Where is God when it hurts?

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. – Romans 8:18

I’ve been reading, Where Is God When It Hurts?, by Philip Yancey. For the girl who has tried to manage chronic pain for all of adulthood, this book is proving to be incredibly enlightening and powerful. It quickly occurred to me that I had NO IDEA what leprosy actually was! I had read about it and heard about it and believed it was a disease of the skin. But many who suffer from leprosy have numbness or a lack of feeling in their hands, feet, or legs (disturbingly similar to diabetes symptoms, huh?). While leprosy is caused by a bacterium, it is worsened and difficult to manage due to the absence of pain or sensation in the extremities. Yancey describes individuals who put their hands in fire and wear shoes that wear down toes because they do not feel the warning signs those of us who feel pain heed. Can you imagine? How dangerous is this world for those who may not feel pain??

I know pain. Too well. I spent a great deal of my time, energy, and money trying to manage my physical pain throughout 2007-2010. This came after years of trying to ignore or self-medicate this pain and suffering. My first recollection of pain is from middle school – sitting in the bleachers for a pep rally, hiding the tears that built up because of the pain in my knees. My mother disregarded this discomfort as growing pains. So I silently dealt with it. One morning when I was 16, I could not get out of bed. My back hurt so badly and I could not sit up. I eventually got up and my mom took me to the urgent care – x-rays, muscle relaxants, and steroids were the answer! The cause? According to the x-ray, I must have been dropped on my head as a baby (seriously!) and my spine was being compressed. A few days later a specialist called. After looking at my x-rays he suggested that I seek additional treatment or suffer extensively in the future. I tried chiropractic adjustments for a while, but then I came to rely on unhealthy doses of ibuprofen to make it through my days.

Fast forward 6 years or so to 2004, I was no longer taking regular doses of ibuprofen – I was silently suffering. I was introduced to water aerobics and as I became stronger, the pain lessened! It was not gone, but it became more tolerable. I fell in love with exercise – leading me to where I am today. I learned what my body could and could not handle. I learned what made my pain worse and what made it better. I learned to be in tune with my body. Being a master at ignoring pain – I ignored it too often and by 2007 I had done damage to my knees. I was in agony. I made a too-quick decision to have surgery in December 2007 on my right knee. While this surgery led to a miserable year of pain and suffering, it forced me to rest and protected me from doing permanent damage to my left knee – which exhibited ACL and PCL strains.

2008 was the year of great suffering. I had complications following surgery that significantly limited my rehabilitation, exacerbated pain, and led to a second surgery. Doctors and specialists told me that I would never run, jump, or squat again. I was told to stop exercising (or anything that caused pain – living caused pain at that time). At the same time, I was told to lose weight (at 5’7″, 155lb.) and to do so without exercising or much physical activity at all. I was recommended to try an experimental antibiotic regimen that had been shown to help osteoarthritic patients – I declined. Going into 2009, I was told that I would spend my lifetime managing my pain with medications (which by the way did nothing to alleviate my pain) and that the chances were good I would require joint replacements and invasive surgeries as early as age 30.

I was angry. I could see how my pain and suffering were molding me into the wonderful professional and woman I am today, but it was difficult to cope. I now know my body better than most people you will ever meet. That little tweek in my hip means no heavy lifting. The pain in my right temple is actually my trapezius screaming for a rest. I will not give up. I will not stop. I will use my pain as a barameter. I will love my pain – as it protects me from evil, injury, and even death. So where is God with it hurts? I don’t know about you…but I’m thinking that I may be safely protected in His arms when it hurts. It’s certainly something to consider!

…nine months of waiting and preparation, intense labor, then the ecstasy of birth. – John 16:21

Strength + Balance + Stability = GOAL 7

The Asante Children’s Choir put on an amazing show at church yesterday. I was watching, smiling, and in awe. And then, I was struck with yet another goal. These young men were gymnasts! Singing, dancing, and showing impressive strength and ability. Of course, I want to do everything that they can do! These boys and young men were doing planches. WHILE SINGING!

GOAL 7 – Planche Training

I am going to maintain caution with this goal. I do not know that I will be able to complete a planche (aka planche pushup or the hardest pushup in the world) during the 2013 calendar, but I am going to begin training. To be honest, I have no idea how to train for it so I will have to first do an absorbitant amount of research. In preliminary research, I did find a man who seems to know…

Look at those legs! GOAL 6

Years ago I was walking downtown with a girl friend and headed into a bar. A group of guys came out, intoxicated, and were awed by my ‘soccer legs.’ Now, I will be the first to tell you that I do not have soccer legs. If I were to categorize them, they would be mid-distance runner legs! I have naturally strong legs. I remember the first time I managed to squat 225. I hadn’t trained towards it – not specifically – I just pick up the bar and I did it. Whoa!

squatGOAL 6 – Squat 300

After that, I began more focused training. I managed to max out at a 300 pound squat. I will complete 4-6 squats with 300 pounds. My most recent weight has been 235 pounds – I fear going above that without the security of a trusted spotter. NOTE: Due to back and knee restrictions I do not squat to quite 90 degrees. For best results, I encourage everyone to work within their individual range of motion and use proper form, technique, and safety precautions.

Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. – Psalm 105:4

How fit am I? GOAL 5

Most fitness assessments measure physical strength through a pushup test. “The push-up is the ultimate barometer of fitness.” A pushup requires the whole body, engaging muscles in the arms, chest, torso, hips, and legs. The act of lifting and lowering one’s entire weight is taxing even for the very fit. Experts estimate that a pushup requires you to press 70% of your body weight. Jack Lalanne could do a crazy amount of pushups. My fifth goal is a two part goal – because I want to improve my overall fitness and my absolute chest strength.

A pushup and a chest press and a pushup are essentially the same movement. When training clients, those who are too weak for pushups begin with chest presses. Those who breeze through pushups are challenged with heavy chest presses.

GOAL 5a – Increase number of pushups I can complete without rest by 25%

GOAL 5b – Bench Press (barbell;flat) my bodyweight for 3 sets of 6-8

I may need to adjust these numbers slightly after I obtain my baseline data on January 1. It will be important to be realistic with my timelines as a continue to define my goals (See #2).

Goals are DREAMS with deadlines

Did you set a resolution in 2012? Have you stuck with it? Resolutions often fail because of the lack of personal investment. Instead of resolutions, I encourage you to develop a system of goals that will help you make your dream a reality. Goals should be written, specific, personally meaningful, and challenging statements of intent, which have a measurable outcome and a completion date. I have begun posting my personal goals for 2013. You are reading the tagline everywhere – forget resolutions! Let’s set goals and build the foundation for lasting change.

So, how do you set yourself up for success? Dr. Kenneth Cooper, founder of The Cooper Institute, has established protocol for setting achievable goals. To begin you need to answer four key questions:

1. Where am I? You need to determine your baseline fitness level. Norms are used to show you where you stand in relation to others of similar age, gender, weight, height, etc. Your will need to determine your current fitness level based on these norms – a qualified fitness professional can help with this. This baseline fitness level will be the measure on which you base your success.

2. Where do I want to be? This is your goal, your desired level of fitness. It’s better for a goal to be too easy than too hard. Yet, the goal still needs to be challenging enough and require effort. However a goal that is too difficult leaves you frustrated and bitter, leading you to abandon the goal and give up completely.

Goals are dreams with deadlines. Do you honestly expect to change lifelong habits overnight? Overambitious timetables, not unrealistic goals, are often the cause of failure. Dr. Kenneth Cooper’s protocol provides realistic timelines for achieving your desired outcome. Each fitness component is broken into categories, such as excellent, good, fair, and poor, and includes the amount of time, on average, it takes for significant improvement (one fitness category). Dr. Cooper’s recommended timelines for each component are as follows:

  • Cardiorespiratory fitness—12 weeks
  • Strength—8 weeks
  • Muscular endurance—8 weeks
  • Flexibility—8 weeks
  • Body composition—12-16 weeks

3. How do I get there? The important piece that people often miss is that you need to determine how you are going to achieve your goal. You need to have a plan.

4. How do I stay there? Education, motivation, and commitment are crucial for the long-term maintenance of weight loss.

Tips for successful goals:

  • Take some time to think about your goal and create a plan based on your personal desires derived on a positive outcome.
  • Write down your goal and document your progress.
  • Give the goal positive meaning. Negative = “I want to lose 10 pounds.” Positive “I will wear a size 6 dress for New Year’s Eve 2013.”
  • Remove all negative influences. We must warn you of the nay-sayers who will question your desires and wishes for a number of reasons. Keep in mind most people feel guilty for not having your commitment to health and/or fitness. They feel it is easier to hold you down rather than rise to your standards.
  • Concentrate on the systems and processes necessary to achieve the goal…and not on the end outcome. What does this mean? If your goal is to lose weight, instead of focusing on that weight loss, focus on attending boot camp 3 times a week. Each week that you’ve attended 3, take pride in knowing that you are one step closer to your dream.
  • Take small steps. Pick one part of your plan, get it done and recognize the successes of that one piece and then move on to the next.
  • Focus on the positive things that are happening.
  • Make your goals progressive. Find a way to be rewarded as you go. Do you think a marathon runner counts each mile on her way to the finish line? Absolutely! Celebrate each and every milestone you reach.
  • Tell others about your goal. Tell your friends, family, and coworkers what your goal is and ask for their support in your efforts.
  • Find the beast within. You need to really want to get amazing results and be prepared to do whatever we ask to achieve those results. It’s not that hard to get the results — it’s building that overwhelming desire that counts.
  • Adjust from hurt to help. Replace: ‘Well – this cake won’t hurt me will it? with, ‘Will this help me or not? Is this a positive step or not?’ Once you get that — you’re a hit.

Once you understand that everything you do each day takes you either closer to or farther from your goals, then and only then will you be on the fast track to success.

Make peace with food – GOAL 4

I have an unhealthy relationship with food. I have tendencies towards emotional eating and binge eating. I cannot tell you the last time I had a serious bingeing episode – it has been more than six months but less than a year. But I work at it! Distractions, such as reading my Bible or other texts, appear to work the best for me. Unfortunately, emotional eating – such as gravitating towards unhealthy comfort foods or mindless munching – is a regular occurrence.

GOAL 4 – Make peace with food

In 2013, I will increase mindfulness and implement the use of old or new habits in place of emotional eating behaviors. I will find comfort in life! Certainly not the most well thought through of my goals, and I will work on that. One strategy will be to utilize real-time self-monitoring to track not only my dietary intake; but also, my associated thoughts and feelings.

Any suggestions? I’m all ears!

Women can do pullups too! – GOAL 3

I am sad to say that my third goal is a carry-over goal. It is becoming an annual goal, I suppose? I first set this goal for 2010. Then 2011. I skipped 2012 and now it returns for 2013. If I didn’t know in my heart that I haven’t achieved it because I haven’t been putting good-faith efforts towards it, I would have to reassess whether it is a good goal. It IS a good goal. In fact, it is a GREAT goal. It’s been said that only 1-3% of women can perform one pullup…

GOAL 3 – 10 STRICT Pullups


I will be able to complete 10 strict pullups, consecutively. No break – with the exception of perhaps regripping. Absolutely no kipping. No assistance. At my peak, I achieved 7. Last I attempted, I managed 3.

This year I WILL achieve this goal. And I have set myself up for success by implementing a routine prescribed by a good friend and exercise physiologist – specific to my pullup goal. Sure, I could have designed a plan myself, but I like being told what to do…plus this adds some accountability as I know he will be checking in on me!

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. – Hebrews 12:11-12

Christmas memories – Homemade gifts

I don’t really like Christmas. I suppose it is my natural tendency towards negative thoughts. I tend to remember the negative experiences more vividly than the positive. I’m not at home this year for Christmas – the first time in my 29 years of breathing. It’s not too bothersome, I’m with some wonderful ‘family’. And I have been thinking about the Christmas’ past.

I’ve gotten to thinking about some of the wonderful gifts I received as a child. As the youngest of 5 children, I now find it amazing that I believed in Santa Clause for as long as I did (I think 3rd grade). In my family – we made gifts. Whether it was more cost-effective or just what we did – I’m sure it was some of both. One year, my dad made me a wooden Barbie house the year I badly wanted a Barbie Dream House. MY Barbie house had wall paper, carpeting, and a wooden staircase! NOTE: this Barbie house was recently renovated and my nieces play with it in my parents basement. WHAT a gift! That same year, I had been asking for a pet (like always). Santa brought me a small houseplant with a note – if I kept it alive all year I might get a pet the following year. The good thing, I kept it alive. The bad thing, I didn’t get that pet. Oh well!

Another homemade gift was furniture for my Cabbage Patch Kids. Made from PVC and vinyl-like fabric – a bunk bed, a high-chair, and a table and chair set. HOW COOL!!!! (But now that I think about it…this may have been a birthday present.) Most of my Cabbage Patch Dolls were also homemade. And Care Bears. Every year my mom made a tree ornament for each of us kids. I have a box full of ornaments, with a list that tells me which ornament was from which year, beginning with the needlepoint baby cradle in 1983! How fun will it be 20 years from now to put these on the tree! It’s fun now too, but I can only imagine how much more fun it will become. Blankets, quilts, mittens, scrapbooks, stuffed animals, wooden trains and firetrucks – you think it and it’s probably been under the tree at the house on Municipal Drive.

Several years ago I made these animals for my niece and nephew. So worth the blood, sweat, and tears!

DinoAly & Elephant


6-pack abs? GOAL 2

I want a flat, washboard stomach. I want my physique to be a clear reflection of my core strength. I have to admit, I am most insecure about my torso. I am not quite sure where the origins of this insecurity rest. To be quite honest, I have an amazingly well-trained core – but my physical body doesn’t necessarily show it.  It took me a long time to recognize my core strength because I cannot SEE it in the mirror. Let’s do planks or sit-ups or side planks…I’ve mastered these feats. While there are of course limits to my physical abilities, it seems I completely disregard all that I CAN do because I don’t have those 6-pack abs. Am I obsessed? No. Do I beat myself up over it? No. But I’m not yet satisfied. Is this another case of something that will never seem good enough for me? Maybe…

Goal 2 – To do THIS:

crunchThe crunch, supporting myself on a heavy bag with my legs. I have done something similar in the past. To be more specific: to do TEN crunches off the heavy bag.

Ever feel like your standing on your head? GOAL 1

I’m setting goals for 2013. Not resolutions. GOALS. Physical achievements that will require work and practice to achieve. I have been struggling with setting goals based on vanity, but I know from personal experience that improved physical appearance is a byproduct and that if I set appropriate achievement goals, the physical appearance will follow.

GOAL 1 – Handstands & Headstands

powerful I will independently – without assistance of a wall or another individual – complete both handstands and headstands. The caveat to this is that I will also be able to maintain control throughout a dismount, not allowing my feet to simply fall to the ground. The eccentric control is the true measurement of strength and perseverance.

I don’t know why, but in recent months I having been wishing that I had been a gymnast. This then-chubby girl didn’t have much interest in that kind of thing! But it is never too late, right?

I have a scar on my left knee from attempted to obtain this view a few years back. I have been able to complete handstand pushups with the assistance of a wall for years, but I have never had the courage to step away from that wall – until recently. Just as in life, sometimes we need assistance, tools, props, or friends to help us get started. But we can rely on those forever or they will get worn out or tired. So little by little, we step away and build up the strength and confidence to do it on our own. And tell me, how GREAT does that feel?

There is something to be said about viewing life from an inverted position…blood rushing to the head…learning to breathe through the pressure…it’s a powerful experience!