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As hoped, Clemson pulled it out and beat the Citadel (45-17), NC State (27-9) and SC State (54-0). Yes, all of those were easy games and they were expected to win, but hey, three W’s to offset that initial L against Alabama. So, “GO TIGERS!” My blood runneth orange again.

Twenty-one days without a new post. Sorry about that. This little thing called life keeps happening in a great way and tends to keep me away from the computer when at all possible. But I think you’re all deserving of an update:

Newlywed glow — Our friends, Kirby and Meredith, came down for Labor Day weekend after only being married for six weeks. We were impressed that they were even willing to leave their house after such a short time of wedded bliss, but hey, we were thrilled to host them here in Savannah. We had a great day at the beach and exploring downtown Savannah before watching the depressing Clemson vs. Alabama game at Wild Wings that prompted my previous post. So glad that things are looking up, up, up for the Tigers now! Later in the weekend, we went out to Tybee Island for the Labor Day Beach Bash and fireworks show. The fireworks were incredible. It was a blast to be around such a great couple that weekend.

His team name is “Henderson” — David’s on a soccer team here in Savannah started by Travis Henderson…hence the name. I just cheer based on jersey color, “go blue!”, instead of “go Henderson!” I can’t sound like I’m cheering for Travis the whole game. David’s really enjoying being back on the field again and honing his skills. He’s hoping to teach me some basic moves so that I can be on the indoor league in early 2009. We’ll see, folks.

Parental visit — I love my mom, and I love when she’s in town. She came down to Savannah not too long ago to “visit, cook and shop.” Awesome! She cooked two fabulous meals for me and David, and she and I got to go shopping downtown. Too fun! My mom is down nearly 30lbs and is looking fan-stinkin-tastic these days. It’s a blast to go shopping with her and see how great she looks in everything. Go mom! Come visit anytime!

A grandparental visit — My mom left on Friday morning, then I worked all day, then my mom’s parents came to town. They had been in Hilton Head for a conference and thought that a quick jaunt to Savannah would be nice; David and I agreed. They treated us to Papa’s for dinner–delicious–and we got to get all caught up with them. They’re about to embark on a trip to Nova Scotia…by car. I wholeheartedly respect their patience with being in a car that long, but then again, when you have a great travel buddy, cross-country driving can be fun.

Saw the whole thing, dude. First you were all like “whoa,” and we were like “whoa,” and you were like “whoa…” — As spoken by Crush from Finding Nemo. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie (you should rent it tonight), Crush is a sea turtle, and David and I had a couple of pretty cool sea turtle experiences recently. Not only did we get to observe two hatched sea turtle nest excavations, but during one of those, a live sea turtle that had been trapped in the nest for at least five days was uncovered. That night, he was released back to the ocean. How cool to be so close to an endangered species. Aside from that, David and I were both blown away by that little guy’s (or gal…you won’t know until he/she is 35 years old) determination. No matter how many times the waves pushed him back onto the shore, he–after at least five days without nourishment of any kind–kept fighting to get into that water knowing that he had at least a 36-48 hour swim to safety. Unreal. Certainly refreshed my determination in areas of weakness in my life. Only 1 in 4,000 baby sea turtles makes it from the egg to adulthood. Go little guy, go!

Upcoming excitement — This Thursday, September 25, is exciting for at least three reasons. First, it’s Gap’s payday-woo hoo! Second, Cold Stone Creamery in Savannah is having the “World’s Largest Ice Cream Social” from 5-8 with FREE delicious ice cream creations put together by two make-a-wish children. Donations accepted of course. And third, Grey’s Anatomy starts up its 5th season with a two-hour premiere. What could be better?

Mud + obstacles + race + 5,000 competitors = fantastic weekend — David and three guys from his work joined forces to create a team to compete in the US Marine Corps Mud Run at Ft. Jackson last weekend. When I thought of what a “mud run” would look like, I definitely pictured 4.5 miles of dirt and mud, but not in pits chest-deep. I didn’t picture my husband and his team having to climb up dirt/mud mountains and go under logs that laid right on top of previously mentioned mud pits. It took David a couple of days to get all the dirt out of his ears. But you know what? It was a great time! I wanted to be in there with the guys, competing. David and his team really enjoyed their time and are already talking about how they’ll beat their 1:02:54 time next year.

Speaking of athletics — David and I are still training for our respective long-distance races in December, but it’s been anything but easy here in Savannah. Between the heat (which thankfully seems to have broken for at least this week), humidity, lack of running trails/shoulders and hills, aggressive beach traffic and extremely busy schedules on our end, each run is like a little victory. In fact, as soon as I finish this post, I’ll be heading out the door to tackle one of those runs and accomplish a big victory. Should be fun!

So it’s been 20 days since my last post. In the past few weeks, David and I have kept plenty busy:

1. 1, 2, 3, 4…1, 2, 3, 4…C L E M S O N T I G E RRRR S! – with football season right around the corner, the alumni group in our area is starting to have some functions, and we’re planning to go to as many as possible. Clemson fans around Savannah are few and far between–I’d say the ratio is about 15:1 in Georgia/Georgia Tech fans to Clemson fans. Too much black and red and black and gold. Yuck! We’re planning to represent in our purple and orange soon enough.

2. Hotel Mertens – just shy of nine months away from getting married, Jo and Craig came down after visiting family in Hilton Head. It was great to play host, and we look forward to doing it again. If you’re going to be in the Savannah area, just give me or David a call; we’d love to set you up with free lodging!

3. Faitha little over a month ago, I started a Beth Moore Bible study called Believing God with a group of gals on the islands. It’s been pretty incredible so far, and through the study, I’ve decided to start attending BSF in September. “BSF” stands for “Bible Study Fellowship.” It’s an international, non-denominational Bible study that meets weekly from September to May of each year. In the course of seven years, you make it all the way through the Bible, analyzing scripture line-by-line. It’s not for everyone, I’ve been told, but it sounds like it’ll work really well for me. Can’t wait!

4. Run, Mertens! Run! – David and I are about three weeks into our half marathon/marathon (respectively) training, and it’s going so-so right now. It’s still so hot in Savannah that we either have to run on the treadmills at the gym or run at 4:00am before there’s even a glint of sunlight (and yes, we now have a headlamp so that I don’t fall down…again). The heat is showing signs of breaking, though, as this whole week our highs are in the mid to upper 80s with the heat index in the 90s. In previous weeks, that index has been in triple digits. So glad that fall is on its way!

5. I only burn what in a day!? – In the past six years since I started working out with rowing and ultimately running, I’ve never really gotten a handle on what I should be eating to fuel the amount of activity I do on a daily basis. I opted to go to a nutritionist, but before my appointment, I had to get my resting metabolic rate (RMR) taken. Essentially, the RMR is the amount of calories you burn when you are completely at rest. I was in a reclined comfy chair for 15 minutes while the test was going on–definitely relaxed and at rest. Based on my height, weight and age, the doctor administrating the test estimated that I burn around 1400 calories at rest. Wrong! I only burn around 850. I couldn’t get to the nutritionist fast enough after that to figure out how many calories I could eat in a day and not gain weight over time–around 1300-1400. So much for that “based on a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet” note on every packaged product’s nutrition label. It’s been an interesting adjustment so far, but it’s going well. Getting my RMR checked really opened my eyes to what I’m up against. If you have struggled with weight gain or knowing what you should be eating, definitely pursue a nutritionist and get your RMR tested.

6. Pedaling like crazy but going nowhere – this time around in marathon training, I’m taking a slightly different approach by cross training more frequently–specifically biking. Problem is, I don’t own a bike. I’ve been using the YMCA’s “spinning” bikes one or two times per week, and it’s been pretty awesome. The spinning room is dark except for black lights on the ceiling, so if I wear all black, I’m pretty much invisible–besides my teeth if I smile and my shoes. I’m hoping that training on a spinning bike with pretty heavy resistance will prepare me for riding on a real bike later on down the road.

7. Clouds and wind are evil – Well, only when the presence of both makes you decide to not wear sunscreen while walking on the beach. Saturday was an overcast day–the first day of no rain since the beginning of Fay–so David and I opted to go out to Tybee Island beach and walk for a bit. We packed a picnic lunch, but opted to walk on the beach for a few minutes first. Well, a few minutes turned into an hour or two. It was in the mid-80s out with extremely strong winds (considering there wasn’t a storm nearby) of around 30mph, so it felt fantastic, and neither of us realized how badly we were getting burned…until about four hours later. We’re recovering and will never underestimate the sun again. Whew!

8. Working hard for the money – I love the Gap. I think that deserves some repetition action: I really love the Gap. My job there as brand logistics expert is fun, a little challenging, rewarding and exciting. Plus! I get a fantastic discount on the clothes, get to work in the middle of downtown Savannah (gorgeous), and get to be a part of a wonderful leadership team. And I get paid to do it. So awesome! I’m still working for Clemson too and have the most flexible boss around. It’s so nice to be able to work right out of the home office. So both jobs have been keeping me busy. David’s working pretty long days right now, but starting in the middle of October, he shifts to 21 days of 12-hour shifts each day with no weekend breaks. Just three straight weeks of work. I still can’t picture what that will be like…intense I’m sure.

9. Livin’ on a prayer – so much is going on in our lives, our family’s lives and the lives of our friends that we’re constantly praying. Some are getting married, some are moving, some are expecting a first child really soon, some are changing jobs, some are struggling in various areas, some are triumphing in areas and on it goes. We love our friends and family dearly and wish we could see them all more often. Know that we keep you in our thoughts and our prayers, truly.

So yes, that’s kind of what’s been going on around here in the past 20 days. We’re looking forward to the holiday weekend as we’ve both got Monday off of work. I doubt we’ll go to the beach, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be exploring Savannah. What a great place to live!

…continued from Tuesday…

A trifle can be…gasp…healthy? I hope that all of you have been able to enjoy a trifle dessert sometime in your life. The delicious decadence that is chocolate on top of chocolate on top of cool whip on top of fresh fruit, then repeated. Oh l’amour! So, how the heck can you eat it without it being sinful? Well, perhaps I’m a bit late to this bandwagon, but I’m learning the art of ingredient substitution. The cake mix calls for a cup of oil? I’m using a cup of sugar-free applesauce. And I need an egg? I’ll use two egg whites instead. The trifle needs something crisp in the center like oreos? How about fresh strawberries and blueberries? Oh and for that whipped topping, sugar-free, fat-free Cool Whip. And voila! A dessert that could have had 100s of calories and lots of fat grams–not to mention cholesterol (from the eggs) turns into a sweet, virtually innocent treat. And yes, the rules of substitution apply no matter what you’re making (i.e. I used applesauce instead of oil in our waffle mix this morning).

It’s official. We’re no longer joined to PA or SC Legally, anyway. We love all of our friends and family in both places and wish we could visit more often! That said, we’re now official resident of Georgia–Georgia peaches, if you will; although South Carolina is the real peach state, but whatever. We’ve finally gotten the tags, titles, insurance, utilities–heck, even our voter’s registration. We’re set and hope that we don’t have to move again any time soon!

July 4th sans fireworks So what is Independence Day without shooting fireworks? It’s whatever you want it to be. We went to a cookout at Russ and Sarah’s place for a cookout and met some awesome couples for the first time and got to hang out with folks we’d met before. It was a whole lot of fun, and the food was delicious. A side note: the night before, David and I were watching a movie at the apartment and heard fireworks. We walked out onto our breezeway and got to watch the last 15 minutes of the Savannah Sand Gnats (baseball team) stadium’s firework show. It was spectacular! So much so that we didn’t feel the need to buy and light any ourselves–plus it’s illegal or something.

Endangered species Last Saturday, we went beach combing with Joe and Amy. What’s beach combing? you might ask. Well, it’s when you walk the full beach front of Tybee Island beach at 5:15am looking for crawls–or disturbed sand caused by a momma sea turtle coming out of the water to lay her eggs. Sea turtles are endangered and fiercely protected here in Savannah. There are sea-turtle-crossing signs along the road on your way to Tybee, and caution tape and stakes around their nests. Well, we didn’t get to see any crawls that morning, but as the sun rose, we came upon a non-endangered species of bird, but the bird himself was in trouble. The brown pelican (very large bird) had a broken leg from what we could tell, so Amy (biologist) took off to get a box. Once she got back, she covered the bird in a jacket to keep his wings down and put him in the box. David got to carry him and loved every minute. Once upon a time (and still today, really), David wanted to be a marine biologist.

Hearts all over the world tonight Yes, from the Chris Brown song, “With You.” While yes, there are hearts all over the world tonight, there are two that stand out. My parents. They’re in Brussels, Belgium right now and headed to the Netherlands and France before coming back to America. I hope David and I can travel like them when we’re empty nesters (assuming kids come at some point, of course). Twill be fun!

Time management crisis Help. There, I said it. I need help. David and I want to work out 4-5 days per week, including an hour or two of running for two or three of those days. But when? Between David working nearly 60 hours a week at this point, me working for Clemson and for Gap, church, errands, friends, enjoying Savannah, oh and sleeping and eating, etc, we haven’t found the best time. Today, we ran at 4:00am. Not ideal. Please pray that we’d be able to get a grip on our time management, please!

And on that note, it’s time for something that trumps working out–date night!

It’s been a busy week, but a great one. I assure you that I’ll post all about my parents’ visit, our carriage ride, our day-trip to Athens, my new Bible study, our Tastefully Simple party/cookout/game night, dinner at The Crab Shack, post-dinner walks on the beach and much more…

But for now, I’m taking a challenge. A 100-push-up challenge. I read about this all over the blogosphere, and I thought why not? Check out the challenge details. I took the initial test and was able to get to 20 good-form push-ups before my arms and abs held up the white flag. It’s hard to think that in six short weeks (assuming I stick 100% to this training plan) I’ll be able to do 100 reps consecutively. Shoot, if I’m able to do that, I’ll post a of video it.

Consider taking the challenge yourself. The benefits of push-ups are pretty incredible; they’re not just about your arms. They work your entire midsection, chest, shoulders, etc. I’m not a personal trainer (maybe one day…), but if you coupled good-quality push-ups with multiple sets of squats (and perhaps some assisted pull-ups), I think you’d be getting a total body workout–from a few simple exercises!

As far as push-up overachievers go, the world record for the most push-ups in one hour was set in 2005 by Doug Pruden of Canada–1,781. And the record for the most consecutive push-ups? 10,507 set in 1980 by Minoru Yoshida.

So doing 100? Totally feasible! Who’s on board?

I must say, I’m very much looking forward to challenging my younger brother to a push-up competition once I reach the 100-rep mark. He’s a rising senior at a military university and has heard his fair share of “drop and give me 30,” but I doubt it’s ever been 100.

I promised in a previous post that I would blog as David and I continue to pursue our passions. We’ve taken some steps, and it’s been great so far. We can’t wait to see where God leads next.

God closed the door on the praise band, and that’s ok. I got in touch with the gal in charge of auditions and set mine up only to realize later that week that there are mandatory practices on Thursday nights–the same night as our couple’s Bible study. I love our small group too much to sacrifice those nights for praise band practice. I’ll just keep singing in my car and playing the piano–and listening to Pandora while working. If you’ve never used that website before, use it. It creates a radio station of songs related to whatever artist or song you input. Wonderful way to get exposed to new music that you’ll likely enjoy!

As far as the fitness passion goes, all is wonderful. We’ve really amped up the amount of time we spend exercising each week:

1. For the marathon training, we’re running on Sun, Tues, Wed, Fri and Sat, and we ran a half marathon on Sunday. Woo!

2. For weight training, I’m working out with a trainer at the gym three mornings a week for around an hour and a half. Tough, but fun.

3. For fun, I’m running with a friend one to two mornings a week.

I love doing this so, so much. I just can’t get enough! If you had asked me six years ago if I’d ever fall in love with exercise, I’d laugh at you. At that point, I could hardly jog a mile and was (unbeknownst to me) just about to walk on to the NCAA Women’s Rowing team at Clemson.

And as far as great relationships go, we’re making a joint effort to invest more fully in relationships both new and established here in Pittsburgh, back in SC and beyond. Since we’re looking at a lifestyle of moving around for a little while longer, we want to feel connected wherever God places us next–whether we’re there for a few months or a few years. Pittsburgh has been a learning experience for us as far as friendships go.

When we first moved here, we were brand-new newlyweds, and honestly, we couldn’t care any less about meeting new people. We were fully invested in spending all of our free time together–all the time. Well, as any of your married folks know, we ultimately got to a point where we were hungry for other friendships. We got to that point around May/June of last year.

After visiting several churches with no luck and being certain that we’d never make friends with David’s co-workers (most 15-20 years older), we sort of reached a point where we felt like we’d missed our chance to make friends here. We briefly lived in the mindset of “we can’t wait to leave here and move to GA.” I was so close to starting a countdown, and for those that know me, whatever is at the end of the countdown is something I absolutely cannot wait to happen. I don’t do trivial countdowns. It was definitely a low point for us.

Then God revealed a truth to us: if we didn’t invest in any friendships here, we’d never have any real sense of connectedness or sense of roots in Pittsburgh. Without any connection here, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy our time and would inevitably take the “glass half empty” approach toward everything. Plus, I kept referring to SC as “home.” That was a big roadblock for me. David and I are now of the mindset that “home” is where we both are. So now, home is Pittsburgh. SC is where my parents live and where I went to college. As far as we know, we could be sent back to Pittsburgh later one, so why not invest in friendships now?

We made some great friends through a church we attended in the summer, but the services weren’t a great fit for us. We kept in touch with the friends we made and went church hunting again–ultimately visiting a church that David passed every day on the way to work. We loved it and still do. We immediately got connected with a small group and have made several new friendships we wouldn’t have otherwise. We love those folks more than even they know. It’s so wonderful to do life with others in similar life situations.

Of course we miss our friends back south, but they know that whenever we’re in town, we’ll stop by and get caught up. We still love them and are so thankful that they’ve been with us through such pivotal parts of our lives. Who knows? Maybe we’ll live closer to them one day, but for now, we’re letting God stretch us however he sees fit. If that means living far from familiar places and far from “comfortable,” so be it. This was not my attitude last year, but God has a wonderful way of being a catalyst of change in our lives and attitudes.

So when we move in June, we’ll continue to invest in our PA friendships while immediately seeking out friends around our new home. We’ll take what we’ve learned in Pittsburgh and apply it quicker. Should be fun–and hard–but most of all, worth the effort.

Ah Club Julian. You’re a great gym, but sometimes you make decisions that baffle me.

I was startled when I dragged myself into the gym this morning at 6:20am. Why dragging? I ran 13.1 miles yesterday with David and Nathan–wonderful, but tiring. Why startled? There was a huge sheet cake in the lobby of the gym for their 17-year anniversary celebration.

Nice gesture, but with so many people trying to lose weight by going to the gym, why tempt them with cake on the way in AND on the way out? Whew. I resisted, but it was really tough. When I left at 8:00am, over half of the cake was gone.

A shame.

As David very well knows, I have an issue blocking out other people’s conversations around me. I just pick up some random sentence and get intrigued. I call it my brain’s “selective eavesdropping” because it doesn’t happen all the time, but on random occasions.

It happened today. This morning, actually.

I was at the gym, and at the end of my workout, I hopped on an open treadmill for a brief run. There were two people on treadmills to my left, a man and a woman, having a conversation in which I wish I had had the guts to participate. It was a sad talk, really. From what I gathered, the man’s daughter was having issues with guys. Ok, what girl hasn’t had issues with guys, right? That wasn’t the sad part, though.

I’m not sure how old his daughter was, but from the context, I would guess in her mid to late 20s. I had missed the beginning of the conversation detailing what I would guess to be a list of the types of guys she’d dated and what didn’t work with each one.

When I joined in (listening of course), the man was lamenting the fact that his daughter is still single. “Do you think she’s a diva or something?” the man asked. The woman responded, “No, she’s not a diva, she’s just got the wrong sort of expectations as far as men go.”

I thought to myself wrong sort of expectations? Is she over-demanding? High-maintenance? Too clingy? Hmm…I wonder…

Nope. Turns out she was looking for chivalry. And today that constitutes the “wrong sort of expectations”? Yikes.

The woman continued, “What your daughter wants is one of you. A man like you. Men like you don’t exist anymore. This young generation is used to women striving to be equal with men in the workplace and just in society as a whole. Women are encouraged to be independent. You know, the ‘You don’t need a man to take care of you’ mentality. Your daughter can’t expect a man to care for her and treat her like a queen while at the same time treat her as though she were his equal.”

I was dumbfounded. Really? A woman can’t be treated like a lady and pursue her own dreams like everyone else? Interesting.

“Really?” the man inquired.

“Oh yeah. I mean, she’ll have to change her expectations to have a shot at marriage…”

I think what she meant here was “lower her standards.” But even so, she’d have to do that just to have a shot at marriage? Whoa. No wonder the divorce rate is so high…seems like some have lost faith in the concept of married for life. Now it’s more like a lottery or something. Maybe you’ll get all the right numbers and win society’s “big prize” (a perfect mate for life in a flawless marriage), or maybe you’ll keep buying new tickets…dissatisfied with the result of the most recent one you purchased.

Newsflash: the secret to having the same spouse for life is not throwing in the towel–ever. Always work through problems. My parents taught me that true, lasting love is work. I never really understood them when I was dating David–even when we got engaged. I was just so lovestruck and giddy. Love was easy.

Then we got married. No, it all didn’t go downhill. It’s been amazing, honestly. But we’ve had to work at our relationship in this past year of marriage. When two imperfect people come together, what’s the result? An imperfect marriage. Once you get to that point and understand that marriage isn’t going to be all sunny days, and determine that you’re willing to work at it to make it last, you can do it. It’s a commitment that’s sometimes rushed into without thought. Be cautious. But once you do make that commitment, stick with it.

The woman went on, “That’s why I thought setting her up with an older man, a more traditional man, would be a good move. He’d treat her the way a lady is supposed to be treated. She won’t find that in a man her age.”

That’s where I wanted to jump in. “Well, I’ve found it. I’ve found a fantastic man that lets me be the driven, independent, strong woman that God made me to be while still treating me like a lady and making me feel special. He opens jars, carries my suitcase, surprises me with cards and flowers, scrapes the ice off my car and leads our family in so many ways–spiritually, relationally, financially–while still encouraging me to pursue my dreams and believing in my abilities as a woman.

It is possible. Oh if only I could have coffee with that man’s daughter. I’d look her in the eyes and tell her to never lower her standards. I’d tell her that no man is worth lowering your standards for…any such man doesn’t deserve her. I’d tell her that marriage for a lifetime is the most amazing commitment that a person can make and that it is possible to do. It’s just a matter of making divor** an off-limits word. We have. It never comes up, ever. It’s a matter of committing your marriage to God and relying on his strength and guidance to keep it together.

It’s a matter of never, ever, giving up. Why? Because your spouse is worth it. You fought to get them, right? Now fight to keep them.

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.

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!