Monday, January 25, 2016

Life lessons I learned from my first half marathon

Around the beginning of June 2015 a friend and I confessed to one another we had secretly wanted to do a half marathon. Being as unathletic as they come, I was certain this would always remain a secret dream. Somehow though, the two of us, barely able to run/walk a mile at the time were able to muster up enough will power to sign up and train for a half marathon. On November 1st both of us crossed that finish line. The feeling is like no other. During the training, running and completion of this race I have learned so many things, this is what stuck out.

I learned respect for my body. I gained an immeasurable amount of respect for my body as I prepared and ran my half marathon. The process was incredibly healing in I way I could never express. My teen years were plagued by debilitating hatred for my body. I struggled with eating disorders and unhealthy self-esteem. Any exercise either started out as a way to lose weight or morphed into an unhealthy measure for losing weight and micromanaging my body and caloric intake. I consistently pushed my body to unhealthy extremes. I expected perfection and peek performance without nourishing, resting or worst of all respecting my body. Somehow my body still managed to keep me alive and doing its job while enduring abuse from its boss. During my half marathon training I had reached a point in my self-care and self-esteem where I could healthfully train. I listened to my body and in return I was able to take it places I never imagined were possible. It was not always perfect and I stumbled occasionally but I grew tremendously.

A 12 minute mile is the same distance as a 6 minute mile. I have said it before and will say it again, I have not one athletic bone, or even cell for that matter, within my body. My race was a slow race. Something I was very self-conscious about at first. But you know what? My 2:47 minute half marathon was just that, a half marathon. It does not matter how long it took me to run 13.1 miles the point is I RAN 13.1 MILES. I have the bumper sticker to prove it.

It has nothing to do with athleticism and everything to do with commitment.  Athleticism helps, yes but I am living proof it is not necessary. Commitment to your end goal is all you need to cross that finish line.

Success is a choice. Saturday morning long runs were not my idea of a rocking good time. Giving up 3 hours to run when I had a million other things to do was not always easy or convenient. I did not achieve this goal by sheer luck. I made a choice and another choice, followed by a string of (mostly) good choices which led me straight up to the starting line of that race and which carried me across the finish line. Success in reaching this goal was not a gamble or a blind shot in  the dark which happened to work in my favor. It was a deliberate choice to succeed followed by re-choosing success more days than not from June 2015 until I crossed the finish line on November 1st.

Butt cheeks can chaff. So can armpits. And boobs. And holy heck YOUR THIGHS. Also, blisters, man. Blisters taking up the entire bottom of my foot. There is no moral or lesson in this point. Just know, your butt cheeks can chaff.

Have you ever run a half marathon or other race you had always wanted to complete? What did you learn? Any Suggestions on chaffing cream?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Why I keep a prayer journal

On top of all of the ways I have grown spiritually during my college years, my prayer life has thrived the most. I still have room for improvement, I always will, but considering I am no longer praying half prayers quickly before I drift off to sleep 1 or 2 nights a week, I would say I am doing much better. Prayer is important and unfortunately, massively overlooked. Prayer is the opportunity to sit with our God and communicate with Him. We get to thank Him for His many blessings and share with Him our hurting hearts. There is no greater peace than that, in my humble opinion. My prayer life has been rather sorry throughout most of my walk with God and for that I am very regretful. A woman in constant communication with her creator is a force to be reckoned with. I truly believe prayer makes a powerful difference in the heart, minds and lives of those praying and being prayed for. There are certain people in my life that do not have perfect lives but have a gentle, kind spirit about them. They have this general sense of peace and protection over their lives. As I go through this list in my mind, you know the one thing that separates them from other people in my life who do not seem to have this same peaceful demeanor? These are my praying friends. They are the individuals who have thriving, consistent prayers lives. Their homes, families, jobs and lives are covered, showered and protected by their constant prayers. I believe with my whole heart the difference I see in their lives is due 100% to their commitment to prayer. I knew a while back I had to make a change in the way I was attempting to pray because it was not thriving, consistent or powerful. My heart was not in it and I was doing it out of a sense of obligation. I began to observe, ask, research and pray. Yes, I prayed about prayer. As a result I made changes to my prayer life which have tremendously changed my attitude and outcome of prayer. A major change I made to my prayer life was keeping a prayer journal. There are many ways this can be done, which I will cover in a later post. These are the reasons I keep a prayer journal and why I find it so important.

To remember. Do you dread saying, 'I'll pray for you' to another individual because you're 90% sure you won't? Not because you don't care, you actually care quite a bit but because you won't remember. Keep a list, journal, or doodle page of your prayers. When you make a promise to pray for someone write it down to increase your chances of follow through.

To reflect. I appreciate more than I could ever express having written proof of the evolution of my prayers. Keeping a consistent prayer journal or log gives you the ability to reflect on his faithfulness at any given time. I have consistently kept my prayer journal since June and it is amazing to see how many of my prayers, big and small have been answered. It is also amazing to see how my heart and desires have been changed in accordance to the work he is doing in my life.

To recognize. In the quick moving pace of life it can be difficult to recognize God's hand in both the big and small. I love having what I prayed for available to look over and recognize the divine answers in the midst of ordinary life.

There are many ways to keep a prayer journal and many other reasons why they rock. In future posts I will be including more creative ways to improve your prayer life. I would love to hear your ideas!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

New Year's Resolutions vs. New Year's Prayers

New Year’s Resolutions. A familiar story, we know all too well. January 1st comes around and we have the best of intentions to start off on a new leaf. At this point I feel a general consensus that we have all pretty much given up on New Year’s resolutions actually being a thing that we do. Yet, every year I feel the temptation to set them. To give myself some credit, I get more realistic in them each year but somehow I feel I am going into it with the wrong mindset.

I have come to realize, they are less resolutions and more goals. Albeit, goals that I should feel free to set at any point but for some reason don’t. This year, I have goals. I have a money saving plan, goals for blogging and goals for my walk with God. Yet, this year I do not want to start off with resolutions, I want to start off with prayers. I will spend time writing out my goals and analyzing how I will achieve them but before that, I will spend time writing out my prayers for this year. These goals are planted in the deep desire of my heart to live better. To love better. To live deeper and live fully. These goals are rooted in the fact that above all else, in 2016 I want to end the year more radically in love with Jesus and closer to the woman he wants me to become than when I started the year.

My goals for 2016 are to

-          Save money.

-          Blog once a week, for the entire year

-          Spend time in the Word. Every day.

Those are my goals, the things that I want to achieve. Before anything can be done in his name, I believe prayer needs to happen, communication with Him, including him in the decision and asking His Will to infiltrate mine. Those are my goals, these are my prayers:

Lord, I want to honor you with my finances. I desire to follow you without the burden of debt. I pray to be released from unnecessary worry about financial concerns and lay these at your feet. Loosen my grip on my money, help my heart remember that no material possession is entirely my own. To follow your word fully, I should freely offer help to those who need. I should serve with my money whenever I feel you urging me to do so. Guide my financial decisions as I seek to honor you in every area of my life.

God, I choose to honor you through sharing your stories of love, hope and endless grace upon grace in my life. I feel you pulling my heart towards the written word. I see you move through my writing when I least expect you to. I pray that in all I do, whether it be writing, blogging or teaching, you are the focus, you are the center of it all and all of my actions are pleasing and acceptable to you.

Father, I want to begin each day in your word. I want scripture to penetrate my heart and leak into every aspect of me.  I desire to begin and end each day worshipping you, loving you and learning more about you. Give me the continual desire to be in unbroken relationship with you, to be with you every day. I pray to grow in wisdom and in faith throughout this year. As I embark on new adventures I pray that I never lose sight of the rest I find in your shadow. Speak to me through your word and through my prayers. Guide my steps as I seek to honor you in all that I do, every day, for all of my life.

Above all, Lord, I pray that this year is entirely honoring to you and your great name. I pray that when I stumble, I do not resist your correction. I pray that when I fall, I fall at your feet. I pray that no failure or pain can pull me away from the peace I find in you. If I achieve nothing else this year besides my heart drawing closer to yours, I will be satisfied. Amen.

I believe prayer is far mightier than we acknowledge. I truly believe prayer holds the power to change lives. When people, relationships and families are covered in prayer there is a protection covering them. I have seen it with my own eyes. This year, I want to achieve goals but I above all I want to seek Christ. My ultimate ‘resolution’ is to hold the power of prayer sacred. My goals may morph and change, as life often does but I am committing myself to praying over my life, my goals and His will daily.

If you are setting resolutions this year, I encourage you to follow those goals down to the roots. Figure out why you want to achieve these and how they honor God.

Ask yourself:

Why do I want to achieve these goals?

How do these goals honor God?

What areas of my life do these goals stem from and how can I cover these in prayer?

Bring these goals to God, ask him to align your goals and heart with his. Write out prayers over these things and be committed to praying God’s will over every area of your life, every day. I would be happy to join you in prayer as well, feel free to drop me and e-mail, comment, or message.


What are your goals for this year? How can you be intentional about praying over them and inviting God into every aspect of your life?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

grace upon grace

I am tired. So tired. I am at my end. With school, with figuring out my life. With having to wear pants. I am over it all. I am over trying to be a functioning adult. It seems like a waste. I want to do great things, big, world changing things but some mornings I can’t even remember to put on deodorant. So much goes into being a functioning member of society that I am destined to fail at something. Why even bother? I am tired and desperately asking God for energy, stamina and some grace.

As I have been seeking God in the midst of this exhaustion, the phrase 'Grace upon grace' repeatedly echoes in my mind. I am weak and I fail often but I have been lavished with grace upon grace in even the darkest corners of my dusty heart. When I feel as though I cannot possibly overcome, multiple times a day, I pray for an ounce of grace. But the thing about grace is there is no ration. No quota. No Grace threshold that we have to be careful not to cross. God gives free refills on his Grace. It’s marvelous.

God does not go about handing out small amounts of Grace, afraid he may run out or stumble upon another sinner who needs the Grace much more. Grace is not withheld from anyone who asks for it. God is generous and his grace is bountiful. When I feel I need just a small amount of grace to push me over the finish line- God covers me with grace upon grace upon grace. In the emptying hallow moments where I am sure I cannot endure another second I need not to reach inside myself for strength, I reach out to him. He covers it all for me. I get to rest in his shadow and dance in his light because of the unending, healing power of his grace. I try desperately to never fail and inevitably I do but I am a sinner saved by grace and every day I am renewed by that same grace.

If you are tired too. If you are done. Weak. Imperfect. Struggling. Call to Him. He has never ending, free flowing Grace upon Grace upon Grace for you tired, imperfect heart. Rest in him and his free refills of Grace.


Friday, October 30, 2015


I disappeared again, you guys. Fell off the face of the earth. I am sorry if I am causing you to develop a complex or commitment issues, I will help pay for your therapy. Okay, I won’t but it’s the thought that counts. I have no excuse except for I am dying. School is killing me. I am dramatic and I am also dying. I have not seen sunshine or the outside of my school library in weeks. My starbucks cup has started to infuse itself to my hand. The dexterity of my thumbs has decreased substantially because I have not worn pants that require buttoning in 2 months. I have not blogged in months because I am dramatic, negative and over-emotional. No one wants to read that but I am going to make you anyway. This week I got about 3.345 hours of sleep. Not a night. All week. My first, complete all-nighter in years. All-nighters take practice, commitment and a certain level of insanity. They are not for the faint of heart or the flaky. Being a desperate, sleep deprived zombie clutching your coffee mug at 3 am crying over your laptop, desperately trying to engrave the basics of psychology into your memory is a level only few achieve. I know you are sitting at your computer thinking, “I want to be you. Tell me your secrets.” You did not have to say it, I already knew. I know you are desperate for a guide on how you too can dangerously toe the line between stressed college student and certifiably insane. I will indulge you and give you an hour by hour guide of how to pull an all-nighter. Buckle up- it will be a wild ride.
6 p.m. Look over your butt ton of work and cry a little bit. Put your head down. Close your eyes just to make sure you are not dreaming. You are not dreaming. It is this sucky. Look again through teary eyes as you talk yourself into the inevitable. Accept your fate. You will not be going to sleep tonight. Convince yourself it will be fun. Invite friends to join in the awful, horrible, depressing misery fun. Google search all-nighters so you feel less alone in your desperate attempt to make up for poor time management or your inability to say no to new commitments, leaving you with no other option than to actually completely give up sleep.
(Look, all-nighters are basically exercise!)
8 p.m. The festivities begin. Start by taking a selfie. It will come in handy for when you lose your mind in the middle of the night and run away without any notice so your loved ones have a record of what you were wearing to give law enforcement. I mean for memories, it's good for the memories.
9 p.m. Work diligently. Set an alarm for every half an hour so you can your friends can complain about how awful everything is without interrupting each other. At this point you are humorously aware of the long night ahead of you. It is time to find a funny picture from the internet so you can complain about staying up all night, but in a back-handed humorous way. If you are using humor you are not breaking the bible verse "Do everything without complaining or grumbling" Everyone knows that.
10 P.M & 11 P.M. These are uneventful hours. Continue to work. At the turn of the hour your productivity will take a hit worse than the fathers on America's Funniest Home Videos playing baseball with small children. Once midnight rolls around, like a baseball to the crotch, your ability to achieve anything will be depleted. Ride this wave of motivation while it lasts. But make sure you frequently update your twitter so the world knows that you are still in fact, pulling an all nighter. Bonus points if you come up with a creative hash tag. Towards the end of this time you actually begin to lose your mind a little bit. Make sure you capture it on camera.
12 A.M. This is quite possibly the saddest moment. The clock strikes midnight, the date on the iPhone screen you shouldn't be looking at changes. Suddenly it's tomorrow. You have not completed a single thing despite actually working. You sip shamefully drink buckets of coffee and look over your tear stained agenda book. This is the moment you truly accept that sleep will not come tonight. It's okay to cry. We all understand.


1 a.m. and 2 a.m. These are the more desperate, mentally instable sisters to 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. You are working diligently but diligently has a new definition at 2 o'clock in the morning. If your text book is at least open or you are not on facebook, you qualify as diligently working. This is the point in which the first pot of coffee has worn off so you impatiently wait as the coffee brews. You realize for the first time how unreasonably loud your coffee maker is. It sounds like a person trying to slurp soup with just their face. You are trying not to wake the lucky souls who are asleep around you and fighting off the urge to strangle them out of jealously.  It is a confusing paradox. You've developed a bit of a twitch and wonder if it will be permanent.
3 a.m. You convince yourself you have completed enough work to go on a sheetz run (if you do not know what Sheetz is; it is the embassy for heaven here on earth. The cashiers are angels and you hear the celestial choirs sing as you enter. It is also a questionable gas station that is open 24 hrs. It just depends on the angle you are standing at.) The real reason you leave the house is because you cannot be quiet anymore, you scream at the top of your lungs and risk being arrested for disturbing the peace. You get to sheetz and sink into a pit of despair as you cry over your mac & cheese bites. This is the moment you knew would come. Collapse on the floor of sheetz and tell your friends to go on without you.
4 a.m. You have one more burst of energy and manage to complete what you set out to complete. At this point it is too late to go to sleep so you begin working on the next assignment. This is also the hour where all heck breaks loose. You begin to roll around on the floor and your friends consider calling for help.

5 a.m You refresh the coffee one more time and stare into the black, meaningless void of your computer screen that has entered sleep mode because you have not done actual work in that long. All of you have lost it completely. You switch back and forth from giggling to crying. You do not know what life is anymore. Hang in there, you have almost made it.
6 a.m. The morning has arrived. People begin stirring around you. You realize that you will not wake up this morning. You wonder if that means you are dead. Your mental health has taken a plummet off of mount Everest. You are absolutely sure that everything in life is meaningless. You regret you decision and begin to cry. Again.

7 a.m. You pull yourself together and try to get ready for the day. You begin dropping like flies. Some of us just can't hang.

8 a.m. Put on your cutest outfit. Go to class and pretend you have it all together. You pulled an all-nighter AND look cute. Rock it. Ride this out while you can because the crazy train is hurling towards you at lightening speed. By noon you will have reached an all time high of mental instability.
The rest of the day is a distant blur. Most will assume you are drunk and you will wish you were. Do not expect to be productive and try not to drive a car. As time separates you from this night you will convince yourself it was not so bad. I suggest wasting more time by creating an hour by hour recap of the experience to review next time you consider an all-nighter.
xoxo hope this helps!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

10 study tips I wish I knew my freshman year

Oh, freshman year. What an interesting time. My freshman year was so strange, odd, challenging and just all around difficult. In every area, but mostly academically. I am not a naturally gifted student and I am particularly challenged in the area of organization. Also, I'm lazy. A fatal combination when it comes to college. It took a whole lot of trial and error to figure out how to nail this whole college education thing. While this list could go on for miles, I will spare you the boredom. I have looked high and low at every "freshman tips" page I could find. Some of these are common suggestions but I want to share with you my favorite, unique and most necessary tips I wish I knew freshman year. 

It is a lot easier to bring down a high grade than it is to bring up a low grade. In other words, stay on top of things. I repeat, STAY ON TOP OF THINGS. The worst thing you can do is miss a major deadline or assignment, it will wreck your grade. Once a grade is low, it is literally an uphill battle to get it back up. 

Little assignments add up. If you have a class that has 50 small, 10 point assignments compared to 2 big ones, it may seem like no big deal to skip a few. However, somehow those little suckers add up fast. Keep up with the little assignments along the way to score the ‘easy’ points. You will thank yourself at final exam time when your whole grade isn’t riding on just your exam score. The little assignments allow you some 'wiggle room'

OFFICE HOURS ARE YOUR FRIENDS! Every professor is required to have designated office hours- use them. Go in to ask for clarification on concepts, to ensure you are on the right track with a project or even if you just pop in to introduce yourself- it will matter! Professors are human too, they appreciate a friendly face and an engaged student! Forging a relationship may also save your butt if you ever find yourself in a pinch with a deadline.

Sleep. This is not a recommendation, this is a MUST. Late night pizza parties, sheetz runs and all-night chats with the girls down the hall are amazing activities- for the weekend! Get in at least 7-8 hours every night that you can. Nobody can kick butt all semester when they’re averaging 3-4 hours a night. It’s just not healthy.

Find your ‘golden hour’. Everyone has a time the function best. For me I am most alert and can focus best in the AM. As much as I love to sleep in, I wake up at the butt crack of dawn to study and get important tasks out of the way first thing. Find your best time and utilize it.

Go to every class. Do not fall into the stereotypical college cliché and skip a bunch of classes because you’re tired, hungover or lazy. It’s not cool. It’s dumb and a waste of money. Go to every class you can- save your skips for when you actually need them (illness, family emergency, etc)

Your agenda will save your life. Everyone is different so your system may not be as intense as mine but an agenda of some type is a must. The first week of every semester you will be handed every reading assignment, every project, and every paper for the entire semester. For each class. That is a lot of information. Find an agenda that fits your lifestyle and keep up with it. Write every assignment down in it as soon as you get it.

Re-write your notes. This one took me a while. It is a PAIN in the butt but let me tell you IT WORKS. After every class either revise or rewrite your notes. Date them, write the topic at the top and file them away. The information will stick better and come exam time your notes will be organized and legible.

Write everything down. Biggest lie you tell yourself “I don’t need to write that down, I’ll remember it.” Whether it be a change in a due date, a small fact the professor says will be on the exam or a reminder to do something for class- WRITE IT DOWN. It takes 3 seconds and will save you a whole lot more time than that.

Leave the computer behind. Unless you absolutely cannot hand write your notes, do not even give yourself the option of having your laptop. If your professor puts your power points online, print them out beforehand. Having a computer in front of you is such a huge distraction and temptation. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

There are no words

I made a promise to myself that what happened last year when I returned from Honduras would not happen again this year. On one front, I was successful in that I have not had diarrhea for the past 2 weeks. On another front, not so much. I swore that when I came back I would have formulated an amazing combination of words and sentences to convey to you all how great, amazing, wonderful and life altering the trip was. I was convinced I would somehow be able to find the words that last year hid from me for months, the words I am not sure I ever quite found. Somehow though, I am back and as speechless as ever. When someone asks me to tell them about my trip I stumble over my words and struggle to say anything other than, "it was great." or "I'm not ready to be back". When they ask why I mumble an incoherent string of words and end with, "I don't know, I just love it." Which is a sorry excuse for an answer. That is an answer I would give for a trip to Hershey Park or a movie. Not a mission trip to a third world country in which I came face to face with the poverty and beauty and wonders that most Americans (including myself until last year) do not ever acknowledge or even know exist.

I am dumbfounded at my complete inability to sum up the strong, intense emotions I felt everyday as I saw God move in and among each person I came in contact with. I realize now that the only explanation for that is because there are no words. There are no words to sum up the experience because it is one that transcends what can be communicated orally. It is so much more than words. The emotion and the sights and the sounds and the smells. There are no words.This sensation feels similar to the way I feel an emotional bond with people I could only communicate with through hugs, smiles and the occasional translator. A language that is above that which we speak and write. A language that can only be felt. It can only be experienced first hand.

I know this sounds a bit pretentious and that is not at all my intention. Quite the opposite- actually, I feel as though my words cannot do justice to what I felt, saw, smelled, tasted and heard. It is just that after returning home I feel almost ready to burst at the seams with too much. Too much of everything but specifically too many words. In Honduras, I communicated so much with my students by simply making faces, using hand motions and learning a few key phrases. It worked. I somehow portrayed my sarcasm and sass without even speaking so much as a full sentence in their language. I feel as though I cannot communicate in words that which was never spoken to begin with.

The lack of words reminds me of a moment I had with a little girl in the school yard. I was in our classroom tidying up supplies during recess when I noticed a small figure lingering by the doorway. I turned to find a small girl, probably 1st grade, watching me closely. She carefully observed as I pulled out my camera, as though she were memorizing my every move. She was shy and hesitant, you could feel the uncertainty in the way she moved- slow and unsteady. I knelt down to her eye level and held out my hand. She looked at my hand, looked in my eyes and then back at my hand. After a moment of hesitation she reached out and I pulled her closer to me. I then held my camera in front of her and using only motions showed her how it worked. After about 5 minutes she was sitting on my lap taking selfies with a camera the size of her head. Her demeanor had changed, her comfort had changed and her trust for me had changed. There were no words communicated but yet a loud, clear message was delivered. I cannot find the words to describe my time there because the message I received was never spoken, it was felt.

So, I am sorry. This is a sorry excuse for a re-entry post. This does not even begin to do justice to the trip. Maybe someday the words will find me or I will find the words. Do no be alarmed if I come back in a month with words, lots of never ending words because historically, finding words has never been a problem for me. For right now though, there are no words. I can leave you with this: Above all, I spent a week in Honduras and God was there. He has been there and is still there. Like any country, there is crime and poverty and desperation. But there is also God. There are God-loving, Christ-centered people. There are people trying to make a difference and change their land for the better. There are people who have more grace, humility and sacrificial love in their left hand than I have in my entire body. Some of the strongest, most influential people I have even known I met in the 16 total days I have spent in Honduras in the last two years. I can tell you that I did not know you could fall in love with an entire country, but I did. I can tell you that I was so deeply changed that I have begun applying to orphanages and other mission opportunities in Honduras for post graduation. It feels strange that long after any evidence of the trip is gone, I still feel stained, marked and changed by the experience. I can tell you that the dirt washed off my feet but the stains remained in a place deeper than my skin. I can tell you that I feel different, I am different and I wish to never be the same again. I do not know what else to say except, I was there, God was there and it was amazing. I'm sorry, there are no other words.