Cross-posting this from my daily life blog Real Life Reality.
As you know, or might not know, about 8 months ago, I began volunteering in the children's program at my church in an absolutely amazing environment for children 6 weeks - 4 years old. It's the same program that Blake attends, and she absolutely loves it! Every Sunday I not only looked forward to attending church, but also giving myself to the children for an hour of my day. I became to know the children so well - their quirks, what books they loved, the toys they loved and thoroughly enjoyed hearing about their lives outside of our classroom, they became like my second set of children, I adored each and every one of them. Seriously.
As time went on I longed for more. Now, I'm not downplaying the significance of working with younger children, but I just felt like I needed to expand my horizons and share my faith with other individuals outside of my every day life being I have a three year old. With that said, I decided to move on to the middle school ministry program, crazy, right? Yeah.
With some heavy thought on this decision, I went up and down on if I would be the right "fit" for this program, just knowing that I too am new to my Faith and I was weary of being asked the unknown or not knowing how to answer a question the "right" way, however, when it came down to it I decided that it wasn't about that, it was about God empowering me to deliver my Faith to these kids and to share my love for Jesus. It was that simple.
After completing the interview process I was asked to be apart of the program and truthfully, I couldn't contain my excitement. The thought of being a part of a young girls middle school journey, the roughest years of her life, and being able to help her in her walk with or to finding Jesus seemed like one of the most amazing experiences I could experience to date. That to me is HUGE. I attended an all day training with all of the other new group leader volunteers, met some amazing individuals, and had a complete blast. Our first day in worship all of the new 6th grade leaders (including me) were introduced by eating ice cream sandwiches on stage competing to see whom could eat it the fastest. Getting on their level. After attending worship I felt great. Here I was, excited. Pumped. So ready to get my group and begin this 3 year journey with these girls, but that's when the curveball came.
A few days after our first worship group setting I received a friend request from the director of the middle school ministry, in which I accepted. This is where things went astray. It was brought to light that I am a bikini fitness competitor. Now, everyone is entitled to their own opinion when it comes to what I do, but let me start off by saying what I do is in NO WAY provocative nor does it suggest that I don't have good morals and believe in modesty. Yes, I do wear a rather small bikini on a stage in front of 100's of individuals to be judged on my body - BUT - I work for that body, very hard. I apply so many valuable life tools to preparing for a competition and just staying healthy in general. It takes dedication, hard work, motivation, strength, FAITH and so much more to step on that stage and not one part of my body is shown that is not shown in an every day magazine or at the neighborhood pool. So where the pit fall is on this matter I'm not quite sure and really haven't figured that one out.
Anyhow - where am I leading to huh? Well, I received an email the very next day after receiving the friend request asking if I would be available to meet with the director briefly. I instantly knew what it was about. I mean why else would she be asking to meet with me? Reluctantly I went into this meeting feeling as if I could explain more to her about my love for fitness and what competing meant to me. It was expressed to me that my competing may portray a bad image to the young girls in regards to being modest and honoring their bodies, and that their parents may find it inappropriate and be uncomfortable with me leading their children in their walk with Jesus. Yes, you heard that. My competing may interfere with leading children to help finding and walking with Jesus. Now, I may be wrong here but doesn't Jesus love everyone? Did Jesus judge anyone? .....
With that said, in short, I was told I could choose to quit competing, remove all photos from my Facebook account and then I could continue being a leader in the program otherwise I would not be a good fit for the position. My heart was torn a part. I sat there and cried as she spoke to me, stumbling over my words and not even knowing how to express to her how badly I wanted to be a part of this program and how unfair this was. After leaving church that day I felt defeated. I felt as if I was being shamed for what I do. Shamed for taking care of my body and showing other individuals that they too can do it. I lost 65lbs after my pregnancy, turned my life around health wise and became a stronger person than I could ever have imagined and not just on the outside, but completely on the inside as well. I learned what dedicating yourself to something you love can bring you and how you can help motivate other individuals and show them they too can do anything they set their mind to. Yet, here I am basically being portrayed as a whore. Yes, I said it - a whore. That's how I felt.
That day when I pulled into my driveway my daughter sat in the backseat asleep. I looked back at her for a few moments, then turned and looked at myself in the mirror and thought - is what I'm doing wrong? Am I portraying a bad image to my daughter? What would Jesus say about this? Tears began to flow from my eyes and I just balled my eyes out. I was defeated, or at least I felt that way. After all that I put myself through deciding if I would be the right "fit" because I was new to my faith was a waste. I put so much thought into the decision of joining these kids' lives, only to have it taken away from me because of another love I have. I felt like I was being asked to choose between sharing my faith and my competing. It hurt. Bad.
I prayed that night, talked and cried to God and asking him what he thought I should do and if I should completely forego my love of competing and fitness to give myself to these children. I thought that the answer was going to be yes, but I was pleasantly surprised, it wasn't. Every part of my body was told to let go of this chapter, that He has bigger plans for me and that I am where I am meant to be. To trust in him.
Faith has brought me so many friends in this industry and we all bind together in our faith and love for fitness. From our prayers together before going on stage to our talks of our love for Christ in casual conversation, the fitness world is a place of so much more than just dumbbells and iron - it's a place of love, a place of sticking together and sharing our love for our bodies that Christ gave us.
Now I'm not sure where Christ will lead me and what exactly his plans are for me, but I do believe they involves fitness and sharing the word through it. The sky is the limit and I will not let a bump in the road take that away from me. I will continue to share my love for Christ and not only that, but I will push myself even harder in this journey so that I'm able to share the word further than I could ever imagine.