When You Just Can’t Rest

When you can't rest

“Mommy syndrome.” The oral surgeon removed the tongue depressor from my mouth, and leaned back in his chair.

I stared back blankly, starting to feel offended. I’d come in for an emergency follow up after my oral surgery a week before, sure that the non-stop excruciating pain was due to an infection, or dry socket, or something that required an urgent medical intervention.

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Make It A Ten

“On a scale from 1-10, how committed are you to these goals?”

I pondered for a few seconds. If I say anything less than 10, what am I doing here?

I was sitting in the office of the personal trainer at the gym I’d just joined the week before. That sentence is nothing short of miraculous. For most of my life, I’ve hated three things: working out, gyms, and running. And here I sat, signing up for personal training, at a gym, to get in shape to run my second 5k.

It all started almost two years ago, when I decided I was tired of not fitting in my clothes and not liking the way I looked. I got back to my goal weight, and have maintained ever since. My success motivated Brian, who as of today, has lost 47 lbs. 

That in turn motivated me to start running. And running our first 5K in November made me want to do it again. But since it’s cold outside in the evenings after work, I allowed Brian to convince me to join his gym. After the free fitness test with the personal trainer, I realized that I have a lot of work to do. 

My goals now are to run a faster 5K, to strengthen my very weak core, and gain some much needed muscle, which will help my running. And stress relief, since I’ve discovered that the best way to turn off this crazy brain after work is working out for an hour. 

But in order to reach my goals, I know now that I have to be willing to invest in them. I’ve failed often enough to know that I have to invest my time, energy, and money. That means working out when I don’t feel like it, paying for good shoes, workout clothes, and now, personal training. Investing in my fitness goals is really an investment in myself – my mental and physical health. And it proves whether or not I’m really committed. 

I answered: “Ten.”

Three weeks in, and I’m already seeing results. I’m sore in places I didn’t even knew I had muscles, but my body fat percentage has dropped, and I’m on track to improve my race time. Best of all, I actually look forward to going to the gym. 

Did you set health or fitness goals for this year? How would you answer the question my trainer posed?

Beauty Find Friday: Five Things

1. New Blog Design!

Yep. I did. And I’m ok with that.

This photo and the corresponding color scheme inspired me to try something watercolored, clean, but just a little more whimsical and warm.


I simplified the sidebar, got rid of some ads and widgets, and moved things around. I also added an Instagram widget.
I have a few more ideas for some tweaks to this design, including adding some new pages. Any suggestions? What would you like to see? 

2. New Glasses! 

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I ordered a second home try-on from Warby Parker. I didn’t take a bunch of pictures of me wearing them this time, instead, I painted you a picture of them. Well, actually, I just painted them because I needed something to paint, they were handy, and they looked really cool.
I chose the Nedwin, in amber, which seems a lot darker than the try-on pair, but I love it even more. I’m still adjusting to my new prescription, but wow, these are fantastic glasses. They feel made to last forever, and I love, love, love how they look on me. They’re the perfect blend of nerd-chic I hoped for. 

3. Guest Post on Yellow Elm 

You know how much I love thrifting. But I know that not everyone does…yet. Thrift store shopping can be overwhelming, and sometimes you bringing home stuff that just ends up going back a few months later. So, when Elizabeth of Yellow Elm confessed that she wasn’t the best at thrifting, and asked me to share some how-tos on her blog, I happily obliged. Here’s Five Steps to Thrifting Success.

4. 30 Day Shredded!

In 2012, I made a New Year’s Resolution of doing Jillian Michaels – 30 Day Shred DVD. And I did it three times a week, for a couple weeks. I never got past level one. I decided during the last week of August to do it for real this time. 
My sister-in-law suggested staying on each level for only 10 days, and then moving on. Having a set time to move on, and doing it every day, made all the difference. And figuring out how to mute Jillian and still play the background music. Seriously.
I actually enjoyed it this time, and I’m SO much stronger then when I started. I actually have a little six pack! I finished it last week, and now, I’m training for a 5K. Talk about CRAZY. This is the girl who hates exercise and most especially, running! I’m really motivated by my weight loss last year, and by my husband, who has now adopted a healthy lifestyle and lost about 30 lbs. in five months. He wants to do a triathlon… I’m sticking with a 5K.

5. My Sister’s Getting Married!

I’m in Iowa right now for the occasion. Tonight is the bachelorette party, which will consist of camping… in the backyard. No need to sacrifice flushing toilets! That’s my kind of camping! 
I’m writing this on Tuesday, leaving tomorrow morning, and procrastinating from packing. I can’t believe my little sister is actually getting married. Got to try not to think about that yet, and save the tears for the reception. Ha! 
I’m hoping to convince her that we need a photo booth, like the one we made for my besties wedding last summer. If not, I’m sure I’ll find some other hair-brained last minute crafts to make! In the meantime, I’ll be soaking up the cold weather, changing leaves, and eating s’mores. 
Happy Friday! What beauty did you discover this week? Share it in the comments!

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My Fitness Story

This is not an easy post to write, honestly. I’m not totally comfortable talking about my weight, but I’m reminding myself that you guys have always been encouraging and supportive readers, and I’m very grateful for that. Also, this topic ties in directly to my post last week about growing in confidence, which I’ll explain.

Last year, just like the year before, one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to lose weight. But in the next couple months, I actually gained weight, reaching my all time high of 150 lbs. I should note here that 150 lbs may very well be your ideal weight, so don’t take the numbers out of context. I’m about 5’4″, and my “happy place,” the place where I’m active and eating well but not stressing out over it, is at 132 lbs. That’s right at my optimal BMI, 22.0. So, I started off my year at a discouraging 18 lbs. heavier than I wanted to be.

For the first seven months of the year, I did Jullian Michaels 31 Day Shred, joined a gym and participated in a circuit training exercise class three times a week. I lost 5 lbs.

After we moved last summer, I quit the gym and Jullian. During the last four months of the year, I lost 11.5 lbs.

In short, after quitting the gym and Jullian, I lost over twice as much.

How? I’ll tell you. But first, be warned: if you’re looking for a ground-breaking weight loss secret, you won’t find that here. If you’re looking for a magic pill or a quick fix trick, you won’t find that here. In a sentence: what works for me is a combination of small steps, perseverance, and lots of grace.

Before and During

I’m starting 2013 1.5 lbs away from my goal weight. A year ago, that remaining 1.5 lbs would have discouraged me, but with all I’ve learned over the last year, it doesn’t bother me. Because I’ve already lost 16.5 lbs., I know I’m capable of losing the rest and keeping it off. Here’s where this topic ties in directly with my confidence challenge. Scott Dinsmore said it best in his article, How to Find and Do What You Love (emphasis mine):

The best place I’ve found to start is with your physical body — with exercise and nutrition.
One, because it’s totally in your control. No matter what happens in a day, you can always decide to get out on that run or choose that salad over the fries — no one can take that from you.
And two, because overcoming our own perceived physical impossibilities gives us confidence that is directly transferrable to the rest of our life — be it business, relationships or whatever. If you got yourself to lose 50 pounds in six months, then who’s to say you couldn’t double your business’s sales next year?
Showing yourself you can do things you used to write off as impossible, has a confidence-compounding effect on our life like no other.

Once you truly believe “My fitness is in my control,” you’ll find the motivation to do hard things. And as you succeed in doing hard things, your confidence will grow. For example, saying “no” to overindulging in ice cream because I know I won’t feel good about it later has actually made it easier to say “no” to requests that will be a drain on my time and emotions and I also won’t feel good about.

With each small goal or milestone achieved, my confidence grows as I prove to myself that I can do it. I’m even contemplating possibly doing this program to run a 5K! That’s crazy talk from the girl who doesn’t like running and doesn’t stick with exercise programs for more than three weeks.

Without further ado, here’s seven things I did to lose weight in the last four months.

1. I Kept Track.

I used technology to my advantage, specifically the “Lose It” app. With it, I input all my food and exercise, and record my weight, set goals, and track my progress. One of the reasons I love this app is that it rewards you along the way to your goal with badges. Out of the blue, you’ll get an email or notification that you’ve earned the “Exercise Hound” badge for exercising three times a week for four weeks. Celebrating the small successes is so important!

Also, because I was tracking what I ate and my exercise, I began to notice trends. I noticed that on days when I ate yogurt or cereal for breakfast, I usually went over my calories allotted. However, when I ate an egg for breakfast, I usually stayed under or right at my calorie goal. Using that information, I made the deducting that starting the day with protein kept me feeling full, and helped me stay within my calorie range for the rest of the day. Now, I eat an egg for breakfast almost every day.

I also noticed how I felt after eating certain foods. Because I was keeping track of what I ate, I discovered that I’m very sensitive to dairy products. I’ve cut back on milk and cheese, and feel much better as a result.

2. I Set Realistic Goals.

A quick look at the “Health and Fitness” category on Pinterest shows millions of pins like this:

With the caption: “13 Moves to Get Slim, Strong, and Sexy in Four Weeks!”

And this:

With the caption: “Eight serious LOWER ab moves from top Olympic trainers that will score you a rock-solid middle.”

I chose these examples since the photos are borderline appropriate. I won’t even get started on all the half covered butt cheek shots, or the “Victoria Secret” workouts. Newsflash: pinning photos of scantily clad women with enticing captions to your “Exercise Motivation” board doesn’t work. Here’s why:

First of all, you’re setting yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals. Do you think that chic in the first photo really looks like that after working out for only four weeks? Doubtful. She’s been working out a whole lot longer than that, and besides exercise, she’s also watching what she eats. Plus, how do you know whether or not any of the photos above, or the others on Pinterest, are photoshopped? I can almost guarantee you that celulite gets smoothed out, and tummies get pulled in on almost all of those photos.

Secondly, pinning photos of women without taking into account body type and height isn’t doing you any favors. It’s unrealistic for me to think I could look like the second pin above, because I have a curvy figure, not a straight one. No amount of exercise will alter my body shape.

So, set realistic goals. Look for photos of celebrities or average people who are close to your height and have a similar body type. For example, I pinned Emma’s weight loss story from A Beautiful Mess because we’re the same height and have a similar shape. Plus, she lost weight in a safe, healthy, practical way that I can realistically replicate.

3. I Did What I Could, When I Could. 

Before, I set goals of working out three times a week: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. But then, if something came up and I missed Monday, I’d tell myself to just wait until Wednesday to get back on track. But if something came up Wednesday, I’d just wait until Friday, and before I knew it, the week had gone by without any exercising. So, I had to change my thinking and get flexible.

Yes, it’s good to schedule working out. It’s good to commit to a class at a set time. It helps create a habit, and that’s great. But when I started working out whenever I could, for however long I could, I found that I worked out more often, and I enjoyed it more. If Monday was a crazy day, instead of waiting until Wednesday, I’d grab my weights and do arm curls, chest flies, and push ups for ten minutes while waiting for the water to heat up for my shower on Tuesday morning. I’d take the long way to get the mail, so instead of a two minute walk, it took ten.

So don’t wait until Monday to start eating healthier or to go for a walk. Start with your next meal, or your next five minutes of free time!

4. I Asked for Accountability. 

I can’t tell you the number of times I’d read about how important it is to have someone keep you accountable, and I’d always blown it off. Until last October. I gritted my teeth and asked two close friends and role models of mine to keep me accountable. It was hard. I was scared. I felt vulnerable. I didn’t like asking for help. But it worked. 

Knowing that I’m going to get a Facebook message every week, and not wanting to admit that I didn’t make any progress for the third week in row, is super motivating. And yes, there have been times I haven’t made progress for weeks at a time. My accountability partners are great at offering suggestions to help me break through my plateaus and stay motivated, and they’re extremely patient with me.

5. I Rewarded Myself.

This was THE game changer. This tip was new to me in the last four months, and of all the things I’m going to share with you, it has made the most difference.

I took every opportunity to reward myself for small successes. For example, I broke my weight loss goal of 18 lbs into three smaller chunks. In my notebook, next to each goal, I wrote down a reward for achieving that goal, and reviewed the list often. Each reward had to be non-food related. My reward for reaching 140 lbs. was Jergens Self Tanning Lotion. My reward for 136 lbs. was watching Harry Potter 7 Part 1. 134 lbs. was going to see The Hobbit in theaters. When I get to 132 lbs., I’d like to buy myself a Sevenly sweatshirt.

If I found myself getting discouraged because I was doing everything right but not reaching my next goal, I’d reward myself for working out 3x that week, or going on a walk every day for a week, or tracking my calories every day for a week. Each reward I achieved meant a boost of confidence in my ability to accomplish my goals, and motivated me to keep going. 

6. I Give Myself Grace.

I didn’t make my goal of losing 18 lbs. by Thanksgiving. I didn’t make it by Christmas, and I didn’t make it by January 1st. Oh well. I’ve lost 16.5 lbs! That’s something to celebrate. Along the way, I’ve beat myself up for not reaching goals, for going up instead of down, and not making any progress for weeks at a time. I’m learning to give myself grace, to be patient with myself, and not give up even when I fail. Instead of throwing in the towel, I’m learning to take a deep breath, and try again.

I often have to give my weight and appearance over to God. Honestly, my upper arm still waves back, my thighs still rub together, my belly still isn’t flat. I have to give myself grace and accept  my appearance, because it’s where I’m at. It’s the body God’s given me. When I start spiraling into self-disparaging thoughts or discouragement, I stop and thank God for this body, and for the prayers He’s already answered. It’s by His strength that I’ve made it this far!

7. I Found What Works For Me. 

Before and During

And you have to find what works for you. Find foods you like to eat. Find workouts or classes that you enjoy. Find books, magazines, blogs, or podcasts that speak to you. Find realistic inspiration. Find people who support you and keep you accountable.  Find small steps you can achieve, with rewards that motivate you.

Update: in the time it took to write this post, my weight has changed. I’m now 0.4 lbs. away from my goal, with a total of 17.6 lbs. lost!

I feel like there’s a lot more I could say about what books, tools, programs, foods, etc. have been helpful for me, but I don’t want to make this post any longer! If you have any questions for me, I’m happy to answer them in the comments below!

WOFC: Mental and Emotional Healing

I’d like to share some more of my notes and thoughts on the Women of Faith Conference with you today.

During Session 3, Patsy Clairmont spoke about emotions again, as well as fear. She shared a little of her story about overcoming agoraphobia.  The first command she felt that God was giving her to begin her healing was simply “Make your bed.” Well, to make her bed, she had to get out of it. Once she got out of it and made it, the next thing she felt told to do was to wash the dishes. At the time, she didn’t feel like she was getting better, but God knew that she needed to learn to be faithful in those little things before He could use her to do much. 
“In Jesus Christ, we are never stuck,” she said. “We always have a next step.” 
Patsy spoke about creating mental boundaries to heal our minds and emotions. She learned to Refuse, Replace, and Repeat. 
  • Refuse. We can refuse thoughts that are not truth, thoughts are not beneficial, that are lies from the enemy to hold us captive. Speaking of captive, we need to take every thought captive and then decide whether or not to refuse it. 
  • Replace. Just refusing a thought is not enough, we must replace it with the truth from God’s word. She mentioned Philippians 4:8, we need to replace with “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” 
  • Repeat. It isn’t a one time thing. Taking our destructive thoughts and emotions captive and replacing them with empowering truth is a continual battle.
She also learned that she needed to “Minimize her wordcount.” She discovered that not everyone needed to know what she thought of everything. She read Proverbs 29:11: “A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.” I recently saw that verse in a friend’s facebook status. How appropriate for the way we communicate online! 
Patsy also brought up that some people didn’t need to minimize their wordcounts, but instead, “find their voice.” Some of us don’t vent all our feelings, we bury them. Some of us need to ask God for courage to speak the words that He wants us to say.

I’ve written before about thinking right thoughts, whatever is true, and learning that lesson again, and I’ve probably mentioned it more times than in just those two posts. I need to come back to it over and over again.

Even as I reflect on what Patsy said, I’m realizing that while I need to work on all three areas, I especially need to work on Replacing. Perhaps if I was better about replacing the bad thoughts with good ones, I’d be re-learning the “right thinking=right feeling and right doing” lesson less often.

I’ve decided to read through a chapter of Proverbs every day, but I really need to work on scripture memory. I’ve never been good at it, but it’s important enough that I keep trying.

I found this video of Patsy’s story on YouTube, and I hope it blesses you as much as it did me. 

During the Q and A time, someone asked Patsy, “In your recovery, did you ever feel like the moment had come when you were completely healed?” Patsy didn’t hesitate, “No,” She said she’s never felt like she was completely healed. “I don’t think that will happen until heaven, when we will be perfectly whole and healed.”

Often in my struggle with depression and anxiety, I’ve often wondered, “Am I there yet? When am I ever going to be better? Will I ever be healed?” I found Patsy’s answer oddly encouraging. I won’t ever be totally healed in this life. All my life will be a journey, a journey to complete wellness that will occur when I stand before God. I don’t have to compare myself to others or wish I made progress faster. One day, I will be healed. Until then, progress is what I can strive for.

Have you used the Refuse, Replace, and Repeat process? What were the results? How well do you do at memorizing scripture? Do you think there’s a link between memorizing scripture and thinking healthy thoughts?

Women of Faith Conference: Fun, Worship, and Overcoming Emotions

Last weekend, I attended the Women of Faith Conference, and brought a friend, for free. So before I divulge the details of the fun, worshipful, refreshing, and convicting weekend, I want to thank Booksneeze for partnering with Women of Faith to give bloggers the chance to go in exchange for at least two blog posts about it, one before and one after. I can tell you right now, I don’t think I can fit all I learned into one post, so today I’ll tell you about day one, sessions 1 and 2.

I’m here!
Tara and me, being very excited about the conference about to start
The stage 

The first session started at 10:00 am. After worship and some introductions to the speakers, Patsy Clairmont took the stage. She challenged us to start every day with three words. First, with “Yes.” Yes to whatever God has planned for us that day. Yes to His schedule and timing. Secondly, with “Thank you.” Thank you for another day. Thank you for all of His blessings. Thank you, even during the tough things that some days will bring, because they are opportunities to glorify Him. And thirdly, “No.” No to people and activities that divide our attentions from what is most important. No to Martha business, and Yes to Mary attentiveness.

She talked at length about our emotions. Sometimes as women, we feel enslaved to our feelings and we let them control us and dictate our behavior. Patsy said, “God has equipped us with a will that is stronger than our emotions.” We can choose to listen to truth over what our emotions are screaming at us. We can choose to believe the truth of God’s Word and what He says about us, and other people, regardless of how we might feel.

Patsy finished with three truths:

  • Life is messy. No one has it all together. We are all broken people with messy lives in need of grace.
  • People are textured. When we think we really know someone, we might be surprised. We need to realize that people may be hiding hurt or brokenness that we are unaware of, and they need our mercy and compassion. 
  • God’s ways are mysterious. His ways are so much higher than ours, we can’t understand why He does what He does a lot of the time. But we can trust His character, and believe that He does have a plan and no suffering is wasted. 
We took a break for lunch, and I was pleased to discover that we didn’t have to pay for lunch after all. Every one got a free boxed lunch, and the leftovers were donated to an area shelter. 
Notice the WOF label on the water bottle 😀

When we came back, Andy Andrews spoke, but I didn’t take any notes, because he was kinda all over the place… literally. The entire time he talked he paced all over the stage, running up and down the stage stairs, up and down the aisles, and back and forth in front of the stage. 
But basically, he told his life story. He lived a normal life until the age of 19, when his mom died of cancer and his dad died in a car crash. Soon he was homeless, and through the influence of a man named Jones, started reading autobiographies. Soon he was hooked, and while he was homeless, he read over 200 biographies. He determined a set of seven principles that guided the men and women he read about, and began implementing them in his own life. Now, he has written several novels in which the characters apply these principles, and he is a motivational speaker who encourages audiences to apply the principles to their lives.

He also talked about investing in yourself. I think it was one of his principles, but he talked about the importance of reading. Reading invests in our mind, because it increases our knowledge and wisdom. Investing in ourselves makes us a better contributor to society. 

I learned a lot from session three, so I’m going to save that for another post. But at some point during session three, there was a Q and A for Patsy and Andy. The questions and their answers were so enlightening, I wrote them all down. I’ll save some of them for another post, but the first question was related to the first session: “How can you make your will stronger than your emotions?” 

Patsy replied, “It already is!” She explained that many times we don’t realize it, because we haven’t exercised it. Our will is like a muscle, and the more we exercise it, the stronger it becomes. Whether we are refusing a fourth piece of cake or a self-deprecating thought, our will is already stronger than our emotions, and we need to choose to use it to say no.

That session ended at 3:30, and we had a break for dinner, until Session 4 started at 7:00. Tara and I walked down to TGI Fridays, not realizing that the Diamondbacks were playing the Giants that night. We had great seats to watch the warm up!

Tara and I had a great discussion during dinner, and since we still had plenty of time before the next session, we kept talking and walking. Tara was surprisingly energetic after eating, so we spent the rest of our time walking around the block and then doing laps around the concourse. I was SO full after my wonderful meal at TGIF,  I would have been perfectly content to sit in our seats for an hour and let my food turn to fat, but it was good for me to get in my exercise for the weekend!

If you go to the Women of Faith conference, I highly recommend going with a friend. Not just because they’ll encourage you to exercise, but because when you discuss the messages with someone else, you learn so much more!

I loved Friday night. Session 4 started with all of the speakers giving a short introduction. We’d already met Patsy Clairmont and Andy Andrews, and we were introduced to Mandisa, Marilyn Meburg, Sandi Patty, Lisa Whelchel, and Brenda Warner.

Lisa Whelchel
Marilyn Meburg
Sandi Patty

Lots of People!
We sang several fun songs about being women 🙂

Deborah Joy Winans performed a hilarious skit about all the roles we play as women. She opened a suitcase and pulled out a prop for each character role we play, such as Wendy the Workaholic, Charlotte the Chauffeur, Linda the Love Slave, and a peppy exercise girl, accountant, soccer mom, and psychiatrist whose names I don’t remember.

We were also privileged to see Tim Hawkins, since the Phoenix event was the only one he could make. Both Tara and I laughed so hard that we almost threw up, that’s how funny he was! If you need a good laugh, look him up on you tube. My favorite parts of his thing were the thesaurus prayers, bedtime prayers, and his dance to “Party in the USA.” If you ever get a chance to see him live, do it!

The Women of Faith tour partners with World Vision, so we got to watch a video of a beautiful true story about an ordinary woman who decided to start sponsoring a little girl at a Women of Faith Event. This woman corresponded to this girl and then with her young mother. They were able to help this single mother start a business, send her children to school, and journey from hopelessness to hope. When World Vision gave this woman and her husband a surprise trip to visit the family, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the place!

Probably my favorite part of Friday was worshiping with Mandisa. I loved her music before, and I’d been inspired by her weight loss journey and blog, but seeing her live was so much better. Her talent is mind-blowing, her joy contagious, her worshipful heart inspiring.


When I got home, I made a list of my “takeaways” for the day:
1. Say “Will you forgive me,” more often.
2. Plan to invest in my personal growth.
3. Face my fears to overcome them.
4. Realize that all my choices and actions matter.
5. Realize that Brian and I are both broken, and I must take responsibility for myself.
6. I need to build Brian up more, making a conscious effort.
7. I will pray about when God wants us to have children.
8. Write to sponsor child.

Over the next few days, I’ll tell you more about how I came to those conclusions.

To end today’s post, what do you think about saying Yes, Thank you, and No every day? How would your life be different? 

Have you used the Refuse, Replace, and Repeat strategy before? Do you believe that your will is stronger than your emotions? Why is it hard to exercise our will and not obey our emotions? 

Do you invest in yourself? Why or why not? 

Update on Our Family Situations

Hi friends, I can’t thank you enough for your prayers! Brian and I had a wonderful trip home over the weekend.  It was such a blessing to us, and to our families.

We got to visit my Aunt Joy at home, because she was released from the hospital several days early! She encouraged us so much. She told us that the tumor is cancerous, called a glioma. Some of it is inoperable, so they will start chemo and radiation once her skull heals from her biopsy/brain surgery. They are considering Mayo clinic and the cancer center in Chicago, in addition to the cancer center in Des Moines.

It had only been a week since they discovered the tumor, and in that time, she’d found out she had cancer, the prognosis was one to five years, and had undergone brain surgery to remove some of the tumor. That’s a lot to take in just a week. But she kept telling us, “God is so good!” and recounting all the ways He had already provided for their needs. “He knows what He’s doing, He knows.” She said. That has a lot of weight when it’s coming from someone in their mid 40’s, facing an aggressive disease, with four children at home. 

The white baby blanket symbolizes my cousin Andrew, who passed away as a baby.

I felt so reassured after seeing my aunt’s positive attitude, and peace. I’m sure she has lots of fears, but at the same time, she has great confidence in her God. She accepts that this is part of His plan for her, and trusts His heart.

She also realizes that it is an opportunity. When we were visiting, she shared that a friend was stopping by in the evening, and she hoped that she could lead her to Christ. Aunt Joy and Uncle Rod are also reaching out to the Drs. and nurses and sharing their hope in Christ with them. I’m confident that wherever they go for treatment, God will use them to impact the medical staff.

We also spent time with Brian’s mom and dad in the hospital. My MIL still cannot move her legs, but since they discovered she has a staph infection and put her on antibiotics, the pain has decreased. After several days, they saw the infectious diseases doctor. She was the first to agree that there had to be a connection with the staph infection and her pain and immobility of her legs. She ordered a MRI of the area with contrast, and found inflammation in the area. It’s unclear why the staph would camp out there. It’s also unclear if she will regain the use of her legs when the infection goes away.

As of yesterday, the pain is centered in her left leg, and she lost the ability to use her inner thigh muscles. They plan to move to the rehab center at the hospital.

A few days ago, the neurologist told them that her leg muscles were “dead” and she’d never walk again. They got a second opinion from a doctor, and he said with lots of therapy, she might regain some use of them. The doctor of infectious diseases said she’d be totally fine. Obviously, there’s just a little difference of opinion there. 

It’s very frustrating for my in-laws. They don’t have much confidence in the staff, especially after a Dr. claimed she had pneumonia, and later, a heart murmur, which required a test to make sure her heart valves were fine. And it turned out, she had neither pneumonia nor a heart murmur.

It seemed to me that my MIL was very anxious about their insurance and how they were going to pay for everything, and my FIL’s business. He’s been staying at the hospital 24/7, so he hasn’t gone to work this whole time, and probably won’t until she’s better. When you own your own business as a consultant, that’s not good. Please pray that they will both focus on getting her better, and leave the rest in God’s hands.

None of what’s happened to them is an accident. Not even the unnecessary heart valves test. Pray that they will see this as part of God’s plan, and be open to whatever it is that God is trying to teach them through this.

We got to see a lot of family members and some friends while we were there, and it was encouraging to know that they were praying for Aunt Joy and for Brian’s mom. God gave us a few unexpected blessings, like being able to go to the ISU football game for free, and being able to attend the 75th anniversary of the church we went to in college. The whole trip was filled with blessings, everything from being able to get on planes when flying standby, having dinner with my sister and her family, and spending the night with our good friends in Ames.

It was filled with food for thought for me. I thought about how I would respond to sudden illness…would I have peace, trust, and joy? Would I see it as an opportunity to grow in my faith, or become bitter? I realized that I have a lot of spiritual growing to do, but I’m glad that God gives us grace to face anything, right when we need it.

3 Exercise Tips and Tools To Get Your Motivation Back

Are your New Years Resolutions a distant memory, or is your motivation starting to pick up in anticipation of swimsuit season?

Over the last six months, I’ve repeatedly fallen off the exercise bandwagon and climbed back on. Honestly, I’m ok with that, because I’ve learned a lot in the process!


One of my New Year’s Resolutions was to fix and eat healthier meals. I didn’t actually get around to changing my eating habits until March, when I cleaned out my closet and got rid of lots of processed and junk foods. Since then, we’ve maintained our habits of buying lots of fresh produce, nuts, seeds, and dried fruits for snacks, and whole grain bread. That’s an accomplishment I’m proud of. We still need to work on eating out less, but hey, we’ve got another six months!

Another of my New Year’s Resolutions was to exercise three times a week. This is where it got tricky. I don’t enjoy exercising. At all. I don’t like sweating for one thing, but my biggest issue is that I usually get bored after three weeks. Hence, I didn’t stick with the 10 minute Pilates solution DVD I mentioned before, and my success with running was also short lived.

Now my goal is to get back to my natural weight. My dietitian sister-in-law talked about that in her guest post about normal eating back in February. I highly recommend reading that post if you’re re-evaluating your healthy eating goals. My natural weight is what I weigh when I am moderately active and eating healthy: it’s where I feel best about myself, when I’m not overindulging or over exercising. It’s a BMI of 22, 132 lbs. I’ve climbed to 145 lbs., so it will take a little doing to get back there.

I’ve tried four different approaches to exercise so far this year. As a result, I’ve learned a few things. First, here are three great tools to keep your exercise routine fresh and exciting, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Tool #1: Lose It! App
I discovered this app about a week ago, and I’ve used it every day since. If you have a smartphone, or use Google Chrome as your computer browser, you can download the app, and it’s free!

In Lose It! you can set fitness goals and record your weight every day. You can also search for and enter what you eat every day to record your nutrition info. Since losing weight is about taking in fewer calories than you expend, it’s got a handy little slider that shows you how many more calories you should have each day, and if you go over. It also subtracts the calories you burn through exercise.

You can also set it up so that it emails you a weekly report. It will generate reports for your food, weight, and exercise trends, chart your progress towards your goals, and allow you to add custom foods and exercises for a really accurate result. Plus, you can add friends who also use the app for some accountability! 

Tool #2: Netflix
These days, it seems like almost everyone has Netflix. It’s so convenient and reasonably priced! For $7.99 a month, you get unlimited access to their selection of online DVDs. Did you know that Netflix has a lot of exercise DVDs on Watch Instantly? No need to rent the DVD and wait for it to come in the mail, or pay for the DVD and find out you don’t like it. The variety makes it easy to mix it up and try something new, at minimal cost.

Tool #3: Craig’s List
You can pretty much find anything on Craig’s List. We bought a Wii for $80, gently used, and a Wii Fit Plus with balance board, brand new in the box, for $75. You might have to check back regularily and wait for what you want, but it’s worth it! Look up your city and see what people are selling if you’re looking for an exercise machine or specific workout stuff, like DVDs or weights.

Beyond discovering these tools, I’ve also learned a few tips:

It’s always better with friends! Image.

Tip #1: Get Accountability
Seriously! It makes such a difference when you have someone to ask you how it’s going. Right now, Brian and I are both using the Wii Fit Plus. It charts our progress, so we can both see how each other are doing. Similarly  we’ve added each other as friends on Lose It, so we can see how well we’re doing on eating healthy.

Tip #2: Start Where You Are
I’ve been lured into exercise routines that promise a fit and toned body in 4 weeks, but I’ve found that I have a much better chance of sticking with something long term if I don’t try to tackle too much, too soon. That Pilates DVD was way above my flexibility level, and it was frustrating not being able to keep up. I should have started with an easier Pilates DVD and worked up to that one.

Tip #3: Embrace Change
When your motivation is flagging, it’s probably a sign that it’s time to try something else. When walking three times a week got boring, I should have switched right away to running, and when that got boring, switched to something else instead of just quitting exercise when I tired of doing the same thing. If you get sick of DVDs, try switching between two or three workouts during the week, like doing Pilates Mondays, yoga on Wednesdays, and a dance workout on Fridays. Mix it up with a class at the YMCA.

Have you found any of the above to be true for you? What do you do when your motivation fizzles out? Share your tips and tools with us in the comments!

Why Friends Are Good For You

An article called “Friends for Life” in the April issue of Better Homes and Gardens Magazine claims that friends are good for your health, but in recent years, people have become more and more isolated. The article starts with Jessica’s story. When she turned 30, she realized that although she’d lived and worked in a city for several years, she had no one to celebrate with. “I felt frustrated and very alone,” she said.

This resonated with me, because this summer I’ll celebrate my 21st birthday. I’ve been thinking about it for several months already, trying to come up with something to make it special. I’ve never had a big group of friends, but when we moved from Iowa to Arizona, we went from hanging out with friends from our college group every Sunday night, once during the week for Bible Study, plus weekends, to seeing people at church once a week. In Iowa we had roommates and classmates to get together for coffee or grab lunch with, not to mention mentors. Going to school everyday, I was surrounded by people most of the time. To go from that to online classes and church once a week was a huge adjustment.

My Bible study and roommates during my summer missions trip

Thankfully, our church has a Sunday school class for 20-30 year olds, and from that and church retreats, we made some friends. But, everyone we’ve become friends with has moved away! It’s happened twice already, and we found out recently that the third couple we’ve been hanging out with are moving this summer. I can definitely understand the frustration of being alone. 

The BHG article says that loneliness is becoming more common: researchers found that between 1985 and 2004, people’s close confidants have shrunk from three to two on average, and they are more likely to be family members than friends. “Fully 25 percent of survey respondents in 2004 admitted they had no close relationships- inside their families or out,” the article states.

Isolation isn’t good for our health. According to the doctors quoted, being in the company of friends and loved ones reduces the stress hormone cortisol which is “a prime culprit” in fibromayalgia, type 2 diabetes, and inflammation, as well as shrinking the brain’s memory and abstract reasoning centers (it can also make you store fat). Being with friends is good for your brain too; it increases feel-good chemicals like dopamine and oxytocin and stops stress’s effects on shrinking the brain, it lowers blood pressure, helps you sleep better, and strengthens your immune system.  People with friends are more likely to exercise and take care of themselves too.

While some of these benefits are dependent on being physically present with a friend, many of them are still the result of long-distance friendships. “It’s more important that someone out there understands you,” the article claims. However, they say that online interactions have a much smaller affect, possibly because we don’t actually hear our friend’s voice. A doctor is quoted saying “From a health standpoint, reading an email or text message is not nearly as powerful as spending time with that person and interacting face to face. Technology is great for keeping in touch, but it can’t replace the real thing.”

 Bummer. Email, texting, and facebooking are my communications of choice. I don’t like calling people, because you never know if they’re busy or not, and what if you run out of things to say? It’s probably an irrational fear that I need to get over.

The article ended with talking about how Jessica formed a group of close friends by inviting her facebook friends to get-togethers, and now feels happier than she has in a long time.

I could relate to the article, because I had trouble coming up with two confidants outside of family. Brian usually understands me, but there’s some things guys just don’t get. I consider my readers friends, because we share our thoughts, struggles, and daily lives with each other, even if it is in a sort of impersonal way.

I know that if I want to have friends, I need to take the first step sometimes. Since reading the article, I’ve set goals for myself each week for getting in touch with at least one friend, even if it is only online. 

 Do you have long-distance friendships? People who hold you accountable to reach your goals? Friends you know you can call on if you ever needed anything? Are friendships important to you? How involved are you at maintaining your friendships? 

Chit Chat

Today I just want to sit here and chat with you. How’s your week been? I want to hear about it. Can I tell you about mine? It was one of those weeks.

One of those weeks when I have more good ideas than I have time, and I’m in an almost constant state of distraction. I have notebooks and sticky notes everywhere to write them down before I forget them!

Yep, school’s been tough. I’ve been up ’til midnight several times this week. Tuesday night I was up until then, and then got up at 6 a.m., worked on ONE CLASS all day. All. Day. This particular class is killing me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great class, but two units a week – Mon. Tues. Wed. for unit 1 and Thurs. Friday and Sat. for unit 2 – is just too much!

I’ve been working hard on this fashion series, and that’s been fun! I’ve been up late at night and early in the morning just planning and working out details, like what the weekly challenges will be, how to organize the posts, and when to have the giveaways. I’ve got one giveaway and one guest post in the line up so far, and I’m working on finding more giveaways. I think you’re really going to love the prizes! I’ve come up with a name for the series: Fashion 101. Fashion for Dummies was taken already, haha!

I’m learning about designing logos and color theory in school. It’s really fascinating! I’m also creating a website for a final project, which is kinda not going well, because I honestly don’t think I learned much in the class. Not a good feeling, when you have to teach yourself how to do things on the final.

I’m figuring out how to bid on ebay. I could write a whole post about it, and I might! I finally won an auction. I scored 12 shirts for $30, and with a $15 off gift code I had, I got it all for $24-with shipping! I can’t WAIT until they get here!

Also, Wednesday when I was having a really rough day, my crossbody bag from PB and J Boutique arrived! LOVE! Definitely cheered me up!

So yes, this week has been a fight for joy. I’ve been faced with the choice between joy and frustration, stress, and anger more than once, and I definitely didn’t always choose well. When I did make time to take a deep breath, I noticed all the little ways God was showing me He loves me. A few examples from my journal:

  • A hummingbird in flight
  • Rain!
  • My plants are growing and still alive
  • A letter from a friend
  • Making new friends
  • A breathtaking sunrise
  • Brian’s work is going well
  • Brian buying me black cherry sherbet
Brian has been a huge help! He’s done some laundry, dishes, and made dinner at least twice in the last week. I don’t know what I’d do without him! 
Here’s us at an ASU baseball game last weekend:
Now that I’ve been to a game, and bought an ASU tee shirt at said game, I feel much more like an actual ASU student! 
Speaking of that game, it was the most fun at a baseball game I’ve ever had, and I love baseball games! The fans were great! In front of us sat an older couple with season tickets and a younger guy they’d given free tickets to, with his teenage daughter. The older lady was fascinating. At one point the dance team was selling calendars to raise money for a trip, and several of the girls came over and gave this lady big hugs. Apparently, they work out at the same place, and this lady is kinda a grandmother to them. She explained to the guy and his daughter that she’d decided to start running two years ago, and was doing half marathons. She’s probably in her late 60’s to 70’s. 
That inspires me. If she can start running and in two years be doing half marathons at her age, I think I can learn to run for at least one mile! 
My running has gone well this week: I’ve gone twice. Last week I was in so much pain after the first run (which was like a slow jog for a block) I couldn’t run anymore, but this week I’ve done a lot better. I know I’m getting stronger already, and it’s really encouraging to see such fast improvement! 
So enough about my week. What’s going on in your life? How was your week?