Strengthening Your Core

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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.


When it’s Hot, thank the Lord

Yes, it’s hot and I want to thank you Lord, for air conditioning.

I’m serious. I want to formally and officially thank our Good Lord for air conditioning, because without the ability to escape the heat for a bit and sleep at night, I’d be one crabby, nasty, terribly unpleasant human being to live with.

I have to laugh at myself, because as I sit in my kitchen typing, gratefully at peace with the warm but tolerable temperature, vs the hot and sticky muck outside, I am drawn back to a memory of my youth, living in Oregon.

As I recall, I was about 6 or 8 and we were living on the west side of town, in a brand new sub-division. We had moved from California and I thought it was the coolest thing to be on a cup-de-sac, with acres of hay fields to play in as our back yard. Pause for a moment and let that sink in. New development….fields. Yep, no shade. Gratefully, Oregon is fairly temperate and doesn’t get too hot nor very cold. In fact, being a zone 8 (gardening term) it ranges from 20-90 degrees, but with only a handful of days in those extremes, if it ever got that ‘extreme’.  A typical, average day runs between 50-70  deg most of the year. Thus, many homes do not have a/c there, and when I was growing up, this exposed little house did not.

The sweltering run of hot days this summer brings to my recollection a particular ‘heat wave’ of one summer in that house.  What was probably only days, felt like weeks of 90 degree weather. My brother’s and my little bodies, (children tend to run hot anyway) felt like they were going to instantaneously combust. Poof! I was convinced my mother would wake and we’d be ashes.  It was so hot, this little child refused to sleep in anything other than cotton undies, and I recall my thoughtful mother bringing in a small fan to blow air on the sweating little bodies, in a failed attempt to keep us cool enough to sleep. Despite the near Adam and Eve-like state, the thin sheet over the top of me felt as heavy as a woolen winter blanket.

It’s rather humbling to be reminded of how spoiled I live as an adult. Not everyone has a/c, and with this long stretch of brutal hotness, I am even more grateful for the inspired invention of cooled air. I think of how life has changed due to what is seemingly such a simple idea and product. I marvel at the freedom and power of the American free market to make a once expensive, elusive and desired symbol of wealth and privilege, in to something the everyday common man can attain and afford. Think about it for a moment. We travel, for the most part, in comfort. We work, for the most part, in comfort. There are places for everyone to escape the heat, public buildings, restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, gas stations, malls, community centers. It has become such an everyday, accepted luxury of living in America, I think sometimes it’s good to be humbled and be reminded of how truly blessed we are. It’s easy to get caught up in the difficulties of living, and so pausing for a moment to relish the little things can be a tonic to the life-worn soul.

And so, as I peer through the steamy double pane windows out in to that sauna, called summer in Minnesota,  I turn my face to the heavens and thank my Good Father for, what to Him is a just one of the many ‘simple’ gifts He showers on us in this broken and flawed world of ours…Air Conditioning.


Contentment

Contentment

I can’t help but be envious, just a bit, of Ruger and his total and complete sense of contentment; his utter trust and faith that he is safe and sound in our care.

As humans, I feel we are all looking for that sense of peace that comes with complete trust and faith being placed in the hands of another. With age, hopefully comes some wisdom and some enlightenment. I’ve just celebrated 5 decades under my belt and the one thing I’ve come to realize is that the only one I can place complete trust and faith in is my God and His Son. Humanity, in it’s flawed and fallen state, will inevitably let me down. It’s not a criticism of any one human being, it’s just a result of living in a world separated from our true home. But there is One who will never let me down even if the world does, who will always love me even when no one else can, and who promises me that one day I will leave this earthly realm that groans under the weight of sin and see my true home, the place I truly belong.

And what a home that will be.

A welcoming party that will surpass the best of parties ever, as all my past and future canine companions, as well as the relatives, friends and family who have preceded me, welcome me to the ultimate place of happiness and contentment.

When I watch my puppy sleep, I catch a glimpse of that glorious and perfect contentment.

When I watch my puppy sleep, I am reminded of something someone wise told me once. Something I knew deep down in the core of me, where the Spirit resides and affirms basic truths. Something that sums up my love for these loyal, trusting, loving, happy, furry domesticated canine companions:

D-O-G G-O-D

Now THAT, is contentment.