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.


Sleep-less

You’d think an empty nester would have the luxury of sleeping, all through the night. 

No children out and about to worry over, no children’s friends tromping through the house as they come and go. And it’s fall, which means short days, long nights. The temperature lowers, perfect for snuggling under the covers, all toasty warm, with the window cracked so the fresh, crisp, chilly air can filter in. It’s the time of year where one is busy, winterizing both inside and out, ending the day with a body and mind ready to drift off to slumber land. 

But, I have a puppy. And a puppy gets in to things a puppy does, eating things a puppy shouldn’t. And then the puppy tummy lets everyone know it’s not happy. 

And so, for the past couple of nights, I am up repeatedly letting puppy out to do puppy’s ‘business’. 

I’m not complaining mind you, at least ‘Little Man’ is now old enough to rouse me from my slumber, instead of making a mess. It convinces me, God wisely gives infants to young parents, who’s youthful bodies can more easily handle the rigors of sleep deprivation. That said, here I am up every couple of hours, hurrying the puppy down the stairs and out the door, standing bare foot on cold hardwood in my chilly kitchen, waiting for little Mister to do his business. Gratefully, he returns and is as anxious to get back to his bed as I am. I crawl into the warmth of my bed, he settles down, and all is good until the next tummy grumbling. 

Infancy passes all to quickly and it feels like it was just an eye-blink ago that I was awaken in the dead of night by the cry of my baby daughter, and blurry eyed stumbled to her room to nurse my precious little bundle in the wee hours of the morning. Now it’s a much older version of that self, repeating the motions with much less grace and not nearly as much resilience. But, just as child infancy passes, this will too. Until my girls have children of their own and ‘Nanna’ can watch them, I choose to look at this inconvenience as a blessing. I could be grumpy, resentful at the intrusion of my beauty rest, but I choose to be thankful for the refresher of wonderful memories. 

So here I sit, sleepily, at my kitchen table, a large steaming cup of coffee at my fingertips, sipping it’s body warming contents slowly, feeling the veil of fog begin to part. I gaze out at the maples displaying the colors of fall, swaying in the crisp gentle breeze, crystal clear heavenly blue sky as a backdrop; a picture perfect Kodachrome postcard. Honestly, how can I be crabby? How can I be anything but grateful and willing to count my blessings?

And such is the irony of life: ‘Little Man’ sleeps with perfect contentment near my feet.  

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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.