I Won’t Forget…Whispers of Love 

It’s my birthday today!!!!
I’ve been excited about this day from the 1st of January 2017 😂 . So excited in fact that I started writing this post on the 11th of April, 7 days before my special day. I was on my way back from work listening to ‘I Won’t Forget,’ from Brian and Jenn Johnson’s album ‘After All These Years,’ and boy I’ve gotta tell ya; this song is everything that I would hope, intend and will endeavor for my walk with God to be as I enter into a new year where I’m older and if you’re asking me, looking even better than I did 10 years ago. My worst birthday was the year I turned 23, we’ll talk about that some other time okay! After I turned 25, something clicked in me and I just knew that birthdays from there on would be different.
I will confess to being a very weird breed of female; there are two things that I’ve always wanted to do in my life:
1. Switch to a plantbased i.e. vegan diet. ✅ next month on the 18th will mark 3 years as a vegan.

2. Make it to 30 and enjoy the journey to 30. The age 30 has always had a magical appeal to me. I don’t know if it was enhanced by watching ’13 going on 30′ , but for me that age represents maturity and a stage in your life where you no longer care what people think about you. I’m now 3 years away from this milestone 💃🏾

In the midst of these silly “life goals,” there have been a few more serious ones such as adopting kiddies, learning how to farm bees 🐝 adopting a million fur babies 🐶 and one that I am constantly working on: remembering to remember God in and through everything. To love Him deeply and celebrate Him passionately through and in every season of my life.
So as I’m listening to ‘I Won’t Forget,’ so many things that Daddy God is whispering to me. Some that He has permitted me to share with you. Grab a cuppa, it’s quite a read!
The first one that isn’t so much of a whisper than it is a shout. I can hear His voice roaring like thunder as He declares that *drumroll*; He’s excited about my birthday!!! Even for those years when I haven’t been on board about adding another year to my age; He has been excited about my birthday. God celebrates me!

Do you want to know what’s even better?

He celebrates you! (but hey! Don’t get too excited; it is MY birthday after all 👱🏾‍♀️)

Have you ever thought of that? On the days when you feel alone; sitting in your room wondering when life will be what you dreamt it would be; that there is a Friend closer than a brother who desires intimacy with you? A friend who wants to partake in the highs and lows of life with you? And while we’re talking about the lows; a very quick mention that believing in God doesn’t mean that you now have a magic wand to wave away/keep you away from harm and/or danger; a post on that will be coming up soon. It does however mean that you now have with you someone who even in the most disgusting of situations, will be with you always! Our perspective just tends to become blurry in the face of hardship. He celebrates your existence and is glad you’re alive.

For the past few months; I’ve been telling all my friends and family, that they’re so lucky they get to be alive to celebrate me 😂 ; and although I was saying that in a (semi) joking manner; I truly do believe that my squad are amongst the most blessed people to have me in their lives, and do you want to know something else? Your friends, your family, your circle; they are the luckiest and most blessed people to have you in their lives! Everyday wake up with the thought, belief and hello! A generous helping of confident swagger, and belief that just by being alive and ACTIVELY present in someone’s life, you make a difference. Believe that your life matters, because it does! Believing that my life matters is one that I struggle with. We’ve become a society known for being master players at the comparison game. So one day I’ll be on Instagram or Facebook and start to measure the difference I’ve made in my life to what someone else is doing and 9 times out of 10, the Holy Spirit has to fiercely reel me in and remind me that my story, my path, my difference is unique. I mean hello, you don’t get a special name like Aurélie and then want to throw it away to be like everyone else! It’s the same for you; you do not get a special name like *insert name here* to throw away all of your potential and talent, to be like everyone else. You are a one of a kind creation. The world needs you! Your quirks, your flaws, your brand of weird. The world needs that!
And then the most important whisper of love today; He will rescue me always.
This is a vital one for me. I’ll always make reference to my past (and present,) experience with depression because that’s part of my story and it will always be an important issue for me to address; without the stigma, without the awkwardness or judgment. It’s sticky tar this depression, you feel like you’ve left it but somehow there’s residual tar that seems to always be there and never fully comes off. This residual tar is what can sometimes cause me to on some days be so overly bratty with and to God, that it can only be because He loves me ever so much that He hasn’t lightning bolted me 🙈 I will be the first to admit that sometimes I can be a bit emotional, I wear my heart not just on my sleeve but ALL over me. Just last week I was telling my CrossFit coach B that “I’m not a cry baby, I just feel deeply.” The truth is however deep our emotions, they were never meant to rule us. I’m guilty of throwing tantrums or indulging in a pity party when things don’t go my way. We’ve all done that and I’m not berating myself for those moments, because there are occasions when we need to let go of all that pent up frustration and maybe even throw our toys out of the cot. What needs to stop is the 80% hold that our emotions, the negative ones in particular, can have on our view of God, and in my case; life, my hair 😂 CrossFit, the list is extensive and seemingly endless…see how negativity can trickle into all areas of your life?
Our emotions were never meant to cause us to forget that after all these years, God has never given up on us; that after all these years, He’s still and will continue to be constant in His love for us. We’ve got to be able to break away and shake off negative emotions that would love for us to forget all that God has done for us in the past, all that He’s doing in the present, all that He will do in the future, and how after all these years, He still runs after us. *

I love that in the Bible, we see in Jesus the perfect example of what it means to live controlled by the Spirit, to have a mind that is sound, filled and ruled with power and love from above (see 2 Timothy 1:7), and not by general annoyances that He had about the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Jesus definitely felt things deeply but what He felt was compassion. The Greek word for compassion is splagchnizomai** (σπλαγχνίζομαι), and translates to being moved in the inward parts; this compassion (so gripped by the things that grip the Fathers heart,) is what always prompted Jesus to action. Whenever He encountered a lame person or my personal favorite, the woman at the well in John 4; He was able to connect with these people, understand what they were feeling and then from that place of deep compassion, He always provided that healing ointment that to this day our hearts so desperately need. The very same way that He rescued then and has rescued me (and you,) before, He will continue to do so. He isn’t my back up plan, He is my only plan, and depression or any other mental illness, no matter how dark, can never pull you or keep you away from His love for you (Romans 8:38-39.) He’s going to keep coming for you; to rescue you, to revive you and to restore you. You’re gonna be ok.
Sometimes the only other voice you’ll hear cheering you out of any dark hole, will be God’s and even then sometimes it’ll feel like He isn’t there. But He is. I’ve been through stages in my life where I’ve had to force myself to believe that present sufferings would not be greater than God and my view of Him. This wasn’t blind faith because I was very much aware of the carnage that still lay around me, but because I was focused on seeing Him through and in everything, He started to feel close again until I came to the realization that He not only feels close but He is close. He’s always there.

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Romans‬ ‭8:18‬ (‭KJV‬‬)

So today as I look at myself in the mirror, I think: ‘girl you’re mighty fine!’ 😂 look at how the good LORD has improved not just my looks (guys, pause on how I used to channel that inner cute but psycho/serial killer vibe…) but my heart as well.

One of my favourite songs is one by Bethel Music (in a spontaneous worship moment), called ‘You Are Growing Me Into A Beautiful Garden,’ and today I feel like a beautiful sunflower 🌻 , I’m happy. At times I can’t see progress, but God sees the rapid growth. I’m not a little girl anymore; I’m a warrior woman. You can’t wipe the grin off my face. Today’s whispers of love, they’re going to carry me through the year and I hope that in the moments that I somehow managed to break away from birthday selfishness haha, they’re whispers that will do the same for you too, you are the universe in ECSTATIC motion.

Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion. Rumi

 

*paraphrased from “After All These Years,” sung by Brian Johnson 

**Strong’s Concordance 

17.1

17.1 is done and dusted…at least for me it is.

Don’t believe me?

I’ve already submitted my score, but before you go search for my name, let’s finish  this fantastic blogpost okay!

Confession, I was not going to do the Open. Don’t get me wrong, I love, love CrossFit. I mean why else would I put up with toes to bar if I didn’t love it? However there is something about competition that makes me sick, sick, sick to my stomach. Sweaty palms, butterflies karate punching me in the stomach, you name it, I have  all the symptoms of a very nervous competitor. In the past year training at Fit 5ive, I slowly learnt to harness that fear & nervousness and turn it into positive energy. Nevertheless I still didn’t feel that I was ready enough for the Open. Hadn’t done a muscle up in ages (4 months to be precise,) and oh dear LORD, let’s not talk about toes to bar. If I’m being completely honest, it was the thought of having to potentially do toes to bar and double swinging there like a monkey, that was keeping me from signing up. I managed to avoid all conversations pertaining to registering for the Open and then the day that 17.1 was released, blackmailed by my box and my athlete* I, Aurélie Ariel, registered for my second Open. On paper 17.1 looked like a dream, I love snatches and surprise I am actually one of the crazies who loves burpees (just don’t make me do them for time okay!)
I go through my first round of snatches and I think to myself:

wow this is beautiful, I’m sweaty but beautiful. Thank goodness I listened to Beyoncé before getting here. I am Beyoncé. I’m representing Africa at regionals aren’t I?

And then came the burpees!!! Oh my goodness, the burpees. I completely gassed myself out, each jump up that wretched box felt like I had already done 71.5 million burpee box jumps before that. I managed to get 185 reps which I must be honest I’m not too proud of but after having attempted 17.1 again this morning,  that’s a score that I will take. Somewhere in between the pain of Saturday and Monday, I finally broke through a wall that I haven’t been able to get past in ages. I competed against myself, for myself and for fun. I can’t remember the last time I truly enjoyed CrossFit. I got so caught up in chasing PR’s, ticking training off my to do list, that I forgot to just enjoy the sport. There’s a lot of talking that I’ve had to do with myself, a lot of behind the scenes work that I’ve had to do and still have to do but I’m listening to my bestie Givs when she told me to slow down and just enjoy the journey.  The journey isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it is DISGUSTINGLY ugly but it ends up being worth it. So I’ve removed my eyes from looking at the end goal and now I focus on being present in every moment, in every wod, in every single rep.

My MVP always? It has to be my LORD and Saviour Jesus. He literally smacks negativity out of my head every single second. On Saturday when I was nervous, He came in with just the right sprinkling of peace to remind me to meditate on all things lovely, honourable and pure (Philippians 4:8) and I read quite a cheeky verse before heading out. It made me chuckle at how witty our God can be and also backs up my theory that CrossFit is biblical and God wants everyone to do CrossFit haha:

So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Hebrews 12:12 (NLT)

I had this verse scrawled on my left arm because that’s the side that I usually complain about. Through each rep whenever I felt like my lungs were on fire and I couldn’t squeeze a rep out, I could hear God telling me to take a new grip with my tired hands and to strengthen those weak knees. And do you know what? It totally works listening to God. I don’t know why we don’t do it more often. There is so much foolishness and injury (since we’re talking CrossFit here,) that I could’ve kept myself from if I listened to His voice in those moments where I get carried away by my own foolishness. I had such a blast on Saturday and I cannot wait for 17.2. Whatever it is, I know that I’ll be ready for it.

In this Open, for me it’s not about the leaderboard.  The fact is that it isn’t always about the leaderboard, sometimes it’s about refining and honing the athlete that you are, into the athlete that you want to be.

So let’s goooooooooooo!!! Take a new grip, strengthen those knees, you’ve got it.

I’ve got it!

Oh and here’s some Beyoncé to make your day!

*to find out who my top athlete is, you’ll just have to come visit my box CrossFit 4E

Skinny vegan

Very early on, at the start of my vegan journey, I remember someone asking me how come I wasn’t a skinny vegan…almost three years down the line, I still haven’t figured out how all this kale and broccoli can be so disrespectful to me, and hasn’t yet caused my butt to whittle down at least a size down. I must be honest, one of the (very selfish,) motivating factors for me about becoming vegan was the success stories I had read about people who had lost a ton of weight simply by cutting out animal products, and if you read my previous post (barbells & eating disorders,) you’ll know that for the bulimic girl that I was, to lose weight while embarking on a path that would reduce cruelty to animals and to the environment, was one that I was more than ready for! I’ll admit that it wasn’t the healthiest start. I was more fixated on being skinny than any other factor. A skinny me, imagine that! A me that would be able to find jeans that would finally get over my thunder thighs, and my butt. Imagine that; a me that would wear jeans, that was completely unheard of! 

In my first year of veganism, I dropped 4kg (my cheeks held all my chubbyness,) and I started to feel a lot more confident and comfortable in my body, I started to run more. I started to run in shorts. I bought crop tops. I wore crop tops… I was obsessed with crop tops. I became a lot more body confident and wanted to get stronger. 
Enter the beautiful sport of CrossFit. In September of 2014, when I started CrossFit, I felt that this (CrossFit,) would galvanize me to the pulpit where I would gain the title of hottest vegan the world had ever seen, and the bonus… my butt would shrink. My butt goal was Kylie Minogue in “spinning around.” I may or may not have wanted to buy myself a pair of gold hot pants…

Well a month or so later, my arms getting a lot more defined, my stomach even flatter; during a session of back squats, I decide to do as Beyoncé tells you to do in “get me bodied,” drop down almost hit the floor with it (aka ass to grass,) and my body naturally being too bootylicious for the world, I hear a rip. Yup, I had just ripped my tights, I had to think of very strategic ways to squat without exposing anything. Let’s just say that on that day, I did not break 90 😂 It was on that day that I realized that I would never be a skinny vegan. To be fair I still have days where I’m convinced that if I just eat a little bit less, I’ll drop more weight, but then I get hungry and forget that resolution. This plantbased diet of mine has allowed to put on weight when I feel like I look too lean, which by normal definition of the word, isn’t even what a true lean looks like…whatever a true lean is anyway. This plant based diet has also allowed me to lose weight when I feel like I look too heavy; that’s when I cut down on pasta, bread and potatoes. 

I have to be honest, I was mildly devastated when 1 year later I was still the same size I was when I first became a vegan. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that God obviously wants me to have a booty and that no matter how hard I pray, my weight gain will always be booty first before it travels up to my pancake chest. I have had to come to terms with the fact that sometimes you’re just always going to be that girl with the “big, big booty, what you got a big booty” 🎶 and that’s okay, because let’s face it, and we know this; no one ever writes songs about small bottoms. I’ve had to choose strength over aesthetics every single day because 9 times out of 10, when you have suffered with an eating disorder, you battle body dysmorphia every single day. You have to choose to see your body differently, see yourself as a racehorse, not just looking like one but being one. This has meant that I have had to learn to prioritize my body performing well, over aesthetics. I will be honest, there are days when I want to cry at how my body looks like. Crying is next level isn’t it haha, but on some days, particularly my hot pink shorts days that I do love so much, I look at my bum and I feel like a pink elephant and I adore elephants 🐘 but on some days you do wish that you were a lithe gazelle. It’s not gonna happen for me though and I think I’m FINALLY truly okay with that. My goal is strength, speed and better gymnastic ability. My goal is no longer a size that has been stitched on a label. There are days when I try on clothing and I have to do some deep belly breathing to not go into a panic attack about now having to try size L. Once I get over that I am able to appreciate how strong and ready for life my body looks. I look rock steady and even if I have my emotionally charged days where I feel like the wheels are coming off my train; at least my body fools people into thinking “hey this girl has it together!” It must also be the highlighter that I apply, it makes me look alive even on my insanely dead feeling days. 

I thought I’d end this post with an example of what I eat in a daily basis. As much as I adore my doughnuts and French fries, 🍟 I am 9 times out of 10; a very healthy eating vegan. I love my kale smoothies, my freshly pressed green apple and pepper juices (try it, it’s yum!) I don’t believe in the starving vegan misconception. There is so much to eat and I eat a lot of it. The only supplement I have to take is a vitamin B complex, other than that, my iron levels are normal (even donate blood regularly,) I’m as fit as a fiddle and my blood pressure is also within the healthy range. Eating vegan helps with my depression too but we’ll talk about that in another post. 
Breakfast: massive bowl of oats, I’m assuming that I measure out roughly 500g. I’m a little bit of a 🐷 To my oats I add cocoa powder, a vegan protein powder (currently using the vanilla ice cream flavored one by Biogen,) chia seeds, sunflower seeds and linseeds. I sometimes add brown sugar if I have a sweet craving. Sugar is probably my biggest weakness.
Snacks throughout the day: fruit (apples are my faves,) and grapes. 
Lunch: I usually have a sandwich with a stir fry mix inside,( peppers, kale & Frys chunky strips.) Depending on what I made for meal prep, I have that too. Usually pasta with a tomato based sauce. 

Dinner: this also depends on what I’ve made for the week. Sometimes I’m not even that hungry to have a full meal. What I have noticed though is that I am always hungry. Sometimes that’s the biggest struggle as a vegan; always being hungry but having to travel 6 million kilometers to find a place that hasn’t caused harm to animals in order to feed you. 
What saves me is meal prepping, in my early and inexperienced days as a vegan, I would be lazy with my meal prep and I would not only starve, but my energy levels were deathly low. When life gets busy, I sometimes forget this and then I have to give myself a swift kick in the booty and prep. 
The point that I am trying to make through this post is that being vegan (especially if you’re an athlete,) will not result in you losing your gains. Look at my butt and arms for proof. It is possible to be ripped and shredded even more than a grater, without causing harm to animals. Being vegan is one of the best decisions I could have ever made not just for myself, but for the animals too. I do not at all see myself ever turning back because that to me would be a massive step backwards. I proudly wear my vegan badge and will ensure all the vegan jokes, I’ll endure my bum seemingly getting bigger because it isn’t about the size of the vegan, but the size of the heart in the vegan and while I will never be that girl who picks up worms and takes them home 😂 I just can’t stand slimy creatures, they scare me 🙈 I am however that girl who wants to see the end of animal cruelty. Vegan and proud of it! 

Barbells & Eating Disorders

Here’s the thing; I’m like Taylor Swift…well minus the lying about the conversations we’ve had. So maybe I’m more like 2014 Taylor Swift. If you ever cross me, I will write about you in my blog 😂 we can all be grateful to God that He’s peppered in a little bit of wisdom, so I don’t always name and shame people who I believe have crossed mehaha, as fun as it can sometimes be to be petty (I’m admitting it!), it’s never the right way to go.

A couple of weeks ago, a work colleague told me about this guy who said to her that my muscles are off putting, his reason ‘no man wants a girl with biceps.’ LORD knows I wanted to march up to him, punch him in the face, maybe even in the nether regions… LORD also knows that I wanted say in a little bit of a psycho voice;  “are you mad because I’m the man you wish you could be but obviously you aren’t?” Guys, God really has His work cut out with me because I have a mouuuuuth!!! Somehow the angels sealed my lips and none of that nastiness seeped out, but hearing that comment about my body, brought me back to a time when I was incredibly obsessed with my weight. I thought about how if this comment was said to me a couple of years earlier, it would have completely derailed me, and would have been enough to have just one more trip to the toilet. And again this morning after the WOD, I looked at my thighs and almost had a breakdown… maybe breakdown is a bit extreme. First thing I thought was “eew you look like a masssssive pink elephant, you better stay off sugar forever and run 600 kilometres! Start now fatty!” Did I mention that I can be overly dramatic?

There was a time when I would have felt such shame and embarrassment in saying that I used to suffer from an eating disorder. Around Christian circles, shame seems so BC (before Christ) right? Having Jesus makes things better, but I’m still on a journey of transparency where I’m learning to allow God to have full access in shining His light into my deepest and darkest situations but also tackling those issues head on and calling me out on my (for lack of a better word,) crap.

Eating disorders are uncomfortable to talk about, in fact sometimes when I find myself telling someone that I used to be bulimic, I immediately think about whether I’m being judged by that person, and God literally has to tell me to get over myself. The more aware we are of the demons that people are battling with, the more it should encourage us to be kinder and more passionate. I have since learnt that compassion prompted by Christ leads to action, so for as long as Christ permits me to, I will keep talking about eating disorders. Can you imagine waking up to a day when eating disorders no longer exist? I believe that’s a dream worth fighting for!

There are still many causes worth sacrificing for, so much history yet to be made. Michelle Obama

What is bulimia?
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by bingeing followed by self-induced vomiting. Eating disorders are complex in their causes, it is multifactorial and 99% of the time, can be linked to your self-esteem and the environment you find yourself in. In my case it definitely was.

THE FACTS:

* Bulimia nervosa affects 1-2% of adolescent and young adult women.

* Approximately 80% of bulimia nervosa patients are female.

* People struggling with bulimia nervosa usually appear to be of average body weight.

* Many people struggling with bulimia nervosa recognize that their behaviors are unusual and perhaps dangerous to their health.

* Bulimia nervosa is frequently associated with symptoms of depression and changes in social adjustment.

* Risk of death from suicide or medical complications is markedly increased for eating disorders

I spent my high school career very easily hiding this disorder from friends and family. The fact that I was introverted worked in my favour. If I disappeared from the table straight after eating, no questions were asked. I worked hard at school so if I needed an excuse to leave the dinner table, I’d just say it was because I needed to study. It was a vicious rollercoaster, you’re always calorie counting and when you aren’t, you’re planning your next trip to the toilet. It was destructive, I knew that, but I enjoyed being in control, no matter how twisted it was. I knew it was dangerous (hello I have a Biomedical Science degree,) but whenever I looked in the mirror I saw a whale. I was obsessed with exercising. Those were the days of Tae-Bo, Billy Blanks was my best friend. I’d do a session in the morning and one in the evening. Coupled with the fact that I was starving myself and then bingeing, my body was exhausted. I was always tired but I’d blame that on my anaemia.

In grade 10 (3 long years,) I had a breakthrough, and slowly started to decrease the amount of times I threw up. I thought about how my stomach acid was burning my oesophagus and how I was gradually destroying the enamel on my teeth. I wanted to have teeth well into my forties haha, such a silly, silly reason but it helped. I also found a lot of courage and inspiration in Princess Diana sharing her story of struggling with bulimia. I loved her! She was classy, elegant, beautiful inside and out. Everything that I felt a woman should be. Her substance was not merely in her looks. She had heart too!

My first year at uni in the U.K., the first time I was in a position where I was in control of the person I was and would be, I decided to see a psychologist. I was able to confront some of the issues that were at the core of my eating disorder. The biggest thing that helped me, and still does help me today, is my relationship with God. The thing that I used to binge the most on was sugar. I was beyond addicted. If I had a bad day, and in those days, my bad days were everyday; I would turn to sugar. I remember distinctly hearing God telling me to stop using sugar as a remedy. I needed to find a more holistic approach. One that would not cause harm to the body God had entrusted me with. It was not only reckless but irresponsible too.

Fast forward to when I first started CrossFit in 2014 and for the first time, I stopped worrying too much about how I looked. I noticed a shift in how I saw myself and became more focused on being stronger and what my body could do. There are days like today, where I would prefer to be less butt, more abs and more legs but I suppose I can’t be physically perfect on top of everything else haha! If I think about the 17 year old me. She would never be able to lift or move the way this *cringe* almost 27 year can. Ten years bulimia free!!! Hello can we celebrate and praise the LORD for that! I have no doubt that had I continued down that spiral, I would have ended up gravely ill and as is the case in the large majority of eating disorders, ended up suicidal or even dead! The thing about CrossFit is that you don’t get the results without doing the work, and you can’t do the work if you’re not fueling yourself correctly. Your muscles need nutrient dense foods…that includes doughnuts 🍩 right? Instead of using food as a reward, I’ve learnt to use food to fuel my body. It’s a much more kinder relationship where I no longer obsess about how much I’ve had and instead think about whether what I’m eating right now will serve me well in the long run and how I’ll feel later. Will I regret having had those 5 doughnuts, sure they may be vegan but should I really be having them everyday? And kale… potato fries taste better but do I get the same organic kick in energy and performance when I’m eating fries? Nope! These are practices that I have had to apply and constantly remind myself of especially when I think about the much better CrossFitter that I would like to be in the future.

The thing that’s great about being a female CrossFitter is that you’re surrounded by so many strong women, all different shapes and sizes, you slowly begin a re-education on what it means to be a woman. You redefine what it means to look like a woman. Muscles and all, you begin to find peace in your body. I say begin because I still have days when I have to give myself a good talking to about not getting obsessed over how I look. How I look is a very small percentage of who I am, and isn’t it so ridiculous that we base the entirety of who we are on our physical appearance? There’s more to life than the size of our bums. I look at some of my favourite CrossFitters; Camille Leblanc-Bazinet, Annie Thorisdottir, Katrin- Tanja Davidsdottir, Sara Sigmundsdottir (oh my gosssshhhhh!!!) and their body’s are strong. Their bodies are beautiful, their body’s are also functional. Have you ever thought of describing your body as functional? In my opinion, that’s probably the most important thing to focus on.

This is what I strive towards.

This is what the barbell teaches you to strive towards; being functional, hardworking and to leave your excuses at the door. The barbell exposes your weaknesses, but it also teaches you about the strength that lies in you. The beauty that lies in you. You learn to focus not just on your physical strength, but the spiritual and mental strength that lies in you.

A woman’s beauty is revealed in her strength. It is captured in what her body can actually do, not merely in how it looks. Lisa Bevere

Going It Alone 

There’s a saying that goes “if you want to go further, go together…” hang on while I get the correct quote from google…

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

I find that this quote is applicable in all areas of life; whether in fitness, your professional life or your personal life. In general, I am very much okay with being an island. I don’t like the thought of having to inconvenience anyone because of something I can’t solve or do. Self sufficiency is something that I used to strive for; to the point where I would be physically and emotionally exhausted from trying to do everything on my own. In those moments of complete exhaustion, ego and pride worn out, only then as a last resort would I seek help or advice. 

Praise be to God for real that as I get older, He is adding wisdom to this vessel and I have finally gotten to a stage in my life where I make a conscious effort in reminding myself that it’s okay to need people. It’s okay to not be a self-sufficient island. It’s okay to be the island that sometimes needs to get more supplies from a neighboring island, just to make it through the month. It’s okay to get by with a little help from your friends. The problem with wanting to go it alone all the time is that you miss out on having access to the knowledge present in other people about how they’ve made it, and sometimes even how they’ve navigated situations where they were in the same place that you’re in right now. 

The biggest thing that keeps us from seeking help or advice from others, is shame. It’s the culture we live in; we worry about what people would say, whether we’d still be accepted; seen as less; seen as weak. To worry about all of these things is human nature but it’s possible to change that! A mantra that I repeat to myself is “screw what people think.” What matters is whether you’re being true to yourself. What matters is whether you’re being true to the person God wants you to be. It’s what I think of more and more each day; am I the Aurélie that Jesus wants me to be? Am I being true to that image that He has of me? 

I don’t always get it right, but the more I meditate on doing my utmost for His highest, the more I enjoy the journey of life. The more He awakens my spirit to knowing when I should be asking for help, and when He would rather for me to walk that road with Him. The interesting part of all this is that even when physically you’re walking through a difficult period alone; you never really are alone. 

We are so wired for connection that in those moments of what feels like separation from everyone else, if we would allow for Christ’s Nutella like sweet tenderness to sweep over our hearts, we will realize that we never walk alone. We will realize that for every season in our lives, we are never forgotten or alone. 

What God Teaches Me Through My Shoes

On the 1st of January, as the majority of the world does, I thought about the things that I want to improve this year; personally and professionally. I love to dedicate a bit of time on the 1st to sit with God and pause, ponder and reflect on all of the things that He has done and what I want to achieve in the coming year. This year before my quiet time with my daddy God, I was in the kitchen talking to my sissy sharing some of my frustrations about work and she said to me something that caused a shift in perspective and the approach that I would have brought to God. She said to me before you go to God and ask Him to change your life; pause and just say thank you. Everything else seems to fall into place sooo much better when we’re in a CONSTANT state of gratitude.

I went into my special time with God void of a prayer list of things I wanted Him to change and instead all I could write in my journal was Philippians 1:21

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

That’s all I want to achieve this year, a life where everything I do, ABSOLUTELY everything represents Christ.

A couple of days later, I went back to work very grateful that I could afford the metcons that I wanted, I call them my rose gold babies, and just like me they’re also black and beautiful haha! All jokes aside, as I revelled in that moment of having shoes that would hopefully help me with my toes to bar, God reminded me of a beautiful ritual that the two of us have. On all of my training or running shoes, I have these four verses scrawled on them: Hebrews‬ ‭12:11;Romans 1:16; Philippians 4:13 and my absolute favorite Colossians 3:23!

I must be honest, as I held the permanent marker in my hand I was a bit shaky about writing on my new rose gold babies. As quickly as that thought had entered, the Holy Spirit came in to convict me and to remind me of how my abilities are all due to Him. He reminded me of times when I truly did wake up on the grumpy side of bed, and would walk into the box with THE stinkiest attitude (hey, I can’t be perfect all the time!) and how through a quick glance at the verses scrawled on my shoes, I was able to check myself before I wrecked myself and was able to be a little bit more of a nicer human than I would be if I didn’t have those verses on my shoes. He reminded me of all the times I wanted to quit during a WOD and the reminder of Philippians 4:13 was enough to carry me through 1 more rep!

The first part sounds really lovely doesn’t it? Just before I gave myself a pat on the back for being a good Christian athlete, who is so ‘easily’ corrected, He reminded me of the flip side days. Those are the days when I am determined to let my feelings rule the day. The days where as much as Jesus would try, that stinky attitude would prevail and come out whether through my demeanor or through the thoughts swimming in my head. Through my shoes, He has been able to convict, correct and humble me. I think most of us, myself definitely included, are prone to occasionally getting on our high horse and thinking we’re amazing humans, so to have God humble us once in a while…every day perhaps, is truly what keeps and will keep us growing. Through my shoes I have learnt (and I am still learning,) to walk humbly, to stand strong on solid ground (the words that my Jesus speaks,) to walk in anywhere with feet that bring good news and refreshment wherever they go and to keep moving one foot at a time.

As I finish off this post, sitting on the floor, listening to “thank you” by Jonathan David Helser. In this moment God is taking me through all the other moments in my life where He didn’t have to come and yet He still did. As I dwell on those moments, a lump starts to develop in my throat and I am ever so grateful that this great Lover of my soul ransomed my heart, walked through all my walls and conquered my shame! How ridiculously good is His love???

From the outset I had already decided that 2017 would be amazing and it already is! My prayer for you today and for your 2017 is that God would pull you closer into Him, no matter what you have been through, I pray that He would restore joy, internal and external peace, as well as a heart of gratitude; whether that be through you hitting numerous clean & jerk PR’s (I’m hinting for myself to God here,) or through new promotions at work, may His love usher in so much goodness that it absolutely takes your breath away and all you’ll be able to say is “thank you, God that was totally you!”

Motivation: How to find it, how to lose it and how to keep it!

You’re in the final minutes of a WOD* (one word…Karen) and if you haven’t yet fallen in love with CrossFit (I don’t understand why not?) perhaps you have a few more reps, or a few more minutes (if you’re doing endurance training,) left in your workout. In those final minutes, or those final reps, there’s a lot going through your mind. For some it might be the agony of still having ‘X’ amount of reps  left to complete, it might be a thought on how you’re going to push past that level of discomfort and not start to cry like a baby…I have found myself on this side of the spectrum more often than not, CrossFit and running in particular, unearths the weepy girl in me!  It’s especially hard during those last few reps of a disgusting WOD, where everyone is cheering for you to finish (which I always think is such a beautiful moment,) and I can sometimes become so overwhelmed with emotion (maybe it’s the adrenaline?) that I can feel tears pooling up in my eyes, on the verge of coming out! Thankfully at that point, I’m sweating so much that no one ever knows that I’m dangerously close to crying…well now they know!

Motivation is what will keep you going in those moments where perhaps you do have tears streaming down your face (masked within the sweat of course!) Motivation is what will keep you going even when you’re uncomfortable,  in that moment when 3 more thrusters might as well be 300 more! Motivation is what will keep you going even when you would much rather throw in that towel, in spite of what people say to use that towel to wipe the sweat (tears in my case haha,) off of your face.

But hang on, what is motivation and how do we find it?

motivation noun a desire or willingness to do something; a force or influence that causes someone to do something

Here’s how I found my motivation; i.e. my desire or willingness to do something; and these things can range from tasks such as completing a WOD, preparing for a presentation at work as efficiently as I can and many  other things in life! I found this desire through spending time with God. It was really when I read Colossians 3:23-24 (which I consider as my life verse,) that I began to understand how desire and willingness sustained by God, never wanes. This is what it says:

‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart (work with willingness and desire,) as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.’ (emphasis added)

Through this verse, God showed me how in everything that I did and do, if I have the mindset of doing it all for Him, whether it is in CrossFit or at work, or even in a relationship (when I eventually get into one,) if I have pleasing God as my one and only goal, doing EVERYTHING unto the LORD, that passion, willingness and desire to do something extraordinary in life, will always be there. This is the sure-fire way to keep motivation. By focusing on something and someone way bigger than my ambitions and always having in my mind, how what I’m doing can glorify God; this motivation becomes something that is sustained by God and the Holy Spirit. This motivation, this drive and willingness is no longer something that I, Aurélie, have to keep alive through my own strength that on some days will fail me.

On the flipside, motivation can also be lost. We’ve seen it in movies or perhaps we’ve  been guilty of uttering this phrase about someone who’s looking lacklustre…I am rather ashamedly, guilty of having uttered such a phrase:

‘What happened to Jenny? She really has  let herself go, it’s almost as though she’s lost the will (motivation/desire/willingness,) to live.’

In my experience, this loss of desire and willingness to do anything, usually happens when we’ve put other people’s expectations of us on a pedestal. What they think of us, and what they want of us, has become of higher importance than the great call that Christ has placed on our lives. We get caught up in being this person whose desire to do something, is dictated by another human’s expectation. Expectations that often reflect fickle emotions that can change overnight. We begin to live in a way that cultivates insecurity, breeds suspicion, until we find ourselves out of touch with the true essence of our being. Motivation based on what or who people want you to be, places you on a dangerous path of being more focused on what people think is best for you, as opposed to what you, as a beautiful and strong individual, knows is best for her or indeed himself! You’re living but it never is really for yourself. You’re driven, but it’s never because of any desires of your own. You’re ambitious, but ambitious to be the you that everyone else wants you to be, and motivation fuelled by such expectations, is unrealistic.

Keeping motivation, a desire to live your best life, is no easy task. It requires an awareness of all those things, and in some cases, all those people who are draining life from you. A great place to start if by doing an evaluation on what you’re filling your head with. Right now, as you’re reading this post, take a minute to write down on a piece of paper (or on a blackboard with chalk, if you’re me,) WHAT AM I FILLING MY MIND WITH? Filling our minds with negative thoughts will only ever breed negativity. These thoughts can easily pollute and derail any good thoughts that run through your mind. These thoughts can so easily become destructive and before you know it, you too have become like Jenny 😉 In some cases, (I like to think of those as the really drastic situations, so drastic that I’m even going to invent an acronym for it right now! RDS.) In the event of an RDS, it might even be necessary to stop hanging around with certain people that might have your best interest at heart, but are misguided in how they’re delivering that message and again the negativity that those intentions can often be shrouded in, will never be conducive to cultivating a healthy you. When you find yourself in an RDS, it can also mean that spiritually, physically and emotionally, you’re never truly connecting with the deeper parts of you (the part of you that God created as unique, breathtaking in beauty and not based at all on anyone’s expectation of who you should be.)

I’ve had to take time to think about this post, what is it that motivates me? Who is it that motivates me? Amongst the names that popped through my head, it all came back to one person. The lover of my soul, Jesus. Now, I want to say that I have completely mastered the art of relying on Him for motivation…for everything but hey I am a work in progress, and unfortunately, it pains me to say that I am not as perfect as I love to think I am. I still fall prey to seeing ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ everyone else is doing what they’re doing, as opposed to my ‘why’, the Jesus given ‘why’ behind everything I do. Thankfully every now and then, this elephant** remembers her source of motivation. Jesus. My dreamboat. As many times as I forget, He is still always there being my biggest cheerleader, alongside with the Holy Spirit, always reminding me of Colossians 3:23-24. He is, and will forever be, the reason why I desire to be a better woman in all aspects of my life! In the long run, you’ll find that though you might get weary sometimes, you’ll never truly feel as though you’re done with your journey, the desire and motivation never truly leave, because you’ll always be thinking about how you can do your utmost for His highest.

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Photo credit: Luke Venter (@fruitlukes)

*workout of the day

 **I call myself an elephant because I love elephants and I aspire to be like an elephant…strong and able to eat more than twice my body weight #lifegoals!  

Be Strong. Unapologetically.

‘And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong.’ Ephesians 6:10 (MSG)

There is a myth that women aren’t supposed to be lifting because it makes them look manly and that it’s not a very feminine thing to do. Women should stick to things like yoga and pilates. The weights room is strictly for the boys…well that’s what they say. If your idea of a woman is one who is weak and follows every opinion but her own, then you’re right, maybe lifting isn’t very feminine. I mean you might just find yourself empowering someone else and who wants to do that?

One of the reasons why I found myself falling in love with CrossFit is because of the fact that it is encouraged to be as strong as you can be. No one apologises for their strength and you worry about the weight on your bar. You’re there to give it your all, not watch what someone else is doing. It’s an important thing to remember that you are not in competition with anyone but yourself. I am fortunate that I have grown up with the strong belief that God wants me to be strong and He delights in me being strong. Granted there have been periods in my life where I have been uncertain about whether this strength that He wanted me to exude, might be too much for people. But God has since taught me that the strength He wants me to have is one that doesn’t have to announce itself, it’s a strength that is loud, boisterous and unstable, a strength that gets lost in the midst of difficult circumstance. The strength God wants me, wants all of us to have, is a strength that is secure, confident and silent. It’s the type of strength that makes its presence felt as soon as you walk into a room. I used to be hate wearing sleeveless tops because I felt as though I would make the men around me nervous because women aren’t supposed to have muscles, I’m supposed to be a delicate flower and what flower has biceps? Over time as I grew in my godly strength, I realised that all that matters is that I become and grow into the woman God has planned for me to be, if that woman happens to have muscles then so be it. Fast forward to the present and all I ever wear are sleeveless tops. In fact if you see me wearing anything with sleeves then it must mean it’s really cold or I’ve lost my mind.

Being a woman isn’t about how you look, it’s about how you carry yourself. My early definition of womanhood has been replaced by a truer definition, which is one that rooted in God. Being a woman means being strong, it means having influence, it means not being afraid to do what YOU want, whether that be lifting weights, karate, yoga, kickboxing. You do what makes you happy not what makes other people happy, you decide what you want to look like. You’re not just strong for a girl, you’re strong period.  So no more apologies, embrace your strength and whoever is intimidated by how ripped (and amazing,) your arms are…well that’s their problem isn’t it?

 

16.1

I entered the CrossFit Open with a lot of fear running through my blood. I’ve been doing CrossFit for a year and 2 months, of this time; it is only in December of last year that I started to take my training seriously. The fact is not everyone gets to go to the CrossFit games but everyone can call themselves an athlete and everyone can call themselves a CrossFitter, and I had the goal in mind to be able to call myself a decent CrossFitter.

Stronger, faster and more confident in my abilities.

I want to be a CrossFitter who can do muscle ups (bar and ring, still working on those,) strict handstand push ups, knock out pistols at an insane rate and for my snatch to become even deadlier…speaking of snatches, I hit a new 45kg on my power snatch. I was so ecstatic, I went home and cried.

Back to the open.

I woke up early on Friday morning to see what Dave Castro had planned for us CrossFitters.

16.1 [20 minute AMRAP.]

1 round consists of:

25 feet overhead walking lunges (43kg M, 30kg F)

8 bar facing burpees

25 feet overhead walking lunges

8 chest to bar pull-ups

 

It was better than I expected and not as bad as I expected. The night before the open, I read this:

It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not. Eric Thomas

For a while now, I’ve been reading a lot of sports psychology related articles because I began to realise that the one thing holding me back in my CrossFit career and in my running was my mental strength. I believed I could but never past the point of pain, and I’ve never thought myself capable of achieving anything spectacular. I am so grateful that even when I didn’t believe that I could, I had friends that believed in my abilities, and believed that I could do it, that I could become better. It was time that I started to believe in myself.  For a long time, I have always felt as though the one of the places where I get a chance to connect with God has been through physical activity. So often times when I’ve been on a gruelling run, I’ll have my Christian music playing and it is as though in that moment when I want to turn back or quit, legs aching, lungs revolting against you and your heart beating at a ridiculous pace, I can hear God loudly cheering me on and telling me that I can and I will complete those 16km’s.

For CrossFit I began to train with the mindset of encountering God through every difficult movement. I had to retrain my brain to become stronger than whatever weight was loaded on the barbell. It wasn’t easy but nothing is impossible with God. So I began to actively seek out verses prior to heading out to the box and being proactive in applying whatever I had read, to my training. This meant that I could no longer say (whether aloud or to myself,) ‘I hate this WOD,’ or ‘I hate this movement.’ Even if it meant that in the beginning it felt awkward to pretend that I was looking forward to toes to bar, I kind of like them a bit more now… Just a little bit.

This change in mindset completely shifted the way I performed in WODs, I no longer cared about how I had failed or under-performed in the past, I just wanted to give my all in that moment, in that WOD. The here and now began to hold greater weight than the ‘what ifs’ of the future.  The verse below is one that is become very pivotal in my CrossFit career;

For I can do EVERYTHING through Christ (the One), who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13 (NLT)

When I read this verse or journal on it, it is not ‘I can do everything through Christ, so that I can become stronger than [insert person’s name here]’ It is ‘I can do all things through Christ so that His strength, His perfect unbroken strength will be seen through me even when and especially when I fail or when I fall short.’  It is being confident in Christ and being content in the abilities you have that though they might not be perfect, you are willing to do the hard work and hone them so that Christ is glorified through everything you do. At the end of the day, that’s what my goal is; that Christ would be glorified, His name, His strength, His abilities in absolutely everything that I do. It means that His spirit makes me aware of how I behave when I am the best and when I’m not the best. It means that His spirit of excellence is carried through on my good days and on my bad days. Everything I am and everything I become as an athlete is all because of Him and how He has changed and is still changing and transforming my mindset, from the inside out.

So when I read 16.1, I wasn’t thrown into a panic, I remember thinking ‘God as long as I don’t cry for my chest to bar pull ups, then we’re good.’ The first time I did C2B in a competition, I cried so much, I think my judge felt bad for me and gave me those pull ups just so I wouldn’t have a complete meltdown. It’s funny because I’m trying to remember whether I was in pain when I finished 16.1, but I can’t remember. All I can remember is looking at my wrist in that overhead lunge position, on the verge of tears and seeing Phil. 4:13 scrawled on it. It is as though in that moment, Jesus whispered to me, ‘a few more feet baby doll, you can do this. Everything through me, I’m the one who gives you strength.’ I feel satisfied and I can say that I gave it my all. I showed up and made those 20 minutes count but more than that, because I gave room and made room for God to speak and breathe through me. He also showed up.

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