My first introduction to Body & Soul was at a health fair. It included samples of the various workouts, healthy snacks and other fitness-related stuff like that. It was kind of a big deal, I now know; even the president of Body & Soul was there. My friend Kerri invited me, and to be honest, I really just went to be polite. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted desperately to exercise, but I couldn’t. I did a few moves to some of the songs in the very back of the room, hoping nobody was looking at me. Mostly I watched. There was a raffle, so I entered it. To my surprise, I won. I walked to the front of the room to receive my prize: a T-shirt handed to me from the president herself! I smiled and walked away, secretly wondering if maybe this was a sign that I might be able to do this one day. I left that event happy that I had fulfilled my commitment to my friend and that I had a new shirt.

Kerri was not finished, though. She kept inviting me to come to class. I tried to tell her I would love to come, but…

My history was messy. My body wasn’t strong like hers. I was relatively active as a kid, but those days were gone. My story included things like mild obesity, pregnancy complications, thyroid problems, autoimmune issues, a blood clotting disorder, fatigue, even a mild lupus diagnosis. Most recently, I was trying to manage debilitating pain from a sudden onset of bursitis and piriformis syndrome. My ability to move and walk normally were significantly impaired. I remember sitting on ice and then sitting on heat, and then sitting on ice…day after day. I relied heavily on pain reliever. I went to doctors and PT. My husband took over the grocery shopping. I clearly remember the day we got a wheelchair for me at the zoo because I knew I couldn’t walk for that long.

Kerri, that crazy woman, kept inviting me. Let me just say right here: thank God she didn’t stop inviting me! Thank God. I truly believed it was impossible for me. She didn’t.

I couldn’t even stand up for the entire hour of the first class I attended, let alone do the moves. But I left that evening with a lot of encouragement and a teeny tiny bit of hope.

By the grace of God, and with the guidance of the most loving fitness professionals I have ever met, I kept showing up. I was gratefully “invisible” in the back of the room, yet at the same time part of a welcoming community. I just kept working at my level, doing the best I could do that day, just like everybody else in that room.

One evening after I had been coming for a while, I left class in tears. When I saw my husband, he asked me, “What is it? Is the pain level bad today?”

I could hardly get the words out then, and I have never been able to tell this part of the story without crying, as I am doing now.

“No,” I answered, “I did not know it was possible to feel this good.”

From that moment on, everything changed. Before it, exercise hurt. Everything hurt. Since then, though I still have daily pain down my left leg, it is far, far greater when I don’t exercise regularly. I am in for life! I have climbed giant sand dunes and walked long European streets and so much more since that day in early 2007.

Just this morning, I put on a new Body & Soul shirt. It says, “I love chocolate, squats, and Jesus.” My husband saw it and asked me if I really do love squats (he knows the other two are definitely true ?). There was no hesitation from me. “Oh yes! Yes, I actually do. Out of everything, that exercise is the one that brings the most pain relief!”

Who would’ve ever thought that I would love squats? Not me. Who would’ve thought that I would be able to work out for a whole hour? Not me. Who could’ve possibly imagined that I’d one day become an instructor? Goodness, certainly not me.

Yet here I am, with an entirely different life, because God is surprising and kind, and because my friend wouldn’t give up.

If you know someone like me, don’t give up on her/him! If you are the one like me, allow me to invite you to a Body & Soul class. We have something for every level, whether you are weak, highly fit or somewhere in between. Come, and then the important part… keep coming, and as Kerri taught me: never give up.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

Paula Huss is a certified group fitness instructor with Body & Soul Fitness, and also serves as Western Regional Director. She currently leads classes at Mt. Olive Ministries in Milpitas, CA, where her husband, John is Senior Pastor. They have three creative kids: Max, Gina, and Drew as well as two energetic rescue dogs. Paula is passionate about encouraging others to keep moving, eat well and enjoy healthy, renewing rest. She also loves to sing, and listen to crashing waves.

“Mighty all the time, He never takes a break; He’s always right, working all day and every night. Mighty all the time, His power never ceases to amaze me and it’s everlasting. Mighty all the time, He’s the one who saves; He’s in our midst, rejoicing over us with gladness. Mighty all the time, He knows everything; He sees it all. To Him nothing is impossible. He’s better than a superhero, ‘cause He ain’t limited on power.”

Most of the time we don’t feel very “mighty” ourselves. We feel weak and helpless on our own. Even superheros have weak spots where they are vulnerable. There is only one who is truly mighty—and that is our limitless God. He is mighty all the time—not just sometimes. He is at work day and night—he never slumbers or sleeps. He hears our prayers—all of our prayers 24/7. There is not a waiting line; we are not put on hold. He hears our every concern the moment we bring them to him. And his power is everlasting! It is not limited by time. He is not a not limited in any way. He is the mighty one who saves. He saves us when we blow it. He saves any and all who come to him and take the step of faith to believe. He wants to be our personal mighty God. Stop and think about that for a minute. We are loved by a mighty God who knows and sees everything, a mighty God for whom nothing is impossible. As Beckah Shae says in this song—check him out—‘cause he’s so mighty!

Psalm 89: 8-9 “O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithfulness surrounds you.”

John 3:16-17 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

Questions: What comes to your mind when you hear the word “mighty?” Do you ever feel mighty yourself? When you think of God as “mighty,” what comes to mind first that makes you think of him in this way?

Prayer Power: Lord,  you are mighty to save! I pray for those who need to trust Your limitless power and might. Help me to trust in you more and more everyday.

This summer I had the most amazing experience in the Redwood Forest in California. It was a wellness retreat organized by some health coaches. What surprised me the most about the retreat is that there were no presentations or teaching times, per se. I don’t know what I expected exactly, but it certainly wasn’t that. I’ve been a church member and youth leader for years and have been on dozens of retreats, to be honest. But what we call a “retreat” is often filled with tons of stuff: speakers, games, small groups, activities, etc. Yes, we get away from our usual lives, but there’s hardly a chance to breathe sometimes.

This retreat was radically different. Here was a typical day’s itinerary:

  • breakfast
  • activity (canoeing, swimming, hiking—something outdoors-y)
  • lunch (often w/ live music in the background)
  • free time all afternoon
  • dinner
  • live music or hanging out by the fire

To put it mildly, I was shocked. A retreat with no one up front lecturing? With no program to speak of? Why weren’t the health coaches offering us dietary advice? Or tips on better living? After my initial shock subsided, it was replaced with a feeling of relief and freedom. It was a true retreat from all of the usual demands on my time and mind.

I was given the gift of space & time to simply “be.” To think. To ponder. To contemplate the beauty of creation and my Creator. To consider my place in this world. To slow down. To read. To sleep.

I think the health coaches organizing this retreat must have figured out that it would be more powerful to allow us to experience what a healthy life might feel like than it would be for us to receive lectures about it. And it certainly was powerful. For me, the time away was a “reset” of sorts. A chance to get off the treadmill of busyness and reacquaint myself with God’s love on a profound level. I marveled at the simplicity and beauty of this reset and now that I’ve experienced it, I want more!

Here is my plan to continue with this “reset” mindset I have found. You may want to try it out, too, especially if you find yourself currently unsatisfied with life, or if you sense a disconnect between your day-to-day rhythms and your heart. In Matthew 11, Jesus said “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest.” Here are three simple thoughts on how to find that rest and reset right where you are.

Do You Need A Reset | Body & Soul Fitness
1. Get outside.

The psalms and hymns lift up the beauty of God’s creation. Look at Psalm 8. Or think of “How great Thou art” and “Great is Thy faithfulness.” Creation points our hearts, souls, and minds to the wonder of our Creator. As we reacquaint ourselves with nature, it sharpens our senses and spirit to God’s creative work in the world and in our own lives.

2. Make space.

We make time for meetings, calls, connections, and appointments. Let’s make space, also in our day, to just “be.” This can be part of our devotional time or something in addition to it. Don’t even feel necessarily like you need to pray or say something. Picture yourself sitting on God’s lap and simply let His love embrace you. You are His child. Just being is okay. There’s something comforting and encouraging about not putting demands on your time alone.

3. Unplug.

We have more screen time in our days than we realize. When my kids were little, I limited their video game and TV-watching time with the phrase “Let’s not watch life; let’s live it!” But somehow I’ve gotten into my screens more than I’ve realized—between working on a laptop and using my cell phone pretty much non-stop. One of the gifts of this retreat was the lack of screens. So, once home, I am going to pick a time, beyond meal time, to make sure to put my screen away (phone included). Powering it off will allow me to power myself on, in fresh ways.

Does this reset sound intriguing to you? Are you willing to give it a try? If you do it once, I bet you’ll want to do it again! Make your own retreat by getting outside, giving yourself the gift of time and space to just be, and unplugging from the virtual world. I’m certain you will find a new sense of wonder, joy, freedom, and rest, as you do so. And you don’t have to go to the Redwood Forest to experience it.

Hilda Labrada Gore is a Regional Director and Program Trainer for Body & Soul Fitness. She teaches in Maryland and Washington, DC. For more encouragement from Hilda, go to