Jake Stole My Blanket

Almost a year ago I joined a small women-only gym in Rosemount. After a long bout of illness I wanted to see what my body could achieve again. Inactivity over time made me feel like the filling in a Twinkie; soft and mushy, trapped in a spongy shell unable to move freely. Dizziness and joint pain caused me to distrust both my physical and mental body. What was once taken for granted now challenged me.

Three times a week, I committed to a weight training and cardio regiment. Jake, my personal trainer, pushed my physical limits more each day causing me weeks of muscle soreness and fatigue. Had I not prepaid for the 6-week boot camp style class, I would have have quit. Jake’s stories and lessons, jokes and dancing kept me distracted as I worked out. Friendships were formed with other women; each with their own comeback story.   As the 6th week approached, my sense of accomplishment was palpable. My new workout buddies and I agreed. There was no way we could leave this place, each other, or Jake.

As the months passed I gained strength. I quietly worked, sweated and listened to stories shared. One morning as I struggled IMG_0751with  bicep pulls, Jake stood to my right. He pointed to a small bulge in my wrist. “Look how strong you are Jean.” Unsure how to respond, I said nothing but found great satisfaction in watching that tiny band in my wrist pulse and twist as I worked.

The only one in my group working out one a snowy winter morning, Jake handed me a medicine ball and a mat. “Do a plank balancing on this ball with your hands.” The circuit that morning was 90 seconds. I held on. My body trembled then shook. I wanted to stay up, to hold straight in my plank. “Breath Jean!” I gasped, blew out of pursed lips and closed my eyes. “Yes! Go someplace else! You can do this!” Kneeling next to my mat Jake cheered me on slamming his fist on the floor counting down the time left. A recorded woman’s voice announced the end. Rolling off the ball I collapsed on my belly, red-faced and shaking. “I did it Jake.” He nodded as if he knew I would all along. Leaving that morning, we fist bumped our good-bye. “You believed in me more than I believed in myself. Thanks Jake.”

More weeks passed. While pulling down enough weight to lift me off my seat, Jake whispered firmly, privately in my ear, “You are not sick anymore, Jean. You are strong and well! But you are never going to be able to move forward unless you can see that for yourself.” My silent eyes locked on his. His words pierced a target in the center of my forehead penetrating my brain. It felt like he ripped a warm, protective blanket off of me on a frozen winter morning. I suddenly saw the person I used to be did not exist any longer. The wellness I worked so hard to achieve had arrived. Chilled to the bone, seeing myself in a new light, I could not speak. Somehow, Jake had whispered directly into my soul.

People speak of experiencing God in a prayer, a song, a child’s first cry, a loved one’s last breathe, wind rustling leaves or the call of dove. I now listen for God’s guidance in less likely places; in the tired eyes of a grocery store clerk, in the frustration of rush hour traffic, in the pain of a headache, the scrape of my shovel on a snow covered driveway, the bulging of a growing muscle in my arm and the encouraging words of my personal trainer.IMG_0746 What can I learn from this person, this experience that can guide me on my current path or to a brand new one? What might God be trying to teach me?

I believe I received an amazing message in that otherwise ordinary moment. I could no longer hide behind the blanket of illness, weakness or pain. It was time to stand up, step out into the world again. I was given another chance to be well and participate fully in this beautiful world. It was time to acknowledge and embrace this God given gift with the gratitude and enthusiasm it deserve. I woke up in that moment suddenly knowing my work is not finished yet. God, it seems, has something more planned for me!

1 Samuel 3:10 NLT

And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel, Samuel!” And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.”

Dear God,

I am humbled in the knowledge that you care about me enough to reach out, to guide and teach in such personal ways. As I continue to listen, learn and grow in faith, help me to recognize your voice in both the usual and unexpected places. Speak to me God! I am listening! Love, Jean

Jake Del Pino II is the Head Trainer at Get In Shape for Women in Rosemount, MN, Co-owner of Snap Fitness in Red Wing, MN, and Founder/Owner of Lamb II Lion Fitness – Faith based fitness for churches and corporations in the South Metro.

As Long as I Have Breath

What is the reason to pray? We come to God in prayer for many things. We ask for wisdom, for guidance, for understanding, for others’ welfare, for peace, for acceptance. We share our blessings, our gratitude, our love, our humility. Sometimes our prayers seem to be answered and other times ignored. So what then is the purpose for prayer? If we don’t get the results we expected for our prayers, what makes us keep praying?

For me, prayer is not about outcomes, but about a relationship with God. Prayer is a way to keep my heart open to all that God displays around me and sends into my path. When I pray for someone to be cured, I don’t know for certain if that will happen. But what I do know is that God heard me. And that God’s love will surround that person no matter what outcome.Scripture Because he bends down

Prayer is the foundation of my relationship with God. I empty my heart to him and he pours his spirit into me. Through prayer, I can be reflective about my life and my choices. Through prayer, I can hear the needs of others and respond. Through prayer, I can see the God in someone else. Through prayer, I can bring his heart to this messy world.

My prayers are not a child’s list to Santa for all that I want in this world.  It is my way of letting God know I will keep listening for him and know he is listening for me.  As long as I have breath.

What is the reason you keep praying?

Unexpected Prayer Time

Often when life gets chaotic people lament “I just don’t have time to pray”.  I can relate to this and have felt the same way when life’s constant hustle and bustle begin to overtake me.  Today as I sat in slowly moving traffic during peak rush hour, I realized what a perfect time it was to pray.  I was alone in my car.  It was quiet.  I wasn’t rushing off to do something.  Even if I had wanted to rush off somewhere to do something, I couldn’t because I was stopped in traffic.  Rather than become frustrated about the slow moving pace of traffic, I used that as an opportunity to spend some quiet time alone with God in prayer.

This experience reminded me that prayer is not so much about praying in a particular way or in a specific place.  Instead prayer is about talking and listening to God in all of life’s moments.  I Thessalonians 5:17 sums it up well “pray continually” (NIV) or “pray without ceasing” (KJV).  So the next time you feel like you don’t have time to pray, try this:  pause, take a deep breath, and remember that you can pray right where you’re at, right then and there.  Take advantage of this unexpected prayer time and rest in God’s presence.