Jan 29, 2014

Realize Joy

My cousin Patsy wrote this beautiful post on joy that I'd like to share with you.  I feel she was prompted to write this as it is something I personally needed to hear last night.  Patsy has always inspired me on my journey to be my absolute best by the light of her sweet spirit and strong testimony.  Enjoy.

JOY: (Ponder-some Thoughts and Decisions)
A re-beginning. A journey of Realizing Joy. And an invitation to let yourself rejoice more freely.

In a moment of reflection Friday night, I made some decisions, small yet impactful, that this is the time to learn better to Rejoice. And that means I need to choose to feel joy in the things that are joyful to me and stop feeling shame for what others may think of it.

I appreciate, humbly and profoundly. BUT – I hesitate to rejoice. I hesitate to speak. I hesitate to write publicly. Because of my perception that the public perception of “God”, “Christ”, or “Christian” will label me, and will label me very negatively. That I will cause offense. I do not rejoice because I worry that others will be offended that I rejoice in something they do not believe in, or perceive negatively or hurtfully. I’ve put a bushel over my joy. It begins to darken my spirit, and even my perception of myself. 

Even in writing the above, part of me worries that some of my audience has already dropped out; ‘oh, this must be a religious plug.’ That may simply be my long habit of worry speaking to me.  
But this is not so much a message about God, but a message about feeling free to rejoice in that which brings one joy. Is it a message about freeing oneself from fear of public opinion’s reprisal. The Media seems to be good at creating that perception, at dividing rather then uniting and uplifting us.

People are beautiful and we are more beautiful in a chorus of individual and collective rejoicing, in the goodness in our own individual hearts. For me, my relationship with God is large part of that. I see His goodness and beauty in so many things. BUT … I am a hesitant rejoicer.

I’ve been inspired recently by friends’ posts who speak joyfully and openly about their love for God, their appreciation for His presence in their lives, for His place in their journey. It seems a freeing place to be. They do more than appreciate quietly and privately – they rejoice.

I decided in some contemplative moments during a long drive home on Friday night, while quite randomly landing upon a Christian rock station full of unashamed songs of Joy, that part of feeling joy is expressing it. And expressing it without shame. Not hiding it quietly in a small place. Paul spoke to the Romans of being not ashamed. 

How can I find joy if I fill myself with unfounded shame? I don’t think both can exist in the same place.

I decided to do something : to worry less I will more openly share joyful moments and joyful thoughts, without worry over what someone else might think.

I started a ‘joy journal’ with little commitment two years ago. It has about five entries. Perhaps I should begin again. Or perhaps I should start a blog like those that have inspired me. Or perhaps I should simply not be ashamed to share a post that has the word God in it.

So that is where I will begin my journey again. To Realize Joy, unhindered, in my life. Realize is a two part verb: to come to an awareness of, and also, to make a reality of. I plan to be more authentic to my whole self in what I write, in what I say, less protected and more freely jubilant.

I am going to share my joy in Godly things, in things which are pure and beautiful, in the quite moments of feeling God’s love, or Christ’s sustaining, of beautiful moments observed, of edifying conversations shared.

Simply to share, unashamed and unhindered. Not to preach, or condemn or offend. That spirit is not in me. It never has been in me. I’ve have worried for too long that others will not understand, that others will label me, although no one ever has. There is no fear in love. I am choosing to step aside of fear so I can feel Gods love more fully. And love myself more fully.


We need to resist the urge to label, not only others, but ourselves as well.  The ways we talk about ourselves and about others should not be critical, but positive, productive, and supportive.  Part of the offense is that both sides [Christians and non-Christians] feel the divide I've just described - that society has labeled them. If we can help people, of all walks of life, take down the labels we are suddenly more free to simply love and be loved, for who uniquely we are.

I join Patsy in saying:  I welcome your thoughts, your inspiration and your joy. Maybe we can all Realize Joy, each in our own place and way, more fully this year.

Jan 28, 2014

Pre-Workout Gummies

On those days where I just can't get myself motivated to get out of pajamas and workout, I find taking a pre-workout supplement is that one which will get me moving.  Pre-workouts aren't for everyone, but if you swear by them, you'll love this new pre-workout option.

I found this recipe on www.thefitbaldman.com and it is absolutely amazing!  I'm already an avid-fruit snack/gummy bear consumer so this recipe completely rocked my fitness world.  The only drawback I can see is stopping myself at just one serving.  I use Cellucor C4 since it is my absolute favorite pre-workout--in my opinion it has the best taste and doesn't leave me feeling super jittery--but you can use any pre-workout mix.  This recipe calls for sugar free jello, but you can use either one.  Just be wary that the calorie count will be higher with regular jello.

Cellucor C4 Gummies

Delicious C4 Blue Raspberry gummies made by my friend Keri Estavillo

Preparation time:
30 minutes

1 package Sugar Free Jell-O
3 envelopes unflavored gellatin
4 scoops Cellucor C4 (preferably a flavor that closely matches your Jell-O flavor)
1/2 cup ice cold water
Candy molds 36 total

1) Mix gelatin with C4 and Jell-O
2) Slowly add gelatin mix to 1/2 cup ice water.  Mix well.
3) Let sit until mixture becomes thick and slushy.
4) Microwave mixture on high for 1 minute 15 seconds.  Top of mixture will bubble and foam.
5) Using small spoon, carefully pour mixture into candy molds.
6) Put mixture in freezer for 10 minutes, or refrigerate overnight.
7) Remove from freezer/refrigerator and remove from candy molds.
8) Store gummies in airtight container or ziplock bag.

Nutritional Info:
1 serving (1 scoop C4) = 9 gummies
Calories: 40  Fat: 0g  Carbs: 1g  Protein: 8g  Fiber: 12g

Jan 27, 2014

Moses was a prophet (FHE)

 Tonight was Lesson #5, Moses was a prophet, in our follow the prophet Family Home Evening (FHE) lesson series.

Song: The fifth verse of Follow the Prophet (Children's Songbook, #110) laid the foundation for tonight's FHE on the prophet Moses:

Moses was a prophet sent to Israel.
He would lead them to the Promised Land to dwell.
They were slow to follow, or so it appears.
They were in the wilderness for forty years.
Follow the prophet.  Follow the prophet.  Follow the prophet, don't go astray.
Follow the prophet.  Follow the prophet.  Follow the prophet, he knows the way!

Scripture/Story: I read June the Story of Moses (Exodus 1) from the Berenstain Bears Storybook Bible.  This book did a wonderful job of summarizing Exodus for children.  It discussed Moses' birth, the ten plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the Burning Bush, and the Ten Commandments.  Since the main lesson of this FHE centers around the importance of keeping the commandments and the consequences of disobedience (the children of Israel wandering for 40 years), I also read her chapter 22 (40 years in the Wilderness) from Old Testament Stories.  She did great for the amount of reading we completed tonight.  She loved the pictures from the Storybook Bible and she enjoyed pointing at the comic book style pictures from the second book as she followed along with the sections I read to her.

June got the tablets!
Activity:  June had to get to the promised land with her stuffed animals and Heavenly Father would lead them as long as they kept His commandments.  She started "in a mountain" or on the fireplace step where she asked the Lord (I held up a picture of Christ) for guidance.  She then received two tablets with ten blank spaces on them and was told she had to lead her animals to the promised land.  I turned off the lights and she was to follow a "pillar of fire" (flashlight) to guide her in the dark.  I, holding the flashlight, showed June where to go until her animals started "complaining".  I would make whiney noises for them and say things like "I'm hungry," "I'm tired," "I'm sick of manna," "I want to go back to Egypt."  Then I turned off the light.  To get the next set of directions, June had to ask Heavenly Father for help.  Once she did that, she would receive a commandment (I made pictures of each commandment).  She would stick it to her tablets and teach her animals how to live it, usually by saying something like, "Animals, you have to love God and make him 'portant!"  Each time her animals "murmered", the light would go out and June would ask Heavenly Father for help again to get another commandment until she had all ten on the tablets.  Throughout her "wanderings" she collected more animals to show how the people multiplied.  Finally, when the "murmuring" stopped, she was able to lead her animals into the "promised land".  For the promised land, I turned every single light on in my room and filled it with pictures of family, friends, and temples.  June ran over to the pictures and said, "Mommy, I'm so happy!"  From the mouths of babes; she was happy to be in the light after all the dark with her family.

Teaching commandment #6 
Lesson: We talked about how the route was fairly short, but the Israelites had to travel so long because the people lacked faith and would murmer or misbehave.  The extra traveling was to help humble them and prepare them for the blessings they could receive.  When June and her animals were being obedient, they had the light to follow.  When they began to murmer and misbehave, the light went out and they were in the dark.  They got the light back by humbling themselves and praying to Heavenly Father for guidance.  Only being obedient brought the light continually.  When they kept all the commandments, they made it to the promised land which was full of light, family, and happiness.

This lesson was a huge success, and I think it was the longest activity we've had thus far.  June loved the stories and she really loved the activity.  She kept the "plates" with her throughout the night and I kept catching her telling her animals they had to "be good and keep the commands!"  Hopefully, she'll really learn and apply commandment #5.  :)

June led her animals to the promised land!

I printed the following for our activity tonight and laminated them.  I cut out each "commandment" and used putty to secure them to the "tablets" as June received each one.

Picture-representations of each commandment June-style

Jan 22, 2014

Among Thorns

" Behold, a sower went forth to sow; and when he sowed, some seeds...fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: but others fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold." (Matthew 13:3, 7-8)

As I read the parable of the sower as taught by Christ, the section of the thorny ground hit me with greater meaning than ever before.  Although I've read it many times in the past, I understood far more in my New Testament study this last time than ever before.  The abundant growth of weeds shows the fertility of the soil, but the strong influence of these weeds quickly choke the good plant to death--the same as is with those who have a testimony of the truth of Christ and His teachings, but instead of following Him first and seeking to build His kingdom, are caught up in pursuits of "the honors of men, the educational standards of the world, political preferment, or money and property."  These people care more of things of the world than they do of the gospel of Christ and thus will be "burned with tares which overcame them" than achieve salvation and eternal life with the wheat. (Elder Bruce R. McConkie)

Not long ago my heart was good soil, but overcome with weeds, thorns, and thistles.  I knew the gospel was true.  I had a testimony of Christ.  I believed in the scriptures.  Yet, I was too caught up in the desires of the world.  Instead of putting Christ first-- or even anywhere near the top of my priorities list--I was seeking after financial gains, materialistic goods, education, family duties, military commitment, and being content with eating, drinking, and being merry.  Now, some of those things are worthy pursuits, but I was focused so much on them I wasn't making time for Christ and it really showed.  I was unhappy, negative, and selfish.  I was living with a heart full of tares which would be burned if I continued on that path.

With the positive influence of good friends and associates, I was able to bring about a mighty change of heart.  After much repentance through the power of Christ's Atonement, I weeded my heart and straightened my priorities.  Putting the Lord first in my life above all other things allowed my heart to become that good ground which allowed the Word to grow within me.  Hopefully now, I can reap the harvest of thirtyfold, sixtyfold, or even an hundredfold of good fruit.

Jan 21, 2014

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were prophets (FHE)

We had another successful Family Home Evening yesterday.  Continuing on our Follow the Prophet lesson series, we learned about the prophets Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, specifically about the covenant they made with the Lord and how that covenant is continuing to be fulfilled through us today.

 After reading the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the book Old Testament Stories.  Then, we sang the fourth verse of Follow the Prophet (Children's Songbook, #110) and marched around playing follow the leader:

Abraham the prophet prayed to have a son,
So the Lord send Isaac as the chosen one.
Isaac begat Jacob, known as Israel.
Israel's sons were twelve tribes, so the Bible tells.
Follow the prophet.  Follow the prophet.  Follow the prophet, don't go astray.
Follow the prophet.  Follow the prophet.  Follow the prophet, he knows the way.

Abraham's lineage through the 12 tribes of Israel
Abraham made a covenant with the Lord to obey the laws, commandments, and ordinances of His gospel.  In return, the Lord promised Abraham that his descendants would receive the gospel and the blessings pertaining to it:  eternal life, salvation, the priesthood, and numerous posterity.  (Genesis 17: 2-7, Abraham 2:9-11)This covenant was continued with Isaac and Jacob.  We can have these blessings too as descendants of Abraham (either literally or through baptism) if we keep the same covenant Abraham made.

Since the Lord told these great patriarchs "I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven" (Genesis 22:7), I bought a few packages of the glow-stars.  

 June and I wrote the names of some of Abraham's posterity, from himself and Sarah to the twelve tribes of Israel on the stars.  Then June counted and placed them onto some black paper, which was supposed to represent the heavens.  Next, we wrote the names of our family onto the other stars and she placed those onto the paper as well.  We were still left with over 100 glow stars that we scattered over the rest of the paper.  

These stars represent the posterity of Abraham born and unborn.  We talked about how we today are the realization of the blessings for Abraham and our children are continuing in the fulfillment of his covenant.  I then showed June a few pictures of the Milky Way as seen from earth, then some of the Hubble Deep Field Images.  I told her to try to count all the stars, but there were too many.  Then we talked about how each star represents the posterity of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

 The Lord always keeps His covenants as long as we keep those covenants from our end.  He wants to give us these blessings within the bounds that He has set.  Just like Abraham, June and I need to obey the laws, commandments, and ordinances of His gospel to receive these eternal blessings.  We should also keep all our promises.

Jan 20, 2014

Motivation for your week

There's nothing like reading four different fitness magazines while driving the three and a half hours home from a gluttonous vacation to really get me motivated to eat clean and workout. While I'm feeling thus empowered, I want to share with my wonderful readers a summary of an article I find inspiring both on a fitness and spiritual level. This comes from the January edition of Women's Health Magazine and the article is titled, "Finding the Winning Edge."  It lists six mental strengths of Olympic athletes.

#1) Perseverance: fierce and steadfast dedication; hold tight to your dreams with patience and true grit

#2) Self-Awareness: introspective evaluation; having an accurate measure of your own ability

#3) Resilience: calm and intrepid elasticity; taking things in stride and adapting to new situations

#4) Perspective: optimistic and hopeful mindset; believing in one's own ability to create a better reality

#5) Focus: sharp and purposeful concentration; staying cool and observant under pressure

#6) Discipline: consistent, self-propelled motivation; reading that no one is going to force you or do it for you

These strengths of mental fortitude are applicable to every facet of life and each needs to be developed through practice.  Even if the task ahead seems difficult or impossible to conquer, try.  Apply these mental skills and build your strength.  Soon enough, through hard work and determination, they will become a habit.  And you will have achieved your goals. Good luck on your challenges this week, and keep your motivation high.

Jan 17, 2014

Let your Light Shine (an answer to the question "Why does the topic of church seem to make people hostile?")

Recently, I was looking over old journal entries the other day and found a number with a common theme.  Usually written in frustration over a snide remark made toward my religion and beliefs, I wondered in writing, "Why do people get offended when I talk about my beliefs?" 

Repeatedly, people I've associated with would share--in great detail at times--tales of their work, mechanics of their aircraft, sports of all kinds, one-night-stand conquests, alcohol-induced escapades, etc.  I've never been offended by these subjects, although I do find some of them boring at times (due to lack of interest).  All, apparently, are perfectly acceptable topics of conversation...well, the last two maybe not so much in certain social settings.  But I've noticed if I (or anyone else) bring up the topic of religion in a positive tone, some people respond not just negatively, but hostility.  The topic won't even have to be in a proselyting manner:  a post on Facebook of a scripture I really like, a passing comment about a lesson at church, or mention of future plans to visit the temple.  All of a sudden, I'm portrayed by these commentators as being bigoted, critical, judgmental, ignorant, a "Bible thumper" (that was actually used and I have no clue what it means), etc.  Yet again, this is just a casual post about my love of the gospel.  It worries me as to the reaction I would get if I invite them to attend church to support me when I'm giving a talk (speaking from the pulpit) or singing in the choir.  For years, I've never understood where all this hostility toward religious conversation comes from.

On a short side note, I do my best to read the scriptures every day.  In my personal study, I find using a scripture study guide or companion helps me understand the words of the prophets in a deeper capacity.  Right now, I'm studying the New Testament using the study guide, The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles.  Tonight's chapter is titled "Ye Must Be Born Again".  Part of the assigned reading was John 3, and as I read through this chapter, a particular passage really stood out to me.  In fact, reading it caused me to stop entirely just to ponder on those words.  They penetrated straight through to my heart and hit me deep into my core.  They are the answer to that very question which plagued me for so long:  Why is the talk of my beliefs received with hostility?

Here is my answer complete with a simple explanation in plain language, right there in the black-and-white of the Bible. John 3:19-21 says, "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil.  For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.  But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God."

I'm not saying that those who are uncomfortable talking about gospel subjects are evil or even engaged in any evil activities.  This scripture points out though, that those who do evil love the darkness because they do not want to be reproved for their deeds.  Those who try to live righteously or are simply good people love the light for they have no worry of wicked deeds being made manifest.  I feel that those who are most hostile and cruel in their words when they pertain to religion are quite possible those who just don't want to face the darkness behind some of their own actions.  Perhaps they even know what they are doing is wrong, and they do not want to change.  Either way, this brings me comfort for I know my words are not offending this person, their negativity is a result from personal feelings of guilt in their own life.

I'm going to try my hardest to stop being so concerned with what others think of me or my beliefs.  If they get offended by a Facebook post of my favorite scripture, make a derogatory comment about my beliefs, or think I'm too "church-y", I'm not going to allow those opinions drag me into darkness.  When I share my testimony with others, I'm sharing a part of my life that makes me extremely happy and I want them to feel some of the same joy.

Heavenly Father is mindful of our prayers and wants to answer our questions.  He does so when we put forth the effort to find our answer and ask in faith.  I wouldn't have received that answer to my question if I hadn't been actively engaged in daily scripture study and open to receiving personal revelation.  Through this answer, my testimony of the importance of prayer, the scriptures, revelation, and even keeping a journal has grown.  That scripture gave me peace with an issue that consistently bothered me as those negative situations arose.  Because of this new found peace, I will let my light shine, for the light that fills me is the light of Christ.  I'm ashamed that, at times I was embarrassed by my faith and would try to hide it or laugh it off.  No longer.  I'm a proud member to be Mormon.  I'm also proud of my friends who are proud members of their faiths, no matter the church they belong to.  I hope that, together, we can all be a beacon of the love of Christ which will shine through the darkness of the world to share that light with those who are in need of it.

Jan 14, 2014

Noah was a prophet (FHE)

Yet another successful Family Home Evening last night.  We continued with our Follow the Prophet lesson series this week by studying the prophet Noah.  I had two separate stories on Noah and each focused on different aspects of his ministry, which means June had the delight of playing two games.

The first story focused on Noah as trying to preach to the people.  We discussed how Noah, being a prophet of God, tried to call the wicked people of his time to repentance.  They were so evil that the Lord told Noah He was going to flood the earth to cleanse it of the rampant evil.  Noah preached the doctrine of repentance and tried to warn the people of the impending destruction, but to no avail.  They did not heed his words or his warning and thus, they were destroyed when the waters came.

June telling her animals to say they're sorry!
 For our first activity, I set up all June's stuffed animals and toys, then had her "preach from a high place" aka from her Minnie Mouse bean bag chair.  She was to "call them to repentance and warn them" by telling her animals to be good and say they're sorry or the flood will come!  She had a lot of fun doing this.  I think I have a future missionary on my hands.  She said "Be good animals!  You need to say you're sorry!  You can't be naughty or there will be a flood!"  A few of her animals "decided" to change their ways and, along with June, the few of them went in the "ark" (her crib).  Then, the flood waters came in (a few blankets Mommy tossed around the room) and the naughty animals were swept away.

The second story focused mainly on the ark and the animals, so for this activity I made a set of matching cards.  I had 9 pairs of animals broken up by males and females (the females had bows).  Whenever June found a pair, she would save them by placing them in the ark, an envelope I glued a picture of an ark on.
She's excited to match the animals.

 I found the animal pictures on the website www.christianpreschoolprintables.com.  The Noah clipart I used for the back of the cards was from www.clipartof.com.  She just loves games and enjoyed this activity too.  Her favorite cards to save were the hippos. 

 She also got to color a picture of Noah's ark, her favorite type of activity.  I printed the picture from whatsinthebible.com

We ended this FHE by singing the verse on Noah from the Children's Songbook hymn #110 "Follow the Prophet" while playing follow the leader.  This verse goes as follows:

Noah was a prophet called to preach the word,
Tried to call repentance, but nobody heard.
They were busy sinning--Noah preached in vain.
They wish they had listened when they saw the rain.
Follow the prophet.  Follow the prophet.  Follow the prophet, don't go astray.
Follow the prophet.  Follow the prophet.  Follow the prophet, he knows the way.

Another successful FHE.  Monday nights are easily my favorite evening of the week.  I love watching June learn and grow and have fun in the gospel.  She is growing so fast and has a passion for learning.

Jan 12, 2014

Let the Spirit Guide

It's truly amazing when the spirit guides a lesson, a conversation, or an encounter.  Those moments when the words are placed into your mouth and you become an instrument in the hands of the Lord to do His work and serve His children in the way that He would have you.  In my daily prayers, I include a plea to live in such a way that I can be a faithful servant of the Lord to do His will, share His gospel, and serve His children in a way pleasing to Him.

I really started thinking about the guidance of the spirit during a Visiting Teaching lesson with my companion Trina.  We were visiting with Susan.  As we all chatted, the conversation headed down a very spiritual path.  We were able to discuss matters of eternal importance and bear our testimony of temple work and the Atonement.  I felt the exact words Susan most needed to hear were put into my mouth through the power of the Holy Ghost.  The spirit came in like a warm blanket and it enveloped all of us in the love of our Savior. 

This experience perfectly segued into my lesson topic for my Sunday School class.  January's theme for the youth lessons is the Godhead.  As I looked over the lesson topics, one in particular stood out to me:  How do I learn from the Holy Ghost?  In preparing for my lesson, I read over the lesson, studied the pertinent scripture passages, pondered the suggested talks, and continued in my own personal gospel study.  But the most important preparation I did was to pray.  I prayed that I would have the spirit with me as I taught and I prayed that the youth of my class would feel that spirit for themselves.  I prayed that the Holy Ghost would give me the information the Lord would have me teach at that particular time and moment so it would be of the most benefit to my students.  This lesson was truly inspired.  The lesson I taught today was nothing close to what I had prepared, but the spirit was so strong.  My students shared experiences that brought the Holy Ghost in to testify the truth of their words.  He was leading the lesson down a path that my student's needed, for the more we all acted on His promptings, the more questions and comments were made, and the stronger His presence was felt.  I wish I could have a transcription of every word spoken during class, for the feeling in that room was amazing.  This is a true testimony to me of the love our Father in Heaven has for each one of His children.  He wants to make sure they hear what they need to hear to help them on their path to salvation.

I just have to say that I have the best class.  My students are such smart, good kids.  They are so full of the spirit and are so eager to learn and grow in the gospel.  They give me hope for the future of this nation.  Each time I see and talk with them, they are an inspiration to me.  I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to teach them and to get to know them better.

Recognizing the influence and presence of the spirit takes practice.  The best ways to practice this crucial skill is by doing, speaking, reading, and listening to things that bring the spirit in.  Study the scriptures, pray in earnest, attend church meetings and activities, share your testimony of Jesus Christ, listen to uplifting music, serve others.  As you do these things, focus on what you experience and how you feel at these times.  Little by little you will better recognize how the Holy Ghost speaks to you and little by little you will see the Savior's hand in every aspect of your life.

The hymn Let the Holy Spirit Guide (#143) shows us the attitude we should have regarding the Holy Ghost.  We need to allow the spirit to guide us.  We need to ask to recognize the spirit as He manifests unto us.  We need to listen to Him, feel for His presence, and live our lives in such a way that He will dwell within us.

I know as we gain a desire to recognize the Lord's hand in our lives, pray for the guidance of the Holy Ghost, and act upon that inspiration our lives will further emulate that of our Savior's and we will be filled with Their love.

Jan 11, 2014

5 Ways I Get Motivated to Run

It can get hard to stick with a workout routine.  Once that initial dose of motivation wears off, you need to find ways to stay motivated.  Here are five things that keep me lacing up my shoes day after day.

This doesn't just mean a constant download of new songs, although that does do the trick.  Rather, I'm constantly changing up my playlists by adding songs, removing others, and hitting "shuffle" once and a while.  I even have a playlist for each type of workout: speed work, intervals, long run, easy run, tempos, and cross training.  As I learned from today's run (ironically as I wrote this post I was having a hard time working up the motivation to do my own run), a movie works just as well.  I definetly got lost in a show making my workout over before I knew it.

When I know there are cute workout clothes just waiting to be worn in my closet, I'll never skip a run--especially if my shirt matches my shoes and my headband.  My self-confidence skyrockets when I look good in my running outfits, so I look forward to wearing them.  As long as I only wear them when I'm actually running, then cute and coordinated running clothes are an effective motivator.

Sometimes, I just need to shake up an old routine.  The best way to do that is to vary the workout or to vary my route.  If I'm bored with the same interval routine, then I'll search online for one that looks fun and exciting.  If I'm bored with running the same streets again and again, then I'll search for a different road to explore--even if it means I have to drive to get there.  I've discovered some beautiful scenery and seen some pretty interesting things while embarking on a new trail.

It's nice to set a running date with good friends.  Not only do I get some much-needed time with my girls, but they will make sure I get my run in that day.  My running friends keep me accountable, consistent, challenged, and sane.  They also keep my running fresh and fun.

Really, this one doesn't need explanation.  I run, then I can eat pie.  Or chocolate.  Or french fries....

How do you get motivated to workout?

Jan 10, 2014

Run (and eat well) with Perseverance

My run this afternoon turned out to be quite meditative and enlightening.  About 10 minutes into each run, my thoughts turn inward and focus exactly on the present moment as I mentally complete my running form checklist:  cadence, footfalls, posture, arm swing, breathing.  And repeat.  And repeat.  I've done this for so long it's become almost subconscious.  It is during this time that I've received some of my most profound insight. I'm not saying this is one of those times, but the thought really brought a sense of peace and satisfaction to a day where I felt I was falling short of my nutrition goals.  Surprising how all that feeling was contained in only one word:  perseverance.
 For those of you who run or do any sort of endurance activity, have you noticed the first few minutes into the exercise are nearly excruciating on body and mind?  The beginning of a run is always hardest on me just about every single time.  It's like my mind becomes two-years old and is shouting, "No!  I don't want to!  I want to play and watch my show and eat candy!"  But there I go again, hopping onto the treadmill (or onto the road depending on circumstance) in spite of the mental protesting.  About  10 minutes into a run, the anguish turns to euphoria.  I hit that sweet spot, whether I'm completing speed work or an easy run.  And that sweet spot continues until I reach the limit of my fitness on that particular day.  But my mind doesn't always turn back to the protesting.  Instead, I tell myself all sorts of "you can do it" mantras.  At that point, I begin competing with myself and I want to do better than the previous workout.  Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't, but I usually end up satisfied with my effort.  To get to that sweet spot though, I have to persevere through the hard part.

It's the same with nutrition.  After I've fallen off the healthful eating wagon and am trying to get back on, I find it near impossible to turn down those decadent desserts, succulent sweets, or fast food french fries.  The craving is so intense I feel as if I can almost make a McDonald's Big Mac meal materialize in front of my eyes.  Sure, I give in at first....a lot.  But as I exert more self-control and mindfully make healthful eating decisions, it soon becomes second nature within a week or two.  The cravings turn from sugar and grease to fresh produce and lean protein.  Fast food dinners become homemade feasts.  And then it seems all of a sudden I go from feeling sluggish, tired, and lazy to feeling fit, energetic, and productive.  Yet again, to reach the healthful-lifestyle groove I must persevere through the hard part.

It all comes down to perseverance.  Persevere through the pain.  Persevere through the cravings.  Persevere through the physical and mental discomfort.  With all this persevering I soon find I've conquered my weaknesses and achieved my goals.

This doesn't just apply to fitness and nutrition, but to everything and every trial and every hardship encountered.  When things seem difficult and impossible to complete, persevere a bit longer.  Cast off anything that is dragging you down and tell yourself not only that you will do it, but that you are doing it!  Sure you may stumble and make mistakes, but the task will seem easier and the burden lighter.  The work is ofttimes the same, but your capacity to bear it and succeed will have grown.

Jan 8, 2014

Fear is not real

As I was doing my quick-mile run yesterday, something felt off.  Granted, it felt wonderful to be running when I've been limited to zero-impact activities for the past few months, but with each step I took I noticed every single little pain or discomfort.  And it scared me.  A flood of fears filled my mind as I ran on at 5 miles per hour with a slight incline (because I wanted to simulate outdoor running).  What if I'm running too soon?  What if I'm pushing too hard?  What if this is the fastest I will ever run from now on?  What if I'm aggravating my knee injury and it only worsens?  What if I get injured again?  What if I can never run the same ever again?

Doubt after doubt race through my head almost as fast as my cadence as the fear attempts to paralyze me--attempts to stop me.  But I push through that fear and complete my run.  I was far more tired stepping off the treadmill yesterday than the day before, and it's not due to the back-to-back training.  Fear literally drained my energy, stealing away positivity in its wake.

How many times do we allow fear to so consume us that it seems there is no happiness or even just calm left in the world?  Why do we let this happen?

As I pondered this, I remembered a scene from the movie After Earth.  Will Smith's character, Cypher Raige, said this to his son concerning fear:

Fear is not real.  We create fear in our own minds by focusing on future "what ifs."  These may never exist.  Fear is a choice.  This quote made me realize that I can choose not to fear.  I can choose instead, to have faith.  Faith that the best scenario will play out.  Faith that good things will happen.  Faith that my injury will fully heal.  Faith that I will not only run like I did before, but run even better.  Faith that I will conquer that half-marathon, reach my weight loss goals, and maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Faith that I will be happy with my body, with my life, and with the person I am becoming.  But most of all, faith that I will continue moving forward toward my Lord and Savior to do exactly what He wants me to do.  As Quinton L. Cook said,

It takes consistent practice to start living by faith when fear has plagued life for so long.  Pray for the courage to cast fear away and pray for help growing the seed of faith.  Be specific in prayer.  Ask for faith in yourself and in your Lord.  Ask for the faith that you will "run, and not be weary...walk, and not faint" (Isaiah:40:31), that you will eat healthy things while turning down sweets.  Ask even for the faith that you will find happiness, strength, and peace in all things.

Repeat often positive mantras during those times when fear is creeping upon you.  The more you think uplifting thoughts and the more you say them aloud, even just to yourself, the more you will believe them and have faith in them.  This also works the same in the opposite direction.  The more you succumb to fear and doubt, the more you think on them, the more likely it will be that these negative events will unfold and consume you.  Fear is not real!  Fear is a choice!  Live by faith, not by fear!

Today as I run my 1-mile, I will cast away any fears and I will replace them with faith.  Faith that I will run and not be injured, that I will soon be running faster and farther, and that I will be 100% healed.  Already I've eaten healthfully today and I have faith that I will continue this trend.  I think my new mantra will be "Live by faith, not by fear."

I'm always in need of a good dose of positivity.  What are the mantras you live or run by?  I'd love to apply them myself.

Jan 7, 2014

My Journey to the Temple

Saturday morning was one of the biggest moments of my entire life, for on that day I went through the Lubbock Texas Temple(1) to receive my own endowment(2).  I've been trying to write this blog for a few days now, but I find myself at a loss as to how to put what I experienced and felt that day into a coherent post.  I'm still unable to find adequate enough phrasing, but I think the words just don't exist to describe the sheer joy, peace, happiness, safety, light, and glory of the House of the Lord(3).

Me standing in front of the Lubbock Texas Temple
I've had the temple in my sights my entire life, although there was a period of time in my young adulthood, my personal dark age if you will, where I found myself focused on worldly pursuits instead of celestial aspirations.  Saturday was the culmination of years of spiritual preparation through hard work and a lifetime of anticipation.

My journey to the temple became an actualization the day I put God first in my life.  All the issues I went through during my "dark age" were due to disordered priorities.  I was unhappy, depressed, and plainly felt like a bad person all the time.  I was filled with a poisonous guilt that was affecting every aspect of my life.  This rancid guilt had me feeling like it was too late for me; that I had ruined not only my temporal life, but my eternal one as well and I could never recover.  Looking back, I see now that guilt was from the Adversary for it was holding me back and preventing me from moving forward

During this time I had the world's best Visiting Teachers(4), Cambria and Jenn.  Faithfully they visited me every single month--even though I was resistant at first.  Their visits were a welcome light within all the darkness I had put myself.  They weren't pushy about attending church at all.  Instead, they befriended me and made me feel, finally, that there were people who cared about me.  I can't describe what this meant to me.  They were the answer to my prayers and remain, to this day, a blessing in my life.

This summer, the missionaries(5) began stopping by to check in on me and to share gospel messages.  I still wasn't attending church, but their visits were a pleasure as well for they also brought light and peace with them.  During one of these visits, the Elders felt inspired to share a scripture that, quite literally, changed my life.

He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.  And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me.  He who seeketh to save his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. (Matthew 10: 37-39)

In this scripture, the Savior is outlining what our priorities should be.  He should come first, above family to include spouse, parents, and children.  Once the missionaries shared this scripture with me, I knew I had to correct my priorities and put the Savior first.  And once I did that, everything fell into place.  Light and happiness returned to my life.  I became a much more positive person and I felt like a good person once again.  I still have difficult trials, but they are much more easily borne and conquered for I now know that I am doing what I should be doing.

I knew there were many things I needed to change in my life--things I needed to start doing again, things I needed to stop doing, and things I needed to truly repent of.  I met with my bishop(5) and he helped me figure out what I needed to do to get my life in sync with what my Father in Heaven would have me do.  He then signed me up for the upcoming temple preparation class(6) and encouraged me to make temple attendance a priority.

I had undergone a true change of heart.  I so utterly changed that prior temptations weren't effective on me anymore.  I had and still have no desire to participate in activities that had led me and trapped me in spiritual darkness.  Instead, I filled my life with heartfelt prayer, personal and family scripture study, family home evenings, and sincere repentance.  I learned that if I'm not actively moving forward toward my Savior and Heavenly Father, then I am moving backward toward Satan.  I will not move toward the darkness again.

Upon completion of my temple preparation class, I had a temple recommend(7) interview with my bishop.  Here, he asked me questions to ensure I was ready to attend the temple, essentially to make sure I was keeping the commandments and had a testimony in Jesus Christ and His church.  At the end of the interview, he found me worthy to receive my recommend!  The next step was to meet with my Stake President(8) for my final interview.  This one was very similar as my interview with the bishop and I was, once again, found worthy!  I now have an active temple recommend!  There are two separate interviews by two different people "that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established" (Matthew 18:16).

Once I had my recommend, I felt there was no need to put off receiving my saving ordinances(9), so two days later I found myself at the temple, finally.  And yet again, there are no words to describe my experience.  Writing this post is taking a lot out of me as I relive that spiritual high from the temple.  It was pure, focused light, peace, joy, happiness, love, charity, and safety from the world.  There, I was able to really pray without distraction.  There, I was able to feel my mother's presence around me and her joy in my achievement.  She is proud of me.  There, I learned in greater detail about the purpose of this life and about God's work, "For behold, this is my work and my glory--to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39).  There, I was able to ensure my eternal salvation as long as I endure to the end.  My experience was incredible, powerful, enlightening.  I want to go back again and again.

Many of my friends came out to support me.  From left: Me, Cambria, Angella, Meichelle, Blake, Susie

My family, from left: Tommy, Ken, Joan, my dad Corian, Me, Danny, Bobby

From left: Danny, Linzy, Me, Kenneth, Lexi, Bobby, Tommy, Christina, Jeff
So many of my friends and family joined me at the temple.  Their love and support for me on this day were nearly tangible. I'm so grateful for the close ties I have with all of them:  my dad, my brothers (Danny, Bobby, Tommy), my escort and her family (Joan, Ken, Kenneth, Christina), my bishop and his wife/my temple prep teacher (Brad and Debbie), my visiting teachers (Cambria and Jenn), my Relief Society president (Angella), and all my friends (Rachel, Liz, Scott, Meichelle, Blake, Susie, Linzy).  I will never forget they were there for me on this life-changing day.  I also felt an outpouring of love and support from my best friends who were not able to attend, mainly Jenna, Molly, Erika, Sandee, and many others.  I am blessed indeed to have them all in my life.

Me and Susie right after my session.
My family with me in front of the temple
The temple is where heaven meets earth, and the peace therein is indescribable.  As I made covenants with my Heavenly Father and received blessings, I knew that is exactly where He would have me be.  I am doing what I'm supposed to be doing.  I am a good person.  And I am happy.  No matter what life will throw at me from this day forward, I know I am endowed with the power and protection to overcome it and that I can return to live with my Father in Heaven again.

1) Temple: A building dedicate to be the house of the Lord where sacred work and learning are performed.
2) Endowment: A gift of power from God and includes instruction about the plan of salvation.
3) House of the Lord:  Another name for the temple
4) Visiting Teachers: Women assigned to watch over and help specific women in the church.
5) Bishop: The head of a ward (a congregation).
6) Temple Preparation Class: A class held during church to help prepare patrons for their first temple experience.
7) Temple Recommend: Authorizes members baptized for at least one year to take part in all temple ordinances.
8) Stake President: The head of a stake (a group of wards within the same geographic area).
9) Saving Ordinances:A sacred, formal act performed by the authority of the Priesthood (10) that are essential to our exaltation.

For more information, or for more definitions, please visit www.lds.org or www.mormon.org.