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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Human Nature

I took a run today for the first time in...too long. I had forgotten how calming it could be. When I run it's just me and the pavement. I'm not trying to prove anything - except maybe prove to myself I can improve with every step. It's me against me. It's mindclearing.

A funny thing happens when you clear your mind of all the crap life throws at us. All the bad. All the stress. All the things you wish you could change but have to accept as hell on earth. When your mind is that clear you notice the little things. The raw beauty around us. Like a bird stopping to catch its breath. A grasshopper bouncing from blade of grass to blade of grass.

As you let go of all the dirt and grime of life that drags you down so far you can't see the top anymore, you begin to ponder the good. You think of the heartwarming story that you heard of some random person helping a stranger in some small but impacting way. You think about how people describe other people who do good things as being angels. Or heroes. Or saints.  

Human Nature gets blamed for all the bad things. Someone has some self destructive habit and it's human nature to do that. Someone makes a poor choice against better judgement or advice, oh well, it's just human nature. Or is it?

Human nature is actually perfect. Genesis tells us that God created us, male and female, in His image. God is perfect. The conclusion that can be drawn from this is that we are perfect beings at our core. We were made to do good. To bring praise and honor and glory to our Maker. We are not angels on earth when we help each other. When a community pulls together after a tragedy, that is our human nature shining through - not some aberration or anomaly. 

Sin is bad. Sin is the anomaly. Society wants us to think that good is the rarity. Maybe it is but that isn't because human nature is to gravitate towards evil. It's because we are bombarded with so much bad that many of us get pushed past our breaking point. It's a choice. Everything in life is a choice. Always has been and always will be. There's a great line in a song that says something about if you decide not to choose than you still have made a choice. We have the choice to listen to our human nature to be kind, caring, considerate...good. Or not. 

What do you choose? Does your choice change often? 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Timing Skews Perception

This morning I came to the conclusion that I stink at asking for help. I have a panic attack, I fumble my words, I put it off and avoid it if at all possible. Then I decided that maybe it's worse because 99% of the time I ask for help I don't actually get help. I can count on one hand the people who have consistently helped when I've been in a bind. I could more easily count the stars in the sky than tell you the number of people who have told me that they would help me if I ever need it only to turn me down when I ask. The friends that Tracy Lawrence sings about here: 

http://youtu.be/_jyafQe_2Do

But then I did what I always do...I prayed. Now, some people pray by closing their eyes, bowing their heads, hitting their knees and formally speaking to their Maker. That's how people who don't pray a lot probably envision those of us who talk about praying like we talk about breathing, right? Well, let me break your stereotype up a bit...that's not how I pray. Not typically. 

My favorite hymn growing up was What A Friend We Have in Jesus. (Lyrics here: http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh526.sht  ) I believe prayer is simply a conversation with my best friend. So I talk to God like He is sitting, standing or whatever right beside me. It's an unending conversation. Well, okay, so I do too much of the talking but those of you who know me best, are you really surprised? 

I do quiet my head to try to listen at least once a day...today, when I let it all go and shut myself up, He showed me the error in my logic. 

I asked myself, how many times have I wanted to help a friend but because of timing or circumstance I wasn't available? How many times was I actually stuck in a spot where I wanted to drop everything but doing so to help one friend or loved one would break a promise or let down another friend or loved one? Too many to count, just this year. 

I am not alone. I have the most amazing Father in heaven. I have a loving family. I have the most caring friends who are my second family. I am blessed. Blessed beyond my deserving. Blessed that my loved ones have the patience to wait for me to wake up and realize that I am not a burden in their lives. The understanding to see that my hesitation isn't because I doubt them but rather because I don't want to pester them.

So, it turns out that the timing of needs can be a serious hindrance on perception. I'm awfully thankful that God's timing is always perfect cause heaven knows my timing is atrocious! 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Freedom Most Definitely Is Not Free...

Days like today I see an increase of patriotic activity...strange to me how many people only think about their freedoms and our country's sacrifices a few times a year. Here's what's on my mind tonight:

Freedom isn't free. Every freedom we have has been paid for. Through blood of our soldiers, sweat off their brows, tears from the ones the fallen have left behind. No freedom has never been free.

It's east to forget as we go about our busy lives. It isn't on the news daily. If we are not personally affected by a loved one serving, either in the military or as a first responder, than it is all to easy to only reflect on the freedoms they're protecting on days like 9/11 and the 4th of July. 

I remember. I think about it daily. I pray for God to bless each of them, and their families for the sacrifices they daily make for us. I pray His protection over them, be they near or far as they serve an ungrateful nation. I pray for their peace and comfort as I cannot begin to fathom what they go through emotionally, mentally and physically day in and day out. 

Freedom may not be free but prayer is. Thoughts are. Remember these brave and selfless men and women on more than just the days that are obvious. Because believe me, they think of us daily as they pull on their boots and prepare to face the unknown.

Gratitude is free. I give mine to every veteran, every serviceman, every first responder, to each and every person who has ever stood up and said with their actions, "You can sleep in peace tonight because I'm on watch duty and won't let you down." My thanks isn't nearly enough but it's a start. You have that and my respect forever and daily. And all my love.

Friday, August 23, 2013

When You're Down To Nothing

"When you're down to nothing, God is up to something." I've always liked that quote. I'm not sure who said it, and yea I could Google it but frankly I don't feel like it. Today hasn't been the best of days but it hasn't been the worst. I've had good moments and I am clinging to those but most importantly I am clinging to God. I'm sure there's a lesson in all this. My heart and my head may not be in full agreement however I'm not about to let negativity rule my little corner of the world...if you've been reading me for any length of time I'm sure you've picked up on that. I've struggled with it the past few weeks but how's that Mandisa song go...? "I'm an overcomer!"

I write. There's a line in a song that goes something like, "people got their ways of coping and I got mine..." my way of coping is this. I write. I could write in a journal but have y'all noticed my inconsistency here? Yea, a journal is not my thing. Am I causing drama by sharing my turbulent life publicly? Maybe. Am I helping others who have, are or will go through the same or similar experiences? Judging from the comments, private messages, phone calls and emails I have received I would go out on a limb and say yes. And for that reason alone, if nothing else, I keep going. I write.

How does writing help? Well, I guess it's my outlet. Some people are athletes, some are musicians, some drink, some smoke, some party, some pray...everyone has an outlet (at least I hope & pray they do!), a place where they can escape their stress, their reality, their life...for better or for worse: I write. When I don't write I can tell that it's all bottled up inside and I end up losing a piece of myself and come off a few more shades of crazy than I normally am. 

"The good Lord gives and He takes away..." 

I suppose the argument could be made that talents fall into the category of what God can give and take. I pray He never takes away my talent for writing because I can't imagine a life without written words. However, I know that if I find myself "down to nothing," even find I can no longer right, I will still have multitudes of thanks to be given.

At the end of the day, today for example, I may have unanswered questions, I may have doubts and fears (yea, I'm still working on those!) but I have blessings in abundance. I have a Heavenly Father who has already saved me, I have two of the most amazing kids I've ever met (not just my opinion, others have told me as much), I have family that is loving and supportive, I have friends who have become family in every way that matters, I have a man who has opened my mind and my heart to possibilities that I thought I would never look forward to again after shutting the door on a fourteen year marriage that ended in total heartbreak...I am blessed beyond my deserving and no material thing on this earth could ever compare. 

Are you feeling like you are down to nothing? Believe me, my friend, you simply need to take a breath and say thanks for the air that fills your lungs. Then, find a slightly bigger blessing, and so on and so on...I bet you loose track of time by the time you count your blessings! (By the way, if you're reading this, than you are one of MY blessings, and I thank you!)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What Are You Afraid Of?

Fear. It can influence us without knowing. It can infiltrate its way into the nooks and crannies of our lives, our decision making, our relationships, our faith. Sometimes fear isn't vague, sometimes we know we're avoiding things on purpose because of our fear. Why? Why do we allow this irrational emotion rule any part of our existence.The Bible tells us, "God has not given you a spirit of fear..." (II Timothy 1:7) so one could make the argument that fear is a byproduct of sin...but we have been saved from our sins...

So I ask again, why? Why do we not stand up to our fears? I would venture to guess the answer to this is quite different for each of us. It's hard work to stand up to your fears. It can be draining. It can feel impossible or unrealistic. Sometimes the hardest work is recognizing that fear has control of us and we have to dig deep with a lot of "why" questions to ourselves in order to pinpoint the origin of that fear so we can begin to move past it.

I have been working on this one. I'm a work in progress, I know, and I usually take a few steps forward then a few steps back and so on but I want to share what I think I've learned. I always am hopeful that in doing so it will assist someone, somewhere. Even if only one person is touched or helped than it makes sharing my life and the chaos in my head worth every moment spent typing my thoughts and emotions.

I think my biggest fear (besides my motherly fears of not being able to provide, causing my kids to need therapy later in life, etc, etc) is acceptance. Or rather, not being accepted. I'm a people pleaser, I try to make everyone happy. I know it's an impossible task. Sometimes it causes a bigger mess than it should. I have been working on it though and while I see some regressions at times I am overall seeing an improvement. It took a lot for me to get to the root of that. To admit it to myself. Then to start working on overcoming it. Pray helps. A LOT!

I mention prayer because it is a big part of my life. I don't always think of it as prayer though, I have a conversation with God and since I know He's always with me it's kinda a constant, never-ending one.

I have come to realize that His opinion is the only one that matters. His acceptance is the only one I need. And I already have it, He accepted me, a sinner, and loved me so much His Son paid for my transgressions on a cross a long, long time ago. This of course does not mean I just live my life without considering my choices and their implications. It means that I get myself, my choices, right with God and let the rest of the world worry about themselves.

I have also come to realize that my true friends accept me for who I am and will always support my decisions. Those who love me unconditionally will be happy for me and with me if I am happy. I am blessed to have these people in my life. I am ashamed I have not given them more credit. And by that I mean, I should trust them to have my back no matter what anyone else says or does to react to what is going on in my life.

As people learned of my separation and impending divorce from my husband the support that flowed out was overwhelming. The understanding, the love...I had feared the worst and never saw it. So I'm putting it to the test. I'm kicking fear in the teeth tonight. I have been letting the fear of, "what will people think?" and "what will people say?" keep me from talking openly about something positive in my life...

I have met someone. An amazing man that I can only describe as being a blessing sent from God. He is a kind, thoughtful, gentle, caring, generous and God-fearing man who has lit up my world. I could go on and on but I think what my friends would say is important is that I am happy. To say I am being treated well would be an understatement, he makes me feel like a princess. For the first time in my adult life, I feel cherished. It's an odd and wonderful feeling. I, in turn, am cherishing this feeling and this man. One day at a time. God is great. Life is good. People will call me crazy. I like crazy, it's a good place to reside.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Honesty Hour...Human or Hypocrite?

Oftentimes I get friends, family, even strangers coming to me for inspiration. Often I hear that my faith inspires them; my strength in the Lord inspires them; my words inspire them. I am humbled, honored and so grateful for those moments, for the people, for those interactions. That God would choose a broken, battered, imperfect vessel like me to share a small glimpse of His love is the kind of legacy I hope to leave behind.

But…

On days like today…no…on weeks like the past one, I feel unworthy. I feel like a hypocrite. How can I tell of His love, advise to be patient on His timing, praise His name one moment and then a few more moments later I end up telling a friend that I’m not on speaking terms with the Man upstairs?  I sound like a phony, right? Here’s why I think I’m not, maybe why I had to fall into that pit of despair…maybe part of my purpose is to write. Maybe that is how I am supposed to shine God’s love.

Huh?

I have a friend who lovingly jokes with me, we both are convinced that God needs to frequently pull out a 2x4 to whack us on the head before we receive His message. Guess what’s been pulling gently at me for a while? Writing. Guess what’s been really tugging hard at the hem of my garment for the past few days? Writing. You don’t even need a guess as to what I knew I couldn’t go another night without after the day I had today…you’re reading the true-to-Niki style chaos of the results.

Have you ever been in this predicament (as either party): person A asks person B to help out with something but person B says, “Yea, but first…” Person A comes back after a while, person B again, “Oh yea, I will, I will, but first…” and on and on until person A is all, “HELLO???” (The 2x4 to the head, right?)

I have heard from multiple sources the concept that you should be careful what you pray for. A “please teach me patience” prayer can turn into raising a toddler & a tween at the same moment In time. A prayer asking for wisdom and peace to learn to hear His still, small voice can turn into coming to the point where you text your friend, “Well, I would pray for you but I don’t know how much merit it would hold today because He and I are no longer on speaking terms,” and it turns into an hour long conversation, by the end of which I am writing this blog.

I have the privilege of worshiping at an amazing church with a very wise, very humble, very down-to-earth priest. He spoke to us a little while back about the myth behind being “called” to do God’s work/will/etc. I won’t go into it all (partly because this is already half-novel-length but mostly because I wouldn’t do it justice) but it shocked me a little when I first digested it. But the more I played it over in my head, the more sense it made…

God doesn’t need me. If I don’t write, someone else will. If I am not a reflection of His light in the world today, others will be. Does that mean I shouldn’t write? Nope. Should I allow His light to be covered instead of shine through me? Of course not! What it means to me is that while I may not be ‘called’ to write this blog or my devotionals, or anything for that matter, I am called, as His child, to share His love with the world. 

There are many ways to do this, it’s not going to look the same for each of His children, it won’t even look the same to each Christian who writes about Him…but when we share His love unconditionally, when we share His love without judgment, or strings attached, then we are fulfilling His calling, His purpose for our lives. We can do that in a blog, or by paying for a strangers meal; we can do that by volunteering our time or by donating goods; if we do it in love it will ultimately point to Him.

Yea. I am human. I am broken, battered, bruised. Earlier today I was not on speaking terms with God. I felt like He had failed me. I felt like He had broken His promise from Matthew, chapter 28 when He said He is with us always even to the end of ages. I was wrong. Of course I was wrong! I read something last week, scrolling through Facebook, it said something about having to hit rock bottom to learn that He is our Rock.

I hope that sharing my flaws, sharing my struggles and tantrums (because clearly I was having one today if I tried giving God the silent treatment, am I right???) can somehow help. If even one person can find their light renewed, their spirit refreshed from something I rambled out here than I have shared His light tonight. I pray none of you ever has to feel as helpless and hopeless as I did however I equally hope that if you ever do than God will send you an olive branch the way He did for me tonight.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sometimes Silver Linings Look Grey

Six weeks.

I will have six weeks to fill with non-momma time. That's a LONG time to go without hugs, kisses, laughs and all the joy, laughter and love that fills my days now. Okay, if I'm brutally honest the reality is that my days are also filled with frustration, headaches and patience killing moments. But those happy moments make every challenge worth it and are the reason I smile when I think about my children. 

My kids know that I won't put up with negative thinking or overloads of complaints. We look for the positive spin in everything, it's not a rugged obstacle it's an adventure. Sure we have moments when we do have to vent to each other but then we help each other find the silver lining. Right now, the silver lining of their impending visit to another state some 800+ miles away, without me, is looking more grey than shiny and sparkly.

So my challenge the next 8 days is to reinforce what they already have come to expect from me, I have to help them see the positive! They are going on vacation, to a state that they have spent little time in so there is much to be explored! They are going to get to spend time with family they have rarely seen over the past nine years, my son will meet aunts, uncles and cousins he has never laid eyes on! God has His hands on them and He will make sure they are cared for and blessed! I have to focus on that and most importantly: I have to show that side of this trip to them...I need to help them get excited about it.

I haven't done a great job of that over the past five days and shame on me for that! My kids need the momma they have come to count on for finding the positive when no one else can; the momma who makes anything, even chores, fun; they need their momma to be their ray of sunshine in their uncertainty over the upcoming journey they are about to embark upon.

I can do this - I have found the positive in being unemployed, in a house foreclosure, I can certainly tackle this with sunshine, rainbows and butterflies! However, I can only do this because God is my strength. I know He is here with all three of us and even while we'll be half a country away from each other He will keep us in each others' hearts, thoughts and prayers. 

Prayers...please keep my kids in yours. Pray with me that they will have so much fun and such an adventure this summer that they won't miss me even for a minute. Pray for their safety and comfort. But most of all, pray they will begin to rebuild the broken relationships in their lives so they can face the future with all their loved ones securely in their corner.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Addictions We Can't Escape

I was reading through some tweets during the NASCAR Truck race tonight and thinking to myself how much I agreed. There were several people stating they were tired of seeing a particular Cup racer compete and dominate so many Truck and NNS events. I feel like I can see multiple sides to it...

There are the people who say they're going to stop watching NASCAR all together, or certain series within it because they are fed up with the same old boring winner week in and week out. I've been there, I said I was done watching Cup myself if Jimmie didn't stop winning Championships! (Thank you Stewart & Kesolowski and sorry Laura!) The more drivers who are competitive, the more unpredictable each race is...the more unpredictable each race is the more people want to watch to see what's going to happen, right?

A handful of people just complain. They don't offer a solution, they don't say they're going to change their actions...they just moan and whine and see who else will join in. I'm not a fan of this. If you don't like something it is up to you to help find a solution or to walk away - don't just sit and sulk. Life is way too short to spend valuable moments doing something or watching something you don't love. Period.

I understand the logistics that tell me that those Cup drivers, while annoying as all get out when they win week in and week out in the Truck (and NNS) series, are bringing in sponsors, fans and advertisers. I get it. In the spirit of not being the person who complains without offering solutions I am going to hop up on my soapbox and use my blog for what it's meant: a place for me to share MY opinions...if you're easily offended you should probably proceed with caution because I honestly have no idea how abrasive this is going to get.

Shame on the fans. Shame on those who won't go see a Truck race because they have no idea who any of the drivers are. Shame on those who won't go see a Truck race unless there's a big name driver like Kyle Busch or Kevin Harvick or Brad Kesolowski wheeling around the track. Where do you think these drivers made a name for themselves? There would be no Cup level talent without the skill building series like Trucks, and while we're at it, K&N, ARCA, NNS, Whelen and so on down the line. Wouldn't it be amazing to watch a driver work his way up the ranks and be able to say you cheered for him/her before he/she made it to the big time? 

Shame on the tracks. You want to really pack the seats for your lower series events? Lower your ticket rates! Ignore what the mainstream, ignorant media are saying about the recession being over or getting better! There are still thousands of people (like me!) losing their houses, struggling to find work that will provide for their families, pinching pennies just to feed their families that simply cannot afford to attend as many races as they want to. Try it for a season or two and if it doesn't increase attendance then you go back to the drawing board. But, don't just drop prices a few dollars, slash them! A family of four cannot afford $35 a ticket when they are barely making ends meet. Can you imagine a Truck race having more fans in the stands than a Cup event? With the right marketing program and slashed prices it could and would happen!

Shame on NASCAR. You have created a developmental series that could bring in amazing talent that one day will have sponsors drooling over the possibility of special paint schemes and incredible ad campaigns but you fail to highlight and advertise these young drivers and their talent to the full potential that you could. You are a very influential organization that has the power to promote the Truck (and other lower) series in a way that would get more fans excited to watch... Instead, because it's easy and it's "working" you allow Cup drivers to dominate races that are supposed to be set aside for drivers who are learning and growing and trying like hell to make a name for themselves. Guess what...it's not really working...fans are disgusted, attendance sucks and the people who want to cheer for up and coming drivers like Kyle Larson and Bubba Wallace are turning off their TVs and heading to local tracks for non-NASCAR events.

Shame on sponsors for having no vision. Imagine finding the next Jimmie Johnson or Kyle Busch (with less attitude maybe?) and getting in with them before they became so popular that everyone wants a piece of them? Imagine being the one company that took a chance and propelled a superstar to multiple championships? Wouldn't that be a branding and legacy phenomenon that not only gains long term ROI but creates a reputation for excellence? Why aren't more of you jumping at the chance to tap into a sport that has more fans than any other?

If I haven't lost you yet then let me challenge you this: if you don't already have a favorite driver in the Truck series, go get one! Read up on who's out there, pick a favorite or two and then for the rest of 2013 cheer for no one else! If you're a Kyle Busch fan and he runs a truck too bad, stick to your guns! Love Brad Kesolowski? Better save it for Sunday because on Truck day you are hereby DARED...no double...wait, TRIPLE DOG DARED to ONLY cheer for a NCWTS Driver. What are you waiting for? Get to it!

*Hops off soapbox* For now...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Time To Mourn

It's crunch time. I have no business 'wasting' time on the computer and yet when the inspiration to writes hits me I will lose it if I don't run with it. I've tried notebooks, there has been a time or two that I have been able to salvage a thought from scribbles jotted down but usually my luck is that I get hit with an idea while I am driving and there is no where to pull over. So today...I write.

In three weeks' time I am simultaneously losing my house to auction (unless they accept this short sale by some miracle!). Before you ask, I am still looking for a job, applying new places daily and no, I have no idea where the kids and I will be living. I am clinging to God's promises that He will provide all our needs. Oh, so if that's not enough, the same day they auction the house I have to sit across from my estranged husband for the first time since he left back in the middle of December.

My ex. That is how I refer to him because there is no more us. The only thing standing between that being a legal term and the awkward place we are now is a law in the great state of North Carolina that requires we wait. A year. One year. I was packing up some trinkets in my dining room today, Precious Moments to be exact, and came across a figurine that my ex gave me on our first anniversary. The first thought I had was sell it on eBay, make some money. Too much hassle with the busy few weeks I have ahead of me. Maybe I could dump it on Listia, gain some credits towards that video camera I want. Again, I don't really have time to auction anything at the moment.

I thought back to a conversation I had with a very wise man who told me that I had to remember to give myself time to mourn my marriage. The same you do when you lose a person who is close to you because in essence my marriage is dead. I have struggled with this, on several levels. Here's the biggest one: I have been extremely blessed so far in my life, I have never mourned anyone that I was so close to that I needed the true grieving process. So I don't know how to grieve. I don't know how to let things go to the point that I can look back and smile about the good times without being sad that they are over.

So as I stood in my dining room, alone in the house because my youngest is playing out back with our furbaby, tempted to smash it into a million pieces, I stopped to remember the road of grief. I thought to myself that if this had been a gift from a loved one who had died would I really throw it away? No. I would save it to remember the happy times we had. I am moving forward, one step, one breath at a time by saving this...right? Time will tell, but I think the momentos, the pictures, the trinkets; they are all linked to happier times and someday I will look back on them and smile at the journey that made me who I am today. A stronger, smarter woman.

So I will find my way, my way to mourn what I have lost and I will learn to let go, truly and completely. I owe that to myself. I owe that to my kids, to be able to show them that is it alright to be sad for a moment...but then show them that we pick up the pieces and move forward. We cherish the happy memories and we let go of the rest. We will survive together and we will ultimately have a kinder, gentler understanding of those around us going through hard times because we have walked through our own fire and came out heads held high, smiles on our faces and tears erased from our eyes.

Friday, April 26, 2013

It's NOT A Diet (And YES You Can Too)

I never thought of myself as a runner. I never understood why people would say they actually enjoyed it! Some of you reading this are nodding your heads and thinking, "She's right, they're crazy!" Call me crazy because I am loving the amazing 'high' I get from, yes, running. It's more than that though, it is almost like a badge, to be able to call myself a runner. A badge along my journey...

Some of you reading this know that I have been on a journey for a little over a year. Not a weight loss journey, although I have gone from a size 18/20 to a 7/8 (believe it or not I still have thirty pounds to go!), but I have called it my Healthier Me Journey. I have had people ask me what diet I used to lose weight. None. I don't do diets, and you shouldn't either. Diets are fads, they don't last. We often talk about wanting to lose weight (I just said 30 lbs to go!) however what we really need to focus on is our health.

I'm no doctor, nutritionist or fitness expert, I'm not going to lecture on what you should or shouldn't do. If you have questions about the specific changes I have made in my life please let me know, but today I want to talk about challenges and successes. The challenge we all face when wanting to make a change is habit. We have to break our habit and keep consistency and momentum built long enough to create new habits. I've heard conflicting talk about how long that is exactly however I would say a month is a good benchmark.

Everyone reading this has different challenges, I will tell you about a few of mine...

At 26 years old, eight years ago, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my thoracic spine, in laymen's terms I guess you could say the center of my spine is deteriorating. There are days (fewer now that I have stayed active and yes, lost weight) when I cannot move because the pain consumes my back and any movement of any part of my body. I spend those days lying flat, with a heating pad and plenty of ibuprofen. If I can alleviate the pain enough to move than I push myself to do so, carefully. This can cause a huge break in momentum however I know the healthier I can get my body, the longer I will go between episodes, at least in the near future.

Earlier this year I was diagnosed with asthma. It's quite difficult to run when you can't get oxygen into your lungs! I have trouble breathing in temperatures below forty degrees in general, if it's below fifty I can't get in a run outdoors. Last year I was training for a 5K run that I completed in the beginning of December, this air temperature challenge was frustrating but I ran up and down my hallway and in circles around my room a few times, simply to help build my lung capacity. Yes, I have heard of a treadmill, no I do not have access to one. Shocking, I know.

One of my biggest challenges wasn't health related at all, and truth be told, I still struggle with this one: I have a massive love affair with...junk food. I have learned that it doesn't impede my progress too much if I remember that when I indulge I have to keep it in moderation. I also need to remove the word "can't" from my vocabulary. If I tell myself I can't have something it is only going to make me want it more. Yes I know that's a teenagers mentality but it still works on most adults, tell us we can't and we shall show you that we can.

So yes, running is a badge, it's my personal trophy that reminds me how far I have come. I haven't just lost forty-five pounds and a bunch of inches, I've gotten in better physical shape...I've become a healthier me. I'm still a work in progress though! Now, I'm not saying I want to be a size 0, or that anyone should strive for that. I am not saying that anyone can become a runner, there are some challenges that need a work around and others that need a different healthy plan. What I am trying to say is that with determination and perseverance, anyone can create new habits.

This can be applied to things other than a healthier you! I'm talking about all changes in general here. Yet, you have to want the changes. Not because someone else thinks you need them. Not because you want to impress this or that person. Not even because you think it's the right thing to do. It has to be a want, a passion, a deep down desire for change that makes you fight for the chance to break the chains of being set in your ways. I didn't go on a diet, I changed my life...and yes...you can change yours too!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Who Shall I Be?

Fourteen years ago today I married a man I was sure I would grow old with. Seven months ago that dream of a starry eyed girl came to a crashing halt. If you've been following my blog, you already know my story. You know that as a result of where I've been I am now on a journey to find me.

Most people don't like change. Change scares the daylights out of them. I'm not most people. I enjoy change. I thrive on it, yearn for it, relish in it every moment of the adventure. We are ever changing, growing creatures, we were designed that way, we should celebrate it, not fear it.

I would be lying if I said I didn't care what anyone else thinks about me, my journey, how I have and am changing. I am human. There is a part of me that will always long for acceptance and pride. I want to make my grandparents proud. I want my parents to speak of me with a gleam in their eye. I want to make those I love most in my life proud of me, I do, it's a part of me I struggle with daily.

Struggle? Yes, struggle. Here's why......at what point am I living for them instead of for God and for me? Where is the meaning in their pride if I am not being true to myself? I can't be anyone but me, right? So how can I live my life with no regrets if I am living it for other people? Simple: I can't. At the end of the day, I need to be able to face myself in the mirror and my Maker on my knees. Plain and simple. No one else's opinion matters. What's best for them isn't what's best for me in so many cases.

I have to be comfortable in my own skin. I need to have confidence in my choices, each and every moment I am breathing. If I'm not being true to myself than I'm not giving anyone anything to be truly proud of because anything other than the real me is just a facade. It's a mirage and everyone around me thinks they're drinking water when it's actually sand, grainy and unsubstantial.

More importantly, the only way I can teach my children that it is best to be themselves, even if they're different, is by living the example they should follow. Showing them that it's not only okay to be themselves, that it's something they should take pride in, no matter who they are. Society is so obsessed with fitting in, I want my kids to know it's OK to dare to be different!! If people don't understand you, don't accept you, that is their loss, not yours. If I can't instill that lesson in my own kids because of my own insecurities or misguided efforts to be what other people think I should be than that is the greatest injustice of all.

Be yourself. Be true, be real, be honest and kinder than necessary. But don't be a doormat. Live in love, that includes love for yourself.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Drive To Make Your Dreams Come True

Dreams. We all have them, right? Sometimes we share dreams with other people, we have similar or seemingly the same dream. But I believe even if we have the same goal, our dream is unique...because it's ours. When we close our eyes, we see ourselves there, in that moment, the one where we've made dream a reality. Go ahead, close your eyes a moment...we'll wait....

Did you see it? Did you picture yourself living your dream? Hang onto that! We need dreams to keep hope alive in our life. We need them so we have something to work towards, to look forward to, to give us a light at the end of the tunnel. Dreams are a part of who we are and who we want to become all at the same time. 

I have been watching several friends going hard after their dreams. It's inspiring. It's motivating.   It is heartwarming and heartbreaking all at once. Heartbreaking when you watch them go through setbacks but heartwarming to watch them plunge forward with renewed determination time and again. Dreams of a college degree, of getting physically fit, dreams of finding love, of working on pit road or of getting behind the wheel and racing at speeds that would scare the average person. Whether the dreams seem big or small to the outside world, they are the world to those who hold them in their heart and soul.

For instance, my friend who's working towards a dream of a college degree...imagine the determination it takes to take on school as a single parent of two active children all while working two jobs and trying to find time to make life for their family and friends in the process. Don't tell me that isn't a big deal, don't tell me it's just college...it's an incredible journey that teaches you what you're made of. I can't begin to say how proud I am of this friend!

I could break down each one, I'm tempted to...my friends who are working on their fitness dreams are all in different walks of life and would be able to easily say, "I'm just too busy" but instead they are fighting their overbooked schedules to get to the gym, to put in that effort every single day. I am honored and inspired by them daily and could not be prouder of not only how far they've come but also of their reaction to setbacks and wane in motivation!

Finding love, that's another that I have seen several friends who are dreaming of...as a glimmer of hope my heart is bursting with love and joy for a friend who recently found the love of their life and is now planning the rest of their lives together. Fairy tales can give us a false sense of what love should be and how it should happen...it's so much better to watch this dream in reality and see people overcome when the odds are against us.

The last two examples I may know several people who have these dreams but for each one I have a specific friend in mind. They have some similarities and some differences. Their dreams are related yet unique. I haven't done much in the way of interviewing for print however I am tempted to ask each of them to do an interview for some follow up blogs...since I didn't ask them ahead of time I won't call anyone out by name here. If you're a mutual friend and know exactly who I am thinking of please do not call them out in comments or shares. As a friend, a bystander who has been able to watch a small part of each of these individuals journeys, I am proud of their passion, conviction and courage. 

What stands out to some may in fact be brushed aside by others. I think part of the difference between people who say, "I wish I could go after my dream," and those who say, "I am going after my dream," is that the latter are not concerned with what others think. That is not to say they are not caring people, in fact, every single person that came to mind while I was writing this today is the kind of person who would give you the shirt off of his/her back if you were in need. I mean to say that they are not letting naysayers come between them and what they know is the one thing that is most important to achieve in their lives at this moment. 

One last thought on dreams...they can change. We need to recognize when they do because then when we let go of that dream it's not failure, it's not giving up...it's moving on. We change constantly, so it's understandable that our dreams do as well. How do we know if we're changing or if we're giving up? I think there's a simple test...if you wake up every morning with your dream on your mind, contemplating how you can move towards it today, analyzing over breakfast what's working, breaking down during lunch what other paths may take you there, looking forward through supper to the days when positive progress is made and the last thought as you drift off to sleep is a picture of you living your dream then you need to keep pushing. If it fades to the back of your mind, some days doesn't even cross your conscience thoughts and/or you go more than a day without spending time on picturing it than it may be time to move on.

Remember this: dreams are important! If you come to a time when you need to move on from your dream then be sure you know what your new dream is. Take the time, for you, to search your soul and find that deepest, inner passion for whatever it is and then put everything you have into making it become a reality! Also keep in mind, when you achieve your dream, after you take it in and let yourself celebrate the victory, don't forget to set your next goal...to dream your next dream. Life is too short to stand on the sidelines, to just go through the motions, find your dream and go claim it!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Taboo Topics That Hit Close To Home

I am not sure when I will publish this but if I don't write it when it's on my heart I never will. 

I read something today that hit me hard, "Domestic abuse is not just physical, it includes verbal and emotional abuse." As I write this I am currently separated from my husband. He never physically assaulted me. In the latter half of our near fourteen year marriage however, I lived with increasing emotional and verbal abuse from him. I am not writing this to disparage him, as the father of my two amazing children I have every hope that he will seek help and move beyond his inner demons.

I am writing this because I never associated this type of abuse in the same category as physical violence because I have no scars that I can show others. I never had to hide in long sleeve blouses or pants. I never needed a pound of makeup to cover a black eye. I lied to myself that what I was going through was completely different. But the mental state you end up in is very much the same.

The fear that anything you say can set someone off, the feeling of shame that you cannot stand up for yourself, the pain of wanting to love and be loved yet simply receiving nothing but anger and criticism in its place. I think these and more truly do convey among all types of abuse. I wrote in my last blog about not knowing what my passions were until my recent journey...it was more than that...I didn't know myself. I still don't fully know who I am but I am closer. 

I think for me the big difference is that the threat of physical violence is what woke me up. When I was in fear for my children's and my own safety, I finally saw clearly what I had been hiding from myself for years. In the days and weeks that followed, I began to see signs that I didn't know why I had ignored. I felt guilty for not removing my children from the situation sooner, for not pushing my ex harder to get help, for not seeking help myself. I wanted to crawl into a hole and not come out until everything was over. I didn't want to face my family. I barely wanted to open up to my friends who I had only told parts of my story to. I felt like a utter and complete failure. 

I have been blessed with a few, select, extraordinary friends who have been my support team. They have seen me at my worst and they haven't left my side because of it. They've given me tough love when I have needed, they have listened to the same complaints time and time again, they have held my hand and gotten me through the hardest, darkest days of my adult life. If you have at least one true friend, you have the world. I have several, I am overwhelmed some days at how blessed I sincerely am.

My biggest saving grace through all of this has been my Lord. My faith and relationship with Him has been the string that gives me my last hope on the days when I don't even want to get out of the bed. I don't read my Bible enough. I have missed too many Sundays to count. But, I talk to God every single day. Most days it is an open, unending conversation from when I wake up until when I go to sleep. My friends can't be with me 24/7 but God can and He never leaves my side. Additionally, and this has been important in my journey to forgiving myself, God teaches me about redemption. "We all fall short..." Think about the powerful love God has for us...He knew we would mess it all up in the Garden of Eden. He knew sin would enter this world. He knew He would have to sacrifice His one and only Son to redeem us. Yet, He still created Adam and Eve. I cling to His love when I am finding it hard to love myself. I remind myself that if God loves me than I am worthy of love. 

Worthy of love. We all are worthy of love. Does it always find us when we want it to? No. Will it come to our lives in its true and right timing? I believe it will. But we have to know who we are before we can see who anyone else around us is. 

I haven't broken free of an abusive relationship on my own. I have had amazing people placed in my life who have helped me break down the walls that I didn't even realize I had built. I can't find the words to express my gratitude for helping me begin the journey to realizing who I am and what I am capable of. But I'm here, I'm a little stronger each day and I want you to know that you are able to get there too if you need. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Passionate Madhouse

Bowman Gray Stadium. Cars up on the rails/wall, whole field pile ups, fighting in the infield at the start/finish line, cautions breeding cautions and more cautions. GWC's, drivers showing up in the bleachers/stands, the unmistakable roar of Saturday night racing. A passionate crowd that is often louder than the cars on the track. Quarter mile chaos - enough said! WILD!!! FUN!!! Can't wait to go again!

I wrote the above a whopping ten months ago. I had titled the blog as, "They Don't Call It "The Madhouse" For Nothing!" I'm not sure what else I wanted to add to it or why it has been sitting in my drafts all this time...but I can say over the course of the last year my love for more types of racing than I had been able to experience in my limited scope has grown by leaps and bounds. But more than just that, I have been on a journey to discover myself. I had not just lost myself, I lost the path to unlock the door to where my true passions were hiding. Passions that make up who I am, that give me a thirst for life, love and fun! Let's face it, without all three of those we would lose hope quickly! 

I have always had a passion for God, for my faith, for my relationship with my Savior. Has this passion ebbed and flowed? Of course, that's why I have always liked the description that "we are ever becoming Christian." There is always room for improvement, always room to grow. Conversely, there are always setbacks, stumbles and roadblocks. I believe it is how we overcome those that help shape our personal faith and mold our character, personality and ultimately our soul. This passion I have clung to through all my trials. That is not to say that I haven't screamed out "why" and "God take this" or even "where are You?"...I would be lying if I said I had an unshakable faith. I have been shaken. However, as my head and my heart battle I remind myself over and over that God will never leave me, that He will turn every bad to good for those who love Him and most of all that He is my only true shelter. Sometimes I have to remind myself a LOT of times! At the end of the day, I'll never question my passion for God and I am so blessed and grateful to have Him in my corner.

I don't have a lot of memories from my childhood. I have been blessed with a poor memory and I trust there's good reason for that but one of my earliest memories I have is of Road America. My dad took me there when I was 4 or 5, at least that's what I remember, it's possible we went more often, I should ask him! Ha! But I remember being fascinated with fast cars from an early age. I don't remember telling a lot of people about it, maybe because I didn't grow up going to racing events often. Our weekends and free time in the summer was spent out on Lake Michigan, catching supper! I love to fish, that's in my blood. But I have a passion for racing, all forms, there is this explainable peace that comes when the engines roar and I can feel the rumble in my chest. I cannot help but smile when I close my eyes and inhale the scent of octane and race tires. If I could, I would spend every weekend at a racetrack. One definition of passion is "any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling"...ask any die hard racing fan if this is an accurate description of their love of racing. You will see big smiles and resounding "Oh yeahs!" for certain. 

I have passion for my kids, they are the center of my world right now and will always come first when it comes down to needs. I have a passion for my family, blood is thicker than water, right? Right! I have a passion for my friends, I would do anything in my power to help them, any time, any place, no questions. I have passion for singing, writing, summertime and sunshine. These are not your simple everyday favorites or priorities, they are powerful loves that I am compelled to pour my heart and soul into experiencing and having in my life. They all have upsides and downsides. They all have the potential to bring heartache, fear and tragedy into my world. Does that change my passion for them? Never! My passions may make my life its own 'madhouse' but I am learning that I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Life is too short to live with regrets, there are only lessons learned and memories. Live happy, share love, find your passion and find a way to fill everyday with a piece of it!