>> running my race

"You are never too old to set another goal
or to dream a new dream..."
C.S. Lewis

On Saturday, April 5, 2014, I accomplished something I never thought I could: I completed my first 5K race. This is a big deal because I have never been athletic, never been a runner, hate working out, and don't often push myself to conquer things that intimidate me. And seven weeks ago when I started C25K, I could barely run one-minute intervals without dying. Today, I can run 1.5 miles in 20 minutes before I have to stop. And I'm not done improving. I've actually already signed up for my second race, which is only 11 days away, and my goal is to keep getting faster.

My goal for my first 5k was to complete the whole thing in 45 minutes. I ended up beating that goal, which I was ecstatic about since I wasn't able to run the whole thing.

I had a mix of emotions on race day that I want to record. I woke up feeling so nervous I had to force myself to eat and not throw up. Then once I got dressed and ready to go, I was antsy to get out the door. Once I arrived, saw all the thousands of other runners and felt the comradery in the air, I was pumped. I felt good for about the first mile and half, then I had to stop running and start walking. The rest of the race, I ran in intervals. Around mile 2 I started questioning my ability and had thoughts about never wanting to do this again. But I kept going anyway. When I rounded the last corner and saw the finish line in the far distance and heard the cheering crowd awaiting, I ignored my desire to vomit, mustered every last bit of strength I had, and ran to the end. It was such an amazing feeling to see my husband at the finish line, proudly taking my picture and seeing everyone cheering. That's when I understood why people do this over and over again.

Sharing this experience with my sister and sister-in-law was awesome because we went through the ups and downs of training together and accomplished our first 5k together. I'm still so proud of us.

My husband has been so supportive. He got up at 5:30 on a Saturday just to cheer me on, and that is not a small thing in my eyes. I know how tired he was, but he still did it for me. Another reason his selfless support means so much to me is that he used to be a runner; in high school, he ran cross country track and loved it. But he doesn't get to run anymore because he has compartment syndrome. Yet, he encourages me and cheers me on as he watches me do something he wishes he could do.

So yes, I'm addicted. I'm addicted to the comradery of race day; I'm addicted to seeing myself improve; I'm addicted to making my husband and friends proud of me; I'm addicted to conquering fear and truly living my life. 

Here are a few more pics from this special day. I'm so proud of my friends who ran a half-marathon on the same day I ran my first 5k. Such an inspiration!

(Yes, that is Michelle Duggar. I beat her by a hair, y'all.)

"I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me."
Philippians 4:13


>> becky's 40th birthday

One of my dearest friends recently turned 40, and I've never had so much fun celebrating someone! 

I got to help plan a surprise party for her, which was not easy to pull off. Becky can't stand not being "in the know," so she was grilling people left and right once she caught wind that something was being planned for her.

My friend Chrissy and I first took Becky to eat at Chuy's. Becky's family from out of town was supposed to meet us there and surprise Becky, but snow was in the forecast and they didn't get to travel down. I was super disappointed that didn't work out, but we got to tell Becky at the restaurant that our big surprise fell through. We told her we were going to take her and her family bowling after we ate, and since the owners of the bowling alley were already expecting us, we would still go - just the three of us.

This is where the party was waiting for Becky, and I truly believe she had no idea until she walked into that party room.

Yes, Chrissy and I made Becky wear a silly birthday hat and flashing "I'm 40" pin. At this party, there were also supposed to be more people from out of town--old friends of Becky's that she hadn't seen in a long time. Unfortunately, the weather kept them away as well, but I'm so thankful for all the ladies that were able to come. 

We had a blast bowling, and best of all, I think Becky felt really special. 

This party took place almost two weeks before Becky's actual birthday. On the day of, we had another little girls' night out, this time a party at a local crafting venue called Junque 2 Jewels. We got to choose between making a stacked cross, Easter door hanger or stenciled picture frame. Seriously, the best GNO idea ever.

I can't explain how blessed I am by these friendships in my life. It may have taken almost 30 years for me to find out what true friendship is, but it was worth the wait. These ladies keep each other encouraged, pray for each other, trust one another, are not jealous and laugh, laugh, laugh.

I can't get enough.


>> awake, my soul {IF Gathering: part two}

The cabin we stayed at for our women's retreat was beautiful. It was big, rustic and warm with windows that displayed the quiet, snowy surroundings.

The first night began with all 25 of us gathered into the theater room upstairs, watching the first part of the IF Gathering conference, which we were live-streaming from Austin. The speakers and worship music from this conference were amazing. We heard awesome stories about women being rescued from a sad, hopeless life; stories of women who overcame fear and insecurities; stories of adoption and hope. I heard someone talk about being a Daughter of the King, and my heart grabbed a hold of that truth as if it had never heard it before.

We broke out into small groups and talked about what makes our hearts race and what holds us back. We dreamed and confessed to each other, and connections were made. We prayed together and for each other.

We stayed up later than we should have and played pranks on each other, laughing into the early morning hours.

Day two, Saturday, began with a yummy breakfast then a few hours of watching the IF Gathering conference. Most of us wore comfy pajamas, and I remember looking around the theater room at everyone with their makeup-free faces and dirty hair, thinking to myself, Wow, I'm falling in love with these girls.

Our next small group session was all about confessions. Hearts were open, honest and vulnerable. Tears poured as we bared our ugly souls. Friendships were made stronger through sincere hugs, words of affirmation and complete acceptance of each other.

There were more sessions watched, another small group break out, and a lot more eating. During some downtime around sunset, I went on a walk around the property with Ashley and Sandi. We came back to a cozy fire.

One of the highlights was when a woman from our church, Christy, gave her testimony. Her life is a living testament to how God truly cares about every little aspect of our lives. He weaves the threads together to create a beautiful story, a masterpiece made up of ugly circumstances and sin that, when surrendered to God, turn into a glorifying picture of His grace.

After Christy gave her testimony, we spoke words of affirmation over each other. We pointed out each other's gifts and talents. There was no competition, no jealousy--only love as we praised each other and built each other up. This was my favorite part of the whole weekend.

I thanked God in my heart for the friendships He had blessed me with and for this amazing church I get to be a part of.

Sunday was our final morning. We had our own worship service with music led by Christine and Lauren, followed by Cheryl's testimony.

When it was time to load up the vehicles and say goodbye, I didn't want to leave.

I prayed my heart would stay soft to all that God had opened it up to. I felt so loved. I felt so alive. I knew I would inevitably come down off the high of worship and soul-bearing, but I didn't want to.

What I took away from the weekend at JC Ranch is this:

>> I am a Daughter of the King. His love for me is simple and complex. He pursues me.
>> At 30 years old, I can finally say I have amazing friendships.
>> God has not given me a spirit of fear or inadequacy. Battle these thoughts with the truth from God's word.
>> Break the walls and barriers down. Be honest and humble. That's how true bonds are formed.
>> He is worthy of our praise always. The storms in life bring us closer to Him.
>> Everyone has their own story and their own testimony, each one powerful in its own way.


>> journey to my heart {IF Gathering: part one}

I've hesitated with the thought of blogging about the weekend that captivated my heart and changed it forever because I know I won't have the words to convey it all.

Last weekend, my heart was touched by God in a mighty way in a cabin with 24 other women.

The adventure began with four other ladies who I now consider my dear friends. We set off in a front-wheel drive SUV on highways that were mostly clear from the earlier snowfall. The cabin was supposed to be a little over an hour away from where we all live, so we followed the map on one of our phones with great anticipation. The map must've been slightly confused because we ended up lost on a very slick and hilly dirt road. Let me expound on that: We ended up lost and sideways, stuck on a very slick, ice-packed dirt road.

A nice man in a camo sweatshirt driving a camo-clad Chevy truck drove down the road only to find himself trapped by our sideways SUV. Long story short, this man (named Randy) pushed us as Shannon steered; he slipped on the ice and bumped his head on the hard road; and he attempted and failed multiple times to drive us back up the hill to get us back on the highway.

Randy stuck with us at least 30 minutes trying to help us get off this treacherous road before he left and returned with a chain and his bearded friend Eddie Wade. Eddie Wade was the man. He sat in the driver seat of Shannon's car, determined to rescue the five damsels in distress. His first words to us were: "I think I can get it up if you girls don't scream." .....Umm...

Eddie Wade touched the gas pedal, and we slid a little. Someone asked him if he was still confident he could get us up the hill without us having to be pulled. He replied, "I don't think so."

That's when Eddie Wade put the pedal to the metal, gunned it like we were being shot at, all the girls screamed and feared for our lives, and the little SUV flew up the hill and back onto the highway like it was nothing.

We took a few minutes to write down the men's names and addresses (and will be getting together soon to bake cookies and mail them out to these country boys aka angels).

So we were back on the road, still lost, when my friend Ashley says in her southern drawl, "Y'all, I just remembered I have my Garmin in my purse!" We plugged the address into the Garmin and needless to say, it got us where we needed to go.

Come to find out, every car of women heading out to the cabin that day had some kind of trouble. Some got lost, some got stuck, some had to flag down help, some had to pour kitty litter on the road to get out. But we all made it, by the grace of God. My group was the last to arrive. An hour-and-half trip ended up taking closer to four.

Once we actually made it to the cabin, our obstacles weren't over. The driveway was ice-packed and hilly. We got stuck, again, and a couple of ladies who were already there had to attach a rope between both vehicles and pull us out. Before that, we tried putting big sticks under the tires to gain traction, but that was a bust.

Finally we arrived and were welcomed by all the ladies standing on the porch cheering for us. They unloaded our bags for us, and, from there, the real adventure began.


>> the story of my newfound health - part one

If you're like me, you love food. You eat even when you're not hungry. You eat because it tastes good, and food is a means of comfort for you. If you're like me, your metabolism in college and young 20's was fast and always had your back. Like, girl-you-don't-even-have-to-go-to-the-gym-your-metabolism-is-so-fast kind of having your back.

I should have known that even though my metabolism had already slowed down before I hit 30, when I came down sick on my 30th birthday, they weren't kidding when they said, "It's all downhill once you hit 30." Gone were the days of easy.

This is when we separate the boys from the men. This, my friends, is 30.

On Tuesday, January 14, I stepped on the scale. My work had decided to start an 8-week fitness challenge which would require each participant to put $10 in the proverbial pot, weigh in every Tuesday morning, and record their percentage of weight lost.  My start weight, as recorded on January 14, was the highest number I had ever seen on the scale. Ever. It wasn't something I could be okay with anymore, and with a potential monetary prize on the line, I decided I was going to give this my best shot.

Here I sit, 2.5 weeks into this thing, and I am feeling good. Like, I've-never-felt-this-good-before kind of good. Like, I want to stand on a podium somewhere and tell other food-loving, clothes-aren't-fitting-so-good-anymore women such as myself: "If I can do it, so can you." Like I'm so overwhelmed with how life-changing this is going to be that I don't even know where I want to take this blog post.

But I will start by sharing with you what I've been doing.

I haven't worked out at all in the past 2.5 weeks (because I hate working out), but I have lost 6.4 lbs as of right now just by changing how I eat.

I'm not keeping track of my calories, but if I had to estimate, I'd say I'm keeping it in the 1200 daily range.

Every morning I indulge in peanut butter & honey oatmeal and orange juice. It's delicious, gives me something to look forward to eating, and holds me over until lunch.

When it comes to lunch and dinner, I have been incorporating a protein with fruit and veggies. No flour, not even whole-wheat. No sugar. And I drink water for the rest of the day. I get my sweet fixes by eating fruit. I might eat 2-3 clementines in one day. For my afternoon snack, I mix and match a protein such as cashews or roasted chick peas with either a fruit or a cheese stick.

Week one was tough. My stomach was in shock and growled all the time, even while I was eating. It was as if it was literally asking me where all the rest of the food was. But I endured it because I was motivated to not mess up this fitness challenge in week one. I lost 4.2 lbs.

Week two was a different kind of tough. I was still hungry a lot of the time, but my desire to binge was almost irresistible. I would sit on the couch and envision stuffing my face with pizza dipped in ranch dressing, and chasing it all back with a big Pepsi or Cherry Coke. Then I would get off the couch and calmly peel a clementine and eat it slowly. Once I realized I was strong enough to resist the urges to binge, I gained confidence that I could really do this. I lost 1.6 lbs in week two.

Now I'm halfway through the third week, and although weigh-in day is 4 days away, I cheated and weighed yesterday to discover I had lost another 0.6 lb in two days. The urges to binge have become virtually non-existent. My body feels lighter and cleaner on the inside. I feel happier and more energetic. It's like all the crap and chemicals I was filling my body with are disappearing and my body is thriving. I even feel like I'm taking deeper breaths.

My advice for people like me who love junk food way too much but have the desire to change: do what you have to do to be motivated, whether it be joining a fitness group, promising yourself an awesome reward to look forward to, or hanging a picture up of yourself in your prime to remind you every day of where you want to be. For me, I wasn't motivated until I was part of a competition with money on the line.

And although the money would still be nice to win, that's not my motivation to stick with this anymore. Somewhere along the way, I started genuinely caring about myself enough that my improved health and self-control were prize enough.


>> free chalkboard printables

We are currently in the midst of another cold, snowy day here in Arkansas. All these housebound days have given me lots of time to work on de-cluttering and decorating my home. That has been a big focus of my Christmas break. 

We closed our flea market booth, and I have been working to sell all of my leftover inventory. With the money I make from selling unneeded clutter in my home, I am buying new decor that fits my evolving taste. 

I have also been spending a lot of time on Pinterest, pinning inspiring ideas. My decorating budget is very tight, so when it comes to wall decor, I try to recreate a lot of what I see with DIY projects. That said, I have specifically been wanting something new to hang above my oven, as well as in my laundry room.

Drawing inspiration from Pinterest, I created two chalkboard printables. I have already hung the conversion chart above my oven in a frame from Hobby Lobby that I already had. I just created the laundry printable today and will get it printed as soon as the weather clears up.

I am sharing these printables with you because I know it's hard to find affordable wall decor, and sometimes the free printables we come across on Pinterest aren't sized properly to be printed in a clear resolution. These are already sized for 8x10, and you can get them printed on photo paper through a place like Sam's Club, Walmart or Walgreens, or you can have them printed on card stock through an office supply store such as Staples.


To download the 8x10 kitchen conversion chart, click the image above or click HERE. Downloaded image will not have a watermark on it.


To download the 8x10 laundry chalkboard printable, click the image above or click HERE. Downloaded image will not have a watermark on it.

Here is a picture of the kitchen conversion chart framed and in my kitchen. I hope you enjoy finding the perfect spot for these printables in your home!

>> Edit: I um, I made another chalkboard printable. This one is for my guest bathroom. It is also an 8x10.  I mean, what else am I supposed to do??? It's snowing outside.


Click the image above or HERE to download your (un-watermarked) copy. I promise I'll lay off the chalkboard printables for a while before this starts getting really awkward.


>> the best christmas

For no outlandish reason at all, this was the best Christmas ever. Just like a little kid, I slept so lightly the night before in anticipation of this special holiday. I probably freaked my husband out because as soon as his alarm went off, he opened his eyes to see my crazy face excitedly smiling at him. A few times, he'd drift back off to sleep then open his eyes again to my eagerly awaiting stare. 

First things first, we read the story of Jesus' birth from the Bible. Then we let Simon open his stocking, which contained a new bone, as usual. He is always so sweet on Christmas morning. He plops himself down right next to us and chews on his new bone as we open our gifts.

After our morning ritual, we got ready to go, loaded the truck up with presents and headed to Siloam Springs for Christmas with my in-laws.

Like always, we started at Nanny's house with extended family. After stuffing ourselves on delicious food and pie, we sat around the living room and opened gifts. Then we went across the street and opened presents with my husband's immediate family. I feel like every time I talk about my in-laws I have to stress how blessed I am by them. They have truly embraced me and treat me as if I'm their daughter. In the family picture above, I asked them to get together with the boys for a picture, and my mother-in-law told me to join in, too. Our time with them is always precious and we literally never want to leave once we get over to their house. But we had to cut the visit a little short this time because for the first time ever we were celebrating both our families' Christmases in the same day.

So to my sister's house we drove, truck loaded down with presents. I was thankful once we arrived that all my family members had stuck around and waited for us even though they had already opened gifts from each other and enjoyed a Mexican-style lunch.

I loved watching my nephew open his gifts. His face lit up for the toys, and he would scowl and throw down any cloth item, i.e., clothes or hats. The Veggie Tales DVD we gave him was a big hit. He had to watch it right then while the rest of us opened gifts. It was sweet to get to be a part of both my nieces' first Christmases too. They pretty much just ate and slept their way through it, but they sure were pretty doing so.

My favorite part of the night was when my mom surprised the boys with beanies she had crocheted and fingerless gloves for the girls. My favorite gifts to give were the monogram frames that hubs and I made together for my sister and brother.

This day was so special and just felt so full. Getting to celebrate with both our families on the same day was busy but perfect. Starting the day off with the focus on the birth of our Savior and a prayer really set the tone for a day where the blessings surrounding me were evident and in the forefront of my mind. I soaked in the laughter, I was more intentional with how I hugged people and I let the excitement of such a magical holiday light me up from the inside out.