Wednesday, December 22, 2010


I am changing as a person. The change is coming slowly, but it is still happening. They say it takes 21 days to effectively change a habit, but for me it has taken much longer. For years, I've struggled with insecurity over what other people think of me.
Some stuff happened back in late high school and early college that really shook my confidence. Don't want to go into a lot of detail here, but suffice to say someone in authority over me took advantage of their position.

I got into the habit of needing other people to validate that I was ok. That I was doing the right thing. That everything was fine. But in the last two years, two things have forced me to face these insecurities and overcome them. The first thing is my job as a youth pastor and the second has been Jiu-jitsu.

I will give you a clear picture of how BJJ has helped me overcome some of th crippling and irrational thinking I was stuck in for so long. When I started BJJ, I craved approval from people in authority--like my instructors Ben and Fabio. If they told me I was doing well, I was over the moon. But if I thought they were less than thrilled with my performance, I would feel horrible about myself. If they ever happened to actually say anything negative, it would crush me.

I know this is stupid. Trust me, as a youth pastor, I have counseled dozens of girls on this sort of thing. But even knowing this desire for approval is irrational and unhealthy, I still struggled with it. It was kind of like my brain was arguing with my feelings all the time. Sometimes my brain won. Other times my feelings won.

Lately, God has really been helping me win the battle of my thoughts vs. emotions. I have been meditating a lot on encouraging scriptures. Now, I am finally getting to the point where my brain is winning out over my feelings more often. Point in case:

Yesterday I grappled Fabio. I felt good during the grapple, like I was moving ok. Obviously, he was letting me work. But I felt like I was giving it my best. After the grapple, he didn't say anything. Nothing negative or positive. He looked tired and it was the end of class and he was rubbing his neck a lot. I started to wonder if I had been muscly while we grappled. Had I cracked his neck at some point? Then I wondered if he might be annoyed or mad at me.

Anyone who struggles with the same stuff I do will know that, from there, I started interpreting everything from body language to the things he said as him being upset at me. There was no rational foundation for it. Just my fears.

So I took a deep breath and told myself to stop it. I thought for a second about the grapple. I couldn't remember doing anything jerk-ish. So I forced myself to think,"You didn't do anything wrong. There is no reason for anyone to be mad at you."

I still had the lurking worry that Fabio might be mad at me. But I forced myself to ignore it and did the cool down stretches and talked to people and tried to put it out of my mind.

After class was over, Fabio was rubbing his neck again. So I asked if he was hurt. Turns out it was his shoulder bothering him. He injured it a long time ago as a blue belt and the moves we drilled that day and the day before had been aggravating it.

There you go. It wasn't me after all. There had been absolutely no reason for me to worry.

It might seem to you like this was no victory. But for me, it was. I still had those insecure thoughts. But I was able to reason them away and put them aside. That is a step in the right direction.

BJJ and my job have both been forcing me to learn to look at myself with more grace. I am not perfect. Sometimes I will make mistakes. But I can't live my life fearing mistakes and fearing other people. When I am worried about a situation, I have to look at it and ask myself: Have I done anything wrong here? If I haven't, then I can let it go, knowing that if someone is upset at me, it is their problem, not mine.

That ability to let go is giving me so much more peace. Thanks, BJJ and work stress. Together, your constant challenges have forced me to face myself and grow stronger.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Murder The Alternatives

What happens for me in BJJ is kind of like a mini-replica of the larger happenings in my life. What I struggle with so plainly on the mat is also what I struggle with in secret in the rest of my life.

This is my second year as a youth minister. In my first year, I met with a lot of insecurity. Was I doing things right? Were my decisions working? Would the kids respond well? When people didn't like something I did, I let it keep me awake at night. Many times, I would make decisions, then people would complain and I would change the decision to try to keep them happy.

My Pastor, Ron, had a talk with me about that. He said something that stuck with me: "Allie, you have to learn how to make a decision and murder the alternatives. Don't worry about what everyone else thinks. Do what God tells you; what you know you are supposed to do. Let Him handle the rest."

The part I struggle with is the "Don't worry about what everyone else thinks."

I am 28. Right now, I feel like I am at a point in my life where I should know confidently who I am. I should have a direction, a career, an idea of what my husband and I are working toward in the future. But instead, I still have doubt. Have I made (mostly) good choices? Or am I completely blowing it?

Basically, I let insecurity rob me of joy in my every day life too many times.

I looked up this verse this morning after reading a rant I posted on my other blog
1 John 4:18 -- "18 There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love."

God and the people who love me don't love me based on my performance. If I know they love me, I am free to make mistakes so long as I admit them and learn from them. Why can't I get that through my head?

I think what I was afraid of when I wrote that blog post was not tournaments. What I was/am afraid of is people rejecting me because of who I am. I still feel like I have to edit myself around people, because I don't want them to dislike me. I feel like I have to do things right or they will walk away

I am tired of living like that.

Yes, I need to treat everyone with love and respect. I need to be considerate. But I need to be able to stand on my own convictions and let people disagree with me and still be confident.

I think this relates to how I grapple in BJJ. Make a decision and murder the alternatives. I need to commit. Have confidence in what I've learned. When I grapple, and I'm doing well, my mind is focused on what it needs to be: reacting and planning. But when I make a mistake or someone else out-moves me, my mind turns inward and I start to doubt myself. I usually start doing worse from there. I need to learn to stay confident, even when I am in a bad position.

All of the angst that shows up in my other BJJ blog roots back to this. I am sure people are getting sick of reading about it. But these are real struggles that I am trying to figure out and work through.

Thanks for being patient, guys. I appreciate it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Just Keep Moving

Have you ever had a grapple where you sat down and instantly you knew you were about to get trounced? Yeah...that happened to me the other night. Fabio told me to grapple Ben, one of the brown belts at our school, and as soon as I sat down across from him, I could tell by his facial expression that I was about to go "through it".

Ben didn't hurt me. But the roll was far from our usual relaxed, experimental flowing. The intensity was cranked up a notch. The sad thing (for me) is that he wasn't even going all out. He was just going at a level higher than I could adjust to.

And so, I spent most of the grapple defending. In fact, defending isn't even the right word. Scrambling is more like it. It felt like I couldn't get anywhere. I tried to go one way, it was blocked. I tried to go another way and ended up in a worse spot than before.

I remember thinking mid-grapple, "Just keep moving. Stay calm and just do what you can do."

I knew that my technique would not be enough to match Ben's. But all I could do was keep moving and do the things I knew how to do. The only other options would be to flail around randomly (in which case I would likely get submitted more) or quit (which was not going to happen. ;) ).

As I suspected, my best was not enough. I got submitted several times. But I did survive (thanks for not killing me, Ben. ;P). More importantly, though, the grapple made it abundantly clear where my biggest weak points were. I walked away a little bruised (especially in the region of my ego), but knowing what I needed to work on.

Lately, my life has been like that grapple with Ben. I feel like I've got no room to move and every move I make seems to put me in a worse position than I was before. But I have to keep moving. All I can do is make decisions based off of what I know to be right and true and to have faith that God will carry me through. Maybe I'll come out on the other side a little roughed up. But hopefully I will also come out with a better sense of what my strengths and weaknesses are and where I need to improve.

Sometimes the most difficult grapples can teach you the most. And likewise, some of the most challenging situations in life can bring you to a point of brokenness, where it becomes painfully clear just how much you still have left to learn.

When you get to that point, you have three choices. You can complain and get mad at the difficulty. You can become depressed and pity the wretched failure that think that you are. Or you can take stock and say, "This is where I need work. So let's get working."

Friday, August 27, 2010

"You Need to Believe"

Recently I had one of those days. Actually, it had been one of those months. It seemed like every time I grappled, nothing was working. It was especially frustrating because the people who I was having the most trouble with were big white belt guys. I kept getting angry because it seemed like they were just muscling past my guard and holding me, not really moving. But as much as I tried to blame them, I knew the problem was with myself. I felt like I should have been able to defend better against them; to control the fight more.

That day in particular, I tried to run off the mat right after class. I had been close to tears all throughout my last grapple and I knew I wouldn't be able to keep the frustration off my face. I needed to get out of there.

But Fabio caught my arm as I was leaving and asked what was wrong. I am sure he already knew, but I told him anyways. I was frustrated. I was trying, but nothing was working. I told him I didn't know what to do.

"You do know what to do," he told me. "You know what to do, but you're afraid. You have the technique, you just need to believe."

He explained to me that I needed to move my hips more and not try to hold those guys in my guard. He gave me a few examples of specific things I was doing wrong. At the time, I didn't say anything. I was too frustrated. I couldn't decide if he was right or if he was overestimating my ability.

But I went home and thought about it and realized he was right. I was afraid. Afraid of getting my guard passed, afraid of getting into a bad position, afraid of getting submitted. And because I was afraid, I was trying to stay in guard, which is my safe zone. I wasn't moving. And I was trying to keep them from moving. But they weren't cooperating. They were moving. A lot. And because I was so stiff and tense, I couldn't adapt.

I realized Fabio was right. I knew what to do. I was just afraid to do it. What if it didn't work? What if I tried and failed?

I thought about those questions for a while and realized that it didn't matter if it didn't work. So what if I failed? What I was doing wasn't working, so I might as well try something else.

The next few classes after that were liberating. I moved a lot. I watched some of the higher belts who have similar styles to me, watched how they handled these muscly guys and tried to emulate them.

To my great surprise, it worked. Just like Fabio said it would.

All of this got me thinking about how similar this situation is to stepping out in faith. We say we believe in God, but we sit in our safe zone. But we rob ourselves of the victory and blessings we could have if we acted on the beliefs we say we have.

That's the funny thing about faith. You have to act before you get the results. You have to believe it BEFORE you see it. That's the opposite of what the world tells us. But it's the only way to grow.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Don't Feel Like It

Sometimes I don't feel like going to class. I go anyways. But when I get there, I cringe at the thought of warm ups and trudge out onto the mat for grappling like a kid being dragged off to school. Feeling like that isn't the norm for me.

I've been dealing with a small health problem over the last six months or so. I kept getting sick. Nothing major. Low grade fever, cough, runny nose, achy joints--your regular flu-like symptoms. The main problem was how often I was getting sick; every couple of weeks.

Several doctor's visits, lab work-ups and antibiotic trials later, my doctor decided my immune system might be having trouble because I wasn't getting enough sleep. That seemed probable to me, since I wake up between 5-8 times a night and never really get into a deep sleep. So, she prescribed me a sleeping pill called Ambien.

Things went well at first. I slept through the night and woke up refreshed in the morning. But about a few months into taking the pill, I started having some problems. I started feeling down all the time. Mopey. It wasn't that I didn't have energy. I just felt apathetic and unmotivated. I didn't really want to see anyone or do anything. I was just feeling really depressed. When I wasn't depressed, I was highly emotional; crying at the drop of a hat or losing my temper over little things that normally wouldn't bother me.

My husband was the one who made the connection between my sudden depression and the Ambien. Since then, I've been weaning myself off the drug. New side effects from stopping the meds have cropped up. Headaches, irritability, etc. And I am still feeling general malaise, though it's been lessening. I have confidence that these things will subside soon after I the medicine out of my system, which could take up to a month.

But my life can't stop just because I don't feel like facing it. I have to get out of bed and take care of my family and do my job. Well, I suppose I don't HAVE to. I could just quit everything and lay in bed all day. But where would that get me? Into a worse position than I was originally.

The same is true of persevering in training situations. We don't feel like doing our cardio for the day. Or we don't feel like going to class. Maybe we feel like having a whole bunch of junk food or just vegging out instead of getting in some strength training. We have a choice in the matter. We can either suck it up and do the thing we don't want to do, or we can choose not to. We can give up.

But the thing is, I think that if we give into our feelings on the short term scale, we rob ourselves of happiness and joy in the long run. If we force ourselves to face things we don't want to do head on and get past that "hump", then we will reach our goals.

Romans 5:3 says, "3Not only so, but we[b] also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope."

Sometimes it sucks to have to go against your feelings; to train when you don't feel like it. It sucks even more to face difficult situations in life that we'd rather avoid. But when we face these mental challenges head on, keeping our goals in sight, I think we will find that our minds and spirits will grow in the same way that our muscles grow from a steady routine of exercise.

It's all in how you look at it. Learn to love the pain, both in the gym and out of it. It will make you stronger.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Lately, a topic has been coming up among my teenage girls at youth group that is pretty common: Jealousy. Usually, it involves the attention of some boy. Girl 1 likes boy. Boy hangs out with Girl 2. Girl 1 hates Girl 2 so much that she wants to trash Girl 2's name to everyone on the planet.Girl 2 decides to retaliate against Girl 1 and spread equally damaging rumors. Meanwhile, both Girl 1 and Girl 2 are pretending to be friends to each others faces. Pretty immature, right?

It got me thinking about having that kind of competitive mind frame with your "friends" at the BJJ gym. Competition here is not usually about cute boys (At least, not usually!! lol) but about the pride of being "better" than your teammates. I do see it from time to time with people--usually white belts--talking about wanting to "tap out" so-and-so to show them they are better.

This mind set is not only destructive to a team atmosphere, but it is also going to get in the way of personal growth. In my opinion, thinking this way about your teammates is result of insecurity.

So what if someone is better than you? So what if some guy in the gym gets more attention than you? Are you doing BJJ to get attention, or are you doing it because you love the sport and want to improve yourself?

All of this got me thinking about myself, trying to see if I had the roots of this sort of jealously in my own thinking. I am a competitive person and, like everyone else on the planet, I want people to like me. These are some things I came up with to keep my mind focused in the right direction:

1. My self-confidence should not rest in the opinions of other people.

2. My worth is not based on my performance in BJJ, but my identity as a child of God and the strength of my character both on and off the mat.

3. If others get more attention than me, I will not change my personality/grappling style to try to get more attention.

4. I will work humbly, patiently, diligently, and with enjoyment toward my goal.

Just like girls in High School overestimate how important some boy's opinion is, I think sometimes people can get too wrapped up in trying to impress other people at the gym. It's not about how good people think you are. It's about coming to learn, have fun, get in shape and grow in your ability to defend yourself.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Giving Up Too Early

Mario, one of my instructors, has recently bee getting onto me about letting go of submissions too early. This happens mostly with chokes. I'll have someone in a choke, hold it for a few seconds and, when they don't tap, I let them go.

"You had it!" he tells me, "Why did you let it go?"

And I usually shrug and say, "I didn't think I had it."

I think I do this a lot in other areas of my life. I don't like it when people are angry at me. I don't like drama/confrontation. Also, if things don't work immediately--for example, if I start up a new service ministry for the youth group and only two kids show up on the first day--I doubt myself and wonder if I am doing the right thing. In the face of angry people or seemingly failed plans, sometimes I abandon them and move onto other things.

Maybe I'm giving up too early.

I try to remember this principle: If it was easy, everyone would do it. It's true about diet and exercise. If being in shape was easy, America wouldn't be full of fatties. But saying no to that extra cookie and getting up early to work out aren't easy. Hence the spare tires.

Same is true of a lot of ventures in life. Just because I meet a little resistance doesn't mean I'm "doing it wrong". In fact, it might mean I'm doing it right and stepping on a few toes of the people who want to keep on the path of least resistance.