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.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Thankful... for the Little Things

As Thanksgiving comes to a close, and we gear into Christmas immediately, I don't want to lose sight of all the little things. I don't want to become ungrateful just because the day of thanks has passed.
 The Little Things is my (not as often as it should be) blog posts to help me keep all of that in the forefront of my mind. I am thankful for a down day yesterday and today. I've actually begun a little gratitude journal and I try to take time each day to write a few things in it. There truly is so much mess that goes on around us every day that it's easy to lose the attitude of gratitude. Today, here are a few things I am so grateful for as of lately....

 1. Provision

 God is so good in how he provides constantly. This year has been a dramatic change in income for our family. I don't say that to whine. I share that to magnify what God has done. Every time we've been down to the wire, I have watched Him provide. A Kroger gift card, a Speedway card, a random check from an old company who owed us some money we didn't even know about, just the right coupons or even something as simple as my silly coffee addiction I've been really good about not doing, but when I did, someone behind me stepped up to pay for mine. Those moments cannot go unseen or unrecognized. But there is one that has been an especially large blessing to our family. We have an incredible church. Let me tell you about the dessert auction...

 2. Provision through Desserts

 Our daughter is going to go to camp this summer with the church. It's reasonably priced, but still a little out of our range right now. Last Sunday the youth were having a fundraiser through dessert auction. Any of the youth that helped out would get to have a share of the money that came in from the auction based on how many hours they worked. I took her to the early service so she could work both services for the auction and I was blown away by the amount of desserts people provided. And not just that, but then how much those people loved on our teens. One cake went for a ridiculous amount of money and my jaw dropped. I knew it wasn't about the person wanting the cake so much as wanting to help out the teens, but wow... I was blown away.
 The next day I got a text from the youth pastor telling me that because of how much money they raised and the time Elizabeth put into the auction..... she only needed to pay $40!! Wow. I was amazed. But it got even better... about 2 hours later he texted me to say someone had given $40 for her and she was good to go!
 Growing up I had a lot of stories like that, how God provided for me and my family. God is faithful. He just always is. I don't know why I worry. I still have goose bumps about it.

 3. Cousin Love

 There's nothing like listening to my kids with their cousins. They sit and talk for hours, they play games together, they laugh, they tell stories, and they bond. I love when they spend the night and I get to listen to that.

 4. Warm Socks

 When the office is 63 degrees to start out the day.... warm socks are my best friend :)

 5. Stained Glass

 When I walked into the church the other day in which I grew up in, a flood of memories came over me. I love that place and all the nostalgia that comes with it. I think it's rare to find stained glass windows anymore in modern buildings and I'd really forgotten how beautiful I find that art. I sat quietly in the room for a few moments by myself enjoying it, and remembering about 1000 things to go with it.

 6. Wind Chimes

 I don't own any, though I used to. But there is something soothing and peaceful about listening to wind chimes dinging in the breeze. Perhaps a reminder of the presence we cannot see- both God and the wind. Or perhaps it's like a song being sung quietly and music is soothing.

 These are just little things in the scheme of all the obvious big moments I am constantly grateful for in life. I admit, some days it is harder than others to find these moments. But the more I look for them, the easier they become to find. Really, these are the moments that matter.
 One moment, one day at a time.

Friday, November 17, 2017


Believe In Yourself.

 Three little words that hold far more weight than one would imagine possible.

 Over the last month, I have sat in front of my screen here several times and begun blogs that have been left mid-sentence. That is sometimes for lack of time, and other times for a lack of words for what was in my heart. My most read blogs or, I should say, the blogs I most enjoy writing, are the ones that pour from my soul. But I've been a little dry the last few weeks. So, today I sit here and share with the risk of vulnerability what this fall season has been for me on some days.

 When people ask me about my blog, I tell them it's really a hodge podge of thoughts, usually about what I am learning. Today will really be a hodge-podge, but it will boil down to three words: Believe in Yourself.

 Learning to believe in myself has been a theme I have had to constantly work on in the last few years, and God has allowed me to make significant progress in this area. Like a tree that gets chopped down one axe throw at a time, He's been chipping away the negativity and allowing it to come crashing down, using some beautiful relationships He's given me and new experiences He's put in my path. But along the way come doubts or old fears and sometimes even wounds I thought were healed that get opened back up, threatening to shift the progress I have made in growing into me more and more. Today, I want to take a moment to share some of these thoughts and the quiet battle I fight to rage against them so that I can keep on growing into the Lion that roars and not a little kitten, afraid of my own shadow.

 - Grief.

 Losing someone is not an easy road to walk down. When I lost my mom, I began this blog in 2011 because I needed an outlet. The Lord has allowed that to heal over time and be used a little bit to deepen my understanding of death, life, and the different paths people need to walk in the midst of all that.  For the first time since mom died in 2011, I have been walking the path of grief again.
 It has opened wounds all over that I thought had healed. Memories have surrounded me not only of the loved one I am saying goodbye to at this Thanksgiving season, but also of my mom. Grief is funny like that. Losing my aunt should not be about losing my mom, and very few people have understood why it looks that way for me. But in remembering my aunt, laughing about times with her, and gently letting go, I also have been remembering mom, walking down her last days and letting go of that a little bit again.
   And that's ok. I have had to tell myself that, as it felt sort of strange and even selfish. But grief is different for every person. It has its seasons and its lessons. I believe grief is still teaching me about life.

 - Dreams.

 I am a dreamer, but I have learned many times over the last few years how to begin putting my dreams into practice. Little by little. Some dreams I have to let go, or put on hold. (Like my dream of running a race in every state has slowed way down due to finances and life)  But in the wake of that, God lights up other dreams and brings them to reality. I remind myself that every day as I continue working on my school degree. This fall has been HARD. I have a looney math professor, who is so very kind I feel bad to say that, but it has made that class a challenge.  And yet in the wake of that challenge, I have made 2 sweet new friends, Monica and Ashleh. These 2 ladies are in very different seasons of life, both single moms, both working towards their goals and dreams and the 3 of us have connected to help each other along. I love when this happens.
  My sociology class has been really tough, too. Not for lack of enjoying what I'm learning there, but it's so much reading and with so little quiet, I find that difficult to do. But, again, when I stare this difficulty in the face, I also get excited and tell myself, I'm one step closer to the goal I really want to achieve: my degree. These dreams stretch me and some moments exhaust me and when there are some days lack of cheerleaders behind me, the fight to keep going is one I have to wage war against on my own. But it's worth every step, and I have to keep telling myself along the journey- believe in yourself.

- The body

 Ya'll know fitness is a huge part of my life. I love to run. I enjoy TRX very much and my health matters to me.I wrote a post a few months ago about the scale which was a lesson I was drinking in at that time. Since that post, I am having to re-read what I wrote because I need to remember those words, that lesson. I really struggle with this. I believe many of us do. There is so much pressure to be or look a certain way. And especially, sometimes I feel, as a runner. Perhaps that pressure comes from media or perhaps I put it on myself. But it's one thing to be healthy, and another to dislike myself because I don't fit into a certain size pants.
 The last couple of months, this has admittedly been a struggle for me. I'm not as fast (I've lost a lot of ground) and I probably .. no, i know, I am not as strong physically as maybe I was a year ago. I've gained weight.
 But... I've gained a lot of other things in the process. And this is a conversation I have had to have with myself many times over the last few weeks. I may not love the size clothing I'm wearing but I love who I am becoming, and this is the most important way to view myself. This topic deserves an entire blog, so... perhaps I will elaborate on this soon. The point is... I am reminding myself daily to believe in myself, regardless of my weight or size. There really is sooooo much more to life than this. Again, daily conversation... and balancing this with still working to be healthy.

- Holidays

 I really enjoy the holiday season. But let me confess a struggle I have this year: commercialism and gifts. I love to buy for others, do for others. But this year, our family has had a lot of financial changes and this year, I just can't do much. The pressure has a tendency to rise when people ask me "oh, what are you buying for your kids this year??" and I have to hesitate and say "oh, I'm not not really sure yet..." 
 Let me just tell you a few things about this. First of all, I have wonderful kids who are not the "giveme" type of children. My son had a lawn job all summer and has worked hard learning to buy for himself his "wants" and in the process has had a generous heart in his giving as well. Elizabeth is simple and she enjoys the handmade gifts as much as - really more than- the store bought ones. And I have become close enough with my Colombian family to know that it's not the things that matter. So, why do I still feel this pressure? This is another lesson I am drinking in right now.
 Life is not about the things. It's about the people, and it's about the love. And as much as I want to give all kinds of fun things to everyone around me this year because I truly enjoy that, I am finding creative ways to express my love. Ways that may take a little bit more time, but much less pennies and a lot more of my heart.

  This has been the hodge-podge of what's been in my heart and mind the recent weeks. I have had a little bit of brain cloggage, muddling my way through its messy moments, but every day, learning to believe in myself more. Regardless of all the obstacles along the way. I am a goal setter, so sometimes my setbacks frustrate me, but when I take time to work out the kinks I learn those setbacks are really just pushing me forward with Jesus as my every day strength and stronghold. I will walk as a lion, not a kitten.
 Here is a song that is my anthem in this season of needing to remind myself these truths:

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Columbus Half Marathon

It was a busy weekend, working at the Columbus expo, leading up to the race day. I enjoyed being in the city, as it had been a while since I've enjoyed the good capitol city of Ohio. I always enjoy talking to the different runners, whether it's about our race or about what they are wanting to do and accomplish at that particular event. The talk of the weekend was the unusual warm weather for October that the race was going to have.

 It was a little unusual for October. The start temps were set for 68. I decided to change my original idea of what I'd be wearing for race day.

 I got up at 3:15 so I could be on the road at 4 am. I admit, it was a little strange going to the event by myself, but the quiet ride gave me some good mental preparation time. As much as I didn't want to make this race about a finish time, it is very hard to knock the goal setter out of me. So I had a rough goal in mind.

 Parking was easy, so once I got there and beat the closing roads, I kicked my seat back and chilled out for a minute before going to the start line, which was roughly a mile from the garage.

 The temperature was warm and the air was humid, with rain on the brink of coming in. But the 68 degree temperature did not bother me. It was fairly windy, though.

 I have nothing but good things to say about this event. The organizers do a wonderful job. The corrals were well labeled, there were plenty of port o pots in each corral, and the morning emcee was great. Because I am not an elite runner, I was a few corrals back, so that may have been the only downside, which is not to fault any one or the race. It just is a full event, so when the start actually happened, it was nearly 20 minutes before I got to cross the start line.

 They had fireworks to start the event, which was really cool. And the ACDC song Thunderstruck opened up the event. When our group finally reached the start line, I set off with a decent pace, but I knew even then it was not going to be one I could maintain the entire event. But I decided to maintain it as long as I could and slow it down as need be. I know that is a backwards way to race, trust me... I know.  But I wanted to push for as long as I could and then just give it all I had for the rest of the event.

 That pace lasted me to about mile 6. I don't typically consume too much water when I run. I consume what I need to, but I am not one to stop at every mile for the water. But... it was warm and I know what I need to do (or not do) when it comes to this, so I utilized the water stops a few more times than normal. I kept pushing forward.

 At mile 8, I began to run with my heart, as the legs were tired. Around mile 10, as I took a short walk break, there was a lady doing this same and we chatted just for a minute. Her goal was "to finish" . Through the next couple of miles, she and I would take turns passing one another, evidence that we were probably feeling about the same and the fluctuation of our pace was similar.

 At mile 12.5, I came up on her walking, tapped her, and said "let's go." And so the last half mile, we didn't talk, we didn't cheer, but we finished that last leg out strong. I knew I wasn't going to make my (semi-loose) goal, so I adjusted it and just sat in to enjoy what was a finish. She had a final push a little stronger than I did, but when we got our medals, she high fives me, and we went out ways. I don't know what her name was, but that's the cool thing about the running community. There is a sense of camaraderie that is rare. Different goals, different stories, different lives, different journeys, but a similar experience had by all of us.

 I didn't finish with a giant smile, but I didn't have tears. My body was tired, it was a struggle, I admit.  but I was happy inside. I walked it out and called my family.
  It was not my worst finish time, but it was not my best. It was not even as good as my event a year ago on a course with lots of hills, but a year is a long time between the long distance events.

 Here's a little recap:
   1. I loved the race. It didn't have anything spectacular to look at through the course, but it was so well done. There was live music all over the entire course, water stops were well done, signage was good, and the volunteers were great. The course was flat (which I think led some people to assume I should just fly through it... but I knew my body and what I could do for this event.) Many people PR there. I did not.

 2. Yes, I had a little goal in my head. But the truth is, I knew going into the event right about the time I would finish, and I hit that pretty close. I am 10 lbs heavier with a life full of different obstacles at this point than this time last year, and I know those have played a role in my training and my body. So for me, this finish was another victory, another step in the direction of knowing I can do what I put my mind to, even when it is exhaustingly tough.

 3. I will spare the details, but my ride home was interesting as my stomach decided to settle down from the race, which means it actually decided to let loose all it had been juggling up. The body is a strange thing, how it responds to pounding the pavement, juggled nerves, and other minor physical components playing a role. I wouldn't change it though. I'd do it all over again.

  So, I can't say I love the question of "what was your finish time?"  because I don't like that we focus so much on that. But I can say that I finished well, with all my heart and all I had in me and I am so glad I did the race. To some it would be that four letter word I no longer use (slow), but it's my story, and for me, there are more reasons than one that this finish was a victory. I have some new goals in mind now, and the aim of not going so long between long-distance races.

Friday, October 13, 2017


T Minus 2 days until my race. I am very excited. Here is what is on the brain today... just a quick rundown of it because I am short on time (Besides, I should probably learn to be less wordy anyway....)

 I am super excited for this race. A year has passed since my last half marathon.

 I am 10 lbs heavier, have faced some crazy life obstacles, have gained mental and inner strength I didn't know existed even if maybe I've lost a little of the body strength. I have a new perspective on who I am, what I want, where I'm going and the One who carries me through it all.

 A year does a whole lot.

Sunday my toes will touch the start line.

 I do not know what my time will be, but all that matters is how good of a time I have doing it and what I've learned and gained along the way.

 I am competitive by nature, so of course a part of me will be striving for perfection. And yet, I know I am perfectly imperfect in so many ways and that is what makes me me. And I will run with grace with that knowledge.

 I will finish, in spite of the little odds stacked against me.

 I will fight the negative thoughts probably sometimes, but that is when my heart will carry me through. I love running not because I am world class at it, but because through it I learn more about who I am and more about the One who created me. I find the fighter spirit in me when I run and that pushes through to other areas of my life.

 When I am told I can't, it makes me push harder to prove I can. When I fear failure, I fight the thoughts to grow stronger. When I am completely exhausted, I did deep to encounter the passion to push me. When my legs hit a wall, my heart reminds me to keep going.

 I am not going to win any awards this weekend. But I've already won...
 Perhaps that sounds cheesy to so many others, but I know that I have gained so much along this way, and running helps me have the miles and the quiet to reflect on that.

 I have a few cheerleaders strongly behind me this weekend who don't even know how much their words and support mean to me as I head out Sunday. And I will run with all I have and I can't wait to see how it goes and to share all about it.

 I am a fighter. yes, I am quiet. But I am strong. And I am not going to let heat, exhaustion, words, weather or any other thing or person strip that away.
   Here I come, Columbus :)
inspirational cross country running quotes - Bing Images

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Blessings for Brisas

If you haven't learned this about me yet, let me just tell you I am a passionate person. When an event, a person, an activity, a place or a cause grow dear to my heart, I am all in. I have been criticized before for being too passionate and there are times I have to learn to tone it down, but it is just part of what makes me me. And so I can't apologize for that.

 I write out about some of the topics about which I'm passionate. And I try not to talk about them unless asked because that passion flows and can be overwhelming (I am told).  Nonetheless, I'm about to overflow one of my passionate moments here.

 If you have followed my blogs for any time, You know what Colombia means to me. They have become my family, a part of my my life journey. And dare I say, perhaps I am becoming part of theirs, too.

 Today I want to pour my heart out about the clinic in Brisas del Mar. I wrote about them here in 2017 and when I first went there, I wrote about it in this blog post. If you bear with me in reading my heart, you will learn why today this is what I am sharing.

 I am not a medic or a nurse, nor do I have any background in that way of life except for the simple fact of how much I took care of my mom when she was dying that I feel I got a taste of the medical world. So I would not say that medical life is my passion. But.... helping people is. And that is exactly what the clinic in Brisas del Mar does.

 On my first trip to the village, one of my jobs as a team member was to help collect medical supplies for us to take to the clinic. This little clinic sees 20-30 patients a day and they answer emergency calls in the middle of the night - not by phone, mind you, but by the people coming in, often times wailing or yelling for the doctor. The people who visit the clinic have no money. They can't afford to pay for doctor visits, let alone get themselves to the nearest hospital, which is a 45 min drive, which most of them do not have a means of transportation, so they then have to find a way to get there, let alone figure out how to pay for their care. Often times they can even be turned away by those hospitals (which, mind you, are not clean.)

 When I was "tasked" with helping get medical supplies, I was not sure what to do, so I began praying for guidance on it. I did some emails and made some calls and God did the coolest thing.... he led me to Kettering Health Network. They have a warehouse full of medical supplies that are overstock and they use these to give to groups going on trips such as ours. you guys... we filled 8 suitcases I believe with supplies!! And every time a team has gone since, KHN allows us to come in and do the very same thing. But that began my tie to this little clinic.
  When I am there, I don't do medical work (I would not know how). I don't really spend time in the clinic except to maybe help translate for a team member (Cindy)  or spend time with Yuleida (clinic administrator) listening to what they have done, and what their dreams are to continue doing.

 This clinic runs as a ministry of the church. They don't charge their patients... the patients could not pay! You guys, we have no idea here in the states what it is like to not have health care. Even those of us without insurance or good resources do not get turned away from being seen. These people don't have that!

 I want to share a story with you about a man I met on my trip in June. We went as a team (about 5 of us went) to visit a man who was unable to walk, and I saw firsthand how much this community needs this clinic. The man was around my age, in his early 30s, and he can't walk. He doesn't have crutches, he doesn't have a wheelchair, but nonetheless, he had a smile and he was so happy when we came to say hello.

 15 years ago, this man got sick. So, when he was roughly 14-15. No one knew what was wrong with him and at that time, there was no clinic there to treat him. He could not get medical help. And whatever the illness was, it took over his body so much with having no healthcare to treat him, that he became paralyzed.  Today, he is physically healthy, minus the inability to walk. He crawls like a baby. He was unable to finish school because he could not get there. And no one ever was able to diagnose his illness. He doesn't go to church... imagine trying to crawl across a dirt road to get where you need to go. So he stays in his home all the time. Now, the church there learned of this man's condition and has now established regular visits with him and has helped gap a bridge that was there. But for 15 years this man has lived his life that way.
 Because he did not have health care, he is now limited in what he can do, where he can go and how he can live. It's absolutely eye opening and heartbreaking. And if you don't see this, you probably have a hard time believing it.

 I know there are many villages out there in this same state. I know that there are people here who need help (hurricane victims, wildfires, the Las Vegas shootings.) It just happens to be that Colombia and the village of Brisas del Mar is the place that has captured my heart. It has become a second home to me. The people there have taught me to love.  The hugs, the kisses, the greetings, the joy they possess when they have so little in their lives.... it's incredible.

 I may need to do another post about this, just for the sake of sharing more facts about the clinic an the medical conditions. But here is my point to this blog...

 That clinic is in danger of closing down. The funds have dried up. And if they close down, those people will have no place to get medical care. They can't afford to pay for medication or for transportation to the next nearest facility, and no doctor would travel to them. They don't have knowledge of how to take care of medical needs... that is what the clinic helps them do. While the nurses have done some "seminars" to help the women in the village have an understanding so they can help sick people in transit to the clinic, if they don't have supplies or a means to get to another facility, that knowledge won't carry them very far.

 And so our Mission to Colombia group is planning a benefit event to help the clinic stay open. We may not make a dent in it, but then again... we may very well be able to help sustain them a little longer as they work hard on their end to make connections to keep running through other resources.

On November 4, we are going to have the first Blessings for Brisas 5K.
This is the logo for the event and the shirts (please excuse the fact it was a screen shot) 

This post is a place for me to pour out my heart about how much I love that clinic. and it's not really to promote our event, but that being said... if you know a runner or a walker, if you are one, or if you just want to donate to this cause, you can do so by going to our registration site here

 We have no idea what we are going to raise, but we are prayerful that through this, we can be the hands and feet of Jesus, as we are called to do and be. As I said, I know how many causes and needs exist.... but this one is near and dear to my heart.

 You'll likely find me talking about the 5K and the clinic in the next few weeks. The clinic administrator, Yuleida, has become one very dear friend to me. So many times, their needs put mine into a whole new perspective... one day at a time.
Doctora, Nurse and Pastor outside the clinic

Yuleida and Doctors with the new ultrasound machine, provided by GE and fundraising efforts.... a much needed item for the use of helping the young women in the village 

The staff unloading the supplies we bring

Women and children waiting outside the clinic for their turn inside 

The dental room in the clinic 

This is the room where all the information is taken on a patient and recorded 

One of the exam rooms. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Just a Sunday Run

2 weeks to go until my next race. I'm counting down and looking forward to it with anticipation, simply for reaching towards another goal. I love the process of how goals stretch me and what I learn.

 This weekend was supposed to be a 10-11 mile run for me. But life interrupted that, and sometimes I just have to make the best out of what I can do with the time I have and life circumstances. Which is part of what makes the journey for me all the more accomplishing.
 I know there are countless runners out there who also have the same obstacles (and more) that I have, but each person's story and journey is different.

 Since I did not get that run in on my typical Saturday morning long distance morning run, I had to make time this morning. Sundays are typically my day of rest all around. I like to "sleep in " (which means 7 am) and relax with early morning quiet reading and coffee and move at a little slower pace, as we prepare for church. So I really try to avoid Sunday training runs. However, I knew if I did not get myself out the door this morning, it was not going to happen.

 So when my alarm went off at 5, I groaned a little, but I got up. I made my coffee and had a few minutes of quiet before preparing to head out the door. It seems fall has stepped in, which is appropriate for October 1. The temperatures are perfect for running, quite honestly. It's time for me to switch out my seasonal running gear.

 I was tired and I knew that I wasn't going to be able to fit in the 10-11 I wanted, but I decided that 8 was better than none. And so I set out.

 There was nothing spectacular about this morning's run. It even feels sort of silly to be writing an entire post about this, except this is what I do, how I process, how I share.

 Here is what I took out of my run today, the parts of growth I am experiencing:

1. I only fit in 7.5 miles today, but the point is, I could have not done it at all, so I pushed myself and did it anyway. For me, this is success, regardless of the distance. Especially when no one is saying behind me "You can do it!"  I believe in myself... and as prideful as that sounds, God has brought me a very long way from where I once was in this area, so it's glory to Him, not to highlight me.

2. I ran slowly today. For a split second, I considered not saving the workout on my running app because of what my average pace/time were. But that lasted for only a split second. I'm not worried about my time. It doesn't matter to me if I run an 8 min mile or a 15 min mile. For me, during this season, all life considered, I am very excited to be getting to do another half marathon again. And that is what matters.

3. I don't always put a spiritual verse with my runs. but I could not get this idea out of my head this morning. So, along with my "Run with your heart when your legs get tired" mantra, I want to apply this verse, too. Not just to my runs, but to my every day life in the course of the next 2 weeks specifically.
 Message version
 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
"You've all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs. one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes nd fades. You're after one that's gold eternally. I don't know about you, but I'm running hard for the finish line. I'm giving it everything I've got. No sloppy living for me! I'm staying alert and in top condition. I'm not going to get caught napping , telling everyone else about it and then missing out myself. "

 I am not just training myself physically and mentally to run this race, but I am training spiritually every day to be a better me. And running just happens to be a part of that.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Running Thoughts

Today I take you on a trail through my brain of my running thoughts... literally.

 I wrote back in July that I would be setting out to train for a fall race, although I was uncertain during that time which race it would be. I had to get through putting our own event on before I could determine what the schedule would allow. Well, this week, I signed up for the Columbus Nationwide Children's Half Marathon, October 15, and I am super excited!

 Which leads me to my trail of thoughts for today.

 I have been running now for 9 years. Of those 9 years, I was accumulating 2-3 half marathons a year. However, last year, I was only able to complete 1. So as I enter into this event, just 3 weeks away, it has been a year for me since having completed a half marathon. For me, that is significant. A year is a long time to "pause" something I so enjoy. I have filled it with plenty of other activities, and I have never quit running, but I am really looking forward to completing this event.

 I am a goal setter. I always have been. I can't help it. and when one goal finishes, I am generally launching into the next one. I try hard to balance this, but it is just who I am. Goals help me grow, help me evaluate and help me dig deeper into the inner strengths I have that only pushing myself brings out to the fullest. And running races does that for me. I have said it multiple times, but while the accomplishment of finishing a race is always an amazing feeling, it's truly the journey of the training that is what teaches me, what reshapes me. And this time is no different. I am sure as I approach the race, I will share more, but while this summer/fall has been full of busy events, this training journey plays a role. Only now it's finally coming into play.

 When the form is signed and I "check out" of registration, the training gets all the more real. I don't run to win, I run to have fun. I don't win to compete against the others, I compete against myself. I have abandoned the term "slow" because who defines that anyway? And I have learned to embrace every step for what the journey is. And every step sheds a little more of the past and draws me into the future forward.

 So, this morning as I was out on my 9 mile run, my thoughts were all over then place. I spent time praying for my Colombian friends. I thought about how much I learned over this last year in the marathon world. I tossed some ideas for some upcoming 5K events I am involved with. and I process all that I'm learning. But my friend Danielle gave me a bondi band (seriously, these things are awesome! simple headband but with inspirational or funny sayings on them. And you know me, I can't pass up these inspirational sayings. Plus they hold the hair out of the face and cover the ears even on cooler mornings!) Anyway. the point is, I discovered my mantra for my upcoming race. That tends to happen randomly, too.

 But she got me one that says "run with your heart when your legs get tired."

 I know that this upcoming half will not be a PR for me. But I am definitely running with my heart. And especially I will be doing that when my legs get tired. So, therein lies my mantra for the  next few weeks. After all, running is just as much heart as it is muscles and legs. If it were not, many of us would not be doing it.

 I'm coming out of a season of being in the world of planning the marathon. Now it's my turn to run one again. I have listened to inspiring stories the last week, have met people who have become friends and have seen some wonderful accomplishments for other runners. The heart was there. And now it's my turn again.

 In 3 weeks.

 And I can't wait to see what the rest of the 3 weeks will bring in this journey.

 Run with your heart...
    I do.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The 21st Air Force Marathon

Last Saturday the 21st Air Force Marathon took place. To be a part of it each year gives me a lot of pride. To put it into words for me is sometimes a challenge. Colombia plays a huge role in my life. But each year, so does the Air Force Marathon. It reshapes me, teaches me, challenges me, pushes me, grows me and strengthens me in ways I never expect and often times don't understand until I watch it all unfold.
 I cannot always divulge the details or even express all that stirs my soul through the year of planning, but I want to share a little bit here today. Because as much as running is a part of me, as much as I am a mom and a wife and a friend and a daughter, the Air Force Marathon is a part of me, too.
It does not define me, nor does it offer my identity. Nor will it be my life forever. But it is a part of me, a part of my growth and a part of my story. And so I must share.
 Last Saturday we watched it unfold in a few hours what we planned for months (literally.) The blood (that might be a little dramatic), the sweat (there's truth to that one), and the tears (I admit this is not a metaphor, but for me, they happen.) all played out in 12 hours' time. Or 3 days if you count the expo, which is just as much a part of the experience for me as race day is.

 For me, at the expo, my role is to help the runners, to solve the problems they need fixed. Most people, when I tell them that, say sarcastically 'lucky you.' But honestly, I do count it a privilege to be in that role. For me, I love to help others. It's not about recognition. It's about truly making a difference. That probably seems dramatic and even silly; after all, we are talking about a race... how dramatic can it be?! But honestly, there was this one guy I helped out and he walked away saying "Thanks for being so nice!" And I thought to myself, we live in a strange world that people say thanks for being nice. I'm simply being me.
 I'm not wanting to promote myself here. I'm simply wanting to share some little glimpses into the stories of the weekend for me.
 I love getting to meet the runners with whom I have talked all year long.
 I enjoy seeing the first timers' faces full of excitement and awe and nervousness. I remember being there myself once. It's overwhelming and exciting all at once.
 I am in my element and it is in these moments I find new strength in who I am. I learn more about myself, what pushes me and how to stand up to those things or people or how much I can handle or new ways to navigate challenging moments. I grow.
  I love when return runners come once year and I get to see them again the next and it's like a little family reuniting for a few moments.
 I laugh with Lisa and take selfies with Danielle when we can catch a second.

 When race day comes I get butterflies. (If I have butterflies, imagine how my boss, the director, feels.)  We work so hard as a team all year long to see this one day unfold and want to see it go smoothly and perfectly. My role on race day has been different every year I have been there. My first year, I was mostly in the information tent, and a little in the food tent. My second year, I had learned more and oversaw the MAJCOM Challenge, so I spent time moving between their tent and the food tent and the timing tent and the information tent, doing a little bit of what everyone needed. Last year, my third race, I drove the lead vehicle, which allowed me to see the course in a different way, still also overseeing the MAJCOM Challenge. And then this year, I was on the lift, as a spotter for the lead runners, announcing their approach to the finish line, as well as also overseeing the MAJCOM Challenge again.  Each year, I've been given the opportunity to learn new aspects of the race, how things work. I have a pretty unique role, one that allows me to be mentored in just about every aspect of what takes place in our event.
 The point isn't to bore you with the details of what I do in my job. The point is that life is about learning and growing and my job provides me a lot of joy but also a lot of growth. I have a great mentor, who has taught me more than one blog could begin to sum up, who has become my friend along the way. he's cheered me on, pushed me, been lovingly honest with me and taught me so much about the industry and about life. I have met countless people who have touched me and inspired me and spurred me forward in my journey. I've encountered some who have challenged me through their personality and stretched me to speak my voice in new ways and learn aspects of myself I have struggled to know how to express (meaning, the side of confrontation).

 And this year's event was no different. I met new friends (Krystal and Emily), saw old ones (Ed, Annelise, Nick, Paul, Liz), worked with people who somehow have become a little family to me even though I only see them once a year (Josh, David, Glen, Alex, Amanda.) and got to experience new race-day roles.

 I am thankful for my job. Being in event planning is a challenge at times, and never ceases to amaze me every single year how we spend months putting it all together, planning, preparing, designing, meeting, etc... and in a few hours time watch all of that play out and then tear it all down to start over again for another year. It's thrilling and somehow heartbreaking all at once.

 Each year it makes me a better, stronger me in new ways, compiled with my other life experiences. Running does that for me, my Colombian family does that for me, and my Air Force family (even though I'm civilian) does that for me. And I am thankful for this beautiful experience.
 Here are some photos to show you some of my favorite moments of the weekend.

So Proud of these ladies, my new friends, who both took home awards! They inspire me

Team ANG, defending MAJCOM Challenge 2016 champions

The Full marathons of the ANG team

My new friend, Krystal

Prepping for the 2017 Expo to open

Old friends, Ed and Annelise

Me and Liz

The Expo

The finish line shoot, before the gun went off, as the sun rises


The flyover

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Little Things

The reality for me today as I sit and write is that I have had a crazy, chaotic, phenomenal week and my head and heart are processing those details and lessons and memorable moments.
 So as I work through that, I want to share in the midst of that some of the little moments that bring me smiles and will continue to do so for weeks to come, just as do the other little moments.

 1. When it's 7 am, I didn't sleep much because I can't shut off my  brain and I'm grabbing some quick things from the office on the way to do marathon expo set up and my co-worker calls to say he left a coffee on the desk for me. And a large one at that.

2. When you have a friend who is sweet enough and close enough I feel comfortable to ask to go pick up my prescription because I simply can't make it there and she gladly takes time out of her day to do so (...and come with a coffee in hand as well! ) (side note.. I might like coffee a little too much )

3. Hugs upon hugs from friends I only get to see once a year who have become a little family to me.

 4. Candy Corn White Chocolate M&Ms. Strange, but so deliciously good for a sweet treat.

5. Good friends I can count on when I need help... and new willing ones to jump in

6. Foggy, cool mornings

7. Seeing the sun rise

8. Sunglasses. For many years I didn't have these because of my eye glasses. This year I spent the money to get a pair of good prescription sunglasses and I am so thankful for them!

9. These girls... They make me laugh sometimes til my sides hurt and they hug me if I cry and we work together as an incredible team.

10. Getting a text when I'm exhausted and hot and thirsty to tell me there's an iced coffee waiting for me, and I was completely not expecting that. (again with the coffee... lol... it's so simple and yet brings me so much joy, and likely more so when it comes as an unexpected surprise)

11. Quiet Sunday afternoons with perfect weather for a little time in the hammock.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hurricanes and Life

I do not usually follow all the news stories because I get tired of the opposing viewpoints, the opinions and the negativity. However, I have diligently been following the stories of Hurricane Irma.
I have a lot of very good friends who live in Florida, as that was once my home too, for 7 years. So I have been watching their activity, following the storm and keeping up with what has been happening with it.
My kids have also been quite interested in its events as well, asking quite a bit of questions. They don't remember, but they have lived through a couple of doozie hurricanes themselves. But I remember well those storms.
 Elizabeth was 2 and Joseph was only 4 months old. We chose to stay. From experience, let me tell you that trying to evacuate a state that is going crazy over the approaching storms is just as ridiculous as those from the outside would say trying to stay in the storm is. Both come with risks. We got hit with the effects of 4 storms that fall, but 2 were doozies in our city. The first, Hurricane Frances came rolling in just after labor day. In florida, the temperatures at that time are no joke. It's hot and it's humid. We weathered the storm at our in-laws and came home to assess the damage a day or 2 after it passed. We lost power and branches and there were other minor inconveniences, but we "weathered" the storm alright. Another storm came rolling in behind that one not long after Frances. Hurricane Jeanne came in, and she came as a direct hit to our city. We also chose to stay for that one. We stayed at a friend's home, who had a generator, as many of us were still without power at that time from the first hit.
 I've never really sat and described the experience  (I was not a blogger at that time). It's one of those things hard to put to words. The house is completely dark. Shutters cover every window and every door, so it's a really strange experience because it feels like the middle of the night, but it's really the middle of the day. When you lose power and everything is covered, it's very easy to lose track of what time it is. Joseph, a typically very happy baby, was miserable in the heat with no air (our friends had not activated the generator yet, as we waited for the storm to pass.) The winds were wicked, as you could hear them whipping against the shutters and tossing things around outdoors. We did our best to make a party out of the storm.
When the eye of the storm passed over, it was the weirdest time. They call the eye of the storm the calm, and it is. It gets completely quiet. The wind goes away. The sun comes out. The men decided that was a good time to go outside for a quick check of what's happening. It felt like it was over. But we knew that the second half was yet to come. The experience was unforgettable.


 The point is not really to tell you the story about my hurricane experience. The point is that all of this hurricane talk lately has not only made me recall my experiences, but it has also brought with it thoughts about life's storms. (Call that the writer in me, or maybe just how God helps me learn.)

Life is messy sometimes. We get storms of our own that threaten to beat us down or change our way of life. Some storms threaten us in more powerful ways than others. And some seasons, we have more than one "hit" to our life. In fact, sometimes it feels like the hits just don't stop.
 I am not good at explaining to people who ask why God would allow such tragedies (be it in regards to death, cancer, divorce, job loss.. or hurricanes, fires, wars...) But I can explain what i have learned,  sharing how regardless of tragedies, I know that God is always there. I know that even when tragedy strikes, God is still in control. I know that, if I allow Him, He will use the storms to transform me into a stronger woman - a better Rachael, a stronger daughter of the King, a woman to be used by Him. But sometimes I have to look back at the storms of the past to remember how He has done that for me before so that I can keep pressing forward through the storm of today.

 There is a song that says "In the eye of the storm, You remain in control. In the middle of the war, You guard my soul. You alone are my anchor, when the sails are torn. Your love surrounds me, in the eye of the storm."
 You can listen to the song here

 Life can be tough sometimes (understatement.) But I can use these every day life experiences to remind me just the same of how He is in control.

 By the way, we lost some pieces of our roof and had to get it replaced, we were without power for 2+ weeks, but we survived the direct hit that year, as well as the other storms that affected us in those surrounding weeks. Which reminds me that when the storms come, He will be there; and in the end, I know it will be ok.