I used to go to this workout class when I lived in Gainesville, Georgia. It was run by the one and only Ava, who is by far one of my favorite people I have ever met. Her bootcamp class started at 5:30 with Ava likely being the last one to show up in the room. You’d know she was coming before the door ever blew open. Though Ava is only 5’2”, she’s a ball of fire with a southern voice that’s loud and full of life. You smile when you hear it because you know you’re in for the best time.
She’d burst through the door and be mid-sentence, Diet Coke in hand. She’d expect you to know the first half of what she was saying even though that part was said down the hallway. Her short blonde hair was always pulled back in a ponytail, but with enough pieces falling out of each side to let you know she’s in a hurry. Always in a hurry, as if you were wondering.
I remember the day I told her I was getting married. I raised up my left hand with my shiny ring reflecting the overhead lights and proclaimed, “Ava! I’m engaged!” She cried. The grab-the-kleenex kind of tears. She said it was like her own daughter telling her. Ava is someone you never want to forget once you meet her.
Ava would have us do the craziest things in that hour workout. We would be upside down on top of picnic tables and run with medicine balls like pregnant bellies for laps on end. She had this one signature move where we’d take this bosu (think half-dome exercise ball with a 2’ diameter) and flip it upside down so the circular part was on the ground, unstable. Then she’d make sure we each had a kettle bell, the heavier the better. And she’d tell us we had to get on the bosu with the kettle bell and swing our hearts out (high in the air, over our heads).
Every time it confirmed to me that she was a crazy woman. But there was no backing out in Ava’s class, so onto the bosu we all went – with the kettle bell – to, yes, swing them.
Let me tell you, there was only one goal in mind at this point and it had nothing to do with getting a better figure or a faster running speed. The only goal was to keep standing.
I would tighten every muscle in my body, squat as low as possible with my legs so I couldn’t be taken down easily, and try my best to swing that kettle bell high in the air, all in an effort to appease Ava and not die.
I quickly learned that my point of attention mattered most. Where I set my focus determined if I would keep standing or find myself on the floor in moments. Both happened on different occasions.
Last year I felt a lot like I was standing on that bosu again with ankles wobbling uncontrollably and abs shaking from the strain being put on them. Standing amidst trying circumstances demands all of us – squatted legs, tight core, and the perseverance to believe for the breakthrough even if we cannot see it coming.
Certain strength and perseverance can only be caught when our ground shakes. That’s the irony. We become stronger standing on the unexpected ground, more unmovable and secure the more it feels as though things may crumble. The growth that changes us at the core doesn’t happen where it’s flat, firm land – it happens when things are shaking and shifting all around us. The uncertain offers us the chance to change and become – all by way of standing.
And that’s no easy thing. But if I sat with you today and you asked me what I learned last year, I think my best answer would be this: I learned to stand.
Seasons when we feel out of control, and so do our circumstances, demand that we show up for ourselves. More than others telling us we will be okay and it will work out in the end, we must look at ourselves and say, I promise that you are strong enough to withstand this.
To show up for ourselves means we aren’t fixated on what happened in the past or wrapped up awaiting what may come in the future. Instead, it requires us to be fully present in what is before us today – and to be faith-filled for ourselves in it.
Sometimes you need to pull your core tight, squat yourself low, and decide you will out-stand the circumstances in the moment. Out-hope the despair you feel. Out-believe the fear that is pressing in on you. Out-wait the unexpected.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is stand, wait, and settle within yourself that in these circumstances, you will simply keep standing.
Photo credit: Barn Images