Then, and Now.

I currently am cuddled up in my couch, my eyes periodically resting on my  Christmas decorations and reading the news. I look up from my laptop and see beautifully festive decor, meant to represent the celebration of the birth of Christ. It is a season of celebration, of lights, family traditions, gatherings and fellowship over food laden tables. It is a time of joy as we count down the days to December 25th. I love this time of year. I love looking at my decorations and reminiscing back over the years, as I collected each piece and what that year meant to me. I love my tree, a representation of all those years. Each ornament symbolizing something from that year. Each ornament, with 2 matching ones packed away for my girls to eventually put on their own trees one day.

Then I glance down at the news. Ugh, the news.

It has been a rough week for this nation, not nearly as horrific as it was in Paris, but once again my home, America, has been hit by terrorism. I have many emotions swirling around inside of me as I read, absorb, and reflect on the news: Shock, anger, disbelief, and an abundance of sadness. I cannot help but think about the families that now, instead of joyful celebrations and reunions around this holiday, will be mourning the loss of a loved one.

I remember quite clearly 9/11, our first true taste of terrorism on our nations soil. I was getting my kids out the door to catch the bus to school. I had the news running in the background. The news anchor reported that Tower 1 had been hit by a plane. Initially, no one suspected this was an intentional act, but we did know that people would have been hurt. I kissed my children, we said a prayer for those who might be hurt (or worse), and off they went. Then Tower 2 was hit. Then they both collapsed. Slowly, it began to dawn on many of us, this was not an accident. This WAS intentional. It was a numbing reality. I remember the skies being completely empty that day, as all air traffic was grounded. There was an eerie quiet about that day.

Then in the days to follow, we, as a nation pulled together in unity. Workers from all over the country went to help with the twisted, burning wreckage in New York City. Stories of compassion, assistance, bravery, self-sacrifice emerged, and we felt proud to be part of this group we call ‘Americans’. We rallied together, just as we have always done in times of stress. People became a bit nicer to each other. The houses of faith filled with people in prayer for survivors, prayers for the families looking for their loved ones, and prayers for those who were lost. It was Unity, and unifying.

I compare that to today. The difference is stark. We were attacked again, on our own soil, and once again after the initial horror, it slowly became apparent this was terrorism. But this time, instead of pulling together and unifying, we seem to be settling in to war camps.  We are arguing among ourselves, who is to blame, who is not to blame? Who is responsible, who is not responsible? Politics, which has invaded every aspect of our lives, rears its ugly head and divides us even more. What has happened to us that we cannot seem to unify to support our fellow countryman, and stand against the evil that has taken lives yet again, right here, on our front door?

There is a famous line in John Dickinson’s The Liberty Song: United we stand, divided we fall.
We face an enemy, and a determined one at that. As Americans, whether we like it or not, we share that in common. So why, when we need to be united to stand strong against our common foe, are we allowing ourselves to be divided? We are Americans, we have overcome far worse in our tumultuous history. We have battled evil in many forms throughout the 200+ years. We have done it by being Americans first, and by aspiring to be good, do the right thing, fight for eternal truths and liberties.

We need to be mindful of history, learn from the mistakes and repeat the successes. I think of then, and now, and I implore my fellow countryman to put the greater principles above our own personal interests.
We need to come together.

We did it then. We can do it now.

Strengthening Your Core


In weightlifting, the key to being able to heft increasing amounts of iron is to have a sturdy, strong Core: your foundational strength you build on.
You don’t develop a core overnight. It is built up – workout by workout, day by day, month by month. As it grows in strength, it supports and assists the development of your other muscles. I didn’t just start lifting 200 pounds one day. I had to build up my core strength, increase my bone density, and build the muscle in an intentional way. My ability to lift is dependent upon the foundation I have laid. I am fortunate and blessed to have (the best!) trainer in the world to mentor me and keep me safe. Under his watchful and experienced eye, he has seen me go from puffing away under a few measly pounds of barbell weight, to lifting a full 200 pounds…more than once. Having a firm, sturdy core allows my body to not only perform in the gym, but also in all other aspects of life: carrying groceries, lifting my bike up on the rack, vacuuming, climbing stairs. All are easier because we have invested in its development.

My favorite way to illustrate this is with a tree: A towering Redwood would not stand with a weak core. It would topple under the weight of the branches, or snap with simple gust of wind. It stands though, because it developed its Core along the way.

What I would like to suggest is this: Is your Core strong?
In this case, I’m not talking about your physical strength. I am talking about your non-physical Core. I’ll call it your spiritual side, the ‘you’ who makes you, you. It’s what resides inside your head, that little voice that whispers only to you.
Is it strong? Have you taken the time to develop it? Do you have what it takes to weather the storms in life? Can you stand strong through the hurricanes of life? Can you remain standing, like the Redwood?

This subject is pertinent considering the news of the day:  A potential Greek economic collapse and the negative potential it has for the Eurozone. We are seeing the rise of barbaric beheadings and persecutions going on in the Middle East. Here in the States we feel the division in civil discourse and financial concerns growing. The entire world feels on edge, and in this case (unlike in past world shifts) we have social media to make it all broadcast in real time.

So I ask again, how is the condition of your Core? Have you invested in it, given it the conditioning and training that are necessary to weather the pounding waves that life throws at it?

First you must take an assessment:
What are your weaknesses, what worries you?
What are your strengths, where do you feel confident and in charge?

Next, take those weaknesses and develop a plan to strengthen them. I was terrified of some sort of economic disaster that would lead to hyperinflation and obscene food prices. To alleviate myself from that fear, or weakness, my husband and I developed a plan to stock up on and store food. I taught myself how to can food both water-bath method and pressure canning. I taught myself to preserve foods. I shopped sales and stocked up on dry and canned goods that I know we will eat. We invested in some long term food storage. Tackling that fear and developing a plan we followed, removed that from my ‘weakness’ category. Now, it’s a strength.

Build on your strengths. One of my friends sweetly calls me Miss Martha. I have always loved to entertain and socialize. I love being a Domestic Goddess. I love home-keeping, nurturing and gardening. Knowing this is a strength, I have used it to build my social network. I have ‘loved on’ friends and family, securing those bonds tight. In times of adversity, it’s those bonds we have forged that can help us weather through tough times.

Lastly, stay in shape, build on the core you have developed. I never, in my wildest dreams, would have thought that I could ever lift that much weight. But I did. And I am continuing build on it, so that I hope to one day lift 2 of the big plates, which is 235 pounds. I also continue to build on my spiritual core. I continue to look at the areas I harbor fears and doubt. I tackle them one by one, working to turn them into strengths, shoring up, and building on that internal core.

When the winds, or hurricanes of adversity blow through my life, with a strong foundational tree trunk, I should be able to weather them and be a shelter for others. And lets be honest, isn’t that a much preferable way to approach life? I want to be stable in my boat when the oceans turn dark and stormy. I want to be able to have what is necessary, emotionally and physically, to ride out the squall. And, as a person of faith, I want to be a source of comfort, stability and hope for others whose boats may be sinking, or taking on water.

I am reminded of the story in the Bible of the Disciples out on the Sea and getting caught in a storm. Jesus, exhausted, was resting in the bow of the boat, calmly sleeping through a ocean raging around them. His followers freaked out, waking him up and carrying on about how they were all going to die…AND DIDN’T HE CARE?
Jesus, being a dude I’d have love to have met face to face, calmly stands up and with a wave of his hand, the seas turn flat as glass. In the disciples recounting, he gets a bit crabby and frustrated at their lack of faith.

Just think if those disciples had strengthened their inner Core, would they have panicked the way they did? They certainly were buff guys in good shape, they were seasoned fishermen. But what about their inner core? Maybe they would have been calm, maybe not, because Jesus was a guy who liked to teach and they had a lesson they needed to learn. But I can learn from their unpreparedness. I can read about their weaknesses and I can learn from it. I can be strong spiritually as well as physically. A calm place, in the middle of a stormy sea, for others.

I hope this gives you the motivation to not just be focused on the ‘physically’ fit. I hope that it inspires you to take your inner core as seriously as you might your physical one. I am no prophet of old, but just read the headlines sometime. There is a storm on the horizon. It may not come ashore, but it may. I know that I sleep better at night now, knowing I’ve been strengthening my Core.