Hello beautiful people. It’s the start of a new year. I’m still on holiday so I am in a great mood. It’s not that I hate my job, in fact I consider myself extremely lucky to have such a healthy work environment, however more time with the love of my life is always welcome. I’ve had time to think about what I want from 2020 and each time I keep coming to one word: joy.
joy: ‘ a feeling of great pleasure and happiness. ‘
The past two years have been challenging for my family and I, ever since we lost my sister. However we have somehow learnt to live with the grief. We’ve learnt to function and find happiness in the midst of the pain. Last year was a great one for me. I have felt myself slipping further and further away from the cloud of despair that at one point felt permanent. Depression is like that, you forget what it’s like to be happy and while I credit my walk with God towards helping, I cannot deny or diminish the role that my wonderful husband played in the person I became last year. My goals for this year are simple: find joy in God and work tirelessly at being the best wife, and human to everyone in my life. I want to truly find joy in God, in life, fully being present in all aspects of life, taking pleasure in all that it has to offer, without feeling guilty about it.
2020 is the year of being unapologetically joyful!
In a few weeks 2019 will be done and dusted and we will be entering a new decade. When you look back at the last ten years of your life, what marks those years? Were they tough, knocking the wind out of you at each turn? Or was it a decade marked with growth? The last decade of my life was a little bit of both. One event that marks this decade was the loss of my sister. Her death is something that I don’t think I will ever truly recover from, however her death is no longer as debilitating as it was when it first happened. My sister passed away shortly before her 33rd birthday, she passed away in October, we buried her in November and a mere 3 weeks later her first birthday without us occurred. It’s something that will stay with me and my family forever, however when I look back at it, I see how Christ has infused His strength through not just this situation but through every difficult situation that I encountered in a decade that in the thick of it, felt marred by difficulty and struggle.
It was in this decade that the United Kingdom Borders Agency (UKBA) incorrectly detained me. I was given nothing more than an apology and while an experience like that would scar the best of us, somehow I found the strength to rebuild my life after an event that felt as though it had stripped so much of my dignity and worth. The maladministration of the UKBA I believe, is what led to is being closed in 2013. I hope to never forget the desperation so clearly visibly on the faces of so many other women who were in there much longer than the three days that I was detained. When the time and opportunity for it comes, I will find a way to help women who are in detention to ensure that they never forget their beauty, their worth and their dignity. In the midst of what felt like a storm that would spit me out with significant bruises, I didn’t see that resilience was being added to my character. I only saw what I could see, which is normal. When you’re going through something, your mental and emotional state of being can be tested and as well-meaning a Christian that you think you are, so much of what is going on around you can cause you to doubt and wonder whether God is just being so rude, and so nasty, allowing all of this mess to carry on in your life.
At the end of this decade going into the next one, I have realised that I am not always going to understand why certain things happen and why God permits it to be so. For years, I have found solace in the words Jesus uttered in John 13:7 “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”
I love the explanation of this verse on the ‘Knowing Jesus’ site: ‘When like the apostle Peter, we come face to face with a series of bizarre circumstances that seem to shatter our lives, we may not understand the reason for life’s twists and turns but we can trust Him, knowing that His ways are perfect and His grace is sufficient. Like the disciples on that night before the cross, we may not be comfortable with the shock-horror that we witness or the unjust way that life seem to be unfolding. We may not understand the spiritual significance of all that is happening in our life and the lives of those we care about, but we can trust our heavenly Father for He is still in control. He knows the end from the beginning and all His ways are perfect. Although we may not know the meaning and mystery of all that we are called upon to bear in this world, let us remember that we may not understand what is happening now, but hereafter we shall know as we are known. May we learn as Peter did that what may be shadowed to our understanding today is being used by God to work together for good, to His praise and for our eternal benefit.’
This verse becomes harder to believe when you are on a rollercoaster of unfortunate things happening to you or those you love, but I have concluded that walking with Jesus and going through trials & tribulations (how dramatic sounding), is by far better than not walking with Him. When I was detained by the UKBA, one thing that brought me comfort was the account of Paul and Silas praising God while they were in jail (Acts 16:16-40) and I remember laughing to myself that on that day for some very odd reason, I had taken my Bible with me. In that moment I believe I experienced a taste of what Paul and Silas must have felt; the desperation, the disbelief, the pain, the betrayal that God would have allowed this to happen, and then afterwards the realisation that even still, He remains God. It took me a long time to get over that pain and once I felt that I did, I lost my sister. As I type this I am still in a hazy phase of my relationship with God. There are days when I can easily declare His sovereignty over my life, and then there are days when I wonder how a God so big and so great could have allowed so much to occur not just in my life but in my family’s lives as well. All of these questions always lead me to the same conclusion; God is God and He knows why. I believe God has given us freedom of thought, and is by no way offended by any questions that we may have for Him. How fragile would God be if He was offended by everything we did?
Can you imagine how shaken I was when I realised that God was not offended by me not believing in Him. He loves and pursues relationship with us, but He will never force His way into your life. He’s a gentleman like that. At first this was unsettling but afterwards it brought freedom in my relationship with God, I was no longer scared to bring my raw emotions to Him. Things that I had never spoken to God about (which sounds kinda weird to type, considering He is all knowing…) suddenly came spewing out of my mouth and the pages of my journal. The journey isn’t perfect but it is a lot more authentic.
I close out this decade happier than I thought I would be. I’m married to the most wonderful man, working in a challenging but fulfilling role, and the role I cherish the most: being an aunt to the two most incredible humans. I wonder whether any of this would have been possible had my life not followed the trajectory that it did. I didn’t think I’d be writing this, but I am so grateful that God allowed for my life to play out as it did. As you reflect on the last decade of your life, what are some of the things that you have learnt or have been through that you are unexpectedly grateful for?
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!
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:
It’s been 16 days since my sister passed away. We’ve received flowers, messages from people we hadn’t spoken to in years, all relaying their condolences. Each person saying how sorry they are and that if we need anything, they’re there. I’ve been mulling over that phrase for a while now. What exactly is there that people can offer at this stage?
It’s a season of pain. A season of unanswered questions. A season of shock, none of us saw this coming. It’s a season of wondering how to go on with life without someone that was a permanent fixture in your life. The common thing I’ve heard is that it gets easier after the funeral, and also that eventually in time this hollow feeling, becomes bearable. Well I’m waiting for those days. I’m waiting to wake up from this dream. I’m waiting to receive a reply from the WhatsApp messages that I’ve sent my sister. I can’t even think of her as deceased. It’s not something I would have ever thought I’d be saying.
She is in every second of my day. On Monday morning, I tried to go back to training and instead I ended up watching my bestie wod. I had moments where my heart felt the pain of being at a place where my sister encouraged me so much. When I started CrossFit she would drive me to classes and give me pep talks in her car. Throughout my life, she has always been there to motivate, encourage and offer me home truths, some of them uncomfortable but done as only an older sister can. I’ve had a few setbacks in my Crossfit journey, but my sister believed that I had what it took to become a top athlete in South Africa. After recovering from a nasty back injury, the rehab and the grind to being better in 2018, had already begun. Now I feel lost. Derailed. Seeing everything in black or variations of it. Being anywhere that isn’t my room, feels like a slap in the face. A reality that I hate to face. A reality that I have to face. A reality that I am forced to face. It’s a reality that means I have to function. It means I have to do something other than think about her. It means I have to go on with my life. It means I have to go on with my life without her.
I haven’t yet had any days that have felt easier or better than the previous one. Each passing day adds to the number of days that we’ve been without my sister. Each passing day adds to the number of days that we are in shock of having so suddenly lost our sunflower. The toughest person you could have ever met. She had a true warrior spirit that seemed to have been what held me together. She was my best friend, a protective older sister, and even though this is generally a tough one, she understood me.
I went for a run on Monday evening, there were heavy rain clouds which afforded some comfort to me that perhaps nature seemed to be grieving too. I ran in silence: fast and hard thinking of my sister who would find my starting pace a bit too fast to be sustained. I thought about all the times that I could have slowed down to accommodate her. I thought about how even with my grumpiness at having to slow down, she treated each run with me as though she were running with her best friend for the first time.
I think of her final words to me a lot. I think of how I didn’t even know that those were her final words. It feels as though there is a tear in my heart.
So when people say ‘I’m here if you need anything.’ Here is the ‘anything,’ that I would like and that I need: I would like for you to piece my heart back together. I would like for you to tell me how one goes on with a ‘normal’ routine when life has thrown in a situation that wasn’t supposed to be part of your normal. I need time to sit. Time to heal. Time to understand and time to grieve. Now is a good time to press the pause button on life. The remote must be hidden.
It comes in shades of black.
Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.”