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: 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.


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!

Friday, May 01, 2015

My NEW Top Five!

On my journey to becoming more healthy and chemical-free, these are my five most recent favorite things:

1. "The Healthy Home" by Dr. Myron Wentz and Dave Wentz

 The Healthy Home

If I could write a book on creating a healthier home and going chemical-free, THIS IS IT. I am so obsessed with this book!!! If you are serious about getting toxins out of your home, etc. than this is the book for you.

Want to know what's even cooler? The authors are the founders and CEO of Usana Health Sciences. There is so much in the news these days about supplements found in drug stores to have fillers or toxins in them. These guys wrote the book on chemical-free homes, so you can completely trust that Usana supplements are what they say and are truly good for you. Makes me love my Usana even more!

If you are looking for good supplements (and a natural way to treat your health rather than instantly running to medication as a quick fix), I would love help you. You can contact me here.

2. Jus' Hair Organic Salon

 Jus' Hair
You guys, I found an organic, CHEMICAL-FREE hair salon!! And it is only 15 minutes from my house. I can't even tell you how excited I was when I found them online (thanks Google). I even had a dream about my appointment the night before because I was so excited. I had my hair highlighted and cut by Jim there yesterday afternoon and it was AWESOME. Here is a picture of my hair (I hate doing selfies, so I apologize):

Considering that chemicals have been setting off my asthma lately, this was a fantastic find.

3. Blendtec blender

I finally purchased this blender (factory-refurbished) about a month ago and LOVE it! My main motivation was to make smoothies with tons of nutrition in it that I could give to my kids (and me too -- I love to drink my nutrition ;) ). This blender works so well and create smoothies that are so creamy - chia seeds, spinach, strawberries, etc. are completely pulverized so that there is nutrition, but no added texture, which means my kids inhale the smoothies. Yes! A win!

4. Nerium AD

Honestly, I don't mind getting older and I truly believe that beauty starts from the inside out (meaning, what you eat and the supplements you take), but I was in need to a new day cream and night cream so I decided to try this bad boy out. Nerium AD is a plant-based, chemical-free cream designed to reduce the look of aging, fine lines, etc. (I have a lot of sun damage that needs repair.) There are products that can do the same thing, with great results out there, but this is the only one that is plant based and doesn't contain a bunch of harmful chemicals. You can find more info here. (Note: I don't sell this product, but Nerium has a program where is you get referrals, you can earn free product. If you are interested in more info on the business or any other details, you can go to my friends' website.)

5. Tranquil essential oil

I don't normally have a problem falling asleep, but the past week, as I've tried to go to bed a little bit earlier, I've had a little bit of trouble quieting my mind and body and going to sleep. I bought the Tranquil oil a few months ago to put on my kids when they wake up in the middle of the night and have a tough time falling asleep. Finally, I decided to try it on myself. Everytime I use it, I calm down and fall asleep almost instantly...and get better sleep. No joke. This is definitely one of my favorite oils now.

On another note, if you haven't checked out my new website, Healthy & Free Living, there is ton of information on there. Please visit and share with others.

And, if you are on facebook, be sure to like my facebook page too!

I hope this list helps you on your journey to become healthy too!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


I got quite a response from my last post, so I decided to write a follow-up. If you haven't read it yet, you might want to go back and read the post "Forgiven and Free."

I was talking with a friend this past Friday during a play date and she mentioned how much she could resonate with what I wrote in my post and how hard it can be to see the good amid the bad. She was so right. It is easy for me to get caught up in how I get hurt and in the fear of being hurt, that I shut myself off from the good as well as the bad. I don't call the people that are important. I don't work to develop my good friends. And I'm sorry. I'm sorry to the good people for my inability to connect and be there for you -- for not calling, setting up times to get together, putting myself out there. I have cocooned myself from the world and I am wrong.

I have been trapped by my fear and it has kept me from love. I feel like Elsa at the end of Frozen where she learns that love can thaw a frozen heart. I think the movie should of had a reprise of "Let It Go" at the end. The original "Let It Go" is about not caring what people think and being who she truly is. But there should be a reprise when she realizes that it is actually her fear that has kept her captive -- not what people think. "Let it go, let it go. I don't have to live in fear any more. Let it go, let it go. Love can open the door..." Elsa learns at the end that "love drives out fear."

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18, NIV

Huh, who knew that a Disney movie could be biblical? ;) But, of course, the passage continues:

We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother or sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 1 John 4:19-20, NIV

As I mentioned in my last post, I love because Christ first loved me. I love because that is what God has called me to do. I love through the help of Christ.

My friend from last Friday is one of the good ones. I'm so glad we got the chance to hang out. In fact, God has given me numerous times to love others and feel loved since writing that post. I pray that I will continue to "let it go" and learn to love.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Forgiven and Free

I've come to the revelation that I don't love people (other than my family, which I love fiercely). I'm not trying to be funny and I'm not being mean. I care for people and I genuinely show love and care, but deep down in my sinful, deprived soul, I don't truly love people. Let me explain...

I've been hurt a lot by friendships. Numerous times I have let my guard down and tried to be real, just to have those people walk away from me for no reason. So I've put up walls and guarded my heart. I'll share only what is safe, but I struggle to be vulnerable and real. Years ago I went to counseling to help me with being more vulnerable (and my perfectionist nature). I grew a lot and after about a year, I connected with my future husband and allowed my walls to come down. I praise the Lord for him and allowing me to be real. My husband is a gift from God, but I still struggle with my female friendships.

Guy friendships always seem to be easier to me. Maybe it was the ability to talk sports or theology...or maybe it's the lack of drama ;), but I have always enjoyed my male friendships. Of course, as a married woman, I can't have those types of relationships that I did in college, etc. and I'm okay with it. The problem is that I have such a tough time with female relationships.

A few years ago, I volunteered as a Bible Study leader for our Women's Bible Study at church. At our first leadership meeting, I remember someone saying, "you are all here because you have a heart for women." I felt my heart sink and I started shifting in my seat. Why? Because I don't have a heart for women. When I hear about women's groups, etc. I often want to roll my eyes and run far away. I don't want the drama. I don't want people to know what's going on in my life. I don't want to feel judged. I don't want to be hurt again.

You see, I don't love people because of the fear in my heart -- the fear that I will just get hurt if I let people too close. I let my guard down when my daughter was a baby with someone who had a child around the same age and let her guard down with me. I allowed myself to be vulnerable and we developed a good friendship. One day, she confessed how she had judged me, but I let it go. Our kids played together all the time, but then slowly, she stopped getting our kids together and started avoiding me. I don't know what happened and it has broken me again. When I see her, I smile and talk as if it's no big deal, but inside I am completely crushed.

I've found my walls coming up again. Yes, I have friends and people I care about, but I'm afraid to let my guard down with a friendship again. I'm afraid of being rejected. You see, the women who have walked away from our friendships have never told me why. There was never a fight or argument. They just suddenly excused themselves from me. I've come to believe that it must be me -- my personality, things I've said, my sinful nature, etc.

It's easy for me and my introvert nature to just not care anymore. To keep to myself and share only what I feel won't get me hurt. To keep friendships superficial and not really go any deeper or put myself out there. But that's not who God created me to be.

God calls us to love people. Jesus loved those who would beat him, curse him, and crucify him. Jesus loved those who were outcasts and needy, like me. Jesus loves me even when I don't spend time with him or try to live life without him. I've treated my relationship with Jesus the same way those women treated their friendship with me. But Jesus still loves me. He truly, deeply, unconditionally loves me and forgives me. He doesn't hold my actions against me. With all he has done for me, how can I not love the people he loves and has called me to love?

I don't expect this to be an easy or painless effort, but I want to love people the way God has called me to. I want to learn to forgive and to be real. I want to be free of the anger and hurt and bitterness that I hold onto to shield me from the attacks of others. I want to be able to trust again. Honestly, the thought terrifies me and I'm not sure where to start...

Father God, forgive me for not loving others as you love me. Forgive me for allowing my hurts and pain to matter more that the people you care for. You loved me enough to die for me on the cross, even while knowing I would hurt you and betray you. Help me to love. Help me to forgive. Help me to be free.

I love these words from "How Can It Be" by Lauren Daigle:

I've been hiding
Afraid I've let you down, inside I doubt
That You could love me
But in Your eyes there's only grace now.

You plead my cause
You right my wrongs
You break my chains
You overcome
You gave your life
To give me mine
You say that I am free
How can it be
How can it be

Though I fall, You can make me new
From this death I will rise with You
Oh the grace reaching out for me
How can it be
How can it be

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Goodbye, my sweet girl...

Today was a hard day. Today we said goodbye to our dog, Midnight. We found out that she had inoperable bladder cancer (TCC). She couldn't even urinate because the tumor was blocking her urethra. On the outside, she appeared fine -- totally the same. But she was dying. And it breaks my heart.

We rescued Midnight in September of 2008 when she was 5 years old. I remember when I first saw her. Not only was she my favorite type of dog (a black lab/shepherd mix), her name was Midnight -- the same name as the dog I had growing up. To me, it was a sign that she was meant for us.

When my son was born in November of 2009, I watched her mothering nature emerge. We had a cat then too, and Midnight would lay in front of the downstairs bassinet when Edmund was in it, making sure that the cat came no where near my baby or the bassinet. :)

In 2010, we discovered a large tumor on her front leg. Turned out it was cancerous and we had to make some tough decisions then. We removed the tumor, but to get the whole tumor and some margins, we had to treat it as an open wound. Every week I would take Midnight and my baby (only months old) to get her bandages changed. Her leg healed great and they were able to get all the cancer!

Five years later, she has another tumor and a different cancer and we are unable to beat it.

My kids have laid on, sat on, and loved her. From the time our daughter, Elise, was mobile, she would snuggle up to the dog. She has always cared deeply for her. In fact, this past week at one of Midnight's appointments, Elise sat next to her on the ground to calm Midnight, and pretended to read a book to her.

Midnight was an incredibly loving dog. She was an anxious dog, but she slowly got less anxious. She only barked when people came to the door and preferred to be inside or go on walks rather than play in the backyard.

I pray we were good owners to her. That she felt cared for. That she felt loved. That she understood that we had no choice. I never imagined how much I would miss my dog. I knew she was old and that her time with us was getting short, but it just seemed to happen so quickly.

We love you, Midnight, and we miss you!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Loved and Adored...Keeping It Real

Since I was a teenager, I have obsessed over my weight. I was a normal-weight child growing up. I was taller than a lot of my friends, which added to making me feel bigger, but I wasn't overweight. When I was in 5th grade, however, I lost 11 pounds and all of my "baby weight."

I've always played sports and exercised and it was around that time that I started eating healthier. Unfortunately, I was constantly critical of how I looked, comparing myself to others, and feared gaining weight. I have the most amazing, supportive, and loving parents -- this was totally from the things I heard in the world around me. I was a perfectionist and this was just a piece of it.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7b-9, the apostle Paul talks about the thorn in his flesh: "So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me." For so long, I considered my body image issues to be the thorn in my flesh -- something I would always deal with, but that God would use to keep me relying on him.

I eventually went to counseling to work on my perfectionist issues and my first heart-to-heart talk with my husband (we were just starting our friendship) was about my struggle with body image -- something that I never confessed to anyone (although I'm sure they all knew it). It was a sign that God was working in me, but I continued to struggle to see myself as God sees me.

Fast forward 6.5 years...November 20, 2011, my second child, my little girl was born. I always thought that I wanted all boys, but God knew that I needed a girl. I realized immediately that I never wanted my little girl to struggle with body image issues like I had. I stopped criticizing myself every time I looked in the mirror and, instead, chose to the beautiful ways God had made me, marveling in the new curves left from carrying two children, remembering that I was in my 30s and not 18 ;), and thankful that I was fit and healthy.

My journey has brought me to a place of truly understanding what it means to be healthy and be strong. On those days when I don't feel my greatest, I pray to God to change my heart and see through his eyes, and I push the negative thoughts out of my mind before they can take hold of me.

And I never talk about my looks or weight in a negative way to anyone. I am thankful for how God has made me. I am his child. I am adored. I am loved.

My husband loves me and adores me as I am and so does my Lord. That's all I need.

Friday, March 06, 2015

Traveling Essentials

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my family went to Disney World for vacation. It was such a wonderful time! And I made sure that just because I was on vacation, I didn't stop keeping a healthy and chemical-free life.

First of all, I brought my Nutrimeal shakes and blender bottle with me. Every morning, before we left for the day, I had my Nutrimeal shake (with peppermint oil) to get my day started off great. Not only did it set me up to succeed for the day with eating well, but it also kept me "regular." Now this may be a little TMI, but I'm sure many of you can relate. Often when I travel, things get a little backed up (I get constipated). Nutrimeal contains a lot of fiber, so not once did I have any issues. Woohoo!

Secondly, I brought my oils with me. Which ones? Peppermint, Lavender, Raven (for my asthma), Xiang Mao, Sclar Essence, Progessence Plus, Thieves (along with my Thieves spray and Thieves hand sanitizer), and Aroma Siez. I carried them with me to every park. I had every thing I needed to keep us free from germs and feeling great!

Finally, call me crazy, but I brought my Norwex body cloth and makeup remover cloth. Yes, I brought my own wash cloths with me. Why? Because hotel soaps are the worst and I don't even use soap at home. What?! Yep, I use the body cloths with just use water to clean me. They are imbedded with silver that kills all the bacteria. I feel incredibly clean and don't have to worry about any weird soap residue or chemicals. Same with the makeup remover cloths.

So, it is possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle while on vacation as long as you plan ahead and pack accordingly. We had an amazingly fun vacation and I can't wait to go back!

How do you keep things healthy when you go out of town?

Monday, March 02, 2015

And I Thought I Loved You Then...

Eight years ago today, I married my soulmate and best friend. Back then, I had no idea how amazing my life would be. Back then, I had no idea how being a parent would grow my heart to a new level and make our marriage even deeper. Back then, I had no idea how rich and fulling marriage could be. I had no idea what love was -- I love this man more with every passing second.

Brad Paisley's song "Then" says it perfectly: "Now you're my whole life, now you're my whole world. I just can't believe the way I feel about you, girl. Like a river meets the sea, stronger than it's ever been. We've come so far since that day, and I thought I loved you then...what I can't see is how I'll ever love you more, but I've said that before." You can listen to it here:

Our marriage has shown me what grace and forgiveness is all about. I am a better person because of my husband. He has shown Christ to me and pointed me to Christ. He respects me, honors me, cherishes me, cares for me, and loves me continuously.

Thank you, Father God, for blessing me with this amazing man. There no one else with whom I would rather spend the rest of my life.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Making Memories

This past week my parents took my family (Walter, Edmund, Elise, and me) to Disney World. We had an amazing trip with so many wonderful memories and so many firsts. In many ways, it the first real family vacation my little family has taken (outside of going to the lake every summer). It was my kids' first time on a plane. And it was my kids' and husband's first time at Disney World.

We returned late last night, and I think I'm the one having the toughest time returning to reality. ;) I loved being able to constantly be outside in the warmer weather instead of stuck inside with the cold and snow. I loved the constant busyness/movement, which I love so much more than just sitting around and doing nothing. I loved having the majority of the people I loved most surrounding me and experiencing everything together for the entire week (we all stayed in a two bedroom condo). But mostly, I loved watching the pure joy, delight, and excitement in my children's faces as they met another character, went on another ride, saw another park.

I am so thankful for the wonderful family that I have -- not just my husband and kids, but my amazing parents who treated us to this trip and showed such love, grace, patience, and endurance during the trip. Mom and Dad, you are the greatest and I am SO thankful for you!

I'll post more about the trip later, but here are some fun photos for your enjoyment. ;)

Friday, February 06, 2015

No Excuses!

I hear a lot of excuses about why people don't exercise or haven't started an exercise program. The biggest thing people say is that they just don't have time. Really? The truth is, you do have time. We find time to do the things that are important to us. If being healthy is important to you, you'll find the time. Recently, I've found that adding a time of silence and a chance to decompress (which for me is reading a good book) means that I'm DVRing more of my TV shows. You might have to put something else aside in order to do that which is important to you.

We can all find ways to be busy, but when it comes to exercise, here is what I have found helpful. Take note that I am a stay-at-home-mom of two children (but I found ways to exercise even when I was working full-time).

1. Don't let your children be an excuse. When my first child was a baby, I would exercise when he napped. I then invested in a nice jogging stroller so he could run with e.when he was a few months old. Now I have two children and I push a double jogging stroller as I run. Yes, it's a lot of work and I can't run as far. BUT, I'm still getting a workout in. I live in the Midwest, so running outside with my children in the winter is not an option. I workout in the basement on the treadmill and/or doing weights while they play (when they were younger, I would sometimes workout to a video if I felt it wasn't safe to be on the treadmill around them). 

2. Invest in a good jogging stroller. Yes, they can be expensive, but if you have kids, a good jogging stroller is a must (and the only stroller you really need). The best one out there (in my opinion) is the BOB revolution. You can lock the front wheel straight or allow it to move around. Even the double stroller (side by side) can easily fit through a standard doorway so you can take it shopping too! The back wheels easily pop off so you can fit it into the back of your car.

3. Invest in a good treadmill. Face it. There will be weather days that will keep you from working out outdoors.  Don't let that be an excuse. Get a treadmill, and, honestly, not just any treadmill, but a good one. It doesn't have to be the most expensive, but a good treadmill will make a HUGE difference in how you experience your run. You still might not love to run on the treadmill, but you won't hate it as much either. ;) Things to look for: a long tread belt (you don't want to be worried that you will fall off the back), a built-in fan (cools you off and makes you feel like you are running outside), speakers with a place to plug in your iPod/phone/etc. (now you won't have to worry about headphones or where to put your iPod/phone/etc. while running!).

4. Invest in some weights. It is SO important to do strength training along with aerobic training. Stop by a sports store (even a Target) and get some weights. You only need a couple different size weights and you can workout your entire body.

5. If all else fails, join a gym and find some classes that motivate you. If you have kids, make sure there is childcare for them so they don't become your excuse. I also highly recommend hiring a personal trainer for a few sessions to give you some ideas on how you should workout in order to meet your fitness goals.

Even if you don't have kids and/or work full-time YOU CAN DO IT! I used to wake up at 5:00am every morning to workout and take a quick shower before heading off to work, because I knew I would be too exhausted (and less motivated to do it) after work. Take a good look at your schedule, make some changes, and get going. NO EXCUSES!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

New Year, New You

This post is a little delayed, but maybe it will inspire you to get back to your New Year's resolutions that have already fallen to the wayside.

It's a new year -- let's make it a great one. I've got some big plans for this year and the near future and I wanted to give you five things that you can do this year to become healthier and learn to thrive.

1. Get Moving!

I encourage you to get some type of pedometer or other tracking device (I love my Fitbit Charge) to track how many steps you are actually taking each day. Not only will you realize how little (or how much) you move each day, but, if you're competitive like me, you will find yourself determined to meet those goals each day. My Fitbit records my steps, calories, stairs, miles, and tracks my sleep as well. When I meet my goal for the day, it vibrates on my wrist (surprises me every time). There are a variety of options out there, but I recommend getting one and get moving! You will feel so much better and more energized.

2. Get a good vitamin!

The reality is that it is impossible for us to get all the minerals and vitamins that our bodies need everyday. It is so important to take your vitamins. And not just any vitamins, but GOOD vitamins. I am a big fan of USANA's vitamins (in the picture, the gray box is the USANA vitamins -- only vitamin that actually keeps an apple from oxidizing). I have so much more energy now that I am on a good vitamin and getting all the daily nutrition that I need.

3. Get the crud out of your system!

There are a variety of ways to to this and I would be happy to help you make some healthy nutritional changes, but here is one simple way to start your day: squeeze 1/2 of a lemon into 8oz of warm water and drink it first thing in the morning. This will help to detoxify your liver and get your day off to a good start. I put lemon essential oil into my glass water bottle and drink that every morning. Love it!

4. Get rid of the chemicals!

Start small. I love Norwex products, but there are a lot of great low chemical products out there (Seventh Generation, etc.). Remember, whatever touches your skin gets into your body, so keep that in mind. I suggest starting with getting rid of the chemicals that get on your clothing from your laundry. STOP USING DRYER SHEETS. They are loaded with chemicals. Switch to dryer balls. Also switch to a chemical-free laundry detergent (I use Seventh Generation).

5. Get oily!

Umm...what? You've probably heard a little about essential oils through social media. But what are they? Short version: they are the oils derived from plants God has given us. They are a great way to first treat ailments without running to a medication. I have numerous testimonials of how they have helped me and my family. First step for this year -- go to a workshop to hear about the oils. The first workshop I went to, I knew NOTHING about the oils and now I am crazy about them. :) I am constantly leading and attending workshops, so if you want more information or want to attend one, just let me know.

Here's to a heathier new year and you!