Whole30 Reflection

My husband (Aaron) and I completed our first Whole30 in the month of October. If you haven’t heard of the Whole30 before, I encourage you to Google it or go to whole30.com to read more! In a nutshell, it is a thirty day challenge where you eliminate all sugar, dairy, grains, soy, legumes, and alcohol (basically any processed food/artificial ingredients) and focus on nourishing your body with a lot of meat, veggies, fruit, nuts, and healthy fats. There are certainly other principles to follow (such as how to build your meals, etc.), but total clean eating is the foundation of the program. Its desire is to not just make you a healthier individual on the outside but to really change your relationship with food.

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Aaron and I were successful with this challenge and stuck to a strict Whole30 plan throughout the month of October—no cheating. Coming from different backgrounds/perspectives on healthy eating (I have a passion for it, and he lovingly accepts it but doesn’t share the same passion), I thought it would be fun to “interview” him on his Whole30 experience. I also added my perspective from the experience I gained during the thirty days. You may notice that he is a man of few words and is pretty blunt, whereas I am…not 😉 Enjoy!

As a side note: We did not do this Whole30 challenge for pure weight loss purposes. I really wanted to focus on our relationship with food rather than pounds or inches, so we did not take measurements in the beginning. However, both of us lost inches (noticeable from clothing and belts). We did weigh in at the beginning of the Whole30 and at the end of the thirty days. Aaron lost 10 pounds and I lost 4.5 pounds.

  1. What made you decide you wanted to commit to the Whole30?

A (Aaron): My wife was doing it, so I decided to do it with her to support her. I knew it would be helpful to her to have the support at home.

M (Molly): I have always been intrigued by those who subscribe to ‘clean eating,’ but I have always been too nervous to take the plunge and try it. I figured that I ate healthy overall, so there was no point in committing to something like this. I enjoy moderation! Well, I definitely challenged myself physically through marathon training, and I was ready to challenge myself nutritionally after the marathon. The timing worked out perfectly. I carb loaded, ran my marathon and indulged afterwards, celebrated my birthday the day after the race (with many treats), and felt very ready to make these nutritional changes and detox my body. Though I would describe my diet as healthy beforehand, with marathon training, I had become a little too lax and nonchalant with what I ate/how much I ate. I was constantly hungry, so I knew doing the Whole30 would be the perfect opportunity for a nutritional cleanse/reset.

  1. Describe the changes that were made throughout the 30 days. How did your eating habits differ from normal?

A: I ate less crap. On a normal day before the Whole30, I would eat toast with peanut butter for breakfast, granola bars for snacks, pasta for lunch, and whatever dinner we ended up throwing together. The Whole30 forced us to plan out meals, have a better idea of what we needed from the grocery store before grocery shopping, and encouraged us to have intentional dinners together. We didn’t do any of that separate dinner junk we had been doing a few nights each week.

M: I’m a big snacker. Prior to the Whole30, I would have smaller meals but eat many snacks throughout the day. During the Whole30, I made sure I bulked up my meals with protein and healthy fats to hold me over to the next meal without snacking. The only exception was an afterschool snack. Due to the timing of my lunch (11:30) and how we didn’t eat dinner until well after 7pm most nights, I needed something to hold me over. However, I tried to ensure my snacks were mostly protein or healthy fats and not just filler foods. Another big change was eliminating after dinner snacking. This has always been my biggest downfall! My sweet tooth rages at night. I can do well the entire day and fall trap to needing something sweet at night. The Whole30 helped me fight this sugar dragon and eliminate the intense desire for some treat every night. I learned to build my meals with a solid protein source, veggies, healthy fat, and to use fruit as a small side—not the focus of the meal. Lastly, an obvious change is that I did not include processed food into my diet—even if it was “healthy,” “light,” or “non-fat.” I learned about the adverse effects of artificial ingredients and sweeteners that I had been relying on for too long.

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  1. What was the hardest aspect of the challenge?

A: The lunch cafeteria at work was the hardest because people recognized I was eating differently, so they were asking questions and repeatedly tried to tempt me with free food. The free pizza at work was the hard to deal with. But I said I was going to do the Whole30, so I stuck with it.

M: Saying no to mindless snacking was probably one of the most difficult parts of doing the Whole30. Also, not indulging in my “skinny latte” from Starbucks was embarrassingly difficult. I know—pathetic. But it had come to be such a comfort thing for me! Even though I have worked on making huge progress with not using food as a comfort or reward, I realized that I would still occasionally reward or comfort myself with food or beverage treats (like Starbucks). I had to adjust to drinking black coffee, and though it took a few times for me to not groan about it, I genuinely enjoy it now.

  1. What was your favorite facet of the Whole30?

A: My favorite part was that my wife was proud of me for having done it! It was also good for our marriage—having meals together is important.

M: FEELING GREAT was definitely the best part (though I agree with Aaron about how wonderful it was for our relationship)! After getting over the initial hump of fatigue, I felt wonderful. My skin was clearer, I felt in control of my cravings, I had more energy, my body felt healthier and muscles stronger. I knew that after everything I ate, I would still feel great and not a bloated, grumpy, emotional mess (sugar can do that to me). Knowing that everything I was consuming would be of nourishment to my body made me feel good about the choices I was making.

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  1. Did you ever have any intense cravings or temptations, and if so, what were they and when?

A: A couple times I fixated on pizza (which was an odd thing for me to do, honestly), but the cravings were never anything too intense. I might have looked at a food and thought “I want that,” but that thought would be followed with “but I can’t have that right now, bummer. Oh well.”

(He also texted me a few “I miss bread” messages in the beginning…don’t let him fool you J).

M: Yes. Starbucks. Surprisingly not chocolate like I anticipated. The first two weeks I went through some serious withdrawal! By the middle of the Whole30, though, I didn’t even care that I only drank my coffee beverages plain.

  1. Did you miss any specific food item the most?

A: Pizza. I don’t even eat it often, but I fixated on it for some odd reason.

M: This is repetitive, but I missed by skinny lattes the most. However, by the end I wasn’t missing them nearly as much. I have found that Americanos are actually great! I was afraid of black coffee, but now I can embrace it.

  1. What did you learn during these thirty days?

A: I learned how to make new healthy recipes. I also learned that the Whole30 wasn’t nearly as intimidating as I thought it would be—it was quite simple and did not suck anywhere near as much as I thought it would. Lastly, I learned that I can actually make a salad I truthfully enjoy.

M: Oh goodness. I learned SO many valuable lessons over the course of just thirty days. Mainly, there is no substitute for how whole foods make your body feel. Thirty days can transform your life and your relationship with food if you’re willing to try. I never tried clean eating before this because I didn’t think it was realistic and/or desirable…I was wrong! Of course, I don’t believe I could 100% eat clean the rest of my life (uh, no thanks), but I have learned how it’s a lot more doable than I thought. When you treat your body well, it will treat you well! Sure, eating well takes commitment and maybe a bit more effort, but the benefits are beyond worth it. That one thing you couldn’t possibly imagine giving up? YOU CAN live without it for thirty days. Things won’t go perfectly the first time around (or ever, actually), but experimentation often results in GOOD things. Lastly…this was EYE-OPENING. SUGAR IS EVERYWHERE!!!! In lemon pepper seasoning! Even “natural” or “organic” items are often packed with added sugar. Seriously. Once you start looking, you will be amazed.

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  1. What was your favorite new food item?

A: Healthy crusted chicken tenders or sweet potato chili with spaghetti squash

M: I can’t pick a favorite! I loved nearly everything I ate this month. And if you’re curious about what all that entailed, my fitness Instagram is basically a food diary. I have fallen in love with my breakfasts, though…I almost always had a breakfast consisting of eggs, avocado, sautéed veggies, and a piece of fruit. Great fuel for the day!

  1. What do you plan on doing now that you completed the Whole30?

A: Eating pizza and then going back to a semi-Paleo lifestyle. I won’t be doing a second strict Whole30 round like my wife, but I will still maintain some of the habits, particularly with our dinner choices.

M: Well, I can answer that now that I’m living it! I am on day 2 of my second round of Whole 30. I went 33 days straight the first round then broke my streak to indulge in a Starbucks beverage. The next day, I started back again and plan to complete a strict Whole30 (though I might cut it short for Thanksgiving). Afterwards, I want to maintain a mostly Paleo lifestyle because this feels natural and right. However, I do enjoy some treats in moderation, which makes Weight Watchers also a wonderful option. So basically, I am taking it day by day and figuring it out as time passes 😉

    10.  What advice would you give to others who are considering doing the Whole30?

A: It’s only 30 days…suck it up. {Oh my man of many sweet words ;)}

M: Start out simple. There is no need to overcomplicate it in the beginning…you don’t want to overwhelm yourself more than you might already be overwhelmed. We almost didn’t start the Whole30 when we initially planned to because we didn’t feel prepared. With all the marathon hoopla and focusing on training, I didn’t research the program a ton before diving in. The first week was very basic, and we kind of learned as we went along. Don’t be afraid to take chances! What do you have to lose?

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Thanks for allowing us to share our experience with you. If you have any further questions, feel free to ask away!

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Pushing Forward.

Though I’m a month (as of tomorrow) out from running my first marathon and still haven’t written a proper recap of the race (it’s in the works…slowly), I am excited to share what has been happening since marathon training season has ended.

I won’t lie—I kind of didn’t know what to do with my life after the marathon was over. Yes that’s a quite dramatic statement, but seriously, when you invest so much time and energy into training and it’s finally DONE—what do you do?!

You move onto new goals. You keep reaching. Keep striving. Challenge yourself.

I had planned to start the Whole 30 just a few days after the marathon to reset my system and get my nutrition back into total check (and not going to lie, to ‘de-fluff’ from training season/carb-loading/birthday celebrations…#reallife). I won’t go into detail about that experience yet, but we are just finishing day 26 of no sugar, no dairy, no grains, no soy, no legumes, no alcohol, and nothing processed (basically a strict version of Paleo where you eat all whole foods for 30 days straight, NO cheating). ANYWAY, it’s been fabulous for us. (And yes I say us because my husband was amazing to undertake this challenge with me.)

So, the nutrition front has been great, but something has still been missing. Training–particularly training for a concrete goal. I miss disciplining myself to follow a training program. I miss continually striving to dig deep, discover my potential and reach beyond what I thought were my limits.

Most people would embrace this “downtime” from training. I sure thought I was going to be one of those people! Okay, I ran my marathon, check that off my bucket list. Now I can relax and just exercise leisurely! But, you see, I’ve been bitten by the running bug. And then there’s been this little dream in the back of my mind, even when I was just in the beginning stages of training for my first marathon…

I want to run an ultramarathon.

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It scares me. It excites me beyond belief. And that is EXACTLY why I am determined to do it.

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There’s a 50k trail ultramarathon at the end of March, and Lord willing, I will show up to that race, totally out of my comfort zone, and run my heart out.

Though I only have one marathon under my belt and three half marathons (which equates to a fairly inexperienced runner in this case), training has taught me that as long as you are fully committed, you can do whatever you set your mind to, regardless of your “qualifications.” Philippians 4:13 DOES say “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

I am excited to find out what the Lord has in store for me through training for something so out of my comfort zone. I pray I can continue glorifying God through my training. Trails are a different beast than roads, which makes me even more nervous especially training through the winter season. I have all of these fears and doubts in my head, but as I fix my eyes on Him, I am reminded that He is my strength always. I will continue to trust in the Lord and praise His name!

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26 lessons I’m learning through marathon training {Part Two}

Well, it’s been a while! I know I said I’d periodically update during marathon training…but nobody should be surprised that I didn’t 😉 Good intentions count for at least something, right? 😛

At least I’ve come back to update with the part two of this series {26 lessons I’m learning through marathon training} seeing as the race is 10 DAYS AWAY (September 27, 2014)! Phew!

To read about my journey chasing that 26.2 mile dream & hear about what I’ve learned through training for my first marathon, be sure to check out my previous post .

Without further rambling (don’t worry, there’s plenty of that below), here is the second installment of lessons learned during training for my first full marathon.

14. Sacrifice is necessary. You can’t do it all, physically or mentally. Though there are many runners out there who log far more training hours than those who are marathon training, it is still a lot for the average person to juggle training with other life commitments. It’s time consuming…more time consuming than I anticipated. I have to make a plan of when I can fit my training in. Most days, that means 4:30 am before school. Sleeping in on Saturdays? Not during this season of life. Saturdays are long run days, made for early wake ups and hitting the pavement before temperatures rise. The first thing I had to consider making weekend plans was when I would fit my long run in. {And expecting me to be useful after a 20 mile training run? I wish I was superwoman, but we won’t talk about how I useless I feel after long runs!} Because you can’t possibly do it all (no matter how hard you try), you have to figure out your priorities. Something has to give a little in order for you to be able to give it your all in your training commitment. For me, I had to reevaluate my priorities. The area I was most willing to “give a little” (aka lessen my standards) ended up being housework. I hate messes. I like clean. But I found myself unable to maintain an immaculately clean place—and I had to learn to be okay with that! That laundry pile will still be there after I return from my long run. Breathe, Molly. It’s okay. Go anyway. Of course, we ended up moving smack in the middle of my peak training where the mileage was the greatest. So yes, I will admit that our apartment is rather unsettled. Functional, yes—decorated and fully unpacked?—that’s a different story. It certainly drives me crazy sometimes, but it will get done post-marathon. There’s no need to stress myself out about that silly stuff, especially when it doesn’t bother my husband.

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goal of mine that I’ve had to table for now is reaching my goal weight. Though I am pretty close to my goal, training has caused me to plateau, and I’ve been unable to reach that number. But that’s okay, because training is my focus right now! Contrary to popular belief, most people actually gain some weight while training for a marathon. Your body gains a lot of muscle (which contributes for some of the gain) + your appetite HUGELY increases (I call it “runger” and having the “runchies”). Crazy, huh—running all of those miles yet not shedding any pounds (and many times gaining some!). All worth it, though—this journey is far more gratifying than any silly number, anyway. I know my day will come, eventually—I will press on towards my goal and get there when I’m meant to, post-marathon.

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15. Your confidence will grow…and so will your humility. When you work so hard for something and experience small victories along the way, it is natural for your confidence to grow. I know I say this often, but I honestly never dreamed of a lifestyle that involved running—much less willingly running. I am proud of the sacrifices and hard work I’ve put in to get to this point. Some days I feel on top of the world from training. I am proud of these bulging leg muscles that I’ve earned with each mile and workout. Sweating has never felt better! But also, I’ve never felt more humbled. Some runs are just AWFUL. You really question yourself and your abilities…you discover your weaknesses. Training is grueling, and it reveals both your strengths and weaknesses.

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16. Nothing great ever comes from your comfort zone. How cliché does this sound—but this journey has revealed the TRUTH of this! Running 26.2 miles still scares me. But I’ll keep pushing because that’s where the magic happens. How will I ever grow and change without leaving my comfort zone? You don’t know what you’re capable of until you push yourself to try. The mind is more powerful than the physical body. You can do so much more than you think you can—you just have to push yourself and dig deep enough to continuously do so. I have discovered that whether I think I can or can’t, it is true. If I don’t think I can manage to get through my run today, I let the weakness of my mind win. If I tell myself I can and will, I am training my mind to be stronger—and I succeed.

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17. Setbacks are a part of the journey. I mean, I knew going into this that I should anticipate some setbacks. But truthfully, I didn’t anticipate the magnitude of some of these setbacks—or the nature of them. Injury is common when training—more common than I thought, but the toughest setbacks were always mental! I dealt with the dreaded boot when I developed tendinitis (from overuse/overtraining), but fortunately I only had to wear the boot for a little over a week. One of the biggest setbacks was having to take nearly an entire week off from training due to sickness. I thought I had just gotten a cold from the students at school, but it developed into something fierce—sore throat, no voice, congestion, cough, stomach issues, throwing up, fever & chills—the whole nine yards. I ended up having to miss one of my 20 mile training runs because I was in the thick of being sick, and if you know my perfectionist tendencies, this caused me so much anxiety. However, I have had to learn that REST & RECOVERY are just as important as running. I’ve also had a few horrible runs, including one where I ended up having to cut it short and call for a ride home while in tears. Bad times happen. The critical part is deciding to not give up because of a setback. Sometimes courage is that small voice inside of you saying “I will get up and try again tomorrow.”

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18. Perspective. Glass half full, half empty—we all know that life is a matter of perspective, and training is no exception. Treadmills can be your best friend or worst enemy…it’s all about your perspective. They can help you avoid the heat, save you from the suffocating humidity, pouring rain, or cold temperatures—or they can cause you to go crazy from boredom. They can be your avenue to speed work and hill work when you don’t have ready access to hills or a track—or they can be your worst nightmare. It really is about perspective. I have to remind myself of this constantly, especially since I’ve done a lot more treadmill running lately since school has started back up (I have yet to invest in a headlamp to feel comfortable running in the early morning darkness).

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19. Community. Seeking out support, advice, and wisdom from others who are interested in running and who can empathize with the journey you are on is a key factor in maintaining motivation. Never underestimate the encouragement other runners can provide! I have been so blessed with new friendships from this experience. Running friends are truly the best—they will keep you going when you feel like quitting. And trust me, you’ll probably feel like quitting at some point!

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20. Muscles matter. Incorporating strength training into your regular training routine may seem like a no-brainer, but initially when your motivation is 100% for running, it can be hard to discipline yourself to strength train. That was at least the predicament I found myself in. I was in the “honeymoon” phase of training where I just CRAVED running; taking precious running time away to strength train was a turn off. However, strength training provides a plethora of benefits—improved performance (I’ve been able to improve my pace by focusing more on strength training), a break from running, less susceptibility to injuries, and getting stronger in general! Now, as I’m nearing the end of marathon training, I would much rather strength train than run (but that’s another story for another time). I have become ADDICTED to lifting…I love it! The stronger you are, the better you feel.

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21. You can do 30 more seconds of anything. When it seems like running to that next stop sign is impossible, remember that your body can withstand pretty much 30 seconds of anything. Remembering this has helped me train my mind to DIG DEEP and stay tough. The mind becomes much stronger just as the body grows stronger. That was definitely the most underestimated part of this journey…the mental facet. Running has become 80% mental and only 20% physical for me.

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22. Learn to enjoy the journey, not just the finish line. I admit, on many of my long runs, I had gotten so wrapped up in just FINISHING that I’ve failed to fully enjoy each mile. Each mile is a GIFT. As cliché as it sounds, I have to remember that there are many people out there who aren’t able to run but wish they could. And I have to remind myself of the blessing of running that all the time, especially in the midst of some painful moments.

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23. The dreaded running slump is harder than I imagined. It is normal to become burned out with running. HOLY MOLY HAVE I EVER EXPERIENCED THAT!!! 🙂 From what I have read and heard from others, running slumps are very normal. Passion naturally tends to ebb and flow throughout the training process, and I did expect that—but not to this magnitude. Running turns into a requirement rather than an escape or a hobby, and I expected that to a point. But there were literally a few weeks during training that the last thing I wanted to do was run. I would have rather done nearly any other physical activity—it was that bad. Sometimes to get through a slump, it is best to take a little time off to recharge and remember why you started. However, I found that even just small changes to your routine helped combat the running slump. Changing your running route (city vs. country roads vs. treadmill, etc.), adding new music to your playlist, finding a running buddy, setting small goals with rewards…I tried it all. Some helped more than others, but they all helped! When the slump got really bad, I found myself searching Pinterest for inspiration and encouragement to keep going. And pathetically enough, that helped. 🙂

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24. Food is fuel. You’ve probably heard that phrase before, but training has taught me just how much our food choices affect the body’s ability to function well. Healthy eating is a lifestyle of mine now, so that wasn’t a huge change, but I did develop a further appreciation for how food nourishes our body. If I made poor food choices the day before, I usually felt the effects of that on the next day’s run, and vice versa. Exercise does not give you a free pass to eat whatever you want (even though some days I wish it did!). In fact, it makes it even more imperative to fuel your body WELL if you expect it to exercise well. Food isn’t just calories; it consists of precious nutrients that strengthen or weaken our bodies. Quality matters over quantity of food. Some days I feel like I have never eaten more in my life, but I am learning to listen to just what my body is needing. I am all for the occasional treat and indulgence—know that for certain!!—but I have come to also truly crave the nutrients and energy food can give us.

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25. Allow yourself to be a beginner. This is something that I struggled with throughout training…I have only just begun to grasp this in the past week or two. As a recovering perfectionist, I always feel like I have to perform 110%. Having grace with myself is difficult, but giving grace to others is no problem. As the marathon date loomed closer and closer, I found myself battling some anxiety. Of course, some of this is perfectly normal as it’s my first marathon—most people would be anxious and nervous. However, this anxiety felt more than the expected amount. I realized it’s because I’m so afraid of not performing at a top-notch, respectable level. I’m afraid that I will disappoint others and myself with my pace. I’m afraid that I’ll feel like less of a runner if I have to walk during any point of the race. The list goes on and on. Thankfully, my husband and other friends have helped me grasp just how ludicrous my fears were. I just started running a little over a year ago. I’m about to run a full marathon. Most people don’t do this. How could I be a disappointment? Who cares what my finish time is or if I need to walk at some points throughout to finish strong? I’m not trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon or even break a personal record. Regardless, this WILL be a personal record! But even more, what an experience to embrace! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or place too much emphasis on pace. Yes, challenging yourself and improving your pace can be good, but if you constantly worry about your pace and obsess over the small details (like I had been doing), it can suck the joy out of the journey. Focus on finish lines rather than finish times. The experience will be happier and more gratifying!

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26. Do the work and leave the results to God. No one is sure to have a good race. Depending on the day and numerous other factors out of our control, you can never predict how race day will go—or how any run will go, for that matter. I have given my best effort through training and done what I can, but ultimately, the outcome is up to God. That’s why I plan to do my best on race day and leave the rest to God. I will trust Him to carry me to that finish line. Run for His glory rather than your own, and then thank Him for whatever you’re able to accomplish through His strength. This might be the most important lesson I have learned—if only I had learned it sooner.

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To sum it up, marathon training has been absolutely life changing in ways I never could have anticipated. I will forever cherish the hardships and successes I experienced while chasing my dream. I am thankful for my friends and family who have supported me in this endeavor, and most significantly, I am thankful for God who has been my stronghold through it all.

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“Keep your dreams alive. Understand that to achieve anything requires faith and belief, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember all things are possible for those who believe in JESUS.”

26 lessons I’m learning through marathon training {Part One}

In the spring, I decided to take the plunge. I began taking the necessary steps to make a far-off, crazy dream a reality. I started training for a full marathon, 26.2 miles, and each day I am one day closer to making the seemingly impossible possible. Even just a year and a half ago, if you even mentioned running a 5k, I could not even fathom what that was like. Then the running bug bit me a little over a year ago…and I’ve been hooked ever since. But still, there was no way I could EVER run a marathon. I just wasn’t built for that.

Or could I? Before I ran my first mile, the thought of running a full mile seemed impossible. But then I did it. Before I ran my first half marathon, the thought of running a half marathon seemed impossible. But then I did it.

Notice a pattern?

Now, not every runner’s dream is to run a marathon–many simply run for fun, for health, or for a variety of reasons. All of those reasons are completely respectable, and I can relate to them. But for me, even dreaming of running a marathon was an indication that I was changing. I was beginning to believe in myself again, little by little. After some very draining, crushing life events in the past year, this was HUGE for me. Not everybody understands it, and that’s okay. It’s not for them to understand. Dreaming this dream was a significant sign of hope. Renewal. Rebirth. Christ as my strength, making me a new creation.

Now what do I do with this dream of mine?

Deciding to train for a marathon was not a quick process: countless hours dedicated to workouts, hundreds upon hundreds of miles logged, focused nutrition, a plethora of early morning alarms, time spent running instead of socializing–those are just a few of the many sacrifices one has to make throughout this journey. Was I ready for this hard work? Am I ready for this? Could I handle it? Can I? Or should I just stick to my “comfort zone” of half marathons? (but not really a true comfort zone if you understand me, seeing as I’ve only done a couple, and they’re still challenging!)

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If your dreams don’t scare you, then they aren’t big enough.

I prayed about it, discussed it with my husband and friends (who have been nothing but encouraging and supportive, thank you), and then decided…there is no better time than the present, right? (and if I’m being honest, I added it to our “before baby bucket list,” soooooo there’s that :))

Fast forward six weeks, and here I am. I am in the middle of week seven out of twenty in my training plan. I signed up for the Grand Lake Marathon in Celina, OH on September 27, 2014–one day before I turn 24. I’m choosing to celebrate another year of life this way, because really, running has given me a richer life than I ever imagined. I am so thankful.

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I have decided (a little late, per usual) that it would be fun to keep track of this journey–after all, it’s not just the last 26.2 miles that matter–every mile leading up to it matters. I already document (or over document, some might say ;)) this journey on my Instagram account, but blogging is another avenue to go into more detail about the highs and lows, etc. of each week.

So this below came to fruition: I will record a lesson (or two) that I learn each week throughout the training process. Though there are only 20 weeks to my training, I thought it would be more fun to make it 26, because after all, it’s more appropriate. Here’s what I have learned on this journey thus far, and it is my hope to update at the end of each week with a new lesson learned!

Lessons I am learning through chasing my 26.2 dream:

1. Discipline. Maybe this is the most obvious lesson. I am in new, foreign territory with being involved in anything associated with athletics, so I’ve never had a training plan to follow. But, I know that you can’t cheat the training. You will get out of it exactly what you put in. Sticking to your training plan is supremely important, and it means many days of lacing up those running shoes even when it’s the last thing you want to be doing. You’re tired from work, you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, you’re sore, you’d rather watch another episode on Netflix or read another chapter of your book, etc. Discipline is an incredible skill that is highly valuable in any area of life. I know I strive for discipline in a multitude of contexts–discipline in my faith (prayer life, Bible reading,…), discipline in my housework habits, discipline in my finances, etc.

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2. Grace. This is continuous (though really, all of these lessons are). I am not great at having grace for myself yet…but, funny enough, that’s where the grace part comes in! Not every run will be record-breaking. Sometimes the goal is just to finish. Don’t feel the need to constantly beat your last record…you will just wear yourself down mentally and physically. Also, when your training plan has 6 easy miles on the schedule, run them at an EASY pace–don’t PR them. Since the beginning I always felt like I had to run hard for every run, but that is simply not wise training. The plan is laid out in a certain manner where easy effort runs, tempo runs, hill runs, cross training, long slow distance runs and such…they all have MEANING. I am coming to terms with the fact that not every run will be my best; in fact, some will simply not be good. There will be natural ups and downs. I also have needed grace in the nutrition department, too. Though I try my best to nourish and fuel my body well with healthy foods 80-90% of the time, there are times where I don’t succeed. And that’s okay! I’m human and mess up. A lot. I’m holding myself to a standard of grace, not perfection.

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3. You are your only competition. Do NOT compare yourself to others for they cannot run YOUR race. Your only competition is the voice inside your head telling you to quit / the person you were yesterday. God made us each individuals on purpose. I think that about sums it up.

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4. One foot in front of the other. Sometimes you are literally in so much pain that you have to focus on the rote action of running. I am learning to run through tired, heavy legs. Having a mantra to repeat in times of great struggle has helped me. Run happy, Molly. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13

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5. Listen to your body. Now this doesn’t mean giving into my desire to go get fro yo instead of run my scheduled 6 miles, but it is important to be in tune with your body, or you can risk injury. Just a couple weeks ago, I suffered from a pretty bad calf strain. I had committed to doing the Runner’s World Run Streak (running at least 1 mile per day for 40 days straight, Memorial Day-July 4th), so that meant running on my rest days, too. When I strained my calf, the pain was so intense that I couldn’t even make it running down the driveway without tears, but I so desperately wanted to get my mile in for the day. My stubborn self was so upset when I had to take two days completely off from training (and I probably should have taken even longer, but thankfully it worked out in my favor). But I learned discipline through this, too. REST DAYS ARE IMPORTANT. I decided that completing the Run Streak was not worth it during marathon training because I was overworking my body (even if it was just running a mile on a rest day, running that mile at max effort & making it a PR was not healthy). I’ve also learned to be in tune with my body in regards to hydration & nutrition. Most days I drink at least 96 oz. of water, but I have to drink more with the heat and humidity.

6. Quality running shoes (and gear) make a significant difference in comfort. I’m all about a good bargain, but I’ve learned that running shoes are not something to skimp on through this process. I’ve been told to get new running shoes with every 300-500 miles logged. My old pair of shoes were beginning to give me blisters and had just gotten too worn that when I finally did take the plunge and get fitted at a running store (where they analyzed my running stride and feet), I felt like I was running on clouds. Yep. Definitely worth it. Same with running in old tshirts versus dri-fit materials, big difference.

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7. Doubts are normal. Having days where you are sincerely doubting your abilities? Maybe it’s even a full week. Those periods of time will come. That was last week for me. I had to keep reminding myself why I started and that determination is often worth more than natural talent. Just rise above these and don’t quit. They will disappear when you give it your all, and that’s the best thing you can do.

8. Training is a gift–just like running. You get an opportunity to pour your heart, soul, and spirit into something you are passionate about. Try to enjoy every single mile because you won’t get those miles back. Having the opportunity to work exceptionally hard for this goal/dream is not a luxury everyone has, so you shouldn’t take it for granted.

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9. You will want to talk about running. A lot. I mean, this is only normal after spending 20-40 hours a week running, right? Thankfully  my husband is pretty tolerant and indulges me with these conversations, and I’ve joined various running groups where we can be as obnoxious with running talk as we would like. (By the way, I’m nearly convinced that runners are some of the BEST encouragers, supporters, happiest people ever. At least within these running groups!)

10. You will analyze your life, past and present, on every long run. That mistake you made on a test back in 8th grade? Oh you’ll remember. The previous relationship that makes you want to cringe because you have no idea how you had that large of a lapse in judgment? All of those memories–good and bad–will come flooding back. I’ve had several runs where I’ve cried. I know…so melodramatic of me. But running really is therapy. It is an opportunity to come to terms with everything that has made you YOU. I know I come back a much happier person after running because it releases so much more than sweat!

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11. Running is mostly mental, beyond a certain physical standpoint. The ability to go the extra mile is largely determined by your thoughts. You have to MAKE yourself believe you can do it. I think of it as mental strength training–sometimes you have to flex those brain muscles and just. keep. going.

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12. Good music is a great motivator. Find what works for you. Many people prefer upbeat, peppy tunes. But you know what? If you run better to slow, sappy music, do that. You do you. I can’t run without listening to my Christian tunes, no matter how upbeat or “slow” they are! Christian music fuels my runs because it goes beyond the music and encourages a time of praise and worship, too. Never underestimate the motivation one new song on your playlist gives you. For me, I always want to get out and run right away just so I can listen to it. 🙂

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13. Copious amounts of sweat may lead to becoming plastered with small bugs. I think I will leave it at that for this week. No explanation needed.

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I’ll be back soon with more wisdom gained through the training process. Thanks for following along. Happy running!

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Moving Forward (or trying to)

There are words inside me that I desperately want to get out, to release, to set them free. There is a story I want to tell, but I am unable to.

That story refers to what we like to call…our “Vienna experience.” I am sitting in a coffee shop, applying for jobs/teaching positions, distracted, fighting back tears, and remembering it all. The good and the bad memories, though mostly the bad, come flooding back with an intensity. When we left, we felt on top of the world (okay, not quite, we were really exhausted, but excited nonetheless)—only by the grace of God was any of this possible. We were humbled, honored, and excited to serve the Lord overseas. I couldn’t contain my excitement—how PERFECT was this opportunity for us??? God had made it clear—we were meant to be there. So we faithfully followed. A 4th grade teacher at an International Christian School, a classroom diverse as a colorful crayon box. So many languages, cultures, and backgrounds represented in a single room. My students. My PASSION & dream. And I got to share Jesus with them. How perfect. Then soon enough…my confidence deflated. My dreams crushed. My hope left to a single thread from a once-thick rope. What’s going to happen next? That’s what I’m worrying about, even though my head and heart know that worrying adds zero days to our lives but subtracts life from our days.

I’m thankful for a great support system. For friends and family who still believe in me when I don’t. For a mom who sends the sweetest, encouraging pep talk texts. I’m grateful for others who see me as more than I see myself, who don’t focus on the “failures” I’ve had in the past year.

Not every teaching position is like the one I had. In fact, 99% of them aren’t. I had a million factors working against me. I was drowning & unable to get to the boat—because there wasn’t even a boat, as much as my husband tried to act as one. One bad experience. Will I let it define me forever? I sure hope not. But I need prayers for that. Prayers for hope and healing.

I have no idea what the next few months hold for me….we are PRAISING God for providing a job for Aaron, though. He’s settling into it, and I couldn’t be happier to see him happy again. As for me, I’m job hunting, and I feel blessed to have opportunities for the summer. But what will I do this fall? Will I get a teaching job again? My counselor recommended that I wait a full year before jumping back in as a full-time teacher. It’s been suggested I test out the waters again with an aide or paraprofessional position first. Who knows. Part of me wants to jump straight back in because I KNOW it will be 100% different here. I want to rediscover and restore the passion and enthusiasm I had for teaching. I still have a lot to process and work through. Most people don’t realize that. Deep down, I’m still hurting and angry from everything over there. Bitter, truthfully—bitter that we were left out to dry and were failed in so many ways. It would be easier to erase all of those memories or to even wish we had never gone. I fall into that pattern of thinking quite frequently—it’s easy to focus on how great life would be if we hadn’t gone (that’s a lie, I’m sure). Yes, I probably would have a full year of teaching under my belt, we’d be settled in this area, financially stable, maybe even looking to start a family soon. But that’s not how it is, and that’s okay. God brought us through these struggles for a purpose. Refinement.

I’m thankful that God is bigger than ANY situation we have or will ever encounter. Because of the cross, my citizenship is in heaven, not here. Life here is merely a breath of eternity, so I need to keep my eyes fixed above. Yes, I desire and strive to make my time here meaningful, but I am exceedingly grateful that my successes or failures do not define who I am: a daughter of the most High King.

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Half Marathon Recap – A Hard, Humbling Race

Two weeks ago, I registered for my second half marathon. It may seem like two weeks advance notice isn’t much, but I had been training for another race for a while. I just hadn’t picked which race I was running and officially registered.

I had much more time to prepare for this race than my last half marathon, which also happened to be my first. {Long story short: I had three days notice that I was running the race since I took someone’s spot who backed out last minute. I had been running consistently for about three months, but that’s it} I prepared as best as I could this time around, staying on point with my nutrition, hydrating like crazy {and yelling #teamclearpee to my husband every time I had to excuse myself to the ladies room}, & {loosely} following a training program. I observed taper week, allowed my body rest days, and slowly increased my carbohydrate sources over the week leading up. Though all of these reasons may have indicated I was ready to run this half marathon, I had this gut feeling that this was going to be a difficult race.

My gut was right.

For my first half marathon, I went into it with very low expectations. My only goals were to 1) run the whole time without stopping, and 2) HAVE FUN. As I have developed a stronger passion for running and have been doing it longer, this time I was concerned with my pace. I had a goal in mind of running this half marathon in under two hours. Based upon my training runs, I knew it was possible but I would have to stay very focused the entire time in order to make my goal. It would be hard—but I did feel like it was possible.

Playlist full of motivational Christian music, check. Phone + Garmin watch charged, check. Everything laid out ready to go, check. Bags packed, check. Early bedtime, check. Up at the crack of dawn and showered, check. Sunscreen on, check.

There was no rushing around the morning of the race – it was slow, easy morning. We arrived at Porter Beach with plenty of time for me to overanalyze the weather {86 degrees & sunny!}, conditions, scenery, and talk Aaron’s ear off {he’s a trooper – and I love him so}. I ate my energy jelly beans that I picked up from the running store and felt my nerves and excitement level rising by the minute. This time around, I didn’t feel like a misfit amongst the other runners. Last race I felt like an imposter—I hadn’t been running all that long—and I felt like everyone else was a professional runner except for me. This time, it felt natural. I had mentioned to Aaron that I needed to find the restroom, but I convinced myself that it was just nervous pee. I didn’t ACTUALLY have to go—there way no way—I think I had gone 5 times already that morning, and I didn’t drink a ton of water for that exact reason.

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Laying everything out the night before

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Pre-race – feeling blissful & ignorant! 😉

After the 1k for the kids finished, we lined up in the starting area. Then it was go time! I started my Garmin as soon as I crossed through the official starting point. And then I looked up—we were starting uphill on a MASSIVE hill. Wonderful {either I was oblivious before or in denial waiting for the race to begin}. Okay, I thought to myself, I won’t start off that fast; I’ll conserve my energy and take it slow. A HUGE smile came over my face—one of those smiles that you just can’t wipe off. This was it! The race high! All of my hard work, long runs on the weekends when I would have preferred to sleep, sacrificing treats for more nutritious foods. It was going to pay off, right?! I was just thrilled to be running with others and sharing in the gift of running. After conquering the first hill, I picked up my pace, and then I realized something….I really had to pee. The smile disappeared. This wasn’t pure nerves anymore; I needed to empty my bladder. And that was ALL I COULD THINK ABOUT. Needless to say, those weren’t pleasant thoughts. I began to pray to distract myself, thinking about another friend I knew who was running her first half marathon that morning. Then I tried figuring out who I would latch on to as a “running buddy”—someone with a similar pace who I could trail behind and stick to throughout the race.

That’s when I saw the two women, I’m guessing sisters, running in their hot pink sparkly skirts. Okay, nothing screams happy runners like bright pink SPARKLY running skirts. So I picked those two to keep up with (you know, subtly…not like I announced it to them J) They definitely had happy spirits, and I knew the sparkly happiness would be an encouragement to me throughout the race.

Those first three miles were a STRUGGLE. An unexpected one, too. I still couldn’t stop thinking about how much I needed to use the restroom—and I was even keeping my eyes peeled for a porta potty to use. Yes, I was willing to sacrifice my running time for a pit stop. It was that necessary. I wasn’t paying attention to my pace because I already felt discouraged by that mental distraction—and my mouth was so dry. I was thirsty, parched like I hadn’t had a sip of water all morning. But I had! What was going on?! Then we hit the messy part. We were running on a washed out trail FULL of mud puddles. It was like an obstacle course! At first, it was kind of fun to attempt to dodge all the puddles and mud and such. But then it quickly became annoying because we were still in the first couple of miles where runners are close together, and frankly, it was dangerous. Not only were we dodging the puddles and mud, we were also trying to jump over rocks and sticks in our running path. I had to chuckle, though, because we all looked pretty ridiculous doing so. Still, even when the two sparkly skirt women split up during the second mile, I kept up behind the one woman. Even when she increased her speed—I told myself that I wouldn’t lose sight of the hot pink sparkles, even if I wasn’t directly behind her. We came upon the first water stop, and I was shocked that there was only one person at the station handing out water. The water cups were barely filled, but I figured it was just that stop—since it was the first one, I guess. In hindsight, that was a red flag.

We came up on the mile 3 sign, and I glanced at my Garmin just to check the time. Uhhh…my Garmin said I had already run 3.64 miles…what??? Was my watch messing up, or was the course mismarked? The worrying kicked into overdrive. I felt like I couldn’t focus on the run. Lord, I need you. I even muttered that aloud. Self doubt began to creep in. I can’t do this—what was I thinking?! As much as I was trying to be happy, it was a struggle, physically and mentally. I wanted to quit—and that is SO not like me. Then I remembered a text I got from a dear friend right before the race.

“Run with your heart, not with your legs,” she said. Oh, how thankful I was for that text. It became a mantra.

The middle miles were okay, more of a blur than anything. We ran up 6 overpasses total—3 on the way there, and 3 on the way back. SERIOUS INCLINES. Trying to keep my pace on those was difficult. Pink sparkles. Don’t lose sight of her! I can do this. NO I CAN’T! The constant mental battle. Then there were more hills than I ever could have anticipated. Of course, Indiana is fairly flat—except for this stretch of land near the lakeshore. Figures. 🙂

I was still looking for that porta potty (which, spoiler alert, there ended up being NO porta potties the whole course!). I fell into more of a rhythm during those middle miles—praise the Lord. Even though the pink sparkles woman was quite a bit ahead of me, I could still see her. I focused on cranking up my music, listening intently to the lyrics. I found my new “running buddy”—a middle aged woman with shorter, salt & pepper hair, running in just a sports bra and shorts. This woman had ABS OF STEEL. Oh my goodness. But I trailed behind her, and though she never knew it, she was an encouragement to me. It was during those miles that it really hit me—runners come in ALL shapes, sizes, and ages. It really is a beautiful thing, this running community. Through the silence, the pounding of the pavement, and the sweat, you feel the community. The camaraderie. There doesn’t have to be words spoken—you feel it deep within.

Another water stop. Same story—one person at the table, very little water in each cup. A bit disappointing and confusing, but there was no time to spare. Keep going—don’t lose the pink sparkly skirt or the abs of steel woman. I began to recover my smile, running with my heart and loving every step. “Every step we are breathing in your grace, evermore we’ll be breathing out your praise.” Just breathe. God is good; He alone is my strength. I enjoyed those middle miles, despite the continuation of the hills.

Then I took my focus from worshipping and praising to worrying about the small things. When would I take my Gu enery gel? I knew I had to take it with water but the water stops felt inconsistent. The mile markers were still messed up, I was frustrated because I was worrying about everything besides running, and the feelings of defeat came flooding back. I ended up taking my Gu energy gel after mile 8, much later than I originally wanted (I anticipated taking it at mile 6). We were already on our way back on the course’s loop, so I was feeling encouraged by that! We’d be running the same area back again. And then I remembered ALL THE HILLS and groaned. Stay strong, rely on the Lord. You will be okay, Molly.

And then my dear abs of steel running buddy STOPPED along the course. No warning at all—just dead stopped. Half of me was tempted to stop along with her, either waiting for her to start running again or begging her to keep going because she was keeping me going. Noooooooo—I no longer had a running buddy! I really was left alone to my thoughts, and as you have probably already gathered, my thoughts were NOT positive like they normally are. Lord, I need you. Desperately. Calm my heart, strengthen my endurance, and keep my eyes fixed on you—not on the ground below me.

That was the point where the race became brutal for me. Suddenly, I had this overwhelming feeling that I was going to puke. My stomach was in knots, my mouth feeling like I hadn’t taken a sip of water in days. Suck it up, buttercup. I ran to the next water stop where they only had a couple cups left of a GULP of water each. They were running out. WHAT? I was thankful for that one gulp of water but knew I needed to resist the urge to take another. Other runners would need that water. I continued running, but once I got far enough away from that water stop, I began crying. This was nothing like my first half marathon. My first race was full of joy, feelings of accomplishment, praise and worship, and all sorts of happy thoughts. This race felt like the exact opposite. I realized then that if I PUSHED it the rest of the race, I could possibly meet my original goal of finishing in less than two hours. But I knew, deep down, that it wasn’t happening. I felt incredibly weak, frustrated, and sick to my stomach. Once I hit the washed out trail again, I did something I hadn’t anticipated on doing: I stopped running and started walking. The odd part was that I didn’t even care that much, I felt like I was mentally giving up and giving in to my doubts and fears of not being a “real” runner. The pink sparkly skirt runner had started walking, too, and so did some other runners in front of me. Though it was a sense of comfort that I wasn’t the only one stopping for walking breaks, it wasn’t exactly encouraging to keep on running, either. I almost decided to finish the last three miles by walking, but I knew that afterwards I’d be so upset with myself. So I bucked up and ran intervals the last three miles, never completely losing sight of the pink sparkly skirt. I was upset with myself that I couldn’t even run the last full mile without stopping, but that was reality. We were close to the end but I just didn’t have it in me. The combination of heat, lack of water, having to use the restroom, not feeling good, and those brutal hills left me feeling SO defeated. Also, between mile markers 12 and 13, it was really only a distance of .3 mile. THAT is how messed up the course was! All I could think about was how much this race was not what I anticipated. I was focusing on the negative.

“You didn’t train hard enough. You’re weak. You’re not a real runner.” I battled those thoughts the last couple of miles, but when I saw that last hill, I silenced those negative voices. Jesus, Jesus, PLEASE CARRY ME. I have no strength left but want to finish strong. I got up to face the last giant hill—the one we started out on—and I gave it my all. Jesus granted me one last spurt of energy when I thought I had NOTHING left. There was a man on the side of the road who was cheering me on, and my response was “thank you, I feel like I’m dying though!” – not so proud of that response J As I reached the top, I saw my husband at the bottom of the hill and I RAN. Ran like nothing had been holding me back that whole course. I crossed the finish line (or so I thought), stopped my Garmin, saw my husband and without saying anything else told him I needed the restroom. I ran to the restroom (literally, even though my legs were tired) and came out to discover a man looking for me. Apparently I never ACTUALLY crossed the finish line because I didn’t run all the way through the shoot area {I was so focused on relieving my bladder!!}. So, he realized that and had to manually clock my time and hunt me down to give me my medal. Oops.

When I found my husband again, I just started crying. I didn’t exactly feel all that proud of myself. I felt weak and defeated. It wasn’t until I saw the expression on my husband’s face that I realized how DUMB that was of me to not feel proud for finishing. His words were sweet honey to my soul, and he nearly had tears in his eyes because he was so proud of me. Don’t get me wrong; he was certainly proud of me the first time I ran my half marathon, but there was just something so intense about the look on his face this time. He had heard from other runners who came in before me how tough the course was. His words in those moments meant the world to me—he knew I could do it all along when I doubted myself. My constant supporter and encourager. Thank you, God.

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After a few minutes of cooling down, all I could think of was WATER. I needed some pronto. I went over to the water station only to discover that they were ALL OUT OF WATER. Um, what???? They ran out by the 1:55 mark…and most of the water stops along the way had run out, too. {Then it made sense why they were offering so little water in each cup!!} How is that even possible?! It was definitely something I didn’t anticipate. You kind of just assume water will be provided at a race. And the saddest part was that they didn’t act too concerned about not having anymore water. No one was hurrying to go get water or anything like that. I just couldn’t believe it – a whole new level of disorganization. So, my husband took matters into his own hands. He jogged to our car (a mile total) and came back with an unopened case of bottled water. What a gem that man is. Praise God that we had that spare water in the car! That could have been very dangerous for runner finishing later on…heat stroke could have easily happened. One woman even offered him $50 for a water bottle—she was that desperate 🙂

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According to my Garmin, we actually ran 13.3 miles instead of 13.1 miles. I finished in 2:05:12, so though not meeting my original goal of under two hours, not extremely far off. I placed 2nd in my age group and 28th overall. That helped put things into perspective—even though I was beating myself up for not meeting my goal, I still managed to do well!

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All throughout the race, I thought it was only ME being dramatic and not being “tough enough” for thinking the course was difficult. Not the case. In overhearing other runners talking about the race, I found much comfort in hearing their comments and complaints about how brutal the course was and how they were annoyed about the mileage being mismarked. Aaron heard the first place finisher talking about how he normally runs about a 6:45 min/mile average pace, and though he was putting forth much effort, his pace ended up around 7:24 min/mile average. Okay….so I wasn’t alone in my complaints. 🙂

Honestly, it was a very good thing that I didn’t really know what I was getting into. I would have been freaking out more than I was. I’m also thankful that this wasn’t my first half marathon, because if it had been, I’m sure I would have been turned off to the idea of ever racing again. But, I know that not every race is this disorganized and not every course is this tough. Had I run the course of the previous half marathon, I feel confident that I would have met my goal. Oh well—here’s to looking FORWARD!

Even though the race didn’t go as I intended, I learned a lot. It’s not a miracle that I finished; it’s a miracle that I ever had the courage to start. Truly, I thank Jesus daily for the gift of running because it has changed my life {despite how cliché that sounds, it’s true}. I am healthier, happier, and more full of energy/life!

No matter how much training you do, you never know how a race is going to go. And that’s the best part—I HAVE to rely on Christ for strength in all moments. When I am weak, he is strong. It’s not about race times or places or the destination; it’s about enjoying every step of the journey. It’s about running with your heart—running happy.

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Another lesson learned: always use the restroom right before a race—no matter how many times you go that morning.

I am thankful for this hard, humbling race. Praise be to God for giving me exactly the experience I needed!

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Dressing in Happiness Daily

Hi friends, just popping in to share a few outfits I’ve enjoyed recently! Life has been a whirlwind lately…things seem to be looking up (or at least I’m getting a major attitude adjustment, probably thanks a lot to the beautiful weather) 🙂

Here’s a quick life update:

  • Aaron is still working hard on the job hunting front, but there is a very promising opportunity he’s been pursuing that would get us back to Findlay soon! We’ve gotten our hopes up quite a bit in the past few months, so I’m trying not to get all jazzed up about it until it’s official in writing. But it’s nearly to that step 😀
  • I actually have two very promising job opportunities that I think I would love! It’s pretty exciting when opportunities just fall in your lap, if you know what I mean. I’m thankful for connections through friends.
  • We are currently house sitting in town for some family friends who are on a back to back vacation then mission trip. Their house is so lovely, charming and old…just the way I like it! The best part…it’s a place of our OWN for a bit!!!! You have NO idea how thrilled we are with that 🙂 We’ve declared it marriage maintenance week and so far…it’s been pretttttttty darn amazing 😉
  • I’m gearing up to run my second half marathon this coming Sunday (yes, Mother’s day!). I’m already anxious and nervous, but I know it’s going to be another fun experience 🙂 We’re in for some beautiful weather that day, too. Taper week (where I decrease my mileage in order to properly prepare/rest my body) is a real mental challenge for me. I just want to be out in this beautiful weather pounding that pavement, but I know that I really need to focus on the REST part of training. So, I’m pouring my energy into making sure I’m staying hydrated and on point with nutrition! I’m also participating in a 100 push ups a day challenge for the month of May. It’s fun to push yourself in your fitness goals!
  • I got to spend time with some of my best friends this past weekend, and let me tell you, it was glorious! I’m still on a high from it. The Lord blessed me with the best friends and roommates in college.
  • We are traveling back to Ohio to watch my younger brother graduate from college this coming Friday. It’s making me feel OLD 🙂 He’s going on to pursue his master’s degree at the University of Missouri Kansas City studying French Horn performance (not sure if that’s actually what the degree is called, but you get the point). We are sooooo proud of him! He is quite the amazing musician.

So about those outfits I mentioned.. Fashion has always been an interest of mine, but it hasn’t been until the past year or two that I’ve REALLY enjoyed putting outfits together. I love it! My outfits usually reflect my mood for the day – it’s fun using fashion as a creative outlet. I FEEL better when I put the extra few minutes into picking out an outfit that makes me happy that day, don’t you?

{these are all pictures from my phone, so I apologize for the grainy quality}

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My husband isn’t a fan of this dress, but that doesn’t stop me from wearing it! It is sweatshirt material and SO stinkin’ comfy. Black and white stripes are classic and a staple item in my wardrobe, and this will be perfect for spring, fall, and winter layered with the right items! I paired it was a leopard scarf + my converse for a fun touch. My husband doesn’t like it because it’s shapeless and baggy (he’s right), but honestly I don’t mind wearing baggy clothes these days. I never liked wearing clothes that were shapeless or baggy (think tunics, shift dresses, etc.) before losing a bunch of weight because I was always afraid they made me look bigger than I was. However, now I don’t even care and love baggy clothing. I’m weird, I’m aware of that.

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Clearly I was feeling super girly with the floral + pearls (and the bows on my flats that you can’t really see). My mom got me this dress from Kohl’s (Lauren Conrad) when I went shopping with her a couple months ago, but we were still deep in that polar vortex we experienced this winter so I’ve only worn it a few times. It’s so happy and springy! It has a cute cut out/small bow detail on the back but I didn’t take a picture of that. Also made of comfy stretch material!

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And for the last outfit I’m sharing today – I wanted a casual, comfy but chic look. I actually loved the way this turned out even though it’s lacking in color (and I LOVE lots of color). Chambray is so versatile! I love how this outfit is full of basics but I still felt pulled together. The chambray and jersey knit skirt are from Old Navy (I scored the chambray shirt on clearance for $9, and we had super cash to use!) – the booties were from Payless last year, and I can’t remember where the fedora was from. I will definitely be repeating this simple outfit in the future! I gotta remember….basics can be fun, too. No need to overcomplicate. 🙂

Thanks for stopping by! I pray you have a blessed week ahead of you.

xx Molly

 

 

Our one true friend

This season has been full of in-your-face life lessons, this one being no exception.

No, this is not written as a plea for sympathy, pity, or any of that stuff. I am simply sharing what has been weighing heavy on my heart, and I’m sure others can relate (at least at point or another). For me, it’s always helpful to know I’m not alone.

Which brings me to the point of this post. I have felt incredibly alone lately..I am lacking community. Genuine friendship without the weight of judgment. Heart to hearts. A shoulder to lean on, an ear to listen, a friend to share in the joy and struggles of everyday life. I feel disconnected from long-established friends, and I know that’s mostly due to distance, but it still makes a fragile heart wonder. Living at your in-laws is difficult enough but when we’re also out of state and have zero friends in the area, that brings extra challenges. We haven’t invested much of our time, energy, or efforts in developing new relationships here, so we have to take fault with that one. But, when you’re so focused on working to get OUT of this area, it seems rather frivolous. And there was NO way we’d anticipated being here for several months now.

Of course, Aaron is my best friend, no doubt about it. We are weathering this storm together as one, and I love him more everyday as the depth our relationship grows. But that doesn’t mean I have no need for other friends, for women with whom I can also share life. It’s like my heart is reverting to feeling like a middle school outcast–which I recognize is so silly. Friends have disappointed me lately. It hurts (and yes, it’s natural. Keep reading before you discount this post to be a lame cry for self-pity). When I have something small or big to share, I’m not even sure who to turn to anymore.

Which is where God in His beautiful sovereignty steps in. He is Lord, Lord of all. But that doesn’t take away the fact that He is my FRIEND. Yes, I know that God is WAY more than merely a ‘friend’–and I don’t mean to soften His title or discredit any of His omnipotent majesty. But He has proven to me that He is the only one I will always be able to turn to time and time again. All humans fail, judge, and let down one another at some point. As wonderful as my husband is, there are still moments when I feel let down. And I for sure KNOW that I also let him down in some moments, too. That’s who we are…imperfect humans. Sinners in need of our savior.

I have heard the soft whisper in my heart calling to cry to Him… to come to Him… to just spend time with Him investing in a friendship. He won’t roll his eyes when I need to vent, yet again, about our current season. He understands what trials we are facing, and He doesn’t tire of comforting me through the defeats, hurts, and frustrations. No matter what I do or do not do, the Lord still loves me the same and always will. THAT is something no human can fully achieve to do, as much as we’d like.

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Of course, I am not saying the Lord needs to be your only friend. Iron sharpens iron, and after all, HE is the one who created our need for community and friendship. I need others to hold me accountable, learn from, and to simply share in this joyous journey of life. But God has been teaching me over and over what it is like to fully rely on Him…to turn to Him first in everything.

I will always have a need for community with other women. But even in times when I am lacking in that area, God is there, waiting for me. What a beautiful gift!

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Coffee Date Link Up // Contentment

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Sweet Rachel is hosting a ‘Coffee Date’ link-up on her blog Oh Simple Thoughts. A bunch of women are sharing what is on their hearts on today’s post—go check them out! I am so blessed to have come across Rachel’s blog through the Instagram community—she is a genuine godly woman who seeks the Lord with all of her heart. Even more, she shares the joys + struggles of the everyday (and posts yummy recipes, not even going to lie! My husband LOVED the chocolate cookie dough balls of hers). I’m continually amazed by the uplifting community on Instagram—a group of women who encourage one another in all areas of life. I treasure learning from the lives of these other women.

A topic that the Lord has been stirring in my heart recently is seeking and finding contentment. It’s something I struggle with, and the struggle is raging more than ever during this tough season of recovering from our Vienna missionary experience + unemployment/job hunting. There has been a plethora of disappointments, hurts, and feelings of hopelessness. It has not been easy to focus on the blessings in the midst of rejection after rejection in the job search. It’s hard to rest in the Lord when we are scared, frustrated, and have just grown weary. It IS easy to turn to other outlets to seek comfort. But the Lord has blessed our brokenness. He is constantly teaching us lessons to draw us closer to Him. He often brings us to our breaking point in order to gain our focus, doesn’t he?

Simply put, I like stuff. I am a girl who loves shopping, hunting for a good bargain, and fashion. Mix all of those together and you have the recipe for someone who can easily be swayed by the promise of things. Liking stuff is not evil in itself, but when that stuff becomes too important in your life, it is incredibly dangerous. A slippery slope. The love of things can easily consume us! Not having enough, wanting more constantly. Seeking satisfaction through things because the world is sending us messages that what we have isn’t quite good or new enough. You know, keeping up with the Joneses.

I hate to say it, but I am so guilty of this. If there’s a new trend out there that I’m a fan of, I find myself “having” to have it. It’s quite ridiculous, and I am ashamed of how much I like stuff. I feel like a child with a toy box filled to the brim with toys but whining about having nothing to play with. My heart is always moving on to the next, newest thing. There are more times than I’d like to admit when I buy things because I am bored or unhappy, just to fill the void, believing the lie that whatever the item is will make me feel better. IT IS A DISTRACTION in my life—a distraction from focusing my energy on God. Just as I have found in my health journey and relationship with food, it never makes me feel better. My husband even has to laugh at me because I always complain about having too much stuff and wanting to simplify…but then I see another pretty thing and just can’t seem to stop myself from buying more.

I justify my purchases by telling myself it’s a super good deal, on clearance, we need it, or that I should just be able to treat myself. In all honesty, it’s almost always just another thing that I’m buying trying to solve an issue that runs much deeper.

 

Contentment. Never being satisfied.

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The pursuit of things interferes with our lives, making us forget what truly matters. I find myself stressed and overwhelmed from all the stuff. I harbor feelings of guilt from knowing I am living in excess while others go without. I give and share, but it doesn’t excuse the fact that I just have TOO MUCH.

Enough. That is all I want. Enough. And the only answer is Jesus. I know this in my head. I am working on knowing this AND living this with all of my heart.

This has not been a comfortable topic for me to think or pray about, but I’m thankful the Lord has shed light on this sin in my life and has given me the conviction to try to rid myself of it. He has revealed that I have been trying to fill the void with stuff…when in reality, it’s a void only He can fill. My prayers recently have always included desiring to be satisfied in Him. In Him alone. Not in stuff. Stuff will never, ever be able to fill me like He can.

Thankfully, I have a sweet husband who is understanding and willing to work with me through this. I am blessed that he is not a man consumed by stuff, and I look to him as an example. I am still praying about what specific steps I need to take, but ultimately each day I am striving to be satisfied with all Jesus has already blessed me. Fewer trips to a store just because I’m bored, sticking with a grocery list, starting a gratitude journal, cleaning out my junk and making donations to Goodwill.

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What has been convicting you lately? Has Jesus stirred anything in your heart recently? I would love to hear from you, or if you have any tips related to this topic, please do share. Maybe I’m the only one dealing with a lack of contentment in my life and trying to fill that void with stuff—who knows. But if I’m not, I’d love to know how you are working through it.

If the Lord hasn’t revealed anything lately in your life that you need to work on, you may want to consider praying something like this. “Whatever is offensive to you, Lord, reveal that to me. Give me your eyes to see what I can do better and how I can grow in holiness. Thank you for loving me, always, in spite of my sin.”

Thanks for allowing me to share my heart with you today!

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A Different Perspective on Storms

“It will be my joy to say, your will, your way, ALWAYS”

I can’t help but think that this song is playing on Pandora right now for any other reason than God wants this drilled in my head.

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It is SO easy to fall into the trap of feeling pity for yourself when enduring hard times. Some days are just so difficult, so painful, and so LONG that you can’t help but be upset and cry. God allows us all of our emotions, and we shouldn’t be afraid to feel.

But, what I’m (still) continuing to learn through this hard season is that when faced with challenging and fearful situations, we absolutely NEED to trust in the sufficiency and power of our God.

That can be easier said than done, don’t you agree? It sounds so lofty, so ideal to just surrender. Every. single. day. And this is why I have to make the choice to DAILY open my Bible (which, in full honesty, doesn’t always happen…convicting), inhale the Word, and allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through me. Some days I feel like a three year old throwing a tantrum, pouting with my arms crossed…”I don’t wannaaaa! I don’t wanna do this! This isn’t fair!” ….. How ugly is that? But true. Trusting and praising God is EASY when all is going well (or nearly all is going well). When there are no major life disruptions, I find it rather easy to rejoice and praise our Lord’s name. When facing times of incredible trials and difficulty, though, it’s a different story.

It’s not easy. Not easy at all. It’s a moment-to-moment, intentional choice to praise Him in the storm. But the beauty of these tests is that these are genuine opportunities to grow and refine my faith. I know that if our lives hadn’t been turned upside down with the crash and burn that was moving to and from Vienna, my heart wouldn’t be in the same position to receive and understand to the same depth the love and grace of Jesus Christ. Don’t misunderstand me…I’ve loved and praised His name for a while now, but it was not with the same degree of passion and understanding as it is now. I’ll always have an infinite capacity for growth in my relationship with Christ, but I can say with certainty that suffering from depression and the whole Vienna circumstances have drawn me in a much closer relationship.

And that is to be PRAISED. Just a few short months ago, I was adamant about not wanting to live any longer. It was the darkest period of my life thus far (even considering a season of darkness from many years prior).  I didn’t “feel” God; I knew in my head he didn’t abandon me, but it sure felt that way. I won’t go into detail {my heart can’t go there, not today, not yet. Eventually, I will write about it. Just not yet.}…. but I’ve never felt so far from God before. Even farther than when I was apathetic towards God.

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Yet now, I’ve never felt closer. This week’s message was on John 6:1-24. I was able to connect with this passage in very meaningful ways.

  • Fear disappears when Jesus is welcomed into our situation.
  • Jesus is MORE than enough for all of our needs. I need to continue to learn to turn to Jesus first when confronted with a challenging need. Have I prayed about it as much as I’ve talked or worried about it? <—convicting!
  • God’s protection sometimes comes in unusual packages, and I have to accept that. Maybe the ‘danger’ we encountered by coming home abruptly, jobless, hopeless, etc. was far less than the ‘danger’ we would have encountered had we stayed in Vienna. Who knows. The issue isn’t whether or not God can deliver us but rather if we’re willing to place our trust in Him.  God does work through us through unusual packages. Like I’ve mentioned before, He has worked in my life through running, as silly as it sounds. He meets me every single time and reminds me. It is not by my own strength but only by His that I’m able to run and love it. It is a meaningful time of thought, prayer, and discussion with my Father. I cherish it.
  • I believe these storms we encounter are never to destroy us but to bring us to a point where we are out of our own strength..where clinging to Him is necessary for survival. It is not the absence of storms in our life but the awareness of the presence of God with us in these storms.

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Maybe you’re going through a hard season right now; maybe you aren’t. Either way, we ALL encounter storms throughout life. I pray we can all have this eternal perspective and trust in God with all our might, always.

Psalm 139: 7-10 “Where can I go from your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

{Job hunting update: Aaron has a second interview with a company here in Indiana on Friday. I’m praying he gets it because we desperately need an income (can’t emphasize that enough), but we’re also not that thrilled about it. It would mean a few more months of living with his parents in order to rebuild our savings, and even when we got our own place, I have zero friends in this area. The closest friends are three hours away. Just not excited, but I know God will guide our paths whatever they need to be. As for me, I’m not job hunting until we figure out WHERE we are living. And even then, I have no idea what I will apply for. My passion for teaching, not to mention confidence, kinda got smashed in the midst of the Vienna drama.}

He knows and understands. He cares.