Empowered
Guideposts|May 2021
My husband gave me a sledgehammer for my birthday. Yes, a sledgehammer. Turns out, it was exactly what I needed
By Eva Layton Lux

The contest was called Battle of Texas. More than 500 competitors. Fifteen hundred fans. A crew ready to slather contestants with tanning oil and body glaze.

I was backstage at the Irving Convention Center, near Dallas. Stage lights blazed on the other side of the curtain. DJ music thumped. The crowd roared for favorite competitors.

I stood at the head of a line to go onstage, wearing an outfit I wouldn’t be caught dead in anywhere else: a ridiculously small bikini, clear plastic platform heels, hair sprayed stiff, skin brown and shiny with glaze.

I was competing in my first ever bodybuilding contest. I was so anxious, I could hardly stand up.

In just a few minutes, someone would call my number. I would walk upstairs to the stage and flex my muscles in a series of required poses. Lights would blind me. I wouldn’t be able to see my husband and the rest of my family in the audience. Seven judges would scrutinize me from head to toe.

Why had I ever decided to do this? I was 48 years old. A twice-divorced mother of two grown kids and a grandmother of three, whose previous weight-lifting experience consisted of lifting groceries out of the trunk of my car. I looked nothing like the toned, sculpted competitors around me. A year ago, I’d been a flabby 190 pounds. I’m just shy of five-foot-three, by the way.

“Number one, you’re on!” the stage manager called.

I tried to take a step but couldn’t. I felt as if I was going to pass out.

If you saw me in the grocery store, you would not say, “Wow, she looks like a competitive bodybuilder.”

For most of my life, I was so insecure that I would have preferred you just didn’t notice me at all.

Why did I get on that stage last December? (By the way, the event observed pandemic protocols. Crowd size was limited; contestants and spectators were required to wear masks except onstage.)

You could say it was a conversation with my son-in-law that started it. But, really, this story stretches back all the way to my childhood.

My parents divorced when I was eight. There was addiction. Violence. Chaos. Unmanageability. Fear. So much fear.

I made a lot of bad choices after that—and as a result of it, I’m sure. I got married at 16 and had a little girl, Kelsi. The two-year marriage ended shortly after Kelsi was born. Predictably, a second marriage unraveled too, leaving me a single mom with two beautiful daughters.

Kids internalize a lot. The message I’d internalized growing up was: I was unlovable, undeserving of love or a loving relationship. That’s why I kept getting involved with men who didn’t treat me right.

I found a job as a paralegal to support my girls. The work didn’t make me feel good. The attorney I worked for represented massage parlors and strip clubs.

One day, I saw a women’s fitness magazine at the grocery store. A woman bodybuilder was on the cover.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM GUIDEPOSTSView All

The Legacy of Flight 93

An Army officer remembers his cousin Rich Guadagno and the other 39 heroes who died in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on September 11

5 mins read
Guideposts
August/September 2021

The List

After two divorces, did I really know what I wanted in a relationship? Did I even know who I needed to be?

8 mins read
Guideposts
August/September 2021

“God Will Bless Your Business

George Turner was sure the pandemic would spell the end of his struggling bike shop. His pastor had other ideas

5 mins read
Guideposts
August/September 2021

The 46th Peak

We decided to do this last hike of the challenge together. Partway down, I heard my husband scream

7 mins read
Guideposts
August/September 2021

Challenge Yourself to...Connect More!

Eager to emerge from the loneliness of lockdown and socialize again? We’ve put together a list of 15 challenges for reconnecting with the people you care about—and making new friends too. Focus on a few activities, or pick one each day to try over the next two months. Pay attention to how your relationships flourish!

2 mins read
Guideposts
August/September 2021

Reason for Hope

I feared my son would never get off drugs. Until an art class changed my heart

8 mins read
Guideposts
August/September 2021

Pistol

He was the dog I always wanted. But he came with baggage, a little like me

7 mins read
Guideposts
August/September 2021

ALONE WITH MY FAITH

The pandemic left a lot of us feeling isolated. Including me. But it opened the door to something deeper in my music and in my soul

9 mins read
Guideposts
August/September 2021

Brought Together

How two strangers found friendship and healing as they came to terms with the legacy of slavery

9 mins read
Guideposts
August/September 2021

70 Years of Hope & Inspiration

Elizabeth Sherrill’s life as a writer has been a journey of the soul, a journey that also became the very soul of Guideposts magazine

8 mins read
Guideposts
August/September 2021