Thursday, April 2, 2015

My stuggle is real to #BeatDepression

For the last year I have been unable to post any blogs.  I've had all these thoughts but couldn't get them down on paper. Today, as I reflect on what has transpired in this last year, I think I haven't given myself enough grace as to what I have been through.  It has been a rough year.  I've had a second ankle surgery barely recovering from the first only 8 months prior, I endured radiation treatment after surgery #2, I've experienced a break up, reconciliation and now we are going through couples counseling. I feel strain with family members, had deep concern about my mothers health, dealt with personal finance challenges , have gained 15 pounds, criticized myself in how I am running my household and began the hard work of one on one counseling for myself.  It's has most definitely been a season of digging up the things from my past, working through the trash, physical healing, emotional healing and trusting God to walk alongside me through it all.  Trust me, it's not easy.  There have been several times I've kicked and screamed wanting to know, "Why now?!" and at times, it just has felt like too much to bear.  Too much to the point of being completely TIRED of life.

Sure, the outside world sees what I allow them to see.  Each of us, each day put on this thing I'd like to call, "Our Mask." Why do we do this?  What purpose does it serve?  When in the end, more times than not, that mask includes falsehood of who we really are. It shadows who we are, deep within the core of our soul.  Do we put it on to save face?  Do we wear it because we have shame?  Do we wear it to appear stronger than we are?

I know all those reasons are only some of the reasons why I do this. It was something I was taught as a young child and has been a part of my life since.  Now as a 42 year old mother of three, God has finally asked me to kindly, gently, and lovingly remove that mask and be transparent with those around me. So let me start by saying, "My struggles are real."  The depression I have battled for many years is real.  But what I have realized is the power to keeping me from falling so far deep into that depression like the time I was 16 and swallowed a bottle of pills, is that I have a shining light that helps me not remain in that darkness and despair.

I don't do this perfectly.  There are moments, and lately quite a few of them, when the thoughts of worthlessness, ugliness, shame fill my mind as I hear the echoing words of "Everyone would be perfectly fine if I was no longer around.  They would mourn your for a short while and move on. You are not that important." The battle of the mind is stronger than we realize. 

For the last 4 months, this has been my place in life.  Yes, all the posts you see on IG, Facebook and twitter paint a different picture. Why is that?  Are we afraid to make people uncomfortable?  Who made those rules?  Isn't real unconditional love, love that accepts each one of us with all our trash?  This is how God receives us.  He accepts us with all our filth and garbage. I used to think He would only accept me and love me if my side of the street was cleaned up.  Boy was I WRONG! If that were the case, I would have never crossed the street. In all my life, I have found only one person who tells me the truth, has heard my deepest shameful secrets, doesn't let me feel sorry for myself for too long and has loved me every step of the way. She loved me through it.

Depression is a real thing.  And the enemy attacks full force when we are in that state, when we are at an all time low.  When I find myself here, in this dark isolated place it becomes such a struggle to pray for anything or anyone, to like who I am, to be thankful for what I have, to read my bible but most of all it is difficult for me to be real. I find myself just going through the motions.  The last few months I highly doubt anyone but my counselor and accountability partner even knew what I was struggling with.  I have become that good in masking my feelings which is not something I'm NOT proud of.  I didn't even realize how good I've become at it until my counselor pointed it out to me.

When I first began my one on one counseling and I expressed the deep hurts within my heart, I shared them with a smile. That is my mask. I've been taught that, to ask for help is burdensome.  To let others know you are struggling is weak.  That is NOT how God intended his people to live.  We are to encourage and lift one another up. This is new for me. I am good at being the encourager but to allow others to support and encourage me....Well that is unheard of!  Over the last few years, as I've become stronger in my faith God has also given me the strength and courage to change the unhealthy behaviors and cycles that were built within my family. I don't blame anyone for how I was raised because what my parents taught me and how they raised me were based on what they were taught. It was what worked for them and it is how they survived, but I know it doesn't work for me. I don't want my children to have to endure these same struggles.  These unhealthy generational behaviors and thought patterns have to END with me. 

So each day is a step of faith. I step forward and trust that God has placed solid ground below my feet even when my "feelings" deceive me in that truth.  He has always been with me. His promises are unchanging.  He is faithful each day and I am certain of this with the sunrise.

This past weekend I had the blessed opportunity to sit outside, enjoy my coffee, read a good book and allow myself to "hear" and "feel" God's presence.  It seemed like such a long time since that heavy dark cloud has been lifted from my shoulders. I believe the power of the Holy Spirit flowed through each prayer of all the people who have been supporting me through this season and the power of prayer released the enemy's hold on my mind.

I have to remind myself daily that being "Fit for Christ" is not only about being fit physically, but mentally as well.  The mental aspect is probably far more important than the physical.  We have to change our minds to overcome the many obstacles that stop us in our tracks.  When we renew our minds with truth, we can #beatdepression.  So even during the struggle, be as aggressive as possible to muster the strength to share what you are going through with someone you trust, cry out to Jesus, read a devotional, keep going to church, rebuke the enemy, and allow people to pray for you! God speaks to us in different ways everyday.

My season is changing.  The dead leaves are falling and I can feel new buds of life sprouting.  Walking through the trenches is never easy.  You feel stuck and like you will never get out.  When that happens allow someone not to necessarily get into the mud with you, but allow them to reach down and pull you out of it!


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What a difference 46 Days can make.....

It was the day after Ash Wednesday that I decide to give up social media....Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+.

I am amazed at how much peace, healing and restoration has entered my life since then.  Today is the first day I logged on and I don't plan on doing it too often.  My primary intent to any public postings will serve the purpose of encouragement and share parts of my life that could inspire others in a positive manner keeping my focus on others. As I refocused on how I was spending my time, without any distractions of social media, there has been so much change in these last 46 days........

  • I've continued my women's bible study and have had so experienced growth and healing.  As I have completed the last aspect of the study, called Lifegiver. I found out that sometimes to attain the peace and joy of life, you have to allow yourself to be vulnerable, allow yourself to rip off layers of your life to get to the new creation of you.  I could not have done this alone.  I had women in my life who encouraged and lifted me up. With Christ in me, I was reassured the whole time as he whispered truths into my mind, of who I am now, and how I can completely release my past through repentance. This healing part of my life, I am sharing in a separate blog post titled,"My Life Lesson as  LifeGiver."  This bible study has really encouraged me to become a better mother and to my kids.  This class and the other aspects and teachings I'm grasping onto from people in my church, daily devotionals and online sermons, has really helped with the process of restoring my relationships with my children.

  • I've completed my 50 hours of training in the Stephen Ministry program!  I am over the top about this Ministry and the potential it has, not because of what we can do as Stephen Ministers, but the impact that God will have as he uses us to do his work in and through us to those who need his love most.  I am so excited to meet my care receiver and begin loving and supporting the person in whatever their need may be in their life. It is going to be a wonderful journey of hope and healing. Over the weekend of March 29-30th my class of 72 students stood before our congregation and were commissioned.  I could not stop smiling and feeling blessed to have the opportunity to serve God and my church family this way.

As for me and physical fitness, I'm doing my best to remain as active as possible, which are the days that my ankle isn't swelling too much or that I'm experiencing too much pain.  Recently, it has been locking up quite a bit.  I'm only two weeks away from my 2nd surgery.  I am praying that this round will be successful in removing the entire PVNS tumor. With that said.......

  • I finished my final 10k race until surgery day.  Surprisingly, being that I have not trained or ran much prior to this race I did rather well.  I completed the 6.2 mile race in 1 hour 8 minutes! My daughter and one of my BFF's both were unable to join me as they had planned, so this year I ran it for all 3 of us.  I wore their bib numbers and enjoyed the beauty of the California coast as I ran. I wish I could say the fun was pain free, but unfortunately, it was not. Although, it did feel pretty amazing crossing the finish line with all the other ladies at the She.Is.Beautiful. 5k and 10k race.

  • I've had the opportunity to hike up Mission Peak 2x in the last 46 days.  I never get tired of this hike. I find myself surrounded by so much beauty. I always enjoy it regardless if I am hiking it alone or I have company. I find myself thanking God for the ability to do such an amazing thing. It gives me time to reflect on life, listen to worship music, have a breathless conversation on the way up or just exchange a friendly smile with a passer-by's.  Life is good.

  •  I've continued my training for the 2014 Tour De Cure Century ride set for May 4th in Napa. Last weekend I rode the 50 mile course in a team ride.  I'm so excited to do this ride with friends, but mostly to do it with my daughter.  It will be a great accomplishment for her and also experience something special together as a family. The joy in seeing the beautiful woman she is developing into is beyond words.  The best way to express it, is by the smile I get on my face when I think about where her path is taking her and when I get opportunity to share where it is taking her.  She is an expression of my love ♥

In addition to bike rides and a few spin classes, I've continued to keep active by challenging myself to another 30-day challenge.  I do my best to complete the circuits daily, sometimes making up a day by doing a double circuit because my ankle hasn't been cooperating with me over the last couple of weeks.  But when my ankle does permit the circuit includes the following exercises:
  • Burppee's (Day 1 starts with 5 and Day 30 ends with 100)
  • Plank's (Day 1 starts with a 20 seconds and Day 30 ends with 5 Minutes)
  • Push-Up's (Day 1 starts with 5 and Day 30 ends with 100)
  • Hi Knee's (Low Impact) (Day 1 starts with 15 and Day 30 ends with 50)
  • Russian Twists (Day 1 starts with 25 and Day 30 ends with 100)
  • Mountain Climbers balancing on a 8lb dual grip Sklz ball (Low Impact) (Day 1 starts with 10 and Day 30 ends with 50)
  • Dips with one leg elevated (Day 1 starts with 5 and Day 30 ends with 100)
  • Step-ups w/8lb dual-grip Sklz ball over head (Day 1 starts with 20 and Day 30 ends with 100)
  • Shaper rotation routine w/5lb weight (Day 1 starts with 5 and Day 30 ends with 20)
Yesterday marked my last day of another 7-day cleanse. With surgery only two weeks away, I desired to focus back to healthy eating habits.  This past week came as a good opportunity to begin implementing those healthy eating habits back into my life.  I will continuously as with any discipline, need reprogram my mind from reaching for those unhealthy snacks and meals and choose healthy ones.

I will need to find the mental strength to deal with my limitations over the next few months.  This can only be done by giving that part to God and reminding myself of his truths.   I am very thankful that my daughter tells me often that, "God loves you exactly as you are Mom."  The low self-image issues I battle with constantly cause me to have a tendency to become obsessive over my fitness capabilities, weight and nutrition habits.  This obsessiveness leads me to a path which I do not want to go down because it is full of prideful behavior and idolization. My Taylor Boo does her best to point me back in the right direction and helps me keep my focus on what is really important; not on how I see myself in the mirror or how others may think I should look like, but on how GOD views me.  

I love as each day of life shows up, I get to choose the path to take. Perhaps I don't have control over my circumstances, but I can choose how to view each one.  I can choose to sit and pout about it, or I can make it an opportunity to learn, grown and gain wisdom.  Life is truly what you make of it and although most of us think it's about being happy by getting the materialistic things, the perfect job, getting that raise or promotion at work and all the other things we can store up here on earth. I've resolved that the secret to my joy and happiness, is what I'm storing up in my heart, mind and soul - who is CHRIST and all the promises of the Bible.  Learning contentment in what I have, who I am, and the circumstances placed before me have been a key factor in the joy I have in my life today.  

My Life Lesson as a Life Giver ♥

In February of this year, I joined my first bible study group in over 25 years.  The study is called "5 Aspects of Woman" and focuses on the role of womanhood, but more so on the way God views us in that role.  

It has been a pretty tough class but completely worth the time and effort applied to each aspect. After each chapter, with our last called Lifegiver, the women in my group are supposed to write something that is called a Life Lesson.  It's something about the aspect we covered, and how the aspect applied to us, what it meant or how it has impacted our lives.  WOW ~ Can I just share that this one, was by far the hardest and the one that brought up the most raw emotions within me. 

Below is the life lesson I shared with my group of 19 amazing women:

As I began this lesson, it became clear that I had no idea what it really meant to be a life giver. And as we studied this lesson it opened up a part in my life that I convinced myself was resolved.

On the surface when I share the short version of the family dynamics within my household, I always felt as if I was not being completely truthful because in my heart I knew there were many emotional wounds I was ignoring.  I began to realize that the more I tried to ignore those emotional wounds the more I found it becoming a barrier in my relationship with Christ and my relationship with my family. 

The last four weeks have been a struggle as we have been working on this aspect of our bible study.  It has been a time of releasing my past and a path of restoration to the brokenness of my children and me.  This lesson forced me to surrender to the lies I continuously told myself; I was not worthy of God's love or His forgiveness for many of my past behaviors. I found myself crying out to God (literally) to restore me and the individual relationships with each of my children. This lesson helped me realize my need to understand how God views me. What I’ve learned is that I am worthy, loveable and forgivable. I found myself meeting Jesus at the well of life and it was then I found myself, for the first time with a genuine heart of repentance asking The Lord to forgive me of my past and the hurtful words, actions and behaviors I had projected upon my children. As quoted in a book I'm currently reading it says:
I have a 22 year old son named Vincent who went to live with his grandmother in Los Banos at age 18, shortly after he graduated high school. What I often leave out are the details of why he left.  I only share that he didn’t want to follow my rules.  I don’t mention that the home environment I had created became unbearable for him. I had neglected his feelings about the concerns he had of how he was treated, not only by me, but by the man that I was living with at that time. It saddens me that since my son has moved out he lives a life of isolation, that consists of him waking up each day, logging onto his computer and spending about 15+ hours a day playing an internet game called, “Final Fantasy.”

I have a 20 year old son named Ryan who lives at home.  He works, takes classes at a local community college and overall seems to display the typical behaviors of a 20 year old boy. I see a lot potential in him but, I also see his need for love and acceptance, and the desire to be taken care of.  He too was another child I neglected to show love toward for a period of time.  He expressed so much anger toward the person I was in a relationship with at that time to the point of a verbal and almost physical altercation.  I will never forget the look on my son’s face on that day.  At the time of this incident, he was 14 years old.  I was home sick in bed as I heard raised voices coming from another room.  Before I knew it my son was standing in my doorway, with tears in his eyes and full of frustration.  I just remember sitting in my bed saying absolutely nothing.

I have a 16 year old daughter named Taylor. I tend to speak of her most because I spend most of my time with her.  I'm always excited to share how shortly after I recommitted my life back to Christ, she followed. What’s left out is the road she traveled to get to the point where she is today.  It was a road filled with the exposure of my foolish behaviors. I was a selfish and self-centered person. My behaviors in the last six years of that ten year relationship deeply affected some of the choices she made in her early teen years.
Of my three children, my greatest heartache has been the struggles I’ve seen her go through.  Perhaps it's because as I watched her behavior and choices, it was as if I was looking into a mirror.  All my kids have been deeply affected in one way or another, but Taylor was the one who outwardly expressed how my depression, co-dependency, excessive drinking, resentment, anger and bitterness effected them.  After years of denial on my part and I began seeing a pattern of events in her life that I saw in my own.  I realized that if something did not change, the path she would head down would look very similar to the life I was living.  It was not something I wanted for her or my boys.

In April 2010 after several months of counseling I finally was honest with myself and mustered up the strength to end the relationship. The day I came home after being away for the weekend and saw all his things cleared out of my house was the beginning of a new life, not only for me but for my children.

One would think my struggles would have ended there, that I had learned my lesson but almost immediately I found myself jumping into another relationship, repeating similar unhealthy patterns months later.  After two years of ups and down in that relationship, in October 2012, I finally began living up to what it meant to be life giver to my children.  It was when I surrendered my life back to Christ that I could begin repairing the damage of the broken lives in my family through Christ.  Over the last two years (2012 - present) there has been so much progress in the healing of my children and my life.

With the conclusion of the last sermon taught at my church on Love, Sex and Lasting Relationships - God's Prescription to Enhance your Love Life, I found myself feeling convicted about the areas of my life that needed to be addressed with my daughter.  I needed to make amends with her for the things she was exposed to and the behaviors she witnessed by me.  I found myself sobbing on my 25 minute drive home from church that evening because everything that was taught in that series, following the Hollywood formula, and all the pain and lies that are attached to that type of relationship was my life up until about a year and a half ago. As I reflect back on those years of my life, I clearly see the damage it caused in my life giving abilities.

This aspect really tugged at my heart.  I had been praying for an opportunity to speak to my daughter and as the fallen aspect of Lifegiver came up, I found myself procrastinating to even begin the lesson.  I forced myself to work on it one Sunday morning as Taylor attended the high school group. It was then that I gave it all to God; my past, my sin, my guilt, my shame and my children.  It was also the moment that I knew I had to confess and ask for forgiveness from all three of my children with a repetitive heart and spirit. 
That evening as Taylor and I were sitting in my room, I shared with her how deeply sorry I was for my behavior and what I exposed to her.  I shared with her how ashamed I was and how bad I felt in how it had affected her life in the last few years. I shared how I felt responsible for the choices she’s made in her own past.  I assured her that God forgives us when we come before him with a repetitive heart and ask for his forgiveness. I asked her if she would forgive me.  She said, “I forgive you mom. We all make mistakes. I love you.”

I choose to share my story openly because I want others to know the redemptive power of God. He is restoring my family from brokenness.  As dark as my past was, the day I turned away from that life and surrendered my life to God’s will He made me clean and He is helping me move out of darkness and into the light. 

James 5:16 helps me in my daily walk with Christ which says, "We must confess our sins to one another so that we may be healed." 

My choices have come with very harsh consequences.  But those consequences have strengthened my faith in Christ and I cling to the promises of the bible.  

 Romans 8:28 it says, "And we know God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them."

As I continue this bible study, I'm learning more about the nature of God; loving, merciful, gracious, all knowing, powerful , good and He wants nothing but the very best for all of us.  But in order to get it we have to be willing to follow his plan, not our own.

I did have the opportunity to speak with both of my boys.  I apologized to Ryan for the hurt I caused him. I addressed how he may have felt when I didn't support him in the many times he came to me about his feelings and I asked for his forgiveness.  I also spoke to my oldest son Vincent.  He happened to be in town and decided to stay at my house unexpectedly for a few days.  After Saturday evening’s service I made time to sit with him.  I apologized and asked for his forgiveness as well.  For the first time in the 4 years since he moved away, he asked if maybe he could move back home so that I could help him get a job and enroll in classes. He turned 23 on April 2, 2014 and I thank God for giving me the opportunity to start again with my children.

Happy Birthday Vincent!

As I completed the redeemed aspect of Lifegiver I went back to the beginning of the chapter and found this sentence to be a source of hope in my own redemption ~

Love is the heart of lifegiving, but only CHRIST can re-create loving Lifegivers from fallen, selfish death dealers.
I can't go back and erase my past, but I can keep pressing forward and share Jesus' love through my actions toward my family and others.  We have to be the light in their life so they can see and be the light in this dark world.  


I am thankful to each lady in my bible study.  I am thankful that they share their struggles, fears, wisdom and faith.  I am thankful they have made this group a safe place to openly share my growth and healing.  It is encouraging to be connected with women who love Jesus and seek Him continuously.  Each one of them is a Lifegiving gift to me.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Give up a little.....Gain a lot

In a world of give me, give me, give me, sometimes if we choose give up a little, we can gain much!

Life has been pretty crazy over the last few months.  I've faced health issues, relationship changes, and made amends with people in my life. During this craziness, I've found that I need to put my full dependence upon The Lord as it has been crucial in these challenges and changes I've encountered.

As this blog does focus on the physical aspect of staying "fit", my own personal focus is on the spiritual fitness and disciplines I must maintain.  In doing so, it enables me to be physically fit.  In keeping a healthy mind through continuous God centered thinking, the goodness of God flows into every other aspect of my life. This can only be achieved through prayer, getting into the word daily, staying connected with Godly women, attending church service each week, reading great books that educate me in the life of Christ, listening to worship music, sermons online, but most importantly, applying everything I learn directly to my life. 

Part of staying spiritually clean, I find it necessary to remove major distractions from my life. Currently I find these distractions to be particular social media platforms and the content of some television programs I view (even as little as that may be.) The removal of these items are the first steps I've taken to begin spending more "quality" time with God.

Disconnecting myself from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google + for the last two weeks has been an eye opening experience.  It's made me realize how much time I had invested in grabbing my Iphone, clicking those little icons of these social media portals checking who or how many people liked my status updates, photos, along with the time I would spent carefully thinking of what opinion I wanted to share on various topics or on friends status updates. I recall how excited I would get when I would see the notification number show up on the Facebook or Instagram status bar. The excitement grew even larger if I saw a friend request on Facebook or that someone new began following me on Instagram. Reflecting on that excitement, I think about how much power I gave those things in my life.  I allowed the affirmations and praises of others to fill my life rather than God. This has been a humbling realization.

My time away from these areas have brought out to the open parts of my life which needed addressing; my pride, the intentions of my heart, reconciliation in matters that I have chosen not to deal with and my need to focus my free time on things of importance.  This quality time to spent between God and I, distraction free has been life changing and also life challenging.  Life changing because in the last couple weeks I've addressed issues that have been keeping me stuck in certain relationships which were not permitting myself to grow in Christ.  The ability to become intimate with God, has allowed me to hear His voice and act upon what He has revealed to me.  It has created an inner peace in my soul.  Life challenging because in this quiet time I've had with my Savior, those revelations have forced me out of my comfort zone as I have built up the courage to take bold steps of faith. I've also have found that the things I've feared about myself have shifted.  This has come from clearer thinking.  I have more confidence in my decisions as I learn to view God for who he really is and how he views me.  This confidence comes from the promises of what my capabilities are through Him.  I need not fear the unknown for He is all knowing and all powerful.  I find there to be so much truth and assurance in believing that with my entire being.  

In addition, to my spiritual cleansing, I've recently completed a 7-Day diet cleanse. This lifestyle change was a jump start to getting back on track to healthier eating patterns.  For the last few months I've allowed myself to indulge in whatever brought me pleasure. Today, I am trying to view food as fuel and not something to bring me comfort, pleasure, or with an attitude of I "deserve" it.  These past 7 days helped kick start a return to my healthy eating lifestyle.

One of the biggest challenges I faced during this change was going from a sugar and cream filled coffee cup to one filled with just black coffee! I'm happy to report that for the last two days I've continued to drink my coffee black. It's a daily choice to maintain a healthy pattern of eating.  During the 7 days of cleansing my body, when I felt hungry, instead of reaching for a quick fix or giving up and saying, "I'll start again tomorrow," I reached out in prayer and for the strength I get through Christ.  This is a practice I must implement into my life daily to deter from any type of cravings, whether it be a craving of food, breaking my fast from social media or any other unhealthy habits that pull me away from God.

As a result of my diet cleanse, I lost 6.5 pounds and 1.5% of body fat.  As exciting as it was to shed a few pounds in the last week, the best part of this 7 day cleanse is how in times of struggle, I found that I kept being pointed in one direction......To God.  I vividly notice how much I have gained in this last week and look forward to how much more I will attain as I continue my spiritual cleanse.

Don't get me wrong, I see benefits of social media.  But when our lives are defined, consumed and dictated by it, it causes us to lose a part of who we are.  When we have to pick up our phones first thing in the morning or they become the last thing we look at it before we go to bed, it apparent at how habitual and programmed our lives have become. Honestly, I don't think we realize how many times we pick up our phone to log on because it has become second nature to us. Some time ago I heard a sermon that said something along the lines of, "What if we prayed every time we picked up our phone?  What if we opened our bible every time we picked up our phone?"  When I ponder those questions, my own conclusion is how different the world would be, how different the would could be if we choose differently.

Time away from my phone, computer and television programs has given me extra time for living life; experiencing joy with my loved ones through quality and non distracting time. We sit and have eye to eye conversations with one another.  I actually hear what they are saying to me as I give them my full attention.  It is cleansing the junk out of my head and giving me clearer and cleaner thinking and a more intimate relationship with God.

My the relationships with my friends, family and Savior have become more enriched as they are filled with quality attention, quality focus and quality time.  In giving up a little, I've gained a lot. Thank you Jesus

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Challenges + Change = My growth

Challenges change us and then grow us.  It may often feel as though we are bending to the point of being broken, and maybe to a certain degree we are.

Perhaps, it's breaking the creeping wall of pride that was built within us and resided longer than anticipated; becoming a part of who we are. It could be breaking through a fear we wouldn't let go of because we were afraid of what failure may look like. 

But challenges also have the opportunity to build us up and grow us out. The challenges we overcome could give us the burst of confidence we needed to get past whatever hurdle we had been facing. Courage then turns to confidence building strength. That courage allows us to alter our perception of our past and future challenges and what we may once thought to be impossible may look completely different. 

For myself,  my challenges have included many uncomfortable changes that ultimately forced me into acceptance of what I could not change.  As I've allowed this part of my growth, I am finding that if I look hard enough I can find something rewarding in it even if it appears to be very small.  

Challenging myself,  means I'm open and willing to grow.  I'm willing to become vulnerable. I'm choosing to admit, I don't know it all. I'm risking to lose something so that I can gain something greater.  Change may not always occur immediately, which in a society that is programmed with a "NOW" mentality is hard to take. It's a process of learning how to be alright with the fact that the results may not even show up on this side of Heaven, but on thing is a FACT for this gal; every challenge I have faced after it passed I changed a little bit more, and I was able to come out of it with a valuable lesson. Knowing I was able to pull something out of a difficult experience has replaced that difficulty with a reward. That reward is Peace in my life.  A peace and fulfillment that is unexplainable. Reflecting on what I was able to overcome is an "Ah ha" moment.

The challenges and changes I've encountered in this last year have been transformational.  I am not the same person I was.  When I look in the mirror I see someone completely different.  My view of my own self has changed ~ Changed for the better. 

When people ask what me what the change was, and I answer them, some may look at me and think, "You gave up what?  You're doing what?  You read what? You've joined what? Your attending what?"  Honestly, a year ago I would have been ashamed, embarrassed and self conscience about what others had to say or how they felt about me, and even today when I'm having a not so great day,  I may have a lapse of these feelings because I am human, but the growth and strength I've found in learning to love myself even with the emotional scars, past behaviors and everything else that has molded me into "me" is who GOD has made me to be.   He created my personality.  He created my physical flaws, he allowed me to go through what I needed to in life to build my character, learn valuable lessons, but most importantly so I would depend completely on Him to get me to where I am today.  I did not do this on my own accord, but only through His strength, love, grace and mercy.  All my circumstances and experiences up to this moment, makes me who I am ~ Tyza.

So if people question why I've chosen this path in life, I can only answer with this......Because the path I tried to choose on my own will, never gave me what I experience today....absolute JOY, PEACE and LOVE that fills my soul beyond anything here on earth could offer.  

Don't get me wrong, I still have moments of sadness, disappointment, anger, fear, frustration and all those other "normal" emotions people go through, but one thing I have in addition to that is the faith, hope and promises that I will overcome whatever is placed before me. Not because of my own strength but because the strength that resides inside me through Jesus Christ.  I have confidence in the promise that even when life feels rocky, with God as my foundation, it is solid.  

When I am challenged, when life shows up, I have a choice.  I can chose to let go of the things that provide me that "temporary" happiness which eventually turns into emptiness after the excitement of the circumstance, possession or person has lost it's excitement/newness OR I can choose to focus on the what gives me eternal happiness and invest my life into those things. 

Being "Fit for Christ" for me will always be more than just the physical aspect of fitness, it is getting spiritually fit for the Eternal Kingdom. 

Everyday is an opportunity to be challenged, to be changed and to grow. 
In the last few weeks I've been able to experience people close to me challenging themselves to be different and the changes occurring in their lives have been amazing.  I would encourage anyone to take a step forward and see what amazing things could happen in their life just by challenging themselves to change one small thing in their life and allow themselves to experience growth.  Let God amaze you! 

Healthy changes in 2014 started with a challenging 1st time hike up Mission Peak for my son!
Challenging ourselves in 2014 will create GREAT changes in our lives! 

The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. - Psalm 18:2

For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. - Psalm 84:11

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

30 Days and Still Growing....

September has been a busy month.  It's been a month of discipline, dedication, commitment,  and completion.  It's been a month of challenges, changes and growth.  .

My September was filled with some pretty exciting physical fitness challenges ~

  •  I committed to a 30-day workout challenge and completed it yesterday.  I'm happy to report that in these 30 days not only was I able to complete 100 Burpee's (10 sets of 10 with 30 second rest), but I've also had the ability to hold a plank for 5 minutes (no rest or pauses!) This was 30 days of committing to doing one, the other or both.  There were times when I didn't want to do them because I was tired with good reason, or feeling sick, but I did them. This challenge also taught me a good lesson on integrity.  A couple weeks back, I had completed a 2 Day 175 mile Bike Ride.  On the Sunday I came home, I was exhausted.  I didn't want to do them.  I recall voicing this aloud and my daughter said, well do them tomorrow.  It could have been that easy, but when you want to be an example to others and live with integrity and truth as a foundation of your life;  "DOING" only when God and you know the truth, is far more important on building that character of integrity.  I could not write this blog with a heart of truth, guilt free, if I hadn't done what I was set to do.  For the challenge, I did rest in between burpee sets and on the day that I didn't want to do my workout, I did have to pause 3x to rest during my 3 1/2 minute plank workout.  Other than that, I've been able to do the plank workouts without rest.  I started at 30 seconds and completed it at 5 minutes.  The 30 Day Plank Challenge was one that challenged me spirtually, physically and mentally and  I thank my daughter for testing my integrity.
I always have a motivational song to get me though hard workouts.  This one got me through a non-stop 5 minute plank.  Day 30 COMPLETE!
100 Bupree Challenge DONE! 10 sets of 10 with a 30 second rest in between.  Feeling STRONG!  
  • On September 1st, I participated in "The Race to the End of Summer" Half Marathon. This race showed evidence of my of spiritual growth as I finished the race in 2 hours and 32 minutes.  In my past I would have been crushed, angry and filled with frustration with this time, but since I've changed the way I think about running, I am no longer filled with those negative (and for me unhealthy) feelings or thoughts. Instead I find myself thankful for my ability to walk, to jog, to run. I find myself praising God for the blessings of spending 2 1/2 hours with Him outdoors in nature, listening to my praise music, enjoying the people around me and praying to Him. Growth ~ ABSOLUTELY and only possible by the transformation of my mind.

Races are better when you do them with those you LVE!

As September rolled around, I knew I really needed to get some cycling miles in for preparation of my MS:Waves to Wine event near the end of the month.  I incorporated a few long rides (my longest was 67 miles, as well as to get as many spin classes in as possible. In the process I connected with two amazing women.  The spin instructor at my gym and her daughter. I can't explain the connection, but I know it is a relationship placed in my life for a purpose, perhaps for encouragement, but I believe far more. I am grateful for the positive spirit they both possess and hope to grow a deeper relationship with them both.  

  • On September 21-22nd I participated in the MS:Waves to Wine Bike Ride. It was a two day event. Day one I cycled 100 miles along the California coastline. Starting in San Francisco and ending in Petaluma. I would like to say the ride went smooth but we were met with some outrageous rain for a good 40 miles of our ride. The first 10 I hoped the gray skies would just tease us of an overcast day. But shortly after reaching the Golden Gate Bridge it began to drizzle and by the time we got into Saulsalido it began raining. I'm thankful the temperature was fairly warmer than normal which made the rain bearable. As we stopped at the first rest stop the rain began pouring like crazy! We hung out for about 15 minutes in hopes the rain would let up, it did not.  We choose to get moving and it did make the next few hours or riding, a bit scary. Scary because I didn't realize with such wet tires you basically lose your rear breaks. 10 miles on windy parts of highway 1 is pretty scary when all you have to stop yourself with is front brakes.  This put our average speed at a mere 10 miles an hour; which I am not complaining about by all means!  At the halfway point (50 Miles) the rain let up and the remainder of the ride was on dry land.  The conditions from the morning took a toll physically and mentally on me as I struggled on the remaining course.  Met with some pretty challenging hills, we finished day one in 10 hours 30 minutes.  The great thing about this ride is that, "It is not a race," it's a ride with several rest stops to have the opportunity to rest and relax if needed. The second day's ride was perfect.  It included rolling hills through Petaluma and Santa Rosa. One of the memorable experiences on day two was that one of the rest stops happened to be held at Windsor High School.  The location of my last year's Ironman Event.  It brought back great memories!  Overall, the two day event was amazing and next year we plan on doing it again, and hopefully get a larger group to get involved.

 MS WAVES TO WINE 2013 - "Team Marie" & "Our Linda"

Recapping my "Physical" accomplishments, let me start by giving praise to my creator for giving me the ability to DO what I have.  It's only because of Him that it is possible.  It's a gift.

After my ride, my immune system was pretty shot. But even being sick, I stuck to my word, challenged myself and looked to Christ for strength.

Lessons learned ..... The planks taught me stillness even in a workout.  I found myself still in the presence of God. It's taught me how to be quiet in mind and pray, to be focused. And if my worship music happened to be on, I focus on the lyrics and sung to Him from the depths of my heart. In those still minutes I am with Him.  I never knew that I could glorify God in that way and it's pretty amazing to see how He can show up in all places of our life.

As for the spiritual and mental aspect of my growth ~ I've been filling my mind with God's word, insightful books, nightly devotionals, wise counsel and committed the next two years to serve others.  This growth far passes any phsyical achievements I've made, because in the end, those achievements will stay here on earth.  I can't take my medals with me.  Perhaps I can inspire someone but, for me the bigger impact I want to make is not so much on the "WHAT" but WHO I'm making a difference to.

  • I've complete three books.  The first book I finished was called "S.H.A.P.E." and it helped me learn and understand what spiritual gifts are, how to discover mine and put them into action. In completing this book a ministry opportunity opened up at my church.  On September 9th I attended and committed to be trained as a Stephen Minister.  This is an exciting time for me because it will allow me to serve others and use my spiritual gifts.  The second book I finished was called "Gods at War."  This book is definitely a re-read.  It opened up my eyes to the different Gods that fight for our soul.  It also showed me how often I allow Pride to overpower my life and I put myself as a God.  With my upcoming surgery in two weeks, this will be a good time to be still with God and work on the things I struggle with most.  Lastly, the third book I completed was called, "Choosing God's Best."  It explains the differences between courting and dating. It shows what Godly relationships look like compared to what society has programmed us to think it should look like.  Being that I've been in a relationship for 3 1/2 years now, it is teaching both of us how we need to look to God first and place Him above all.  Being on the same page and reading this book together I feel it has strengthened our relationship.  Our intimacy with God will create a greater intimacy with one another.
  • I've begun my 3rd Christian's Mental Health Class through Northern California Bible College (NCBC.)  This semester it focuses on biblical answers to our emotional needs.  This is an exciting class because I know that often I do things based off emotions and feelings and I believe this class will help me learn to make decisions based off a biblical standpoint rather than an emotional one, which usually gets me into trouble.

  • I've also enrolled back into junior college to finish up my degree.  With 3 classes left to complete my AS in Accounting, this semester I'm tackling an Excel class.   

  • As mentioned earlier, I've committed to a long term ministry opportunity as a Stephen Minister.  I will have 50 hours of training over a 20 week span.  I then will commit another year of one on one services with a care receiver.  This is the most exciting journey for me.  I can't wait to see how God will use me in this ministry.  It is something I have a deep desire and longing for and it's my prayer that He will use me to the fullest for His glory!

So there it is......SEPTEMBER DONE!

I am so thankful for all the opportunities that have been placed before me.  I'm thankful for the people in my life who hold me accountable and encourage me to keep pressing forward.  I'm thankful for my brothers and sisters in Christ who speak the truth to me in love and how I see God work through them to help me.

As my surgery approaches, this next month will be a month of rest and stillness.  It will be challenging as I work on removing the ugliness of Pride from my life, learn what it really means to be humble and allow others to care, love and help me when I will need them the most. As one of my BFF's told me yesterday, "You have to stop being independent and be interdependent."  Words to live by.....Definitely words of wisdom, spoken with love and truth from an amazing woman of wisdom.  Thank you Jesus for her and help me continue to be BOLD for your Kingdom! ♥ 

 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor ~ Romans 12:10

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Honoring others ♥ Honors God

When I think of the word "Honor," what comes to mind is a person or event that represents extraordinary courage, strength, will or perseverance. It could be keeping the memory alive of someone who impacted my life and inspired me to the the point of change as they left a piece of their character behind for me.   It may also be an event that may have taught me a lesson or the value of life.

In 2012 I trained for 8 months with team in training to complete an Ironman Triathlon.  In my training, when my body ached, when I didn't feel like getting up early to train, to jump into the cold pool,  ride a 100 miles on my bike, or run 20 miles with the team, I thought of the person I was training in honor of.  My honoree was a dear friend named Raymond Souza.  He is a cancer survivor. His battle was with Hodgkin's Lymphoma which included a stem cell transplant. Today he is cancer free and I'm still in awe of his courage, endurance and strength it took to go through what he did, as well as his family.  His wife Katrina is someone I consider as an authentic friend. As for Raymond, although I don't know him as well as I do his wife, I admire his characteristics of a husband and father.  He is a man worthy of being honored and well, all I can say is that the unique qualities he possesses is something many men lack today. 

Since my Ironman in 2012, I've done a lot of reflecting on the important things in life, such as how I spend my time, how I view my health, family, relationships but most of all, the daily events that have shaped me into who I am.  When we are faced with hardships, we can either allow those hardships harden us into loneliness and isolation or soften us to seek something greater than ourselves.

The last several months has been a season of healing.  A healing of my heart.  A healing of my spirit.  A healing of my mind.  It's been a relentless searching of the intentions in my actions, which has revealed what needed to change in my life and in my heart.  I sought out my real purpose in this life and what truly happens when it's over.

Life has thrown many challenges my way and as easy as it is to give up, give in, and quit, I ask myself, how does that serve others?  Because that is why I really am here.  I'm here to love and honor others.  By doing so, I honor and glorify God.  To do this with the right heart and right intentions is what really counts because ultimately - God sees everything.  He can't be fooled, so Tyza, be authentic!  

Often during my Ironman training I gave praise to God.  Looking back, I don't think I grasped what it meant to give Him the honor and glory of my abilities, and most likely I took them for granted. It saddens me because I lacked the humility to see that. The accomplishment would not have been any greater, but I think it would have had more meaning and I would have an awareness of the presence of God in my accomplishment.  BUT.....that is what is so awesome about life.  We learn.  We grow.  We can do things differently.  And if it's in His plans, I will have new opportunities to do such things in the future.  The astounding thing about Jesus is His door is always open 24-7.  He never abandons us, never leaves us and as Psalm 84:11 says, " For the Lord God is our sun and our shield. He gives us grace and glory. The Lord will withhold no good thing from those who do what is right." 

As I do things today, whether it be working out, spending time with others, sitting in traffic, doing homework, sitting in class, sitting in a doctor's office, receiving good or bad news, or just waking up in the morning, it's a new opportunity to honor others and honor God.

Over the last few months, several things have been occurring in my life that are shaping my life to the path of serving, loving and honoring others! It's been an exciting time. And each day I have another opportunity to thank God for His blessings.   

A week from now, I will be participating in a 175 mile bike ride, called the MS: Waves to Wine.  This bike ride is to benefit the research of Multiple Scoliosis, help raise funds for those who suffer from MS or those who may someday be diagnosed with it.  This particular cause has more meaning to me because it not only affected the life a wonderful person I had the pleasure to know but, it also touches a person I work with. Since I've know this woman, whose name also happens to be the same as the Linda who touched my heart, whenever I've seen her she always has a smile on her face, always asks how I'm doing with genuine care, has never complained about her condition and each year participates in a MS walk in San Jose.  I find her just like my friend Raymond inspiring.  Inspiring because they do not be allow the challenges they have faced or will continue to face rob them of living.

God places people like them in our lives for a purpose.  People who don't understand the mercy and grace of God may think diseases, disabilities or even death is a cruel punishment. I don't see it that way. We need Raymond's and Linda's to help us endure life.  Without seeing God work in their lives, I would lose faith and hope.  Through people like them I find the will to persevere through difficulties and learn to give thanks for what is placed before me.  It teaches me to be content with what I have and let it be enough.  It teaches me to grasp tightly with everything that is inside of me God's love and His promises of an eternal life. It helps me remind myself that this life is only in preparation of the next; don't get cozy, don't get comfy, because this is not my final destination.

Through every ugly circumstance I had to endure, I can see the good in it and the purpose it provides.  The best way to show my thankfulness for what God has led me though and to do God's work is by sharing how I overcame it with God leading me. I have to stop asking "why" and remind myself to ask "what am I to learn from this?" 

Today, when I choose to do an event or acknowledge a person by saying, "I'm doing this in honor of....", what I am saying is that they are not held above God, but through this person or event, I am thanking, honoring and glorifying God for allowing such a person or event to impact my life the way it has.  One way we see Jesus is through one another  

Today I am thankful that I can continue my journey in Staying FIT for Christ - Mentally, Physically and Spiritually.    
Be Bold.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.