June 28, 2017

Freedom from a 30 year struggle

 I was so blessed to spend the last week of April, 2017, at the Revelation Wellness Instructor Retreat, in beautiful Williams, Arizona. The retreat and lessons learned along the way, were life-changing and life-giving, in so many ways, and have me well on my way to a freedom that I never thought was possible. Freedom(n); the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. 

But, first, some background....I took my first dance class at the age of five and fell head over heels in love with movement, music, performing... everything! I felt alive! I found my life-long passion as a five year old and never looked back. 
My first dance recital. Age 5

I continued to dance through elementary school, was selected for the junior high dance company two years in a row, and even served as dance company president in 9th grade.
More dance recitals. Age 8

When I got to high school, I saw the drill team perform and was smitten. I knew I MUST make the team. There was nothing more I wanted. I practiced for two years, didn't make it my junior year, but finally made the team for my senior year. I was over-the-moon with joy!
That's me in the very front, back-bending.

Dance was my life! But from my life's greatest passion and joy, has also come my life's biggest struggle. 
I'm in the back, center.

One day during a summer practice we were called, one at a time, into our advisor's office for 'weigh-ins'. I initially didn't think much about it until I stepped onto the scale and was horrified at the number staring back at me. 145 pounds. As our advisor recorded the number, I side glanced at the paper and almost gasped as I read the weights of the others; 101, 123, 111.....it's the first time I ever thought "I'm fat". I didn't have the knowledge, as a 16 year old, to reason that I was also at least six inches taller than those girls. I got off the scale and was randomly told to lose ten pounds, and excused from the office. 

No direction was given, no information on nutrition, just "lose 10 pounds". I probably didn't even tell my parents the weigh-in happened, I just set about to lose the 10 pounds. I did not want to be benched for being too fat. I couldn't live without my dancing.
That's me in the middle.

In order to lose weight, I thought I should just eat less. I would start my day (a day that included up to five hours of dancing) with a cup of Yoplait yogurt and maybe a banana, I picked at my lunch and would then eat a normal dinner. I don't remember thinking I had an eating disorder, but I guess maybe I did to some extent. I even lost my period for about 4 months during that time. We never weighed in again, and I'm not even sure if I lost the 10 pounds, but this one event in my past, has put me on a path of slavery. The bondage of not being good enough.
I'm on the left. Really bad picture quality in the 80"s!

Basically, I've been on a diet now for 30 years, and I'm tired. So tired. I've tried; low-fat, high-fat, Eat-Clean Diet, diet pills, Weight Watchers (both online and meetings), excessive exercise, low-carb, sugar fasts, Paleo, Whole 30(x5), intermittent fasting, My Fitness Pal, Slim Fast, carb-cycling, and Fitbit, just to name a few. Also, more magazine tips, podcasts and blog articles than I can count. All of these things gave the promise of quick weight loss and to me, hope. But, eventually the pounds would creep back on and I'd search for the next miracle.
My book donation pile. This is not even a quarter of the books I've read over the years.

I like rules and am very good with "black and white" concepts. Give me a list of foods to eat or not eat, and I will perform very well. So when I say I tried these diet plans, I mean I faithfully executed them to the letter, for months, if not years. And guess what? I got results with all of them. However, what I never got was freedom. Even if I hit the goal weight, I never arrived. I never had the "bikini body" that the magazines promised. I was never satisfied and always strived for more. Five more pounds. Or ten. THEN I will be there, then I will be happy. 
My figure skating team in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

But perfection is hard to maintain. If I wasn't perfect to the plan on any given day, I would eat whatever I wanted with abandon because the day was already ruined. Cue the feelings of guilt and the promise of doing better tomorrow, or Monday or next week. I've also had more "last suppers" than I can count. In other words, if I'm planning to start a diet on Monday, I'd better eat everything and anything I can find before the restriction hits, because I'll never eat another cookie again. Can anyone relate? Such is the prison and unending torment in the head of the dieter.
I won my division at 2013 US Adult Figure Skating Nationals!

As you can see, I've spent most of my life in a cycle of obsession over, or neglect of, my body and my health. On and on the treadmill goes, will it ever stop? Will I ever truly be free? I've asked myself these questions so many times over the years. I had finally resolved myself to this being my lot in life. My struggle.
Dance recital at Yokota Air Base, Japan.

But two years ago, Revelation Wellness entered my life and changed everything. For the first time ever, I feel on my way to freedom. Real freedom. A freedom and peace that only God can give.
Dancing in my first recital with my daughter.

It never occurred to me that the Lord cared about this part of my life. For some reason I disconnected this struggle with God. I studied my Bible, went to church, and then spent most of my waking hours obsessed about the next best diet or work-out plan. I made the desire for health and weight loss (which can DEFINITELY be good things, and sometimes necessary) my god-thing. The thing I desired most. FOR THIRTY YEARS! 
My Marilyn Monroe number at US Adult Nationals.

The mantra of Revelation Wellness is Love God. Get Healthy. Be Whole. Love Others. Also, that the issue of body obsession, or neglect, is almost never about the food or the fitness. Instead, the issue is a matter of the heart. There is always something deeper to uncover, like peeling back the layers of an onion. It hasn't always been easy work, but we are called to do hard things.
I'm fighting for freedom for these two.

The Revelation Wellness message resonated with me so much, and I desperately wanted to be healthy and whole, but I resisted giving up my food rules. My rules were my safety, the place I felt in control and I've had a hard time surrendering them. I always thought my problem was with food, but it wasn't until a friend suggested that I "take a break from dieting" for a few weeks, that the Lord revealed my problem was with dieting. I looked to my food rules to save me, when I should look to Him, my Savior. I realized that I don't even know what is "healthy" anymore, as I have always followed the latest and greatest diet plan. The diet fad of the day will always change, but He doesn't.

The Lord is capable of healing on the spot, but sometimes the healing is a process that must be walked out through faith. I have not had linear progress in my pursuit of freedom. There have been many times that I succumb to one more book, or one more blog for answers, or one more "plan of attack" for quick weight loss, but the Lord is always patient and waits for me to come back when I am ready. After completion of the Bible study, The Wellness Revelation (a revised and updated version will be released in book form, in August, 2017), I decided I was all-in! So much so, that I enrolled in RevWell Instructor training, not necessarily to teach fitness classes, but mostly in pursuit of my own freedom.

After nine weeks of online classes, to include; Bible study, leadership training, food and nutrition guidance and lots of fun movement, we retreated to Williams, Arizona to dig deeper.
Our amazing RevWell leadership team.

Eleven strangers were forced into this small cabin to do life together for a week. Truly? This may have been the hardest part! (You all know how much I enjoy roughing it!) My daughters were super excited that I got a top bunk, though.

But after a week of baring our souls, struggles and sharing lots of laughter and tears, we became sisters. All brought together by a common passion and mission, FREEDOM! Otherwise known as #fitnessteachergospelpreachers.

There were 150 of us in all, and we prayed together, 

ate together,

studied together,

played together, 

partied together, 

but mostly, we worshiped together.

Movement as worship. I had never connected the two. Moving my body for the joy of it, as opposed to a way to burn calories takes everything to another level. Seriously! I rediscovered my five-year-old, little girl passion; a room with music, movement and choreography. My happy place. I also reclaimed my original design, that of a dancer. I've lived my entire life believing that I did not have what the world called a 'dancer's body', but the Lord told me otherwise. He gave me a body that is still capable of, and loves to dance, even at 45 years old! I'll take it!

And this lady, Alisa Keeton, the brave founder of Revelation Wellness, and unbeknownst to her, my mentor for the past two years, has changed my life. Because of her obedience to the Lord in starting this ministry, I am well on the road to freedom. And for that, I am forever grateful.
Yes, I am totally fan-girling in this picture!

And what a legacy! Thank you Alisa!

It is interesting, as I progress on my journey towards freedom, how little about food or fitness this road has become for me. I realize with sorrow how my thirty year quest for the perfect pant size has robbed me of so much more. I haven't been truly present with my family, and have let the number on the scale, or the level of my diet perfection, dictate my mood for the day. It pains me to think of the wasted years and effort spent chasing something that would never fill me. I'm heartbroken to look at the pictures contained in this blog, knowing that I felt fat and not good enough in every single picture. Always striving for more or striving for better. But God.....

His mercies and grace are new every day. Every. Single. Day. Even after thirty year's worth of tomorrows, His patience never waivers. Today, I weep no more over time and opportunities lost. Today, regardless of my pant size, I will take good care of this gift that I've been given. I will treat myself with kindness and accept and respect my body for what it can do. But most importantly, today, I look towards the only being who will ever truly fill and satisfy me. Jesus

What does treating myself with kindness look like? 
  1.  Feed my body life-giving food and drink.
  2.  Leave plenty of room for fun and celebration, without guilt.
  3. Move my body daily, with joy, because I can!
  4. Get on with life. That's it. The Gospel is simple, not always easy, but simple.

Do you want to lose a lot of "weight" in a hurry? Clean out your closet and get rid of everything that doesn't fit TODAY. I am not at my lowest weight, not even close, and these clothes represent a longing for what was, and a false hope for the future. I can't put my hope or happiness there anymore. I am enough, right now, as-is. There is peace in that.

I started this journey, partly for my own freedom, but mostly to break the chains for these two wonderful girls that the Lord has so graciously entrusted to my care. I don't want them to inherit this bondage from me. After all, they are daughters of the King. We all are, and He has something so much better in mind!

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1

June 6, 2017

Whale watching x 20

No stay in Alaska would be complete without a whale watching excursion, so we made our way down to Seward to check that box. It was a beautiful, but cold, April morning.

The town of Seward is located on the Kenai Peninsula, which is in south central Alaska. From Anchorage, we drove for about two and a half hours, through some pretty spectacular landscape.

Seward is a small town with a population of only 2,500, and was named after William H. Seward who served as Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of State and negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia.

We arrived early and had time to wander the docks before our cruise departed.

The little marina was about as picturesque as it could be.

We enjoyed watching sea otters play in the water, 

and were happily greeted by this friendly guy.

He was very sad to see us go.

All aboard!

And so began our three hour tour. (Does anyone else think of Gilligan's Island with the term "three hour tour"? Luckily we fared a bit better than they did.)

With the movement of the boat, came the wind. It was COLD!

Cold, but unbelievably pristine and beautiful.

It was nice that we could wander from the cabin to the deck as we pleased. During busier months, you pretty much need to stay put because seating is at capacity. Rain or shine. 

Time for lunch!

More open water, but we hadn't seen any whales yet.

We did see lots of military fortifications though. These were built during World War II. 

I thought these tree stumps had been burned, but actually, this is what happens when they drink salt water. They were almost one hundred years old and the salt had kind of preserved the wood. 

Ahh, more wildlife. The sea lions love to sun themselves on rocks. I must admit, it did look inviting.

But my favorite part was the bird show! Hundreds of birds flew off of the rocks, almost in a uniform formation at regular intervals, as a way of protecting themselves from predators. It was awe inspiring and I felt like it was perfectly performed choreography from our Creator, just for our enjoyment. He gives great gifts to his kids, even in the middle-of-nowhere Alaska.

Who needs whales when you have the bird show?

But, it was time to move on.

Speaking of bird shows, we came across another bird, the Horned Puffin, that can actually dive up to 250 feet! We watched them dive into the water together, then after a minute or so, pop back up to the surface. Incredible!

Then came the whales. Gray Whales embark upon the longest migration of any mammal each year, and usually hit the Kenai Peninsula between March and May. They actually spend winters in Baja, Mexico, then make the trip to Alaska and Russia, for summer feeding. A-Ha! That's the secret to surviving Alaskan winters. Spend them in Mexico! I'm game.

We saw a group of three whales, and I couldn't even get a picture, so I just watched and took in the experience.

After, watching and following them along for at least ten minutes, we moved on and spotted two mountain goats, high up on a cliff. Can you see them?

More whales! You can see the spray in this shot.

We were so close to this group of whales, it was quite thrilling! You could even see the barnacles growing on the whales body.

We ended up seeing about 20 whales in all. In fact, we saw so many that the captain quit stopping, he'd just say "more whales to the left". We got lucky, sometimes there are no whales spotted on the entire tour.

The wide snow covered area in the picture below is actually a type of glacier, though it just looked like a snow-covered ski run to us.

I wish this picture wasn't so bright, but the sun was warm, so I'll take it!

Yes, the captain actually said what we were all thinking '"I'm king of the world"!

And the perfect ending to the tour was hot chocolate chip cookies,

and a bald eagle welcoming us back to port. (Side note- bald eagles mate for life and also keep adding material to the same nest for life. One nest finally got too heavy and fell out of a nearby tree. The matter was weighed and the total weight was 2,200 pounds! Simply amazing!)

So that concludes the tour. It was definitely an Alaskan bucket list item, and we saw so much! Just another day on the Last Frontier....