Monday, January 16, 2017

Race Recap

It's Race Recap time. Like it or not, choose to read it or not, not everyone cares to hear all the details of my race, but I get so excited, I have to share them :) Lucky you!

 I just returned from Phoenix, AZ, where we were promoting the Air Force Marathon at the RocknRoll Marathon, Arizona. I really enjoy visiting new locations and I especially enjoy running new races. Due to the time of our flight leaving (and the fact that I'm not fast) I could only manage to fit the 10K in as my race. But I had a blast!

 I experienced a lot of "firsts" on this trip, one of which was using Uber. (I know... I am behind the times.) The start line was several miles from the hotel/expo area, so I used Uber to get there. Not knowing the city at all, I was completely reliant on this person to get me there. But the experience became all the more fun, as I waiting to get my coffee to go (on my ride in the Uber) and the girl ahead of me was also wearing a race bib. Of course, chatty me struck up a conversation. What are the chances that in Arizona, the girl in line in front of me is from Lancaster, OH! Small world...
  As we began chatting, we decided to Uber together and we carried our conversation into the car and all the way to the start line. The amount of things Christina and I had in common was ridiculous and we stayed talking until the start of the race. She is a little bit incredible in the sense that she does these races like I do (trying to get all 50 states in, and her family isn't into it so she travels alone) but she doesn't even train! She literally shows up and runs... and she is nearly an hour faster than I am! Some people are just naturals. We had a very good time chatting it up until race start. I love the running community in this way.

 When the race began, the temperature was low/mid 50s and running in a tank top in January felt really great! The first couple miles were in back parts of the city and not as much to see, but when the 10K and the half marathon split (which they did really well as a race) we went into a park area. It was beautiful. It was along a river and had cactus (or is it cacti?) and signage describing the native trees- which I did not stop to take time to read. The path was wide and smooth and relaxing, honestly. Mile 5 was nearly all uphill, not steep but steady. And the last part was down a bridge into the finish line. I finished with a  new 10K PR by one minute! It is my goal this year to get faster and the 10K was a great way to start out my races and even better when I was able to PR. One minute is one minute ;)

 I experienced another first after the race ended and that was taking the rail back to the hotel. Those things sound so silly, but for a small-town farm girl like myself who has never really done those things, it is a really great experience.

 It wasn't long after that we were boarding our plane back to Ohio. Quick trip, but a really great experience over all.

Being Silly in the City




My New Friend Christina

10K PR- One happy girl !

My favorite way to end a race- Coffee!

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Little Moments

In lieu of what has been an honestly chaotic week for me (not at work, but just in life) it feels good to take a moment to reflect on the positives of this week. It feels right to breathe for a moment and move into the Friday with a smile. Here are a few little moments from the week:

 1. Palm trees! Strange fact about me: I absolutely love palm trees. I find them very beautiful and symbolic. They bend and don't break in storms. They stand tall. They move with the wind, but hold their ground steady. And they are just beautiful. Perhaps also because they are found in warm climates, which I prefer over snowy ones. I am currently in Phoenix, AZ and it's like the best of both worlds with palm trees surrounding me and the mountains in the background. Breathtaking.

 2. People who are kind.
  That sounds rather silly, but so many people any more are disgruntled or in a hurry and don't take time to smile. The other day the guard at the gate where I enter was so friendly and happy that it was contagious. I appreciated that start to my day. Not all of them have that demeanor, so I found it refreshing.

 3. Mexican food.
 Who doesn't love tacos and salsa? I could eat it every day.

 4. Laughing with Lisa
  I love a good laugh. Lisa and I find ways to laugh over the most stupid things, but those are the best things about which to laugh. It is good for my soul. She's a great travel partner.

 5. A run in a new city
  I took a short run this morning in a new environment. I enjoyed the huge buildings and the palm trees. I liked seeing new places. I will run the 10K on Sunday, but today it was enjoyable to get out and just go with no agenda.

 6. Conversations with my kids
 This week began a new schedule for us at home. One that is a large adjustment. But as we have entered it, I have found myself enjoying my kids adult like conversations with me. They have stepped up and helped out with some cooking and chores and it's a proud mom kind of moment that makes me smile.

 7. Coffee
 This one might make my list every week :) Coffee just plain out makes me smile and take a deep breath. It has also served as a great tool this week to help me get through my days.

 The week was a challenge, but it's good to be in a fresh environment this weekend doing something I love- promoting the AF Marathon. It gives me energy to talk to these people. And having a little quiet time in a new space also brings fresh perspective to the soul. It's wrapping up well and I'll recap on Sunday or Monday about the race. First race of the year. I don't aim to win or even PR, but I aim to do my best and to have fun.
  Until then... keep looking for the little moments.

Monday, January 9, 2017


I confess: I am totally a routine oriented person. And when my routine gets thrown off kilter, life feels a little off kilter.
  Welcome to my morning :)

 I am typically an optimist by nature. But when change brings an adjustment to routines, the pessimist in me crawls out and growls a little at the world around me. I don't like it, but I own it. So, here I sit to write and process it a little. Because when I write, it helps me embrace these changes a little better.
 The silly part is, I knew all this change was coming.

 Today our life schedule gets rearranged for a while. Classes start back up for me today, and since I am not a procrastinator, I am already sitting with my planner, scheduling my assignments. It's silly to do that at 6 am, but also, with a full work day ahead and a different evening routine, I found that to be the best time to do so. (And they weren't available ahead of time, so today it is.) Michael's work schedule also changes dramatically today. And at the idea of sparing everyone all the details, it just will make life a little more crazy for me and the kids. It'll work itself out in time, but for the start up of this, it's a little hairy.
 So, I skipped my workout today (pretty well had to to figure this new routine out) said goodbye to him as he left at 5:30 am and got the kids going on all their duties/preparations. While they are old enough to do life more independently than young children, they still need some prompting. It's funny- when it comes to change, I tend to do pretty well. I think change is good. But, certain changes tend to throw my smile sideways for a bit. Like changes in my routine.
 Routines help me. I don't think I realized it until this morning, but routines really keep my anxiety at bay. I know I will get up at 4:30, have my quiet time, get dressed at 5:30, go for my run (or TRX) and be in the shower by 7 and out the door at at work a few minutes early.  When I return home, I have a pretty good idea of what to expect.
 Today shifts that. My quiet time was interrupted by others being up and moving around, my workout was skipped, the kids needed driven to school because it honestly is too cold for them to walk, and well, you get the picture.
 what I am not intending this to be is a post of pure complaining. Take it as you will, but for me, this is an "aha" moment. A way for me to take a deep breath, push out the frustration and move forward with a smile for the rest of the day, rather than growl inwardly. Or rather than let the anxieties rise and be a negative force on my plate.
 We will find a new routine, it will just take a few days to get the groove going. Everyone is healthy. God is providing. I'm launching into a new semester of learning. And hey- since this new schedule means me cooking now (because the cook will now be working all kinds of weird and different hours) I get to explore a world of food. That can be fun! More factors play into all of this change, but for today, day 1 of experimenting with a new routine, I can choose to laugh over all the chaos. This girl (ahem... that's me) can really use a bit of a wake up call to shifts in schedules. It happens. Get over it. (So I tell myself as I move into this Monday.)
  That being said, the verse that has been playing in my mind this morning is one I plan to hold on to as changes evolve in all of this. Jeremiah 29:11-13 "For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord. Plans to prosper  you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me and I will listen to you. You will see me and fi nd me when you seek me with all your heart."

 A very good reminder for my soul today.

 And now it's time to be off to work. Really sitting here and writing wasn't part of my schedule either, but it somehow seemed to fit just right and be one of those necessary moments.

  Smile, friends. It's Monday. And Change is good.

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Little Moments

Every Year I have attempted to create the habit about blogging on Fridays about the little moments.
 Those "things", conversations, people and experiences that take place in a week that often get discounted but really, if I take the time to ponder them, make me smile and collect to be wonderful little moments that make me happy.
  So, as I roll into 2017, I have started a jar of little moments. I am attempting to write down these little moments and put them in a jar and at the end of the year I will empty my jar and remember. But, as I do the jar, I also will once again attempt to place some of them here. Because I believe that we all could be reminded more often of the little moments for which we should be thankful. They aren't profound and may not even be something anyone else can understand. But they are for me. And maybe to help others think about their little moments in a week.
 So, as we near wrapping up the first week of 2017, here are a few little moments that took place for me.

 1. A text from Jessica.  She seems to know just when I need them. I don't know how, but I tend to get a message from her at a moment I'm just really needing to feel a smile. Just a note to say she's praying for me. She's  a special friend.

 2. Minimizing. I've begun this journey of minimizing. I follow the minimalists and while I modify for my life, the concept they bring to the table is really quite simple yet somehow fascinating. This week I gave away 4 garbage bags and a box full of stuff I don't need! Someone else out there can certainly use that. And I filled 4 more garbage bags of clothes to give to Fairborn United Methodist Church because they run a free clothing store for people in the community who need clothes. Need them. I don't share this to say yay, me! I share this because it is freeing to get rid of things I do not need. And to share with others who may. I am blessed. No need to keep that to myself.

 3. Coffee with Meghan. My week has been sort of full with some various meetings or lunches, but I was blessed by this hour with my friend Meghan. You can't beat coffee and conversation!

 4. Promoting the Linda A. Ferguson Memorial 5K
  I had the chance to do something new this week. I got to go out and promote the 5K I host. This was really a first opportunity for this, and I loved it. If you know me,  you know I love running and I am passionate about what I do. The 5K, in memory of my mom, is an extension of that. And my dad and daughter joined me in the experience, so it really was a sweet time.

  There are plenty of other little moments from the week, but those are a few. Life is back in swing and next week will bring on some changes for our family schedule as Michael's work schedule shifts pretty dramatically and I launch back into school for my 3rd semester. It might be crazy, but there will still be little moments to be found. You just have to be willing to see them.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Hello, 2017

Gone are the more reflective moments of 2016 and here are the days of looking towards to future of 2017. Of course, by now you likely realize that I am a goal setter all the time.
 I love creating lists and thinking about how I want to become better in my life. I don't always succeed, but a large part of growth is the journey towards the destination. 
  So, that being said, I have many goals in mind for the year. I literally get excited about these. I have spiritual goals,  fitness goals and personal goals and financial goals and family goals. I enjoy sitting down and thinking about these not just at the beginning of the year, but all year long. We never know what the next day may hold, let alone the rest of the year. I don't like to call them New Year's resolutions because honestly, it's more than that to me.
  But each year, I choose a word to define the year. This seemed like a strange idea to me the first time I heard of it, but it has grown on me every year since. In 2016, I had the word Strong and it became a significant journey.
  When I thought about my word for this year, I thought about how I want my year to play out (if it could be my way, of course, which isn't always reality!)
 So my word for this year is
 Vivacious is defined as : happy and lively in a way that is attractive. Full of energy and good spirits. Lively, spirited, bubbly, sparkling, lighthearted, cheerful, full of fun. 

 I like the idea of all of those words. But the biggest reason I chose this word is that as I thought about my year, I thought about the fact that I want to live life fully this year. Often times I have sat back quietly. Or my pensive, serious self hides the laughter that really is bubbling inside of me. The silly part of me gets pushed aside by the delicate life issues that need to be handled. 
 But really, I think God has made me someone fun. Yes, I have a very serious side. But really, I love to enjoy life. And how often have I let my enjoyment and my vivaciousness get shelved? How many times have I said no or backed down from the woman He has made me because I feared the results? 
 My faith will be bigger than my fears this year, Lord willing.
  My smile will outshine tears that sometimes fall.
My determined heart will inspire others. 
  My light that He has given me will shine brighter for His glory because I am living life fully. 

 I learned that the root of the word is Latin and it means "To Live" 
 So as I enter into 2017, I want vivacious to define the year. Not because I am someone super great, but because it is time to live life fully. I will take chances. I will dance like no one is watching and sing like others are not listening. I will laugh instead of cry. I will pray instead of worry. I will seek God instead of others. I will love deeply and let go of hurts. I will get rid of things I don't need and spend more time with people than I spend money on things. I will live in the moment instead of being consumed by a list of to-dos. I will work hard but not be defined by my career. I will follow dreams. I will grow deeper in who I am. In my faith. In my fitness. In my family. And in my friendships.  
    Will I be perfect at this? Absolutely not. I know that I have a long way to go in my life in order to become more of this vivacious person. But she's in there. And I cannot wait to see how the year may unfold with opportunities and ways to live life more fully - Vivacious. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Best of 2016

Only one more day to go for this year. I often times cannot believe how fast the days go by (even though there are moments it feels they are dragging.)
 Honestly, the saying is true that the older you get, the quicker time passes. This year has really been a very good year for me personally.
 Yes, there have been struggles. But what is life if there aren't any? Struggles bring growth and growth brings opportunities. So, today I just have some photos of the Best of 2016. I will tell you that I have found myself taking WAY more photos this year! And while that may at times annoy or intrigue those around me, I love it because now that the year is wrapping up, I can truly find all the best moments I chose to document in pictures.
  I could share the messy moments, too, but I don't usually photograph those. And I think I am real enough through the year about my hard days that today I just want to dwell on the best. I chose the word Strong as my word for the year, not knowing what would come along with that.
   I neglected to share one thing about that in depth, so I will close with this (brief) description and then show you my favorites/bests of the year.

  In January, I chose to do a word study through the Bible on the word Strong. I wanted to see what the One who matters most- God- had to say about strength. That time of study was one of the most eye-opening and heart shifting times I experienced in my perspective of strength. It's not about me. It never is. It's about putting my trust in the One who can give me strength.
 He will help me rise on wings like eagles. (I don't take credit of getting through the day of anxiety attacks and hardships. Only He gets me through those.)
  I can do ALL things through His strength, not mine. (going back to school took a lot of courage on my part, but I can only do it through Him because resources and time are limited, but He helps me to do ALL things)
    But the verse that became the most vital to me became 2 Corinthians 12:9 (or 8-10) which says
"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But He said to me 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my strength is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will gladly boast all the more about my weakness, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

  That is why I am OK with fighting anxiety and sharing about it- because I would rather boast about his power in me than pretend I am fine and not allow His story to be told through my life. That is why I am OK with who I am, and not just Ok with me, but embracing who I am. That is why I have grown so much this year. Because this verse became my theme. It's not about me or about my own strength. Yes, it is good for me to work on those things, but really, HE is the one who provides all that and realizing that and relying on Him for it truly brings a strength that is supernatural and unexplainable. And one I am learning to embrace in a very real way.

  Now.... here are the best moments of the year.
Bethlehem, PA. Great Times. Good Race. Great Company. Good learning. 
My best finish time in 2016 came from this race, The Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon, but the snow, sleet, hail and rain that happened in MAY made this race be my most memorable of the year. 

My favorite photo this year with Paola in Colombia. It's my favorite photo because when I see this, that smile is one of the most genuine smiles and sums me up pretty well. The real me. :) 

My Second Favorite photo of the year. We were all exhausted and worn out, but the race was a success, and our leader left an impact on me and the event's completion marked another time of growth for me. I love my little work family. 

God gave me a new best friend this year. Paula has become an answer to my prayer. 

It is hard to find a better cup of coffee than in a country where it actually grows. Yum. And this girl knows coffee- trust me. I can so often be found at Starbucks or traveling with a cup in my hand. 

Best surprise ever when my best friends from Florida showed up at my 5K in June. I had no idea they were coming! (Side note- these 2 ALSO showed up at the airport in Miami to greet our team upon coming back from Colombia.)

This photo sums us up well. He's never serious and I'm always trying to get him to be. It's very hard to get a good photo. We celebrate 15 years this year.  

Best discovery this year- my TRX class and people 

Best photo of me and my son, Joseph. Finishing one of his Cross Country meets. #ProudMom

One of my favorite moments with my daughter this year. Going to see the Lion King. 

Best "Yes" this year. I finally began my journey to get my college degree.

 As I say goodbye to 2016, it has been a beautiful year. I look forward to what 2017 will bring. One day at a time. 

The Last Shall be First

I have read the saying that you have to lose yourself in order to find yourself. There are passages in the Bible that speak on how the first shall be last and the last first. And those all intertwine.  

This year, I had the privilege of experiencing the meaning of all of those words.
Going to Colombia was my most life-changing experience ever.

 It has become a marker in time like none other in my mind. I have had several pivotal moments in life- we all do. The moments where time seems to stand still, if even for just a brief second, and we capture an experience so life-changing it is difficult to explain to others. The experience can be bad or good. In this case for me, it was most definitely good.

 When you remove yourself from all you know  (in essence, as the quote above says- losing yourself),  the experience becomes one which reshapes you and helps you see yourself in a whole new light. Such was Colombia for me.

 For 10 days, I packed up very little clothing and headed to Brisas del Mar, Colombia in February 2016. I really did not know my teammates, as they all were from Cincinnati. I certainly did not know anyone in Colombia. And I was endeavoring into a completely foreign experience, but one that has completely redshifted my life perspective. I did not know what to expect. I would not have cell service or email. I would not be "mom" for those days - to my children, anyway. I would not be the wife. I was simply "Rachael". And I needed that experience. From the time I was 19, I have always had a role to play in life which has become part of my journey and story. I was married young. I had babies young. And while those are part of who I am, they do not define me. When you chose those experiences at age 19, I will not lie- it is hard to discover who I am. It's something I have wrestled with for years. I had desires to do things- like travel overseas or go get my college degree- but in light of being a wife and a mom, those desires felt selfish and out of the question. I have always been a dreamer, but I did not always put those dreams into play. I hold a job and felt it strange to take time off to do something I really wanted to do.
 But 2016 changed all of that.

 Because in 2016, I knew I was called to go to Colombia. Without a doubt in my mind, I endeavored into the trip. Not knowing the people never frightened me. I was more intimidated about raising the amount of money and hesitant about leaving my family behind for a bit. However, they were on board with the trip and I knew if it truly was a place God was calling me, then He would provide the money. I have told the story in previous blogs back in February, so I won't repeat myself, but it was such a neat answer to prayer how God provided those funds at all the right times. My faith became bigger than my fear. And little did I know how much my time in Brisas del Mar would change me.

 I really want to capture the depth of the moment, but like any other experience so life changing, it is so challenging to put it into words.
 When I left everything behind, even if just for a few days, I was really able to discover myself.
 I am still Michael's wife and Elizabeth and Joseph's mom of course, but on that trip, I was able to really see myself through God's eyes for the first time in years. I wasn't worthless or stupid or incapable. By His grace, I was confident and able. I wasn't labeled or trapped by the emotions of anxiety and depression, but I was free to laugh and be me. I wasn't scared (well, maybe a little bit) to speak the language, but I found courage to translate. I didn't hesitate to share myself with others, but I opened up in all new ways. Just typing these words brings tears to my eyes for how marvelously God has worked in my life through this year and this experience. It's true, I didn't have my normal responsibilities for a few days,  but in serving others, we often find our true selves. That was the case for me.

 The people of Brisas ,who have nothing, taught me everything I needed to know. They saw me for who I am, not for what the world tells me I should be. They loved unconditionally. The children who don't know what it is like to have a different pair of shoes for every day- or even a pair of shoes for some of them at all- taught me what possessions really count. It's not about things or titles or money or positions. Life is about people and time and memories and love. Life is too short to be consumed by fear (I am working on this one still....) 
  The people of Brisas taught me it's ok to make mistakes and laugh at myself. They taught me what service means. We went there to serve them, and they served us. One woman washed the feet of a few others. The youth faithfully served our team snacks every day. The men worked alongside us in the dirt, some of them with no shoes on their feet at all.

 In Brisas, I found healing from some wounds that had marred the vision of my path. They became healed scars that now tell a story of redemption and grace and beauty. In Brisas, I remembered a long-ago calling I once had laid on my heart to serve those of the Latin culture, which has now turned into my return back to college to get my degree in Spanish so I can translate, in whatever capacity the Lord may allow. In Brisas, I wept tears of joy as I found new strength in letting go.

 Coming back to the States after such an experience, I was determined to apply all these beautiful lessons I learned. When immersed in our own culture again, it is hard to do this, as we Americans live so differently, but it has been neat to to see what I have been able to apply. The transformation of my heart has not always been an easy one to display, but as the year has gone along, the transformation has continued.

 I do not know if or when I will be able to go back to the village of Brisas del Mar, but I do know that the people there and my time in that third world village changed my perspective forever. My time in Colombia was most certainly the highlight of my year. I lost myself for a few days, and in essence, found who I am. I am of course a mom and and a wife and an employee and a runner and a writer. Those are parts of what make me me. But at the core... I discovered the beauty of what makes me me. Not my responsibilities or "labels" but the core values that exist within me. Applying them to my life has its own set of challenges, but I have learned to lean into the strength of God through that.

 It is becoming harder to sum up 2016, but this experience for sure reshaped my vision. And I will forever be grateful for the people of Brisas del Mar. And the team with whom I got to experience it.