Thursday, November 4, 2010

Did you hear the one about the White Lady doing Zumba?

Remember the Mexican jumping beans that we used to get so excited about when we were kids? For those of us who were the children of the 1970's, we didn't have XBOX 360 or Wii game systems so our entertainment had to come in the form of foreign vegetables. Well, today I was--for an hour--a Mexican jumping bean.
I went to a Zumba class at my local gym. For those of you who don't what Zumba is, let me describe it in way that you will understand. First, turn your radio to Piolin 101.9, or any Spanish speaking radio station that loves Salina. Next, take your Denise Austin workout DVDs and place them in a blender. Add Tequila.
Add more.
Now, just a little more.
Blend and serve in a festive cup with a salted rim. In a pinch you can also use Jane Fonda's exercise videos, but the drink may be more bitter, so you may want to serve it with some aged cheese.
When I arrived at the class, I inched my way in the 2nd to the last row. I would be in the back, but not the very back--no need to give the weight lifters more to chuckle at. The instructor, a tall beautiful, dark woman came in. She was slim, but with curves. She asked if they were any first time visitors and I quickly raised my hand, hoping that everyone in the room would now refrain from judging me for what they would soon witness.
"Okay, Ladies, make room for them in the front. We want them to be able to see." She announced.
"What?!" Did she really say move to the front?
Reluctantly, I moved to the front row next to a young woman in an adorable grey tennis skirt. Obviously, this doll knows how to Zumba. If I ever wear a skirt to the gym it will be because I have learned the ART of Zumba.
It was hilarious at first to watch myself amidst these sexy Latinas. I was keeping up during the warm up and I began to think that I would survive with my dignity intact. I shuffled and twisted. I slung my back and hips in opposing directions, all while moving my arms like a mystical belly dancer. My breathing got labored and I glanced at the clock in hopes that we were at least half way through the class. We were only about 10 minutes into the hour. I kept moving and twisting and shaking things that are not supposed to shake. I pay good money to purchase undergarments so that those things will not shake, and here I am in the front row of the gym moving like I'm having an epileptic seizure!
30 minutes into the class and I was done. I wanted to sneak out the door. Of course, I couldn't and I was now aware of the real reason why she puts the new people in the front row. There was no way to escape with any discretion. I was going to have to continue to shake and twist for another 30 minutes. The music slowed and the ladies moved to the edges to grab a quick drink. I followed their lead and grabbed my water. I couldn't sip it gently, so I gulped it and dribbled a little on my shirt. I was wiping my face with my towel, when I heard the voice of a stranger,
"You're doing really good."
I turned to see a woman about my same age in black stretch pants and a matching t-shirt. She was smiling and looking at me. I didn't say anything, I just gulped more water while nodding at her.
"This is a hard thing to learn, you are doing really good."
"Thanks" was all I could breathe out.
My spirit was revived. I twisted again and I saw myself in the mirror. I decided to smile. I decided to let myself shake and laugh at the silliness of this moment.
I could, after all, see myself in the mirrors and I happen to know for a fact that I was not doing "really good" at all. I was twisting the wrong way and my feet had no bounce. I was slightly confused and breathless at best. She had to be aware of my uncoordinated state, but she was using the only thing she had at that moment to encourage a stranger. Her words.
And the words of encouragement, at just the right time, can send our souls twisting and shaking with a new fervor.
We all do that for one another. Or we don't. We get to decide the life we want to live and the kind of day we want to have. We get to chose if we will find ways to encourage others as we spin and we twist our way through the day that we have been dealt.
We sometimes have to search to find something kind to say to a rude person we encounter, but I believe it is there. If the thing you can say to encourage someone is not obvious, then most likely, the person needs the words to be said to them even more. If you cannot see the compliment that they need to hear, then you need to dig deeper in your soul to uncover it. It is there in you, even if it isn't showing up in them at this time.
As we did these foreign moves, my reflection was not as pleasing to me. Looking at the slim girl in the grey skirt was making me more aware of my awkward and uncoordinated moves. I was feeling tired and unsure and having the kind comment from a stranger was like salve on a wound. It didn't matter that I was spinning to the right while the rest of the ladies spun to the left, I was moving, and now, I was having a blast. I was there, which as we all know, is the biggest battle.

"Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. " Proverbs 16:24

Monday, November 1, 2010

Life is better, now that I'm not a car

I have been blessed to be in healthy churches with good teaching for the last 25 years. As a Youth Pastor's wife, I have been to summer camp more times than the average person--and the camps that I have attended have consistently had really good teaching. I have attended Women of Faith 6 times and many other women's events and retreats that have had best selling authors as the speakers.
This has been such a tremendous blessing in my life and I count it all to the credit of Christ and his provision in my life. Looking back at this abundance of solid teaching in my life, I recently realized something remarkable: I am not a car. I am not a SUV, a minivan or a luxury sedan. I am definitely not a hybrid. 
I have recently realized that I've spent a major portion of my life as a believer behaving more like a car than a person.
I have a VW Beetle and about once a week I go to the gas station near my house and I attach the hose and fill my tank with gas. When I am really on top of the situation, I even take the hose out of the tank before I drive away from the pump. My car is full. It will now take me around town with the exact same horsepower the entire time, whether its gage says it has a half a tank or a quarter of a tank. It doesn't care if the last time I put gas in the tank was on Saturday, it will travel just a faithfully on Tuesday.
But, I am not a car. I need fuel everyday. I need 8 glasses of water every day. If I drink 8 glasses today, I still need to drink 8 glasses tomorrow. And the next day, I need 8 more. I don't store my water on Sunday and wait until the following Sunday for more water. If I were to do that, my lips would get chapped, my skin would get pasty and my joints would get achy. I need water to keep me going through my day, and if I get a little dehydrated, I can't make it up tomorrow. Tomorrow has its own 8 glasses to drink.
But, in my spiritual life, I had developed a habit to try and store up the good stuff and keep going on that. Unintentionally, but certainly, not for lack of knowing the right thing to do, I have spent too many days trying to get by on what was put in the tank over the weekend.
It's not that I haven't been in Bible studies, because I have. But, sadly, they would often become a task to complete. "Fold the clothes, empty the dishwasher, do chapter 3..."
At some point in my life, I stopped depending on the bible for the power that I needed.
I am not sure that this is something that I should be testifying to, because it is certainly not something that others should aim for. I wish I could say that I have been more faithful in allowing God to speak to me every single day through his word. I wish I could say that I had never been distracted in my walk to put my faith, ever so slightly, in other things. I wish I had more of the Bible committed to memory because I had spent more time reading it and absorbing it.
I won't beat myself up about that now. What good would that do? Would it change the hours that I spent filled with anxiety? Would it answer the questions that are no longer there?
I am just glad that I now understand my thirst.
In August, my friend, Rachel Collins was speaking at an event. She was talking about digging deeper into God's word and she said, "Don't be too lazy to sit down and read your Bible". I cannot tell you how many times that has been repeated in my head. While doing the some of the crazy things I do when I am home alone, I've heard her voice and stopped what I was doing and went and sat down--to avoid being lazy.
The good news is that now that I am not living like a car, life is better. When I am in the place to hear a great speaker--every point has more meaning and less of a need to carry me for days. Sometimes, I am still hit in the morning with a surge of anxiety that grabs my stomach and feels like it won't let go. But, I open my Bible and begin to read the words of Jesus and literally drink the living water and the grip lessens, the fears subside. I find myself craving this water and I hope that thirst never goes away.