In Sickness and Health

“I, Josh, take you, Tamara, for my wife,to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.”

The older I become the more I feel the amazing blessing of being loved this way. When Josh and I said our marriage vows to each other on November 10th, 2007 I was in the midst of battling a neurological disorder. There were many unknowns about what our life would look like moving forward.

I became sick several months into our engagement. The save the dates had already been sent when we learned that the muscle weakness and paralyzation I was experiencing weren’t symptoms that would be quickly fixed or even had the potential to get better. Josh was under no obligation to stay with me. Walking was a struggle, driving a car wasn’t happening, and just being able to get out of bed in the morning was hard.

The reality is that most 23 year olds don’t get to start off a marriage the way I did. Our plans for the wedding and honeymoon changed to accommodate my illness. And never once did I feel like I was a burden to Josh. He piggybacked me around the streets of Monterey, California on our honeymoon gladly, carrying me when I couldn’t walk.

During our engagement when I became ill I never once questioned Josh’s love for me. He took time off work to come to my many doctors appointments, held me when I cried out in pain and frustration over my circumstances, and loved me in spite of what was happening.

The way Josh loved me during this time still takes my breath away. There was no guarantee that my health would improve or that we would even be able to have a family together. Although if you ask Josh he will tell you that he knew I was going to get better.

In this beautiful way Josh has sacrificially demonstrated God’s love for me over and over again. God loves me when I am sick and when I am healthy. My circumstances will change but the love God has for me never does.

Yet in the sickness it was harder for me to feel God’s presence and easier to gravitate to Josh. Josh was tangible. I could see, talk with, touch, and feel Josh’s presence even if he was in a different room. I knew he was there. But at times as I struggled with “feeling” somewhat forgotten about by God. What was supposed to be one of the happiest times of my life quickly became a dark and shadowy valley. Where was God in the midst of my pain and suffering? My illness taught me that I have to continually depend on God in sickness and in health.

The reality is God didn’t change. My feelings had.

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away. Matthew 24:35

The word of the Lord abides forever. 1 Peter 1:25

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Isaiah 40:8

These verses tell me that everything in life may change, but God’s Word remains and His truth never changes. My feelings may be strong and the situations in my life can rapidly fluctuate but God’s Word is so much more than anything I can ever feel, experience, or face. His Word is true yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

While my marriage vows are a lasting covenant on earth with Josh until death do us part, God has promised to have and to hold me, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, from now into eternity. Even death cannot separate me from God’s love.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

We have a choice to either be controlled by our thoughts, feelings, and circumstances or we can utilize the self-control that has been given to us by the Holy Spirit to abide in God’s Word regardless of our feelings or what is happening in life. God’s Word is always truer than our feelings.

What I learned about my marriage and ultimately about God based on the phrase “in sickness and health” is that relationships require commitment. Living out our commitments can be difficult at times especially if our circumstances are challenging. We all have the choice of who or what we will cling to when times get hard.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

The majority of people say their I dos under the most ideal circumstances, not when they are battling their toughest struggle. Marriage is a day to day commitment and continues to remind me of how God loved us and Christ died for us when we were least lovable and when the situation was the least ideal. These difficult times allow us to trust God even in the challenges while building a marriage that lasts. I am grateful for this lesson that I learned early on in my marriage.

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Why I Stopped Teaching “Christian” Yoga

I have tried to write numerous times over the last two years. Our family Bible verse is:

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14

To those of you reading this, I hope that you know that my words are coming from a place of love. Not from condemnation or malice. I enjoy sharing how God continues to mold and shape me, thanks for reading!

A few years ago I wrote a blog post titled “Does Downward Dog dishonor God?” I tried to address the question “Should Christians practice yoga?” Over the last few years my desire to know God has grown so much that last year I finally disciplined myself to read the Bible in its entirety.

Even before I began reading my Bible something had just continued to feel off over the last several years when I would practice and teach yoga. I would have loved to have stumbled across a blog post like this back when I was looking into teaching Christian yoga. The only reason I ever felt comfortable signing up for my 200 hour yoga certification was because the word “Christian” was in the title.

Before I go further let me give you a brief history on how I became involved in the yoga community and started teaching.

How I Started Teaching Yoga

The summer before I entered college I purchased a yoga DVD from Barnes and Nobles. This was back when I still went to the bookstore and didn’t simply Amazon prime everything to my front door. I used this DVD numerous times and began to also take a few yoga classes at the gym.

I continued to take yoga classes occasionally over the next four years and during my senior year of college the Kinesiology department offered a Movement Analysis Lab focusing on yoga. I was so excited! The instructor was very relatable, and told the class up front that she was a Christian, and used yoga as a way to “connect” with God. I felt like I had hit the jackpot, especially because I had never in all my years at Arizona State University had any of my teachers state they were Christians.

Up until this time I had never viewed yoga as a way to “connect” with God and had only used it as a way to exercise. I had only taken yoga classes at the gym and in 2005 the yoga classes being offered at my gym were strictly posture based.

Fast forward to March of 2007 and I became very, very sick. You can read more about the neurological disorder that paralyzed me from the neck down and my road to recovery was HERE.

On the road to recovery in 2009 I signed up for a Chrisitan Yoga Teacher Training. Since yoga had been one of the tools I had used during my recovery, I really wanted to share its benefits with others and the added bonus of sharing the gospel message at the same time really appealed to me.

That summer I learned all about “Christian” yoga. I was fired up and ready to encourage others to experience God more deeply through the practice of yoga at my church and any other church that would allow me to teach. Each class included scripture reading, a playlist that contained praise/worship songs, low impact movements, and ended with prayer. The only problem was that the churches that I approached with this amazing opportunity, my own church included, did not want to offer Christian Yoga classes.

I was perplexed and if I am being totally honest, slightly offended, about the reaction I received from local churches in my area. I felt equipped to teach yoga in a manner that honored the Lord yet wasn’t able to get my foot in the door to teach at any church.

Since I was having trouble finding my own yoga classes to teach, the Christian yoga studio that I took my training from offered me a few classes on their schedule. From there I continued to branch out and seek out more studios to teach. Over the next 4 years I taught at 8 different studios/gyms, became a certified personal trainer, and began to teach group fitness classes as well.

From 2010 – 2012 I was teaching upwards of twenty classes weekly. At this point I was no longer teaching at the Christian yoga studio. My classes didn’t contain scripture or prayer because they were being offered in a secular setting but my playlist did contain a mix of pop and praise music.

Once my second baby arrived in 2014, I was no longer teaching classes or practicing yoga, and the further removed I became from teaching and practicing the more I began to wonder if I should really be teaching yoga anymore at all.

Why I Stopped Teaching Yoga

My initial intentions of wanting to share Jesus with others were soon replaced with only wanting to stoke my own ego. During my time teaching yoga I took many yoga workshops and classes to help me fine-tune my own teaching ability. I began setting goals for myself that had nothing to do with my initial desire to help others. The more I embedded myself into our local yoga community the more yoga began to shape and form my identity.

Instead of being excited to share my faith I began to become prideful over how full my classes were and that I was actually able to contort my body into some pretty advanced yoga postures. I spent hours of my time in front of my camera taking pictures of myself in these advanced postures to post on social media in order to promote my classes.

I allowed my successes to become an idol and overshadow my Savior. While there isn’t anything wrong with being successful or taking pride in our gifts, our ability to use discernment often gets pushed aside when we elevate things or people to a position that only rightfully belongs to the one true God.

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. 2 Corinthians 11:3

Being a “Christian” yoga teacher made me “feel” close to God. But I can’t say that I knew God. Feeling God and knowing God are two completely different things. Even when I was strictly teaching only Christian yoga I based my classes more off what I was feeling as opposed to what I had been studying in God’s word. Because truthfully, back then, the only time I really opened my Bible was to find a scripture that resonated with me for a class.

As a Christian my actions should point others to seek and find an ever deepening relationship with the Lord which is why I am no longer teaching or practicing yoga. Yoga is rooted in Hinduism and as a Christ follower I can no longer in good conscious be associated with teaching something that may cause others to stumble or open up a path to them that leads them away from the saving grace of Christ’s death on the cross.

God gives us all free will. But a Christian must not merely consider what is lawful, but what is expedient, and to edify others.

“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive. 1 Corinthians 10:23

What About Christians Teaching/Practicing Only Christian Yoga?

There is no governing authority or church body presiding over Christian yoga or Christian Yoga Teacher Trainings. Even with all the best intentions, without this governing authority, there is no elder board or pastoral staff ensuring that the doctrine is sound and inline with what the Bible teaches.

The ability for new and even mature believers in Christ to be able to discern what is or isn’t biblically based can become much more blurry especially when churches are offering Christian yoga classes. If a person really starts enjoying a Christian yoga class there is a high probability that they will start to seek out other classes. Yoga can, in some regards, become a gateway into many new age practices that the Bible specially warns believers to stay away from. (Leviticus 20:6, Deuteronomy 18: 10-12)

Please know, I am not saying that everyone who practices yoga will participate in these activities but they do become much more accessible.

For someone who is seeking more peace in their life or looking for a greater purpose I can see how these things could become very attractive. For several years I had put so much weight in the fact that because I was a yoga teacher I should have zero stress and not deal with anxiety. When I was suffering with postpartum depression and anxiety I didn’t realize I had elevated my yoga practice to a place where I had actually made it an idol. Instead of seeking out God for comfort and wisdom I was looking at myself to calm my anxiety and overwhelming feelings of sadness and fear.

Recommended Reading: 10 Bible Verses for Anxiety and 10 Ways to Deal with Anxiety

As believers we have to stay alert and be mindful of how our actions can be perceived by others.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith. 1 Pet. 5:8-9

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5

Even things that are good can distract us away from God. Taking care of our bodies is a good and even a biblically based practice to follow, but we have to be so careful not to let the pursuit of healthy living become an idol.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2

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Backyard Circuit Workout

Two weeks ago my favorite clients came over to our house for a backyard training session. The workout they did was so good that I wanted to share it on the blog. I realize not everyone has access to this equipment or space at their house but this could make a great park, track, or gym workout too with a few modifications if need be.

Equipment Needed: Pull-up Bar (Josh built one in our backyard but I am linking to an at home option), Battle Rope, Heavy & Light Kettlebells/Dumbells

Complete three rounds of circuit one resting only after a round is completed. Once three rounds are complete move to circuit two. For the squats and lunges I held in 18 pound kettlebell but you could also just use your bodyweight for these exercises. We have an alley behind our home that I used for sprinting, thus the name alley sprints, and I am estimating that the distance sprinted would be 100m.

Right before Jesse was born was the first time in my life that I had ever been able to perform a pull-up unassisted. I love Black Mountain Fitness Bands to assist with pull-ups and highly recommend these to help build strength. If you are using the bands be sure to concentrate on lowering yourself slowly and resist the temptation to fling yourself up and down.

In case you are unfamiliar with what I am calling the Lazy Man Rope Climb (see photo below), I recently found this exercise idea in the book The Modern Art of High Intensity Exercise that we recently ordered. I am always hesitant to purchase exercise/fitness books but this one was worth the money! It has great ideas and workouts!

Since starting to climb ropes can be difficult this is a good exercise to do working with a rope on the floor. This exercise is anything but lazy, I just like to name my exercises something fun that is also easy for me to remember!

Lazy Man Rope Climb: Lay the rope on grass or another surface that isn’t sticky or slippery. Attach one end of the rope to a kettle bell or dumbbell (I used a 44 pound kettlebell) and lie on your back at the other end of the rope. Then grab the rope and pull the weight towards you. Be sure to stop in time before you get close to your head. When the weight reaches you stand up and grab the weighted end of the rope and drag it back to where it started and get ready to pull the weight towards you again. Repeat a total of 3 times. Be sure to engage your transverse abdominis!

And that is the workout! It is a doozy for sure but also fun! I hope you have a wonderful week leading up to Easter. I am so thankful for God’s grace and get choked up thinking about the significance of Jesus on the cross, the Temple veil tearing, and the stone being rolled away. If you have children or even if you don’t you might be interested in the book The Garden, The Curtain, and The Cross. It is perfect for Easter or really anytime of the year that beautifully illustrates and explains God’s plan for salvation and explains the Gospel message without watering it down.

I love the following verse…

A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lordmake straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up,and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together,for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 40:3-5

God’s glory has been revealed and each one of us has to choose what we will do with that knowledge. Jesus Christ offers hope. A hope that is steadfast and true. Following Christ doesn’t mean that life is going to be easy. In fact the Bible tells us to rejoice in our suffering, which is very counter to what our culture teaches (Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 4:13, 2 Corinthians 12:10).

This past weekend at church one of the points made in the sermon was that “the ultimate irony would be to go to Hell after hearing the good news many times, and refusing to receive it.”

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call of Him while he is near. Isaiah 55:6

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12

God forgives and has offered a way for us to be with Him in Heaven through Jesus Christ’s death on the cross. And that is what Easter is about.

Faith, hope, forgiveness, and redemption isn’t personified by chocolate bunnies. Instead it is represented by two outstretched arms on the cross.

xo, Tamara

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