Romans 5:3-5New International Version (NIV)
3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Suffering. Perseverance. Character. Hope. These four words have changed me over the last few months. I led a Bible study on Romans 5:3-5. The study was called “Looking for Lovely” by Annie F Downs, and as we took seven weeks to look at these 3 verses I was also starting another journey. In January, I decided that enough was enough, I needed to get healthy. I am sure over the years you have seen me workout and lose a few pounds. Trust me I have tried every food plan and diet out there! Just to mention a few…Weight Watchers, Whole 30, Jenny Craig, Gluten Free, and no carb diets. I did all of them, and the truth is they never lasted because, let’s be honest, I hate diet food! I love flavorful food, and I need Mexican food! I also love to cook! Food is a way for me to show love to people. I love watching people enjoy a meal I cook for them and I enjoy the experience that food brings to the table.
As a missionary I wrestled with needing to lose weight and paying for a program to help me because we live on support. I struggled with being honest about needing help to lose weight and I struggled with not admitting to myself that God needed to change me from the inside. I fought against allowing God to lead me in this area of my life. If you read my last post you will see how God changed that. He helped me surrender to his leading in this, and every, area of my life, and He provided exactly what I needed. Friends of mine had been praying for me as they knew I was going to start this journey to physical, emotional and spiritual health. In March my friend texted me and wrote: “Cristina I was so moved by your story today that I wanted to pay for your program. You are inspiring so many lives and I know that this journey you are on is helping you but I want you to know that you don’t have to worry about the cost going forward!” I was moved to tears. You see, I have been part of an accountability group since January 9, 2017, and we share our everyday journey to health. I had shared how, as a missionary, I was making it work for me and my family.
I committed to getting healthy and I started out knowing it would take close to a year to completely lose all the weight. Like my previous attempts, my thinking was still that I would lose weight, it would happen fast, and then I would be good…and like before I was SO WRONG! I had done that before and I had failed. We all want to look and feel our best, but if we are honest the truth is that we want it right now. I wasn’t in it for the long haul. I wanted to put some quick work in, see amazing results, and be done with it. The reality is that it doesn’t work that way. It never does. In fact, nothing in life works that way. Everything we strive for takes work… really hard work. Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.
I was seeing results and I was happy. The program I was on was working. I was following it to the T, and I was really enjoying it. I didn’t feel restricted in my meal plan. Even though it is a U.S. based program I made it work for me here in El Salvador. But after a month of success, I knew something was still missing. On Feb 14, 2017 I finally figured out what that was. Here is what I wrote to my coach on that day:
I had a true moment today where I just broke down during my spin class. I couldn’t finish without crying, and you need to know this about me, I don’t cry unless the Holy Spirit moves me. I heard God saying to me, “it’s enough that I love you but you have to love you too”.
In that moment, I asked him to help me finish my spin class because I wasn’t sure if I had any more energy to give. Something changed, and I finished so strong. Then I went on to finish my hour-long strength and conditioning workout.
I haven’t posted anything today because I feel like people often think that it’s easy for me, but it’s not. It’s a struggle every day. Something changed in me over these last few weeks though, I finally understood that I needed God in the center leading me on this journey.
There needed to be more purpose this journey than just me getting fit and along the way I found my heart. I’m a super confident person, so the deep part of me that wanted to change needed to come out and be vulnerable to what could happen. I was afraid to fail and start again like I had in the past. This time was different.
When I watched the video where I stopped in the middle of my jump squats it hit me hard. It was in that moment that I knew I didn’t want to give up. It was also in that moment that I knew that I needed God and the community around me to keep going. Then in the next video my trainer said “you need help and I’m going to help you finish.” That’s when I knew God had provided a place for me to succeed. He had surrounded me with accountability and friends to help me on my journey. I needed to put the time in and show up, and they were there to encourage me along the way. I can’t do this alone. We weren’t meant to. We weren’t meant to do life alone. He desires for us to succeed, and He provides community around us to help us get there. I have always been great at encouraging others, now I was the one needing encouragement.
As I went to finish my routine of the last 25 jump squats that were so painful everyone in the gym stopped to see if I could finish. There were about 13 people in the gym that day and they were waiting to see if I would fail or finish. I finished, but I did not do it alone. My trainer did the jump squats with me, he told me not to stop and he kept yelling you can do this. I wasn’t alone. In those moment, I heard God’s heart. I heard him saying to me that he was with me in this journey and together we would see it through to completion. Knowing that God has called me to be consistent in every area of my life makes a big difference in this process.
This process had to include God. Crying out to him and asking him for help was new to me in my area of fitness and health. I didn’t know how important it was for him to carry me through this journey. Every pound shed and every muscle built comes from the strength he has given me to persevere. He isn’t just changing my physical appearance, he is changing my character. People often ask me how I keep going. They ask me if my “diet” is still working. What they don’t understand is that it’s not a diet and it’s not a fad. Instead it is God changing my character, which changes my habits, and ultimately changes my life. It is going to take a lot of hard work for a long time to change me physically, but I am most excited about how God is changing me spiritually.
God has continually showed up for me, provided for me, given me strength, and carried me through the toughest times on this journey. Often in life it is easy to see the outward changes, but the inward changes are not so obvious. I write this today to remind myself that the inward change is indeed happening. I am not the same person I was three months ago, and I am excited to see the person I will be three months from now. I have kept this journey mostly to myself and my accountability group because God has to work in me first. I share this with you today because I know we all need to continually work in growing in our faith. Taking a step of faith in this area of my life was huge. I was afraid and I didn’t know if I could make it last. In fact, on my own, I can’t. But with God, and a community of people who believe in me, I can. This is not an easy journey for me, and if it was I would have taken this path a long time ago. But today, it is a road I’m willing to walk so that I can grow closer to God. My desire is to obey God’s calling on my life. Part of that calling is to be healthy. I want to honor my body and present my health, my family’s health, our ministry, and our lives in such a way that honors God. I hope you will pray with me as I continue moving forward in this journey. I still have a long way to go, but I’m not where I started, and I’m excited to see where I will finish.
If you have ever thought about getting healthy I would encourage you to write to me. I know how hard it is to admit to someone that you need help. Remember, we can’t do it alone and we were never meant to. I would love to hear your story and encourage you to start your own journey.
It was hard for me to write this, but I hope that you have been encouraged in your own struggle, and I hope that you will allow God to lead you in every area of your life. Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. My great Hope is in Christ. This journey reminds me of that daily as I strive to be obedient in all I do to serve here in El Salvador. Our Salvadoran community is watching and learning as our family makes healthy choices to live and serve.
Con Mucho Amor, Cristina
I would love for you to follow my journey on Instagram @CristinaStrong
The photo above is from Day one (January 9,2017) and today (April 2, 2017)
I have lost a total of 23 pounds in 15 weeks.
I have lost a total of 29.25 total inches
13 of those inches have come off my waist.
I am currently using the Beach Body 21day fix program. If you would like to know more about it feel free to email me at email@example.com or contact my coach Julie Cruz at firstname.lastname@example.org or message her via facebook.