Networking Marketing…for the Birds or for the Brave?

[Note: I wrote this in February but then experienced all the blog and website difficulties…so you’re receiving it later than I planned. However I still feel like it needs to be shared, so I hope you enjoy!]

I’ve been wanting to write this post for quite some time, and seeing that I just celebrated my one year anniversary with the Juice Plus+ company in February, I thought this would be as fitting time as any to get some of these things out there for the world to read. For real, this could get lengthy because I have sooooo much to say.

Disclaimer: This post IS about the pros/cons of direct sales and my experiences with it during the past year. If you want to hear about my journey, read on…but if you want nothing to do with the conversation, please feel free to stop here. I’m not here to convince anyone of anything.

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As we all know, it seems like network marketing and direct sales have EXPLODED over the last few years. One in part due to social media and another because people are catching on. Listen, I’m a year in, so I’m a baby in this world, but the more I learn, the more I am intrigued. For years I have seen (mainly women, admittedly so, and I’ll go into more reason why I believe it attracts women more than men later) my facebook account has been overrun with people posting about this new product and that new product, as well as “if you join my team today, you’ll change your life forever!” rhetoric. I was ALWAYS turned off by it. I mean, literal eye rolls all day long. I found it so annoying when I was invited to purchase a new product from someone I hadn’t talked to since high school. I’m still frustrated when I’m added to groups or online parties without being asked first. That is what feels like you don’t really care about me as a person but literally just want to make a sale off of me, and I’m not down with that.

But here’s the ironic thing: there are many people who would now group me in that category. I am a part of a mission driven company that seeks to inspire healthy living around the world. How does it do that? Through people like you and me, sharing their stories on how Juice Plus has made a difference in their lives. To some, this is the most annoying business model out there. But to others, it is brilliant. Let me explain.

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All around me I see advocates for “shopping local” and “support small businesses.” As well as, “When you buy local you’re not buying a CEO another vacation home, you’re putting food on a family’s table and helping a mom get her kid in soccer.” Yet when it comes to supporting a mom (hi! me!) and allowing her to stay at home with her children by purchasing a product that you want* from her directly, all of a sudden she’s the most ignorant person on your friend list.

*I want to emphasize that you want. I’m not here to make you buy something you don’t have any interest in. If you don’t want what I’m offering, no hard feelings. Let’s both agree to disagree and still be friends in the process. Deal? 

When I first heard of Juice Plus (before I became a rep) I would ask the question, “why don’t they just sell it at a retail store so that it doesn’t carry a negative stigma to it when people find out it’s sold by independent distributors?” And then I learned that this is VERY intentional. If things are sold on the shelves of every convenience store, where is the integrity of the product? Where is the education? Where is the regulation? But when it is shared by individuals, then that gives me an opportunity to step into your life, teach you about whole food nutrition, share a product that is backed by 35 clinical research studies, and partner with you in your health journey. Call me crazy, but ain’t no Publix or Walmart gonna do that.

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Now. Let’s get back to why I think women are the main culprits 😉 to buy into this business world. In my experience, the VAST majority of women (not all, don’t hear me wrong), but most women, wives, and moms want just a few things from life: To feel valuable, to contribute to their world and their family in a meaningful way, to have time freedom to spend with their husbands, kids, friends, etc., and to pursue something they are passionate about. Who doesn’t want to love their job, spend time with their family, and contribute financially to the bills/paying off debt/fun money? Seriously? Who?? Women are seeing an opportunity that enables them to work from home, talk to people all the time, and be with their families. Is that something you can really be mad at them about?

Before I get too passionate, I’m going to bring this back home; to me and my life, and the past year of my experiences.

PROS:

  1. The Juice Plus product makes complete sense to our family. We’re lacking in the 9-13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day we’re supposed to get, and this is a proven way to get that nutrition in our bodies. Check.
  2. I have seen family members and friends health positively change as a result of flooding their bodies with whole food nutrition every single day. Some examples? Matt’s sinus infections are gone. My asthma and allergies have dramatically decreased. Adalynn’s eczema has cleared up and she no longer has to live off of hydrocortisone and steroid cream.With those kind of results, I am compelled to share this with others. What kind of person would I be if I knew of something that could change someones health for the better and I kept it to myself?
  3. Financially, Juice Plus has been a blessing to our family. Have I gotten rich quick? Definitely not. But that’s why I respect this company so much. It’s a gradual building of residual income that directly helps you to see and connect with the lives that are changing as a result of this product.
  4. I have a hobby that I’m passionate about, fits into my lifestyle, and connects me with a community of like-minded people. I have made new friends and rekindled old ones. It has been so much fun sharing health with people that I care so much about.

CONS:

  1. If you can’t tell by my post, the main con I’ve experienced is the smug comments from others making it very clear to me that they think what I’m doing is “less than” their 9-5 job, and that just hurts my heart.
  2. It’s hard work. This business is not for the faint of heart. Just like starting any new business, starting your own virtual franchise doesn’t come without effort. Is it fun? Heck yes. But is it going to happen without being intentional? Nope.

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That’s it. Really. The benefits far outweigh the negatives, and for that, I am proud to be in network marketing. It took me a long time to be able to say that but I finally can. I am proud to be brave and to step out into a world that is made fun of, eye-rolled, and talked about under people’s breath. I am proud of taking a leap of faith to invest in something I believe in. I am proud to show my husband that I am working hard and want to help as much as I can with our finances to pay off student debt and keep our electricity on. I am grateful I can show my daughter what a hardworking woman looks like and to not give up in the face of adversity. I am pumped for the future…for the families whose lives will be changed by whole food nutrition, for my own family’s health and financial freedom, and for others who decide to step out of their comfort zone and willfully become part of the group that is considered annoying, less than, and selfish. Why? Because we know that that is the furthest from the truth. The truth is, individuals in network marketing are brave for stepping out on their own, entering an unknown world, going against status quo, doing what it takes to stay at home with their babies, and living their life for what they are passionate about instead of living in fear of what others think of them.

Has it been worth it? You better believe it. And I’m not stopping any time soon.

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What is One Simple Change?

Recently I had the opportunity to share a little bit about my health journey at an event at our local specialty olive oil and vinegar shop, The Leaning Ladder. This event was sponsored by Juice Plus+, and was all about simple changes we can make in our health journey and how all of these little changes add up to make a big impact on our health. For those of you who weren’t able to attend, I wanted to share what I spoke about that night as well and to give you a little bit of a background of where I’ve come from and the hope I have for mine and my family’s health in the future!

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Just to give you a little bit of a background about myself: I grew up relatively healthy, with the exception of asthma, allergies, and in September of 2013, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (which is a hormonal imbalance that causes irregular cycles and makes it very difficult for many women to conceive.) I had never given much of a second thought about what I ate or how I took care of my body.

But my eyes began to be opened in the Fall of 2008, when I transferred to Liberty University from KSU and moved out on my own for the first time. Turns out that my faster metabolism didn’t follow with me to college, and I started to gain weight that I had never experienced before. Not an exorbitant amount, but it definitely shocked me when I started seeing the pounds pile on. —This is how clueless I was: My roommate and I were over at her boyfriends apartment hanging out with a large group of friends. On a routine trip to the restroom, I decided to weigh myself on the scale in the bathroom. It had been several months since I had stepped on a scale, because, like I said, I wasn’t concerned about what I ate or how much I exercised because it had never really affected me before. It said I weighed 20 POUNDS more than I remembered weighing 4 months prior to that. I quickly decided the scale was broken and decided it would be a good idea to announce to everyone at the apartment that his scale needed fixing because it was waaayyyy off from what I weighed. He sheepishly told me that it was definitely correct and the more I argued with him, the more embarrassed I got realizing I was probably wrong and all those chicken tenders and fries and pizza were probably finally catching up with me. Needless to say, I decided then and there to start paying attention to what I was eating and put an ounce of effort into some kind of regular physical activity. Never again did I want to be that oblivious to the state of my own health.

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The Delusion:

The rest of college I did alright, not over indulging (most of the time) and not being a health freak either. I did all the things I thought were the smart ideas…. I bought the low calorie, low-fat, fat-free, no sugar added, diet, etc. items at the grocery store and felt good about paying attention to labels and advertisements for the hottest trends of what was “healthy.” I was completely clueless about the fact that I was a victim of brilliant marketing and even though I might not have been gaining weight on the outside, my insides were not getting any healthier. I thought the less calories something had, the better it was for me…so I would have a bowl of oatmeal sweetened with Splenda almost every day and mixed in some artificially flavored strawberry yogurt, went on my merry way to the gym where I would get in a solid workout and give myself a pat on the back.

In the grand scheme of things, what I was doing was at least making an effort. I did care. I wanted to be healthy. I wanted to look good in my wedding dress and sport an awesome bikini on my honeymoon. All of these things I would say that I did accomplish. However, it wasn’t until after I got married that I started learning what healthy really meant.

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The Beginning of Change:

Becoming more educated about food in general was not an overnight epiphany. It was a long process that I’m still experiencing. I didn’t have a defining moment that is marked in history as the day the lightbulb went off, but as I look back of the last several years, I can see one simple change at a time that I started to make.

I nannied for a family that only bought fresh sliced deli meat, instead of the pre-packaged deli meat. It tasted better, so I decided we would start there—not buying pre-packaged deli meat anymore, but buying it as fresh as we could get it. I knew it was more expensive, but I decided we needed to start investing in healthier habits somewhere, and that’s the only place I could think of, so that’s what we did. One simple change.

Then I learned that Splenda and other zero calorie sweeteners were actually poison and I began to remove those from my diet. As soon as I did I noticed my head felt clearer. When I would go back and eat something with artificial sweetener in it again, it would give me headaches. So I decided to nix that from our kitchen as well. One more simple change.

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Reading Nutrition Labels:

Slowly but surely I began to learn how to read nutrition labels. I learned that the more ingredients were listed on something, the less healthy it was for my body. I read articles about ingredients that are banned in other countries but still allowed in America. I thought to myself, if Red #40 and Yellow #5 are banned in the entire European Union, why are they not banned here, and why am I voluntarily putting this in my body? And just like that, the amount of artificial coloring I consumed was dramatically decreased as much as was in my control.

Instead of looking at the nutrition label and only looking at the amount of calories, grams of fat, sugars, proteins, and carbs, I decided I would start looking at the ingredient list. Before I ever put a box or can of anything in my cart at the grocery store, it has become second nature to flip it around and check out the ingredients. Artificial flavors? Going back on the shelf. High fructose corn syrup? No thank you. Artificial colors? Definitely not. I began to realize that just because something is labeled as a diet food, doesn’t mean it is healthy. When you look at the amount spent on advertising these foods, you get an eery feeling that these companies might be more interested in profit than in the actual health of their consumers. Listen to these numbers:

In 2012, 4.6 BILLION dollars was spent on all fast food advertising. 

Companies spend $1.79 BILLION annually to market food to children with only $280 million for healthy foods.

Advertising and marketing always got me. I believed it. But then I started doing the research and learned that it doesn’t have to be complicated. Whole foods. Fruits, vegetables, berries, grains. The closer my food was to it’s natural state, the way God created it in nature, the better for me it was going to be. When I started thinking about it in that context, everything changed.

God created food for us to enjoy and to sustain us and give us life, but if we are not careful, what we are consuming is not the food He created…it is a manufactured, chemically altered, lab-concocted product being masked as an easy fix. I just decided that I wanted to make that simple change of REALLY paying attention to what I put in this body God has given me. By doing that one thing, of taking a few extra seconds to look at ingredient lists, I’m proactively making the decision to say no to the things that are going to hinder my health journey, and yes to the food that is going to fuel my body and give it the nutrition it needs to do what it is supposed to do.

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Juice Plus+: 

And that’s where Juice Plus has helped me tremendously over the last several months to help bridge that gap of the whole foods in the fruits, veggies, and berries, that I just couldn’t consume enough on an every day basis. I had heard of Juice Plus several years ago and loved the idea of it, but never looked close enough at the clinical research to make the decision to try it. But when Katie told me that it really is just whole fruits, vegetables, and berries in capsule form, and that she wouldn’t put it in her body if it wasn’t legit, then I decided to go for it. Juice Plus just made sense to me. I felt like it was impossible to eat as much of the whole foods as I needed to be at my healthiest. And with having a super picky eater for a husband, we knew we needed to add this in our every day routines.

Now I know that every single day my body is being flooded with the nutrients that it needs to function and thrive how it should. I’ve noticed a significant increase in energy, stronger nails, clearer skin, clearer thinking, practically zero allergies, and even my exercise induced asthma is significantly decreasing. My husband, whose sinuses were so bad that he had to have sinus surgery when he was 9 years old, have dramatically improved and he no longer snores at night and he hasn’t gotten a sinus infection since we started Juice Plus. My 6 month old daughter has eczema, and just through what she is getting from the breastmilk, it is clearing up and less and less inflamed. There is a reason the clinical research backs up what I’m experiencing: because JP actually is what it claims to be.

I first started in the business to cover the cost of our product, but now after falling in love with the product, I can’t help but share it. When you love something and believe in something, you share it with the ones you care about. I can’t say enough about the peace of mind I have from doing these tiny simple changes that I know are adding up. I know that these simple changes matter and will continue to have positive effects on my health and the health of my family for years to come.

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{Katie, Me, Amy Leigh, and Jill}

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{Dana, Amanda, Katie, Me, Valerie, Amy Leigh, Jill}

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 Tower Garden, able to grow over 20 different fruits, vegetables, lettuces, herbs, and flowers. SO COOL.

A New Adventure

Hi friends! I just wanted to take a moment to let you all know about a new adventure I’m beginning. I decided to write about it on my blog so that I could go into a little bit more detail of why I’ve decided to do this and give a little bit of detail for those of you who are interested 🙂

Ready? I have decided to start selling Juice Plus+! (I’m sure there are some eyes already rolling), but I am very excited about this new endeavor. I’ve been curious about and interested in Juice Plus for several years now and been looking deeper into it for about a year. It’s one of those products that I was curious about ever since I first heard of it and that I just started gaining respect for the more I learned about it. For those of you who don’t know, Juice Plus+ is literally a capsule of fruits and vegetables. That’s it. Over 20 fruits and veggies per serving, and nothing else. Nothing added. Nothing concocted, just fruits and veggies. It is basically a way to bridge the gap between the fruits and vegetables that we do eat and the amount we should be eating. Nothing fancy or sketchy. Not a replacement for fruits and vegetables, but a capsule full of even more fruits and veggies to add to your intake.

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So why did I decide to start selling it? Several reasons. Everyone knows there’s about 103 businesses and products out there that you can “sell from home.” I’ve looked into tons of them. But none of them felt like anything I could really stand behind. I knew that before I ever tried to do one of those multi-level marketing things that it would HAVE to be a product that I believed in 100% for the long haul. Well the more I researched, the more I discovered that Juice Plus+ would be that product. The clinical research to back this stuff is ridiculous. A business that has thrived for over 40 years and seen countless success stories of growing healthy habits and reducing disease. I’m very impressed by it.
Not only do I want to have this for my own family’s health and well being, but selling it would give me the opportunity to stay at home with my girl and any future kiddos to come. So I decided to take a chance and see where this takes me.

Here is my promise to you: I promise to NOT be your friend that only ever talks about their business. I promise to not shove this down your throat and I promise to respect your decisions for your own family. The last thing I want is to be that annoying girl that only ever tries to sell you stuff. So from here on out, if you are interested in learning more, I would love to talk to you. But if you’re totally not interested, that’s cool too.

IF you want to check out my Juice Plus+ website, here is the link: www.crimsonrenney.juiceplus.com 

 

Have a happy day!

(Also, here is a picture of Adalynn because no blog post would be complete without one 🙂

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The Safety of Self-Control

Self Control. Whoa, what an annoying word, right?

Our culture has painted the picture of self-control as something ridiculous. You would never see on the front of a magazine, “5 Steps to Practice Self-Control!” but rather something that look more like, “5 Steps to the Life You Deserve.” Am I right? Usually we grudgingly look at self-control as something that restrains us, binds us, and keeps us from the things we love. And in a way some of those descriptions might be true. But a proper view of self-control is necessary to appreciating it and understanding what God intended for us when He instructed us to live self controlled lives.

Titus 2:3-5 says,

“Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderersor addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.”

If someone challenged you to go without one thing for a week, what would it be? How long could you last? Social media? Sweets? Cell phone? TV?

Better yet, have you ever set goals for yourself in January (aka ‘New Years Resolutions’) and by February forgotten what they were?

“Self control is what we need in order to say no to sinful desires and what we need to follow through with godly desires” (64). Scripture is very clear on self-control. Its a fruit of the Spirit living within us. Paul emphasized it in Titus 2 as he directed every single group; older women, younger women, older men, and younger men. If Paul required self-control, that must mean it is attainable. So why do we struggle with it SO much? Self-control requires effort. It doesn’t come naturally or easily. We continually fail because we are attempting to accomplish such a grandiose task in our own strength. Mahaney reminds us that, “It is only as we cooperate with the power of the Holy Spirit that we will achieve self-control” (65).

God’s Word likens self-control to that of a protective wall. Just like in history when massive stone walls were built around cities for protection from the enemy, self-control protects us from the attacks of our enemy who would love nothing more than to steal, kill, and destroy us.

But why is self-control SO hard? To put it bluntly, because sin is enjoyable. We have selfish natures that are inclined to sin. The Bible is very clear that sin is enjoyable for a season. However, Proverbs 16:25 makes it clear: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Not exercising self-control in our sleeping habits (whether too little or too much), eating habits (making poor food choices, indulgence, or vanity), our thoughts and our behavior all reflect selfish motives and leads to regret and destruction. But by practicing self-control in these areas, we are protected from the ill effects of poor decisions and poor time management. Mahaney states, “When we recognize self-control as the virtue that spares us from sin’s negative consquences, we will welcome it eagerly as our friend.” (67)

In the book, Carolyn covers 4 areas where self-control is vitally important: Our Appetites, Sleep Habits, Our Thoughts and Feelings, and Our Behavior.

1. Our Appetites:

Whether eating too much, too little, or making unhealthy choices, our eating habits say a lot about our ability to control ourselves. A quote from Elisabeth Elliot ends with, “We cannot give our hearts to God and keep our bodies to ourselves.” (68). It is undeniable that undisciplined use of our bodies will hinder our service to God. When we don’t eat healthy, our bodies reflect that. The less healthy our bodies are, the less able we are to serve the Lord physically. On the other hand, eating too little or obsessing over our health is also not glorifying God with our bodies. The sin of vanity is no less serious than the sin of gluttony (71).

2. Our Sleep Habits:

Sleep is a gift from God. It restores our physical strength and resets our emotions. “God has designed our bodies to require sleep, and to cut corners may be expression of pride–an arrogant disregard of our God-given physical limitations” (71). But we can also love sleep a little bit too much (I might fall into this category!)  Proverbs 20:13 is clear that loving sleep too much results in laziness and poverty. We must make the most of our time. A lot of women  classify themselves as “night owls,” making excuses for their choice to stay up late and sleep in. But rather than using our evening hours for personal pleasure , we need to use that time to prepare for the next day and to go to bed early enough to rise ready to serve God and our families.

3. Our Thoughts and Feelings:

In our feeling-obsessed culture, we MUST develop a proper understanding of feelings. They are a gift from God! Life would be amazingly bleak if we could not feel. But because of sin, the way we think and feel is often contrary to what Scripture commands. We often need to tell ourselves how to feel instead of letting our feelings tell us how to think. Sinful thoughts and sinful feelings lead to sinful behavior. We must exercise self control in this area. 2 Corinthians 10:5 commands us to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. Remember: Just because we feel something doesn’t make it true. Our feelings are either ruled by truth or ruled by sin (75).

4. Our Behavior:

There are tons of areas where our behavior needs self control. But there is one that affects all the others. One behavior, if diligently pursued, will promote self-control in every other area. What is it? The daily practice of meeting with God. Call it a cliche, but cliches are cliches because they are true. By meeting with God every single day, we are acknowledging that we are totally dependent upon His grace. No matter what our circumstances are, intimacy with God in His presence is the rock that will empower us to fight our battles every day. We should eagerly and consistently respond to our Savior’s invitation to come and meet with Him. What a privilege!

All of this probably sounds overwhelming. Our temptation is to muster up new resolve and get to work. But just like New Years resolutions tend to fall flat when we try and try and try, so will our efforts in the area of self-control. That’s why we have to surrender ourselves again to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to accomplish it through us. John 15:5 makes it clear: “Apart from [Jesus] you can do nothing.”

Homework:

  • Think about the one area where you are most in need of self-control. What is one way you can apply what you’ve learned in this chapter before our next meeting? (Remember–not “all by yourself!”)
  • Make a plan to meet with God every day this week. Acknowledge your dependence on Him for self-control.

My First Half-Marathon

Well folks, I can’t believe I did it. I actually ran a half-marathon. A whole 13.1 miles. Whoa nelly. Talk about one of my farthest fetched goals. It was amazing and I am SO glad I did it. I would definitely do it again!

The Rock ‘n Roll half-marathon was in Nashville on April 28th (I realize I’m pathetically behind in blogging.) All my months of training were coming to a rapid close as that weekend approached. One side of me couldn’t believe it was here and the other side of me couldn’t wait for it to be over! After 4 months of difficult training, random injuries, and more achey muscles and joints than I’ve ever experienced, I was ready to get it behind me so that my body could actually get a chance to rest and heal. So needless to say, when the weekend did finally come, I was ready.

When we finally got to Nashville, we headed to the Expo to pick up my race bib and my fancy schmancy “swag bag” with a bunch of goodies in it. I had just bought some KT tape the day before to try to use for my feet and my IT band on race day. I’ve heard amazing things about this tape so when I saw the KT tape station at the expo, I jetted over to them so they could teach me how to tape up my body before the race. This tape is unnecessarily expensive but definitely worth it.

After we left the expo, we headed out to dinner at Caesar’s Italian Restaurant to grub up on some carbs. I must say, carb loading my have been one of my favorite parts of training. Sooo yummy!

   

I’m so glad my parents got to come with us. They were so supportive and excited for me, so it was so much fun to have them there to experience the whole thing. Not to mention my dad using Marriott points for our hotel was a HUGE bonus. Thanks again Dad!

Then we headed back to the hotel to get some much needed sleep before my alarm would go off at 4:30 the next morning. When I woke up, I couldn’t believe it was actually time to start gearing up for THE RACE. The actual race. Not just a long Saturday run, but the long Saturday run. And thankfully my nightmare about oversleeping and missing the whole thing didn’t come true. That would have been a disaster. After about an hour of calmly getting ready, stretching, eating, H2O-ing, and taping up, I was ready to go.

We walked about a half a mile to the start line where I was to report to Corral #27. That’s right, the SLOW-poke corral. But I didn’t even care. My goal was to finish. Once it was time for the race to start I hopped into the massive herd of people and began my trek.

I would say the first 3 miles were the easiest. Praise the Lord I didn’t have any pain in my feet like I had been experiencing the week before. They were sore, but no sharp pain. So I was able to get swept up in the adrenaline of it all and keep a very nice pace for the first 5k portion of the race. And honestly, I feel like I don’t remember too many details of miles 4-9. It was very hilly and very sunny. I was sweating like crazy, and definitely taking advantage of the water/gatorade stops. It’s amazing what hydration will do for your energy level.

I was so excited to look over and see Matt jogging beside me on the side walk at mile 9! He and my parents made it to that point to meet me and cheer me on. It was so refreshing seeing people cheering specifically FOR ME. Especially since Matt ran the majority of my training with me, it felt a little strange to be “all by myself” running in a sea of strangers. After I saw them, I had another burst of energy for the next 1.5 miles.

I’ve told people who’ve asked, and it may be TMI, but the last part of the race was not enjoyable AT ALL for me. For some reason, I get CRAZY stomach problems after about 8 miles. Like, sweating, make-you-wanna-throw-up digestive issues. NOT FUN when you decide to bite the bullet and attempt a visit to the porta potty mid race to find out there is NO TOILET PAPER! In any of them! Absolutely ridiculous. Note to self: put tissues in waist pack for future races. So with that being said, for about the last 3-4 miles I was desperately trying not to have an accident. I had to walk a good bit which was a bummer, but it was definitely better than the alternative.

But I did eventually make it to the finish line and got my medal! It was SO exciting having accomplished something that I never believed I could do. I would definitely do it again. Especially if I can figure out these stomach and foot issues.

 

 

When we finally got back to the hotel I showered and then we ALL completely CRASHED. It was probably the best nap I’ve ever taken. Besides the fact that I was achey and sore like no other! Literally, I felt like an old woman every time I moved.

After we rested for a couple of hours, we found a steakhouse to go to for an early dinner and then enjoyed ourselves some Maggie Moos ice cream. It was definitely the way to finish the day. Because seriously, after you burn 1,300 calories, you pretty much give yourself a little grace when it comes to the eating department (at least I did anyway!)

It was a fantastic weekend spent with my favorite people. I am so thankful for their support (as well as all my other family and friends who have encouraged me along the way!) You all believed in me more than I believed in myself and it definitely made all the difference.

Now, who’s signing up for the next one with me?!

Run with Endurance

Many of you have been periodically checking on me, asking me how my training is going for my half-marathon that is coming up in April. I can honestly say that training is going very well! Thanks to the SmartCoach Training plan by runnersworld.com, it has been such a do-able training plan. It has been very gradual, very consistent, and yet still challenging enough for me to feel like I’m pushing myself without overdoing it.

As many of you have probably know from my numerous tweets and facebook status updates, I have run (no pun intended!) into a few set backs physically. First, my left foot starting causing me a good deal of pain about 4 weeks into training. It was progressively getting worse so I eventually went to the doctor. I had a pinched nerve. Ouch. So I had it adjusted and then got a cortisone shot in it for the inflammation. Talk about painful. But it really did help tremendously. Just recently I’ve felt like the pain has been slowly creeping back, so I might have to get another shot before the big race. Ahh hopefully not though. That was painful enough, I’d hate to subject myself to that kind of pain again..but I will if I absolutely have to.

Then I started getting blisters. Not any kind of normal blisters that I’ve had before. But huge, painful, nasty blisters that KEEP COMING BACK! I’ve done Vaseline, moleskin bandages, blister bandaids, and specialty running socks. It’s gotten better. But those suckers are relentless. I am eager to get the race completed just so my feet can heal and look feminine again!

And the most recent injury? Self-diagnosed Iliotibial Band Syndrome. Basically it’s the inflammation of the band that runs from your hip to your shin and feels like it’s affecting the outside of your knee. Poor Matt has been feeling it for a few weeks now, and I had my first experience with it on Sunday when we up’d our mileage to 8 miles, but thankfully I’ve read that it backs off with rest and strength training. Hello, lunges.

Speaking of 8 miles though, 8 MILES!! Are you kidding me?! I never never never would have believed I could possibly endure for 8 miles. Literally, the beginning of January I could not run 1 mile without stopping. This is a HUGE accomplishment for me! And let me just add here, I am so thankful for my husband for training with me. He really does push me and encourage me SO much along the way. He deserves a HUGE amount of credit for me pushing myself this far. And he also deserves a round of applause for building up his endurance as well and running every step of the way with me. (Well, poor thing couldn’t run the last little bit of the 8 mile run because of his knee, but other than that…EVERY STEP OF THE WAY!) He is such a strong supporter and encourager to me. I’m so thankful for him 🙂

Anyway, I thought I would share a little bit of what I go through mentally in a long distance run. Obviously as you can tell, I’m not doing this for speed. Farthest thing from it. I really don’t care how slow I go as long as I’m enduring and putting one foot in front of the other. So because I’m not the fastest runner on the planet, I get some good solid time to think in my runs, especially the long runs on the weekends. It has become such a precious time for me to pray, think, and rehearse Scripture to myself.

It has been my prayer from the beginning that doing this half-marathon and training for 18 weeks would teach me discipline and perseverance more than anything else has before. Wow, the Lord sure has been answering my prayers. When the run starts to get really tough, the Lord quietly reminds me, “Keep going, Beloved. Use this as practice for real life. When things get hard, you must persevere. Look to Me for your strength. Put one foot in front of the other and realize that you are more capable than you realize.”

Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

These verses run their course through my mind quite a bit while I run. I repeat them over to myself, reminding myself that this physical act of running and enduring is a small picture of such greater things. It prompts me to pray about those sins that are so easily entangling me, keeping me from enduring in my walk with the Lord. I confess those things He brings to mind so that I may continue to endure through the trials of life, this race set before me. May I ever fix my eyes on Jesus, keeping Him as my prize. He gave me the prime example of enduring the cross, despising the shame, and sitting down at the right hand of God when His work was done. I cannot sit down until His work for me on earth is finished. I must keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep enduring, and keep looking to the JOY set before me. When my race of life is finished, only then will I have permission to sit down and enter into my inheritance.

That same chapter goes on to talk about the discipline of the Lord. He disciplines us for our good so that we may share in His holiness (v.10). Verse 11 is a constant stopping place for me, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

This half marathon that I’m doing on April 28th is just a TINY picture of the REAL race that I’m in. All discipline that is required of me to finish the race will train me, leading me into that peaceful fruit of righteousness! I thank God for that. It makes every step of the way worth it.

January Summary

I know, I know, I’m a little bit behind on my “blogging once a week” goal. So in this post I’ve decided I’m going to cover the content of two blogs. Sorry ahead of time for any excessive information 🙂

The Bible study I’ve been doing has been great so far. In my earlier post I said it covered 1 Kings and 1 Chronicles, but its actually 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles. My mistake. But it has been challenging me, to say the least.

Our study began with the succession of Solomon as king after David, as well as the events and details of him building the Temple for the Lord. One of the most challenging things the Lord has brought to my attention is the wisdom of Solomon. The Lord told Solomon that he could ask anything of the Lord. Solomon asked for wisdom and discernment. Because God was so pleased with Solomon’s request, God granted it and so much more.

James 3:15-17 says,

“This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”

I’ve been so challenged to pray for godly wisdom, no matter what it may look like to other people. I’m beginning to understand that as I seek the Lord’s face, He very well may give me wisdom from above that does not match up with what the world would say is wise. And that’s okay. That’s exactly where I need to be. Any wisdom that I seek that has an underlying motive of selfishness is completely of the world. And that’s why I have been praying differently since this has been brought to the forefront of my attention. –This is the tip of the iceberg of the depth of this study so far, and I know I’m going to learn much more as I yield to the authority of God’s Word.

Next, my January book: So Long Insecurity

I got this book from my mother in law when Matt and I got engaged. I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t start it until October 2011, but then even more embarrassed to say that I just finished it at the end of January. Either way, it was fantastic.

Beth Moore has such a way of writing to the female population. She is witty, authentic, and BOLD. And we women need someone to get in our face and tell us like it is. I’m positive that this issue speaks directly to the core of every woman who is breathing, especially me. Several years ago I had a moment that I distinctly remember after a big heartbreak. I sat in my car and asked myself, “Who am I now?” And that was the beginning of the Lord really bringing to light this deep seeded issue in my heart. Can I be completely open and transparent? One of my biggest fears is to be found boring, for my husband to lose interest in me, and to find myself alone. However, all too often the enemy takes hold of my fear and wreaks havoc with it. This is when I learned that I need to CONTINUALLY speak truth to myself, to rehearse Scripture and preach to myself daily. A secure woman rests in the confidence of Christ. She fully defines herself by the description God has for her and the price that Jesus paid for her. “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future.” (Proverbs 31:25). That means that she is confident in the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting Him with all aspects of her life, even her biggest fears.

I highly recommend this book. Seriously, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy, or ask to borrow mine. It is a necessity in order to bring to the surface the issues that we so often try to hide and forget. Instead of trying to put a bandaid on them, it is worth it to let the Cure do His work and allow us to live in the secure freedom of Christ.

Last but not least…my running has been going great! I’m not going to lie, the training is HARD. But oh my word is it worth it. The feeling of accomplishment after running my route for the day is more than I’ve experienced in a very long time. Right now I’m up to 4 miles, moving up to 5 next weekend, and my pace is on track and about 2 minutes better than what my training plan has me at. Needless to say, I’m not a speed demon, but I’m still SUPER proud of my progress so far!

And just for fun, my twin Kelsey came into town for a good 48 hours this week on her way to Arkansas to see her fiance. They’re getting hitched March 16, so it was a nice little visit before she runs off and gets married, moves to Arkansas and I never see her again. Just kidding. Hopefully 🙂

Haha I can’t get it to save turned the right way! Weird…oh well. Do some neck stretches while you’re at it.

Have a happy weekend!

New Year, New Goals.

Well with every new year comes a new set of goals. Some people like to call these “New Years Resolutions” and they usually primarily revolve around losing weight, getting into shape, yadda yadda yadda. But also attached to new years resolutions is the fear and predictability of breaking those resolutions, once again. That’s why I’m pushing myself to a new journey of not making “resolutions,” but of setting goals. I want to see things accomplished in my life. And I want to see them tangibly, year by year.

So with that being said, if making resolutions and setting goals wasn’t scary enough, posting a picture is pure suicide. Or you can call it accountability. Whichever you prefer.

These are my broad goals for the year. And as you can see, the things I want to accomplish by the end of the year actually stop in April. So as time passes, I plan to continue to add to this list.

1. Daily Goals

  • 30 minutes in Bible Study every day. I’m starting a new study with my Bible study group called “A Divided Heart, a Divided Nation.” It’s a study that takes you through 1 Kings and 1 Chronicles, learning about the kings and prophets of the Old Testament. I’m SO excited about this study. I know it will be a rich study in the Word.
  • Spend at least 20-30 minutes in prayer. Call me a baby Christian, but this one is still really hard for me. I get so busy, just like everyone else, and put concentrated prayer on the back burner. But I know you can only truly grow to be more like Jesus if you have a heart like His and He was known for going away to a secluded place to spend time in prayer with the Father.

2. Weekly Goals

  • Pray with Matt 3-4 times a week for an hour at a time. I am so blessed with a godly husband who leads me and really has a heart to love Jesus and strive hard after Him.We pray together every day, but want to dig deeper in our prayer life together, spending quality time going before the throne together.
  • Run and train 3-4 times a week. This one is completely related to training for the half marathon I’m running in April. Thankfully, I have a training schedule that is going to keep me accountable. Staring at me from the dresser.
  • Blog once a week. This one is mainly for fun for me. I love writing and expressing myself through words, so I’m going to do my best to make myself sit down once a week and work on this blog. And its YOUR responsibility to keep me accountable for that one!

3. Monthly Goals

  • Read one book a month. Many people have this goal. And I’ve made this a goal many times before. NEVER STUCK TO IT. So since lots of people make this a goal for the year, and I’m doing it again, let’s just make it a reality together.
  • Memorize Colossians 3. I was supposed to memorize this my junior year of college. And being honest, I got bits and pieces. So I’m determined to commit this to memory once and for all. Matt’s going to memorize it with me so we can hold each other accountable! Accountability = more likelihood to accomplish anything in life.

4. Year-End Goals

  • And last but not least (for now) my goal is to run the Nashville Rock ‘n Roll Half-Marathon on April 28th. This goal is probably pushing me the hardest out of my comfort zone than any of my others, but I’m praying the Lord allows me to learn discipline through training, and accomplishment through crossing that finish line. I. Can’t. Wait.  http://runrocknroll.competitor.com/nashville 

Those are my goals so far! What are some of your goals for this year? How are you planning to make them a reality? I would love to hear about them so that I can be encouraged that I’m not alone!