Thursday, January 07, 2016

Everyone Has a Story

It's 8:50pm and I need to return a couple of Redbox videos by 9:00pm. I jump into my car and head to the nearest and easiest Redbox to access which is at Walmart. Walmart is not my favorite place and I pretty much only go in there to use the Redbox. This isn't to start a debate about who has lower prices -- I simply don't care for how their businesses are run and choose to not support them. End of subject.

As I entered Walmart, there was a young couple -- looked like only teenagers -- entering the store with their young baby. I glanced at them and wondered what their story was. Did they get pregnant and were forced to move out and survive on their own? Or was this simply time that the three of them could spend together since they live apart? Perhaps their little family is together at her parents' house? Or maybe they just look REALLY young? Anyways, it got me thinking about how rarely I think about other people's stories.

I have found myself often judging some of the people I see at Walmart -- the parents dragging their screaming toddlers through the store at 10/11pm. I've shaken my head and thought "how could any good parent bring their kid to the store at this time?" I haven't taken the time to consider their story. Maybe the woman with the screaming toddler is a single mom, her toddler woke up sick, and she had to take him with her to the store to get his medicine. She knows people are judging her (she gets that a lot as a single mom), but her child needs medicine and this is the only way to get it. Or maybe she works multiple jobs and the only time she can go to the store is now and she doesn't have anyone to watch her child -- it's only one night a week.

It's so easy for us to judge without considering people's stories first. And we think it's not a big deal because it's just in our head and they don't know what we are thinking. Perhaps we do it to make us feel a little bit better about all the TV our kids watched that day (hey, at least my child is in bed at a proper time). And just because it's a conversation only in our head, doesn't make it okay. God calls us to love and care for each other and to do that we need to have a heart like Jesus. The thoughts in our heads are as much a reflection of our heart condition as our actions are. And eventually, those thoughts don't stay in our head and we begin talking to people, etc.

I don't want to be a cynic and judge people. I want to love them. My six-year-old son is a great example of loving everyone. Anytime we see a homeless person, he asks me what his story is and makes sure that we stop and help him out. If we are walking in Chicago and I don't have any money on me to give, he will walk up to the homeless man on the street and give him a smile and a high five. He's just like my husband.

I pray that in this new year, we would take the time to consider someone's story and not just be quick to judge. Don't assume things about people, just love them. I pray that God will change my heart and help me to see people as he sees them and to love them -- to not walk away from those in need, but to give what I can to them. Christ sacrificed his life for me because his love for me. How can I not show love to others?

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Know Your Worth

Four weeks ago, I partially tore my calf muscle while running. I knew that I would have to take a break from running for around three weeks. As I was telling a close friend of mine about my calf injury, she jokingly said to me, "Don't you go and get fat on me."

Now, to be fair to her, she was secure enough in our friendship and how I look, that she knew it was okay to joke with me, so I wasn't offended. It did get me thinking, though.

You see, not too many years ago, I would have obsessed over that statement and been sent in a downward spiral. I worried that I would gain weight if I went just one day without working out. And on the days I didn't work out, I obsessed about what I could eat. I actually remember driving in my car one day, wondering if I could eat anything if I didn't workout. What?! I was so caught up in the idea of replacing calories when I worked out, that I forgot that calories are needed in order to LIVE. So silly (and don't worry, I ate -- it was just a thought). But it is so easy to get in that boat. I'm sure many of you can relate. So, what changed for me?

On November 20, 2011 I delivered my baby girl, Elise Madeleine, into the world and it changed me in ways I never expected. As I held her little body and prayed over her, I knew that I didn't want her to grow up with the same body image issues that I struggled with. I wanted her to be healthy, but to not obsess. By the grace of God, what had tormented me for years slowly disappeared. I began seeing myself as I truly was -- slender and fit. I stopped being overly dramatic with how I felt in the moment and remembered that it's impossible to gain 10lbs overnight from one meal. ;) It wasn't/isn't always easy, but in the moments when I want to judge myself, I simply close my eyes and pray, "Lord, let me see with your eyes."

My worth is not defined by the size of my clothes or how I feel that day (Praise the Lord!). My worth is defined by a God who created me, saved me, and loves me. If God loves me as I am, who am I to criticize what he has created?

You are loved. You are worth more than the number on the scale. When you struggle with how you see yourself, stop and remember who/what defines your worth.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

What's Your Excuse?

The excuses are rampant: I'm too busy; my kids come first; I don't like to exercise; I'll do ______ first, then I'll start getting healthy; is it really that important if I eat well and exercise? We all die one day -- might as well do what I want to...

That's a good question. Is important to be healthy? Well, if you want to have energy, keep up with your kids, not fall asleep constantly during the day, and live a long life (God-willing), the answer is YES! But the world around you will tell you it isn't.

In today's society, we are so caught up in everyone feeling good about themselves (every kid gets a trophy; it's okay if you are obese as long as you love yourself) that we allow people to live unhealthy lives. I know that there are legit medical conditions that cause people to gain weight or make it incredibly difficult to lose weight. And healthy looks different for all of us. I'm not just talking about pant-size, I'm talking about thriving and taking care of the body God has given you. You only get one.

The majority of deaths these days is from degenerative diseases -- things that can be prevented: heart attack, stroke, Diabetes (Type II), etc. The current generation of youth has a life expectancy shorter than ours. With all the modern technology we have, you would think it would be longer, but the poor eating and sedentary lifestyles that are being passed on to our youth have negated any medical advancements.

As a Christian, this should be more important to us, not less important. Yes, our souls and relationship with God comes first, but we are also required to care for what God has given us. "Don't you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body." 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. Notice that it says "you do not belong to yourself." Most of us when we get a rental car make sure to return it in perfect condition -- no dings, no garbage, the tank is filled with gas. Yet we eat junk food and fill our bodies with garbage instead of properly taking care of them. We were created to love God and glorify him forever. Are you bringing glory to God by how you care for you body? Are you able to fully engage and minister to others when you can barely make it up the stairs without having to stop to get a breath?

So what does it look like to have a healthy life? It's NOT about starving yourself of constantly going on ridiculous diet or becoming a health nut. It's making good choices. It's eating clean foods -- fresh produce and meats. Stay away from processed foods as much as you can. It's about getting good exercise -- around thirty minutes a day. It's about taking good supplements (you get what you pay for) -- it's impossible to get optimal level of vitamins and minerals that we need (to thrive not just survive) through just our food. Also consider the amount of chemicals around you that you consume, inhale, and/or put on your body.

As a Health Coach, it is my passion to see people become healthy and live active and thriving lives. I want to help people be able to breath easier, walk better, think clearer, and sleep deeper. If you are in need of some guidance in any of these areas or encouragement, I would love help you! Contact me and I will be happy to meet with you or talk over the phone. You can also check out my website: www.heatlhyandfreeliving.com. It is filled with tons of information on nutrition, supplements, exercise, essential oils, and going chemical-free. I would love to see you reach your health goals. :)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Forever Friends

First of all, before I begin, I need to apologize to my friends for being absent this summer. Not only have I been busy with my kids' numerous activities (especially in the evenings), but my sister and her family to Ohio on July 17th. Any free time that I had was spent with them (pool time, Great America, Raging Waves). Pretty much all my free time went to my family. I have missed my friends and look forward to spending more time with them soon.

In past posts, I've mentioned how I struggle with friendships. I want to write about the friends that have had an amazing impact on my life.

1. Lauren and I became friends when she moved to my school in 8th grade. We connected immediately and enjoyed years of singing together, roaming the halls, sleepovers, etc. In high school, our nicknames were Fire (Lauren) and Ice (me). We lost touch some through college, but God works in amazing ways. We reconnected and have been stronger friends since. She is my "kindred spirit" and a sister to me.




Lauren is an inspiration to me and a constant encouragement. She has endured more physical, spiritual, and emotional trials than anyone I know, but her love for Jesus constantly shines through her crazy. I can tell her anything and trust her completely. We have walked together through medical trials, adoptions, death, job changes, marriages, etc. I am so thankful to God for blessing me with such an amazing friend. AND, today is her birthday!!! 23 years of friendship and counting.


2. Brooke and I met at Wheaton College and became friends right away our freshman year. We were roommates our Junior and Senior years. Brooke has a sweet, loving personality and cares passionately for others. Her honesty with me is amazing and she has never been afraid to call me out when I am being a jerk. Even through her struggles, she has a quiet strength that comes only from God and inspires me daily.



This past year, Brooke took inventory of her life, and realized that she has been pushing herself too hard and it was affecting her health. While the world tells us to always be busy, she has decided to take a step back and focus on what is most important -- her faith and her family -- in order to revive herself. I am SO proud of her. It's been six years (way too long) since we last saw each other (she lives in Texas) and I miss her all the time. 18 years of friendship and counting.


3. Debbie and I became friends when my family moved to Illinois and starting attending Naperville Presbyterian Church back in 1985. Yes, we have been friends for 30 years! Our friendship has been through elementary school, junior high (Yikes!), summer camps, high school, college, and adulthood. Our friendship may look different now, but I still hold her dear to my heart. She was always a constant for me over the years and I love when we are able to get together and catch up.





Debbie was my partner in crime throughout our school years and I treasure her always. She is full of life, an amazing dancer, and always a blast to be around. I look forward to the next time she is in town and we can get our kids together to play and talk.


4. Before he was my husband, Walter was my best friend (he still is). From the beginning, I have always been completely real and honest with him...and he has accepted me, listened to me, cared for me, and loved me. To this day, there is no one else I would rather spend my time with and I love just hanging with him, watching sports, talking sports, talking life, etc.





He is an amazing friend, husband, father, and man of God. He has shown me Christ and God's grace throughout our relationship. I am a better person because of him and have grown so much as a person and as a Christian. I am so blessed to call him my husband.


There are numerous other friends who have impacted my life, in the past and now. I don't have the time and space to write about all of them, but know that you are loved. It's easy for me to focus on the ways I have been hurt and write about the struggle (which is real), but I don't want to forget the positive friendships and the amazing people God has placed in my life. I am blessed.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Summer Loves

I don't know about you, but this summer has been super busy (with all good things) and seems to be flying by! How is it already almost July?! I have hardly updated my website or written a newsletter or blog because I am constantly running to another one of my kids' events. But I love it. :) My children are only young once and I love spending every single second with them (even when they are crying because I said no to candy -- I'm such a mean mom).

I am constantly looking for ways to make myself and my family healthier and enjoy life to the fullest, so here are a few more of my newest favorite things:

1. The Trekkie Skort by Athleta


Okay, so it isn't about being healthy, but these skorts are so dang comfortable and they make me look put together while requiring minimal effort. I love summer. I love the warm weather and wearing shorts, a sports shirt, and sandals. With this skort, I look a little more fancy, while not sacrificing on ease. The side pockets are perfect for my phone and keys when I am at my son's baseball games or my kids' soccer games. They also dry quickly if they get wet (my son might have dumped a bunch of water on my lap one day). Bonus, they are only $59. I loved my first one so much that I bought another one. :)

2. LUSH Cosmetics



This month, I spent the weekend in Chicago with my sister and some friends celebrating her 40th birthday. While there, we stopped into Macys at Watertower Place and I discovered LUSH. At first it just looked like a bunch of soaps, but as a looked closely I thought "these are my people." LUSH is all handmade from pure ingredients and no harmful chemicals. And it's more than just soap. There are face washes, masks, scrubs, and cosmetics. In my quest to get the chemicals out of my life, the last thing has been cosmetics (there are SO many chemicals in cosmetics and we, as women, wear them most of the day!). I fell in love with their cosmetics and feel like I am putting something good on my face.

3. TummyGize Essential Oil



Did you know Young Living has a kids line of oils called KidScents? My 3 year old daughter struggles with constipation (mainly from holding it in). We have made a lot of changes to her diet, but it still happens at times. I used to put DiGize and Peppemint diluted in coconut oil on her stomach, but it's takes a little bit more time and I worried about her, since these can be "hot" oils. I finally ordered TummyGize. Now, I put it directly on her stomach without fear of it hurting her and it aids in easing her stomach discomfort from constipation.

4. ABCmouse.com



If you watch any children's television, you've probably seen the advertisement for ABCmouse. Well, after years on being brainwashed by the commercial ;) I finally signed my kids up for it. They LOVE it! Edmund is cruising through it and I love that it is keeping him engaged over the summer when so much of what they learn in school can me lost. I honestly wish I had done this sooner. I much prefer this for screen time instead of obsessively watching Netflix on his iPad. :)

5. Vionic Shoes


One more clothing item. I actually came across this brand of shoes at a store in downtown Naperville before we headed to Disney this past February. I have had multiple foot surgeries, so I am constantly looking for shoes that are good for my feet. These sandals are AMAZING. The arch support is beyond compare and they use Orthaheel Technology so that your feet are balanced and supported correctly. I wore them all around Disney and my feet never hurt. They are my go to sandals and I really need to get another pair. (Mine look a little worn, because our new dog chewed the strap when they were practically new and I got it repaired as best as possible, but now they are forever marred and I shed a little tear every time I look at them. ;) ) Also, they are an incredible price for this type of shoe -- these sandals are only $65 (for those of you that have searched for cute orthotic shoes, you know this is a steal).

I hope you are all having a fabulous summer and I hope to get back into the swing of things after the next couple weeks of craziness. :)

If your new to my blog, be sure to check out my website: Healthy & Free Living to learn how to create and healthier lifestyle free of chemicals. Be sure to "like" my facebook page too. :)

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Best. Sister. Ever.

I know many people brag that they have an amazing sister, but I really hit the jackpot. Today, my older sister turns 40! :)



My sister is one of the most loving, friendly, caring, extroverted people I know. She cares passionately for her friends and family. She knows how to reach out to people and draw them in. She's an amazing teacher and leader and a phenomenal MC for any type of event. She is a wonderful wife, mother, and woman of God.



I've always looked up to my sister. I remember as a child, sitting in her room and staring at her while she talked on the phone (which drove her crazy!) -- I wasn't even listening to the conversation...I just wanted to be in the same room as her. That's how much I adored her. When she went off to college (we are four years apart in school), I clearly remember her coming home and saying how she never really appreciated me or realized how much she loved me until she went off to school. ;)



Each stage of life has only brought us closer and she is now one of my best friends. My sister protects me, defends me, and pushes me. When I was struggling with friendships my Freshman year of college, she would pick me up from school one night each week and take me out to dinner at TGIFridays. When I moved to North Carolina for grad school, she flew down during summer break and visited me for a week (while pregnant with her first child...and I had her sleep on an air mattress while I slept in my bed. What?! I'm so sorry, Kara). When I moved back home to Illinois, she invited me to every social event with her church Growth Group. When Walter and I were best friends and hanging out all the time, but were safe in the friend zone, she pushed me to think about what I really wanted and I ended up asking Walter if we should see if there is more...and now we have been married for over eight years and have two beautiful children of our own!



When friends have left me out of events, she has made sure that I am always invited and included. She always had my back and my best interests at heart. And now she's moving to Ohio this summer. Although I am so happy for her, at times I struggle with knowing how to have friendships without her guidance. I fear at times of getting lost without her intervention. I have been blessed to live near her for 34 years (the other two were in NC) as many people aren't as lucky to be close to their siblings. The people in Dublin, Ohio are fortunate to get her and have her love on them too. I know God will continue to do amazing things in her life and in her family.

I love you, Kara, and I'm so thankful God made us sisters. Happy 40th birthday!


Sunday, May 10, 2015

A Legacy of Mothers

In honor of Mother's Day, I've decided to write about the amazing mothers that are a part of my family:

1. Helen Elizabeth Veerman (Grandma Veerman)



Most of what I know about my Grandma Veerman are the stories that I have heard. You see, my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimers when I was five years old. All of my memories are a poor picture of the woman she was. Helen Elizabeth (known to her friends as Betty) was an amazing homemaker and cook. She raised five beautiful children (four of them boys -- one of them my dad -- so you know she's a saint ;) ) and had a long loving marriage with Marvin. I know she was an amazing mother, because she raised my dad, who is pretty awesome. :)

She passed away when I was 13 and I look forward to when I meet her in heaven and learn who she really is, not the Alzheimers version.


2. May Bright (Grandma Bright)



When I think of my Grandma Bright, I think of laughter. Why? Because she was so funny and fun to be around. I think my mom got a lot of her personality from her mother. Grandma Bright was a southern girl and always so loving (and made the best creamed corn). She could easily laugh at herself and the funny moments she would have. She passed away when I was 19, living long enough to be at my sister's wedding, and I look forward to being reunited with her again in heaven.


3. Judith Gail Veerman (Mom)



There aren't enough words to express how amazing my mom is. I am blown away by the blessing of being her daughter. If I could narrow down my mom to two words, they would be: humble servant. My mom is outgoing and extroverted, but she is also a servant with no desire to find honor. She shows her love for her family and others by how she constantly serves, makes herself available to others, and loves others without expecting anything in return. In fact, she prefers not to be in the spotlight.

My mom became a Christian in her early 20s. Even though she has been following Christ and studying his word for almost 50 years now, she still knows there is so much she needs to learn and so many ways she needs to grow. She is humble -- relying on Jesus and knowing that he is always what she needs.

I admire my mom so much. And the admiration has only grown as I've had my own children, watched her love them and play with them, and realized just how much she loves and cares for me.

Thank you, mom, for always being there for me and loving me unconditionally. Our personalities may be different, but we also have so many things in common (outside of the fact that I am physically built just like her) -- our love for HGTV, etc. ;)

I love you, mom. You're the best!

4. Kara Beth Conrad (Sister)



I've also been blessed with the most amazing older sister. I have learned so much from her experiences and have, in many ways, modeled how I parent my children from her.

People can often tell that we are sisters (some even think that we are twins!), but we are actually very different -- she is extremely extroverted, I am more introverted, etc. But, our difference actually bring us closer together. She protects me, defends me, cares for me, pushes me, and is honest with me.

I could write more about her, but her birthday is in a couple of weeks (the big 4-0!) and I will write more then.

I am so thankful for the legacy of mothers in my life and I hope my own parenting reflects their parenting. I pray my children will always know how much they are loved by God and how much I love them.

Happy Mother's Day!