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If you had asked me even a year ago if I’d ever go for a run when the temperature was below freezing, I would have laughed right in your face. Me? A Southern gal? Running in the snow? How would I breathe? How would my legs actually work? There’s no way!

Well, I can’t say that anymore. The training program for the Cleveland marathon is 18 weeks long, and there are only 16 weeks left. That said, we can’t miss any days. Even if the weather hates us.

So this past Sunday, when it was 11F (-6 with the 18mph wind chill) and snowing, me and three other crazy guys went on a brisk 3-mile run…right beside a frozen lake. Under Armor is a gift from God, let me tell you. I had on UA pants, UA shirt, UA ear wrap, UA hat, in addition to a jacket and a face mask that made me look like a robber (or as David thought, a ninja!) Needless to say, once we were a little under a mile in, we were warmed up and enjoying the beauty of the park we were running through.

I really wanted to make eye contact with all of the drivers passing by us in disbelief, but the snow kept getting in my eyes. I wanted to tell them, “I know, we look like we’re crazy. But it feels so good! Give it a try!”

We’ve run two other times this week in sub-freezing temperatures with snow all around, and it gets a little better each time, at least mentally (it’s still super cold!)

It’s pretty incredible to do something that you never thought you could. Go for it, I doubt you’ll be disappointed!

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It’s a nice thought, isn’t it? Going to college and pursuing your passions, then finding a job that aligns right with those same passions. Unfortunately, a lot of times, we elect to pursue majors in school that provide promise of job security, high paychecks, geographic locations we like, etc…instead of what we’re passionate about. Or if we do pursue our passions in college, we end up settling for a career that has little or nothing to do with those things we were passionate about as kids or as young adults. This isn’t the case with everyone, but definitely with a lot of folks I know.

I have a hard time with this. Mainly because it’s been a while since I’ve really taken time to thoroughly examine those things in my life (or not in my life) that I’m truly passionate about. Those things that fill me with an inexplicable happiness inside.

Sure, when I was a little girl, I had little-girl passions and dreams: I wanted to be a concert pianist (and a princess and gymnast before that). Bottom line, though, I was wholly passionate about music. I pursued music through over 10 years of piano lessons, choir participation from the time I could stand in front of church and avoid acting out, musicals for the same amount of time, playing keyboard and providing vocals in a couple of praise bands, taking guitar classes in college and making music a part of my everyday life since as long as I can remember.

So, what did I choose to pursue in college? English and communication studies. Grad school? Professional communication. What’s my job now? I’m a publications assistant. I design and develop marketing materials among other job responsibilities for the graduate school of my alma mater. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy it and am so thankful for the job as it allows me to move from place to place with relative ease.

But what went awry? Why did my passion for music get side railed?

That’s just it. It didn’t get side railed, but rather, put on hold. In my case, I still have music as a constant in my everyday life, but through Internet radio and my iPod. I yearn for the days when I played piano for hours, sang in choirs, participated in musicals and plays. Making music and listening to it warm my soul, truly. I’m emotionally affected by music; it’s got an incredible power over me. And while singing praise songs and hymns is when I often feel closest to God.

But being a musician wouldn’t have paid the bills, or so I thought. Being a musician wasn’t an impressive career–at least at first, so I was told by peers. In all honesty, saying that I was an English major was probably met with the same “Oh…” as if I had said “I’m pursuing classical piano.” Then the all-too-common-question, “So, what are you going to do with that major? Teach high-school? Become a writer? Be an editor?” And I had no real response. You see, although I love to read, write, and edit, it’s not one of my core passions.

So, I finished undergraduate school, was in a serious relationship with David, but not yet engaged. I decided to go for graduate school. Why not? I knew that I’d always wanted a graduate degree, and it’d make my parents proud. On top of that, I believed that it might help me better understand what I wanted to do with my life. So I started the MA program in professional communication. And the new questions started, “Are you going to be a news anchor? A reporter? A professor? What is professional communication?” And again, I didn’t have a real answer. I knew that I was good at editing, so I opted to use that as my default competent answer. “Oh, I plan to be the managing editor of a well-known fiction author one day, but in the beginning, I’ll edit small pieces while I work my way up.” Again, while I did (and still do) enjoy editing, it too is not one of my core passions.

I had kept myself so entirely busy since high school with school work, jobs, and extracurricular activities that I never took time to really assess my situation. I just figured, “Hey, I’m in college now, and I don’t want to switch majors because it’d put me behind. I’m going to finish this thing out. Besides, I really do love English!” Then it turned into, “Whoa. In grad school…this is tough. Do I really love this? I think so. Well, I’m not a quitter, so I’ll finish it out strong too and then figure things out.”

So I graduated with my master’s degree and got engaged on the same day. Enter wedding planning. Six months later, I was married and living 600 miles north of my hometown still working a version of my graduate school assistantship position. After settling in, I really wanted to make some girlfriends in PA. Since I worked from home, making friends wasn’t the easiest. The first gal I met invited me to a Mary Kay event. Less than two weeks later, I had my own Mary Kay business.

My business grew and grew, and I thought, “Finally, I’ve got something that’s definitely fun and that I’m definitely passionate about!” But I didn’t get into Mary Kay for a career. I did it for friendship. I’ve made some awesome friends, but I started not enjoying it as much. To clarify, I love my customers and my team members, but I started losing the drive to make Mary Kay a full-time career. I think I will always be a part-time consultant.

On the heels of a Mary Kay training seminar January 5, David and I sat down, and for a few amazing hours, talked about our passions. Our relationships with Christ and with each other came first and second. Then for me came great relationships, working out/health/fitness, music (piano, singing, etc). Third and fourth for David were helping other people via volunteering and using engineering to make a true difference in the world. We had others, but those were at the top.

It was sort of staggering, really. We started praying right then for God’s direction in pursuing our passions, and it’s an ongoing thing, but already we’re feeling a renewed sense of peace. I’ve stepped back from pursuing Mary Kay so intensely and am instead focusing my energy on training for our first marathon, building up a running group, practicing piano as often as I can and working up the courage to audition for our church’s praise band. It feels amazing. I’ll be sure to keep the updates flowing as God continues to lead and guide me and David in this incredible journey.

There are so many wonderful opportunities that life has to offer, but God has given us gifts and passions that guide us to where we need to be (along with his help, of course). Sometimes I think we’re afraid to use our gifts in the way that God seems to be guiding us to. I mean, honestly, it can be scary to step away from the familiar and comfortable and instead, pursue the unknown, untrodden path. But we have to remember that we have such limited vision. God sees the entire scope of our life and the lives we have the potential to influence. As unnerving as it may be, pray for his guidance and follow it in faith. I can’t say what will happen, but I trust in his promises:

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”
Proverbs 16:9 We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
Isaiah 48:17b I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.
Proverbs 1:33 But all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.
Psalms 37:23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.
Psalm 32:8 The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.”
Isaiah 58:11a The Lord will guide you continually…

What are you passionate about? How about pray that God would reveal those passions to you and guide you in how you should pursue them. You will likely be in for a wonderful journey of growth.

So David and I are heading to NYC this coming weekend, and we cannot wait! There are a few trips that we’ve been wanting to take during our short time living in PA, and this is one of them. I’m sure I’ll post more after we get back, but for now, please keep us in your prayers as we pack and travel out there. We want to be safe and smart!

Ah, C+C Music Factory. Remember this lovely jam? I thought it was time for a workout entry.

I love the gym. Honestly. Love it.

Did I always? Heck no! I didn’t workout consistently until I walked onto Clemson’s NCAA women’s rowing team during my freshman year of undergrad. As long as someone was yelling at me, I kept pushing. Then I chose to focus more on school than rowing and left the team. Walking off the team meant walking away from exercise too, at least in my mind. So I kept eating as though I were still on the team, and that caused some not-so-pleasant weight gain.

I had just started dating David and decided that it would really make sense to do some regular exercise-after all, I was 18 and wanting to impress my boyfriend. Haha. I paired up with Katie, another gal who walked off of the rowing team; we went on runs together several times a week, and my passion for running was born.

Well, that’s a little misleading. I hated running at first. It was hard to breathe, and I felt like my legs were going to quit on me. But I wanted to spend time with Katie, and with our crazy academic and social schedules, the only real time we had was during our super early morning runs. So, as time went on, the running got easier, and I felt better and better afterward. I read somewhere and agree that the reason I work out is for how good it feels when I stop. And of course the health benefits, etc…but it does feel great to stop after working hard.

So, fast forward five years. Beginning of 2008. I’ve run two half marathons and quite a few 10Ks and 5Ks. Five years ago, I never would have guessed that I could ever complete anything like that. I was just excited to run the road around campus-three miles-without stopping. This upcoming year? David and I are planning on at least one half marathon and one full marathon. We cannot wait!

In the meantime, we’ll be at the gym working out with our personal trainer, Mike. He’s hardcore as far as weight-lifting goes, but he’s also a runner, so it works out. If you’re trying to get going on a workout plan and have trouble staying motivated, get a personal trainer. Our gym provides them for free, but for the training we’re getting, it’d definitely be worth the money, if they started charging.

Our bodies are changing, and it’s exciting. Where I used to be able to do not even one real push up, I can now do sets of 15. I used to only use 8-10lb dumbbell for chest presses. Now I’m up to 25lbs. Etc, etc…It’s exciting to see improvement like that in a short amount of time (started at the gym in late October 2007).

And take my word for it, once you start getting into a regular workout routine that really pushes you, you think twice before eating unhealthy food. You certainly won’t want to undo what you just did at the gym. It’s a great kind of self-accountability.

So, what are you doing in this new year to get your health on track? Just like my fortune cookie said, “Don’t give up. The beginning is always the hardest.” Good luck! You can do it!

First, briefly, David and I went out to dinner on Friday to PF Chang’s Chinese Bistro. The food was amazing, and at the end, we got fortune cookies. My fortune? “Don’t give up. The beginning is always the hardest.” Ok, God. I get it. Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Got it.

Alright, moving on.

I feel so much better about things this week already. I still have a lot of work to do to pursue my goals, but I’m focusing more on the here and now instead of staring 100% at the goal and letting it paralyze me. That’s what was happening last week, essentially. I got overwhelmed with a few of my goals and froze in place. I figured that it’d be easier to walk completely away from the goals than actually face them and execute the activities I’ll need to in order to achieve them. After lots of prayer, wisdom from people I know and from some I don’t, I’m back on track.

I sometimes err on the worry and doubt side of things instead of consistently trusting that God has everything under control. Don’t get me wrong, I have a tremendous amount of trust and faith in God. But like any human, I have my moments of doubt.

Over the past week or so, I have been praying that God would make it undeniably clear whether or not I should make a decision that I’ve been pondering. It’s a decision about quitting something, and historically speaking, I’m not a quitter. Period. It’s hard to even consider.

So, over the past week, I’ve been introduced in one way or another to scripture about trials, not worrying, enduring, keeping faith, etc. I was messaged on Facebook by someone I’ve never met before who encouraged me without even knowing it, I believe. Then I opened my Bible study book for tonight’s meeting. The topic? Endurance. Not quitting. Pushing through quitting points.

That said, I think anyone would say, “You shouldn’t quit. It’s obvious God’s moving in your life and telling you to keep pushing.” But for whatever reason, I feel like I might be overanalyzing-as I tend to do in situations such as this. Or maybe I’m looking so hard for a sign that everything suddenly becomes a sign, you know?

In this situation, quitting would be the easiest out in the short-term. Long-term, though, I do believe I’d regret it.

I’m praying that God will work in my heart and open my eyes to the truth in the situation. I don’t want to be a doubting Thomas or a worry-wart. One of my friends brought to light the following verses today just by posting the reference online. The verses are familiar to me, but I hadn’t read them in a long, long time. I’m working to abide by them and to not doubt, but to trust:


Matthew 6:25-34
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life–whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?

And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will surely care for you. Why do you have so little faith?

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.

So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring it’s own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

A short entry for today, but David and I had a fantastic conversation yesterday afternoon. It probably lasted for an hour or more, but we grew so, so much during that time. It was a cool feeling to grow so much closer in such a short amount of time. I love him deeply.

As a result of our talk, I’m reevaluating a couple of commitments in my life. No more details for now, but some decisions will be made by the end of the month. We’re waiting on God’s guidance in a few situations.

1. engaged in action, occupied, in use
2. full of activity, bustling
3. foolishly or intrusively active
4. full of distracting detail
5. Me

I’m trying to change that fifth definition. So often, I feel that I’m constantly defining myself by my hectic days and busy nights. Instead of trying to enhance my character, strengthen my faith, encourage my friends in their Christian walks, I tend to easily fill my time with things significant to me, but insignificant in the long run.

There are so many good things that life has to offer, but opting to participate in too many of them is, well…too much of a good thing can be bad for you. Right? Part of David’s and my new year’s eve was spent figuring out what activities in our life are good, but should be cut for sanity’s sake.

Before cutting anything out, we established what our priorities were (i.e. time with God–quiet times and church, time with each other–date night, at least seven hours of sleep a night, three work outs a week, etc), then figured out what activities compromised those priorities. It was pretty clear actually. So we made some changes, and we already feel so much lighter in spirit.

Cleaning out the activities of life can be as tedious as cleaning out an over-stuffed closet. It can take time, but it’s worth it, for sure. The beginning of a new year is a great time to do just that.

I have always found that setting resolutions at the beginning of each new year never really works for me. I may stay committed for a month or two, but once I realize that it’s only been a month or two, I lose motivation.

This year is different, though. I have an incredible support group of friends here in PA and some wonderful accountability in David. He and I sat down on December 31 and set goals for ourselves individually and together. We prayed over our list of goals and committed it to God. With God in our corner, we will succeed! Here are my goals for 2008:

Keep a spiritual journal I don’t know how many people have encouraged me to do this, but I’m finally deciding to give it an honest, intentional try. As busy as I keep myself (blog to follow about busyness), my mind is constantly going in different directions–from one mental to-do list to another. I’m pretty sure that most all of my thoughts spring from some list somewhere in my brain. In the midst of all of that, I do sit down everyday and have a quiet time. Does it stick with me all day? No. That’s where the journaling comes in.

Have focused time with God each day Most of last year, I had a quiet time each morning, but it felt like more of a “check” off of a list instead of time spent with God. If I spent time with David in the same way that I spent time with God last year, our marriage would be a wreck. That said, I’ve discovered that in-depth quiet times in the morning just don’t work for me. They end up feeling unfocused and often rushed. Plus it’s tough for me to get in my “God time” all in one sitting. I’ve opted to spend three times a day with God; two will be more reflection-oriented (morning and lunch), and the other one will be in-depth (30 minutes before bed). It’s been wonderful so far!

Become a Mary Kay director This is a scary one to post, but an exciting one too. I’ve been building my Mary Kay business since April 4 of 2007 and believe that I’m ready to promote myself to “director.” Essentially, I’ll be the leader of a group of at least 30 other Mary Kay consultants that join my team. Along the way, and with God’s help, I should be able to earn my first Mary Kay car and be able to sell the Honda. How exciting would that be? Very. My path to directorship starts with holding at least 10 appointments in January. I have two booked so far and have 20+ more people to call in Pittsburgh before setting out a fishbowl. Keep me in your prayers!

Control and correct overindulgence Sounds intense, eh? Well, I have a problem. It’s spelled s-w-e-e-t–t-o-o-t-h and love-for-things-made-from-dough. Combine that with a lack of self-control, and it’s a serious problem. For the time being, I work out enough so that it isn’t an obvious problem, but in time, things could change for the worse. David will be helping me a lot with this one. I’m so used to wolfing down quick meals and chasing everything with dessert as a “reward” for doing whatever it is that I did that day. This habit started in undergrad for me and continued through graduate school. I want to be an example for my kids one day, so it stopped yesterday and won’t start back. Healthy cooking and minimal sweet snacking, here we come!

Continue to use gym membership David and I joined a local gym a few months back and committed to going to it at least three times a week. We actually kept up with that and want it to continue into the new year. Feels great! We’ll work hard to immediately find a new gym once we move to Savannah in June. There’s no way I’m running outside in a heat index of 120F!

Set aside money to use in traveling Both David and I have “Travel the World” on our Bucket List. It’s really easy to dream about, but in our efforts to save aggressively for the next few years, it’s tough to work in $500+ for plane tickets or $100s in hotel costs. Not to mention fees to take tours, etc. Whoa whoa whoa! Wait a minute. Thinking about all of that is missing the point, I think. We’re in Pennsylvania. We’re a 3-hour drive from Niagara Falls. Do I smell a day trip? Yes. We’re a 6-hour drive or a $150 flight from NYC. Perhaps a weekend getaway? In three weeks, yes. We’re not too far from Lake Erie, and I’ve never seen one of the Great Lakes. Another day trip? Of course. We hope to plan more trips like that when we’re in Savannah too. Maybe we can’t travel the world yet, but certainly the states.

Read at least six books  I have a pile of six books that I bought, but either never finished or never started. I can’t wait to get started!

Be an educated voter With the presidential election happening this coming November and knowing that this election is the first one that will truly affect me (since I’m out from under my parents’ roof), I want to know for whom I’m voting and why. It’ll make me feel much better, come November, when I know I’ve made an educated choice based on prayer and research.

Play the piano at least an hour a week My parents were super gracious in October to let David and I borrow their full-size keyboard. I excitedly brought up tons of piano books and planned to get back into practicing. Then life happened, and I forgot about it (even though it’s about two feet behind me right now). What was the problem? Not setting aside any time for it. Well, the time has now been set aside, and I cannot wait to see what happens over time.

So, what are your goals for 2008? Who will keep you accountable? Commit your goals to God, and ask him for strength each day to achieve them. You can do it!