Why I Love My Stomach Rolls

Last week at yoga, I was effectively forced to stare at pools of sweat gathering in my stomach rolls.

The pose had me sitting down, folded over, head hanging into my lap, looking at my belly. I don’t what this yoga pose is actually called. Probably Folded Moon or Curled Up Squirrel or something like that.

It was pretty gross.

Exercise – or “sportsing” as I like to call it – has never really been my jam. I’ve had my gym contract cancelled twice for not using it often enough, despite the free parking ticket you get when you do. I felt no shame walking into the gym, swiping that card and walking straight out. Honestly, gyms are like nightclubs except the lights are on and everyone is sober. When I actually went to gym, it was just to use the sauna. I like the sauna.

I’ve tried running, but I’ve realised that the only thing that can make me run is if someone is chasing me. When I used to try jogging around the neighbourhood, I would only run if I saw a car. Not because I thought someone would chase me, but because it might be someone who knew me, so I would step it up and prance along sprightly so it would look like I’m a super fresh runner lady. I’m not a super fresh runner lady.

My husband on the other hand is one of those kettle-belling, cross-fitting, trail-running types. He has more shoes than I do, because all of the above require different footwear. He also likes to eat kale and chia seeds, which I’m still convinced is not-real-food. To give him some credit, he does make a killer smoothie that tastes so good I don’t even know that the afore-mentioned not-real-food is in it. He also has a smoking hot body, which personally I don’t have any objections to.

The problem with my non sportsing life is that after two little kids and too many rusks, I don’t like the way my body feels anymore. I don’t like how breathless I get after playing three minutes of soccer with my boys. I don’t like how my four year old can outrun me on the beach, which is problematic when he’s running away from you stark naked, throwing his head back laughing and won’t come back no matter how much you shout. True story.

I especially don’t like it when I’m waving at another mom in the school parking lot and all I can feel is my chicken-wing arm-flab flapping around.

I need to exercise.

And so, I’ve started doing yoga. I LOVE yoga. There is no pumping dance music telling me to put my hands in the hair or push, push, push. Instead there is a strong, beautiful woman telling me to breathe, and who never shouts at me when I randomly fall over. I love not wearing exercise footwear that costs more than my kids’ school fees. I love that it’s a class so you have actually go at specific times and people watch you so you don’t just lie in the corner and have a nap which is what I would rather do (although I do think there’s a market there for some entrepreneur – a napping centre disguised as a gym). I love that there is always someone in the class who is more bendier than me, and also someone who falls over before me. I am not the worst, which is a refreshing change from the other sportsing I’ve done.


Because you know, mindfulness.

But there is something else yoga has given me that I love even more. As I bent over into the Wilted Flower pose or whatever that was that had me navel-gazing, I looked at my folded, wrinkled body, squishing over itself and dripping sweat, and do you know what I realized?


My belly made those babies.

I love my squishy belly. This belly held the two most beautiful gifts in my life. It brought both of my gorgeous, energetic, hilarious boys into the world. This belly isn’t hard, flat or ripped but you know what? I’ve eaten a lot of really, really good food. I’ve done more than just survive life. I have relished delicious meals with fantastic people. I’ve laughed until my stomach aches in kitchens, around dinner tables, and over braais.

Yoga has given me gratitude. I’m grateful for exercise and my health. I’m grateful for food and family. Yoga even made me grateful for my sweaty stomach.

I’m basically a yogi now, guys.



From 13 to 30

Thirteen years old. My dad took me out on my first date to show me how a guy was meant to treat me. He was so sweet. I was so awkward.

Thirteen years old. My dad took me out on my first date to show me how a guy was meant to treat me. He was so sweet. I was so awkward.

Do you remember being thirteen years old? When I was thirteen, I had no friends. Seriously. It was that awkward stage where some friends went to other high schools, and group dynamics changed, and I found myself being Jess “No Mates” van Straaten. It doesn’t seem like a big deal now, but it was one of those Things. You know, those Things you cry yourself to sleep over.

So my dad started to pray for a friend for me. There were two other big Things he was praying for, so he printed a picture of three mountains and stuck them on the inside of his cupboard. They were called The Three Sisters. And he prayed. He prayed that I would find a special friend, that the Thing that made me cry in my bed would be something God changed.

And He did. I got a friend. And she was awesome. I think we drove my dad nuts with our giggling and ridiculousness and lifts everywhere and telephone calls and drama. But I had a friend.

I’ll never forget the old printed picture of three mountains inside my dad’s cupboard. Never.

That was thirteen.

When I was thirty, my dad prayed again. I guess no matter how old you are, there are Things that make you cry yourself to sleep. There were some big Things happening in our lives, in our family, and once again, I saw my dad – and my mom – turn these big Things into big Asks. Asks that they took to God, that they prayed about. Maybe its because I’m not a self-absorbed teenager anymore, but I’ve seen how this journey of praying about big Things has had an impact on my family, particularly my parents. I watched them pray on a specific night of the week, I watched them fast for 24 hours every Wednesday, I watched them turn this Thing that made us cry ourselves to sleep into a Big Hairy Audacious Ask, an Ask that they took to God over and over again. My dad has written a book about this journey. It’s called To The Wall – A Journey in Missional Prayer.

Honestly, I still don’t really understand prayer, but I do know that it changes Things. I don’t always understand the theology and depth and complexity of prayer, but I do know that its really changed Things in my own life. The prayers of my parents turned some painful Things in my life around. Their prayers turned me around – to face a new direction and to allow God to rebuild some really broken walls in my life.

Thirty years old. I'd say we've both improved with age.

Thirty years old. I’d say we’ve both improved with age.

That’s one of the reasons my dad called his book To The Wall. He tells the story of prayer, and action, and broken walls being rebuilt. This book is a story of his journey – and of others in our church community – through the book of Nehemiah from the Bible.  It’s more than just a story of prayer moving mountains printed inside cupboard walls, of broken walls being rebuilt, of tears being wiped away. It’s the story of a God who has been acting, and is asking us to act, about the things that break our hearts.

So, if you want it, here it is.

Either way, from thirteen to thirty I’ve seen the impact of prayer and action bring about new life and second chances and great healing.

I reckon you could, too.

I need Discipline

My husband Tom is annoyingly disciplined. He wakes up at 4.45am to run ten kilometres. He was a Springbok gymnast until the age of 25, representing South Africa in this gruelling sport. He exercises almost every day, reads extensively, has a colour-coded diary that syncs with every device in the world, and he has goals from “100 Things to do before I die” to “Goals for 2012” (of which he has accomplished 6 of the 12 to date). He blogs about productivity, for crying out loud.

I, on the other hand, have somewhat prided myself in “balancing” Tom with my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants-free-spirit-never-finish-what-I-start approach to life. Case in point: this is the third blog I’ve started. None of the others still exist.
I’m creative with solutions and ideas, and I’ve got an imagination that helps me think outside the box. I can look ahead, anticipate problems and envision a really exciting outcome. As I like to say, I’m not a manager, I’m a leader. Sounds good, hey?

Well, according to Jim Collins, great organisations (and great leaders) have these three qualities:

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