I am Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

I am fearfully and wonderfully made. This has been my mantra this week, a truth I have both relished in and at times been frustrated to believe. I'm just over a month into my diet overhaul, a process that has been hard and somewhat helpful. After several months of feeling very crappy, it was time to refocus on getting healthy. It's still a sobering thought that I needed to stop taking classes in order to get healthier, that I'm sick enough that I really need the diet and lifestyle changes I'm making. There have been a few days during the past month that this reality has been absolutely frustrating. Why can't I just do and eat whatever I want? Knowing I'm fearfully and wonderfully made and also knowing that my body is often full of inflammation is sometimes a confusing tension for my heart to hold.

A few weeks ago I started going back to yoga classes at a studio a few blocks away from our apartment (Kindness Yoga). It has been [overall!] a life-giving experience to be back on the mat. I have done yoga on and off for about 4 years, and every time I start practicing again after a long "time off" I know that there will frustrations and challenges as my joints readjust to the movement and flow of yoga. Part of it is plain and simple being out of shape. But the most challenging part is the pain and stiffness in my spine, wrists, shoulders, and feet as I push to hold the various poses. Going to classes not knowing what your body will be able to handle and pressing into discomfort is not for the faint of heart. Several times during the past few weeks I've thought to myself that going back to yoga is an exercise in courage.

One of the things I love the most about yoga is that it is a mental and physical workout. Lately, yoga truly has been helping me hold the truth that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. As I stretch and move I am simultaneously appreciating what my body can do and facing its limits. Facing physical limits is difficult. Yesterday I felt like a total badass in my yoga class, as I was able to hold every pose with strength and today I battled frustration as my spine and shoulders screamed at the effort of the endless backbends and heart openers the teacher kept leading us in. One day last week I had to leave class halfway through because my joints were hurting so much I was in tears from the sheer pain. Every day my levels of stiffness and ability are different, and I have to be open to what my body needs in each day.

Doing the hard work of caring for my body is a spiritual endeavor. For me, going to yoga is choosing to honor God and the body he gave me. For me, yoga is prayer. It's a humbling expression of my heart's desire for healing and a conversation with both myself and God about the tension of a broken body. My yoga practice is a space where I have to face my heartbreak, frustration, and pride, and where I get to exult in the joy of being human. As I bow in Namaste to my teacher at the end of the class I am honoring the light of God in her, myself, and the others in my class--humans, made in the image of a mysterious, enthralling God. 

Friend, if you are dealing with a disease like me or maybe mental health issues that feel like they are holding you back or overshadowing your purpose, listen: You really are fearfully and wonderfully made. The effort it takes for you to take care of you is worth the pain. You will feel the truth of your purpose and inner beauty again, even if you can't right now.

In the meantime, join me in the courageous work of self-care. It could mean yoga class, starting to see a counselor, or simply meeting a friend for coffee to share how you really are. Whatever it is, as you do it, smile at the fact that you are courageous...because you are fearfully and wonderfully made.

"But I'm in pain!"

Workout Motivation & My Confession of Being Fairly Lousy at Taking Care of My Body

In the past six years that I've had an autoimmune disease I've struggled to maintain a regular work-out regimen. Those of you who have chronic pain probably instantly understand why--it's hard to feel like moving a body that's often screaming in pain. But an inflammatory disease like mine that causes joint pain actually improves with activity instead of rest. It's a constant balance to maintain the rest my fatigued body needs with the exercise it needs to stay mobile and strong.  

Confession: rest usually wins.  

But the longer I am the sick, the more desperately I want to take care of my body. Over the years I've had several great 3-6 month spans where I do yoga 1-2x a day, go on walks weekly, and bike regularly. But with each new extended flare (when my disease attacks a bit more "loudly") I have to find renewed motivation to fight through pain to practice wellness.

I'm in one of those seasons now--where my body's been wrecking havoc for several months, making me spend more time on the couch than in the gym. Chronic illnesses like mine are seasonal in a sense--requiring constant flexibility with the ebbs and flows of pain. I can go from being pretty in-shape to rapidly losing muscle mass in a few pain-filled weeks of a bad flare-up. The vascillating nature of my physical health requires conscious and frequent adjustment and acceptance. 

But I don't want to "accept" my pain so thoroughly that I forget to fight back.

I need to arm my body with the strength to stay mobile and active. So I'm back on the yoga mat and taking biking adventures around town as frequently as possible.

For those of us with chronic illness and pain, we have to carefully discern the state of our bodies. You and I have to become experts of our bodies--knowing when to push through mild or moderate pain and when to ride out a wave of fatigue. Even after 6 years of fighting AS I'm still learning this body-discernment.

But I'm determined to keep fightinglearning, and pushing the boundaries of my disease to have a full, active life. 

Will you fight with me? Comment below on how you've had success or difficulty in taking care of your body with a chronic illness. And share with the button at the bottom of this post on Twitter or Facebook to keep raising awareness and connecting people in pain. We need each other to fight well! #chroniclife #chronicfighter