Why: Serve

I became a Christ follower 20+ years ago. It was the best decision of my life. That is not to say that I have not experienced hardships in my life. In fact, I would never describe life as easy. However, believing in something bigger than yourself – a higher power, the universe, etc – creates a belief that there has to be a purpose for everything. My belief in a “higher power” is in our Lord Savior Jesus Christ. There are many instances in my life where there is no explanation than a divine intervention – God’s timing.

I have shared a portion of my testimony in my post, He Never Fails. I would love for you to read that to see a small glimpse of how Jesus has changed my life. I have experienced so much of Christ’s love, mercy, and compassion from others that I wanted to give others’ the same experience of His divine intervention by helping them meet, know, and follow Jesus.

But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many. – Mark 10:43-45

To serve

For those who are not familiar with the term “serve” as it pertains to a church environment, to serve is to volunteer your time in particular ministry at the church you regularly attend. The amount of time you usually serve can be as little as 45 minutes as a person who greets guests to facilitating a bible study group, every week. Requirements for volunteering your time is usually a background check and a heart to serve. The beauty of serving is that there are many ministries in the church that need volunteers from the nursery to making coffee to greeting guests to keeping the campus safe. Whatever your interests are there is a ministry that would love for you to step in and show Christ’s love through service.

Our family has been serving at our home church from the moment we started attending. We knew that getting plugged into a church was high on our priority list especially since we were moving to a new area where we only knew one family. Joining the service team has allowed us to make friends, serve our local community through service projects, and most importantly, grow our faith.

Community

I currently serve in multiple ministries as a personal choice. Each of these ministries have helped me deepen my faith in Christ as well as cultivate relationships with other Christ followers. It also fills that part of my soul that always felt as if it was never satisfied until I found Christ and began to share my testimony. As humans, we are innately drawn to seek community and a deeper understanding of the big picture. Both of these internal needs can be met a your local church.

I serve on the leadership team for Mother’s of Preschoolers (MOPS) ministry, as a small group co-leader for a monthly meeting for Moms for Mental Health, and as a coach to small group leaders in the tween ministry. I also serve in multiple other seasonal ministries such as a week long summer church program similar to Vacation Bible School and the women’s Christmas event. Each of these ministries are very close to my heart as they were different seasons of my life that I really leaned on the church for guidance as a mom with lots of little.

These ministries allow me to share how Christ’s love, compassion, and grace has shown up in my life and the life of my family with those who participate in each ministry. Every time I have participated in a small group, local outreach or church event, my heart swells with thankfulness because I had met an individual who had never been to church before or helped pray for a mom who is just overwhelmed by her current circumstances.

Just show up

Are you interested in serving at your local church but don’t know how? Well the easiest way to start is to ask someone who serves there already or contact the office and ask. Chances are they will share their testimony of how serving has impacted their live in an extraordinary way.

One of the biggest commitments that comes with serving is just showing up. While it is absolutely normal to not want to attend church on a regular basis especially to serve a bunch of people who don’t know you, know that your presence is deeply needed week in and week out. Your unique testimony could help someone you greet or even talk with. This simple interaction can change the trajectory of their life and all you did was show up and be yourself. So just show up and see how the Holy Spirit will move through you to bless someone else’s life.

Remember – it is ok to not be ok. Tomorrow is a new day!

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Why: Strength training

Never in my entire life would I have thought that I would say, “I like going to the gym.” Guys, I do. I really do and it’s not because of the most obvious reason. If we’ve never met IRL, you would be surprised how vertically challenged I am. All 4 feet, 11 inches of me. At the gym, I feel even smaller around all the meat heads and testosterone. Imagine little me at the free weights station, attempting to deadlift. The bar is longer than I am tall and the weights on each end are wider than my torso. I truly don’t look like I belong there but I do it anyways. 

At the beginning of my self care/self love journey, my therapist would tell me to workout at least three days a week to help with my mental health. I used to laugh at what she would say. Three years later and I am now consistently getting to the gym twice a week to at most four days a week. What has changed? Strength training. 

Strength training

Weight training – or strength training – is truly why I continue to go to the gym today. Strength training has allowed me to challenge my mind in what I ‘believe’ I am able to do. For example, the plate loaded barbell is forty five pounds on its own. ON ITS OWN. When I first started to attempt to bench press, I could barely – like shaking arms barely – push that sucker above my head. Today, I am able to bench press a full three sets without breaking a sweat. How? I kept at it every week until one day, I decide to put five pounds – 2.5 pound plates – on the bar. For me it was a momentous occasion because I did what seemed impossible. *insert happy dance here*

Once I started to see results in my increased weights on the machines and in the free weight station, I began to challenge my mind even more. I would purposefully add a little more weight each time I went to the gym. From there, I began to try a different strength training machine each time I went to the gym. I gained so much confidence that I would put my headphones on, play some 90’s hip hop, and move through each station as quickly as I could. At the end of my workout, I would do some yoga to 90’s R&B and wait for my husband to finish his workout.

Gym dates are the best dates

The main supporter at the gym is my husband. I expressed to him that I wanted to attempt to use the strength training machines and possibly the free weights but I was intimidated because everything looks complicated and honestly, I didn’t want guys to be staring at my butt while I worked out. It actually brought a lot of anxiety for me to attempt any machine or station. So my sweet husband would help walk me through each machine as well as how to use the free weights station properly. 

Three months later, I am confident in my abilities enough to move through the machines without his help and only ask for him to spot me in the free weights station. This is huge for me! If you were to imagine little ol’ me in the free weights station deadlifting 95 pounds while surrounded by muscular men who deadlift 300+ pounds, it is a sight to see. My husband is usually close by – or at the station next to me deadlifting 200+ pounds – just in case I need a spotter.

These evenings spent together have become our favorite times together because we are able to get in some exercise, encourage each other during our workout and also talk through our day. We have dubbed them our “gym dates”. What we also love about “gym dates” is that they are free since we already pay for the membership monthly. So all we need to do is show up and be each others’ cheerleaders. We have been doing this since we’ve started at the gym and I can honestly say that it has helped us reconnect in a way that I could have never imagined. I am so thankful for this time because we are both so busy and carving out time for each other is so important. 

How to start strength training

If this post has peaked your interest in attempting to strength train, here is what I suggest:

  • Utilize the new member orientation
    • There is a reason it is included in your membership. Take advantage of it!
    • Orientation usually include some of the following:
      • A health assessment
      • Body fat analysis
      • Instructions on how to use basic strength training machines
      • Help in choosing exercises, reps, and sets
      • How to use different cardio machines
      • Heart rate and intensity information
      • General workout guidance
  • Go with a friend
    • This is great for accountability and encouragement.
  • Try the group classes and find the one that works for you
    • When I first started at the gym, I used the treadmill and elliptical machine only. I became bored really quickly. I knew that I needed more in order to keep coming.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the gym staff for help
    • I have seen many patrons ask a staff member to spot them. 
    • I have also seen staff members take the time to explain how to use a machine properly.
  • Keep coming back
    • In the beginning, it will seem really intimidating but over time you will become comfortable with the environment and “zone” everyone out. 

Mind over matter

The biggest change with adding strength training to my self care routine and the encouragement of my husband was my mindset. I began to believe that I could do ‘impossible’ things. On rough days, going to the gym was an outlet to release my stress. It also challenged my negative self talk and inner critic because there was nothing for those statements to stand on if I could prove them wrong.

This mindset has overflowed into other parts of my life. I have more courage to try new things and take small steps to reach a goal. There is more evidence of success than failure. So I keep adding on weights, I keep challenging myself to do new things, and I keep moving forward. 

What is your favorite workout at the gym? Comment below!

If I haven’t done it, I’d love to try. 

Believing in me

The last 10 days have been rough on me – mentally. I have been dealing with balancing all of my commitments – required and volunteer – and unspoken expectations – of myself. To be very honest, there were many times when I had intrusive thoughts going through my mind and that is when I knew I need to shift my focus on tangible aspects of my life. Do not be alarmed, I am in a safe mental space, not a harm to myself or others and have supportive individuals around me.

The reason I am sharing this raw part of me is because this is what happens when you challenge a belief system that no longer serves you. Your brain wants to fight you tooth and nail because it 100% believes that the current belief system is the only truths in your life. So I am challenging myself and it hasn’t been going well.

HOWEVER, today I woke up feeling empowered and ready to tackle today’s challenges. What changed? My mindset. I allowed myself to feel all the feelings and move through them. Then I talked myself through those feelings, acknowledging that these beliefs have kept me safe for 39 years of my life BUT they are no longer helping me evolve into the best version of myself. They have helped me survive but not thrive. Friends, I want to thrive and be the best version of myself. This transformation will be the hardest thing I will ever do for myself but I know it will be worth it.

So if you are struggling through a transformation, know you are not alone. You will get through it because you are strong, courageous, and capable.

Series: Our transplant journey to the desert – How are we doing now

Welcome back!

This is the final part of a series on our transplant journey to Arizona. If you haven’t read my first post for this series, you can catch up here.

We have officially lived in Arizona for two years now. I would love to say that our life is perfect in the East Valley but its not. As I said in my last post, we still endure hardships and obstacles. If I am being honest, probably the hardest life lessons we have learned to date as a family and individually. Not to say that we don’t love it here because we so love living in the Phoenix metro area. I believe its the best decision we have ever made for our family.

This move has been a huge learning experience for our family. Our overall family dynamic had not changed because we didn’t really depend on anyone else to help with childcare. I believe the biggest changes for us was the convenience of having family close by. Our biggest changes were in our finances, business opportunities, and overall environment.

Don’t listen to the negativity

The biggest obstacle we faced when we began our transplant story was the enormous amount of backlash we received from family. With the exception of a handful of family members, everyone told us we were making a huge mistake moving out of state. Only until recently has extended family been truly supportive and accepting of our move.

What we learned from this experience was to trust our gut and do what is best for our family. While we loved the convenience of living close to family, we knew that our day to day life would drastically change for the better once we moved to Arizona.

My husband and I also say that we became actual adults and also learned more about ourselves. Once we settled into our new life in the desert, we knew we would have to ensure our financial ducks were in a row. So we hired a financial adviser to help us navigate our present and future financial responsibilities. We are well on our way to creating a life and legacy for our kids. This also ignited passion projects that we had put on the back burner because of financial strains.

Open for business

Once we moved to the East Valley, I was able to acquire a remote position for a software consultant company based in the Bay Area. This gave me the ability to talk to adults and refresh my skills while still having the ability to be home with my son. While this sounds like an ideal situation, it comes with time management challenges and a toddler sitting on my lap while I finish a call. Surprisingly, remote workers are pretty common for those living in Arizona. I have met more remote professionals in this metro area than in California.

My husband graduated from a local gunsmithing college – YES its a thing – at the beginning of this year and has opened a gun broker company. He will now have the opportunity to serve those in the community while carrying out his passion. Gilbert is also very supportive of small businesses so the process of opening a business was seamless. This is absolutely something we could not do in the Bay Area with all of California’s firearms laws. I am so proud of all my husband has accomplished to open this business. Its no easy feat.

Lifestyle improvements

Before living in the East Valley, we lived in the East Bay in California. The city we lived in had a bad rap. After almost ten years of living in this city, we knew that we wouldn’t grow as a family and individuals without making a drastic change. It came to a point that my husband would tell me which gas stations, grocery stores, and fast food restaurants were not safe. Honestly friends, looking back, this was no way to live. Our kids deserved to live in an area that they felt safe in.

Now living in Gilbert, our kids experience things they never had before. They’ve gone to the mall without adult supervision; they are able to walk to their friends’ houses; they are able to walk home from school; and we feel safer in this community. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still crime in Gilbert but compared to the city we used to live in, we basically live in ‘Leave it to Beaver’.

Lifestyle in Arizona is slower. Whenever we have family or friends visit, they always express how nice people are in Gilbert. These are not isolated events, Gilbert isn’t nicknamed Kindness USA for nothing. I have learned to wave to my neighbors when they drive by my house; have a conversation with the person in front or behind me in line; and to be kind to complete strangers. This is one of the top three reasons why we love living in Gilbert. This town is very community based and you see it on a daily basis. Compared to the Bay Area where everyone seems stressed out and always in a hurry. We have learned to enjoy life in the desert as well as get to know our neighbors.

Building a community

One of the hardest things we left behind in the East Bay was our church family. This amazing group of individuals blessed our family with the foundation of a Christ centered community. Because of them, we have learned that the only way we were to survive in the desert without immediate family was to create a community of our own. We knew the first place to look would be a church in our town. It took over a month and emails to our California home church to find one that fit our family. Two years later, we are well immersed in our new home church and our relationship with Christ has grown exponentially.

My husband and I currently serve in multiple ministries while our kids serve the preschool aged kids on Sunday mornings. In doing this, we have created a group of like minded individuals who love God and love people. It has been a true blessing find our new church home.

Managing mental health

Mental health is still a big topic in our house. It has been a pretty rough two years adjusting to our kids’ new diagnoses but over time we have learned how to help them manage it and move forward. I am so proud of all the work my kids’ have done to speak about their needs and feelings. Navigating teenagers is hard enough and having teens with different diagnoses makes these formative years even more complicated.

My mental health is currently pretty stable. My depression has decreased but my anxiety has now become my biggest obstacle. I still have insomnia but the cannabis and CBD has helped me get more restful sleep. Which does help with my overall mental state. I have learned what tools work and how to manage on hard days. I am definitely working towards a more solidified workout routine and I feel that I am closer than I have ever been to being more transparent with what I need overall.

The future looks bright

Reflecting on our transplant journey has given me an appreciation for how my parents immigrated from the Philippines to the US. Leaving their native country, their family members, all they have ever known and moved to a foreign land in search of the ‘American dream’. While moving to another state is nowhere near as difficult as moving to another country, I appreciate why my parents immigrated and what they scarified to provide a better life for my siblings and I.

Sorry family, we are not moving back to California. We are able to provide so many more things in Arizona and a lifestyle that we only dreamed of. I believe wholeheartedly that God has huge plans for us here and I cannot wait to see what he has in store for us. If you are thinking about relocating out of California, come and visit us. I know you will be pleasantly surprised.


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