Saturday, February 24, 2018

There's No Place Like Home....

With what sits on my plate as part of my tasks this year in life, I have not had the time to blog so much. However, I have just returned from my third time to Brisas del Mar, Colombia, and it always deserves some blog spots.
 And not just that it deserves blogs to share about the beautiful people there, but it also helps me find ways to put into words and process the incredible experiences. It helps me fill in a small way the huge void that sits in my soul as I say "Until next time" to my Colombian family.

 And so today, as I am continuing to reflect on those moments, on one hand my heart is so full from the love and the people and the experiences. And yet on yet another hand, my heart breaks and is so sad from separating from the village that has captured my soul.

 Perhaps I say - or will say- this every trip, but it holds true : this was my best trip ever of all the 3. The team I traveled with was really wonderful and surpassed the teamwork in a way I didn't expect. There were only 9 of us, and all except one had been there before. Mike, Paula, Mark, Ed, Jay, Keith, Diana and Steve. I felt more immersed in the community this time than ever. ( That grows each time) And the events we had were beautiful, not to mention watching more people filter in to the church service and the goodbye service than I'd ever seen there before.

 I never quite know how to break these blogs down, as the experiences are vast and the emotions run deep. Breaking down by days feels a little overwhelming because we do so much in a day, and yet breaking down by experience would be a book. And so I will just write as it sits with me. Today: an overview.

 When we arrived the kids held a Welcome sign in Colombian colors, yet written in English. The pastor had the Colombian and American flags hanging side by side with a small banner saying "Bienvenidos" which means welcome. While there were not as many kids milling about upon our arrival, the love was thick in the air. Yuleida, Miguel and Javier all there, amongst others, and with the biggest bear hugs ever. I was not just coming back to Brisas del Mar. I was not just going to a place to do work and help.

 I was home.

 I have said that in blogs before about Brisas, but it never escapes me. It has become my home. The people love us as their own.

 We shared much laughter, jokes, food, many tears and some beautiful experiences. We saw on this trip more people attend church and the community's goodbye to us than we ever had before. We felt the love in a profound way. It doesn't matter how many times I've gone, God always teaches me, always shows up in new ways and his presence is evident. The world around us changes every day, but the love of God and His presence never does. It only grows more beautiful.

 How do I begin to put these experiences into words? I'll try my best to recap in new ways. We put together school bags, met new friends, deepened old relationships. worked on the construction, had youth nights, women's night, children programs, we danced, we ate and shared life. The community is reshaping and growing and God is at work. They now have a working well!!! How beautiful that was (and that will get a whole blog) to see them have REAL CLEAN water for the first time ever! Can you even imagine?? Something so simple for us is something so precious to them. That never ceases to amaze me, to teach me.

 And so in the next couple of weeks, when I can find the space to do so, I will share. I learned more about the country on this trip (in part for a research project for my Spanish class) but they have a fascinating history, one we can't begin to fathom.

 Every person has a story. That is true here as much as it is there. And every person wants their story to be heard. It is a beautiful moment to take in those stories, because when we do, we can learn in profound ways. They continue to change my life.... and I hope in a small way, through my sharing of the experience, they can change yours too.

 This blog today is titled There is No Place Like Home... and I am blessed to have this home here in Ohio as well as a home in  Brisas del Mar. There is no place like home. That is true. And when I leave here I miss my family ... but go see my Colombian family. When I leave them, the gap is just as big in my goodbyes because they are a part of my heart just as much. There is no place like home... and I look forward to sharing about my second home over the next few days.

 I don't know how long God will ask me to go back there, to be used there, to be taught in my own life while I am there. but until He redirects me, I will follow. It's a beautiful thing to see His work.

 More blogs to come....

Monday, January 8, 2018

Word of the Year

Words are powerful. Words can make a huge difference in life. In my world, they play a large role. Words can tear a person apart or lift them up for days. I joke with others that I am a wordy person. So, I don't take words lightly.

Every year I think about choosing a word for the year. I began this a few years ago, and it's sort of a fun practice for me. For 2018, I knew going into this  year that I was going to be facing some new challenges. So I thought about what word I wanted to define me, define my actions and my outcomes. What word did I want to choose to help shape what I knew might be coming as well as many events or obstacles or blessing that I don't yet know. So, for my word, I choose:


Faith is such a small word with such large shoes to fill. In Spanish it is only 2 letters - fe.  But the word has such an ability to impact every part of me, those around me, every decision I make and every single thing that I face. 

We use our faith every day... we have faith our vehicle will start to get us to work. We have faith that the chair is going to hold us up every time we sit down. Those are minor examples, honestly. Faith is really not as easy as it seems. For me, already I have a few circumstances confronting my faith. Will I choose to trust or will I fret? Faith sometimes requires action and other times it requires waiting... and figuring out which one is being asked of me is also a challenge and part of the journey as well. 

At times having faith is simple and at other times, it seems impossible. So, for me, I want faith to define my year. I may not always like its outcomes, but I trust in the One who knows what's best for me. I might not always feel good during the growth that comes from the process, but I have faith  that the One who holds the stars and moon knows the best path for me. 

 Faith is hard. It doesn't always come naturally. I'm human. I want to take control and fix and do... not wait and see. I don't always understand, but it's not my job to understand, it's my job to trust. So many words can be said about the journey of faith, but that is my word for this year. along with that, I close off with these verses (bear with me, it's quite a passage, but it just all fits) that I am finding match the journey quite a bit already. 

 As I close, I lastly just say that I may not be as visible on the blog site this year. We will see as the weeks go along. I'll pop in now and then to share my journey, to talk about my fitness, to hopefully encourage you all. But part of my faith journey I think requires me to step back a little bit, too. Writing helps me process, so I won't be giving that up. But... as life shifts for me a little right now, the focus shifts, too. It's part of the faith journey. Stay tuned... I won't completely disappear. I will just be more in the background. 

 Growing in my faith. One day at a time...

 Isaiah 40: 21-31
 "Haven't you heard? don't you understand? Are you deaf to the words of God- the words he gave before the world began? Are you so ignorant? God sits above the circle of the earth. The people below seem like grasshoppers to him! He spreads out the heavens like a curtain and makes his tent from them. He judges the great people of the world and brings them all to nothing. They hardly get started, barely taking root, when he blows on them and they wither. The wind carries them off like chaff.  To who will you compare me? Who is my equal? - asks the Holy One.
 Look up to the heavens. Who created all the stars? He brings them out like an army, one after another, calling each by its name. Because of his great power and incomparable strength, not a single one is missing. O Jacom, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles? O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
  Have you not heard? Have you never understood? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. " 



Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Close to 2017

December 31. I can hardly believe that this year is ending. I feel like we just began... but they say the older you get, the faster time goes. I guess that means I'm getting older. But... at heart I'm still a little kid who laughs at silly jokes and cries when I hurt and learns from life's mistakes.

 This year, 2017, brought some hard times, some good times and some in between times. I can't sit here and recall every single moment, but that is why I will blog all year long. However, let me just share a couple.

 I began the year with the word vivacious. That is a large word to live up to, and some days I did and others not as much. But through the year, I think I embraced the concept at a new level. I didn't think about it as much as I have in years past with my "word", but as I have been reflecting on this year, I think I had many experiences that allowed me to grow and have allowed me to be vivacious.

 I met some new friends this year. Through my trip to Colombia I met Juan and Pastor Javier and Piedad. Also, Ashley and Cindy and Ginifer. I met Monica and Ashleh through my classes at school. And.. I met a lot of new runners this year. I love making new friends. Not everyone becomes a lifetime buddy... but then again, some of them do!

 I maintained the Dean's List in my education and I feel proud of that.

 We have endured some difficulties financially at home as jobs changed and incomes became adjusted. But through all that, even though the circumstance were tough, for me, I learned at a deeper level the appreciation of a dollar. And not just that, but lessons were more deeply reinforced of those that I have learned in Colombia. The people there have nothing, but they are so happy. This year I talked a lot with them about how they celebrate Christmas and I learned that 99% of them have NEVER ever had a christmas gift. I should stop being surprised by what I learn... but I am constantly amazed and eye-opened to things they experience. But I digress... the point is, I have learned much about being content without, and in all reality, the joy that comes from that.

 I ran a few races. A 10K, a 5 miler, and a half marathon. All were good experiences. But my favorite was the 5 miler. I got to run that with my friend, who pushed me and even taught me through it.

 Most of all, if I had to sum up this year in one word, I would pick the word : Growth.

 I learned so much this year- academically and spiritually and emotionally. Somedays I laughed, and yes, plenty days I cried. But most of all, through all of it, I learned. And I grew. And I discovered more about who I am and I am every day blooming into that woman more and more. And I cannot wait to see what 2018 will bring. I will share tomorrow about that.

 Here are a few of my favorite photos from the year. I really could choose like... a hundred. But, I will leave it to a few. (or... maybe like 10... I had a really hard time choosing! Also, in 2018, I am going to make my son take more pictures with me. He escaped them all too well !)

The team in Colombia with all of the teens

Wedding Fun! Getting all dressed up. 

I LOVE this photo! Ashley and I were caught on camera laughing so hard. 

Me and Elizabeth at the Blessings for Brisas 5K

Elizabeth ... homecoming

Me and My best friend, Paula

Just being silly in Phoenix

Family fun, Easter Sunday

Me with all the girls in Brisas

Me, Miguel and Mileth

Me and Rob with the 2016 Winning MAJCOM Challenge Team, ANG

Air Force MarathonStaff, Race day 2017. 

We 3 took a lot of these race weekend and laughed a lot! It's a must in the middle of exhaustion and chaos. 

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Focus on Fitness #3- The Body

I have written multiple times that goals are so wonderful, but what is even better is what we gain in the process of trying to achieve those goals- what we learn about ourselves along the way.

 For me, goals nearly always bring that result. And sometimes I achieve my goal, other times I do not. I once used to get down and blue about not being able to reach the destination I'd desired, but I have learned to appreciate what comes in between all of the beginning and the "end" of the goal.

 I am a goal setter. I am a driven individual by my own desires and ideas. So, in my final fitness blog of the year, I want to talk about what I have gained along the way this year, through my goals, through new experiences (in fitness...) and through others I have met along the way in the same regard.

 I started out this year wanting to achieve a Personal Record in my half marathon. I also set the goal of being able to do even just one- just one- pull-up unassisted. I will tell you now... I met neither of those goals. In fact, I think I digressed a little in both areas, even if I kept pushing and never quitting. I must admit to you that I can have moments where that is discouraging to me- not being able to hold my plank at 3:30 lately or be able to crush a half marathon in 2:30 (that's not my PR goal, but it's a decent time for me) ... some moments I find that discouraging. But then I reflect. And I realized how much I have gained a long the way.

 I started out with thinking I would address this blog in regards to talking about the body and the fact that I have gained weight through this year, which affects the other areas of fitness. But what I want so much to focus on is the positives. Yep- it's true. I did not meet my goals I set out to do. And also- it's a fact- I definitely gained some weight along the way. But the greater truth is this: I have gained so much more through it all ... gain that is of worth and gain that actually matters in the end.

 I have gained new perspective.
  I have gained a deeper appreciation.
   I have gained a stronger fighting spirit.
    I have gained new friends.
     I have gained more knowledge.
       I have gained new appreciation of family relationships.
     I have gained a deeper self-worth than what comes from the scale.

In the Spring, I wrote a blog about the Scale. That blog was my most read blog I have ever written. I meant every word I wrote, but it doesn't mean I don't still struggle with it. Pressures exist all around me every day to look a certain way or be a certain way. At times those pressures come from my own head (ok, most of the time the pressures come from my own thoughts.) But sometimes the feelings come from things said, too. And I have a choice to make: let those words drag me down OR keep going strong. I choose to keep going strong. I choose to tell myself that, yep, I know I have gained weight this year and my body is a little different, but what I have learned about myself this year along the way and how I have grown through the difficulties and how I have bloomed through new experiences is worth far more than any number on the scale.

 The reality is, for me....for my story in 2017, is that I didn't make a PR and I didn't gain that toned look I wanted to achieve. BUT I am still going, still trying, still fighting, still working towards those goals. And along the way I'm maintaining the Dean's list at school, I'm a mom of 2 teenagers (how is that even possible?!?), I am a wife, I work a job I love and am all the time learning new things there and taking on different little responsibilities, and I in the midst of all of that... I still get up at 4:30 so I can go for a run or make it to TRX. I'm not bragging, I'm simply sharing my story. And on the days I get down on myself for the weight gain or the not reaching the goals.... I remind myself about the fact I have gained so much more along the way this year, all the while never quitting.

 So, did I meet my fitness goals this year? No, I did not. But along the way I have gained so much more about who I am and the direction I am going and finding more beauty in that journey than what the scale or a PR or a pull up could ever tell me. Will I quit setting goals ? Of course not !! (have you met me?!?)  But I also won't let it defeat me. I sometimes have to have this conversation with myself multiple times a day, but it's worth it. The body is a funny thing. And for me, it is a challenge not to focus on how my body is looking .  But what I'm really trying to say is that true beauty comes from within. From a self-love. From sacrifice and service. From kindness and generosity. And that beauty overflows through smiles, kind words, acts of service, hard work and just loving others. If I don't have that... nothing else even matters. So I have gained much more along the road this year. And I will never give up or forget all I have progressed in this year.
  The body is a crazy complicated thing to understand. But what I gain in my heart and life means more than any number (gain or loss) on the scale. So I will keep on keeping on, one day at a time.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Focus on Fitness #2. Strength

They say you are only as strong as your weakest link. That is true in the body as well. We are only as strong as our weakest part in some ways. That is why strength training is vital to the body. Muscle burns fat. Cardio is important, but strength training is just as much so.

 I have now been doing TRX for almost 2 years. That is a little hard to believe, quite honestly. I truly love the workouts. I leave every time feeling I may have discovered a new muscle in the body because Steck (our teacher) has pushed the class with a creative new exercise. Like one handed planks. Or jumps on the wall. Or, once the body reaches a place of not feeling pushed, I can adjust my feet so that I'm once again pushing my muscles to new lengths. I really enjoy TRX.

 But just like with my running, I have experienced challenges in the TRX/strength training this fall as well. Perhaps it was the fact I had evening classes the night before my TRX classes so I was more tired going into the class. Or maybe it was that between some illnesses, events, or kids needs, I didn't get to every single class diligently, as I had been so accustomed to in the prior year. We have plank challenges every month, the first class of the month, and the goal is to make progress. It's a good "tracker" of how the body is doing, even if we know not every time can be an improvement or every time can't always be the same. And so truth be known, my plank time declined. While a part of me is discouraged about that, I am also encouraged, because I know that it could be easy to be frustrated by that and quit.

 But I am determined. I am a fighter. And I want to see improvement. So even when I don't see it, I keep trying. I want so much to see myself get back... and even better...  to my best hold plank times. It's hard, let me tell you. And it hurts. But the kind of hurt that feels good. The kind of hurt that makes me keep going back for more, knowing that I am strengthening myself in the process, mentally as well as physically. As my friend, Tammy says, "I done drank the koolaid" (I suppose that is a joke from class... sorry)

 Strength training is vital to growth. When I run, my body uses all the muscles. The core muscles control my breathing and my posture; the leg muscles obviously propel my body forward in running; my arms swing, giving perpetual energy and movement to my motion. Even my shoulders and my back play a role. Therefore, the strength of those muscles is vital to my health. Strength training is more important than it gets credit.

 So as 2017 comes to a close, I did not reach my goal of doing solo pull ups that I had desired to achieve. However, goals are about learning... and continuing to press forward. Perhaps 2018 will become the year of the pull up for me ;) Only time will tell.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Focus on Fitness #1. Running

It seems as though I have sat myself down in front of this screen multiple times, begun multiple blogs and walked away with white space, not happy with the turn of the words, or lack thereof.

 This fall has been a season which has been challenging, and in light of that, I have found myself so profoundly in thought, yet at a loss for how to share the lessons being learned, the thoughts rattling around in my brain. Today I want to address fitness. you'll forgive me if this becomes a spew of words, but sometimes that is how life is.

 You all who have been reading this for a bit know I love fitness. I enjoy running and TRXing. I have a wealth of knowledge at my fingertips because of my job. I am fortunate and I am thankful that I have those opportunities. But this fall, the struggle has been real. And I have been dwelling on how to verbalize this, because while at times it is challenging to be vulnerable, I know many others face this challenge. Over the month of December, on Monday, I am going to share with you my Focus on Fitness.  I want to share with you what I have been learning in 2017 in regards to fitness. Because I feel I have really taken in a plethora of lessons this year, this seems the adequate way to balance it out, rather than jamming your in-boxes the last few days of the year. Today, I share about running.

 I have completed since 2009, 13 half marathons, 1 full, 3 10K, 1 15K and a few 5K races. I don't say that to say "yay, me!" I share that because I want to establish that I really enjoy running. It is a passion of mine. I am no elite by any means; I have never won an age category; I don't even finish in the top 100 of my age group! But, I have gained so much along the way with this hobby.

I have learned confidence. I have discovered overcoming obstacles through perseverance. I have found new friends. I gained a beautiful job. I have raised funds for non-profits. I have lost weight (at times.) I have reshaped my body. I have learned so much about the mechanics of the body. Honestly, I never imagined that in 2008 as I sat as volunteer on the Air Force Marathon finish line and decided I was going to run a half marathon myself that it would become what it has for me. And my mom used to laugh and say "Of all my kids.. I never thought you would be the one doing half marathon races."

 It is a passion. It is a hobby. It is even my job. It is my therapy. It is my happy place in the mornings (yes, even when I fight to go out in the cold.) It is how I clear my head. It's how I work out my anxiety much of the time. It is one place I am free and where I can be me and where I can grow.

 So, why am I talking about this today specifically? What have I learned through this year about running and through my running? Here are some key things...
 1. I have learned to stop saying the word slow. It's a challenge for me at times, but honestly, who defines that?   One time when I was speaking with a pacer for a race and he asked me my projected time, and I told him, his response to me was "Oh! Cool! I pace the slow runners!"
  Really?? that debilitated my confidence for a minute and then I slowly (no pun intended) learned to get over it.
  Slow is what people make it. I might think I'm slow compared to say, some of those I discuss the topic with, but someone else might think they are slow compared to me.

 Who cares? Really..... no, really. Who cares? I am out there. And for me, with some of the battles I face, or maybe the things that are on my plate, this is still an accomplishment for me. Yep, I have to repeat that to myself more than one time a week, but it's truth. I've worked hard to eliminate that.

 2. Just like life, running has its seasons.
    I've been in a dry season. A struggle season. I haven't quit and I press forward, but it's been a struggle. Maybe it's been the events of my fall, or maybe other contributions to the decline, but it's been challenging. I think that's what makes it all the more beautiful to me. It continues to teach me, to be a metaphor.
   Truthfully... I really wanted a PR this year. That didn't happen. In fact, I lost ground. But... I gained a lot in the process. And I'm still out there. It's been a dry season. But without the dry seasons, I can't appreciate the better ones.  Will I get better? only time will tell.

 3. Rebuild the Base
    In light of losing some ground, I have decided to rebuild. I have all the knowledge (well, there are always things I can learn) but I have a lot of resources available to me. And so this year I have learned a lot, even in losing some ground. So for December, I'm rebuilding my base so in January I can really try to push for my best in a March race. One step at a time, I'll get there.
  After running now for this many years, I feel like I shouldn't have to rebuild. But... why not? I think it's a good idea. There is nothing wrong with going back to square one with new approaches and better insight.

   I may have lost ground this year in some of my finish times, but is that really what matters in the end? I'll always be competitive by nature in this regard (just ask some of those who know me best)  but.... in the end, in my heart, this is not what matters. I am not out there to win the race, I am out there to win my race. And what my race is looks different each time I toe the start line.

 This year,  Running has continued to grow me. One step at a time.

Friday, December 1, 2017


Today marks the first day of the last month of the year- how is that possible already!? I can't believe it, really. But as we move into a busy season of the year with the hustle and bustle, I'm actually trying to slow it down. Next week my semester ends (yay!!) and I am enjoying getting creative this holiday season with my gifts.
 But as I end this week, it's time to recollect all the little things from my week.

1. Sun on my face.

 I am going to soak this in as long as I can, before the gloomy winter clouds settle in. Today I put on my coat because it was cold, but I enjoyed a nice walk at lunch in the sun. Worship music and sunshine and exercise... 3 of my favorite things :)

2. Christmas lights

 There is something quietly magical and peaceful about Christmas lights. I really do enjoy seeing the different displays, including my own simple one. I truly enjoy the lights, the scents, the memories, the treats and the fun that comes with it.

3. Family

 I am blessed with my family. And when a death happens, while it is always sad and hard to walk through, I love the bond it brings, too. Reconnecting better with my cousins and my uncle has been refreshing and a way to rearrange my priorities. Death has a way of doing that, making us view life differently. I am thankful for the family I have. My brothers, my sister, my dad, my aunts and uncles and all of them. I am blessed. I know not everyone has that experience.

4. Kentucky Farm and Hills

 In light of my aunt's funeral this week, we traveled to KY for the burial. I can say it was a peaceful, beautiful service. and the scenery was something serene, soothing.

 5. Reconnecting

 I know people tend to show up a lot in my little things blogs. But that's because people's hugs or comments or new friendships tend to contribute a lot to smiles for me. I also think that God's timing is perfect for the timing of when He brings a person - new or old- into our paths. This week my old friend Danette K. and I reconnected. It has been 25 years probably since I saw her, and we did not skip a beat. I am so glad to be back in touch with her. She is a beautiful soul, whose words warm my heart.

 6. Classmates

 So thankful for a couple classmates who also just "get it". 2 ladies have helped me survive this looney math class I've taken this semester. Ashleh and Monica, 2 ladies in different phases of life, but 2 women who have both taught me about laughter and tears and joy and gratitude.

  I also don't dismiss being grateful for a live Christmas tree. Or all the little ornaments that hang on my tree that are memories (like all my snoopy ornaments, some of which I have had since I was teenager. Or my favorite ornament from Holland, given to me by a customer one year. Or a beautiful ornament that is the outline of the church I grew up in. I love looking at my tree of memories.)

So many little things to be thankful for.