Back To The Basics

Here’s a quick life update since I disappeared seven months ago…

I know I’ve been MIA, but a lot has been happening! As I mentioned in my last post, I am no longer coaching gymnastics. Back in October right after my shoulder surgery, I felt like that door was closing and another one was opening. I had no idea when or where, but I knew it was time to move on. Over the past three years, I’ve really wanted to pursue a career in teaching Pilates, but with my coaching schedule in the past, that was virtually impossible. But after I quit my job, my husband and I began researching Pilates certifications, and the Lord led me to the most AMAZING place. In January, I began my certification process, and I’m finishing my trainings this weekend! Now, I still have LOTS of teaching hours to get in before I test out to get my full certification in December, but I’m having a blast! Teaching Pilates has allowed me to reconnect with friends that I wasn’t in contact with for years! It’s been so challenging and out of my comfort zone, but this whole process has had Jesus written all over it. For the first time in a long time, I’m starting to feel confident in who He created me to be. And I love having the opportunity to live out my passion of fitness and teaching through becoming a Pilates instructor.

All that being said, I still have my passion for gymnastics. Always have, always will. It will always have a piece of me. And I’m okay with that. But more than that, I have a passion for gymnasts and hopefully helping them walk confidently and successfully through challenges that I’ve faced myself. Not just in gymnastics, but also in life. This confidence isn’t found in yourself or knowing all the answers to the difficulties you’re facing. It’s a confidence that Jesus has your back. NO MATTER WHAT.

I’m writing because Jesus reminded me of this in the most tangible way tonight. Long story short, the past three years have been the most difficult, yet most beautiful years of my life. In the past three years, I’ve struggled with ENORMOUS amounts of anxiety and fear. My family completely fell apart. Everything I grew up with for over 20 years suddenly collapsed. I started realizing the amount of anxiety I had wasn’t just because of the situation my family was in, although it amplified it to the max. I became keenly aware of the anxiety that has plagued me my entire life.

Add to that, I was planning a wedding and about to get married in the midst of all this. My sweet husband… I’m so thankful for his unconditional love and support through that time in my life. He is the most incredible gift God has ever given me. He’s the beautiful part of that story.

And so is Jesus. Now, coming out on the other side of things, I see Jesus’ love through it all. Even though it felt like He up and left me, He never did. He used my pain in that season of my life and made something beautiful out of it. He showed me my anxiety. Not to shame me. Not to hurt me. But to free me. He spoke to me during that time and I remember His words so clearly: “I care more about your freedom than your comfort.” I’m so thankful He was patient with me. In my crying, in my doubting, in my worst days, He was there fighting the battle against anxiety with me. And He still is…

All that to say, I still struggle with anxiety. It’s a billion times better than it was, but it likes to rear it’s ugly head from time to time. And some days that leads to me really struggling to understand God’s love.

You know the song you learned when you were a two-year-old, “Jesus Loves Me”?

Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so.

For the past few weeks, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought, “Maybe I just need to sing that song over my life again. Jesus loves me. But that’s so simple. That’s ridiculous…” I honestly kind of laughed at the thought.

I didn’t sing it. It was a fleeting thought. But it came more than once. And I dismissed it every time.

Fast forward to today. Hillsong Young & Free came out with a new album a couple of weeks ago. I really started digging in and listening to it today in my car. And it’s INCREDIBLE. Sean had a work meeting tonight, so I just hopped on my computer and wanted to play some music. I pulled up the album on Spotify and was scrolling through the songs.

#7 – Jesus Loves Me.

Um… What? I looked up the lyrics and lo and behold, it was a modern day version of the classic “Jesus Loves Me.” I felt Jesus smiling at me laughing a little. “Simple and ridiculous, huh, Tyler?”

It’s the simplest things sometimes. He’s the still small voice saying, “I love you.” And tonight, I want to remind you that He loves you, too. In your gymnastics, in your everyday life, He loves you. He’s got your back.

Sometimes we need to go back to the basics…

“Jesus loves me, this I know.”

Disappointment

I’m back! Sorry I disappeared for the last month. I’ve been recovering from shoulder surgery, and it was super difficult to type with one hand. My mom came into town for the first few days to help Sean take care of me, but for the past three weeks, it’s just been me, Sean, and the pups. Oh yeah… and my physical therapist who I have to see quite frequently so he can try to rip my arm off. At least that’s how it feels sometimes. Anyway…

The past month has been extremely difficult. For many reasons. Figuring out how to do life with one arm is tough. Like, I know my other arm is still there, but I can’t use it fully. Ugh! It’s been so frustrating! Sean had to wash my hair and still has to put it up for me (which seriously tests my patience because I really like to be in control of my hair). He had to help me get ready in the morning. He still has to make my bed for me on the couch at night because I can’t sleep in a bed quite yet without hurting. But as hard as this has been, I’ve discovered how incredibly amazing my husband is. I mean, I already knew that when I married him, but he just continues to get more and more amazing. He has truly taken care of me and loved me so deeply through this healing process. And this healing process is still another two months! Help me!!!!! But for real though. Sean is the most amazing human on planet earth. And I love him with everything.

Also in the past month, I made the decision that it was time to move on from coaching. I knew this day would come, but honestly I didn’t think it would be this soon. Sometimes things happen that are out of your control and you have to make the best decision for yourself.

This decision wasn’t easy. It was actually heartbreaking. I absolutely adore the girls I coached for the past year and a half. And it’ll be tough to not see them everyday. But after lots and lots of conversations with Sean, we decided it was time for me to pursue the other desires I’ve had in my heart for a while now. More about that later.

I say all that to say that disappointment has been like a shadow on my life lately and it just won’t seem to go away. My hope is getting tired and weary. My heart is struggling to make sense of it all. Even in the Message Version of the Bible it says, “Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick…” (Proverbs 13:12). And I feel like that is the perfect description of me right now. Heartsick. The second part of Proverbs 13:12 sounds a lot better: “…but a sudden good break can turn life around.”

But… God! Where’s that good break! I need it! I need it like water in a desert! I mean, come on now. In one month, I’ve had surgery AND now I don’t have a job. I feel like I’m falling apart. Not to mention I haven’t even been able to try to find something else to do because I’ve been in a dumb sling. And I’m still recovering. For what seems like forever.

Even in all this pain (physical and emotional), somehow I still feel a glimmer of hope. I certainly don’t know all the answers. But one thing I am certain of is this: God, my Father, will take care of me. He’s not surprised by any of this. It hasn’t thrown Him for a loop like it has me.

How do I know this? Because He has always taken care of me. Even in my darkest moments. Even when I’ve felt like He wasn’t there. Like He had forgotten about me. He always has a plan and a purpose. Do I believe that He’s the one who has caused all this pain? Absolutely not. But I do know there is purpose in the pain. But what does that mean, exactly?

In the Bible in Romans 8:28, it says, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God…”

I love God. I really do. And my goodness am I thankful that He causes everything to work together for my good. Because He loves me. So even though I’m not quite sure what this next season of life has in store for me, I know He does. I know He has a plan.

Honestly, this post doesn’t have a whole lot to do with gymnastics. But I think it very much can be applied to gymnasts. How many times in your gymnastics career have you been disappointed? Maybe it’s something you did. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe it was something completely out of your control.

I feel like disappointment is part of any sport that strives for perfection. Because when we start to put the standard of perfection on ourselves, we get disappointed. Everytime. Because we as people just aren’t perfect. But I’m here to tell you today that if you’re facing disappointment right now like I am, whether it’s in gymnastics, school, or maybe just life in general, there is hope. I’m waiting for it too. But I can tell you it’s coming.

Some of you might be reading this and going, “Um… how do you trust in something you can’t see? How do you know that God is real? And if He is real, how do you know He has good plans and not bad plans for you?” First of all, I know because the Bible tells me so. And I believe the Bible. Second of all, I know Him. Have I seen him? No. But I’ve felt Him. I’ve felt Him in ways that bring more comfort than any human or thing could ever bring.

If you don’t believe me, let me give you a challenge. This might sound weird, but do it anyway. When you’re by yourself, maybe in your room, maybe in the shower, I want you to talk to God. Talk to Him as if you would talk to a friend. Ask Him to reveal Himself to you. Ask Him to show you His love. Ask Him to bring you His comfort. And He’ll show up. I can’t explain it. I can’t tell you exactly what it’ll be like. But He’ll show up. Trust me.

My prayer for you is that you will experience love, peace, and comfort like you’ve never experienced before. God is there with you. Even in your disappointment. You just have to be willing to let Him into your life. He’s a perfect gentleman. He won’t barge in. But if you ask, He’ll be there in a moment. Because He loves you, too.

Confidence vs. Pride

When I was eight years old, I remember my coach telling my mom that some of my teammates were saying that I had been bragging. My eight-year-old heart was devastated. I was so embarrassed. I never wanted to brag about my gymnastics. I never wanted to hurt my teammates feelings.

I remember walking in the gym that day so sad and scared and embarrassed. I was scared my teammates didn’t want me there. I didn’t want to look them in the eye. I was so discouraged.

From that point on, I decided that I wasn’t going to say anything about myself that could hurt my teammates. And in my little brain, that meant not saying anything positive about myself. I thought being humble meant being negative about my gymnastics and myself. When people found out I did gymnastics and asked me if I was good, I could never look them in the eye and say yes with confidence. I was always hesitant. I hated those questions. They made me afraid I was going to hurt someone.

I was afraid to own the fact that I was a good gymnast my entire gymnastics career because of that one moment. And that one moment made me buy into the lie that I had to be negative about myself to keep from being prideful.

I still struggle with this today. Sean, my husband, tells me all the time to stop being so negative about myself. But it’s like second nature to me at this point. Sometimes the words come out of my mouth before I even realize what I’m saying.

I’m really trying to work on this myself because negative words are SO destructive. What you say about yourself is what you eventually start to believe. And when you don’t stop, you just keep digging out your negativity hole. It gets bigger and bigger and soon, you’re stuck in the hole. You look around and all you see are the negative things you’ve spoken about yourself. The positive begins to disappear.

What I’m learning as I get older is there is a very big distinction between being prideful and being confident. Pride is thinking you’re all that. It’s believing you’re better than everyone else. And a lot of times, pride involves vocalizing that belief.

Have you ever been around someone who just talks about how great they are all the time? They talk about all the skills they’re getting, how much stronger they are than everyone else, how they’re skipping a level because they’re just so good. I think we all know someone like that. And that’s pride. Pride isn’t fun to be around. It builds itself up and tears everyone else down.

Confidence builds you up while building other people up in the process. It sees your short comings, but in spite of them says, “You can do this.” Confidence is seeing the negative and throwing the positive in its face. At the 2016 Olympics, Laurie Hernandez was getting ready to compete beam finals, and she was so nervous. But right after she saluted, she told herself, “I got this.” If you watch the video, you can even see her say it to herself. That’s confidence. Right when she started to get nervous and doubt started to creep in, she said to herself, “Nope. I got this.” There was no pride involved. Just confidence in herself. And she won the silver.

Now, let’s think for a second how her beam routine might have ended up if she had let her fear and nerves take over. Sure, she might have done the same beam routine. Maybe even still have gotten the silver. But I personally believe that if she hadn’t set her mind straight, she would have done a beam routine that was shaky and full of nerves and fear. And I think it would have been evident, resulting in lots of wobbles, maybe even a fall. I truly believe that’s the power we have over our mind. And she proved it.

Think about yourself for a minute. Where do you land when you think about your gymnastics? Do you have the tendency to be negative about yourself? Do you tend to talk about how great you are all the time? Or do you look your challenges, mistakes, and fears in the face and say, “I got this”?

Words are powerful. And because your words (or thoughts) can either build you up or destroy you, I want you to take some time to evaluate yourself. Really think about times you’ve been negative, prideful, and confident. Take yourself back to those moments and think about how you could have responded in a way that would have built you or your teammates up instead of tearing all of you down.

You have a choice every day you walk in the gym. You can choose to be negative, you can choose to be prideful, or you can choose to be confident. The choice is yours. So, what will you choose today?

Do You Perform For Love?

Let me tell you a little bit of my story…

My mom enrolled me in gymnastics at eighteen months old, and we took “Mommy and Me” classes. From that point on, there was no turning back. Gymnastics was my life. It consumed my every breath. I started homeschooling in the fourth grade so that I could devote more of my life to training.

I also loved Jesus. I received Jesus into my heart at an early age and desired to follow Him and serve Him and glorify Him through the sport of gymnastics. I had dreams to stand on the Olympic podium one day with a gold medal around my neck and give all the glory to Him. But although I loved Jesus with everything, I learned to “earn” love instead of just receiving what had already been given to me.

I was always told to not let gymnastics become my identity, but there were definitely times it did indeed define who I was as a person. I remember thinking at one point, “ I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t a gymnast.” My purpose, in my teenage mind, was being a gymnast for the glory of God. I thought that if I always performed to the best of my ability, the Lord would be proud of me. I never grasped that my real purpose in life was simply to love and be loved.

I don’t think I was ever directly told, “The Lord loves you because you’re an incredible gymnast,” but I don’t think I was ever told, “Hey, even if you didn’t do gymnastics, even if you didn’t do anything, the Lord will still love you just as much.” My life was a performance. If you did well, you got recognized. You won first place. You qualified to Nationals. And if I worked my butt off and made it to the top, all the glory went to God. If I worked my butt off and didn’t make it, I knew the Lord was still proud of me for doing my best for His glory.

Inherently, there’s nothing wrong with that view. You work hard; God gets all the glory. The Bible even says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “…Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” But in “doing everything for the glory of God,” I missed the foundational truth that I wasn’t loved for “doing.” I was loved for simply “being.”

Perfection is the goal of gymnastics. You’re always striving for that unrealistic goal of getting a perfect score. As a gymnast, you eventually come to the conclusion that getting a 10.0 on everything is just not possible. But that doesn’t mean you won’t try your hardest to get as close as possible. Your sport, and your life if you train thirty hours a week like I did, become about striving for perfection. Day in and day out. Over and over and over again. Tears, frustration, and pain are what drive you. And then every once in a while, your hard work pays off. You get that skill. You win that competition. You’re overcome with joy! But then, it starts all over again the next day. A new skill, a new competition, a new goal to strive for. Naturally, you begin to learn that you earn by striving. You receive by doing something. And eventually, that became the story of my life.

Because of the very nature of the sport to which I dedicated my life, I never saw anything wrong with striving for perfection. I even let it bleed over into other aspects of my life and labeled it “excellence.” I remember crying during my schoolwork so many times because I didn’t fully understand the math concept I had just learned three minutes earlier. I gave myself no grace or room to fail. But that was okay because I was “doing everything for the glory of God.”

When your life goal becomes perfection, pride and arrogance begin to take root. You take pride in the things you’ve done or accomplished, and those “things” begin to define you. Then, when you feel as if you’ve failed or done nothing noteworthy, you label yourself as not good enough. You label yourself as a failure. And as this pattern continues, pride takes over. Piece by piece.

I noticed this pattern in my life when I became an adult. Every time I made a mistake, I felt like a mess. I felt unworthy. I felt as if I had some serious cleaning up to do. The perfection I had strived for in gymnastics wasn’t just because I was a gymnast. Perfection had become my goal, my aim in life. And if I didn’t hit the bull’s-eye, then I had failed. I had essentially started “scoring” all the areas of my life. My relationships: 9.3. My dating relationship: 8.7. My job and my work: 9.5. My love for God: 9.2. Showing God that I love Him: 8.5.

I looked at these areas of my life and if they weren’t close to a 10.0, then I could do better. I projected this idea of scoring onto the Lord, and if the Lord thought I could do better, then that meant I wasn’t doing well enough. That meant, in my mind, that I wasn’t good enough. And I started to wonder if I ever would be. I started thinking that I had to do something to improve my scores. What could I do for the Lord so He would raise my scores and see me as “enough” again?

It’s so easy to get caught up in a life of performance. I certainly did. Maybe it was how you were raised. Maybe an A on a test isn’t good enough, and if it isn’t an A+, you get a lecture, or worse. Maybe if you don’t win first place in a sport, you feel worthless. Maybe a parent or coach even told you that you were.

One of the biggest struggles of my life has been trying to understand how God isn’t like that. I was told, “Your Father doesn’t operate like that. He loves you for you. You don’t have to do anything to earn His love. In fact, you can’t earn it. And you don’t have to perform for Him to show Him that you love Him.” It made no sense to me. I had so many questions. “How do I love God then? How does He know that I love Him? Why does He love me? I’m certainly not worth it. Have you seen me? Have you seen the mess I’ve made? Why would He love me?”

The words “I don’t understand” came out of my mouth so many times. Proverbs 3:5 had never been so real: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…” “What? Don’t lean on my own understanding? Then how do I understand?!” As confusing as it was, there was a certain peace in knowing that I didn’t have to understand. But there was so much fear attached to that word trust. I had been relying on myself and trusting myself and my knowledge for so long that I didn’t even know where to begin with just trusting. Trusting the Lord, trusting in His character, trusting in His love, trusting the people around me that the Lord had placed in my life.

It seemed so much safer to just trust myself. Fear came crashing in full force. I spent almost a year of my life absolutely terrified. “What if I trust and then end up making the wrong decision? What if I make a mistake and the Lord is disappointed in me?” But that’s what trust is. Trusting by understanding and knowing isn’t trusting. I have to trust that the Lord loves me. No matter what. And it’s not based on doing. It’s based simply on being His daughter. I have to trust that the Lord has strategically placed people in my life to speak the truth over me. If they’re all saying the same thing and I’m stuck over here in my head thinking that I’m right and they’re all wrong, then I’m just being plain prideful.

I’m learning that trusting is an integral part of life. Its not just part of some worship songs. It’s not some nice little phrase we say. It’s peace that we’ve wrapped in fear. It’s so simple. But simple doesn’t mean easy. Trusting isn’t about understanding first. Trust comes first, then the understanding. The Lord is faithful. He’s been faithful to my heart. He will continue to be. And He’ll be faithful to yours too.

Are you like me? Do you let your gymnastics performance bleed over into your performance in life? Do you need to trust Jesus with your gymnastics? Do you need to trust Him with your life? I promise you can. Because He’s trustworthy.

He loves you for YOU. Not for your performance.