Through Suffering to Serving

by Marianne  - September 29, 2016

Life was amazing and I felt like I was at the top of my game. While I worked night shifts as a Nurse in a busy Cardiac Surgery department, I had simultaneously built up an online fitness following, had co-founded both Girls Gone Strong and Get Glutes, become known for home Kettlebell Workouts, and built a small yet successful one-to-one online training business. When I was finally able to support myself with my business income, I resigned from my nursing career.  In early 2014, after my wedding, with a new website in the works, I was preparing to take my business to the next level…

Then I moved to Saudi and everything began to crumble.

While I was still associated with those things, and still had online clients, my life was up in the air and I felt totally lost. Like I was dizzy with disorientation, I couldn’t find my footing and I fell into a downward spiral. It was a double edged sword; a happy time because I’d just married the love of my life, but also a scary time because everything was different and I couldn’t seem to find my momentum to do what I had hoped.

Then I got sick.

So sick that I couldn’t train, I didn’t want to write, I hardly wanted to talk to anyone, and it was often extremely difficult to even work with my clients. All my dreams fell away, my future went dark as I fell into survival mode just to process the avalanche of physical and emotional suffering. When I prayed for direction, I was met with silence. Whirling round my head were the questions: “Why was this happening and when would it end?”

This chapter persisted long after my arrival here to the States. Many of you could tell by my absence and inconsistency that either things were really good, or something had gone amiss. I now call it my Wilderness Time, which I didn’t walk out of for nearly 2 years! When I did finally come out of the darkness, my perspective on life and what was important to me had changed. I finally had a new song in my heart and I realised what had been missing: alignment.

Before all of that, I was entrenched in the fitness industry demonstrating feats of outer strength and cared way too much about what people thought of me. Yet when people wrote to me or commented on my blogs or social media posts, it seemed there was a common theme: They were also looking for validation and peace from never feeling or doing enough. They were seeking something deeper than the physical side of fitness and they often took solace in hearing my experiences and struggles. Reflecting back, I realise how much more that has resonated with me over the years, and I didn’t fully appreciate it in the sense of what impact I had on my readers and watchers. The value in knowing we’re all struggling with something and we need other people to help us sometimes is huge. So how does this relate to alignment?

What came out of my Wilderness Time, when my inner and outer self did battle, was not only a discovery of my foundation, but I began aligning what I DO with WHO I am. Everything meaningful springs forth from this. Without it, I felt conflicted and discontent; insecure and often frustrated and angry with myself. Yet, as my outer strength faded, I was forced to explore what was at my centre and I realised fitness, or even what others thought, didn’t define me anymore. Through the challenges I faced, I learned to be still with myself, to appreciate the role of weakness, to accept the unknown, and put my faith to work during those silences. I rested my weary mind and body until I came to a proverbial fork in the road; seeing a new branch of possibility appear before me. As I timidly placed my foot toward the new, I soon realised it was only the beginning of a glorious unfolding (is that the name of a song?).

Here’s what happened….

One day I wrote a simple letter to God – a prayer if you like – thanking Him for every opportunity that had come my way over the years, and for the impact I’d managed to have, even in some small way. I did that because it’s important to me that what I do with my life and my work is inline with what God wants for me. The first step was to give thanks.

The next step I took was handing my work and my purpose over to God. I have always believed in having a purpose-driven life, not one lived “just coz”, and I have always had a sense that I have more to offer my wee corner of the world by being more of myself, using more of my gifts, and most importantly having the ability to help others do the same. Yet, I had never quite managed to offer myself or my life for a greater-than-me purpose; fear had so often held me hostage. Plus, if I’m honest, I had also just assumed that my idea was also His, but that day I realised that whatever my vision was for my life and the impact I hoped to have, His would surpass it all. So I offered everything up to God. I was afraid of what would come of it, but I knew that I couldn’t continue struggling to piece everything together myself.

In the moment I signed the end of the letter, “Your Daughter, Marianne”, a vision awakened inside my heart. A vision of a virtual eden that cultivates spiritual peace, inner fulfilment and a community of encouragers. In the months since, He has nurtured that seed and faced it toward a bright future.

My letter

For the first time in my life, I feel called to something that goes beyond me. The call is being of service to others who need help building strength; not only physical, but inner strength to overcome feelings and challenges like I had: feelings of self-doubt and fear because of others might think; burdened by stress and never feeling like they ever do enough; stuck in situations that no longer serve or feeling out of alignment with something deep inside; disempowered due to illness or loss of faith, or any changes that are causing their life to feel out of balance or unfulfilled.

The call to help people align WHO they are with WHAT they do in this world.

That was the long view, a momentary “zoom-out” to see what’s possible and where I’m headed. What came next was a prompt toward the first step along this path. A few weeks later I began to explore the possibility of training to become an ICF Certified Coach and, when 3 different people randomly contacted me about whether I would be their life coach, yes, I took this as confirmation of this being the next step. And I took it.

The best thing about learning how to work with people in this way is seeing how this positive coaching approach opens people up to their own resourcefulness, creativity and empowerment as they begin to see themselves differently; to see themselves as those who love them do. Coaching isn’t about installing something that’s lacking or fixing something that’s broken, it’s about discovering, drawing out, and leveraging what’s already there. It’s a collaborative relationship where my role is to come along beside you – meeting you where you’re at – and walking with you as we discover more of who you are, what’s important to you, so that you get to live the kind of life you’re being called to and have the greatest impact possible for your corner of the world.

Now, several months into my training with Mentor Coach (chosen because they have a faculty of highly qualified academics who are known for an evidence-based approach), I am grateful every day for taking this path. When all of went before: my nursing experience, my online presence and fitness business, my successes and failures, my time of illness, along with a growing faith had a role in nudging me to fully explore my purpose beyond fitness programs and workout videos.

Through these last few years, I have come to realise what’s important to me is not some arbitrary or superficial measure of success, like popularity or making millions (and I knew that deep down); what’s most important to me is having a purpose that’s an expression of who I am and that carries meaning for others; doing good and being faithful to my values. There are no greater earthly source of fulfilment than alignment with these things.

As I look back now I can see how those years of suffering has served me so that I can live a life of service to those around me. What a gift.

~ Marianne

PS – I’d love to write more about what I’m learning in my coaching education and use it to others breakthrough limiting beliefs and find their meaningful purposes. That’s why I’d love to know what your greatest challenges, struggles, areas of need are or have been? BTW: For me, right now, it’s delivering valuable content consistently.

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  1. Marianne,
    I’ve never met you, and in fact, just stumbled on your website through an online search. Your story is powerful in its vulnerability and depth. Thank you so much for taking the leap to share so personally.
    I will be back!
    Wishing you fulfillment and courage as you come alongside others.
    – Julia

  2. When I first
    heard you were going to Saudi Arabia
    I had a bad feeling because I have heard
    so many negative things the way they treat women.
    I am happy to hear about your spiritual life
    and we get our hope from Christ alone.
    I have been following you for a long time
    and you are a beautiful person inside and
    out. I just want you to know that you are loved
    by people you never met. Keep encouraging us

    God bless

  3. Very nice Marianne. Trying to push through a bit of that myself lately. Hard to read the signs, but your story reminds me that they are there whether I see them or not. Thanks,


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