the kingdom of heaven…there is no fear of tomorrow in the kingdom of heaven...in fact, there is no fear at all.

Find joy today. The kingdom of heaven is waiting for you.

Jen

I have to admit that this is one of those posts that I write and then sit and think, "Why the hell are you clicking publish on this one." The voices in our head...a post for another day.


 
 
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Spending what feels like a lifetime hanging out in gyms I've learned this one hard and fast rule; 
Resistance is a requirement to build strength. 

This week my husband and I have learned that lesson yet again but this time outside the gym. 

This past Friday (just yesterday) he heard the words no man wants to hear from the company he has poured the last few years of his life into, We're eliminating your position. It would be easier to take had he done a subpar job. But quite the opposite is true. He grew his division within the company every year for three years. And we have the bonus checks to prove it. So I am not looking for sympathy. And you'll see why...

And this is not the only thing that has gone wrong for me in the last few weeks. But I also didn't come here to complain.

Life has been interesting the last few weeks. But somewhere in the middle of it all I have felt God whisper to me. First, he lead me to books, podcasts, online retreats and friends that lift me up. He put in front of me the idea of picking a word for the year. Mine is not one word but two; Stand up

I was supposed to be at a silent retreat at Mercy Convent this weekend. An entire day to be silent and listen. I felt bad that I missed it. How can a person miss an opportunity to pray at a time like this? As I ran on the treadmill today I felt God assure me, I heard you the first one hundred times you prayed, in fact I heard you the first time. This is not what it looks like! This is not a time for prayer, it's a time to act. Stand up! This is Me answering you.

A few days ago I read the book The Travelers Gift by Andy Andrews, if that isn't God preparing me I don't know what is. Andy leads you through times in the lives of people we know today to be famous in history, like Christopher Columbus whom everyone thought was a loon, Abraham Lincoln who's conviction that all men are to be free led him through a war, and Anne Frank who we all know choose to be happy among some of the worst circumstances humanity has endured. 

So today I woke and I knew I had a choice. I had a choice to allow myself to feel like a pinball in the game of life or to know that I have a say in my fate. I knew it was not time to sit down and cry, it was not time to pray, I've been doing that for years. I was time to stand up.

As I lay in bed this morning not wanting to get up and wake Rob I was running all of this through my mind. And this sentence slapped me in the face...my smiling face. 

"This is the beginning of a great story." 

I thought of all of the adversity that those lives I had read about had not only endured but prevailed through. I thought about Abraham Lincoln giving the Gettysburg address just after losing a son and about to lose a second. I thought about Anne Frank hiding from Nazi soldiers, and I thought about my dreams. I thought about the ones I've already had and tried and failed at. I thought about the ones I've had that went well but were not made to last a lifetime. I thought about how that may look to others...and then I thought...I don't care. I may chase dreams but at least I'm chasing. At least I'm acting. At least I care enough about something to do something about it. Consistently.

So after Rob woke up I shared my new mantra with him. This is the beginning of a great story. 

I read him the stories of men who have been fired from massive corporations...publicly...doing the right things. Did I mention publicly?

When you've been fired you're among great people. 

I was watching a football game a few weeks ago and saw a story about a Head Coach that had been fired and a few days after his firing he received a shirt from John Gruden. It was a shirt for Gruden's "Fired Football Coaches of America" group — "a hangout where his coaching brethren could come to watch film and talk football." He was now among friends. I bet Gruden had to print a bunch of shirts over the last few weeks!

So today we dust off our knees and stand up.

Today we worked on our next dream. To own our own business. In fact we have been working on it for a while. Yesterday we just got pushed out of the nest. Maybe this one will last a lifetime, maybe not. But at the end we'll know we tried. We gave it all we had.

This is the beginning of a great story. And I am ok if you think I'm crazy. Everyone thought Christopher Columbus was too! This week I see the resistance and I accept it. Because I know that resistance is the only way to build strength. 

Jen

I want to tell you that I actually wrote that post several weeks ago but it never got posted. The Thursday after my husband lost his job my 50 year old Brother-in-law had a massive heart attack and went to be with Jesus. Andy Andrews would call that perspective. He left behind two very young children and my baby sister, now a single mom. I know she is up for the job whether she chose it or not. God is there.


More resistance. More strength.


I just want to tell you that I thought God had prepped me for job loss. I had no idea he had prepped me for such heartbreak. But he did. 


He did.


So I gave myself permission to take a few weeks off from the blog. To have time to love my family more. To breathe more. To live this life. 


I only tell you this because I spend a lot of time on this blog telling you what I think is good for us. What we should do and know and think. I just wanted you to know...it was my turn. I have turns too. And I have to take my own advice too. 


Be still. Breathe. It's ok. 


Resistance = Strength


So I'm back and stronger for taking some time. Can't wait to show you what I have planned for 2013!


 
 
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Well my media break proved to be quite refreshing. I did end up popping on Facebook a couple of times for important matters, but all in all did a good job of avoiding it. And I have to admit that when I signed back on yesterday I felt my anxiety meter go up a bit. So my lesson learned is that Facebook (and the blog, and twitter, etc...) have their good points. I was able to get clothes for a girl in need last week because of Facebook. I'm able to keep in touch with my Runners in Recovery because of the internet. But to pop on there to just waste time is well...just a waste of time. We all have better things to do.


But I have to tell you about a book I'm reading right now. You must read it! Yes you! I don't care who you are you can benefit from this book. This book hits to the core of so much of why (all of us) do what we do. It's scary actually. But necessary. 

The book is called Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. I have highlighted so much in this book I should have just highlighted the stuff I didn't want to highlight. 

See I've been pondering the idea of self-compassion for a few months now. It's what I had in mind when I wrote this little apology/prayer/confession to Jesus. Jesus told us to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. But I'm realizing that it's not just something Jesus told us to do, it's something He knows we already do. We don't have to work at loving our neighbor as ourselves. What requires work is treating our neighbor with greater compassion than we give to ourselves. If we are (and most of us are) harsh a judgmental to ourselves then that is how we will be to our neighbor (read spouse, children, extended family, friends, stranger in the store, etc...). What I'm finding is that the harsh judgmental exterior is usually a coverup for a harsh and judgmental interior. 

For example:

I hate skinny girls because I feel fat. 

Or pretty girls because I feel ugly.

I hate rich people because I am swimming in debt or didn't have rich parents. I don't really think money is bad or makes you bad I just don't have any and that makes me dislike you who do. 

Or as Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick puts it,

"Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack, and subconsciously, beneath their touchy condescension, deeply wish they had."
(Had to toss that quote at my friend who poo-pooed my iPhone forever before she finally bought one...and SHE LOVES IT!) Hehe...it's my blog and I can gloat if I want to!  :)

Which makes me think of some other words from scripture that go something like: For with the same judgment you judge others, you will be judged. (Simple Girl Version)

I think there are theological ideas here that have to do with judgement...probably...you think. But once again I think God knows what Dr. Harry said to be true (of course I'm sure God knew it first). With the same rule we judge others, we are usually the only one who knows that we are using that same rule (if not more harsh) to judge ourselves. 

Because usually before and after each of those examples above our inner voice is busy telling us what we're not good enough at or dont have enough of. It seems the only way to release from the inner critic is to lash out at our neighbor. To compare. 

But according to Brene Brown, it's not the only way out. The other option is vulerability. To lean into it. To allow who we are and what we have to be enough. And to not lie to ourselves. 

Here is the real kicker - and the topic that has been bouncing around in my mind for months now:
Self-compassion.


Brene's book has made me really take a closer look at this self-compassion issue. Brene is a shame researcher. Sounds fun huh? Well it's really interesting. She uses her 12 years of research to show us how the only vehicle out of shame is vulnerability. Ugh. Really? Is there no other way?  

I understand this fear of vulnerability. Writing a blog is an exercise in vulnerability. A few weeks ago when my blog got over 3000 hits in one week (huge for me), I nearly lost it. Not in a good way. I didn't know what I felt. But a week later after reading Brene's book I realize it was vulnerability. I felt "naked". I felt naked because I know that this blog is full of my opinions. It's full of my heart. It's full of mistakes! 

But see that is the easy vulnerability. 

The hard part has been realizing how I am willing to be vulnerable publically. I can show off. But I am unwilling (or a least much less willing - maybe terrified) at being relationally vulnerable. I'm realizing it in my friendships, my marriage and with my children. I see the places I hold back and hold people at arms length. I say that figuratively and literally - I'm not a hugger. But I am also seeing the walls I've built that I think will protect me. When in reality they isolate me. 

And that is where I am...realizing it. Not much more. But this book is helping me. And I love when I can put something Jesus is working on me with and put it with something like the information in Brene's book. Steps out. Baby steps.

Jesus is right (I bet he is so relived to hear me say that), first we must love Him. Then we must love our neighbor as ourself. But am I the only one seeing the step in between that that requires me to love myself. That I should show the compassion of Jesus to myself. Because when I don't show it to myself I am unable to show it to others. 

I've been told all my life that this self-love thing is crap. As if it's secular, self-help pooey. I disagree!

What about you...

Want to see an amazing video of Brene Brown talking about shame and vulnerability? See her TED talks below.
They are worth your time. I was ordering the book before she was finished with the first talk. 

First: TEDX Houston Oct. 6th 2010

Then: She talks about her vulnerability hangover from that first talk here

Jen Mulford is a Wellness Coach trained at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Her coaching practice helps women of all walks of life seek God, find themselves and live their passion. Wellness is about the whole body and soul, not just one isolated part. For more about Jen's coaching practice go here. Jen is living her passion by supporting women who are recovering from addiction live healthy lifestyles through fitness and running. She coordinates a program for women in recovery that provides race entry fees, group fitness classes, and coaching for races and for Life. To see more about this great program visit JenMulford.com
 
 
Jesus you told us to love our neighbor as ourselves and I believe we've been doing just that. Through my own struggles and now my coaching practice I've learned how harsh we are on ourselves, especially us women. We give ourselves no room for error, no grace, no unconditional love. We ridicule ourselves and run ourselves down to the point we dont know who we are. We are critical of our looks, our actions, our thoughts. We fail to recognize the living spirit of God in ourselves, recognize the goodness it brings us and the forgiveness it allows us. Then Lord, we love our neighbors as ourselves.
 
 
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A couple weeks ago as the trees began to turn to their fall beauty, Donald Miller posted this on his Facebook page, "All the trees are losing their leaves, and not one of them is worried." 

For the next few days as I drove from place to place I watched the trees. The colors this time of year draw my eye so fiercely I'm a danger on the road (I have no excuse the rest of the year). But I kept hearing these words of Don in my mind as I watched the trees and I wondered what it would be like to trust God like those trees.

To Trust God Like a Tree

To trust god like a tree is to trust that the season in which it seems like all is falling away is when I look most beautiful.

To trust God like a tree is to trust that the season where I am laid bare and cold is always followed by a season of abundant life-giving water and warmth.

To trust God like a tree is to enjoy the season where there is sun, light and water more than I can imagine and not to worry it away in fear of the season that follows, but to play, laugh, live.
 
To trust God like a tree is to trust he has placed me where I will grow best. 

To trust God like a tree is to not be jealous of other trees that are planted closer to water or reach higher or have more leaves.

To trust God like a tree is to stretch out my branches so that other creatures may live, find shelter, and rest.

To trust God like a tree is to trust that when I reach out and one of my branches breaks to know that I was as strong as I needed to be.
 
To trust God like a tree is to trust my roots to keep me planted firm through the storms.

To trust God like a tree is to live each day reaching toward the heavens-
nothing more and nothing less.


This is what fall does to me. Feel free to add your own below...

Jen


PS - 

Want to join us for a Facebook Book Club for the book A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans? Click here

Next up: Storyline, by Donald Miller 
 
 
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I have known the Proverbs 31 woman since I was a child. Introduced to her early in my evangelical tradition I have known all the tireless ways a woman is to serve her man, her family, her community and her God. And now as a mother and wife, only a small "stones throw" from the same evangelical influence, I am consistently reminded of my list of to do's as a real woman of God. We've ignored the fact that Proverbs 31 was written about a woman who did not actually exist. It was an acrostic, a Hebrew poem, about a woman of valor of which, "who can find?" 

I don't do a whole lot with firm consistency, but one thing I am trying to be steadfast in is my honesty on this blog. And if I am being honest about the P31 woman I have to tell you, I hate her. She has always, and still to this day, makes me feel less than. I have never lived up to her and feel that I never will. A couple years ago I wanted to attend a conference for women speakers and I told my husband of my desire to be there. But as I looked at it more, the more I was intimidated into not attending. Why? Well first of all, because I couldn't afford it. But second, it was put on by a group that calls themselves Proverbs 31 Ministries. I knew (or at least I told myself) that I wouldn't belong. I had this idea of being critiqued by these "Proverbs 31 women" and it had me breaking out in a sweat just thinking of it. 

It took me 8 years into being a mother to figure out that I may actually have a shred of motherly instincts.  I was the girl who never wanted to hold a baby because I made them cry. If I am being honest, I didn't enjoy being a mom until my kids could wipe their own butts. I couldn't cook (something I actually do love now - but I hate cleaning it up). I don't sew. The only thing I know that I do well that the P31 woman does is rise before dawn. I am a morning person. But see, that in itself is a curse because as a morning person I am not a night person. I am useless at night. My friends know not to call me after 8 unless it's an emergency. So then I have to wonder if my inability to keep my "lamp lit at night" (v. 18) negates my enthusiasm for rising before dawn, because for the life of me I cannot do both. I think that is what some women would call balance. I have ADD. Balance is not in my vocabulary. And my children do not "rise and call me blessed." They walk into the kitchen after I have spent 4 hours preparing a homemade meal and they ask for a hotdog. 

But, right now I am reading A Year in Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans and for the first time in my life I feel like a Proverb 31 woman. I feel like I may actually make the cut.

Rachel's book is just what it sounds like. For a year Rachel studied Biblical womanhood and set out to literally follow as much as she possibly could. The first couple of chapters amused me as she made her way through a Martha Stewart cookbook, called her husband master and practiced what it meant to have a "gentle spirit." But then she took on the P31 woman my ears perked up and I may be forever changed. 

It's not long before Rachel finds herself admitting that she was nothing but discouraged by her attempts to become the literal P31 woman; "I had to hand it to her. In less than 14 days the Proverbs 31 woman made me feel guilty, inadequate, and poor." 

A woman of valor who can find?

Just as Rachel is feeling discouraged and ready to quit her attempts at being a P31 woman (and has quit some), she gets an email from a woman who is a Rabbi's wife and Orthodox Jew that lives in Israel, whom she has been corresponding with. The woman reveals to Rachel that in the Jewish tradition it is not the woman who remembers and recites Proverbs 31, but the man

The Jewish woman tells Rachel that Proverbs 31 is sung to her each Sabbath by her husband. Ok, can you picture this? Her husband sings to her, to honor her, a woman of valor, each Sabbath as they sit down to eat. It's odd and beautiful all at the same time. And only odd because I couldn't get my evangelical guilt out of the way long enough to hear my husband even if he did break into song at the dinner table. 

I've been steeped in a tradition of checking off a list of things I needed to do to be this woman, when all the while she made me sick. Why? Because she didn't jive with my God. Since when are we to perform for God? 

Eshet Chayil = woman of valor

When thinking of the empire that has been built in books, Bible studies, and even conventions, pointed at attaining this Proverbs 31 ideal Rachel notes, "No longer presented as a song through which a man offers his wife praise, Proverbs 31 is presented as a task list through which a woman earns it." 

But after learning from her Jewish friend Rachel finds that, "Eshet chayil is at its core a blessing - one that was never meant to be earned, but to be given, unconditionally." Now that is the God I know!

Rachel decides, "As I saw how powerful and affirming this ancient blessing could be, I decided it was time for Christian women to take back Proverbs 31. Somewhere along the way, we surrendered it to the same people who invented airbrush, Auto-Tune and Rachel Ray. We abandoned the meaning of the poem by focusing on specifics, and it became just another impossible standard by which to measure our failures. We turned an anthem into an assignment, a poem into a job description." Why do we have to measure everything? Why?

She adds, "...the woman described in Proverbs 31 is not some ideal that exists out there; she is present in each one of us when we do even the smallest things with valor." 

Rachel's husband Dan, who has been front and center for her attempts at becoming this ideal woman, begins to point out to her each time she does something he would want to praise her for, and he does it with an enthusiastic, "Woman of valor!" or "Eshet chayil!" Rachel comes home with pizza, "Eshet chayil!" Rachel gets paid for advertising on her blog, "Eshet chayil!"

I love it! 

I looked up the meaning of valor according to Merriam-Webster; "strength of mind or spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness; personal bravery." I know so many women who fit this description. When I think woman of valor I see a woman fighting cancer with strength of mind and spirit. Eshet chayil! I see a friend, or sister, or mother, sitting with that woman with cancer while her laundry piles up at home. Eshet chayil! I see a single mom working 3 jobs, and no, she cannot check off everything on that list from Proverbs 31, but she embodies personal bravery. Eshet chayil! I see a woman fighting her addiction she picked up as a child to band-aid hurt from a trusted family member. Eshet chayil! I see Glennon Melton. 

Glennon, a recovering bulimic and alcoholic, is one of the most broken women I can think of who is kicking some ass in the world. Glennon is the founder of a blog called Momastery, and a non-profit called Monkee See - Monkee Do. She started as a blogger who wanted to make a difference in the world and today, as I type, Glennon's love has reached to a school of special needs kids who are getting a school makeover from Monkee See - Monkee Do and Microsoft. Meanwhile, she is doing all she can to keep it together personally. Eshet chayil! Glennon has a book coming out soon called Carry On, Warrior. Carry on eshet chayil...carry on woman of valor. 

I see Proverbs 31 women all the time. I don't see her checking off boxes on a list of to do's to gain the praise of her man, or her God, or her friends. I see her loving. I see her allowing the dishes to pile up to sit with a friend and cry or laugh...or both. I see her getting behind on cleaning the bathrooms to make cupcakes for the soccer team. I see my friends who give up free time to sit with the homeless, addicted, and hurt to follow Jesus into uncomfortable places. And my list goes on an on. 

I agree with Rachel, it's time to take back the Proverbs 31 woman because she is present in each of us when we do even the smallest things with valor. 

Carry on, eshet chayil!

Jen

 
 
If you read my post yesterday you saw my apology to God, Brenda Warner and all of womankind. 

I had a really ugly moment all to myself that I decided to share with the universe (or all 3 of you). And in the end I decided what I really needed was supernatural abilities too see hearts. I basically wanted to be Jesus. But I knew what I was asking for was impossible. To look at a person and see their heart. What I really want to see is their heartbreak. I want compassion for people I don't know regardless of the fact that they may look put together. I want to suffer with them. Because I have lived long enough to know we all are walking wounded. So I asked for supernatural power to see women...to know them.

On another note I am trying to be very intentional about my Facebook time. Trying to not let it suck the life out of my life. But something sort of fun happened over the weekend. I got selected to be part of a launch group for Thomas Nelson for the release of Rachel Held Evans new book A Year of Biblical Womanhood (more on that later). I have been so excited about this book coming out. Rachel gets me. She doesn't know it, but she does. But anyway, what this means is that I already have the book and I am reading it with 74 other people and we are all discussing it on Facebook. Yep, more Facebook time. We all have blogs and websites and cool stuff going on that you really want to spend hours looking at, but who has that kind of time. Not me. 

So, I've had to set some serious Facebook time limits. 

That being said, back to yesterday's post...

God is working me hard on this "getting to know women" thing. I think this all stems from my never feeling like a "girls girl" if you know what I mean. My comfort level is always higher in a group of men. I think that speaks volumes about me, and not good ones. I know that. 

So yesterday I ask God for this supernatural power that I'm sure He is not going to give me in the way I wanted it. But as I am looking at Facebook yesterday I see a post from Women of Faith. It was a prayer circle. They asked women to post their prayer requests and promised that they would be praying over them. We were invited to pray too and "like" the request when we did. 

I felt God say, "You wanted to know them, here they are." All 242 of them! Yep, 242 prayer requests were already up when I came upon this circle. So I set aside my homework, that I am so behind on, and read every entry. I saw the photo, read the name, read the request and lifted it to God. Oh, and of course I "liked" it. One I was moved to respond to personally in a message. As usual God broke my heart. Their lives and vulnerability broke my heart. 

There was cancer, husbands leaving, marriages needing healing, lost children, addiction, loss - so much loss. So much loss. 

I sat and choked back tears and I read and I began to change, just a little bit. No big conversion here. I have so much farther to go. I didn't wake up today removed of judgement completely but I think I am on the road. A road that will be hard but that is welcome. A road that will last a lifetime.

I have learned something. 

Compassion removes judgement. 

Compassion means to "suffer with". Not to send money. Not to drop a prayer on Facebook. But to involve yourself in the life of another so much as to suffer with them. I want judgement removed in me for all people and I think if a lot of women were honest we'd say the group we judge most is other women. We'd also admit the group we feel most judged by is other women. 

I don't know your answer and I would never pretend to. But I know the path I've been shown. The path that, I believe, removes judgement: Compassion. 

I started to apologize here. I stared to say, "Sorry for getting so heavy on you. You came here for a recipe for soup and I gave you this!." But in all honesty, I'm not sorry. You probably came here for wellness. For healing. At least I hope you did. And a good soup recipe can do that. But not in the way that compassion can. Compassion changes us. Plank removal changes us. And then one day we realize we have allowed God to make us more whole from the inside out. And that is a beautiful thing. That is change that lasts, change that brings true Peace. So, no apologies here. I love you all and wish you all the wellness in the world - from the inside out. 

Love,
Jen - a simple girl just trying to figure this whole thing out.
 
 
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When I think of some of the great books I've read over this last year I realize just how drawn I am to a good, real-life story. Aren't we all?

I've read Love Does by Bob Goff. It's a refreshing look at the life of one unusual man. Why is Bob Goff unusual? Because he is motivated and moved by only one thing; love. He is not hindered by the rules of this world that tell us that's crazy. He sees crazy as a moment to embrace courage and act in love. Bob taught me to lighten up and pay attention to the people around me. He made me pause when asked by my kids if they could run silly through the sprinkler with their clothes on or knock on neighbors doors for a game of Bigger and Better. He made me live life a little more. A lot more.

I just finised a book called Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand. It's a story of the life of Louis Zamperini. It should have been named Unbelievable. It could have been named for what happend to Louis; The Unimaginable. It's a story of survial, history, family, war, running, forgiveness, redemption and so much more. Louis showed me that life is hard. No, life is brutal. But he also showed me that I can make it. That God can and will speak to me even if I am lost at sea and the sharks are surrounding. Even there I can hear the sound of angels. Louis taught me to appreciate freedom with new eyes and honor the men who have given all and are currently giving all.

I've read so many other books that have taught me how to live this life. The Hunger Games as well as How to Kill 11 Million People by Andy Andrews (you can read that in one hour) both taught me to keep my eyes wide open. To watch for the subtle changes that become slippery slopes to a life in which we will all stand one day and say we did not choose, but history will prove that to be a lie. We choose little by little, day by day, dollar by dollar. It's not just how we vote with our ballots it's how we vote with our dollars, our time, our hearts.

There were so many more.

And of course I've read the greatest Book. I've looked at the life of Jesus in a new way this year and I can no loner allow him to remain in his clean little box. When I see Jesus what do I see most? Compassion. But what I have learned is that compassion hurts. When we allow ourselves to love as Jesus did, in relationship, we will hurt. How can we "suffer with" and not "hurt with"? We will. But even in that hurt, doubt and questioning God has called me closer to him. When I cried out because I thought he let go of one of my friends he gently reminded me that not only would he would not let go but that he could not. Her name was already written on the palm of his hand. Jesus taught me this year that to follow him is not a heavy burden because it's exhilarating to get a front row seat when he is transforming someone (and me) but it hurts when he is rejected. I don't blame them, I love them and recognize that I do just the same thing on a daily basis. Jesus has taught me compassion. Not the kind that gives from a distance but the kind that suffers with...hurts with. But in that he has shown me that Isaiah 58 is true. That when we suffer with our fellow man (or woman) our light will break forth like the dawn. Mine has. 

So I'm ever thankful for the ability to read. I have not always had that ability so maybe that is why I'm so grateful. I love learning about other people and reading their stories. I have this feeling of awe at what they have accomplished against all odds, what they have learned and what they have experienced in life and relationships and I think, I want that. I want to be them. Not each of them individually but my own kind of them. I don't want to read about people who do crazy, insane acts of kindness and love towards others and themselves and just sit back and think, aww that was nice. No. Why read if not to allow it to change us? Each life speaks a bit into our story and hopefully shapes who we are and who we are becoming. 


What was your favorite book this year and how did it change you?


 
 
When I was in my early twenties I was teaching aerobics about 12 times a week. I taught at the usual places like the all women's fru-fru please don't work me so hard my make-up and hair will run places (yuck!). I also did my fair share of time in the places that those women would have found repulsive. Places full of sweaty body builders and the sounds of lots of grunting and weights crashing to the floors. I like those places. The women there wanted a workout. They would rush the front desk and have me fired immediately if they didn't sweat until there was blood. God help me if that was my third class that day!

The trick is when you work in every gym in the county you find it hard to pop in and get your own workout anywhere. It just feels like work. So when a friend of mine suggested I go with her to this gym in Tampa where she was working out, far from my usual places, it sounded a little hard core - and far away - so I went. 

When I got there it wasn't anything like the gyms I was used to hanging out in. It was a boxing gym. A real boxing gym, with real fighters, boxing ring, no air condition, no fluff, even a big black guy that was an ex-World Kickboxing Champ that owned the place. He even had one of those one name names (It was his last name I found out, but he only went by his last name - cool). Growing up with a grossly common name like Jennifer I always wanted one of those cool names that no else had. Instead, in my world every time a teacher said Jennifer four hands went up. My friends usually referred to me as Baty (my maiden name). Hey, maybe I was boxing material. 

This place became a new hang-out for me. During the day the place was filled with boxers and in the afternoon it crawled with kids who would show up for kickboxing and karate classes. The classes seemed to attract a lot of single moms (or maybe it was the dudes, I don't know) but watching the big scary looking owner turn mentor to those kids was beautiful. He often praised the kids for a job well done in school and, when needed, was a firm voice to pull them aside and give them time to get their act together. This wasn't just about karate it was about other missing things to them...maybe to me too at the time. 

One day the guy who was the manager of the boxers, who looked like one of those guys who has several names like Jimmy Baby Face Riberio or something like that, approached me and asked if he paid me would I teach aerobics to his boxers in the ring. He quickly offered me twice as much as I was making at the other places and I quickly said YES! He didn't want any fancy stuff, didn't really need any great choreography this was a rhythm exercise, he explained. He wanted the guys to learn rhythm in the ring. Easy enough, or so I thought. 

I show up for my first class just a little terrified to be honest. Not that I was particularly terrified of this group, they seemed nice enough for a bunch of guys with broken noses and slashes over their eyes. But I get nervous any time I do something new. But as a rule - I did it anyway. 

What I had not considered until the music started and I took my first jump was that I had NEVER been in a boxing ring before in my life. I had no idea those things were that springy! What happened next is pretty much a blur as my brains slammed back and forth against my skull each time I tried to get my footing. Every time this mass of men came down on the ring floor I went up. Not just a little bounce either, I sailed! I was getting 2-3 feet with each leap. I was out of control. And every time I'd think I had my footing - BAM! - there I'd go again. Eventually, I found my footing and the guys settled in to "learn some rhythm" (Which I still attest is unteachable. You either have it or you don't. There were a lot of don'ts in that ring with me that day.) It was an exhausting hour!

I know it's a long way around but I am trying to make a point. 

Sometimes life is just like trying to teach that class. As soon as you think you're getting your footing then - BAM! - you're sent sailing into orbit. You think that you're arrived somewhere, you have figured it all out and then God, in all of His humor, sends you back into space. 

The other day, I posted Approaching 41, a short blog about my upcoming birthday. 

I posted this quote by Richard Foster: 
"...what do I know as regards this life? I know both less and more. I am less certain about how it all works and more clear on the Center that animates all of life."

My friend Rachel made a comment that has stayed with me since, she said, "I think knowing that we don't know is the beginning of wisdom. But who knew it would take so long to get to the beginning?"

I love that! I does seem like I've arrived somewhere. And yet at the same time I feel like life is ejecting me back out to the next thing, no downtime here. But it does feel like a beginning. Beginnings are good. Beginnings are fresh. Beginnings are new. 

So while I feel like I'm just getting my footing and yet being catapulted out of my comfort zone all at the same time, I'm going to call it a beginning. Yep, it took a long time to get here, at my beginning. A lot of people found their beginning a long time ago. I am not them. I didn't. I could have taken longer. It could have been never. But while I was looking for my beginning I found me and that made the trip worth it. 

Are you at your beginning? Are you looking for your beginning? Join the club. Many of us are. I know when you look around it looks like everyone has it all figured out. It often feels like you're the only one still getting there. You're not. You're in good company. You have a beginning waiting for you. 

Love, 
Jen

Oh, and I have a big announcement Monday!!! Can't wait to share. :)
 
 
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I love to read. This is nothing short of a miracle for me to have this love of books. As a child, multiple issues kept me from forming a love of reading. In fact, they drove me to hate reading. I was so jealous of the girls who walked the halls holding the latest novel. I thought they looked so smart. So of course since I "struggled" you can imagine what I thought of myself...not smart for sure. 

So as I grew into adulthood and dealt with some those issues I began to develop this love for reading. It was as if a whole new world had opened up to me. And I felt smart. Finally! A couple years ago I got a Kindle as a gift and I love it. But I've found that it just can't completely replace books for me. There is something about holding a book in your hand. And the smell, it's not a good smell really, but it's a book smell and somehow, maybe it's that it was withheld from me for so long, to me, it's a beautiful smell. Musty but beautiful. 

My books never travel alone. They are always in the company of a highlighter and pen. Any time the kids want a couple hours at the pool I'm game and ready to head out with my three amigos; book, highlighter and pen. And I use them. Don't loan me a book that you don't want back with marks in it. It's as if I just can't help myself. A couple years ago a friend loaned me a book and I was half-way through, marking the heck out of that thing before I realized, not only was it not mine but it was his signed copy. Honestly, it was one of the best, life-changing books I had ever read and I've been a fan of anything by this author ever since. I hope that is consolation enough for my friend to not be upset that I marked up his signed copy - really I didn't mean to.  Now you see why I don't use the library much, that just spells trouble for me for sure. 

So now because of my love for books, highlighters and pens, I have another new past time. This is where I go back through my old books and read only the highlighted parts. I read my notes and journaling and see what fascinated me so much as to put a heart over a whole section, or fold a page in half, or use up every open space on the page to make a note. 

So today as I was doing this I found a book with a post-it sticking out with a heart on it. When I opened to that page I found at the top of the page yet another heart. And entire section had been highlighted and yet one more heart. Evidently I loooooved this portion of the book. (Oh, by the way the book was called Soul Revolution by John Burke.)

Here is what I highlighted: 

"Frank Laubach, looking back on his experiment in practicing presence of God every minute of every day (which is the real goal - not every sixty minutes but every sixty seconds), declared: 'When one has struck some wonderful blessing that all mankind has a right to know about, no custom or false modesty should prevent him from telling it...I have found such way of life,...and it is very simple, so simple that any child could practice it, ...yet it transforms life into heaven...The results of this effort begin to show clearly in a month. They grow rich after six months, and glorious after ten years'." (The simple girl in me had to bold the word simple.)

Friends, that is why I write this blog. Period. 

Through much hardship, prayer, tears, searching, doubting, trusting, loving, forgiving, and the list goes on, I struck some wonderful blessing. We allevery person created by God and placed on this planet, have a right to this blessing.

And it's simple. No Bible study can teach it, no preacher can preach it. It's the simplicity of silence in front of God. It's being still...and being still...and...being still. 

So, I hope that you're enjoying your long weekend. I hope that you are spending much time nurturing your life with much Primary Food. And I hope that you take a few minutes today to breathe in the goodness that God has given you. Spend a few minutes in silence and I'm sure that you will strike some wonderful blessing. 

And in case you're worried I've gone and abandoned wellness, here are a few things I'm working on for you over the coming weeks: (I get asked how often I blog. My answer -When I feel like it. Living in freedom!)
 - Hemp vs. Whey Protein (I get asked this one a lot)
 - Fall Soup Recipes to freeze - Have any you want to share, bring 'em on!
 - Benefits of Fish Oil
 - Healthy Start Shopping List

Oh, and the biggie - My next 10 Week Tele-Coaching Class that will begin on November 1st and help you kick holiday pounds to the curb. Details to come this week!

Happy Labor Day! 
If you have a job, thank God for it today and pray for those who are in need of one.
If you need a job, ask God for it today - yes again, and know that we join you. 

Love, 
Jen