Start: Fear ain’t nothin’ but a thang…

Jon Acuff

Jon Acuff

Hitting “Publish” on this post scares the bejeebers out of me.

After 15 years of taking a national stage in Catholic youth ministry, raising 4 kids, making 3 CD’s, writing a bit for several publications/blogs, diving into the exciting and terrifying world of multi-parish youth ministry, and traveling the country speaking on the healing, peace and redemption found in a relationship with Jesus…I felt a calling to do a bit more in the ministry world. Cuz, you know, I needed one more thing to do.  So here it is.

Welcome to Eat Sweat Pray Repeat.

The beautiful thing about ministry is that it causes us to look at where the needs are.

I saw one of those needs while attending the National Conference of Catholic Youth Ministry in Orlando this past December.  Though I had yet to begin my own journey to fitness, I looked around a room full of 2,000+ people who love teens, who give of themselves in service of those teens and their families, who pursue and pass on Truth to a generation in need… and who, in some cases, have visibly forgotten to take care of themselves.

I know, because I was one of them.

I was one of those individuals who may look physically healthy on the outside, but lacked the proper nutrition, energy, discipline & fitness to keep up with my 4 children, much less the effervescent ball of tangible kinetic energy known as a middle schooler.

I left that conference with a new direction for myself.  Let me tell you, it didn’t start out as a “save-the-ministry-world-with-quinoa-and-burpees” mentality… it was a slow, deliberate discipline for me – a conversion, if you will. But for the first time in my life, something clicked.

I got up every day, I worked out, I changed the way I ate.  I struggled and suffered, dragged my poor husband with me, but never once did I go back… nor did I drown in a pool of my own sweat.  (**Side Note: I even became a certified TurboKick instructor – a training which could’ve been a hilarious reality show in and of itself.)

This newly found discipline transcended to a newly formed spiritual discipline and an awareness of how my wellness was affecting those around me – positively and negatively – and so, as with anything anyone is excited & passionate about – I began to share  my newfound passion. Hey, I don’t want to tell people how to live, but I am an evangelist at heart and as such, because I have “seen the light,” I want others to see it as well.

Sharing this with those close to me – those I love and respect –  was met with some enthusiasm, cheers, encouragement, small changes & discipline increasing in my own friends’ lives, but it has also been met with indifference, opposition – with the worst being – awkward silence.

And this is where it happens…

Enter Fear – Stage Left.

“Maybe what I’m doing is wrong and will forevermore sabotage my ministry and the relationships I have built there??  Maybe people will think that I am becoming a vain middle-aged woman who kisses her biceps while flexing in public and takes endless amounts of coifed Facebook-posted selfies in her workout bra?”

(okay…yeah… maybe a TAD dramatic)  

But, when fear talks to me – sometimes, I totally admit – I listen to the bastard.   And met with his bastardly ways – this resistance/indifference – I backed away from all forms of social media thinking “No one wants to hear this from me. No one really cares.  I might make someone uncomfortable.  I might be labeled something I don’t want to be labeled.”

Then, I read Jon Acuff’s book Start. I normally devour a crappy romantic fiction read in, on average, 3 sittings, but nonfiction is so hard – I have to think and stuff – so I find it hilarious to admit that it took me a while to finish {ahem} Start.  But, if you didn’t already know this, Mr Acuff knows his stuff.  The book lit a fire under me and had me thinking about things I didn’t think were possible for myself.  Here is tidbit of what Jon had to say to me:

“Do you know what fear, fears?  Community.

Fear always tries to isolate you and put you on an island. Fear always wants you to think you’re the only one that feels a certain way or has a certain doubt. Fear is terrified that you’ll get plugged into a community of other people and learn the truth.

The truth that everyone gets afraid sometimes, the truth that chasing a dream isn’t easy or instant, the truth that fear isn’t all that big.”

Delicious, delicious, Truth.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I have felt a calling in my life (be it public speaking – evangelization – music – prolife work – social media activism), it always feels a tad uncomfortable at first. Not just uncomfortable, but hands-slick-pit-in-the-stomach-leading-to-nausea-at-4am kind of uncomfortable.  Usually those different “callings” in my life have been met with GREAT resistance both inside and outside myself… But here is the thang.

Every time I push back against that fear – staying rooted in my WHY – I know instinctively, that I’m on the right track.

So clicking this now-harmless “Publish” button is my public proclamation that I am saying “No” to fear and “Yes” to what this blog – my new apostolate – will be about.  It might be awesome or it might fail miserably, but I’m answering the call either way.

This page isn’t just going to be for those people in ministry, but for the people who have forgotten that they are stronger than they think they are.  Which includes the following:

  • Mothers who have no time and no get-up-and-go or even got-up-and-went.
  • Fathers (including the white-square-collar-kind) who wake up most mornings praying for more energy than a Red Bull could ever provide.
  •  Youth Ministers who want to get a bit of pep back in their wanna-be-hipster Toms-wearin’ step.
  • The young, the forever young – all y’all.

So… do me a favor.

Don’t let fear speak to you in a way that says that you cannot be better, stronger, faster than you are today. (and you’re welcome for getting that song stuck in your head)  Don’t let fear tell you that there is any obstacle that cannot be removed from your path to better health…including yourself!  The posts here will not be devoted to being skinny, or ripped, or fake… its about a Theology-of-the-Body kinda thing where your outside reflects what is going on inside.

To sum it up, Eat Sweat Pray Repeat is where body has a daily meeting with soul and takes on the world with its 1-2 jab-roundhouse-kick combo of awesomeness, so that whatever God places in your path today, you will be strong enough to face it with a fighting spirit.

So here we go, my community!  This Wife/Mother/Speaker/Musician/Writer/Youth Minister is going for it and fear is getting its little smug face punched.  

…And where is that “Publish” button?  Ah… there it is…


  1. JOIA IS AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I love this on so many levels. Exercise and prayer go so well together and I love that we CAN take on anything and WILL. So, here is an easy, fast, cheap recipe for Kale chips (calcium, iron, Vitamin A & chlorophyll) that even my kids love. Preheat oven 400 degrees. Wash kale and cut stalk off. Rip into 2 inch pieces and lay on a greased cookie sheet. Spritz with oil and sprinkle with salt. cook for 5 mins or until crunchy and just browning on tips. Yummy!! ENJOY! Now go sweat!!!

  2. Rebecca Paiz says

    Joia, this is so beautiful! Thank you for stepping out and ignoring the fear. I’m excited to journey with you! God bless you!