In June, I went to Zimbabwe with Body & Soul Fitness, earning service hours for Liberty University. It was amazing and powerful. And God used the time to open my eyes to recognize how worldly happiness is different from joy. True joy comes from a life focused on the Lord.

I think a lot about focus because of my interest in photography. Photography is a gift from God allowing us to capture precious moments and it can be beautiful, but it is up to the photographer to focus on a certain image and capture its beauty. These four pictures, that I took in Zimbabwe, show two distinct stories about the same moment.

By looking at only the first two pictures, you see one elephant’s tusk and trunk. But you get a new perspective when you look at the second set of pictures. You are suddenly able to see that there are two more elephants on the scene. In fact, there were three elephants in total in that place, however, as the photographer, I chose to focus on only one. My focus on that one individual elephant demonstrates how easy it is to miss all that is happening around you.

The way I see it, with anything but God as the center of your life, your focus will always be off, never able to capture the fullness of joy. It’s like waking up each day and trying to manage life without the Bible or without God’s help—our life will become unfocused, kind of blurry, in a sense, and we may later realize we missed out on true joy.

As a photographer, I have had to learn to put down my camera from time to time, removing it as a blinder, and refocusing on what is all around me to be able to place my camera back to my eye and shoot a better, refocused image. When I am focused on a specific shot, I sometimes miss what is happening to my left and my right. This is true in my life even when a camera is not in my hands. If I am not careful I miss out on the opportunity to experience joys because I am focused on one thing, often the wrong thing.

I learned this lesson this past year as I finished my first year of college. For the first time in life, I had the complete freedom to do anything I liked. At first, my focus was on doing well in my classes but that quickly shifted to focusing on making friends. As I found my group, I began spending less and less time studying, doing my homework and ultimately skipping classes when my friends had something better planned. I was happy. Or so I thought. When my first semester ended and I received my final grades, I realized that I was anything but happy. Even without distractions, school is hard for me. I have to study more and work harder than my classmates, only to receive average grades. After Christmas break, I returned to school with a new focus. And that focus was God. I know for a fact that without God and without hard work, I won’t be able to complete my degree on time. I finally learned to say no when my friends wanted to ditch class to go to Cracker Barrel. It may seem small, but saying no like that was incredibly hard for me to do. Perhaps this is true in your life whether it’s saying no to your work so that you can put your family first or saying no to something that’s good, but isn’t the best.

In my own life, right now, I am choosing to focus on God by doing my very best. Not studying and ditching class was never my best. Ever since I’ve made this conscious change, my life is full of joy. True joy. Throughout day to day struggles, I am still able to experience the joy that can only be found in Christ.

Even a year later, I am still learning that God is like my high school photography professor. Someone looking over my shoulder, able to see all what is around me when I am focused on something else. Someone who is able to tap my shoulder and help me re-focus when I am distracted by worldly things. Someone who is teaching me to capture the true joy that can only come from Him. Just as I had the choice whether to take the advice of my professor, I also have the choice whether or not to re-focus on God and take what He is teaching me and apply it to my life. We all face this choice, don’t we? So, what about you? What are you focusing on? And how do you re-focus?


Jordan Stafford is a student at Liberty University, majoring in zoology. She is the daughter of the President of Body & Soul Fitness, Amy Stafford.

Last spring, my church suffered heartbreak like it had not experienced in all of its thirty years. Though my husband and I had only been members of the congregation for just over a decade, we, too, were devastated by our losses. It seemed like every week another family left the fellowship—our church family began to crumble, and hurt, frustration, and distrust were left in the wake.

Around the same time, we began our spring session, Shine On. Our class meets on Monday and Thursday mornings, and those are my favorite days during good seasons—during this particular season, being in class, teaching my students, was life-giving.

One of the songs from Shine On was a fun song with a quick tempo called “Glow in the Dark.” This Jason Gray song says,

Sometimes the world feels like a mess
Full of drama, full of stress
And life puts a fist right in your ribs
You can hide if you choose to
And no one would even blame you
Or you can let them see how you deal with it
That even in the darkest place
His love can make you radiate.

This song reminded me that even in the darkest places, in the midst of chaos, Jesus said to let our light shine before men, that they might see our good works and glorify our God in heaven. It ministered to my heart in a profound way during that season, pulling me out of a darkness that threatened to drag me under a rock and leave me there. This song empowered me with a choice—to hide or to radiate.

A few months later, I had the opportunity to travel to Central Asia with a small group of young adults. One evening was particularly difficult, and I shared with them how much this song meant to me. They insisted I teach them the choreography; so I did. Four of us Jesus-loving girls quietly sang and danced to this light-shining song in a hotel in the section of the world that is largely unreached with the Gospel. Our hearts were renewed and God’s name was lifted high that day.

Paul tells the church at Colossae “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts.” A song of worship can be a prayer, an acknowledgement of who God is, a confession. Sometimes these songs we sing, these songs we get to dance and move and sweat to in Body & Soul Fitness, remind us of who God is and they build us up, and other times they bring us to our knees in conviction and repentance.

What a gift it is to be able to shout His name without apology. We put these songs in our ears that tell of God’s holiness, His mercy, His might, and His great love for us. We hide God’s word in our hearts as we let the lyrics from each session of Body & Soul Fitness wash over us.

In this faith walk, there are no road maps, and no blueprints outside of the Gospel–the truth of God’s word. We believe that when God says He is near, He is; when God says He rights all wrongs, He does; when He says we can trust Him because He cares for us, we can—that faith is what holds us together. It keeps us on level ground. It holds us in the boat, even when the waves crash over us, time and time again.

The truth we are reminded of is what saves us. Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. We bring God glory when we renew our minds and increase in our knowledge of Him. We spread His fame by the way we love one another and build each other up to do good works. While we train our bodies in our classes to run the races set out for us, we are indeed training our souls to be strong, to love big, and to find joy. Most of all, we are setting our minds on what is above, not on earthly things, not on what is seen, but what is unseen.

Continue singing to the LORD and blessing His name, dear friends. Whether in dark times personally, in your church, or among an unreached people group, Tell of His salvation, and say among the nations, “The LORD reigns!”


Brandi Schroeder is a youth pastor’s wife and the mom of four wild young men. She has been co-teaching Body & Soul Fitness with several amazing Arkansas’ instructors for nearly a decade, and she counts it a privilege to lead the amazing women in her class. She seeks to inspire women to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly, and she is passionate about spreading the Gospel to the nations.

For more information or to find a class near you, please visit www.bodyandsoul.org.

As I sat down to have my quiet time with the Lord, I read in Sarah Young’s “Jesus Always” devotional – “strive to live more fully in the present, refusing to worry about tomorrow.”  Those words really hit me hard, as I had been struggling with a health issue – one for which I really had no answers for.   As I continued to read, I was reminded that striving to live this way involves focusing my effort and energy intentionally on walking in trust with the Lord, following His guidance each step.  Striving…not to worry!

Now if you’re like me, this is a real struggle to keep the right focus, especially when our world is full of anxieties and challenges to occupy our lives – sometimes the concerns have to do with the world and sometimes they are all too “up close and personal.”  (If you don’t have any concerns now, then sit tight and prepare for when they pop up, because they could be just around the corner.)

Why shouldn’t we worry, since life gives us cause to do so?  Because worry robs us of joy and freedom, and makes us live in fear.  The Bible calls us to the opposite – to trust in the Lord and cast all of our cares on the One who cares for us.  So how do we move toward Him and toward trust and peace?  It takes striving, my friends!

Below are a few tips that have helped me as I strive to release worry and embrace trust.

REMEMBER to trust the Lord and His promises.  You may want to write some of these on post-it notes to display, make a screen saver, or use other creative ways to remind yourself of these promises throughout the day. What you put before your eyes will stay on your heart.

READY your mind and heart for battle.  Use God’s word to FIGHT BACK against worry and anxiety.  Have a go-to verse to bring to mind when you want to dwell on a concern.  Isaiah 43:10 says to “take EVERY thought captive.”  This requires action!

RESIST worry.  Don’t dwell on the concern, as a dog chews on a chew toy.  Release it and resist it.  James 4:7 says that when we submit to God, and resist the devil, he will flee from you.  It doesn’t say maybe he’ll back off – it says he will FLEE.  Our job is to RESIST.

REPLACE your worry list of “unknowns” with the facts that you do KNOW.  Replace idle worry with activity.  A friend gave me a beautiful plant to use as a reminder of God’s faithfulness.  It sits on my kitchen window sill (see picture) and when I see this plant, it reminds me to think on God’s faithfulness, and exchange my worry with His promises.  And as I do something active – caring for this plant – I am reminded of God’s constant care for me (And, believe it or not, it’s still alive!)

Another practical tool to use to replace your “concerns” is to wear a wrist band that you can gently snap.  A counselor friend of mine told me about this tool when I was going through a time when my mind would “default” to a negative path.  When you notice your thoughts are travelling down a negative path, gently snap the band, as a reminder to change the direction of your thinking.  (Striving to renew your mind!)

REST in the Lord:   Psalm 62:5 says, “Yes, my soul, find rest in God.  My hope comes from Him.”   One tool I’ve been using a lot lately is relaxation breathing. Inhale slow deep breaths through the nose, expanding your diaphragm, and then exhale slowly, blowing the air out.  You can add a spiritual benefit to this:  as you inhale, focus on God’s strength and power, and as you exhale, blow away your worry, anxiety and stress.  I am noticing a sense of peace and rest as I practice this breathing exercise.

RELAX:  It’s hard to calm down if we don’t slow down.  Try any of the following.

  • Take a walk outside enjoying God’s nature
  • Read a book for fun
  • Add in some recreation time
  • Start a new project, divided into small, achievable parts
  • Enjoy a hobby (I’ve taken up crocheting!)

Finally, let the Lord’s presence RESONATE with you throughout your day.  Take time to really meditate and focus on Him.  Meet with Him and allow Him to encourage you!

I hope and pray that these tools help you as you strive to focus on God’s goodness and faithfulness to us today.  One of the purposes of experiencing worrisome trials is to help one another, so I’m giving you tips that I’m learning to rely on.  Let me know how they work for you in the comments below.  And please share some of your tips as well!


email TeriTeri Moscatelli is the Director of Operations for Body & Soul and teaches Body & Soul classes in Bowie, MD. In addition, Teri is a popular speaker and leads fitness demonstrations at women’s retreats and events.  For more information contact info@bodyandsoul.org.

It’s hot today where I live. I mean, it’s 98° (I’m writing this before I’ve had breakfast!) and the heat index is 113°, with humidity of 62%. It’s not surprising that we’re under a heat advisory by the US National Weather Service. I’m a summer-lovin’ girl, but that’s hot, even for me. Now I’m not complaining, but to meet my exercise goals during the dog days of summer, is going to require a bit of creativity…and perhaps air conditioning. I want to stay active, stay hydrated, and stay away from my local urgent care with a heat-induced illness, and I want these for you as well. With these 3 parameters in mind, I’m heading straight for my Body & Soul group fitness class at every opportunity, but on the days of the week when Body & Soul isn’t offered locally (in the comfortable air-conditioning of my church), I must be creative. First, I must decide if I’m exercising outside or inside. If it’s outside, I’d better head out early in the morning, before the temperature involves 3 digits! If it’s inside, I need to choose exercises that fit into my available (air-conditioned) space. Keep reading for 4 C.O.O.L. exercises for summer:

CROSS MOUNTAIN CLIMBERS – Hold a plank position (think pushup) with your hands below your shoulders. These can be on the floor, leaning forward toward a sturdy table or chair, or even facing a wall. Bring one knee at a time toward the opposite hand, alternating at a comfortable speed. Perform 20 repetitions (or climb for 45 seconds). Remember to keep your abdominal muscles contracted as you climb the mountain!

 

 

 

 

OBLIQUE CRUNCHES WITH SINGLE-ARM REACH – Stand with one leg slightly out to the side (toe down) same arm reaching overhead. Bring the knee up and out to the side, as you pull the elbow out and down toward the raised knee and curling at the ribcage. Then return to your starting position. Perform 20 repetitions on each side (or 45 seconds), with a brief rest in between.

OUT & IN SQUATS – Step out to one side and squat, step into a narrow position and squat; then step out to the other side and squat. Continue this pattern for 45 seconds (or until you have completed 20 squats). Remember to keep your body weight in your heels by pushing your hips back, as if descending to sit in a chair.

LUNGES (3-directional) – Step forward into a lunge with your right leg, performing a bicep curl at the same time. Push back into a standing position and release your arms. Step out into a side lunge with your right leg, bringing your arms into a T position. Push back into a standing position and release your arms. Step back into a lunge with your right leg, reaching both arms straight up at the same time. Finally, press into your front heel to return to a standing position and drop your arms down by your sides. Perform 10 repetitions on each side (or 45 seconds), with 20 seconds of rest in between.

This workout works great outside and inside, because it doesn’t require equipment, much time on the ground, or much space. It can be based on time or repetitions – it depends if you like to set a timer or prefer counting. Either way, perform each exercise for the specified amount of time or reps, and rest between each exercise for 20 seconds. Run through these 4 COOL exercises 3-4 times for a well-rounded workout, remembering to stay hydrated by drinking COOL water throughout the dog days of summer, and stay away from your local urgent care office (though they WILL have air conditioning!).

 

 

Amy Stafford is the President of Body & Soul Fitness, certified personal trainer, ACE faculty and ACE Group Fitness Instructor. She is a leader in the fitness industry and is a popular speaker for women’s events, retreats, fitness conferences. For information on booking Amy for your event or for an interview please email amy@bodyandsoul.org. Amy currently teaches in the Williamsburg, VA area.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (NASB)

Sitting on my kitchen counter is a tray of rocks. Rocks, you say? Yep, but they aren’t just any rocks. They are smoothed shaped rocks with no hard edges, all placed among jeweled glass.  On each rock is written a particular word…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Several years ago, the women of a bible study I was in, each made a set as a reminder of what we had just studied.  

I wasn’t sure what I would do with mine when I got home. They sat in a bag until I decided that I needed them in a place where I would see them daily. I needed the constant reminder of what my life was supposed to live out if I was living in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Today, there seems to be an increasing need to present our public lives as perfect, well-put together with perfect children, homes, families, marriages, jobs and might I add to this list physiques?! It’s easy to “look” like we know how to love, live in joy and peace, exude patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Like we’ve got this life thing figured out.

I actually find a strange comfort in seeing someone post a reality of life – a hard day with the kids, an out of control pet, or a funny mishap of some kind. The video of the mom throwing a temper-tantrum in the store while the child looks on in shock and awe just slays me.  Haven’t we all secretly wanted to do something similar when life doesn’t respond the way we want it to and we can’t figure out what to do?

What concerns me is that with perfectionism comes pressure, comparison, anxiety, depression, discontentedness, and ultimately a lack of authenticity with each other. Richard Foster, author of Celebration of Disciplines, and well-known Christian theologian said, “the fruit of the Spirit is not push, drive, climb, grasp and trample. Life is more than a climb to the top of the heap.”  

Authenticity means to conform to an original so as to reproduce essential features; made or done the same way as an original; is sincere with no pretensions.

Hmm…sincere with no pretensions, made in the same way as the original (God), reproducing essential features of the original.  So then, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, are the fruits of the Spirit that I’m challenged to live out each day. I’m challenged to love when I’m not feeling loving, challenged to joy when I’m not joyful, challenged to peace when I’m filled with anxiety, challenged to patience when I’m impatient.  You get the picture.  I can’t possibly do this on my own. And the Lord knew that. He made provision for this when He left the Holy Spirit here to empower me and you. Romans 5:3-5; 8:9; John 14:16-17 He also gave me friends who challenge and “sharpen” me to live authentically. 

As a young mom, I attended a nationally known fitness class. While the class offered a good fitness program it was missing something. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I accepted a friend’s invitation to attend a Body & Soul Fitness class with her.  After class, I knew immediately what was missing from the other program. Relationship. I had attended this other program for two years and didn’t really know anything about the others in the class except their names and their kid’s names. It was a quick in and out, a quick “hello” and “goodbye.”

An example of the personal attention provided at Body & Soul Fitness.

After only one Body & Soul class though I knew more about these women than I had ever known about the others. This class offered authenticity, comradery, fellowship. It was a place where these women could be real with their daily struggles and know that they wouldn’t be judged, but rather prayed for. No one cared about what each other wore or looked like, how much weight we each needed to lose, or whether or not our houses were clean. I was hooked because what I was really looking for, what I really needed was a group of women that I could live life with – struggles and all – authenticity.

Life will never be perfect. None of us will ever perfectly exhibit love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control. But we can trust in the One who loves us with an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3) and who despite our imperfections, still works in us. Yielded to the Spirit’s control, His fruit appears, as I live as authentically as possible, surrounded by friends who are doing the same. As we do this, He will be faithful to smooth our rough edges and shine through us.

Is there a particular fruit of the Spirit that you have been working on?  We’d love to hear your thoughts.


Mary Ward serves as the Marketing Director, Northern Virginia Area Director, and Group Fitness Instructor for Body & Soul Fitness.  She currently teaches classes at McLean Bible Church in Vienna, VA and at the nZone Gym in Chantilly, VA.  Mary also sits on the Board of Directors for First Place 4 Health, a sister ministry B&S partners with. She is a speaker and presenter at women’s conferences and retreats.

 

These days I am watching my baby boy trying to learn to walk. He is mostly still cruising around furniture, holding on to the edges of things, stretching to find another handhold to support him as he crosses the room. Watching him as he strains against the limits of his abilities, pushes to expand his muscle control, his balance, his confidence, reminds me that there are limits to our freedom.

He is not yet free to walk across a room, a freedom I take for granted. And even when he is bold enough to try, that freedom is risky, usually ending in a cute plop down onto his bum in two or three steps. But he will get there. He is putting in the time and the work to gain the freedom to walk.

I want to be aware of the freedoms I have, to remember what they cost to gain.

As a young and healthy woman, I think of the freedom that living a healthy lifestyle gives me. By nourishing my body with good whole foods and strengthening it with exercise, I am free to hike up to a beautiful waterfall with my family and stand in wonder, as I did on vacation last week. This freedom wasn’t free – it required self-control and time.

Those who are recovering from injuries know that the freedom of regained mobility and strength are hard fought through sweat and pain.

Those who defend our freedoms as a country in the armed forces know that all of our freedoms in the USA require the sacrifice of time, safety, and life.

As a Christian, I think of the sacrifice of my Lord Jesus, who gave his life that I might be free from sin that enslaves in destructive habits and from death that comes for us all.

What freedom do you need in your life?

“It is for freedom that Christ set us free”, it says in Galatians 5.

We were made to be free, but we have to fight for it. I’ve got my fight over those 15 more pounds of pregnancy weight I need to lose. What is it for you? Whatever it is in our lives that is weighing us down is not meant to win. We were made to conquer it – with sweat, with pain, with self-control, with time, with patience, with trying again and again and again. We can be free, though we will need helping hands from others, just as they need our helping hands.

What freedom can you help others to gain by encouraging and assisting them?

Our path to freedom cannot be traveled alone. We will need the strength of Christ, who can do all things and we will need the encouragement of others. Let’s do the work together, because freedom, once gained, is something to celebrate.

 


Becky Gilbert is Body & Soul’s Graphic Designer, Artist, and Blogger at JoyArtandDesign.com where she shares her art, writing, and thoughts on life. She co-wrote two devotionals and  40 Days of Art and Literature: A Prayer Journal and Advent: Creative Exercises for a Season of Waiting: A Prayer Journal. She also illustrated Coloring God’s Word: A Devotional Coloring Book for Adults.

Do you have certain things you say that just roll off the tongue because you’ve said them so many times? Like answering “fine” when someone asks “how are you?”, or when you respond with a quick “God bless you” when someone nearby sneezes? These automatic replies come naturally due to repetition, and I often say them without really thinking about it. I may or may not actually be fine, and I may indeed want God to bless my neighbor who has a cold or allergies, but it’s the reply that comes out more often than not simply because it’s a repetitive and acceptable response.

I have just returned from an amazing trip to Zimbabwe, Africa, where I had the opportunity to serve Body & Soul Fitness at Africa’s 25th anniversary of ministry there. It was a time of reconnecting with long-distance friends, making new friends, participating in fitness classes, and seeing beautiful sites vastly different than the ones in my neighborhood.

I often tell others that I’m grateful that God is everywhere. I’m grateful that He can watch over my loved ones no matter how far away from me they live, and I’m thankful that He takes care of my daughter when she’s away at college where I can’t just pop in if she needs me.

Experiencing the fellowship and the classes in Africa reminded me that God is truly everywhere. He is present in the classes I teach in the US, and He is certainly present in Body & Soul classes in Africa and all over the planet. God is being praised in cardio classes and strength classes around the world, and class members are connecting and supporting one another through prayer and fellowship as fitness classes are taking place.

I found myself feeling at home in a faraway land because the same ministry that happens here in the US is happening in Africa and elsewhere, as the same God is being pursued and praised. Each of us may have different interests, varied talents and gifts, live in separate parts of this great big world, and even look and sound different, but we are created by the same God who loves us and gives us opportunities to honor Him as we serve and fellowship with one another. I see this in my US classes and I’ve seen this in international classes, and this brings me great joy!

Therefore, I will continue to tell others (and remind myself) that God is indeed everywhere, no matter how far we travel from our homes. I hope this encourages you as it has encouraged me. To me, it makes this world feel a little bit smaller, making friends old and new not seem so far away.

I miss my African friends today, but I know God is watching over them and caring for them on the other side of the planet – and I am grateful! And if you sneeze near me, I will respond with a heartfelt and sincere “God bless you”.


Amy Stafford is the President of Body & Soul Fitness, certified personal trainer, ACE faculty and ACE Group Fitness Instructor. She is a leader in the fitness industry and is a popular speaker for women’s events, retreats, fitness conferences. For information on booking Amy for your event or for an interview please email amy@bodyandsoul.org. Amy currently teaches in the Williamsburg, VA area.

 

Confession time:  I love our “Show Love” interval song in this spring’s Body & Soul Fitness session. I love the out-out-in-in ladder run movement and I actually love to hurt through those squat jumps. I know…it’s nuts but there you have it, I really do like them. They make us strong and what doesn’t kill us has to make us stronger, amen? Well, we are all definitely stronger than when we first started this session and for that I am grateful. Here’s the thing though, as instructors, we love making you physically stronger but at Body & Soul , that’s not all we are about. We want you to be stronger spiritually, as well. Sometimes God grows us individually but in His infinite wisdom He also lets us grow corporately…as one big family (like the lyrics in the “Show Love” song says).

I think that’s one of the things that is so unique about Body & Soul. You all really do become family to us.

Each class has its own personality and uniqueness. I have taught my class for almost twelve years and I have seen it ebb and flow with the influence of different students and different seasons of my own life. My class has loved my own little family through becoming a family of 4 and then 5. They filled up my fridge every time I had a baby and showered me with gifts of love and wisdom through all the transitions. They have mothered me and shown me what it looks like to be a good momma and for that I am forever grateful. We celebrate life’s joyful moments together, as a family.

But it’s not only the mountaintop experiences that we share. My ladies drew up alongside my family as we had to walk through the death of my
mother-in-law and they surrounded me with astounding love and tenderness as I grieved her loss. They filled my fridge again but more than that they filled an empty place in my heart that was so broken that I could not imagine it not hurting, but they were and continue to be salve to my soul.

Through the ups and downs of life, my students have been like sisters, mothers, aunt, cousins, friends, saints and the hands and feet of Jesus to me. And what I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is that I am not the only one who has felt the sisterhood of Body & Soul. I have seen all of you do the very same for your own classes. This sisterhood is not unique to my class. It is, however, unique to this global ministry to which God so graciously invited all of us. What is certain is that when God’s girls are gathered together, be it in Sherwood, Arkansas or around the world, He shows up and loves though this special sisterhood. We are sisters. We are Body & Soul. We are all invited to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this unique and wonderful ministry.

Sisters, let’s celebrate with the Psalmist who wrote “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when [sisters] dwell in unity.” Psalm 133:1. That’s you, ladies. May God grant us many more years together as family…one big family.

 


Tracie Durham is a Cardio Strength Trainer for South Central. She is a former attorney, full-time home schooling mother of three kids (Abbie, Aubrie and Charlie), wife of a Fire Chief (Phillip) and unabashed fan-girl of “all the words” and mostly importantly…of Jesus. Tracie teaches Body & Soul Fitness at Cornerstone Bible Fellowship serving Sherwood & North Little Rock, AR.

Now that Memorial Day is behind us, signaling the official start of summer, it’s time to slow down, enjoy the new season, and wear white. Wait. Is that still a rule in our independent-thinking fashion society? Regardless of your fashion convictions, summer is the time to consider your seasonal workout plans, whether or not you’re wearing white slacks and shoes. Summer is no time to take a break when it comes to your exercise regimen.

For me, I love summer for many reasons: bright and sunny warm days, porch swings, tomato pie, long days, family time, fresh fruits and vegetables, freckles, large and colorful beach towels, fewer rules, and the overall change of pace. As a teenager, I failed to embrace all that summer had to offer because I was too busy complaining that I missed my friends and that I was bored (which got me a longer chore list from my mother, who was happy to have cheap live-in labor for the summer).

At Body & Soul Fitness, we’re thinking some of the same things. You see, this summer we’re changing the pace and breaking free from the rules and offering classes all around the country that will include portions of our multiple programs all in a single class. In other words, we are embracing the season and mixing up our programming with our “Super Summer Sampler” classes.

If you haven’t tried Body & Soul, or if it’s been awhile, now’s the time. If you’re a current student, this is your sign that you mustn’t take the summer off. You are going to have the opportunity to experience a variety of programming within a single class. For example, you might have weight lifting, cardio dance moves, and high-energy tabata boot camp exercises all in one awesome workout. And you know what else? Every summer class you experience may look different, so there’s going to be no boredom this summer – and our instructors don’t hand out chore lists anyway!

So, go ahead and schedule your laid-back summer around your workouts with Body & Soul! We’ll see you in a summer class filled with high energy cardio and strength. White shoes optional.

 


Amy Stafford is the President of Body & Soul, certified personal trainer, ACE faculty and ACE Group Fitness Instructor.  She is a leader in the fitness industry and is a popular speaker for women’s events, retreats, fitness conferences. For information on booking Amy for your event or for an interview please email amy@bodyandsoul.org. Amy currently teaches in the Williamsburg, VA area.

 

Pictures courtesy of pixabay.com

 

 

 

 

This saying is pretty much my life’s philosophy. “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.” I know at first blush it probably seems very strange. It’s the opposite of most inspirational quotes and logos. And it’s definitely a 180 degree take on the more positive original quote: “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.”

But the saying has stuck with me, and maybe it’s because I first heard these words spoken by a pastor at my church. But why in the world would a pastor recommend that we do something poorly? Somehow this doesn’t quite seem like it is in keeping with our call to excellence as believers, does it?

Against all odds and initial impressions, I have found a sense of freedom and daring in this quote, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing poorly.” It has stuck with me over the years because it has reminded me that what I do doesn’t have to be perfect. I can try anything from silly things—like attempting a forward flip into a pool or a reaching for a certain high note while singing along with the radio—to the more serious—serving on a mission trip to Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 or launching a nutrition podcast last year when I had never even listened to a podcast before.

The list of things I’ve dared to attempt is longer than this, of course. And some of my attempts have fallen short of the end goal, but that’s okay. Truthfully, that’s part of the empowering beauty of the quote. I have learned (and continue to learn) to let go of a spirit of perfectionism that I grew up with. Perfectionism can stop and stifle me. It probably does the same to you. It tells us “you can’t” or “you shouldn’t” and there’s always some reason why that follows (e.g. “you’ve never tried it before,” or “you tried before and failed,” or “what would people think?”) But notice that those “reasons” are actually very poor. They are accusatory and defeating. And they are essentially excuses for inaction.

If I had only attempted what I could get “right,” I might have

  • only had one child (because I wouldn’t be able to perfectly divide my attention between my current four)
  • moved out of the city (because it is risky and dangerous and dirty)
  • never become a worship leader (because my voice sounds NOTHING like Lauren Daigle’s)
  • never led an exercise “demo” class (out of fear that no one would show up)
  • never picked up a microphone to become a podcaster (because I didn’t know how to post a show on iTunes)

None of the fears and concerns (in parentheses, to minimize their importance) stopped me from proceeding with what I thought was worth doing.  And I am thankful. Why don’t you make a list of your own just now—highlighting things you’ve attempted, though you weren’t sure you could perfectly pull them off? And then look ahead to what might be next. Don’t let perfectionism trip you up or prevent you from doing the next right thing. My hope is that my list and your own will inspire you to go ahead with something new this week, this month and this year, even if you’re uncertain of the outcome. Comment on this post and let me know what you’re going to try because it’s worth doing!

And if my motto doesn’t grab you, hold onto this Scripture verse, which I see as quite related to all of the above. “Little children, let us not love with word or in tongue, but with action and in truth.” I John 3:18 Notice that the word “perfect” does not appear in that verse. But the word “action” does.

 


Hilda Labrada Gore is the DC metro Regional Director and Director of Communications for Body & Soul Fitness and teaches classes in Washington, DC. She is also the host of the Wise Traditions podcast. For more encouragement from Hilda, go to holistichilda.com.

Throughout our lives, God weaves a tapestry using people and circumstances that don’t make sense to us until we reflect on our lives. It is then we look back and say, “Thank you, Lord, for being my Master, Creator, Provider, Tapestry Weaver and Father.”

In the ‘70’s, I lived in a cul-de-sac, with LOTS of kids. This meant a perfect, almost traffic-free, place to get physical: playing sports in the street while diving for silver dollars in our cool, 68 degree pool in the backyard. The foundation of my tapestry was being stitched together through having fun staying active in childhood.

We moved to Washington, DC the summer of 1981 because my dad worked for the government. No one in our family was ever in the military, however, my mom was a nurse and the Lord blessed her with a position at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC). God was beginning to connect the tapestry of the West coast and East coast through mom’s job at WRAMC to direct my life for His purpose.

In the ‘80’s, I volunteered at Walter Reed and was motivated by medical students who lived the Army core values of LDRSHIP: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless-Service, Honesty, Integrity, Personal Courage to consider joining the military. The other motivation for entering military service they gave me was telling me there was an army hospital in Hawaii! I started jogging, doing the “20-Minute Workout” (remember this ‘80’s exercise show?), and practicing the army physical fitness test. And I n 1989, I entered the military medical school in Bethesda, MD. God’s tapestry for me took on the colors of red, white, and blue and Army green!

In the summer of 1990, I elected to go to US Army Airborne school. Exercising in camouflage uniforms in the Georgia heat let me experience a bit of “the REAL army.” Cammo tapestry now.

Throughout the 90’s and 2000’s, although the physical fitness tests were not my favorites, this verse pushed me: “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,” Colossians 3:23. This was also my mom’s life verse.

Before she passed away, her last sage advice to me was: “Spend more time with your kids.” With my husband deployed to Iraq and three kids at home, I took my mom’s advice and in 2006 I left active duty but continued part-time as a civilian physician at Walter Reed. Upon my husbands return, he told me about a program called Body & Soul that he had heard about on the radio in Iraq. At the same time, my pastor, Steve Reynolds, had lost 70 lbs. using the BIBLE (Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth) as a “health manual” and he wanted to start a health ministry. He invited two ladies, Mary Ward and Lynne Brents, to our church to do a demo of a Body & Soul Fitness class. Coincidence? I say “divine intervention.” After the demo I went to the Body & Soul website and hit the button “So you want to be an instructor?” God was beginning to weave royal blue, THE Body & Soul color, into the tapestry.

The training I’ve received as a Body & Soul instructor has given me tools I use to counsel my military and retired patients on how to start-up and step-up their health journeys. Body & Soul Boot Camp has taught me that when running or interval training gets hard, repeating scripture helps: “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 3:14. In my boot camp class, I weave in my army thread by having the students run with Army cadences for the Lord’s Army: “Saw a FIT lady walking down the street…”

Just a few days ago, as we celebrated Memorial Day, I honored the memories and sacrifice of our military and my loving, compassionate, altruistic, mother, Nerissa Berbano who influenced my service. Thank you, mom and the military, for allowing the Lord to use you to weave my tapestry—for His glory!  Red, white, blue, green, camo, royal blue – what a beautiful tapestry!


Liz Berbano is a Boot Camp Trainer and Assistant Area Director with Body & Soul Fitness. She teaches Body & Soul classes at Capital Baptist Church in Annandale and is a part-time physician at Walter Reed. Liz is also a wife to Darren and mom to Josh, Nerissa, and David. In addition to B&S classes, Liz loves to run with Team Toby Mac in the Country Music Marathon each year to support New Hope Academy in Nashville, TN. She loves working with youth, Christian music, and serving God in all that she does.

I love springtime! New life springs up from the earth. Rains come and the earth turns green.

As a new thing this Spring, my husband and I have started exploring our local Farmer’s Market. Each Saturday we get up and head to 19th street near the oceanfront in Virgina Beach to talk with all the local farmers who bring their best goods to sell. We take our insulated bags and buy amazing organic vegetables, delicious hummus, and pasture-raised eggs—and we are, of course, invited to the farm to meet the animals (We’re thinking about doing that when the grandchildren visit this summer.)

As an added bonus, last week there was a new vendor— J.R’s Micro Greens, as the business card says “organically packed full of vitamins and minerals; grown and harvested locally.” Now, micro greens are new for me this year. Previously, I’ve bought them in the grocery store, and they have been a fantastic, power-packed addition to any salad or dish. In case you have not heard of this new way of eating vegetables— they are small sprouted seedlings carrying all the superior nutrition of the plant in a tiny package. I can’t wait to serve them to the grandkids when they visit. They will eat a small amount of salad (not a big plateful like me) and micro greens are perfect. In fact, they are so cute (the greens) that I think the kids will be excited to eat this new food!

So what’s new for you this spring?

It’s the time of graduations, weddings, and recitals, and we all know that these are not endings, they are beginnings!

Graduates are looking forward to the next season of life, seeking just the right job—and probably chilling out a little before jumping in. If you have a new graduate in the family, I encourage you to be there for them showing love in action as they walk through this time of transition.

photo by Anne Edgar Photography Weddings—for each couple it’s a new beginning with the love of their life, setting up a new place to live, dreaming of a joyful future together, and figuring out how to do married life here and now, loving one another deeply from the heart. (1 Peter 1:22) If you are anticipating a family wedding, amidst the planning, stop and think how you will put your love into action to support the new couple.

And if your kids are the ones on stage at recitals, you can show them love by being there to cheer them on, bring flowers or just give a hug—and then help them transition to summer where they may want to continue to practice their instrument or do something new like attend a concert or ballet to keep their interest focused on the arts.

Be creative as you seek to show love in action in all these new things this spring. And don’t forget to eat your micro greens and stay healthy in the process!


Jeannie Blocher is the Founder and President Emeritus of Body & Soul Fitness. She is an ACE certified fitness professional and faculty member, and currently serves as the Director of Spiritual Impact for Body & Soul. She is the author of Make Today Your Best Day Ever and Encouragement for the Body and the Soul, and speaks to women’s groups inspiring them to grow in faith & fitness.

When I hear the words “Love in Action,” I can’t help but think of my friend Stephanie. I met her nine years ago on a preschool field trip to the zoo. I was pregnant with my 3rd child at the time and suffering from debilitating morning sickness, depression and anxiety. But she didn’t know any of that. As we toted the kids past the monkey house, I stifled my gagging as she asked me how many kids I had. I told her two, because it was early in my pregnancy and I had suffered a previous miscarriage and wasn’t yet sharing my “blessed” news. We made small talk a bit more and then she paused and asked, “are you going to have any more?” For some reason I couldn’t keep my secret any longer as I was sleep deprived, tired, and on the verge of tears. I told her about my miscarriage, the resulting pain, and the fact that I was again pregnant and struggling because I was so sick. She looked at me with eyes FILLED with compassion as she shared how she too had suffered not one but TWO miscarriages and suffered also from severe morning sickness when she was pregnant and I will never forget her words and she put her hand on her heart and said, “You have my heart.”

We left the zoo and I didn’t hear from Stephanie for a couple of days. Then my phone rang. “How are you today?” she asked. “Are you sleeping any better?” I tearfully said that things were still the same and she said, “ok. I’ll be over in a minute.” She came to my door not ten minutes later with a jug of homemade chicken soup in hand and asked if she could come in. I had on my bathrobe and glasses and had only met this woman two days before, but in she came. We talked for a while as I told her my story and she told me hers. She listened non judgmentally in my living room as my kitchen was still full of breakfast dishes and morning mess. I was embarrassed. She was not.

The next day she called again. “How’s today?” she asked. My reply was the same and so was hers. She came over again and proceeded to sweep my kitchen floor and put the breakfast dishes away.

The next day she called again. “What’s going on today?” I told her I had a doctors appointment and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get myself there between vomiting and sleep deprivation. “Time?” she asked, and then showed up at my door with a bottle of 7-UP, a bowl and walked me to the passenger side of her van and drove me to the doctor.

Another day she sent me a card that was blank on the front and when I opened it, it said that she couldn’t find an “isn’t-pregnancy-sickness-awful-card” so she had to make her own. 😉

Another day she took me to her house and made me an entire box of mac and cheese because it was the only thing that sounded good to me while her kids played with my kids.

Another day she brought my kids to school because I couldn’t. Another day she did my laundry.

Steph with my little Lily

The days continued and so did the things that Stephanie did for me. Finally the days came when I began to get better and I could see more clearly. I have never had anyone love me like that before, especially someone I barely knew. She and I formed a bond through that time that will never be broken. She showed me how to love not just with words, but with actions too.

I have been in many situations since where I have walked with people who are suffering and every time I think, “what would Stephanie do?” She showed me how to love well and with actions. I have followed her example many times since and swept floors and made food and done laundry for others, remembering how she taught me. Another thing I learned from Stephanie was that she never said, “if you need anything, let me know.” This is something we have all said, and with the best of intentions, but sometimes puts the burden on the person suffering to have to ask. What Stephanie did, was just SOMETHING. She checked in, she cared, and she thought of something she could do. And she did it.

I John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” Stephanie didn’t die for me — Christ already did that. But she definitely gave up some of her life for me during that difficult season, and for that I will always be grateful, and I will always know the definition of love.


Chriss Pruim teaches Body & Soul Boot Camp and Power Strength programs in Byron Center, Michigan.  She is also a Boot Camp trainer, and wife to Mark and mom to Owen, Grace, and Lily.

In my part of the world spring has sprung! The temperature is rising, the days are longer, and the flowers and trees are blooming, which is a nice way to say that the warmer air is filled with pollen. Even with the yellow tint I see when I go outside, I am loving the opportunity to take my fitness plan outdoors. May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. In honor of this designation, I want to share with you some of my go-to outdoor exercises and encourage you to head outside. The top two advantages I see, is that I can use whatever props are available (steps, benches, picnic tables, retaining walls around landscaping, etc.) and I don’t have to get down in the grass, where much of the pollen can be found. As with any general workout session, I want to include some cardio/continuous movement, strength training, and flexibility. This gives me a well-rounded workout. Check out the photos below and join me for a spring workout today!

Be sure to take your water bottle along with you and drink often during your workout. Walk at a brisk pace or jog for at least 20 minutes, and vary the grade if possible by going up and down hills.

Strengthen your lower body with step ups and lunges. Use an available step or bench that is at a safe height for you and perform 2 sets of 15-20 repetitions per side, or until you feel fatigue and then switch legs.

Strengthen your upper body with 2-3 sets of pushups and dips. Using a table or bench will keep you off the ground and may keep you from sneezing so much. Each set should be 8-12 repetitions.

Strengthen your core with abdominal planks, in a full position on your toes or modified position on your knees. Either way, keep the elbows aligned beneath your shoulders and maintain a horizontal position through your trunk. Hold in that strong pose for 20 seconds, 3-5 times.

Flexibility is vital to overall physical health and wellness, and should always be a portion of your workout session. Stretches can be held for any length of time, with the general accepted recommendation of 30 seconds each. Perform hamstring stretches and calf stretches as shown in the pictures below, and stretch each muscle group 2-3 times to complete today’s outdoor workout.


Amy Stafford is the President of Body & Soul Fitness. She is a Certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor, ACE (American Council on Exercise) Faculty member, wife of Steven, and mom to Jordan.

We have all been there…the squat set that you do when you just don’t think you can do one more round…the leaps you do when your legs feel like noodles…the push up you can’t wait to finish because you just aren’t sure you have even one more in those arms of yours. Yes, it’s familiar territory but what about when it’s not your body that is tired but your spirit? What do we do then? Where do we go and how do we recharge when we feel dry and weary?

I don’t exactly have an answer for this question. I have lots of thoughts about it, cliches that might work, and some Facebook memes that would apply but that doesn’t exactly get to the heart of the issue. Exhaustion is a real thing, we all encounter it…but how do we overcome it?

Lately I have been surrounded by those who are exhausted. Mommas who are weary from battles with or for their children…friends who have waited too long for things to happen only to have to wait in anxiousness even longer…sisters who are tired and ready to step back and let other, younger women take the lead…young sisters who are carrying the weight of sick parents and young children all at the same time. Life can feel so heavy and sometimes that heaviness can feel like an insurmountable burden.

So where do we go to get refreshed? Jesus, right? Jesus is always the answer in church, Sunday School and Body & Soul. So yes, Jesus. But what about Him do we need when we feel overwhelmed, burdened, and tired? Jesus is all of the fruits of the Spirits rolled up into one: He is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Gentleness, Faith and Self-Control. He has those in abundance and quite frankly, I would love to always land on love and joy. But sometimes I need something else…sometimes I need the Suffering Servant who shows me in the Garden that I can pray until I sweat blood on behalf of the suffering I see around me. I need to know that the Jesus who went into the desert to fast and pray for 40 days sees me and sees you in the desert and He knows the temptations that are coming our way and He stands with us in the temptation and the suffering. We do not suffer alone. We are not left to our own devices. He will make a way in the desert. He will bring water out of the rocks we find ourselves hemmed in by and He will provide for our thirst right out of the rock if need be.

So whatever it is you are facing…those things that feel impossible, press on sisters. You do not go alone. Jesus is with you even in the driest of places. He will make a way in the desert. He will refresh your very soul. Press into Him and be renewed. His love will put you back in action.

 

 


Tracie Durham is a Cardio Strength Trainer for South Central. She is a former attorney, full-time home schooling mother of three kids (Abbie, Aubrie and Charlie), wife of a Fire Chief (Phillip) and unabashed fan-girl of “all the words” and mostly importantly…of Jesus. Tracie teaches Body & Soul Fitness at Cornerstone Bible Fellowship serving Sherwood & North Little Rock, AR.

Photos courtesy of pexels.com.

When my children were little I used to put my love for them in action by singing to them to calm them. Simple tunes like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,” and my favorite—“Jesus loves me, this I know.” As they grew, I would play music while driving around on errands and we would all sing together. A great way to pass the time and bring out the smiles!

These days I sing to, and sing with, my grandkids—and I give the oldest ones iTunes gift cards and help them choose the latest, greatest in Christian songs so they can have the music with them on their devices to listen to any time they wish. And finding music suggestions for them is easy—since we use such great music in Body & Soul!

Love in Action Devtional

Love in Action Devotional

Check out all the latest Body & Soul tunes in the front of the Spring 2017 “Love in Action” devotional booklet and take time to read the words of encouragement and the Scriptures noted in the booklet. It will lift your heart on hard days and help you soar on days when your soul is filled with joy and your eyes are already fixed on God.

This session I hope you will experience love in action though the music we exercise to in Body & Soul. It both powers us up and cools us down, depending on the tempo and style! Our lead song for spring is “Love with Your Life” by Hollyn. She sings, “L-O-V-E rolls off the tongue, but sometimes the word’s just not enough—you gotta dig a little deeper. You gotta love with your life if you want to see a change. Let’s all plan to dig a little deeper to show our love to others by our actions. You will be amazed at the change in others when you make this change in yourself!

Check out the links below for the lyrics to all the songs of our session.

Songs Artists
Love with Your Life Hollyn
Not Forgotten Ryan Stevenson
Burn Baby Burn MercyMe
Real Love Y&F
One Thing Remains Kutless
Where I am Shuree
Show Love Family Force 5
On My Side Citizen Way
Crazy Love Hawk Nelson
Never Stop Urban Rescue
Unite 1GN
You are Loved Heather Williams
My All Beckah Shae
Love Broke Thru TobyMac
Live Like You’re Loved Hawk Nelson
Love is Action Tauren Wells
Loyal Lauren Daigle
Eye of the Storm Ryan Stevenson
Never Been a Moment Micah Taylor
Fierce Jesus Culture
Dare you to Trust My Love Ryan Stevenson
Fallin’ in Love Brit Nicole
Perfect Love Planetshakers
Battles The Afters

 


Jeannie Blocher is the Founder and President Emeritus of Body & Soul Fitness. She is an ACE certified fitness professional and faculty member, and currently serves as the Director of Spiritual Impact for Body & Soul. She is the author of Make Today Your Best Day Ever and Encouragement for the Body and the Soul, and speaks to women’s groups inspiring them to grow in faith & fitness.

If there was ever a responsibility that demanded perseverance it is being a mom. I like to say it’s the hardest job you’ll ever love. The hours are long. The job description is lengthy and ever-changing – from diapers to carpooling to helping with college admission forms. Oh yes, and the starting pay is usually peanut butter and jelly kisses and dandelion bouquets. As the years progress, the hope is that eventually you, mom, will experience positive feedback given by a grateful adult child…at least on one or two occasions.

Motherhood is not for sissies. The task of raising responsible adult children is not easy, but most of the things that have the potential for great reward fall into the “challenging” category. Motherhood is a challenge, an adventure, and it is a gift from God.

Recently I had the privilege of creating a daily devotional for Moms with the hope of joining you on the adventure. Like any good journey there are peaks and valleys – grand successes and times when you feel as if you have failed. I know this because I am a mom. I wrote this book so I could “hold your hand” as you walk through the maze of motherhood, the most important job you will ever have, the job of given to you by God.

Let me share a taste of Mother of the Year – 365 days of encouragement for devoted moms with you. As I thought of First Place, June 5th seemed to be a perfect fit.

June 5

Perseverance

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud

of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders

and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with

perseverance the race marked out for us.

  • Hebrews 12:1

Years ago I decided to train for a 5K. My goal wasn’t impressive; it was to start and finish the race. If you’re a serious runner, you’re probably disappointed in me, but when the training began, I wasn’t even a serious walker…so I decided by goal was a good one.

I can’t report that the run was a delight, but I did enjoy reaching my goal. My success was the result of perseverance. More than once during the run I considered giving up. I wasn’t having fun, wasn’t feeling terrific, and definitely wasn’t winning.

There are times in your child’s life when she’ll feel like giving up. Maybe her schoolwork or her job or other responsibilities are no longer fun. Maybe she isn’t feeling great about showing up every day. Perhaps she’s also realized she simply isn’t winning.

That’s when perseverance comes into play. God wants you and your child to persevere, to run the race he has marked out for you.

Stay Strong

         If you’re on the path God designed for you, run with perseverance and encourage your child to do the same.

That’s just a sample. There are 365 more. But wait! Is that number correct? Yes, because I have actually written 366 (in spite of what the cover says!) After all, those Leap Year babies deserve a day in the devotional too.

Here is my invitation to you. Join me on this 366 day journey. My hope is you will find purpose, guidance, inspiration, and encouragement.


Kendra Smiley is a popular speaker and author, passionate about helping others “Make the Next Right Choice.” The always-active former Illinois Mother of the Year hosts a daily radio show, Live Life Intentionally, heard on over 350 stations. A sought after national and international speaker, she addresses thousands of women each year. Kendra and her husband John, a retired USAFR pilot, live on a farm in central Illinois. They have three married sons and ten grandchildren.

Like most high school students, getting up while it’s still dark outside was not one of my favorite things, but if you’re on a team or a member of a club you sometimes had to get to school really, really early to catch the traveling activity bus. This was often my reality as a high school band member. My parents would drag me out of bed way before the sun came up so I could brush my teeth (half asleep), grab a granola bar, and throw my duffel bag in the car for the weekend trip to a national marching band competition several states away. I didn’t love the early wake-up call, but I did love my traveling competition experiences I had as a high school color guard team member. But what stands out in my mind today, is that it was my parents’ love for me that made these experiences possible. They likely didn’t love marching band, but they loved me and this showed in their willingness to be up and driving through our little town at 4 o’clock in the morning.

Body & Soul’s spring session will focus on the theme “Love in Action”. In our group fitness classes we will dig into scripture verses like 1 John 3:18 which says “let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” My parents often told me that they loved me, and they continue to do that today, but they also loved me and continue to love me with their actions. I don’t have to wonder if I am loved, because I experience it. It’s one thing to hear something, but it’s something else to see it. Do you “see” what I’m saying? It’s one thing to hear that you are loved, but it’s something else to actually see and feel that you are loved. My parents’ actions demonstrated their love for me, and in this world that often feels busy and cold, where we may feel disconnected, alone, and unloved, “love in action” could make a huge difference. Let’s look for opportunities to love one another starting today. John 13:34-35 tells us to love one another, and that loving others will identify who we are. I want to be known as someone who loves others, don’t you?

Just last weekend Body & Soul instructors in the northeast region put love into action when we made 300 sandwiches for the Central Union Mission in Washington, DC. It only took a few minutes for each of us to make 4 sandwiches, yet this small project created a ripple effect of love as we came together to serve others and demonstrate Christ’s love. As individuals, we found joy in serving as part of a group, yet the real joy came from knowing that God used our act of love to feed people in our city who might be feeling disconnected and unloved. Who can you show love to today? Join us in a Body & Soul class this spring and put love into action to make a difference in the world.***

Amy Stafford is the President of Body & Soul Fitness. She is a Certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor, ACE (American Council on Exercise) Faculty member, wife of Steven, and mom to Jordan.

During the spring of 2009, nearly a year after my youngest son was born, I crawled out of bed every morning feeling a little bit useless and a lot depressed. Guilt and shame haunted me, and I could not defeat the lies that oppressed me each day. I was overweight, but more than that, I was physically, emotionally, psychological and spiritually unhealthy. I don’t remember how I came to decide that I wanted to change my sedentary lifestyle, but once I decided, I joined Body & Soul Fitness.

After just my first session, I felt muscles becoming stronger and I held my head a bit higher. Between the noticeable changes to my body, and allowing the truth in the session’s music wash over me as I exercised, my mind was being transformed and renewed. I still wasn’t losing weight as I had hoped or expected, so I finally began to work out daily and eat a healthier diet.

After the August break, when I returned to Body & Soul Fitness for the fall session, my instructor, Jana Sutherland, was shocked by my transformation. I was thinner, but mostly I was much stronger and able to move in ways I had not been able to in the spring. Jana encouraged me to audition to be an instructor. I was overwhelmed by the idea that I might be even slightly qualified to do such a thing. I prayerfully considered this wonderful opportunity and applied. I cried tears over learning cues and choreography and editing my audition videos—I was definitely out of my element. I called Jana several times telling her I just couldn’t cut it. Before too long, though, videos were sent, and I was approved. The first time I had to cue a song in class, I was terrified; however, I quickly realized that the wonderful women in my class were my greatest cheerleaders. God has shown me over the years that I am absolutely unqualified to do this work, except for my utter dependence on Him.

Since that fall, I have gained and lost weight, eaten clean and eaten too many ice cream cones. What began for me as a physical battle–a desire to look better in my clothes–was God’s way of leading me toward spiritual health. I am better able to combat lies of the enemy with truth revealed to me through worship & praise of our Father, all the while sweating and jumping and running.

There are times when God says, Go. Move. Do—times when I know in my spirit that it’s time to step out of my norm and do something brave. Often it’s in those times that God shows me my absolute reliance on Him and strengthens my faith to give me confidence to keep up the fight.

As an instructor, I often pray that my students will be brave and strong and free. I pray that we will know our worth in God’s Kingdom–that we understand that we are daughters of the one true King. If we could only grasp how great His love is for us, we would be empower us to put our love in action.

 


Brandi Schroeder is a youth pastor’s wife and the mom of four wild young men. She has been co-teaching Body & Soul with several amazing Arkansas’ instructors for nearly a decade, and she counts it a privilege to lead the amazing women in her class. She seeks to inspire women to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly, and she is passionate about spreading the Gospel to the nations.

You’ve heard us share about the Go Global campaign but why should you support it? These funds are going to support programs across the world. To share the impact of your donation, we are sharing a story from a student who benefits from your generous support of our ministry!

“Body and Soul has been a lifeline for me over the last 15 years. This ministry has helped get through every stage of my life from bereavements, cancer, the exhaustion of having a young family to adjusting to an empty nest and the stress of ageing parents. The smiles of my instructors, the sweet fellowship with the other ladies, the words of the songs and the joy of being able to exercise all work to center my life on Jesus Christ again. Thank you, I cannot imagine what my life would be like without Body and Soul”  – Gail Rea in Harare, Zimbabwe

Our international ministry is so important and we need your help to ensure we are able to keep all of these programs available to our students. We have big goals and hope to see Body & Soul Fitness expand into even more countries across the globe!

Will you consider a gift of $100 today to ensure we are able to support our international ministry and grow our programs to include even more students? Don’t forget to donate by March 31st to be included in the campaign!

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We are excited to announce our Go Global campaign! Body & Soul Fitness is not just located in the United States. We have classes in over 12 countries! Just like our national classes, the international programs represent people from all walks of life. We are thrilled to have an international ministry that is focused on challenging our body and uplifting our soul. We help people to get fit both physically and spiritually.

To continue growing this ministry, we need your help. Our goal is to raise $4,500 by March 31st! Will you make a contribution today? A gift of $100 will provide critical materials and training resources for our instructors across the globe and provide sustaining support for our international programs.

Donate now to help us meet our ambitious goal!

 


Body & Soul is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization that spreads the Gospel of Jesus Christ through fitness classes all over the world. Partner with us! Support us by donating today.

You’ve heard of people training to improve their fitness level, training for a marathon, or training for a career. But training for peace?  Really?  How does that work? When you think of experiencing peace, you may think of walking on the beach on a sunny day.  Sure, it’s easy to have peace on these days.  But how do we maintain peace when the clouds roll in? It takes some hard work and intentional training.

Here are some tools I’ve learned and continually need to put into practice. It’s not that I’ve “arrived.” (As Philippians 3:13-14 says, “I do not consider myself YET to have taken hold of it, but one thing I do, forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal…”) But I do have some ideas (with concrete tips) that may help you as you train for PEACE.

P=PRAY IT UP

Philippians 4:6 – Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all he has done – and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 

Peace begins with connecting with God. Prayer is a two-way conversation with Him. It doesn’t need to be fancy or formulaic. Just bare your heart. Pray about everything. Take all your concerns to Him, and allow time to sit and reflect on His word.

Tip: keep a prayer journal or pray with a friend

E=EXERCISE IT OUT

Romans 12:1 – I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

 Movement strengthens our bodies to be able to endure the cares of life.  Cardio works on our heart and lung capacity; weight training builds the musculoskeletal system, and toning and stretching improves our flexibility. All together it challenges our body and clears our mind—a great way to destress.

Tip: wear a fitness tracker or download an app to your phone to track your movement; join a Body & Soul class or walk in the evenings with a friend

A=ARRANGE YOUR DAYS

1 Corinthians 14:40 – all things should be done decently and in order.

If you know what you’re aiming for, you’re more likely to hit it. In other words, don’t let your day get away from you, like a galloping horse. Take time to establish goals. Goals will help you set your priorities. Then you can make sure your schedule is filled with what matters most. And don’t forget to allow time in your schedule to transition between activities, so you have moments to breathe!

Tip: look at your calendar and cross off one thing that doesn’t fit with who you are and where you want to be; then review your goals & calendar often.

C=CALM IT DOWN

Psalm 46:10 – Be still and know that I am God.

There is truth in the saying: “If you keep the bow always bent, it breaks.”  Take time to relax. We need to slow down physically so our bodies can rest.

Tip: try slow breathing:  breathe in 4 cts, hold 4 cts, release 8 cts; sip decaf herbal teas; go outdoors; take short breaks in your day to slow down

E=EAT IT UP

Psalm 119:103 – How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

What movies are you watching? What music do you listen to? What are you eating? Everything you take in affects your body and spirit.

Tip: Pick the closest thing to natural, real food on the restaurant menu. Memorize and meditate on (think of) Scripture verses. Listen to music that gives you hope and inspiration.

I hope these tools are helpful to you as you train. Even if you just choose only one of the letters above (P-E-A-C-E) and take the suggested tip, you will benefit. And, finally, remember that peace begins with God. Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” John 14:27

 

 

 

 


Teri Moscatelli is the Director of Operations for Body & Soul and teaches Body & Soul classes in Bowie, MD. In addition, Teri is a popular speaker and leads fitness demonstrations at women’s retreats and events.  For more information contact info@bodyandsoul.org.

 

Are you considering giving something up for Lent?

Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) is February 28th and Ash Wednesday is March 1st. This marks the beginning of the 40 day period leading up to Easter. Fat Tuesday has turned into a no-holds-barred party of indulging in anything and everything that anyone would like in preparation for deprivation starting the next day—with or without the ashes—and somehow the meaning of this special time has been lost—but it doesn’t have to be.

When I was a little girl, my best friend would eat fish on Friday during Lent. I never really understood what the fish was all about (and I never asked) but I thought it was a cool idea, so I tried to do it, too. The funny thing was that I liked fish, and my Mom cooked fish often, so eating it on Friday was not really a big deal for me. I certainly didn’t get the idea that I was “giving up” anything. But I never forgot this ritual that my friend followed, and as I matured in age and in faith, I grew to think seriously about what I might want to “give up” during a season when I wanted to meditate on what Christ gave up for me when he died on the cross in my place. In recent years I have particularly chosen to give up something that I enjoyed often enough that I would think about it often. I determined that each time I wanted the item that I have given up, I would intentionally stop and pray and fix my eyes on Jesus, lifting up a prayer of thankfulness for his grace.

The most effective thing I have ever given up was “Starbucks” because each time I would drive past the Starbucks stores that exist on practically every corner, I was reminded of the real reason for the Easter season and I sent up those prayers of gratitude constantly.

So whether you’ve given up something for Lent in the past or whether you’ve never given up anything for Lent, I challenge you to do it this year with a new perspective. Start now, no matter how far we are into the season of Lent when you read this.

Here are some “give it up” ideas:

1. Give up an attitude— Is there a bad attitude that creeps into your mind again and again? Make a plan to “give it up” for Lent. For example, each time you are tempted to be ungrateful, say to yourself – no—I’m giving that up for Lent and replace the ungratefulness with a prayer of thanks.

2. Give up a distraction– Is there something that grabs your attention and sucks you in, causing you to waste precious time? Consider what that might be and then when it calls your name say, no—for 40 days I am not going to use my time to do that, I am going to do _____ instead. You could choose to pray, to work on memorizing a passage of Scripture or find someone to encourage. (I promise you that you will get a lot of praying or Bible memory done in the next 40 days—and you might even quit a bad habit in the process! If you’re looking for a place to start, you might consider a prayer journal like this one: 40 Days of Art & Literature: A Prayer Journal)

3. Give up a frustration– Is there something you’ve been trying to do in your own power and it is just not happening? Spend the next 40 days letting God have control—intentionally giving your frustrations to him—then watch him work—and change your heart in the process!

4. Give up some kind of sustenance– Give up something you love to eat or drink, and when you do, remember that every time you think about wanting that item, replace wanting that “sustenance” with wanting the true sustenance of Jesus Christ. He is the bread of life and the living water. If giving up something for 40 days brings you closer to him for 40 days, it is 40 days well spent! (and you just might get healthier in the process!)


Jeannie Blocher is the Founder and President Emeritus of Body & Soul Fitness. She is an ACE certified fitness professional and faculty member, and currently serves as the Director of Spiritual Impact for Body & Soul. She is the author of Make Today Your Best Day Ever and Encouragement for the Body and the Soul, and speaks to women’s groups inspiring them to grow in faith & fitness.

Don and I were the best of friends! He gave me his high school class ring to remember him by.

When I was in college, one of my best friends had no hair. His name was Don and he wasn’t bald because he was trying to be a rebel. He was bald because it was the result of chemotherapy treatments. He used to work at an ice cream parlor called Farrell’s and one day he bumped his shin against a table and he suddenly found himself in an inordinate amount of pain. Troubled, he went to the doctor to check it out, and, there, he was diagnosed with bone cancer. Once treatments began, he lost his hair. But he didn’t lose his spirit.

We took a spring break trip, organized by Cru, a Christian fellowship group we were involved in, down to Daytona Beach. The purpose of the trip was to look for opportunities to share our faith with fellow spring-breakers. It so happened that our week in Daytona was at the same time as some kind of motorcycle convention. I watched in awe as Don would go up to the tattooed, leather-jacket-wearing bikers and initiate conversations with a spiritual bent.

He wasn’t foolish or fearless. There were times when he appeared reluctant to approach someone he didn’t know. I would then teasingly ask him, “Are you a man or a mouse?” He would smile and then go for it. But, honestly, I don’t think it was my words that made him any bolder. Don had a deeper motivation: it was the love of Christ that compelled him to reach out. (II Cor. 5:15).  Back home, in Maryland, it was the same thing. His heart made him volunteer as a Young Life leader at Kennedy High School. He would go there regularly up to connect with teens, attend their school play, or soccer match. He wasn’t explicitly using words to share his faith, but he was supporting them, and befriending them because he was so eager for them to know the power of God’s love, that he himself had experienced.

Eventually, the cancer overtook Don’s body, and no treatments were able to beat it down. But his spirit was never overtaken. Not long before he passed away, our pastor stopped by to visit Don, as was his habit. Don asked him to wait, so that he could finish his devotional time with the Lord before they connected.

Don lived with purpose, motivated by the love of God, which he received and then, in turn, poured out to others. When I hear the song “Live It Out” from this “What’s Next?” Body & Soul session, Don comes to mind. He could’ve spent his time, watching TV in his living room easy chair. He would’ve had every excuse for being there. But he did not choose comfort. He chose instead to “live it out.” He took risks. He challenged himself and relied on God to fulfill His purposes through him. Reminds me of Someone else I know.


Hilda Labrada Gore is the DC Metro Regional Director and the Director of Communications for Body & Soul. She is also the host of the Wise Traditions podcast (which focuses on food, farming, and the healing arts), available on iTunes, Stitcher, and even YouTube!

 

The perfect fitness plan! Ah, yes. We all want to identify it so that we can achieve our physical goals of proper weight, optimum strength and endurance, and the ideal level of flexibility. We want to be our healthiest, and “perfect” sounds pretty enticing, but is it achievable?

We are about 45 days into our 2017 new year’s resolutions. How are you doing? I hope that you’ve impressed yourself with your progress, and that you are seeing results. But how are you doing on the bigger picture of overall wellness? Chances are that, like me, you are still on the road to balance and better overall health.

Let me explain. Wellness includes more than just physical wellbeing. It also includes emotional and spiritual health components. Allow me to ask you again, how are you doing? How is your overall wellness? Are you fitting in bouts of exercise daily? Are getting your daily dose of rest and moments of personal quiet time to allow your mind and body to reset and prepare for today’s responsibilities? Are you able to unplug each day just enough to be present with those around you?

These are tough questions that require honest answers. I struggle daily with getting enough downtime to recover from my daily workload, whether it be physical strain or emotional stress. I have to schedule in moments of quiet, and I make social appointments in order to meet my goal of being present with others away from computers and phones. My exercise plan is high on my priority list, so that gets scheduled as well. Being faithful to my workout means positive progress in every other area of my life. For me, sweat equals therapeutic benefits all around.

So, now that we’ve had a quick physical, emotional, and spiritual status check, let’s talk about the perfect fitness plan so we can move forward with all of our wellness goals. Most importantly, goals need to be S.M.A.R.T. Here are some examples:

  • Specific – I will join my local Body & Soul class for the winter session
  • Measurable – I will maintain a heart rate of at least 125 beats per minute during cardio
  • Action Oriented – I will put my devices aside during meals with family and friends
  • Realistic – I will exercise at least 30 minutes per day, 3 days per week
  • Time Bound – I will attend all Wednesday night services during Lent.

By now you may be getting the idea behind the perfect fitness plan. It will be one with goals that address various aspects of wellness and…get ready…the most excellent, guaranteed-to-get-results, perfect fitness plan is…THE ONE THAT YOU WILL STICK TO.

Yes, the goals have to be linked to areas that you want to grow in and that you will enjoy reaching for and attaining! What types of exercise bring you inspiration and joy? What active hobbies pique your interest? What makes you happy and brings you spiritual encouragement? For me, Body & Soul is the answer to a lot of those questions! (Check out, or start a class near you and you’ll probably feel the same way!) Regardless, I encourage you to set smart goals today that will inspire you to a life of physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness. It’s worth it. You are worth it.


Amy Stafford is the President of Body & Soul, certified personal trainer, ACE faculty and ACE Group Fitness Instructor.  She is a leader in the fitness industry and is available for speaking engagements, interviews, and retreats.  Amy currently teaches in the Williamsburg, VA area.

Author Dick Eastman suggests in his book The Hour that Changes the World [1] to divide an hour into twelve, five minute periods. During each period, one prays a different type of prayer presented graphically in a Prayer Wheel.

At first, I could not comprehend praying for an hour. I started with twelve minutes—one minute for each section.

PRAISE: Acknowledge God for who He is. Exalt Him with your words. I name God using the ABCs: Almighty, Beautiful, Counselor, and so on until “Z”.

WAITING: God is always with us; surrender your time and wait with hope. I quiet myself, ready with expectation.

CONFESSION: Ask for forgiveness of sins. Time flies in this section. I ask, “Reveal my offensive ways, oh Lord.”

PRAYING SCRIPTURE: Remind the Lord of the promise His word provides. I recite my memory verses as a prayer. “Lord, I believe I will receive whatever I ask for in prayer.”

WATCHING: Tell God where you find Him: at work in your life, in your family, in the world. I share my awe. “You amaze me.” “You transformed this couch potato into someone who enjoys exercise.”

INTERCESSION: Share with Him about the needs and concerns of others. I start with my husband, my sons, their future wives, extended family, and friends. Then I focus on my leaders, the people I lead and those I serve beside in ministry.

PETITION: Identify the needs for yourself. Once I exhaust my laundry list, I lapse into silence and ask the Lord for His perspective on my needs.

THANKSGIVING: Express appreciation for the blessings in your life. I thank Him for my salvation, marriage, family, health, church, friends and our freedoms.

SINGING: Worship the Lord with song. I wonder what my neighbors thinks of “Hallelujah Helen” when they see me running and singing at the top of my lungs.

MEDITATION: Reflect on a matter more closely. By now a theme has emerged. In the past, I’ve meditated on obedience, discipline, joy, an action step, or even a chapter for a book I’m writing.

LISTENING: Notice and pay attention with a God-centered focus. Finally, I am quiet in my heart, in my mind, and in my soul. I expect His presence when I listen. I am excited. I am ready.

PRAISE: You spent time in the presence of the Lord, King of Kings. Praise Him.

My attitude changed about exercise when I added the Prayer Wheel. When I walked, I changed prompts at two-minute increments. When I started running, I changed at a tenth and now quarter mile. I printed the wheel and carried it with me in a baggie. Now etched in my memory, I pray when I swim, changing prompts at each lap.

When we spend time in prayer while exercising, we enjoy a bonus: physical and spiritual strength at the same time.  Change your attitude; begin with prayer.


This excerpt is from Helen Baratta’s current book project, Restored: Forever Free from Obesity, due out in early 2017.  Helen is the Director of Development for First Place 4 Health and a Body & Soul Instructor. Click here to read her Blessed Big Loser success story.

 

Picture provided by Pexels.com.

If someone were to ask me what my priorities are, my answers would be fairly altruistic. I would probably rattled off a list that included my faith, my family, my work and my friends. I’d imagine your list would be pretty similar.

Now, what if, instead of asking for your self-reported list of priorities, I looked at where your money goes and where you spend your time. Would the two lists look different? I know mine would.

A pastor at our church shared this idea with our home group one day and suggested that we could gauge our true priorities by following the money and looking at our schedule. I might say that faith is my number one priority but is that where the majority of my money and time go? I would have to say no. The majority of my money goes to rent, food costs, and debt repayment. The majority of my time is spent working or watching TV with my husband. Those are not easy things to admit. I would love to be able to write that we give more than we spend on any other category in our finances and that I spend more time deep in the Word than I do watching the Bachelor. Unfortunately, I can’t say that and I imagine I’m not alone.

Truly looking at your priorities can be a painful process but it is an absolutely necessary one. It helps you refocus and recenter on God and His plan for you. If you want to assess where your priorities lie, consider these ideas:

  1. Identify your priorities – What are those ideal priorities you would like to have? Setting goals for the short-term and long-term can help you develop these priorities as habit. And don’t forget to pray over these! God will direct you in what He wants you to do.
  2. Track it – If you do a monthly budget and/or are a meticulous calendar organizer, this will be pretty easy. The idea is to take an actual look at where your money goes and where your time goes. The first time my husband and I did this, specifically with our finances, I felt like the wind was knocked out of me when I realized we were barely tithing 1% but making all sorts of unnecessary purchases. The goal is not to feel guilty. The goal is to create awareness.
  3. Create a plan – Rome wasn’t built in a day and you won’t go from not tithing to 10% overnight either. Create a plan for how to refocus your time and resources to fit the priorities you want to achieve. Look at your long-term and short-term goals and decide what steps you can put in place to start moving in that direction.

Your priorities may not be where you want them to be. But that doesn’t mean they have to stay that way. Once you have recognized where you currently are, you can then start moving toward where you want to be.


Rebecca Huron is the Director of Development and Community Management for Body & Soul Fitness.

About this time in the year we are tempted to give up, throw in the towel, roll over, go back to old habits, or simply said…just quit.  It takes time to lose weight and get healthy and most of us are just impatient. We want results today without much effort on our part.

To say that getting healthy is hard work is an understatement! I have been on this wellness journey most of my adult life. It has been some of the hardest, but most rewarding, work I have ever done. One of the reasons it’s so hard is because it is so daily. Every day I have to focus on tracking my food, settling myself in quiet time and planning out time for exercise. It’s a lot of work. Jesus never said it would be easy to love the Lord with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength. It requires us to be tenacious in our disciplines.  I love the expanded definition of tenacious: determined or stubborn; tightly held; persistent; able to remember many things; sticky or clinging; not easily disconnected, and the synonyms: stubborn, obstinate, resolute, firm, persistent, insistent, dogged, determined, steadfast andinflexible. That is what it takes for us to not only win the battle against obesity but to live by faith in this day and time.

On February 19, 2014, I woke up with severe pain in my hips and shoulders. I had worked out very hard the day before and figured I had really overdone it. I tried everything that, as a trainer, I would recommend to someone who had these symptoms: rest, Epsom salt baths, anti-inflammatories and massage.  About six weeks later, I went to a sports-injury doctor. He told me I did not have a sports injury; I had something systemic. He referred me to a rheumatologist.  Finally on April 18, 2014, I was diagnosed with polymyalgia rheumatica.  I had been in severe pain for almost two months, so I started immediately on high doses of Prednisone to help the inflammation—continuing on this drug for 18 months.

On August 1, of that same year, I received a word from the Lord that He would sustain me, strengthen me and heal me of this disease. I believed Him and still do; I take Him at His word. So what do I do in the meantime? What do I do while I am waiting for the healing to come? How do I function and do the things He has called me to do while in pain? How do I remain tenacious in my commitments? I found the answer in Colossians 1:28 and 29—I go in the strength of Jesus Christ. Paul said it beautifully in these verses: “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”  This verse says that Christ will give me energy to carry out the works He has called me to do. He will help me and give me strength I do not have. That is how we persevere through all that life throws at us. We do not give up because the strength and energy of Jesus Christ will sustain us.

I just have to share that today I am free from the disease of polymyalgia rheumatica. I still suffer from osteoarthritis in my knees and wrists, but He is helping me manage that too. He has helped me lose all the weight I gained on the steroids and more. I am so thankful I did not stop believing; I did not give up, throw in the towel, roll over, or just plain give up. I have much more to hope for and He is our hope. Push on. Success will happen if we don’t give up. We do not quit. He is for us.


Vicki Heath, National Director of First Place 4 Health and Body & Soul Area Director in South Carolina.  Vicki is a popular well-known author and speaker focusing on health and wellness.  For more information on First Place 4 Health please visit www.firstplace4health.com.

It is only by God’s grace and strength that I can do anything, including teaching Body & Soul cardio strength and flexibility classes. God reminds me of this lesson, time and time again in my life. And we revisited this truth throughout the last few weeks. My aunt, Darlene Fauble, one of my Dad’s older sisters, has been struggling, fighting for her life. She has lived with a lung condition, sarcoidosis, for most of her life. As we watched Aunt Darlene struggle with health and breathing, she modeled a Christian life for us. She also modeled a healthy lifestyle, on her feet, exercising regularly.  She laughed at the days to come.

Aunt Darlene is in the yellow shirt on the left!

She has never been married and she has no children. We, her nieces and nephews, and our children, are like children and grandchildren to her. She is like another grandmother in our lives. What a blessing to be in strong fellowship with one another!

Unfortunately, this fall, at 70 years old, Aunt Darlene was hospitalized for complications due to her lung condition. While she remained hospitalized for months, she continued to fight for her life. She finally asked for comfort care, and Aunt Darlene rested. The first night, after Aunt Darlene asked for comfort care, my Aunt Penny and I spent the night at her side in the hospital room. I held Aunt Darlene’s hand, combed her hair, and Aunt Penny and I talked and laughed the night away as Aunt Darlene rested. It was a memorable sleepless slumber party with two blessed women, who are filled with faith and love for the Lord our Savior, Jesus Christ. What a prize to have people like this is my life! Thank you, Jesus!

That afternoon, I left the hospital, blessed, but exhausted. After a sleepless night, I taught my Body and Soul cardio strength class, that very night at 7 p.m.  I wore my pink “I Walked the Mighty Mackinac Bridge” t-shirt, because this shirt represents a tradition that my Aunt Darlene and family shared every Labor Day, when we participated in the annual Mackinac Bridgewalk together. This past fall, however, Aunt Darlene was unable to walk over the bridge, but she was able to ride over the bridge with my mom, and they met us for breakfast at Audie’s…near the finish line.

I have no idea how I made it through teaching class that class. And then I realized it was the same thing that sustained  Aunt Darlene through all of her health struggles.  It is God’s grace at work in our lives. It was also the presence and fellowship of the Holy Spirit, so palpable among the amazing students, surrounding me in class. (Praise God for their encouragement! Do they even know how much their spirits encourage one another?)

So, now you can maybe understand why Body and Soul class is not laborious for me. God strengthens me to teach it and through it. It is a time set aside, for me to share expressed joy, frustration, sorrow, to God alone. I don’t know a better time to go to class than when I am exhausted. Praise God! He renews, He strengthens, He lives.

Monday night was class night. Wednesday morning, Aunt Darlene passed away with her little brother, my Dad, at her side. Jesus carried her home to Heaven that early morning. Victory and true rest for Aunt Darlene: it is hers.

Tonight our local Holland and Zeeland instructors gather to go over our Winter Routines. I am grateful for these women of faith, who help hold me accountable for learning new tasks set before us.

Never underestimate with whom you surround yourself. Choose prized people of faith. We need one another as we run the race set before us.Yes, we need to reach out appropriately to those around us who do not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. But don’t forget to invest in people and to surround yourself with those who run the race beside us, in front of us, and behind us.

Keep in mind the words found in Hebrews 12: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us….”

I hope you will find the strength and grace I have found in this, far-beyond-a-fitness class. When you do, invite others who could use this in their lives as well.And may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Corinthians 13:14)


Teresa VanderZwaag teaches Body & Soul Fitness in Zeeland, MI.  For more information on classes check out “Students – find a class.”

 

Pictures provided by Teresa VanderZwaag and Body & Soul Fitness.

Have you ever heard a song and felt the lyrics were written just for you?

As I was walking on the beach early one morning I had my earphones on and was listening to the music of our new Body & Soul session, “What’s Next?” The song This is Living by Hillsong Young & Free started playing and I heard the words “See the sun now bursting through the clouds, black & white turn to color all around. All is new, in the Savior I am found.” Just then as if perfectly on cue, the sun burst out of the clouds in a display of beauty that took my breath away. I felt like God was sending me a personal message, reminding me that he knew exactly what was next for me, and that his plans for me were as perfect as that sunrise.  It felt like a personal blessing, and brought a smile to my face.  I took out my phone and snapped a picture so I could remember that moment—a moment when music and beauty collided in inspiration that touched my heart personally.

It is my prayer that the music of the songs in this session and the message in the lyrics will lift you up and encourage you each day as you exercise with us in Body & Soul.  We would love to hear if a particular song touches your heart. Share your story with us. That way you can encourage others, as you are encouraged yourself! Listen to the song This is Living  right now:

Check out the complete What’s Next? songlist below in the front of the session devotional, but don’t stop there—take time to read the encouraging thoughts and Scriptures in the devotional. It will give you insights into God’s message in the session.

What’s Next Devotional

One more thing—below you will find links to the lyrics for each song. Read them so you are familiar with them and can hear the message clearer as you exercise. We hope that all these resources will lift you up as God guides you into the next adventures he has for you!

Songs
Artists
This is Living Hillsong Y&F
Awaken Our Souls Tim Timmons
What I Want Them to Say Newsboys
Bright Side OBB
Revival Citizen Way
Breathe Jonny Diaz
Wild Heart Urban Rescue
Recreate Urban Rescue
Best of Me Jordan Feliz
Live it Out Jordan Feliz
Higher Unspoken
Source of Life Beckah Shae
Pioneer Beckah Shae
What you Want Tenth Avenue North
God is on the Move 7eventh Time Down
Good Day Natalie Grant
Go Get it Mary Mary
Beautiful Life 7eventh Time Down
Live it Well Switchfoot
Guard Your Heart 1 Girl Nation
The God I Know Love & the Outcome
Help me Find It Sidewalk Prophets
Smile 1 Girl Nation
The One 1 Girl Nation
Healer of Souls Switchfoot
Get Hype 1 Girl Nation

Jeannie Blocher is the President Emeritus and Director of Spiritual Impact of Body & Soul Fitness.  She is an author and speaker, encouraging people to grow in both faith & fitness.