Hold on to the bar

If you’re a CrossFitter you’ve probably been here, you’re halfway into a wod with heavy snatches (arch nemesis,) and let’s throw in muscle ups because this is a badass wod, and you hear your coach say ‘hold onto the bar!’ I don’t know about you but with my forearms burning, calluses daring to rip, the last thing I want to do is hold on. By some miracle, I hold on and survive another day at the box. I’ve had days, weeks… okay let’s keep it real, months where like at CrossFit I’ve had to teach myself to hold on.

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A season where I’ve wondered whether my faith will survive another day. The combination of still (almost one year on) having unanswered questions on my sister’s death, questions on my own life combined with an environment at home that on most days leaves me spiritually laying on my back, has altered my relationship with God. I’ve felt like a spiritual yo-yo. I’ve had my days where I believe in God with everything that’s in me, and then on some days I become so overwhelmed at the thought of all the things that need to be fixed. It’s a never ending question that I ask myself, is God truly in control? If He is, how has He allowed so many areas of not just my life but my family’s life to spiral out of control? There is a persistent faith though that has meant right now, in the haze and fog of it all, I have felt free enough to explore what this means to my walk with God. A couple of years ago when I lived in London, I was at Hillsong Church when I think it was Christine Caine…or maybe Lisa Bevere that said something that I’m remembering in this season, Jesus is truly not afraid of any questions or doubts that I may or may not have about Him.

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This has been a season fraught with questions on an almost daily basis where I’ve wondered sometimes aloud, just what is God up? I’ve felt myself being spiritually swayed to and fro. Nights where saying a short prayer seems to be the hardest thing to do because in my mind is a vicious vortex of unanswered questions. Questions that I will at some point have to accept that I may never in this lifetime get the answer to. As I write this I can’t help but think of the prophet Habakkuk who in Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NLT) boldly wrote ‘even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!’ It is a faith that endures, persists and perseveres. A faith that in the thick of it all, when all seems lost can say; ‘So God, physically there isn’t much to sing about. You see that right? There literally isn’t anything going on here. Yet here I am with all I have left in me finding myself coming back to You for that peace that only You can give.’ It’s crazy that for as many questions as I’ve had, as many doubt-filled days where I’ve felt even further and further away from God, He’s still felt there, the anchor that I had forgotten had said would always be there. (See Hebrews 6:19 & 13:5)

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I consider myself very lucky that in the thick of it all, in this season where I have felt as though I’m hanging onto Jesus for dear life, just surviving, I have somehow managed to meet the love of my life. The unique way that this man seems to have been made for me does nothing but confirm the fact that somehow God is knitting together special and beautiful parts of my life that I am unaware of. I could gush about my man all day, in fact I think I will, grab a cup of coffee if you wish!

CaptureI was never one of those girls who prayed for her future husband. I inwardly and maybe sometimes outwardly rolled my eyes whenever anyone mentioned that. I remember a less wise and younger me, jokingly telling one of my friends that there were more important things to pray for, like an end to extreme poverty, world peace? When my boyfriend and I started speaking, things fell into place effortlessly. It didn’t feel forced; I didn’t feel an uneasiness in my stomach. It felt right, he felt right. The deal was sealed when two weeks after we’d started speaking, I confided in him that I had been sexually abused. Such trust doesn’t come easily and I’m sure doesn’t happen as frequently as Hollywood rom-coms would like for us to believe. In a couple of months, it’ll be a year since the boy and I started dating and I couldn’t be happier. I woke up early this morning and while there was a part of me that thought it a good idea to call him and wake him up because I was awake, the part of me that cares about him getting enough sleep, stopped me. Instead I spent that time reading messages that he had sent me and watching videos he had previously sent me. There are some pretty hilarious pictures, I haven’t yet found any messages to explain why I went through a short lived phase of sending my boy pictures of lambs, puppies and all other fur babies.

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This love is special, not just this morning but on a daily basis, I find myself experiencing an emotion that is akin to when I first fell in love with him. I’ve heard it said before that choosing the person you marry is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. The wiser and older me agrees and is willing to go one step further; not only is it an important decision to make on who you marry but also on the person you choose to date. This is the person who will see you at your best and at your worst. For the first time in my life I understand what it means to be loved by someone who embodies the unconditional love that Christ has for us and will one day embody this verse when he becomes my husband: ‘love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,’ see Ephesians 5:25-33 (NIV)

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The only other love I’ve known this deep and pure is Christ’s love and to have my very own human that I would gladly do anything for kind of makes me feel like a very lucky girl. Does the boy get on my nerves? Yes…sometimes, when he doesn’t do things my way…I can be a brat sometimes! But I love him more than anything. He’s shown me more love than I could’ve ever expected for myself. I have my crazy moments, they’re few and far in between because I’m perfect remember 😉 and even then my boy is patient, understanding, kind and loving. This post is slightly longer than I planned but this is what love does to you, it reignites the parts of you that you thought were dead and fills you up with more of the goodness we all deserve from life and love.

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My tip for what to do when you’re in the thick of it all? Just keep holding on for dear life, darling it gets better!

Faith, Hope & a Whole Lotta Love

I often ask myself what is the purpose of our lives and I conclude that life’s purpose is to be happy. We have no guarantee what will happen in the future, but we live in hope. That’s what keeps us going. Dalai Lama

Nothing hypes me up more than a compliment or two… from my siblings. Hang on, a couple of weeks ago I was in gym leggings and a top and my niece said I looked cute, so maybe it’s compliments from my siblings AND one very cute 3-year-old niece. If you’re lucky enough to have siblings and a niece or two, they should be your ‘hype guys.’ My sister Nadege or Ya Dena as we affectionately called her, always believed that I was stronger than I thought. She was our hype guy!

Her death was sudden.

No long drawn out illness that we knew of or had time to prepare for, it’s not to say that knowing in advance prepares your heart any better for a loved one’s death. The first few weeks after her death are still a blur. There is a void in my brain rendering me incapable of recalling how I survived those first few days; how I’ve survived these past few months. My heart still hurts, excruciatingly so and sometimes it feels as though I have to stop myself from thinking about her in order to not breakdown. It is a wound that seven months on, still feels fresh, one that hasn’t dulled in terms of the feelings of pain and discomfort that it elicits. I’ve heard from well-meaning people that it gets better in time… I’m still waiting on that.

We’re at the halfway mark of 2018, the warmth of summer has firmly been replaced by winter’s chill. Today I’ve given myself room to pause, ponder and reflect on all that 2018 has so far been and the lessons that I’ve learnt, i.e. how Jesus is holding me up.

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  1. You’ve gotta have faith, hope and a whole lotta love in your heart.

I stepped into 2018 semi-optimistic. Considering the fact that I ended the year, and started the year funemployed, the only expectation I had of this year was that I’d at least end it with a job. My hopes were not high, I was ready to take whatever came my way and not really fight for anything better. My sister would have told me off for that. In fact in the Bible, Paul writes to us and tells us that we should be prisoners of hope* and in the book of Romans speaks on how hope does not put us to shame.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the  Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-2 (ESV)

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I don’t believe that when Paul wrote ‘we rejoice in our sufferings,’ he meant that we get the tambourine out, beat the drums and express how delighted we are that we have this hard thing happening to us because ‘hallelujah Jesus, it’s going to produce endurance in us.’ That would be silly, and I don’t know about you but if silly were to denote a person whose word is to be taken as a joke, I highly doubt that Paul is in that league. This rejoicing I believe denotes a quiet spirit, perhaps one that has been or is being broken by the trials of life whether physical or spiritual, yet holding on to the truth and hope that things will get better. It is this kind of hope that fuels us and directs us into moving in the direction where great things can happen to us. It is this hope that brings opportunity to each new day that we face. Hope that today may not have been great but tomorrow will be. Apparently if you repeat that to yourself enough times, your brain begins to believe it as more than just a motto but accepts it as a fact of life. The more we look for good things, the more we find them. Of course there’s still work that needs to be done, the life you want isn’t earned by just hoping for the best. In garnering a positive outlook, you possess the drive needed to fuel your efforts that will get you to where you want to be. This is the attitude I adopted when I PROPERLY started looking for a job. Lo and behold 2 months into the year, I was employed 🙂 Having a positive attitude doesn’t make things easier but it does give you a better outlook on life and your current circumstance. It puts you in the right frame of mind to analyse how best to navigate the season that you’re in.

  1. If you believe in God, expect for your belief in Him to be shaken AND stirred!

I remember loudly (and proudly…pride comes before a fall no?) exclaiming to a friend that I didn’t feel any further from God since my sister passing, that was a month after she had passed and now that I look back on it, I realize that I had spoken in haste. I hadn’t yet felt the sting of what death can do not just to your relationship with others, but also to your relationship with God. The days leading up to my sister’s funeral were difficult, but being inundated with messages, as overwhelming as it felt, provided a distraction and gave me a break (albeit temporarily) from having to deal with my emotions. I comforted myself with songs and verses that stated God would never leave me nor forsake me. I lived on the memories of when Christ had been a tangible comfort in the midst of past trials and tribulations. I kept telling myself that it would get better. I wish I could pinpoint the day when I stopped believing that. Apathy starts off this way, a slow and gradual freezing of the heart. You tell yourself that you’re temporarily isolating yourself from the situation in order to preserve and protect yourself. Until that one day turns into a week, a week into a month et cetera. All the while, your heart growing colder by the minute. The interesting thing is that while we think closing ourselves off from feeling and emotion, protects us. What it serves to do is isolate us and further draw us away from God. I could no longer see things getting better and the more I saw how certain individuals behaved in disappointing ways following her death, the less I wanted to let anyone in. Choosing to ignore reality and the pain that was in every moment of it, led to me ignoring God and isolating myself from Him. I could feel the anger rising, disappointment creeping in, making itself comfortable in my heart.

I was disillusioned.

Had I believed a lie that God exists?

That Jesus exists and furthermore, that He cared?

It wasn’t until my boyfie sent me a book entitled 10% happier that I was able to identify the root cause of my moment of disbelief in God. The title alone had me questioning whether I’d ever again know what it meant to be happy, let alone 10% happier. As I analysed the causative factors of my unhappiness, I realised that I had begun to view people as accurate, wholly true representations of God. So when I had a number of friends withdraw when the dust had seemingly settled, I saw it as God withdrawing and no longer caring. When I saw someone behave in a way that filled me with disappointment, I viewed God as disappointing. Forsaken, disappointed and alone, I no longer felt like I needed God, especially if God was like these people that had let me down. There exists no perfect human model for the loving nature of God that I have in the past vividly experienced. As hard as it may be, a healthy relationship with Christ is only cultivated through focusing on Him and Him alone. He doesn’t need a plus one!

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  1. Better is not always better…at least not in the way you think.

Better isn’t better until it stops hurting, that’s what we’re taught to think. Better isn’t better until you’ve managed to run back in time (‘Flash’ fan here), and have managed to save your loved one. Right? Wrong. What we have to understand, what I’m learning to understand is that sometimes things getting better isn’t reflective of the physical, but the internal. How is your heart being moulded? How is your character being formed during this very crappy season? In the past few months as I noticed my heart growing cold, my faith in humanity feeling shattered, and my hope in God, seemingly nowhere to be found. I realise now that there is a different definition of what it means for things to get better, one that has greater defining power on my character than the definition that I know. This ‘better’ requires constant evaluation and introspection of your character, your actions, and your choices. This is echoed in the verse where Christ tells us to remove the speck in our eyes before we talk about the log in our brother’s eye. Environment does have a huge bearing on our emotions but the thing that is more important than our physical environment is the internal environment that we cultivate.

So here we are at the end of this post and if someone were to ask me if I’m hopeful of the future. My answer is a resounding yes, while the days aren’t always easy. The journey is often hard and feels littered with pain, I’m certain that Jesus is holding me up. How well you ask: like I’m in the palm of His hand. Securely.

Fight

You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it. Fight for what you want your life to look like.

A couple of weeks ago I deleted all of my posts on Instagram. We’ve all been on a page before and thought the person who deleted all their posts to be a bit of an attention seeker (CONFESSION: I’ve thought that!) I promise that wasn’t my intention. I had a moment of madness and felt that my account no longer reflected who I was, who I wanted to be. Social media doesn’t have to be serious, but sometimes it can become a place where we very easily spew out every single emotion we are feeling. How many of us have ranted about a bad day (or bad colleagues,) on Twitter (SO GUILTY!) Ever since the passing of my sister, I wake up most days feeling dangerously close to the edge. The horrible thing about depression is that, once it has tainted you it feels as though there will always be something to tip you over the edge. There will always be something that threatens to throw you off the edge. Notice I said threaten. This means that it can be avoided. One of the ways that I continue to avoid being thrown off the edge, is through CrossFit and my faith in God. I’ll admit that during this seemingly never-ending season of grief, I have sometimes drawn on CrossFit a lot more than on God, for sustainable strength. This is due to the feeling as though God doesn’t have time to listen to me and if He had listened to me, then perhaps my sister would still be alive. There’s a longer post on that coming up, I’ll aim to post it on Wednesday, pinky promise.

Until then (please be patient,) I’ll tell y’all what I have so far learnt: faith and fitness definitely work together and this has probably been the reason why I’m not in as deep and dark a hole as I would be without these two. Social media doesn’t have to be shallow and superficial, it can be a positive space where we’re inspired, challenged and dare I say, even pushed to grow. A place where strength is found by being the person you are online, as you are in real life. Going forward, my social media accounts will continue to more accurately reflect this journey of light that I am on and the fight to being the best version of myself. I will aim to inspire and challenge you as much as I can.

This is your life, you decide what it looks like!

P is for positive!

‘Change can be powerful, if we are brave enough to evolve with it.’

The hardest part of CrossFit is finding a box. Finding a coach that you connect with and people that are on the same wavelength as you are. A place where positivity is felt the minute you step in!

In the wake of my sister’s death, I did not want to train AT ALL! When you lose someone you love so dearly, everything reminds you of them. Fitness in particular, was one of the things that my older sister and I had in common. Whenever we trained together, my sister would be the one yapping away and I’d be thinking, ‘shut up and train.’ Now whenever I’m at the box, I’m the one that a lot of people wish would just shut up and train 😂 Her death left me crippled. The first time I stepped into the box following her death, I’d well up and not train. A week turned into a month, a month turned into four 😳

I went into hibernation after my sister passed, it was made easier by the fact that I had resigned from my job as a support trainer for Lush South Africa. Burpees can be scary I suppose, but it wasn’t the thought of getting back to training that filled me with anxiety. It was the thought of having to face people, CrossFit is known for its community aspect and I didn’t know whether I was ready for that. I didn’t know whether I was ready to move on with my life and participate in anything!

I thought about kitting out the garage with equipment and never stepping into a box again, but then I remembered that when Bruno first spoke about his box, I told him that I would 100 percent support him. And if you’re going to call yourself a friend then you might as well put some action to your talk and REALLY support your friends! I’ve had many conversations with Bruno about…well everything, what are coaches for? A topic that always seems to creep up is positivity and how the energy you surround yourself with is just as important as the energy that you’re breeding within you. If you’re around people who complain 100% of your free time, guess what? You’re going to become exactly like them.

The opposite is true. As a Christian, I am very familiar with verses like Philippians 4:13 that states I can do all things through Christ. However, if I’m being honest I never took that verse to heart. In my head, I’d still be playing scenarios of all that could go wrong and how I’d fail. I wasn’t putting in any physical and indeed, mental effort into cultivating an environment that would create and nurture growth. My internal environment was the perfect breeding ground for negativity, mediocrity and a fear of trying anything new.It’s important to note that having a positive mindset doesn’t automatically make things easier or mean that you’ll always win. It does mean that in every situation, you are able to look on the bright side of life and assess whether opportunity for improvement exists as well as better strategy on how to isolate those areas and make it better. On top of that, it allows you to focus your energy and your efforts on completing the task at hand with all that you’ve got! You learn how to chase excellence every damn day.

I’m two months in at Evolve and I am all the more hopeful and excited about CrossFit, about life. I’ve even gotten my younger sister to join the CrossFit cult. That in itself is a victory that deserves its own blogpost! My physical circle of friends (family not included 😂) has whittled down and as this happens, I find that more good things are happening because I now operate in a negativity free zone and the bonus is that it’s with people who want to do life the same way!

What does it help focusing on the negative anyway, to paraphrase this gem in Luke 12:25-26, what do you add to your life by worrying about tomorrow, today?

Nothing.

25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life[a]? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? 27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!

Luke 12:25-28 (NIV)

Athletes’ Corner Part III: Adrian Conway

This final piece of athletes’ corner is the best…okay, I’m going to say that about every athlete that I interview because it’s the truth. Some of the athletes you’ll see in this growing feature, I have the honour of calling them my friends…real friends, not the imaginary kind that solely exists in my head haha! These are people that I hold up in the highest regard and they embody some of the best qualities that I think make them the best kind of people to have in your life. Hardworkers yes, but they’re also just really great at loving people and being great humans, some of them humans that I admire from afar. Hmm…that only sounds mildy creepy, I swear it isn’t.

The aim behind athletes’ corner is to encourage and give you beautiful readers a healthy dose of inspiration, sometimes a kick of motivation in the booty, and home truths (some old, some new,) that you can apply to your life in order to keep growing, and enable you to enjoy this journey that we’re on. There’s an old saying that says we can’t possibly have it all, and often times (especially as a woman,) I have had the thought that maybe I can’t have it all. I’m gonna have to choose the parts of life that I’m going to be good at, it’s one or the either. One cannot possibly pursue all of their passions, 1 or 2 will do. This last piece with Adrian taught me that I can absolutely have it all. The thing that will determine how well you handle everything that will inevitably land up on your plate, is the balance that you have with God, yourself, and the people that you allow to speak into your life.

I hope you’ll enjoy this and I’ll see you in a blogpost…or pretty soon a box near you!

Last part of athletes’ corner with Adrian Conway, LET’S GO!

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Adrian, his son Alijah and his wife Ashley.
  • You’re a family man, you have your own company, you’re a competitive athlete and you also coach. How do you find balance and what is it that you focus on to excel at being someone who in truth is  ‘all things to all people?’

AC: I put God first. There are certain times that you must draw the line with what you can do and what you won’t do. I don’t coach on Wednesday nights ever because I have church obligations, I won’t work more than 1-2 weekends a month for CrossFit HQ because it takes me from the body of Christ and the ability to serve and worship with like minded people too much. So for me, that looks like turning down work and more chances to make money, but it is always worth it. As I do this as a priority, it honestly helps me then balance everything else. In my marriage, when competing with friends with family, if I keep putting God first, he always provides the answers and the structure for me to be better and more present in each aspect. It is not easy.

  • Ambition and Christianity, is it okay to want more? Are we ‘allowed’ to want more?

AC: It is God’s desire for us to want more. It is not a sin to want more, it is a sin to love money. When the root of your desire is to serve, create influence, lead people to Christ then ambition is your friend. In fact I’d argue most Christians aren’t ambitious enough about their salvation and getting others to Christ. We need to be more ambitious in sharing the gift we have! Most people show up to church to serve themselves not to serve others, we use our relationship with God to serve our needs and wants and not to go seek and save the lost, LIKE WE ARE CALLED TO. I am as guilty as any. So first I want ALL OF US to have a greater ambition for the lost and getting them to know Christ. And another sad truth is that money makes the world go round. If you pursue your passions and work for everything as if you are working for God and you put your money and give your first fruits back into the Kingdom there is nothing wrong with having or wanting more.

As Christians we have to know that there is money to be had, who would we prefer to have control of it? Those who do with it what serves them? Or those who seek after God’s desires and visions and want to be able to put it to great use in aiding others or helping to fuel efforts to spread the Kingdom of God?

  • In light of this ambition, what is it that continues to drive you forward and what are some of the daily habits that you have implemented in order to keep growth sustainable and everything in the order that it should be in?

AC: I wear many hats professionally. My simple pursuit to want to be a Games Athlete has opened many, many doors for me. I am newly a gym owner “Live in Victory CrossFit”, I am an owner in FNXfit supplement line, I am a key aspect of the Brute strength training team, I teach L1’s for CrossFit Head Quarters and still help run and coach at Wasatch CrossFit. Almost each one of these avenues were opened due to my hard work and abilities as an athlete.

Because I pursue everything as I give it up to God with relentless effort, I was ready when opportunities presented themselves. Day to day right now it takes planning and organization to stay on task and be able to be successful in each aspect. As an athlete over the next year that will take a backseat. I’ll use the next 12 months to heal, rest and focus on the new business opportunities I have. I measure success only by my relationship with God and my family life. If I am ever losing in those aspects then I’m completely lost or very close to on my way. Again, I am a Christian, this is who I am, everything else is merely what I do. I hope to able to use every avenue that has been opened to me in order to lead people to a relationship with God or to help them strengthen it. If I can provide for my family, create an income that can support others, run companies that serve the community, then all of that stuff is simply icing on the cake.

  • In closing, Adrian what is the legacy that you want to leave behind?

AC: I want to be known as a man who loved God, and lived to the best of his ability to love others and lead others to him while I was here. I hope I can continue to find ways to use my talents and the abilities God has given me in order to that. And that I can lead a life so that my family and those others who know me closest would admire those qualities the most.

Catch up on our inaugural instalment of Athletes’ Corner with Adrian Conway by clicking on the links below:

Part I

Part II

I’ll be sharing the link on twitter for an article for BoxRox magazine that I wrote, where  Adrian shares advice for CrossFit athletes! You’ll know when I share it if you follow me 😉 tweet, tweet!

Genuine faith

Trusting even when it appears you have been forsaken; praying when it seems your words are simply entering a vast expanse where no one hears and no voice answers; believing that God’s love is complete and that He is aware of your circumstances, even when your world seems to grind on as if setting its own direction and not caring for life or moving one inch in response to your petitions; desiring only what God’s hands have planned for you; waiting patiently while seemingly starving to death, with your only fear being that your faith might fail — “this is the victory that has overcome the world”; this is genuine faith indeed.

George MacDonald

At the start of this year I did what has become a ritual for me, which is to write down my dreams, hopes and plans for the year ahead. As the year draws to a close, I think about how 2017 was a year full of unexpected moments, some of them pleasant, like falling in love with the most wonderful man 😍 and some not so pleasant, one of them being the passing of my darling older sister. There is so much that I remember about my last conversations with my sister, so many lessons and words of wisdom to apply to my life, that she left me with. As the middle child in a blended family of 8 children, I am accustomed to being the peacemaker. In the midst of temper tantrums being thrown by my younger siblings, I never felt as though there was room for me to throw a temper tantrum. Over the years it meant that I would bottle up my emotions, retreat into a corner and then come out when I had processed through whatever situation I was dealing with. My older sister Nadege, she was the best at teaching me that while throwing a temper tantrum would be satisfying in the moment, in the long run  it meant that you were always at the mercy of your feelings. My sister taught me that in order to make it through life without getting offended at absolutely every single thing, one needed to have the right balance of resiliency and vulnerability. Resiliency to recover quickly from difficulties, being able to spring back into shape; and vulnerability in order to learn that sometimes you recover quicker when you let others in, as opposed to doing what I did for a long time, isolating yourself.

As I live in the aftermath of my sister’s death, the biggest challenge for me is believing that God is here, in the middle of the ‘suck,’ with me. In the days following my sister’s death, I would listen to ‘even when it hurts,’ by Hillsong Worship incessantly. It became the soundtrack for my grief, and while I don’t recall feeling angry towards God when it first happened, and even right now I don’t feel any anger towards Him, there is however a piercing pain that gives way to numbness, not wanting to process this unsavoury part of life and ultimatly not wanting to process through this with God. It’s a strange feeling to know in my heart of hearts,  that He is here with me, yet on days where the pain feels too much to bear, my heart (so fickle that it is,) begins to doubt and wonder whether God is here but just not here with me. This season is shaping out to be a painful one in which I am learning what it means to be called a person of faith. It’s a lesson in learning or perhaps a better word is discovering what the substance of my faith is. This last part of 2017 has marked my soul more than any other experience in my life. There’s a feeling of disconnect not just between God and I, but with people too. The latter part of the year has been eye opening, painful and the biggest test I’ve yet had in my walk with God. It has and is still revealing the substance of my faith. It’s easy to call yourself a person of faith when life is playing according to the script that you’ve written. It’s a different thing to still have this faith that believes God is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18,) and can heal all wounds, wipe away your tears (Revelation 21:4,) when you’re hit with tragedy.

The gentle reminder that I try to hold onto is that God’s love is complete and He is able to bring me back to Him. I don’t have the energy to fight the gentle waves of comfort that the Holy Spirit brings, the only energy that I am willing to expend is that which I will be using to wake up everyday and believe (with a deep conviction,) that eventually everything is going to be okay, and we’ve all heard the second bit ‘if it’s not okay then it’s not the end.’

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 (KJV)

I don’t know that I can say that I am excited about 2018. There’s a little bit of fear as to what the next year might hold. There’s an anxiety that I have to quieten as my mind wonders if there is anyone else that I will lose. As I wrote this post, I resolved in my spirit to not allow myself to live in this state of anxiety and constant dread. Going into 2018, the only mantra I’m adopting is that of the verse above (Romans 8:28) and that below, if God who loves me, and is indeed sovereign and in control of everything, started it then He will complete it beautifully and lovingly as only He can.

There’s good to come out of this year (even as it draws to a close,) that will lay a strong foundation for the next year. There’s more to come out of you to get you closer to your dreams, to get you living out your dreams! There’s more, and it’s going to be good. I believe that the only thing God wants us to truly focus on, is Him. It does say in His word to seek first His kingdom (Matthew 6:33) and everything else will be added. I believe that to seek His kingdom means to be in pursuit of Christ, but also remembering that we too are being pursued by a breathtaking and passionate love. This is the belief that I pray will carry you through this last portion of the year, as well as through 2018. I’m praying that you would be steadfast in staying on the path that Christ has laid out before you, and for Him to use those unsavoury bits of 2017 to bring out a beauty and strength that you never knew existed, in you. I’m praying for more of His favour in your life, more of His peace, love and comfort.

Here’s to 2017 ending on a high note, and to 2018 being a strong, fierce and beautiful year for you!

I am convinced and confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will [continue to] perfect and complete it until the day of Christ Jesus [the time of His return]. Philippians 1:6 (AMP)

Athletes’ Corner part II: Adrian Conway

If I had to ask you about the most important part of a CrossFit box, what would your answer be? Facilities? Location? And then maybe after a little bit more thought, you’d say the coaches. In my opinion, CrossFit coaches are what make this sport unique and unmatched by any other. My first foray into CrossFit, at my very first box, I remember a coach who would be on his phone during wods, he spent the first part of the class with the competitive athletes so beginners that came in, never lasted for longer than two or so months. In this first year of CrossFit, as much as I would come to the box because I wanted to be fit and strong. On the flipside, I’d also approach each class with dread as to what movement I would be berated on for not being able to do it as he saw fit with very minimal instruction. One of those movements was the snatch. I would cherry pick and any wod that had a snatch in any shape or form, would see me skip that day. I wouldn’t even come for open gym sessions.

Frustrated I got a PVC pipe and learnt how to master these moves by watching videos on YouTube and reading CrossFit articles online. It wasn’t long before our box had to relocate and we got a new coach, Nuno. He will always be my OG coach, regardless of where I find myself in the future, I call him my first coach because  it was only when Nuno started coaching me that I began to see myself as a CrossFitter. A coach who cared about how his athletes, (ALL OF THEM,) moved. The pressure to load the bar for the sake of loading it disappeared, in fact I can remember wods where he would tell me to strip weight off after seeing horrendous technique and sure it meant sometimes I wanted to throw the weights he told me to take off at him, but it also meant that for the most part, I remained injury free. I have a separate article on this very special coach coming up so I won’t say too much about him, although I kinda feel like I have haha! The point I want to make is this, in CrossFit especially, coaches matter! They’re a big deal, they’re the real MVPs. The success you have as an athlete is down to the work you put in, but you need people in your corner who help you work on those barriers stopping you from progressing in a sustainable and healthy way. In this part of athletes’ corner, Adrian tells us on what it takes to be a good coach!

  • What are the skills/characteristics a coach needs to in order to better relate to individual personalities at the box?

AC: No skills. You have to care. Coach Glassman said in order to be successful as a coach, “you have to be interesting, and you have to be interested.” To me this is a lot like Paul teaches us in the New Testament that we must be “all things to all men”. We need to care about who they are, get to know them and be willing to share ourselves with them as well.

  • A statement that often swirls around is that CrossFit isn’t for everyone. You’re a coach and a competitive athlete, in your own words, what is the appeal of CrossFit for someone who maybe doesn’t have any competitive aspirations, and is out to improve the quality of their life? How do you as a coach relate to those who don’t have as a goal to compete or make it to the Games?

AC: CrossFit isn’t designed to get you to the Games. CrossFit is designed to increase your work capacity across broad time and modal domains and do so for as long as you live. This training regime is designed for EVERYONE to live a longer fuller life. I don’t glamorise competing, it is not glamorous. I glamorise those that come in 5/7 days of the week, eat well and have great performance results to show it. I don’t create an ultra competitive environment, that is not the purpose. I don’t even talk about competing, there are many members at my own gym that don’t know I was at the Games as an individual or even what the Games truly are. And for that I’m proud because the Games and CrossFit in my gym are very different and I hope they always are. People having the ability to RX a workout here and there, people who get their first pull up, or their first real burpee, those people are the foundation of my community, those are our all stars. As long as coaches and box owners understand that and lead by example with lifting that up, they will have success at communicating that it’s for everyone.

  • As a coach, how do you know when to draw the line between encouraging & pushing your members, to knowing when they’ve had enough and need a bit of a breather?

AC: Experience is key for this one. We all learn hard lessons through experience. I’m sure I’ve almost killed a few people. Haha. But, again….people come to my gym to pay for my service, so they WANT to get better. I don’t need to do much to fire them up. I do this by being excited about what I teach and empowering their training. I’m very informative with the why’s behind what we do in my gym, this helps them own their workouts. They then know why we are doing something and what they should be getting out of it. There are some people who need a kick in the butt, and some people I need to tell to calm down….you learn that through genuine relationships and getting to know them. It takes simply time and effort.

  • What habits can be created/implemented in a box that can help in creating the sense of community and motivation that CrossFit is so well known for in order to create a culture where members keep coming back?

AC: Who you are, is who your community will become. If you are serving, honest, engaged, and caring….they will become that OR they will not like your gym. To me culture is what you create by who you are. You can’t tell people to be a certain way, you show them, and then they follow suit if they respect you. As a good leader you understand and see the balance of being a little of the lion and little of the lamb. I say that because you want to serve, care, love and help everyone….but at times you must remove cancers or dangers to your community from it. And being stern and honest can cut some to the heart, but those are hard things a leader of a community must do to protect the rest of the flock.

The next part in this series will be with you in the new year. Happy holidays lovelies. Enjoy this time with your family and see you in 2018! 

Athletes’ Corner part I: Adrian Conway

In light of what this blog covers (faith, fitness and everything else,) as a Christian first and athlete second, I can attest to the fact that 9 times out of 10, God has taught me the most when I am training. There exists a beautiful intersection between faith and fitness, one gleans the physical body, and the other gleans the spiritual body. If it wasn’t for God, I would be the sorest loser haha, and if it wasn’t for fitness, I would have a very unhealthy relationship with myself, others and food. I’ve always thought of fitness as the cheapest form of therapy. I love reading about other people’s faith and fitness walk and I cannot think of anyone better that I could have gotten to inaugurate this new feature on the blog than Adrian Conway!

Adrian wears many hats, as a competitive CrossFit athlete, he has won the affiliate cup with the Wasatch Brutes at the CrossFit Games 3 times. He is part of the Brute strength training team, and the CrossFit HQ L1 seminar staff. Adrian is an owner in the FNXfit supplement line,  recently became a gym owner ‘Live in Victory CrossFit’ , and if that wasn’t enough, he still helps run and coach at Wasatch CrossFit. The common thread in all of Adrian’s answers is this: hard work pays off but the way to have longevity is found in being consistent and being a person of integrity not just to others but to you. Massive thanks to Adrian for taking time out of his schedule to answer these questions. I was left inspired and motivated to do more and be more not just in my fitness, but also in my faith walk, which at the end of the day is what sustains it all. I am incredibly honoured and tickled pink to share this with y’all.

Welcome to the Athletes’ Corner!

  • So let’s start with a hash-tag that some of us will have seen on social media platforms, #Christianathlete. As spokesperson for the masses, I know that we’re all curious to find out your tips on what it takes to win the CrossFit Games, but before we delve into that,  let’s talk a little bit about your faith walk. What does it mean to you to be a Christian athlete, and how does that influence not just your training, but your life?

AC: I’m a Christian. That is what defines me, my actions, my words and my thoughts. An athlete isn’t a part of my identity, it is just something that I “do”. To answer your question directly, being a Christian man influences everything I do, so being an athlete is a very small part of that. It does reflect traits that carry well into my athletic pursuit however. I am a hard worker, always going to be THE hardest worker in the room or even in my field of current pursuit. I do this not because I want to be great but because as a disciple of Christ I’m called to “do all things as if doing them for the glory of God.” (Colossians 3:23).

I also know that how I win, how I lose, how I interact with my peers, the way I serve my community all have to be done in this way as well.

I tell people, and a lot of time I think they assume I’m being sarcastic and joking, that everything good you see in me comes from God. I mean it when I say it. My nature is not that of my actions, I have to make several internal decisions to be Christ like all the time, it doesn’t come easy, especially in the heat of a competition.

There’s a song called ‘One Sixteen’ by Trip Lee, that personally for me was a game changer. I recall being a young girl in church believing that the best place (the only place,) that I could honour God was there in church, but I couldn’t sing as well as the others and I wasn’t really a fan of people. So I said to myself perhaps I could volunteer somewhere in Africa…ironic seeing that I live in South Africa but it had to be somewhere more remote and more African…and then I heard this song. This was (as Oprah loves to say,) my ‘aha!’ moment, I realized that even in my training, I could honour God unashamed, fitness could be the way that I honoured Him and celebrated all the things that He had allowed this body to do and then by careful discipline, work on the things that it couldn’t yet do. This meant (and still means,) that anytime I want to have a stank attitude, I can almost audibly hear the Holy Spirit telling me ‘girrrlll is this really honouring me?’ and then the brat pipes down for a bit…

  • Can you pinpoint when you had your ‘aha!’ moment, how did that define your journey as an athlete then, and does it define/shape where you’re at as an athlete today?

AC: I’ve had a lot of ups and downs as a Christian athlete. When I first studied the Bible with a few men who were gracious and brave enough to invite me to, that changed my entire life. I grew up knowing of only hypocritical types of Christian worship which unfortunately is the majority of self-proclaimed Christian lifestyles out there. I saw men and women who claimed to know of Jesus not living anything like the Bible taught but showing up to church on Sunday and putting on the best front you could ever see. So as I studied with men that showed me on a day to day basis what it looked like to be a disciple of Christ, it strongly impacted me and encouraged me that I could do the same. Because becoming a Christian changed me so much, it changed how I competed. I often used rage, anger and fear as fuel on game day. I literally lined up against others with “hate” in my heart. In a violent sport line division like football in the US can be, it played to my advantage, but what it was doing to my heart and what I was reflecting wasn’t right. After I was baptized and my perspective on life and eternity really transformed I couldn’t pull on those “negative” emotions anymore. So much of my past that I had now forgiven or moved on from couldn’t be my fuel.

My passion took a shift from being self-focused, and hate filled to being the best instrument for Christ that I could be. He blessed me with gifts, it is my obligation to get the most potential from those gifts and allow them to be a tool to share his word and who he is with others. My aha moment was in 2007 at Weber State University.

In my faith/fitness walk, I have two central verses that I always go back to, Hebrews 12:11-12, paraphrased it reads ‘no discipline is enjoyable while it is happening-it’s painful (yes!) take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees.’ and Colossians 3:23, doing everything heartily as to the LORD. In a way it has strengthened my belief that through physical discomfort, there is a gleaning and strengthening of the spirit that happens, and whenever I come dangerously close to throwing an ugly tantrum, thankfully the part of my mind that remains under Christ’s control always goes to these verses.

  • What is the inner dialogue that you have whether it is during a wod or a competition, that keeps you centred and focused on giving it your all?

AC: I have always loved the verse Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I loved it even before I was a Christian, not fully understanding the meaning, I took it as God would give me the ability to do literally ANYTHING almost like a superman type of perspective. Now it means much more. I like to look at the verse in the full context. Prior to verse 13 Paul describes that through his walk with Christ he has both been in situations where he has had great needs and also where he has had plenty but that through Christ he knows he can do anything. So, from my perspective no matter what I must endure in order to improve or to seek victory, I know Christ provides that for me. I love many scriptures though, and I think about a few others while competing as well, but for life in general, and when competing that is my favourite as I rock that verse on my inner left wrist.

About two months ago, I injured my back and I remember my coach telling me to scale the wod, but we’ve all unfortunately at least once, listened to the egotistical voice inside of us telling us to keep going. I recall stopping mid-wod and crying because I was in so much pain. I very sheepishly realized that had I listened to my coach (sometimes they know better haha), I would not have ended up in tears, aggravating an existing injury, I’m sorry Bruno. I’d like to say that it was on that day that the stubborn streak died, but I went through a few more months of painful training sessions, back getting worse, for me to finally put to the grave… ok partially put to the grave my stubborn streak.

  • Have you ever had moments similar to mine, where against your better judgement, you pushed through pain, (maybe you didn’t cry like I did…or maybe you did,) and suffered a setback? What did you learn from that situation?

AC: Of course I’ve had moments where I don’t listen to my instincts and others advice, I’m a boy! Haha. I joke but it’s true. Pride is the fall of all men. And I battle with it daily. I have had a few instances, one specifically that led me to injuring myself prior to the 2014 regional days before the competition. I trained so much that I beat my body down, the week out instead of resting, trusting my training and de-loading, I trained hard and kept up my attack. I did this really out of insecurity. I was worried I wouldn’t win the regional, and that was my goal, crush everyone. (See I’m ruthless still in my own mind, dominance is always the goal, not mere OH HEY, let’s just do our best…..sounds again brutal but its quite cowardly for me to claim that’s all I want when it’s not true.) So out of my inability to trust the process, I trained on, and had to end my season very early. That year I was the fittest of my career and the programming at Regionals and at the CF Games was likely the best if I could have chosen the events, that I could have asked for. I look back thankful for the missed opportunity because again, I’m grateful for where God has put me. And what if I had made it? And then gotten top 5 at the Games? I think my life would have made several different turns, I’d rather be no where else than here, right now.

Part 2 drops like a hot potato on Monday 

So Will I

One of my dear friends Eunice, sent me the link to the song ‘So Will I,’ by Hillsong worship. I had seen this on social media, a lot of my friends go to Hillsong so the title was not a surprise to me. I was standing in front of my workplace, waiting for the video to load, and even before the song started playing, I had already decided that I wasn’t going to be moved. I’ve shared in previous posts about the passing of my sister, and everyday has been a wave of emotions that range mostly from sadness, despair, disbelief, anger and then whatever other mix of emotions that are floating around in the atmosphere.

Today was my day to be numb. No crying, no internal angry outbursts, no reaction to anything.

For about a minute…maybe even less, I was okay. I’m watching the video, listening to the words, my heart silently agreeing and as with all things heavenly anointed, my spirit moved by His spirit, tears start to well up in my eyes at this line ‘if creation still obeys You, so will I.’

This past month, I have found it incredibly difficult to sing to the LORD. I have found it hard to declare the good things because right now, I feel enveloped by the pain that grief so abundantly brings. What has been interesting for me is that while I have been sad and angry in regards to the way that my sister lost her life, I haven’t in my heart of hearts felt angry at Jesus. I’ve been battling dark thoughts in my head, biting my tongue from what it truly wants to say to well meaning friends who say that it’ll get better.

Yet in this season that hurts like hell, there is a hallelujah (הללויה) in me. The word ‘hallelujah’ is the amalgamation of two Hebrew words ‘hallelu’ (הללו) which is an exhortation to praise someone, and ‘Yah’ (יה) which is a version of Yahweh (יהוה) the English transliteration of the covenant name of God. Hallelujah therefore means praise Yahweh. My hallelujah song is not the strongest right now. I can barely get it out, and on the days that I manage to sing, those rare days that my voice somehow finds its way out of my mouth, my singing sounds off-key. The pain masking the beautiful melody that should be there, making me feel as though I’m singing along to a song that I wasn’t given the lyrics to.

In these moments, there is an awkwardness and stumbling in His presence, but I think what God wants me to learn, what God wants us to learn is that there are no pre-written lyrics to my/our hallelujah song. If there was, then it would mean that the individual and personal relationship we have with God is not unique, and is simply a copy and paste of what previous generations experienced with Him. Sometimes the melody to your hallelujah song will sound off-key. Sometimes the melody to your hallelujah song won’t be beautiful because the season you’re going through, is anything but beautiful. These are the highs and lows of life. These are the highs and lows of our walk with God. I am starting to realise that this season of pain is all the same lovely and dare I say a very scandalous thing! Precious, because in this I now get to experience a different facet of this loving God who remains kind, gentle and true even when life does not seem kind, gentle and true.

As I go through this season of a weak hallelujah song, this is what I have to tell myself, this is what you have to tell yourself if you’re going through a season of indescribable pain. It will not last forever.

Do I believe it? No

But do I believe in God, that He is able to turn this season of being covered in ashes into one of beauty*? Yes

This is the God who created the universe from nothing. This is the God who turned water into wine. This is the God who could not be defeated by death.

There are more days to come where I will feel utter confusion at what has happened, and circumstances in the future will probably bring me to a point where the strength of my hallelujah song will be tested again. It’ll happen to you too, and each time though it might not seem like it, though it might not feel like it, your hallelujah song will be strengthened. That is the nugget to hold onto, that Jesus who sustains you, is also able to strengthen you.

I am reminded of a resolve that I made 10 years ago, to follow Jesus. Some seasons are easier to follow and understand than others, but I won’t stop following. If the stars were made to worship, SO WILL I.

If the stars were made to worship so will I

If the mountains bow in reverence so will I

If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I

For if everything exists to lift You high so will I

If the wind goes where You send it so will I

If the rocks cry out in silence so will I

If the sum of all our praises still falls shy

Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times

*’to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.’

Isaiah 61:3 (ESV)

Other songs getting me by:

‘Even when it hurts.’ Hillsong Worship

‘God I look to You.’ Bethel Music

‘Holding my world.’ Kristian Stanfill

‘He’s been good.’ Ron Kenoly

‘Desert song.’ Hillsong

Wilt, fall, root, rise, bloom

My sister passed away on the 30th of October. It is a date that I won’t soon forget. The painful part of this grieving process is far from over. In fact, I am starting to believe that grieving never truly ends, you just learn to push back thoughts of your loved one and for a small part of the day, it is as though you have forgotten that they are no longer here.

Death of a loved one whether expected or unexpected is painful. There is no way to prepare your heart for the painful reminder that lives in every old message, every item of clothing, every single belonging, that they are not coming back. It’s a tear in the heart.

A book that I have been reading as a sort of escapism is ‘the sun and her flowers,’ by Rupi Kaur. It is a straightforward read, explores grief, self-abandonment and honouring your roots, more than anything it is a book about being raw and as honest as possible with yourself. The book is divided in sections that reflect the cycles of life that we go through; wilting, falling, rooting, rising and blooming. The days following my sister’s passing, I would re-read every single poem in the wilting section because that is how I felt without my sunflower. Slowly losing a piece of myself each day. Wilting.

The resiliency and graceful strength that my sister had is unmatched by any other human that I have the pleasure of knowing. Reading this book, I am slowly starting to accept the fact that my sister is no longer here. It is a painful acceptance because there is a part of me (perhaps brainwashed by childhood dreams) that believes she’s going to come back, the belief rooted in what we’re fed in superhero movies that our heroes never truly die. The heroine that makes a miraculous return, unscathed and stronger.

The recipe of life doesn’t play out like that script where your hero/heroine comes back. It doesn’t play out like the script where you’re woken up and it is a bad dream. The recipe of life isn’t always sweet or soothing. The recipe of life is filled with moments where like the seedling that develops into a sunflower, you have to push through the dirt in order to grow. The recipe of life is wilt, fall, root, rise, and bloom.

this is the recipe of life

said my mother

as she held me in her arms as i wept

think of those flowers you plant

in the garden each year

they will teach you

that people too

must wilt

fall

root

rise

in order to bloom

~ rupi kaur

GIVEAWAY: Two copies of ‘the sun and her flowers,’ are up for grabs. It’s pretty easy, all you have to do is leave a number, (any number) between 1-30 as a comment underneath this blog post or on my other social media pages, and the people closest to my two favourite numbers win!

P.s. this is an international giveaway.