Courage isn’t just about being strong when facing difficult circumstances. Courage is about facing any circumstance (both good and bad), and choosing to remain strong. Yes, those are two very different things, and my story is a walking testimony of that!
Excess weight has always been a battle for me. During my childhood, my “jellies” weren’t exactly the beloved sparkly footwear that probably comes to mind. And no – it wasn’t just your average fat stage. I don’t think we can really call it much of a “fat stage” when it lasts more than a decade. I guess we’ll just stick to calling it more of a “fat performance”. And boy, did I perform. It never baffled my soccer coach that I was on my period every week we ran the mile, or my dance instructor that my milkshake bringing all the boys to the yard was literal. Woe is me and my cursed love of all things sweet!
After ditching the excuses (and melodramatic attitude), I came to grips with the fact that I was actually far more capable than I gave myself credit for. Granted it wasn’t until late in college that I even found the motivation to change. My drive wasn’t entirely waistline related. I mean – if we’re being real – it was like 90% waistline related. There was also a portion of my heart that needed this for reasons other than size.
I used to heavily associate my worth with my capabilities. I knew that God had a plan for my life. I actually used to write a blog, and travel to churches to speak to women about dating. I had this huge vision as a child about what God was calling me to do, but getting there seemed entirely unrealistic given my state of lethargy. I could barely muster enough energy to trek up the hill to the cafeteria at Biola University, let alone lead and empower women to find their value in Christ Jesus. Plus, I wasn’t even buying my own inspirational crap! I was allowing my excess weight to be a barrier to God’s calling, and that was that.
So, I worked my booty off, and settled in to a new state of health. I was skinny – not for sake of applause – but I need you to hear me in this. The problem in associating this newfound “freedom” so closely with my pursuance of God’s plan for my life, is what happens in the unfortunate aftermath when things change. At first, things were great. I felt and looked amazing! I could run miles, win trophies unrelated to just showing up, and actually use yoga pants for their intended purpose – it was the life! It was my life though – not God’s. I’m not about to tell you that God doesn’t bless the skinny people or the attempts of pursuing a healthier lifestyle. I just want you to hear the value of finding freedom in Him, and Him alone.
Then, things changed. For the last three years my body has been in a constant state of misery. When I first started birth control the week before my wedding, my hormones took a huge hit, and my adrenal system shut down. That may not mean much, but for me, it meant ten pounds of immediate weight gain and no cure. To make matters worse my food allergies hit an all-time high and I could barely eat anything without having to run to the bathroom shortly after. I have been vegan, vegetarian, paleo, gluten-free, dairy-free, and pretty-much-anything-happy-free. I was then incorrectly diagnosed and spent the entire last year in and out of an intensive diet that landed me right back in my melodrama. Nothing seemed to be working. When I moved back to Oregon in July, my body was a complete wreck.
I was determined to change again. In fact, I immediately jumped into working out and “eating right” as soon as I moved home. I was hitting the gym daily, eating relatively “clean”, and cutting out all joy in the form of sugary treats. All was fine and dandy until a month of my new routine had gone by, and I found myself back on the scale again, fifteen pounds heavier than when I left. My face flushed, my eyes welled with tears, and my entire understanding of health as I knew it was gone. Melodramatic-Kendra isn’t pretty.
My soul was entirely crushed. Which, looking back now, seems a tad extreme. In that moment however, it wasn’t. It was my world, and it was falling apart. Just as it should have been, given that I forgot one crucial detail during my transformational stage in college. I forgot to place my entire identity in God, and God alone. There was still a big part of me that had put my success on me. When things took a turn for the worse in my gut, I started begging God for a miracle. I wish I could share with you a beautifully written prayer for hope that I would say to Jesus, but it was something more along the lines of, “Please let me be skinny again, and eat whatever I want when I want it.”
I wanted the easy way out. I wanted God to heal the symptom, not the problem. See, courage isn’t about finding strength in the battle. Courage for me is about finding strength in preparation for the battle, and strength to give God the victory when it’s finished. I have a naturopath appointment tomorrow. Part of me panicked that her diagnosis would be wrong, and that I would waste another year of life trying to fix my stomach again. That’s when I realized the root issue has already been found, about a foot or so up: My heart has healing it needs to do first. The miracle I thought I wanted would have kept me from that healing.
Giving Keys aren’t kept once the message has been received, and mine is still in process. Courage isn’t about what size I am, or how great my digestive tract runs. It isn’t a five-step plan, or finding the right personal trainer. It isn’t even about doing this with a smile. It is about choosing today to believe – no matter what good or bad is to come out of this process – that God is faithful. He has already prepared a way for me in this, but it starts with my heart. I have to relinquish the control of what I think should be, and accept what already is. My God is faithful, and trusting that is pretty darn courageous.
My name is Kendra Vollstedt, and I’m the K-5th Community Coordinator here at Grace. Our little family is made up of my husband Shea and my dog, Nollie. We just moved back this summer to Oregon, and have loved coming back to the community here at Grace!