Category Archives: Encouragement

Time to have a talk with yourself?

Had a tough WOD (Work Out Of The Day) at my CrossFit gym yesterday… very tough. In fact, I was the only female in the gym who finished it RX (“As prescribed”).  The task was 5 rounds of 15 deadlifts, 12 hang cleans, 9 push presses, and 3 overhead squats… all at 105lbs! This is extremely heavy weight for all lifts except the deadlifts and especially heavy for overhead squats.  At about my halfway point, the coach found me just standing staring at the barbell and asked me what I was doing. I looked up at him panting and sweating and said, “having a talk with myself.”

Those times that I stepped up to the bar for yet another overhead squat and I was thinking about how heavy the bar is, how tired my arms are, and what if I drop the thing on my head, my lift failed with the bar flying one direction and my body landing in a heap in another.  However, when I approached the bar with determination, with the belief that I can do it one more time, and those around me yelled their conviction of the same, the outcome was a successful lift.

Isn’t that kind of like life? At times life gets tough… overwhelmingly so and we end up standing there staring at what confronts us with our minds racing with fear and anxiety of the unknown. It’s at those times we need to have a talk with ourselves.

Life is full of battles. Cancer. Divorce. Loss. And in those dark moments we wonder if we have what it takes to fight to the end, unsure if we can finish when all we want to do is sit down and quit. Instead of allowing fear to overtake us, we instead need to choose determination. Instead of accepting that the task is too hard, we must keep putting one foot in front of the other and focus on just the next step. Instead of giving up and quitting, we can turn to the encouragement of those who love us and keep moving because their belief in us will drive us forward.

My toughest moment yesterday came when I was almost finished. With only 3 overhead squats to go my mind and body hit a wall. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to cry or throw up.  My talk with myself went something like mother scolding a child, “You can’t quit now.  You are almost there. Set your mind right and pick up that bar. Do just one and then we’ll worry about the next one. You didn’t work this hard and come this far to quit on yourself right at the end.” Then I threw in a little “Get mad at the bar and kick its butt” just for good measure.

Life’s greatest miracles often come just after we are ready to quit. For those of you who are facing one of life’s tough challenges… keep going.  You are stronger than you know.


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Filed under Encouragement, Health & Fitness

Ditching the diets and finding myself instead.

A photo with Mike Weaver, lead singer for
Big Daddy Weave. I think we were the same
size. I was 35 years old.

My journey to health and fitness was not as simple as changing my diet and starting an exercise regimen. The reasons for my weight struggle are not merely a lack of discipline, laziness, or whatever it is that the “lifers” in the fitness world would like to think.

I don’t feel that this is the place for my life story. It’s boring.  I will just say that my life has seen more than its share of challenges and personal trials.  Most of my adult years have included a high level of negative stress, personal responsibilities that left me drained and exhausted, and an idea that I was making sacrifices for “a season” and “someday” I would have time for me.

If I have a single regret it is that I didn’t love myself enough to make my health a priority. I regret that I didn’t model a healthy lifestyle for my children when they were young.  I regret every time I sat on the sidelines because I was too sick, too tired, too overweight, or just plain afraid of hurting myself. How much of my life did I miss out on living that I will never be able to get back?

I wish I could say that I just had an epiphany one day and saw the error of my ways.  With the combination of stress, poor eating, no exercise, too much weight, etc, my body soon starting telling me I was going to have to make changes… or else.  The details are not pretty, so I’m taking creative license and just not including them.

I tried numerous diets with some success but the weight always came back. I’d starve myself… it would come back anyway. I felt helpless. I felt like I couldn’t control my own body.  I got advice from those “lifers” I referenced earlier. Surely they would know what I’m doing wrong.  However, I didn’t find suggestions as “just run 10 miles a day” or “stop eating so many carbs” very helpful. I had done the diets… they didn’t work. And I was pretty sure that they wouldn’t be running 10 miles a day if they had to carry a 100lb backpack (which is how much extra weight I had).

I started by doing another diet. I lost 40lbs. I knew it was going to come back so I started working with a personal trainer.  But then I started gaining again just like before and I was panicked. My personal trainer explained that my weight coming back was called a “reverse.”  He showed me how my diet was actually causing the problem. I wasn’t eating enough. Wait… what?

Apparently depriving your body of needed calories is not healthy.  Losing 20lbs a month is too much too fast.  It scared me to eat more but I tried to find the right balance. I felt so impatient. I was working so hard. I was sacrificing all the foods I liked to eat. And the weight loss was SO slow or wasn’t happening at all.

Warming up at CrossFit.

Then I found CrossFit and I discovered the missing link to my mental battle for weight loss. It wasn’t about the number on the scale. It was about building a strong and healthy body so that I could better LIVE my life. So I could stop being a spectator and become a participant. So I could face my fears head on before running right over them.  My focus on my weight was blinding me to what was truly important… my overall health.

Soon after starting CrossFit, I ditched the diets and embraced the Paleo Lifestyle.  While most consider it to be “radical” (I did at first too), I really couldn’t argue with the results. Funny thing happens when you “clean up” your diet… your body works better, fights and resists illness, and ultimately stabilizes your weight.

My health and fitness journey is no longer seen as a short trip but rather a never-ending adventure meant to be enjoyed. I’m working every day to become the best possible version of me that I can be.  I have not perfectly mastered my demons. I still get on the scale and obsess on the number though I know I shouldn’t. I still wish I could eat a large bowl of Pralines & Cream every night… and sometimes I treat myself.

The difference is that my temporary “diet” has become a permanent lifestyle.  Instead of wondering if I’ll be around to watch my grandkids grow up, I’m learning how to scuba dive and knee board. Instead of battling allergies, IBS, skin irritations, migraines, and joint pain, I’m getting a kick out of beating my PRs (personal records) in the gym. My husband and I recently had a discussion about getting our Instructor Certification in CrossFit.  Oh, the possibilities!

Bottom line, I’m not the skinniest, youngest, or hottest in the gym and that’s ok with me. At 43 years old, I am one of the happiest in my new skin… and happy is good.


Filed under Encouragement, Health & Fitness

God Will Take Care of You (…and why this is written in the fog on my bathroom window)

To set this up properly, I need to give you a little background.  I’m a single mom who has home schooled for 11 years.  I am able to do this by being self-employed and working from home.  This has been a very tough year financially for a number of reasons.  The combination of large unexpected expenses, coupled with losing other sources of income, has created the perfect recipe for worry and stress.

Lately I’ve been praying through decisions like selling my home or going back into the corporate world.  With my youngest in her senior year, both of these have serious implications.

Tonight I was feeling the stress more than usual.  I was doing some monthly invoicing to clients and reviewing work in the pipeline.  I’m looking at accounts receivable and trying to decide how secure I feel about what I see there for the next few months.  This is how it goes when you are self-employed.  It is often feast or famine and income can be rather inconsistent.

With all of this on my mind, I decided I needed a break.  So I ran a hot bubble bath, lit some candles, and started the music playlist on my Droid entitled “Relax.”  I sank into my luxurious cocoon of soapy paradise and watched the birds jump from branch to branch in the tree outside the window.  I was reminded of the Scripture that says “So don’t be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:31).  As I’m lost in my thoughts I realized that the song now playing on my phone was “God Will Take Care of You” by Plumb.  I thought, “Well, how fitting is that?”

Since I was waiting on an email of a design proof, I decided to check my email (yes, I’m still in the tub).  I found 3 emails all with new business referrals.  So, here I am.  In the tub, watching the birds and thinking about Matthew 10:31, listening to “God Will Take Care of You,” and now I have 3 emails with what looks like new business.  At this point, I began to cry.  Not because I was worried.  Not because I was stressed. I cried because I realized how much I have been trying to do things myself.  How God just wanted to me to rely on Him and I was too busy running around being worried to feel His peace.

But God wasn’t done with His lesson yet.  My playlist was set to run one song after another until the list was completed.  The list ran in order up until “God Will Take Care of You” and then something weird happened.  With no explanation I can give, that song repeated itself a few songs later.  It was if God was making sure that I knew He was speaking to me.  Talk about a humbling moment!!

To my precious Mom and Dad who are struggling with the recent news of Dad’s prostate cancer; To my oldest daughter, who struggles to meet her rent every month while she finishes her education; To my second oldest daughter, who is trying to find her own way in the world; To my second youngest daughter, who is leaving for missionary school this Saturday; To my youngest daughter, who wonders sometimes if her mother is losing her mind; To everyone reading this blog who wonders about that health diagnosis, that financial concern, or whatever you struggle with… I just wanted you all to know what God shared with me tonight – God Will Take Care of You.


Filed under Encouragement, Faith

Managing Stress Instead of It Managing You

Stress has been a part of my life for so long that I wouldn’t know what it feels like to have it absent.  I see stress as falling into two categories – positive or negative.  There are some things that stress us but have a positive result.  Things like deadlines that help keep us accountable, or a difficult problem at work that allows us to feel fulfilled when we solve it.  However, when stress increases above a level that we are used to, it can have some pretty serious adverse affects.

When you are stressed your body has a similar reaction as to when it senses you are in danger.  It speeds up your heart and your breathing by releasing hormones into your system.  All of this will lead to an instinctive response to either stand-and-fight or run-and-hide depending on the individual.

If stress is allowed to continue for too long or too often in your life, your health can suffer.  Headaches, insomnia, stomach problems, and muscle pain are all common physical responses to stress.  In addition, it can weaken your immune system making you vulnerable to other health conditions as well.

I’m writing this blog entry because my stress level has been extraordinarily high during the past five years.  While I consider myself someone who handles stressful situations well, I recognize that it has impacted me in significant ways.  I have learned that rarely do the things I face only apply to me.  So I’d like to share some strategies that have helped me through some very trying circumstances.

Three Strategies for Taking Back Control

Strategy #1 – Just say NO.  Learn that it is ok NOT to volunteer to bring the snacks, to organize the car pool, or to teach that Sunday School class.  We live in an age and culture of busy.  In fact, I think sometimes we need to be busy just to feel important.  If you get a group of women together, often it seems like they are bragging about all the things they are involved in as if the more they do, the more important they become in their circle.  How about we start bragging about how we are saying “no” to the things that don’t really matter in the end, and demonstrate an ability to manage our lives more effectively??

Strategy #2 – Manage time.  There are only 24 hours in a day.  Try removing things from your life that waste one of your most precious commodities.  For example, we are currently choosing to not have cable TV.  Television consumes our precious time without an adequate return for the investment.  We DO have Netflix and are purposeful about what we watch and when.  What is sucking up your time? Get rid of it or reduce its impact on your time.

Strategy #3 – Identify priorities.  Trying to cram in as much stuff as possible leaves no time to clear your head or relax.  When my kids were younger I tried to involve us only in things we could do as a family.  Instead of each child having their own pursuits, we hosted study groups, took Tae Kwon Do classes as a family, and went to the park or spent the weekend camping.  While dance and soccer are nice for a time, I feel like we reduced everyone’s stress while improving our connection as a family by focusing on our time together.  If one of the kids did do something on their own like soccer, they each took turns to help reduce the mania, and the entire family supported them by attending every game and cheering them on.

What About the Stress Caused By Things
That You Do Not Have Control Over?

Whether it’s divorce, death, or a significant loss, if you are walking this earth for any period of time you are going to have to deal with a heart-breaking situation at some point and time.

When I first learned that my husband of 17 years was having an affair, the shock of it hit me like freight train.  Unless you’ve walked that particular path, I could never adequately explain the pain, the anxiety, and the stress that it causes.  When he left to pursue and ultimately marry the object of his affection, the resulting stress caused rapid and significant weight loss, about a third of my hair fell out, and my brain lost memory and the ability to focus on anything longer than 5 minutes.  While you may never experience this exact situation (and I hope you don’t), life WILL throw us a curve ball every now and then.  The following is what I learned in my personal journey that helped me get through a very difficult and stressful situation.  I pray that you might find them useful if you ever find yourself facing down your own curve ball.

  • Forgive – often stress caused by things outside of our control are the result of the actions of someone else.  Staying angry and becoming bitter will only hurt your ability to move past it.  Or perhaps you need to forgive yourself for a mistake or bad decision.  You’re human – cut yourself some slack.  If you struggle to forgive, seek some counseling to help you.
  • Ask a trusted friend for help – This one has always been hard for me.  Pride generally gets in the way of reaching out.  If not for the good friend that walked me through this dark time, I know that I would not have made it to the other side with my heart intact.
  • Get professional attention, if needed – If you are unable to sleep, are experiencing fluttering in your chest, have the sensation that your heart is in your throat, are finding it hard to take a deep breath (shallow breathing), or are having trouble keeping food down it is time to get to a doctor.  There is help and if left untreated they can become a real and serious threat to your health.
  • Write it down – Within 24 hours of learning about the affair, I began writing a journal.  I wrote down everything that came to mind whether it made sense in the moment or not.  Sometimes I stayed up all night writing in that journal. It became a close confidant and was a very healthy way for me to express the tidal wave of emotion that was threatening to wash me away.
  • Focus on the future – Circumstances are temporary.  True joy comes from knowing that our God is bigger than our problems and that He cares for us.  Some nights I feel asleep singing Jesus Loves Me over and over (a suggestion from the friend I mentioned above).  The lyrics to this simple children’s song were so affirming that they soothed and healed my wounded spirit with every note.
  • Be courageous – Do not allow fear to take over.  In difficult circumstances you will no doubt be facing some hard decisions.  Gather your courage and do what you need to do.  Guard yourself from having wrong motives or making a bad decision out of fear, anger, or revenge.  At the end of the day, do what is right and good for you, your children, and anyone else affected.  Do not adopt a victim mentality.  Claim victory over your problems and move forward.

If you have been through a difficult time and have a strategy for managing stress that worked for you, please share it with a comment.

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Moving Beyond the Boogie Man – Conquering Your Fears

“Careful you must be when sensing the future, Anakin. The fear of loss is a path to the dark side.” — Yoda

Over the years I often found myself comforting my children from their fears.  Fear of failure, fear of something new, or fear of rejection was usually the culprit.  With children, fear is often borne of their inexperience or insecurity and with time their confidence begins to override those fears.  

One of my daughters in particular struggled with fear and anxiety. When I first became her mother, she was already 8 years old. She had learned the hard way that the world is a scary place.  She was afraid of the dark, of being alone, of being lost in public, of strangers, and more.  With God’s help, she has grown into a beautiful young woman who is facing the world with confidence.

My mother is ALWAYS worrying about me. It’s her God-given job I suppose to express concern to make me stop and consider if I’m taking on too much, if I’m taking care of myself, or with standard (yet embarrassing) clean underwear reminder…just in case I’m in an accident.  I have often begged my mom to stop her worrying ways and suggest that her worry is distracting her from her true purpose (which I’m pretty sure, by the way, is NOT worrying about me).

The fact is I have given my mother good reason to worry about me many times.  I have experienced serious and profound fear in my life.  It is not a sensation that I particularly enjoy to say the least.  Fear is not a sin or necessarily a bad thing.  On the contrary, we have all been given the emotion of fear to help keep us in balance and to provide protection.  Without fear, what would stop us from driving too fast, eating too much, or singing in the middle of the grocery store.  Yes, fear can be good (have you ever heard me sing?).

However, fear can also be unhealthy and lead us into poor decisions or just plain keep us from living a full and abundant life.  The following are two examples of unhealthy fear in that if left unchecked can lead us in the wrong direction.

1)      ANGER AS A CHILD OF FEAR – As a mother I have admittedly spoken to my children at times in an angry tone of voice. In almost every instance it was because they did something that just scared the “whooey” out of me.  Out of fear for their safety, their future, or their character, I birthed a burst of anger in the moment.  For most of us mere mortals this is not likely something we ever completely master, but with time and God’s help we can certainly learn to count to ten before reacting and keep our anger under control.

(Psalm 4:8 – In your anger, do not sin…)

2)      FEAR DERIVED FROM THE ENEMY – Fear is a powerful weapon that the enemy uses to paralyze the life of a believer.  Playing upon our fears of public speaking, sharing our testimony with a friend, fear of rejection, and more, Satan can effectively keep us from the plan and purpose God intends for us.  To remove this fear from your life, claim 2 Timothy 1:7 as a personal verse and face those fears head on that you know are inhibiting you.  Throughout the Bible we see countless examples of how God used the ordinary to achieve extraordinary purposes so that He might be glorified instead of man.  I call them “Moses excuses” in my own life and they are usually uncovered the minute I start make excuses why I can’t do something I know I feel led to do. 

(2 Timothy 1:7 – For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.)

If you are struggling with fear in your life, please remember that the difference between the hero and the coward is not whether they experienced fear but rather what they did about it.  Go ahead and have fear – but render it powerless with God’s promises found in His Word.

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Meeting the needs of others – through Facebook?

I recently realized that it has only been just over a year since I finally broke down and created a personal Facebook page.  My motives were similar to other woman my age – to spy on my kids.  However, after experiencing the wonders of social media first hand I was hooked.  In fact, it is now part of my livelihood in that I manage 5 separate company pages as well.

The first thing that strikes most of us who enter Facebook for the first time is the speed at which you suddenly reconnect with your history.  Friends from elementary school that you haven’t seen in 30 years will somehow locate you and make a friend request.  It’s like a blast from the past as old boyfriends, girls you hated, teachers you loved, and the neighborhood bully are all again part of life in this new context of social media.

Facebook is a “safe” way to maintain a relationship with someone that would otherwise be strange or awkward in any other forum (remember your first love and all the secrets you told him?).  Somehow we can now easily transcend the unspoken baggage or memories that would keep us from re-friending these people face-to-face.  Now we can see them completely different as adults with spouses and children of their own.

I see Facebook as an opportunity to let others get to know me better.  Although I’m outgoing and open, I don’t make friends easily, mostly because I’m too busy to invest in the process.  I gain a sense of community as I read postings which make me laugh, cry, or reaffirm my thoughts or values. This is all good stuff.

However, I do believe that we are missing the proverbial boat.  In a hurting world, especially during tough economic times, there are those who are angry, discouraged, mistreated, or just plain done.  While most keep their “profiles” to what they want us to believe, it is often possible to read between the lines.  It’s like having a mood thermometer for hundreds of people on a daily basis.  The caution is whether the endless roll of status feedbacks desensitizes us to the point that we just don’t notice or care.

How many times have you seen a post requesting prayer and you either scrolled by it, or simply left a comment saying you would pray?  What if instead we actually called to pray with them over the phone, or found a way to fill a small need in their life whether it is food, companionship, or just a big ol’ hug?

Facebook is a great way to learn about the needs of others.  What a waste it would be if we didn’t take advantage.

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Is It Well With Your Soul?

I often sit down at my computer with good intentions of drafting some brilliant blog post only to end up staring at the page as my mind spins through countless topics.  If the truth be known, the recent events of my life make anything I would or could talk about publicly seem trivial by comparison.

It would be arrogant for me to think that I am the only one with life challenges.  However, there are moments when I have to ask myself and my Maker…”Why me?”

Now don’t get me wrong.  In retrospect I often see where my selfish or hasty decisions have led to life consequences and for that I must accept responsibility.  Yet again there are all those bumps in the road that seemingly came out of nowhere.  I must admit that it can be tempting to throw a pity party from time to time.

I’m having one of those “why me” moments.  Actually I’ve had about 5 years of them as life dealt out more heartbreak on one family than most would endure in a lifetime (hear the pity party?).  While I do not understand “why,” I have come to a more peaceful understanding of the “how.”

In the darkest of moments, God’s Sovereignty is unchanging.  In times of distress, His faithfulness endures.  When it seems that all hope is gone, He reveals His plan.  When I am drowning in a moment, He sees the bigger picture.

Bob Carlisle (Butterfly Kisses & Christmas Shoes) is a singer and song-writer who speaks to my heart.  His songs lyrics often pierce me right where I am and the following lyrics from his song It Is Well With My Soul do that for me where I find myself standing.

Oh, my life is filled with white-hot anxiety,
Though I think I wear it very well,
I still worry bout’ what people might think of me
if they ever saw me past my outer shell.
Believe me, I know how to worry.
I’ve chewed my fingernails to the bone.

Lord, I think about all that you’ve
done for me.
Lord, I think about it all the time.
But sometimes a ghost from the past starts
really haunting me,
stickin’ those awful feelings in my mind.
I won’t let it get to me, no.
I ain’t walkin’ down that old, dark road.

Since I’ve been given true forgiveness
And it is well with my soul
I’ll be about my father’s business
And it is well with my soul
In my soul
I can see clearly
In my soul

Through the darkness surrounding me
Once you’ve tasted and seen
Then you’ll know what I mean
There ain’t nothin’ gonna keep me down,
so…get up…

Oh, I’ve got my share of problems
Still it is well with my soul

Don’t always know just how to solve them
Still it is well with my soul

Sometimes I wrestle with my conscience
Still it is well with my soul

Still I know that I’ve got true forgiveness
And it is well with my soul

May it be well with your soul today.

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Be Transparent? Are you insane?

We’ve been hearing the word transparency quite a bit lately… mostly as it relates to broken campaign promises.  In this word of “tell all” social media some may be convinced that we are more transparent than any other time in history.  Yah, right.

We all have the person inside of us that we want people to see, and then there is the person we know we really are.  If you’re being honest with yourself you must admit that the latter doesn’t make it into your Facebook status as much as the former.  Under the scrutiny of social media we closely guard our family secrets, our personal pain, and our insecurities for fear that the world will see us for what we really are – a flawed human.

Then there is the moment when someone finds the courage to be truly transparent.  Usually it’s about just one thing.  And that one thing happens to be something we have struggled with.  The connection is made.  It’s so very powerful.  Suddenly we feel a kinship with a perfect stranger because we realize they have a deep understanding of a part of us we have never shared with another living soul.

During my life I have been blessed to be a part of some amazing experiences – adoption, homeschooling, business, etc.  Some misguided folks have even said things like “you must be a saint” or “you are a supermom.”  It makes me feel a little embarrassed and I’m never quite sure how to respond (um…this me trying to be being transparent).  The truth is that I feel like neither a saint or a supermom.  I mostly feel inadequate for the many roles I perform.  Yes, I have those days when everything goes the way it should and I feel like maybe I am equipped for this journey after all.  However, like the game of golf, I am soon quickly cut down to size by the “hook” or the “slice” that comes next.

In spite of all our efforts to look like we are together, God knows the truth.  He sees our hearts, our motives, and, yes, our flaws.  He walked this earth as a human so that He could know and understand our hurt and pain.  By being completely transparent, He connects with us in a way that no human could ever do.  And there in the light of truth, we become able to overcome.

Transparency…it’s all becoming clear.

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