My “Get Fit” Story

Written by Kody Page, Assistant to the Elementary School Pastor

I have a confession to make: I love the beginning of a New Year! I love dreaming of what things will be like a year from now. I also enjoy looking back at how marvelous the last year was everything that was accomplished. One thing that I can’t help but think about is that this time last year, I was 55 pounds heavier than I am right now.

That’s right, in the last year, I have lost 55 pounds! A lot of times I will get asked, “How did you do it?” and I’ve never really had a great answer. I stopped eating food that I knew was terrible for me and I started going to the gym to run 3-4 times a week. I didn’t struggle so much with the “eating right” side of things, but when it came to the gym, that was a whole different can of worms.

I have never been super athletic (or in shape for that matter). I can remember when I was a kid I used to run kind of funny (like I had a cape and I was flying) and other people let me know about it. When I was in high school, I went on a weightlifting machine that could be confused with a torture device. I had no clue how to use it so I thought, “I’ll just stack a bunch of weight on it and go to town!” Nothing could go wrong with that right? I ended up getting stuck in the most awkward pseudo-squat position with no hope of being able to push myself back up! A couple of big, burly, muscular manly-men saw me in distress and rushed to lift up the weights so I could once again stand. When I was free, I was so embarrassed that I picked up my bag and walked right out.

So all that to say, in May of 2015 when I stepped into a gym for the first time in years, I had all of these failures replaying in my mind. I started to ask the “what if’s.” What if everyone notices I am out of shape? What if I don’t have the right clothes on? What if I don’t know how to use the machine properly and I make myself look fool once again?

And you know what? At one point all of those things happened. I was out of shape. I didn’t have the best clothes for the job. I used a machine incorrectly. But, none of that mattered. It didn’t matter because I realized I was surrounded by people who were asking the same questions and struggling with the same issues. Sure, there were people there who were farther along the journey. But everybody that was there was working towards a similar goal-to become more fit.

Then I realized this simple truth-a gym is for people who are out of shape; for people who are overweight; for people who get winded doing simple tasks during the day; for people who ate like the world was ending; for people who felt like they had no hope. That is who the gym is for!

When I work out now, I am literally surrounded by people who are cheering me on to meet my next goal. They challenge me to do things I’ve never done before. They support me when I fail, they call me out when they see me slipping on my plan, and they correct me when my form is wrong.

And then it hit me. The church should be the same way. Just as a gym isn’t a show room of bodybuilders, the church isn’t a museum of saints. Trying to get your life straightened out before going to church is like trying to get fit before going to the gym. The church is for people who are struggling to make sense of life-people who are far from God, people who have never prayed before or even heard the name of Jesus, people who are lost and wandering.

Imagine if the church welcomed everybody, no matter what shape they were in spiritually. Imagine if the church cared about what was going on in somebody’s heart and not what clothes they were wearing. Imagine if the church challenged people to take their next step in faith. Imagine if the church was focused on bringing more people to God, and less on trying to come across as “in shape.”

I think of the story of Zacchaeus from Luke chapter 19. Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector, or the IRS of his time. He was considered the scummiest of the scum. He had stolen and cheated people out of their money. Zacchaeus was spiritually unfit. But Jesus saw him and went to his house. After Zacchaeus had an encounter with Jesus, his life was totally different. He gave half of what he had to the poor. And to anybody he cheated out of money, he paid them back four times the amount!

Luke 19:9-10 says: Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

One thing I can’t help but notice is that Jesus went to Zacchaeus when he was still a sinner. He didn’t say, “Go get your life right then come back and see me.” He met him where he was.

So with all that said, I am thrilled to be starting off this year 55 pounds lighter than I was last year and more physically fit than I have ever been. But I am challenged too. Just as I get excited when somebody who is out of shape comes to the gym for the first time, I get so excited meeting somebody who is far from God! Why? Because “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost,” and that is who I am learning to care about.

Finding My Path to God

Arias, CristinaWritten by Cristina Arias, KidzWorld Media Team


When I think about how my faith journey really got started, I think about my amazing family. I have two hard-working parents and two brothers. I come from a large family that was raised Catholic way back as far as our family tree can go, so of course I was as well. I was able to attend a Catholic school all the way until I graduated high school.

Today I can say that I’m very thankful for the way I was raised, but at the time I just couldn’t grasp it. I couldn’t connect with what I was learning, so I eventually took the backseat approach. I watched as other kids prayed better than I did, behaved better than I did, worshiped better than I did, knew Jesus better than I did, and talked about God better than I did. I began to wonder: How could God use someone like me? I have nothing to offer Him. God doesn’t need me. God seemed so unreachable to me and for years I just kept pushing Him further and further away.

I continued on this path for a while, still unsure about how I fit into God’s plans or if I even did at all. While I never completely gave up on God, I eventually pushed Him so far away that He became this soft whisper straining to be heard over all the noise and chaos of this world. At times I could hear Him, but I often pushed back with fear of unworthiness and doubt that I could ever be a part of His big plan. So I chose to take my own path, which I immediately found was meaningless, dark, and desolate. I found myself in a situation where God was practically yelling at me and I still ignored Him. I had chosen the wrong path and I was thrown into the turmoil of my decision. I was left alone, more broken than ever, and I was tired of making the same mistakes over and over again. I had finally hit my breaking point and decided I wanted God in my life – in fact I needed Him.

The very next day I decided to attend a service at NewSpring where Pastor Mark was speaking. It was as though God told Mark that I was there and told him exactly what I needed to hear – Isn’t it amazing how God does that? I instantly knew I was in the right place, so I attended NewSpring every weekend after that. NewSpring gave me a whole new experience on what a relationship with God can look like. From the moment I walked in, I felt welcomed and loved. Music has always been like therapy for me, so worship allowed me to connect with God in an entirely different way. Both Mark and Jonathan have a gift for making the Bible less complicated and more relational to each of our personal stories. All these things brought me closer to God, but once I was home I still felt alone. I loved my experiences at NewSpring, but something was still missing. I needed something more.

I felt a need to connect with people and talk about God more, so I decided to volunteer. I had seen a promotion about try-outs for the Tech Ministry at NewSpring. I was excited because I thought it would be a great way to meet people. It was something I enjoyed and it fit perfectly with my media major in college. My excitement vanished when I pulled into the parking lot, and my old fears came rushing back. What if I’m not good enough? What if I fail? Do I even have skills that God can use? I sat in my car fighting with myself – Go in, you’re already here! – No I’ll fail. Go home. – I need this! I need God! If anyone saw me in my car that night, they must’ve thought I was crazy. Eventually, I ended up going inside. It turns out the try-outs were for KidzWorld and not the auditorium team like I had originally thought. And there wasn’t really a “try-out” for the tech position. I filled out an application, signed my name on a piece of paper and went home. It turned out to be the hardest, yet the best decision I could have ever made. I became a KidzWorld tech team volunteer and soon a member of the KidzWorld staff. My experience in KidzWorld and the people I’ve met through this ministry have blessed me in more ways than I could have ever thought possible. I will forever be grateful for them. God knew exactly where I needed to be, and it all happened because I stopped pushing God away and started listening. I let Him lead me.

It’s been a couple years since then and here’s what I learned from this journey:

  • We are ALWAYS enough for God. We could never stray too far from God and when we decide to come back, He is right there waiting with love and open arms. Even when we mess up, He is there. God doesn’t ask us to be perfect because He knows that’s impossible. He just asks us to take the first step towards Him. Don’t let fear and doubt hold you back from God’s great wonders.
  • We are given unique gifts to serve God AND one another. It doesn’t have to be something grand like speaking as well as Pastor Mark, or being funny like Jesse Mahannah, or even singing like Ryan Morris. God can use us right where we are with whatever we have. We can use our gifts as mothers or fathers, friends or neighbors, or we may have great compassion or generosity. Whatever it may be, we can ask God to reveal to us our gifts and how we can use them for His purpose because even in the vastness of God’s great plan, no role is too small.
  • God has a path set out for each and everyone one of us. Isn’t that amazing? Can you imagine if God told us our entire life plan? Our own understanding could never handle all of God’s knowledge, so He saves us the trouble and confusion. He simply says, Trust me. It may push you out of your comfort zone, but like Sammi O’Neal wrote a few weeks ago, “God does incredible things in the Land of Uncomfortable.” All we have to do is fix our eyes on God and trust in Him with our entire hearts.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. – Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

Worry Less

Written by Lindsey Hargraves, KidzWorld Assistant

LindseyI’m not one to typically make a New Year’s resolution. Looking over the past year, however, I feel like God’s been showing me an area in my life I need to work on…worry. I tend to worry about a lot of things in my life – especially when they aren’t a part of “my plan.” I’ve never been a fan of life’s curveballs (I assume not many people are). But, looking back over my life, those are the times when I’ve had some of the most significant turning points in my life – where I’ve seen God show up and really show me who He is. Here are a couple examples:

I was in a job where I was working full time. I liked what I was doing, and, as an office manager, I was able to do work that utilized my degree. So, I figured I was in the right place. After a couple of years, I felt unsettled and couldn’t figure out why. One day, I was asked to join the KidzWorld team…in a part time position. I was beyond excited because I loved the time I spent each weekend volunteering in KidzWorld and could feel it was the right move. But how could we afford it? I didn’t know how we could make it work. Luckily, I have an amazing & supportive husband who was behind this change (and who wasn’t worried by the way). After much prayer, I made the change. And you know what–God showed up. Everything worked out fine, and I saw that when you follow God’s plan – He will take care of the rest. Lesson learned, right? Wrong.

After a couple years of marriage, my husband and I decided to try and start a family. It didn’t happen right away, but I had read that it can take about a year for a couple to get pregnant. Well, one year passed, then two, and soon it had been about 4 years. I decided to talk to my doctor about it. She put me on fertility medication to try to help with the process and after the first month, we were pregnant! Unfortunately, we had a miscarriage at about 7 weeks along. So, we continued on the medication (along with some other testing). I was at the point where I thought it wasn’t in the plan for us to have our own children – again, defeated that things hadn’t gone according to “my plan.” In December of 2013, we found out we were pregnant again. This time, we were blessed with Easton who was born in September 2014. Looking back, if God had allowed us to begin our family when we thought it was the right time, we would not have been in such an ideal place as we are now – both financially & spiritually. Our situation right now is so much better than it was back then and I can see that God’s timing was perfect.

In both of these times in my life, God showed me that I didn’t need to worry, just trust in Him. But, you know, it’s not always a curveball – sometimes, it feels like a strike…right? in. the. face. A week after Easton was born, I was in the ER and the hospital. After multiple tests & being scared for my life (literally) – it was discovered that I had postpartum pre-eclampsia. With that and a couple of other medical issues, I didn’t really feel great for the first 6 months of my son’s life! Not long after finally feeling better, I discovered I was pregnant, again. I thought, how is this going to work in our small house. Can we afford it? What if I have a lot of medical problems again?

All that being said, when I look at 2015 – it has been the greatest year of my life. I’ve watched Easton, our biggest blessing thus far, learn so many new things in his first 1+ year. He brings constant joy to my life and I can’t think of anything better than being a mommy. I have the most amazing husband who I could not be more grateful for (and what an awesome daddy he is!). He has had to “step up to the plate” on many of these occasions, and he does it without complaint. I have an awesome job where I get to see kids impacted each weekend by our awesome God! Finally, I have a remarkable group of family, friends, and co-workers that have been such a blessing of support & encouragement for me. And last, but certainly not least, I can’t wait to meet our newest blessing in just a couple of weeks.

So, why have I wasted any time worrying? Everything has turned out better than I could have thought. It has become very clear to me that God’s got my life under control as long as I let Him have control. His plan far exceeds any of my own expectations for my life. So, when life throws me a curveball or strike in the face, I’ve decided to just take it to Him in prayer & then worry less.

Don’t worry about anything. No matter what happens, tell God about everything. Ask and pray, and give thanks to him.  Then God’s peace will watch over your hearts and your minds. He will do this because you belong to Christ Jesus. God’s peace can never be completely understood. Philippians 4:6-7 (NIrV)

Inviting God Into Hopeless Situations

Written by Shiyrah Williams, KidzWorld Assistant.

ShiyrahThe blessing that has defined my life has been that God has allowed me to lead others in worshiping Him. From a young age, I knew that I wanted nothing more than to spend my life in worship. In fact, my name literally means ‘song unto God.’ (thanks Mom and Dad!) Worship is something that resonates so deeply within me that, when asked to write a blog post, I couldn’t wait to share with you one of my favorite events from the Bible in Acts 16.

Paul and Silas were traveling, preaching the hope found in Jesus. They spoke and acted boldly for Christ and ultimately people with evil intentions rallied a mob to beat and imprison them. The day likely began as any other but by the end of it, Paul & Silas found themselves held deep inside a prison: feet shackled, bodies beaten, and under armed guard.

It seemed like a hopeless situation. The people to which they ministered had turned on them. They tried to present love and were met with overwhelming hate. I think we all know what it’s like to face a hopeless situation. Maybe you aren’t imprisoned for spreading the gospel, but you might be facing a separation in your family. Ties that you once counted on have come untied, leaving you betrayed and alone. Or perhaps you stand in the cold shadow of a mountain of debt and try as you might to climb it, you already feel defeated. Hopeless situations come in all forms – job stresses, failing health, disparaging relationships, etc. – but they all have one common meeting point. We come to the end of ourselves. The odds are stacked against us. The obstacle is too tall or wide or deep or painful. There is no possible way that it can be overcome. It simply can’t be done. It. Is. Impossible.

It doesn’t take long for us to come to the end of ourselves – the end of our capabilities, resources, ideas, talents, time, etc. Life’s demands or expectations drain us and we feel trapped deep within our own prison, shackled and unable to break free of our restraints. We’ve all been there. Maybe you are there now. This is where we can take a lesson from Paul and Silas. It was there, deep within the gloom of that prison–heavy chains cutting into their weary ankles, clothes torn and shredded from the beating, their backs bleeding from the cuts left by the whips–it was there that they worshiped!

The Bible tells us that around midnight as Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, suddenly there was a powerful earthquake. It shook the prison from top to bottom. The prison doors flew open and everyone’s chains came loose. The story doesn’t end there and I encourage you to look it up for yourself, but what I love about this story is that in the midst of their hopelessness, they worshiped. They cried out and invited God into their situation. They kept their eyes fixed on Him. They knew, on their own, there was no getting out of such a horrific circumstance. But their circumstance did not limit God. Their circumstance didn’t change who God is. Instead they looked at their circumstance as a reason to worship. You wouldn’t think that they would have had anything to sing about, but they did. They thanked God for who He is, for His love, and for His astounding ability to redeem all things. They worshiped. And because they worshiped, God showed up in a way that changed lives–entire households even,–forever!

Every weekend we remind your children that they can trust God no matter what. And by giving them experiences and tools to connect directly with God, they learn that they can call out to their Savior through prayer and through worship. They can rely on Him in all circumstances, even hopeless ones. They too can worship.

“Three times I begged the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.’ So I am very happy to brag about how weak I am. Then Christ’s power can rest on me. Because of how I suffered for Christ, I’m glad that I am weak. I’m glad in hard times. I am glad when people say mean things about me. I am glad when things are difficult. & I am glad when people make me suffer. When I am weak, I am strong.” 2 Cor. 12:8