Saturday, June 24, 2017

Colombia 2017. Brisas del Mar Day 1

Buenas Días. Voy a empezar hoy escribiendo en español porque pienso que eso es parte de que está en mi corazón, pero aquí en Ohio, es mas difícil hablar el idioma. Parte de mi experiencia en Colombia es hablando español, porque eso es una passión en mi corazón. Una cosa que Dios me dio. Entonces, se parece mejor que empiezo el blog con eso.

 (Good Morning! I am going to begin today writing in Spanish because I think that is part of what is in my heart, but in Ohio, it is more difficult to speak the language. Part of my experience in Colombia is speaking the language, because it is a passion of mine in my heart. It is something God has given me. So, it seemed right to begin the blog with this....)

 I just returned from another incredible trip to Brisas del Mar, Colombia. And so you will bear with me over the next couple of weeks as I share pieces of the time we experienced as a team, what I felt as an individual, how God used the time to reshape me once again.
 Heading into the trip, as you know, I was not certain what it would hold, since I had been once before. I knew God would do amazing things, as He always does, but I wasn't sure what it was that He had in store for me this time. I am still processing and digesting everything, but I want to share over the next few weeks about the people, about my experiences, about my heart. Because let me tell you, the last time I visited there, I left a piece of my heart with that country, those people. This time, I believe they took an even bigger chunk of it. I am in love with that little village. Completely enamored.
 Today, as I sit down to write, I don't even really know where to begin, as is the case when an event so grandiose occurs. Words can't really describe the emotions floating through my soul. But I want to share, I want to explain to you about the trip and I want to digest through my writing the lessons I am bringing home with me. I will tell you about the construction and the teenagers and the kids and the staff. I want to share with you about the climate and the bugs and the conditions. I will pour my heart out until you can feel what I experienced a little bit through my words. The depth of such an experience never escapes me. So, I will do my best to invite you into this with me for a couple of weeks.

 Today I will simply share about Day 1 of our trip.
 
First of all, as I said in my last blog, I went into this event not really knowing the team. I have come out with stronger bonds than I ever thought possible once again. An experience like this as a unit does that for you. I will talk more about the team in a later blog, but they were an incredible group of people. We met at the airport at 5 am, and it was raining hard as we drove our way there. But it let up fine for our plane to take off on time. We flew to Atlanta and I enjoyed my chats with the team members along the way.

 As we landed in Atlanta, we hurried to our connecting flight just in time to make it in line to board. We then had an almost 4 hour flight to Cartagena, Colombia. I spent the flight talking.... imagine that ;)
    As we landed, the blanket of humidity swept over us and it was clear we were not in Ohio any more. We passed our way through customs quite easily and I earned a new stamp in my passport. After moving through customs, we met our in country host, our translator - Juan.
 I'd had a little contact with Juan over the months, but minimal. He knew some of the others, so I wasn't in direct interaction with him immediately in the airport. But who was there to greet me was a girl who grew very special in my heart during my 2016 trip, Mileth.
  Mileth was one of the teenagers in the village. She graduated in December (Their school year only goes to 11th grade, and they graduate in December rather than June like us.) When she graduated, she moved to the city. She'd asked if she could come to Brisas on the bus with us. That doesn't always happen, but in this circumstance, it became possible.
  And so we embraced. Somehow, although a year and almost 5 months have passed since I was there, it felt like just yesterday I'd said goodbye to her. I think that's what strong bonds are. I feel sad or distant when we are apart, even though we stay in touch, but when we meet again, it's like no time has passed. It's a beautiful thing and the fact that I have that in 2 countries is even more beautiful to me.
   We did just minimal money exchanges and then we loaded the bus to head out to Brisas.

 Now, it is the rainy season in Colombia, and therefore, we were unsure if we'd be able to travel out there on our arrival day or not. Remember, roads there are not like here. In the city, yes, they are paved. But as you get half way into the trip, it's dirt and dust. So, our translator (I will just say Juan from now on out) had been concerned, but he'd heard from the village and it was ok to go on out.
To give you an idea of the roads there during this time of year, here is a photo. I will write more on this later, but this is a glimpse of the experience. Now... imagine taking a bus full of suitcases and people through roads like this!! I have to say hats off to our driver, who did a wonderful job navigating through this mess. We didn't get stuck once! Almost... but we did not. Total God thing!
 

 That being said, I sat with Mileth on the bus. As she often times would have her hand on my leg or my hand (don't forget, Colombian culture is so much more touchy/loving that what we can be here in the States... and it's beautiful) we would converse. She would tell me about the plants as we drove by them or we would talk about our families. I was warming up to speaking the language full time again, since she doesn't speak English. I felt a little rusty, but little by little, it was all rolling off my tongue again. Along with learning new words along the way.

 Now let me tell you about when we arrived in that village. As our bus pulled into view of the clinic, my heart swelled. And as i sit here and write it, the memory is as fresh as if I am stepping off the bus now.

 I WAS HOME.

 Yes, sounds strange. But it's how I feel there in that little village.
I stepped off the bus, and Yuleida was one of the first to say my name and come to embrace me hard.
 Then came John, the contractor.
 Then Miguel, one of the (former) youth, now studying to be a pastor.
Then Pastor Javier, whom I'd not yet met but who welcomed me as though we'd been friends for life. (He is a new pastor there since I was last in the village, and there is much to share on him in blogs to come as well.)

 Truly, I wept. Happy tears. This village is my family as much as my village at home. And as it was with Mileth, I felt like it was yesterday I was there in how they welcomed me "home".

 We proceeded to unload and do greetings and get settled. The people of Brisas del Mar go to wonderful extents to make us feel comfortable in their village.

 After we'd settled a bit and eaten and chatted, the village had a special program prepared for us. Everyone comes, they circle around the cabana in the chairs or sit on the edges of the cabana to be a part of the welcoming program for us. I cannot even begin to share with you how special that moment was.


 Pastor Javier and the staff had worked hard to prepare a time to make us feel at home. And wow... it was beautiful. They did a welcome (Juan translating) and then they began. First, they started with singing their national anthem. I had never heard it before, and to see them sing was heart-warming. They belted out the words with pride. I watched their faces, as they sometimes closed their eyes and sang, sometimes pushed words out with more expression. I could not understand much of it, and I came to learn a little later that it was written a long time ago, so much of the words are in "old Spanish" meaning, spoken in such a way I probably haven't learned that aspect of it.
 But surprisingly as theirs ended, ours began. And so we all put hands over our heart and sang proudly, too.
                               Two culture were blending as one.

 Lastly, the teens gathered in the center of the cabana with a tall pole with long strips of cloth tied to the top. They were red, white, blue, yellow, blue, red. The colors of the American Flag and the Colombian Flag. The two cultures blending as one, as the girls weaved around one another, essentially braiding the colors together.
 

 What a beautiful act of love.
    What a special sense of welcoming.

Brisas del Mar was telling us Ohioans that while we may live in two countries, two cultures, we are brothers and sisters in Christ. We are one in faith and in love.

 Beautiful.

 Then, as they finished, everyone walked around hugging us, welcoming us, loving us.

 So. Much. Love. 

 Words cannot describe how the people of Brisas welcome us. Words cannot describe what this does for my heart. But over the next few days, I will share about our experiences and about our week in the village that passed like the blink of an eye. I began by telling you that I'd left a piece of my heart there last year. Well, they held onto it well because my heart swelled with fullness upon my return.
  I tell you now that as I left their village on our last day, I left more of my heart there this time.
Brisas del Mar, Colombia is a special place, tucked away in a forgotten corner of the country, and I am blessed to be a part of the teams that have "found" it and get to work alongside them to help them grow and learn. Except the truth is, I think they teach me more than we go in teaching them.

  Day 1 of Brisas del Mar trip just begins to scratch the surface of the beauty in which I was engulfed for a week's time. More stories to come....

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Journey to Colombia 2017

At this time tomorrow, I will be sitting on a plane on my way to Colombia for the second time!
 It is almost surreal. I have been thinking about ways this experience has been different from the first time of going, as much as I can see similarities, too.
  This time of preparation to go has flown by, I think in part because of how busy my spring was. The last time I went, I went in February, which is a much slower season of life for me. So it has made some of these details a little fuzzier.
 But God is in the details. Every one of them. Whether I see them yet or not, I am certain that in weeks to come, I will see more of those details.

 Getting away from home, from the every day, from work and routines, tends to open the eyes on many levels, and it is my prayer that my eyes will be opened once again, however the Lord would like me to see. Getting out of my comfort zone has a way of reshaping me and growing me yet again.

 What do I most look forward to? I think right now, as I sit and write this, I most look forward to reconnecting with the people in the little village of Brisas del Mar, who have become an extension of my heart. I can't wait to sit face to face with them again and converse and share. (I hope that my Spanish hasn't gotten rusty.... although it is my major in school, I have to get all these basics out of the way, and haven't had the opportunity to immerse myself in it yet) . I look forward to getting to know my team more. When I went last year, I didn't much know my team, since I lived an hour away from them. I don't know my team much this time, either. A few of them, yes. But not the full team. So I look forward to seeing how we work together and how God uses them in my life.

 What am I most nervous about? Well.... probably giving the youth lessons. Teaching is not my gift, really. Getting up in front of all the kids isn't really, either. But I will be giving youth lessons twice. I pray that my words would not be mine, but God's through me. that it would touch the youth. I think I am nervous as I leave my family this time. Strange... I didn't feel that way last time. But this time around the kids have so many activities going on and our family is awaiting some answers on a few things as well, so parting ways with them this time is harder for me.

 What will I learn?  Who knows... only God does. But you know I will come back and blog all about it.
  I will dance with the kids and not care how white American I seem.
    I will speak the language and learn new words and probably make mistakes but I will laugh at myself in the process.
      I will get dirty on the construction site and be grateful for the little bit of water available to shower myself.
    I will have an open heart and mind to what God wants to do.

 The rain there has been very bad, which may or may not affect our construction. But I am anxious to see what is there this time compared to last time I was there.

  This journey to this trip has been similar and yet so different. And in about 10 days I will sit here and share with you all about it. In the meantime, I will take in lessons and moments one day at a time....


Thursday, June 1, 2017

What I Learned this Spring

I'm linking up today with Emily and talking about what we learned not just in May, but the last few months, since we do this post once a quarter.
 The Spring has been full, I can honestly say I have learned many lessons. If I had to pick one word to sum up Spring it would be Busy. So, here are a few things I learned- some simple, some deep.

1. I have completed one year of college!!
 Seriously, this is a happy dance statement! It's not really something I "learned" per say (that I finished a year of school), but what I have learned along the way has been monumental. Educationally and about myself, too. And the fact that I am finally on this journey is some days still a little unrealistic. But, one year down... so many more to go. Because one year is really like half of a year in regular terms because I can only take a couple of classes at a time. However, One Year Down! :)


2. Gladiolus is my new favorite flower.
 A gladiolus is the flower of the gladiator. It represents strength and integrity and passion. It also represents Never Giving Up. The flower has many shades and it's beautiful. It stands tall, with spear like stems, also why it is known as the gladiator's flower, representing a sword. It feels like a flower meant for me.... and I totally love these flowers!

 3. I like trail running. It's pure and beautiful and fun. I may not get to do it too often, but I love it.
























 4. I will eliminate the word slow from my vocabulary, when it comes to running. I'm working on it. You can read why  here if you want to catch up on that.

 5. I really like LuLaRoe clothing
 It has taken me a year to finally jump on board this train of  the fashion of leggings. I still am not quite confident 100% in how I look in them but they are so soft and comfy it doesn't really matter.


 6. Bed and Breakfasts are quaint and special. They aren't made for every day life, but that's what makes them unique.



7. God is in every Detail, Even When We Can't See.
  Sometimes it is hard to see the evidence of God. But that is one reason I write. I spent some time the last few days going through some of my old writings from the last year (since my last travels to Colombia). Many times I have prayed about something important to me. There are some things that do not have answers. But there are more things that do. But I forget this many days.
 God is in every detail, whether I recognize it or not. And when I read back over prayers and desires and events, His hand is written in the pieces I miss all too often.
 Let me give one small example. When I came back from Colombia a year ago, I desperately wanted to return there. As time passed, I accepted the idea I probably would not see that happen. My family had a hard time with it and finances were a piece and it just seemed out of reach. But God had other plans. Sometimes I have to let go of my ways in order to accept His. I pursued one trip, which didn't work out. Then another, which also did not work  out. And guess what happened? The team leader for the Colombia team for June gave me a call and asked me if I would attend with their team. Everything fell into place. God is in the details. And here I am going back in just 2 short weeks. Wow. when a year passes, I forget sometimes that I've prayed about something or how it all plays out. When I read back my own words, it's like God's voice speaking out loud saying.... "See... I was here all along. You just have to be patient."
 Not every request or desire works out that way. But let me just share with you that one thing He has taught me this spring is that even if I don't see an answer as I want to see it every time or even right away, when I look at how He has answered many things in my life, I know He is with me in every detail, whether I recognize it or not. Those answers He does choose to give me give me a glimpse of His listening ear and His love and His presence. He really is in every detail of life.


 I am confident that I have learned many more things along the last few months, but for now those are the immediate ideas in my mind. As I am about to step into a new Colombia adventure and as I take a speech class this summer, I am sure that I will have many more cool things to learn the next few months.
 Keep on growing and learning....one day at at time!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Journey to Colombia...Trip 2

As I sit and enjoy the luxuries found in my every day life, like the internet or hot shower or my washing machine... my mind is turning to the fact that in just 2 weeks I will once again be on a plane to Colombia.
 The beautiful Brisas del Mar.
   A forgotten village, tucked away near the Caribbean Sea.
A people eager for us to come, ready to welcome us off our bus with open arms.
 I have tears just thinking about the journey I am about to dive into once again.


 The experience of preparing to go back to this small village is such a different journey from my first visit there. In the months leading up to my first trip, I had a spiral of thoughts and emotions and prayers answered and a heart prepared. This journey has been different, but I am confident that God has plans nonetheless.

 The season leading up to this trip has been a frenzied one. Between work travel, hosting my own 5K and winding up my first year of school, the planning of this trip and the preparation has been different. Not bad, just different.

 The next 2 weeks I have details to arrange for schedules of my kids while I am away, last minute items to buy to make sure I am prepared for this trip, and moments to soak in with the family before heading off and away for 8 days without them.
 But most importantly, the next 2 weeks will involve a lot of prayer and quiet time. Working to sit still in the presence of the Lord so He can truly prepare my heart.
 I should always be doing that, but some seasons I am not so successful at sitting still.
 I think that is part of why this journey is different. I have not sat still very well. Not intentionally, but really just because life was busy and full. But sitting still can be uncomfortable for someone like me. When my mind "rests" or isn't busy preparing for the next thing, the thoughts can be a little overwhelming. But I need to declutter my head and heart because I know that God is preparing me for something beautiful. I sense it, even if with uncertainty.

 I was clueless about how He would work on me during my last time in Brisas. I had no idea the overwhelming sense of His presence and peace I would feel. This time, I am sure there will be that, but I am clueless again as to what He will show me.
 3 weeks from now (roughly) I imagine I will be sitting here typing out words, trying to explain to you all what the experience was like. I will probably look back at this post and say ... "aha, so that was what God was preparing me for."
 But right now, I sip my coffee and let the breeze tickle my skin and push the hair around my ears. I let the sun grace my body and listen to the birds sing happily near me, and I am prayerful that my heart and eyes will be open to the next thing He has in store for me.

 Since going to Colombia a little over a year ago, I have endeavored back into school to obtain my Spanish degree. I have been able to connect deeper and build on the relationships I developed with people during that time - both people in Colombia and my teammates here in Ohio. Those people have become a part of my journey, too, part of my growth.
 I learned more about myself from that trip and have learned to carry that into my every day being. I have grown stronger, even if I have to fight some days to remember that. It's difficult to imagine what this leg of the journey might teach me. But every day I am growing more excited about the trip.

 Our team consists of 4 members I traveled with last February; 2 teenage girls, who I am excited to watch experience this time;  A couple I am growing to love already, just in our brief interactions; And a woman who has lost her husband in the last year, from whom I know I can learn. Each person will fit a piece of the puzzle of this leg of the journey.
 I am looking forward to meeting Juan, our in country translator, whom I have never met yet. The village has a new pastor, who I am told is vibrant and fun. And I can't wait to embrace my old friends in Colombia, Tia, Yuleida, Paola and all the teens in the village.
 
 I am nervous, once again, about teaching the youth lesson. I am hopeful that my Spanish won't be too rusty, seeing as how I still don't get to actually speak it much. I am worried about my family as I travel away from them. But I am mostly so grateful to once again get to embrace this cultural, God-given experience.
 The journey leading up to this trip has had its bumps, but it's had its blessings, too. I look forward to chronicling those the best that I can in the weeks to come, so that perhaps you can feel you are a part of this journey with me, too.

 God is so good. All the time. Whether I acknowledge it always or not, He really is. I can hardly believe the time to go to Colombia again is almost here, but I am eagerly anticipating what will unfold. And I can't wait to share with all of you what those things will be.
  T minus 15 days..... and counting.

   In the meantime, I work to be still and listen to His voice and ask Him to prepare my heart for this time. And share with you all in the process the lessons and memories with it.
 One day at a time....


Monday, May 22, 2017

Semper 5ive and Lessons Learned

In my life, I am an analyzer and a learner. I am constantly taking in what is being said and done around me. I would like to say I use these moments to grow in who I am learning to become every day. I admit, though, that sometimes the lesson takes a little longer to sink in than other times.

 This weekend I took in a lesson in a grandiose way and it is now sitting in me and stirring thoughts that must be shared, even if it is just my way to process and apply them. Although perhaps a reader may take something away from it as well.  This is about running, so excuse me while I dive into that world. It can apply in many areas of life, though.

This weekend I got the opportunity to run the Marine Corp Semper 5ive race with a good friend and mentor of mine. While it was only 5 miles, and still not quite the distance I like to do, it was a race I learned a lot about myself and about running, in general.

 I have always struggled with saying I am slow. I have been running since 2008 and I have been in the same zone for all of those years. 2010 was my PR race, and even that was not a record breaking time in my age bracket by any means. So I tend to begin my conversations with people who are also runners by saying I am Slow. Even though I tell the others around me who discuss their own abilities that time isn't important, it's that you are out there, I have not applied that to my own self very well.

 I also know what it takes to get faster. If I am going to "complain" bout being slow,  that means I likely want to change that. But if I want to change it, I need to put in the work to fix it. That means speed work or hill training. I KNOW all of this because I have a wealth of knowledge around me in the running industry. I know all of this because I have seen it. But every time I have set out to do this, something tends to interrupt it... or, let's be honest... I just don't like doing it. I get so frustrated by not making goals or I get so distracted by my watch that I lose the enjoyment from the run. So then I quit doing it, because I want to enjoy my runs. But I will find myself a few weeks later saying once again how slow I am. It's a silly cycle I take myself through, but I answer my own issue by knowing that trying to get faster actually takes the enjoyment out of the run for me.

 I also feel the need to prove myself to others. Other runners, probably. But even non-runners. I have had it said to me multiple times  that I've been running now for this long, I ought to be faster. And I took those words to heart and somehow told myself I wasn't good enough and I needed to push myself.
 But the reality is, I am pushing myself. I run about an 11:10 mile. That is my pace. Some people are natural runners. I love the sport, but I do have to work at it.

 Who determines what fast or slow is, anyway? What I think is fast may be slow to that person running that 8 min mile. My slow may be fast to the new runner who is just starting out. So where do I even get this idea of fast or slow? Isn't the point to be healthy ? Isn't the point to have a hobby I enjoy? Isn't the point to yes, push myself to being a better me? yes. But that push might just be a consistent 11 minute mile.

 I wish that we, as runners, would stop saying so much "What was your time?" And start focusing more on "Did you have a good time?" The focus gets to be so much on that finish time that I get caught up in it and almost am embarrassed to say what my finish times are because 1. They aren't improving from 8 years ago that much and 2. I somehow feel I need to prove myself to the other runners around me.

 Listen, I know a lot about running because I have taught myself, I have learned from great runners around me, I have read about it and I have tried out different methods. And the bottom line is... when I am plain and simple out there doing it, I do enjoy it. And when I enjoy it, it's freeing. But when I get caught up in my times, I lose a little bit of the excitement because somehow I feel like I am not good enough.

 This is a me issue. I know this. And it was kind of in my face this weekend in a good way. And I am determined to work on this and fix it. The competitive part of me will probably always fight the desire to just get faster. But being a healthier me does not have to mean faster. If you watch a finish line sometime, you will see that people twice my size my finish ahead of me. It isn't about size. In the running world, that is one aspect I love. Size doesn't define speed.

 I am not used to having a person faster than I am be running a race with me. While there could have been an intimidating factor to it, I really enjoyed it. And while I found myself saying out loud "I told you I was slow" I later was humbled by the fact I'd said those words, but knew I hadn't done anything to try to be faster. Honestly, my pace for me is a beautiful pace. So I just need to let it be. I'm not out to win a race, just to be the best me I can be.

 So I am going to work on eliminating the words "I am slow" from my vocabulary. I am going to work on asking my runner friends more if they had a good time rather than what their time was.  And I am going to work on applying what I know to what I do.

 This applies to all areas of life, too. Honestly, how many times do we learn something or know what we need to do, but we don't apply it? Because it takes work. And then we complain about a lack of results.

 I am very thankful for having an honest friend/mentor in my life who will encourage me in my abilities but also humble me and be brutally honest with me, too. That is a rare person to have around.

 So, I am not slow. I am perfectly me at my pace. I will continue to push myself to be healthy. But I will just enjoy the sport rather than beat my own self esteem up by continuously repeating the negative words others have said to me.

 By the way, I had an amazing time running the Marine Corp Semper 5ive Race. They do an amazing job. The marines take much pride in what they do and who they are, and I enjoyed taking all of that in this weekend. I enjoyed the 5 mile course, too. Yes, I pushed myself a little bit through the way, but I felt great at the end. I had fun. I had fun with my friend. I learned new things about myself. I found ways I can improve my running by being with and listening to my friend/mentor. I saw a new city and took in some good memories. I gained a new excitement for running because I learned. And I ran the race and finished well.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Just Run

Today I don't have a fancy or super inspiring tale to tell about the race I ran this weekend. But, for my own sake, I like to recapture what the journey was for me nonetheless.

 This weekend I had the chance to run the Flying Pig 10K.

 Now, if you know me, you know my favorite distance is the half marathon. So, while to many a 10K would be a long distance, for me, in all reality it is not. But it was a great race for me to be able to participate in this weekend for many reasons, between my hours of being there to promote the Air Force Marathon.

 If you have followed me this winter in my writings, you know that I have not been up to par in my training. This has been a frustration and a struggle for me. I'd seem to conquer one obstacle, only to have it followed by another. So, as spring came in to my view, I knew that I was not going to be able to do the half marathon. This is the first spring that I have not run that distance since 2009. And honestly, it has made me a little sad. But, I guess that has been part of the journey of this particular event this weekend. I had to relinquish my own desires and settle in at what I thought was a disappointment for my own self.

 But it turned out to be a great event for me. Perhaps even a little bit of a turning point?

 Even leading up to this event, I was not feeling so confident in myself. The struggles have been real. And if you want me to be honest, many of those struggles have been mental (as many running struggles are.) But my mental struggles go deeper. As I have wrestled through the battles of anxiety in depression, this winter was a time of really working on those. I wrote some time ago in one of my blogs that I'd even been able to go off my medications.... and while I have not wanted to  share the update, being real is what I do. And the update is that that period only lasted for a short time.
 I have learned myself and my struggles pretty well, and while I don't always enjoy admitting them, I have found the value in assessing them so I can be the best me possible.
 Apparently that means remaining on the medications. But if that is what it takes to be me, I accept that. Some people- like myself- just struggle with a real chemical imbalance that seems to get better at times, but still needs that bit of medicinal assistance to be whole.

 Truthfully - I believe that was some of my battle in my training this winter.
 
 You see, a person who fights depression can show those symptoms in all kinds of ways, most of them very hidden from anyone around them. I am a very motivated person, a goal setter, a doer. But when I find my motivation lacking, I know that something is wrong, and I have to evaluate that. I never quit running or training, but I was missing the drive I've always had with it. That, coupled with many other events that transpired in the last month, led me back to the reality of needing medication. And fighting that silent battle of depression and believing in my own self, regardless of what others may or may not say.

 So, all of that semi-intense and vulnerable story to share with you that this particular 10K was honestly a victory for me. I did not think I would run it super successfully. I was not anticipating a great finish time; I simply wanted to finish. I have always loved races- and sometimes I wonder if I do too much. But, sometimes you have to have something taken away just a little bit to step back and evaluate and reflect in order to fix it and keep going and becoming better.
 I started this year desperately wanting a new PR. I can't say that desire is eliminated from my blood, but at this point, it's about being healthy and strong. Physically, emotionally, and mentally and spiritually. The journey to this race was all of those things.

 The struggle has been real in each of those areas. And while there was no magical element to this 10K, I feel that there has been reasons and purposes behind not being able to run a half this year.

 My identity is not in running or finishing a race. But I have been able to learn more about myself through this training leg, without even realizing it until it was complete.

 I was lucky to have a few people encouraging me in my race this time around. My co-worker loved me enough to sign up with me and get up early and endure my pre-run routines. She doesn't like running. But she did it to support me.  I told her to go ahead of me, she is much faster, but having her there was meaningful. My best girlfriend, Paula, also not a morning person, got up early and endured my pre-run routines as well and cheered me on during a few parts in the course. And a few people who have listened to me cry or whine about the struggles this winter have been my cheerleaders the whole time.

 So, I ran that 10K with my heart. Not my legs. And maybe in part, my mind. But it was a beautiful event for me. Because I discovered great things about myself along the way. I am a fighter. It lives in me. Whether it's fighting the silent battle of depression or the struggle to be healthy or the spiritual battles or the fight to be a stronger, better me. But God is fighting for and with me for those things, too. And that is where the real strength comes from.

  I finished my race in a time I was happy with considering the obstacles of the winter. And I am excited to keep on pushing. I do not know what my next long-distance race will be, but I look forward to the continued journey of running, physical growing stronger and the spiritual parallels I always learn with it.
 
Bonus moments to my weekend run: reconnecting with an old friend I hadn't seen in a while who I had no idea would be at the race. Reconnecting is good.
                           - Spending a little time with Paula
                           - Laughing with Danielle and telling stories
                           - Hearing other runners' stories
                           - Meeting a few new friends

 #JustRun. #Heismystrength #Thankful #Iloverunning #Ilovemyjob


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Road Map

Have you ever taken a road trip and gotten off the beaten path....without knowing it? That happened to me before.
 My friend, Beth, and I were going to visit our friend Kelsey a couple of hours away. Her dad had driven us there multiple times, but for the first time, we endeavored out on our own. We were so excited! Mind you, this was before the days of GPS and navigational items that you plugged in and it verbalized how to get there step by step. These were the days of actually reading maps....and also the days before cell phones. 
 So, the two of us, teenagers, were out on an adventure! We thought we were doing really well until we realized we should have already arrived to our destination. We knew it was about a 2 hour trip. We also knew the territory we were driving in was not one we had seen in our previous trips there. Long story short: a 2 hour trip turned into 5 hours or so. And left us with a story to tell. We missed  a road somehow and were having too much fun before we realized we were not on track. We had gotten distracted. It took spending time investigating our map to figure out how to get back on the right road and get where we needed to be.
 The thing is, we didn't even know we were lost for a while! 

 Life can be like that. I was once like that.

When I was preparing to go to Colombia last year in 2016, I had spent some years walking through some messy days. Losing my mom to cancer left me in a lost state of mind for a long time. I hid it well, even from myself, to be honest. But the reality is, I had quit looking at my map: i.e. I had quit digging into scripture and seeking God's path for me. I had fooled myself into thinking I was doing that, and I suppose a part of me was. But the reality is that I wasn't letting His map- His word- truly guide me. I was trying to figure it out on my own, getting distracted by people and things along the way. And without knowing it, I had gotten lost.
 I got caught up in pleasing others or working so hard to make sure everyone was taken care of that I got a little lost For a long time. 
 My trip to Colombia was a time that really brought me back to re-discovering who God made me to be. I didn't know I was lost, honestly. But on that trip, I found myself. Do you know the secret to that? .... I want to share.
  the secret is in order to find ourselves, we must actually lose ourselves for the sake of Christ.
 Let me explain.

 I had been very wrapped up in my own world. I had quit serving in the church. I had given up any idea that I should go on a missions trip or have any involvement with missions because I wasn't good enough.  I took care of my family and I worked and I thought that I didn't have time to do those other things because I was too busy.
 But the honest truth is, I gain the most joy from serving others. Because that is what Jesus asks us to do, tells us to do.
 Take up your cross and follow me, He says.
 I had laid down my cross and was making my own road maps.

 When I was in Colombia, I rediscovered my passion for missions. It was never gone from my heart, I just had buried it, rather than grow it. I remembered how fulfilling it is to serve Christ. I refreshed my soul with giving up myself to serve Him.

 This is not a post to share and brag and be prideful. This is a post to share that during that time in Colombia, I lost myself  in His service, but in the process found myself again. I came home more whole because His road map became a little more clear for me.

 My purpose is not found in my job. My identity is not found in how fast I can run or how many sit ups I can do. It's not about the number on the scale. It's not even about how good of a wife or a mom I am. those are all pieces of me, but they don't define me.
 Christ defines me.

 I had been told many times by people close enough to me that part of my lack of confidence was the fact that I didn't know who I was.
 I understand what they meant. It wasn't a criticism, it was actually meant to be an encouragement to keep pushing forward on my journey to being me.

 And in Colombia I found that. It's not about who I think I am. It's about who Christ says I am.

 Matthew 10:38-39 are our team verses for our trip this year. They have deep meaning for me, as for when I went to Colombia last year, these verses came to life. They became part of my road map.
 " If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it."

 I clung to my life for a long time. I tried to define myself. I tried to let others define me. But it is not about any of that. It's about Christ. And serving Him. And giving my life up for him. When I do that, I am my happiest. I am found.

 It's very hard to explain, to be quite honest, until you experience it, too. But I went on that trip a little lost, but unaware of it. Until I came home more whole. I found healing in my heart when I went there. And for the first time in many years when I was in Colombia I knew I was going to be OK, no matter what.
 It's not that Colombia is magical. It was more that the experience was part of my road map that God had laid out for me, and I followed His directions.
 Getting off the path is so very easy. We live in a self consumed world. Getting distracted and "missing an exit" can easily happen. But when we pull out our maps- His word- He promises to guide us back to His ways.

 Lose yourself so you can truly find yourself.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Fight For It

Fight for it.

 I went for a 3 mile run this morning, and those were the words that were running through my head. Fight for it.

 Apparently I found my mantra for my 10K race next weekend. And my motto for the next few weeks probably.

 My running has struggled lately. I mean.... STRUGGLED. I have never quit, but I just seemed to lose my motivation for a little bit. And in so doing, I lost some ground. I feel like I lost the fighter in me for a bit. And now that I have a race coming up again, I have been digging deep to find her again.

 If you don't know or haven't figured out from my blogs yet, I am a fighter. Not the knock down drag you out kind of punch you in the face fighter. But I am a silent fighter. I fight for what I believe in. I push through the obstacles that come my way, no matter how small or how big they are, to get to where I believe I need to be. I instinctively fight back when someone tells me I can't. When others don't understand my reasons, that's ok, they don't have to. I am a fighter. If it is right, I will fight for it, no matter what the odds.
 I may not win every battle, but I learn and grow every time. Whether it's spiritual or physical or emotional.
 And what I have learned is that I don't win every battle, but I know that God has already won my war, so I lean into Him for strength.

 Last year the verse in 2 Corinthians 12 became a motto for me. His grace is sufficient for me. His strength is made perfect in my weakness.

 I love that verse.

 I am weak. But He is strong.
 He fights my battles, but he has made me a fighter. The war is all around me, but He has given me the tools to be a warrior.

 It's who I am. I am a fighter. And the fact that I lost that a little bit made me step back and evaluate why. I don't always really like the reasons I come up with as I pray through and journal through it, but I love that He always brings me back to that verse.

 So I will continue to fight for it.

 I will fight for overcoming the mental obstacles in my running and I will have a great race - no matter what my finish time is.

 I will fight for my marriage, for my kids, for my family in the midst of struggling days.

 I will fight for my faith. I will, through His strength, overcome the obstacles that get in the way of spiritual growth. I have learned that as God is preparing me for something great, the hardest obstacles often come. I will fight those and by His grace, win. And grow through that.

 I will fight for me. Deep down I love who I am, who God has made me to be, who He is shaping me into becoming more and more. But sometimes the critics' voices are loud and sometimes those voices make me hesitate. But I will fight those. Because He has made me uniquely me.

 I will put on my armor and go into battle (Ephesians 6) and be the strong woman God has made me.
 Even on the hard days. And in the good ones, too.

 I will Fight For It.

 And I will carry that mantra and these ideas with me in to my 10K next weekend. It's not the half marathon I wanted to do... but I will give my all in this race and fight for it.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Journey to Colombia 2017

Time is marching along. Literally.  I will not bother to unfold all of the events I have coming in the next few weeks, but as they unravel themselves, my mind is a tangled mess in working through all the intricate details. It's exciting, but it's a little on overload.
 That being said, I am less than 2 months away from yet another trip in to the beautiful Brisas del Mar, Colombia. And I need to journal out my thoughts as this trip begins to unfold itself.

 When I went to Colombia in 2016, it was a trip that had many months to formulate. I began in the summer of 2015, raising my money and preparing my heart and mind for that experience. Little did I know how much God was going to do in my life through that time. It changed me- literally. I found healing and hope. I found restoration and peace. I rediscovered passions and joys that had long been buried. and the last year has been a time of figuring out in some ways how to implement those into life as it is.
 Those implementations have come with challenges, but blessings as well.

 As I am preparing for this trip, the journey is very different. This time, I know a little more what to expect. This time, distractions in planning can occur rather than it being a season of learning. So I want to take a few moments to reflect and share on the process of how God is at work this time around in my journey to Colombia, 2017.

 Missions has always been a passion of mine. When I was growing up, we would host missionaries in our home. Mom would serve them meals and we would listen to their stories and I felt drawn to the idea of being used in a foreign country. My very good friend, just a year older than me, went with her family to the mission field in Africa when we were just in grade school. My closest confidant when I was a teenager- my youth pastor's wife - and obviously her husband and 2 kids- went on to the mission field in the Philippines. I could share story after story of close encounters I had, even if from the good ol' USA, with people who were on the mission field. It's just always been a draw in my life. I gained a passion for speaking Spanish in high school. I had the opportunity to go to El Salvador an Honduras at the age of 18 for 6 weeks with a team.
  The desire and draw to missions has always lived in my heart. Sometimes we get off the path a little bit. I got married and had children. And life rolled along, and I didn't have my hands in the missions as much. While we were involved in church always, missions was not nearly a focus in them as it had been in my church growing up.

 So in 2016, when I had the opportunity to go, it was clear that God was leading there. I had no idea how He was going to use that trip in my life. I am still constantly amazed about it. You can go back to  my February/March 2016 blogs to read more about that time if you wish starting here. But this time around, it's a different journey, but nonetheless a beautiful one.

 Sunday I had the opportunity to go meet my team for the first time. We've had meetings, but they have been all Skype for me, as it is challenging to make it down to Cincinnati for those. And my heart strings were pulled once again. The hugs from the old team members who are on this trip warmed my heart and reminded me how much God used them in my life. Being welcomed by the new team members and seeing them face to face brought on an emotion  I wasn't expecting.
 From afar, the planning is all good and exciting, but being in person brought a reality that encompassed my soul with a warmth that is unexplainable.

 I get to go to Colombia to serve God once again.

 I am humbled.

 I want to share just briefly how I got to this point this year. You see, I hadn't planned on going back. As much as I loved the people and the country, I didn't feel like I was supposed to go this year. But God had other plans. And when I watch how the journey unfolds, it's amazing to me how he makes things so clear sometimes. His plans are not always mine, but He always knows the plans for me.

 I had every intention of going with my new home church to Nicaragua. I was excited to be involved with a church body of my own who embraced missions. However, that time frame did not work for me with my job. So I had to decline that trip. And when I did, I began praying and asking God if I was trying too hard to go on a trip and maybe He had other plans for me. And so I relinquished my desires to go on a mission trip this summer.
 Sometimes when we let go, that is all God is asking us to do.

 At that point, the team leader for the 2017 trip to Colombia called me and asked me to go with them. At first I said no, but I also said I would pray about it. And God has clearly laid out this path for me. He laid it on one person's heart, who spent months praying about it, and I realized this:
 Sometimes God answers our prayers through laying something on another's heart.

 When he discussed some things with me, then I took it to my family. And everyone got on board. God was laying out the path and it was evident this was one He had for me to walk. And so in January, my journey to Colombia in 2017 began.

 As I have met new people in the last year and they learned of my journey, they have become financial and prayer partners with me and I praise God that my trip is now provided for once again this year. And I am thankful for these new friends.

 You see, when we are obedient to Him, patient, and sometimes still... He answers prayers.

 Sometimes it comes in a way we totally unexpect, sometimes it comes in a way we may not always like. But He does always answer. And that is a beautiful piece of this journey into Colombia this year. God is in every detail.

 There will be plenty more He is going to do in me through this trip, I know. And I don't know what to expect in regards to that. It's pretty hard to top what he did in my heart in 2016. But that's how He works. he's always molding me, shaping me, growing me, teaching me. Sometimes painfully, sometimes beautifully, but always lovingly. Because He is a God of love.

 Also in this journey, I have  new church who is providing a huge support system to me through love and prayer. I feel it as I share with them about my trip. I sense it in how God has so wonderfully placed us there. And I see it in all the new exciting missions interactions  I get to experience with them.

 God took me to Colombia  a year ago and I thought it was so I could be used. And it was. But it even more so remolded me and has helped me grow. And this trip, as I enter into it very quickly, is doing the same. In a different way, but a way He has planned for me.

 It's beautiful and I can't wait to see how it continues to unfold in the next months as I grow closer to my team and have an opportunity to once again step foot onto the soil of the foreign mission field in June.  Our lives here are every day on a mission field. But when we get to be an extension to place that pulls on the heart strings... I know God is up to something big.

 One day at a time. Including the process leading up to the trip.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

"The Scale" Part 2

Because of the overwhelming response I got to the blog I wrote about The Scale I decided I would follow it up with more thoughts on this topic. Because i think that to a degree, we all struggle with this issue one way or another.

  Why do we worry so much about how we look? Or how much we weigh? Why does that ever glaring number, whatever it might be, seems to bring on such negativity for so many of us? Even as I wrote about it a couple of weeks ago, it has continued to be a struggle for me. But I have learned through the years that as I am working to overcome an issue, it seems glaringly worse. I want to share about my mom a little today.

 My mom was overweight. A fair amount overweight. I don't like to write that out loud because it sounds negative and mean, but go with me on this story. I think that one of the reasons growing up my body image was never a huge issue for me was because my mom never focused on it. I can even recall vividly one time saying in my latter teen years "Who cares if I have a pimple? If it bothers the other person, that's their issue. " (somewhere along the line I have lost this way of thinking.) There is a balance with anything, and it can go from one extreme of caring too much to another extreme of not caring enough. But my mom seemed to be in the middle of that. In all the years of having her here on earth in my life, she was overweight (post childbearing days.) But I never heard my mom complain about how she looked. I don't even remember there being a scale in the house.
 She was a farmer's wife. She made home cooked meals and truthfully, she wore clothes given to  her from her best friend. She did not wear make up. And she smiled... all the time. I do not recall her ever being upset about her body image. I can count on one hand the times she made a complaint about herself. That is remarkable. I can count on one hand (ok, two...) how many times I make a complaint about myself in a DAY! (That is really sad, but I remind you, I am a work in progress on this)
  When my mom passed away, do you think that anyone...anyone.... was talking about how she looked or how much she weighed? No! Of course not. People talked about how she lived her life. They remembered her for how much she laughed and smiled, no matter what her circumstance was. They remember how much she followed after Jesus even when it was hard. We stood in a receiving line for hours listening to people say how much they would miss mom's love.

 Because, my friends, those are the things that matter. That is what people will remember.

 1 Samuel 16:7 "For the Lord does not see as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

 The eternal perspective is what matters. Not the momentary size of my pants. Or how thick my thighs are. Or my little baby belly.
 The pictures on the running magazines are air brushed.
  The movie stars pay thousands of dollars for makeovers and personal trainers to look as they do.
But none of that matters in the end. What matters is the heart.

 I am going to be real and tell you that this winter I have gained 10 pounds. That sounds minimal and also, if you saw me, you probably would not notice. I hide it well and tuck it away. But I know. I feel it as I work to squeeze into my same clothing and not go buy new ones. And as that has transpired, I have to work to fight the frustration that comes with that. However, while there is a balance to everything, and finding that middle ground rather than being on one side of the fence or the other, I have been learning that I'm good.... I'm ok.
  I have been able to go off of my depression meds for the first time in 10 years. 10 years! This is HUGE for me! God is amazing. I think that has been a contributing factor to the issue of my body, because the medicine served in a small role of being an appetite suppressor. But if that means I'm healthier mentally, I'll take it!
  Gaining weight makes my running a little slower... which has a tendency to frustrate me, in all honesty. (I am already not so fast...) But my steps are freer and lighter, and therefore, I will take that!

 We usually think of pride as a scenario where people are so focused on themselves in an arrogant way. But I think pride can be anything about being focused on one's self. Therefore, saying negative things about my weight is just as much of a pride issue as those who seemingly parade around their beauty.

 God created me to be beautiful. He says so in Psalm 139.  And that beauty shines through no matter what the scale says, when I am being the best version of who He made me to be.

 I chose the word vivacious for the beginning of this year. That I want to live life to the fullest. Now, again, there is balance with everything, so I have to be careful to find those lines. But am I living vivaciously... am I being the best me God has made me to be... if I am focused on my weight?
 I can answer that with a big NO. Because then I am focused on one thing and losing site of the important pieces to life.
 Like going for a run and the fact that I am healthy enough to do so... no matter what my speed or my time may end up being.
  Or taking my daughter horseback riding.
   Or having a coffee date with my son.
 Or dancing with my husband.

 It can't be about the number. It's about my health.

 My mom would tell me I'm ridiculous if she heard me say anything negative about my body. I am not fat, and I realize that. But it is still a struggle for me how I view my body. So perhaps I should smile and remember that. It doesn't mean I can't keep working on being the best me- physically. I can and I will. But it does mean I should not lose focus of the puzzle pieces of life that truly matter in the end... a happy, healthy me. Which do include doing TRX and running.

 It's not about the scale. It's about the heart. And please keep reminding me of this when I lose sight of it. My mom always did. And she lived it. It's time I do, too. Besides, I want my daughter to embrace that about life... not the number on the scale. 

 


Friday, April 7, 2017

#TheLittleMoments

I have another post brewing along the lines of The Scale that I want to share, but today I want to focus on the happy and not so much the "heavy" of life. TGIF, my friends!

 Amidst some of the heavier moments lately, there have been plenty of happy ones, too. The little moments that make up the happy of life. So here we go...

 1. Horses! This week, Elizabeth started to work with horses again. Triggered by a friend of hers at school, she wanted to get back to horseback riding. The cool piece of this is that my friend, Hannah, owns a horse and has asked if Elizabeth will help out with him and she can ride for free! So she is gaining some great life skills of hard work, etc. while she gets the benefits of riding and being around the horses. (And to be quite honest, even though it adds to the schedule, I am loving being in the barn again, too!)


This is Cassie, Hannah's daughter. And Buster. It was Buster's birthday this week. 



 2. Linda A. Ferguson Memorial Scholarship
 Many of you know that I host a 5K in memory of mom. The money raised is used to award scholarships to students studying to be oncology nurses. This week we awarded the 6th scholarship! Doing this is always a humbling experience. And with the 5K just a little over a month away now, it helps put it all back into perspective for me. (more to come on that next week.) Grant Olsen has a great story and we are happy he was the awarded participant this week.


 3. Soup
 I am not really a huge fan of soup. I like it alright, but it isn't a meal I would choose out of a menu of choices. But the Catholic chapel on base has offered a soup lunch to anyone every Wednesday through the Lent season. Me and a few others have gone to enjoy this each week and it has been refreshing. Seeing as how just down the hall from our office is the chaplain's offices, I am good friends with some of those admin girls. This has given new opportunities now to not just build friendships with them, but to meet new people.

 4. Home Sweet Home
 One of my favorite places to be is the farm where I grew up. While it has changed some for sure, it holds relatively all the same feel. It warms me, no matter if I am there to help dad clean or just visit with him. I enjoyed spending the afternoon there this week.


 5. Nice Customer Service People
 Isn't customer service all about the customer? This is lost often times honestly. And I don't often complain about that. But I do recognize when it is delivered. I forget my brain at times and had that experience this week. As I went to the Wendy's drive through to grab just a few quick things, I got to the window to pay and realized I didn't have my debit card! 😲 I asked the cashier to remove a few items because I only had a few dollars cash. The manager bought my whole order! Nice people are refreshing. He didn't have to do that. But thank you that he did.

 6. Essential Oils
I have utilized half the oils in my cabinet this week. I have diffused them at night, fighting a cold of sorts. I have used them on the nasty headaches this strange dreary weather has brought on this week. And I have applied them to help the emotional moods. I can tell you they work! And I find it refreshing to use these more natural methods as opposed to chemical medicines. (I'm not opposed to using medicine, but if/when I don't have to, I appreciate that.)

 Even in the midst of small snow flurries and hail in April ... happy moments can be found! It's the Little Moments that add up!

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Love Others

The experience of losing a person to death is never an easy one to face, but we all go through it at some point.
 But this weekend, the talk in our home has been heavy on that issue. This weekend we discussed an issue that is prevalent in our society, but for the first time touched our home.
 On Thursday, March 30, a student in my daughter's freshman class committed suicide.

Unfortunately that is no longer an uncommon occurrence among young people, and I think we even become a little callous towards the word because it now is so often verbalized, where once in society it was taboo. Even more sad is the fact that it is a growing problem among the young people. Bullying is a factor. Social status is a factor. Many factors play a role and sometimes we never know the entire situation. Nor will we ever in many cases.

 When my daughter texted me Friday morning as the announcement was made at her school, my heart broke. For the boy who felt the need to commit the act. For his parents. For my daughter, who is now experiencing a new taste of death I hope she would never have to experience. For all the students who knew him. Death is never easy, no matter the way it unfolds. Somehow suicide seems to be a whole different realm.

  Why do you think we avoid the topic? I think it makes us all uncomfortable because it's death, of course. But also because it is one that brings with it judgement. Some whisper "How could the person do that?" Others will say "He must have had a sad life." Some will try to guess all the reasons.
do you remember when Robin Williams committed suicide? One of the funniest men in America who made everyone around him laugh took his own life.

 The truth of the matter is we never know what a person is facing. Even those who appear the happiest on the outside may have a broken heart on the inside.  That is one of the reasons why Jesus tells us to love our neighbors. We don't know how lonely a person is or what their inside hurts might be.  It is difficult to love the angry or the outcast. But if those of us who have Jesus in our lives won't do it, then who will? I'm not saying I am perfect at this myself. But I am saying that the circumstances of Grady's sad death have made me stop and evaluate. And as my daughter has talked about it and asked questions, my own answers have made me think about if I am practicing to those around me what I am trying to teach her. Love others. One of the greatest commands of Jesus.

 Maybe if we loved more and judged less, we could all learn from each other.  My daughter wrote this post on her Facebook the day after the news.

Yesterday was a sad day for the students and staff at Fairborn High School. We lost one of our fellow students. His name was Grady mccurry . He touched the lives of many students. I did not personally know him so I can not understand how his friends and family feel right now but I do know he will be greatly missed. I wanted to take this post to say that suicide is a serious issue and you need to just love on people sometimes because you don't know what their lives are like so love on everyone. It can make a difference. Rest In Peace Grady


 She is a little wise beyond her years at times, truthfully. I love her gift of empathy and her love for those around her. She has been deeply touched by this event. He wasn't someone she was close to but she did have a class with him and talked about how he was so funny.  I wish this were not a reality for her to witness, but with it being so, I have definitely hugged her a little tighter and loved a lot harder. 

 I have also been reminded that we never know what a person is facing. We can never be responsible for the actions of others, of course, But we certainly can be of our own. Take an extra moment to slow down and learn about those around you. It may be just what your "neighbor" needs that day.

 I know this was a bit of a heavy post, but I write about that which I am learning. I am a work in progress. And I am learning not to take anything or anyone for granted. One day at a time. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

"The Scale"

The cursor on the screen is blinking at me, almost as if it's a steady heartbeat, patiently ticking away the seconds, telling me to spill out my words upon the page. I am in a season of busy days, which often leaves me little time to write and a head full of lessons being learned and thoughts needing to be sorted. But as the cursor blinks at me, I find it hard to formulate what I want to share.

 Perhaps because there are layers of lessons through which I am wading right now. None of which are life-shattering, but all of which run deep in the waters of my soul. Diving in to them can sometimes drudge up the dirt at the bottom of the ocean, create waves I'm not sure I want to navigate. And yet I know that there is always a calm after the storm, even if that storm is only one which I can see. And so I will wade into them.

 For the season of Lent, I have mentioned in previous blogs that my church has encouraged the practice of giving something up (or perhaps doing something more, depending on the perspective.) As this has been a newer practice for me, I don't always know what to do. This year as I thought about it, I had a recurring thought on this. I hesitate to write about it, to be honest. And when people would say to me, "what did you give up for Lent?" I really avoided answering. Because my answer will seem awfully silly, but between me and God, it has made sense. So I hesitantly write and share about it today. In part because I am processing how this season is teaching me new lessons, and writing helps me process.

 I "gave up" getting on the scale.

 To some that will sound like a very silly, very minor issue. Lent and giving up "things" should be about something deep, something that makes us go deeper into our walk with God, to focus on Him more intensely through this season. But I want to share, because these weeks of not getting on the scale have been a time that has become a reshaping area.

 I think all people struggle with body image to a degree - how they view themselves or worrying how others look at them. I wish I could tell you it's not an issue for me, that I love who I am and how I look. But I wrestle with this as much as the next person. I just don't talk about it much. I would find myself getting on the scale and feeling so discouraged after doing so. Which I know many will find crazy because I'm not overweight. In my heart I know that, but my head so often will shout other thoughts about that number that looks back at me.

 And so as I thought about what to give up, I knew I was living in a place of putting too much focus on my body and so giving that up would (perhaps) help me to rearrange my priorities.
  The world places such value on the body. The commercials scream at us, even if subtly, that we need to be thinner, prettier, wearing the latest clothing, following the latest trends. Movies promote women with picture perfect bodies. Running magazines are filled with shiny pages of women with toned abs and muscular arms, leaving me feeling like after 9 years of being a runner perhaps I am doing something wrong because I look nothing like that! The point is, the struggle with my body image and how I feel about myself in those regards is real. I don't like it and I don't write about it a lot, but it is something which I am working on shedding, so it's time to talk about the struggle a little.

 Perhaps some of the ideas come from a variety of comments I hear around me, be it from men in my vicinity or comments made by men on tv, but I feel like I have to meet this standard or I won't be pretty. Maybe it comes from jokes that have been made that say "you're a runner. you ought to be 110 lbs! " (I most definitely am not that.) And while what I hear I know isn't true per say,  the words are difficult to erase, and so I wrestle with it. I don't feel pretty enough, thin enough. Somehow my brain became trained to say things like "I'm fat" when in reality that is not true. Or I play the ever ridiculous comparison game to the women around me, which is such a horrible thing to do.

 So as these weeks of lent have gone on and I have not gotten on the scale, I've been working to retrain my brain. I have been working to find balance with my thoughts. I have been working with God to embrace the truths about me rather than the falsely promoted lies that dance around so frequently.
 I believe in taking care of myself. But obsessing over how I look isn't a healthy mindset. Getting on a scale is ok, but going into a frustrated mindset when it isn't the "ideal"  number isn't healthy. Working out is a great thing for me, one which I highly promote and believe in.  But working out (for me) should not be about needing to be skinnier. For me, it is about time with my maker. It's about being a better me, the best me I can be. Not because I feel the  need to meet an unrealistic expectation, but because I feel better and happier and healthier when I do it.
  And if I get on a scale, it's a gage that helps me recognize I'm on track or not on track, but should not be a gage that says beautiful or not.

 Through this time, I have been learning to embrace my image, while still working to be the best I physically can be. I know when I'm not eating right and I know when I'm not healthy. Yes, I feel better when my pants are loser or go down a size. But life isn't about that.
 It's not about how I look on the outside or how much I weigh or what my size is. It's about my heart. And so I have been focusing on my heart.
 Sifting out the temptations and difficult things that get in the way of being the best me. Saying no to those fleshy desires. Denying myself.
 I have been reading passages in the Bible that remind me how much God loves me for who I am.
  I have been working on becoming the best me I can be. Physically... sure, to a degree. But I've been putting more focus on my heart matters. Eliminating those ugly things that get in the way of the beauty that God has created. When I shine the beauty He has made, He can use me more. And I shine that more when I am focusing on what He says about me, not what the scale says about me.

 Does this mean I don't still run and do TRX? Nope. In fact, I'm finally back to training again (blog to come on that soon). But truthfully being the best me physically can only improve when I'm being the best me spiritually. To deny myself is to find myself. (Matthew 16) I am happier when I am healthier. And I am healthier when I am not worrying so much about what others say I should be. Or If I look like those picturesque women (I don't.... nor will I.... )

 So, giving up getting on the scale may sound super silly to some people. But for me, it's been about digging deep and tapping in to the inner beauty God has given me and letting that shine through to the outside.
 I will always work on myself physically. That is ok, and it's part of who I am. But there are lines, or should I say there is a balance to doing so. Getting into a tizzy because the scale doesn't read like I want it to... not healthy.

   I am created in His image. He knows every hair on my head. He holds every tear I cry. He formed me and knew all my days before I do. He has plans for me. He loves me for me.
   And no number on the scale will ever tell me those words. But He tries to tell me them every day. I just have to get out of my own way and let Him.

 So that is part of what I have been learning. Perhaps body image will be a forever struggle. I hope not, but I don't really know. So long as I am growing and learning and applying, though, I want my beauty to be about His beauty. Not what the world says is beautiful. (And it's ok to remind me about this, friends, if/when you hear me slipping and complaining about myself.) One day at a time... I am learning to be the healthier me from the inside out.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

#TheLittleMoments

 It's been a busy few weeks for me, but isn't it for everyone, really? Lots of little ways to be thankful...

  1. I have had a few coffee dates lately that have thrilled my heart and been so good for my soul. Jessica and I met Wednesday morning and we are both analytical and deep, so our conversations get pretty meaty, but are so beautiful. How wonderful to have a special friend who understands my ridiculously crazy web of thoughts!
  Tammy is another beautiful friend in my life. She makes me laugh so hard and she makes me believe in myself in ways I never thought possible. She supports me and encourages me. Love this lady! She's a TRX "buddy" of mine.
Me And Tammy




  3. My church is awesome. I can't say it enough. Saturday we did a clothing event giveaway. And it was awesome! We had so much clothes, I was honestly a little overwhelmed at setting up with them. Like a good overwhelmed. and as we set up, I met new friends. And as we prepared to open our doors for people to come in and get clothing, Pastor Randy circled us, we grabbed hands and prayed together. That... and helping the community... is what church is about. I cannot say enough how much I love my church.

 4. A good laugh with my coworker. Lisa and I get a lot of work done, but we laugh a lot too. And when I found myself talking exactly like my boss this week on a day he wasn't even there, she looked around to see if Rob was the one speaking! (not really... but that's how much my statement reflected his verbiage.) I'll take it as a compliment, not even realizing I picked up on his phrases... but it gave us a super good laugh. And laughing feels so good.

 5. Watching a good friend get married and be in her bliss. Beautiful.


 6. Experiencing a bed and breakfast for the first time. My husband and I took time to enjoy my friend's wedding and we made a weekend out of it. We drank, we laughed, we dressed up, we danced and we made memories. We stayed up late, listening to the live jazz band playing in the bar area of our bed and breakfast. And we were spoiled with an amazing breakfast Sunday morning.




Not every day is full of the "Facebook Moments" as we say. Those social media blissful pictures we all like to post. But when they are, aren't they worth sharing? I think so. Because I believe that having those memories and moments are a little bit of what will carry us through the rougher days and remind us. I believe in vulnerability and sharing our rougher moments, because we all have them and sharing them helps us learn. But remembering the beautiful Little Moments are so healthy, too. This week I was blessed to have many of them.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Remembering Mom

My head has had a web of thoughts lately, many revolving around my mom.
 Today, as we welcome in Spring officially by the calendar, I am reminded that 6 years ago today I said goodbye to mom on this earth. March 20 will always be a date in my mind that makes me reflect on my amazing mom.

 My thoughts have spanned over the last few days from the ache of missing mom 6 years later like I did on the day I lost her to laughing about silly memories I have with her. Every year at this time, I take time to look through old photos. I love doing that because photos tell stories. Photos are full of memories. But this year I took time to read some of my mom's old writings. I haven't done that in a long time, but when I do pick those pieces of paper up, it's a little like having a conversation with her. I can hear her voice, see her eyes rolling at her own self with an "oh brother" statement, and laughing the whole time. I can feel her faith teaching me lessons again, as though she were sitting next to me. The only thing better would be if we were sharing a cup of coffee instead of me having my own cup while I read. But I can imagine her here with me in that way.

 If you don't know, this whole blog began back in 2011 as an outlet for me to write about my grief and share about my mom. It has evolved into an entirely different tool for me, but there will always be the days I revolve back to the roots and share stories and thoughts about mom. Because mom, although she is gone, will always be a center piece in my heart and life.

 Over the weekend, my thoughts ranged from very sad and missing mom intensely to laughing and crying over some of the words she wrote. I love that her penmanship speaks volumes of her faith to me still. I am still learning from her, 6 years after her death. My mom was a remarkable woman. So, as I sat down in front of my computer on this 6th anniversary of her death, I thought to myself, what can I possibly say that I haven't already shared about mom? How can I express the depth of emotion that resides in my soul still over the remarkable woman that mom was? what words could possibly do justice to what my mom brought to me and everyone else around her?
  And the answer I had was that maybe I'll just share her words.

 Sometimes mom wrote silly stories or poems. Often times mom made up songs to pass time or make a chore interesting. She and one of her friends, Eleanor Taylor, would sit at the dining room table and take scripture passages and make them into songs to help memorize them. I am not sure I got the whole "deep analytical" part of me from mom.... her journals and inner thoughts were not often exposed. But I do know I got my love of writing and books from her. This weekend I picked up some of what my mom wrote while she was going through cancer treatments.

 Over and over mom would say in those pages, "God is so good. I don't know what will happen, but I have no fear because God is in control."
  She would share details of how blessed she was because she had family and friends to take her to all her appointments (mom hated driving.)
 The one page that expressed intimidation at all wasn't about her cancer... it was about the fact that she had to drive herself once to the appointment!
  The process was at times long for mom through the months leading up to her death. But she consistently would write "God is good." She always found blessings in the midst of the storm.


 I do remember that about my mom, but reading the words over again always helps me relearn how gracefully she embraced those truths.

 Mom wrote "now I must say a word about how good God is to me through this all. As my family and church family begin to find out I am having health problems, they call and end cards and most of all they pray and pray and pray. People I don't even know pray for me. I am humbled and feel so undeserving. I know without a doubt that their prayers have caused God to sustain me and uphold me. Though I don't know what the future will hold I have peace and do not live in fear. ... I mostly maintain a trust in God to do what is best in my life because He is good."

 Those are words to sit on for a moment. Mom's life verse was Proverbs 3:5-6 which says Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding...
 and mom lived that out.
 Honestly, how many of us choose a life verse but truly live it out to its full meaning? Mom did that. Those words written by her in the midst of Stage 4 cancer happening are evidence of her faith, her trust in God. That will never be lost on me. And it will forever hold an example for the woman of God I want to be myself, the mom and wife I want to be.

 I found a letter my mom wrote me back in 2001, just before I went on my first mission trip to El Salvador and Honduras. Mom said to me in the letter...."it's so wonderful to see you get to serve God how you have always desired."  That made me want to sit across from her and tell her all about my endeavors to Colombia last year and my excitement to go back again in June.

 The pages can go on about the words I have been able to pour through the last few days. It has been a blessing to have the penned pages my mom wrote through her time. That is partly why I find letters and writing so important. It speaks volumes from the heart. That is why I still write letters and that is why I blog. Maybe one day my words will reach across the pages to someone's heart like my mom's have for me. And if they don't that's ok.
 I have learned much from my mom and continue to do so.

 The ache of missing mom will always be there. But the peace that comes with the memories outweighs that sadness (most of the time.)
  I could write volumes and never give her justice to the beautiful legacy she left. She was an amazing mom. And spending time remembering her is always a beautiful time of reflection.