Friday, October 25, 2013

The Lost Habit of Respect

R-E-S-P-E-C-T... Find out What it Means to Me

Now you are singing along with Aretha. You're welcome. Working with teenagers and young adults is one of my all time favorite things to do. My husband and I are honored to be able to impact young lives on a daily basis. I continue to learn from them and love how they are constantly emerging into the young men and women they were created to be.

However, I am starting to feel as though I have somewhat failed young people in a few areas. One of them being the habit of Respect. Not very long ago, when I was growing up, respect and knowing the proper way to address and respond to others were very important. We even attended etiquette classes that reenforced what we were learning in our homes - the right way, and the wrong way, to act. Social media perhaps has jaded the rising generations in that they are less afraid of being perceived as "rude" because they are behind the safety of a computer or phone screen. Things are said over text and social media that may never be said to someone's face. Or sadly, perhaps they would? 

There is a sense of entitlement within rising generations unlike anything I have ever seen. It says. Because I exist, I deserve... your respect, whatever job I want, to be lazy, to speak my mind without caring about consequences... and so on. 

"...The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude...I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you...we are in charge of our attitudes.” - Charles Swindoll

How we respond to others speaks volumes about our character. Whether it be peers, leaders, friends...whatever, it is important to know that the attitude with which respond to others, will certainly effect the way people see us and the responsibilities/positions they are willing to entrust us with.

If I am called into a meeting with a supervisor and am told that I need improvement in a certain area, or they offer guidance in how they believe I should conduct myself because I represent their company (whether I agree or not is another story entirely) and instead of heeding their advice, I list off what I believe to be wrong with what they've said, telling my supervisor that I essentially don't care what they say, or the impact my actions and words have on others, because I am going to do and say what I like... Guess what will happen???? My disrespectful attitude and response is gonna get my tail fired. 

Proverbs 15:1-2 says A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare. The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness. 

I want to deflect anger. I want to be wise. I want my children to be wise....

This morning Chip and I had a teaching moment with our son on the "right" way to respond versus the "wrong" way. Instead of screaming or crying and losing privileges, we taught him that it would be WISE for him to take a breath and simply explain to us what is happening. I want my children to treat their peers, and especially adults and those in leadership over them with the utmost respect. I never want them to react to parents, teachers, supervisors, or pastors in rudeness. I don't expect them to agree with everything their leaders say, but I expect my children to always react in a respectful manner, because that is what they have been taught. My children are amazing, but they aren't entitled to anything, aside from my love, simply because they exist. And because I love them, I will teach them how to respond to people early on so they can carry a sense of respect and dignity with them all throughout their lives. 

Can we please change this epidemic of disrespect? Can we as parents and grandparents be more intentional than ever in teaching our children and grandchildren that their attitude and the way they react is 100% under their control? Can we teach them that it is important to respect others, even if they disagree? 

Young people... will you commit to being the change your generations needs you to be? Raise the bar. Set it high. Break the stereotype... instead of the generation of entitlement, be the generation of kindness and respect. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Finish Line...

Today was RACE DAY....

I will write all about it when I'm not BEAT, but wanted you to see this...

I worked SO hard to get to the Finish Line. It was emotional and so rewarding.

I am doing more triathlons FOR SURE....

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Just What I Needed

Not something one likes to think about doing when you are married to a Training Plan and Race Day is quickly approaching. The scrapes and bruises received from my minor bike crash were nothing compared to the pain the only increased in my ribs and shoulder as days went by. I wondered if a rib was broken because at one certain spot it would take my breath away if I barely touched my chest. It hurt to take deep breaths, it hurt to ride my bike, it hurt to run, and it really hurt to swim.

I took one bike ride off to rest, one run, and about 2-3 swim sessions. This made me so nervous since my training plan has me beginning to taper (back off training as Race Day approaches in order to have a well rested body and mind) and the swim is the majority of my training as of now. Saturday came and I decided it was time for a long swim. My previous swims were about 850m (32 laps), and on Saturday I felt SO good that I went for 1,050m (42 laps). I could have gone for more, but I wanted to get outside to hang with my kids! Rest was just what I needed. Last night I swam 900m and went for a 2mi run afterwards and felt strong the whole way through.

Tonight I will get back on the bike for a quick 18mi ride and then tomorrow I will take off. I am nervous and excited, feeling ready and yet questioning everything I've done to this point right now. Race Day is coming. Fast. Praying for AMAZING weather and a great experience all together.

Thanks to everyone for the support!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Digging Deep

A really quick update because I'm feeling frustrated this morning...

Woke up early for an 18 mile bike ride only to realize that my gear shift and handle bars are messed up on the right side. This is from a silly little crash I had on Saturday after Chip and I did a 21 mile ride up to and around the Chatfield Reservoir. I had a great ride - even did my first open road cycling - and as we were pulling up to the Xterra, I was reminding myself to gear down, completely forgetting to unclip my feet from the pedals. I was braking and all of a sudden I was stopped. With BOTH feet still locked into the pedals. It felt like slow motion... I just toppled over on my right side. I got a little bruised up, but couldn't stop laughing at myself! :) SO.... that little mishap created a problem for me this morning. Hopefully it is an easy fix!

Upon realizing the bike ride wasn't going to work out, I ran inside and changed my shorts and shoes for a run. I don't know if it was because my mind was prepared for a bike ride or what, but mentally it was really hard for me today. I walked for almost 2 minutes to warm up and refocus then began my run. Time was crunched because of all the time I spent messing with my bike (I had to be home in time for Chip to make it to work on time), so I decided on running my go-to 2 mile loop when I have less than 30 minutes to spend on a run.

Usually, I knock out my two mile loop with no problems. Today was different. It was as if I couldn't dig deep enough to motivate myself through it. I'm so sore. I'm tired. I have scrapes and bruises all over my arms and legs. I have this spot below my collar bone that hurts when I do simple movements like pull back my shoulders, or straighten my back. Today was hard. It didn't go as planned. It threw me off. It was a good lesson.

I have to roll with training, racing, LIFE... when it doesn't go as planned. By nature I am pretty laid back and go with the flow easily. We love being spontaneous in my house. We aren't ones to plan too much because we love to be flexible. In life, I know that things rarely go as planned and am prepared for that. In training, however, I've been married to this "Training Plan" and my brain didn't know what to do this morning when I had to do a quick change up. I have a picture in my mind how each day's training sessions will go from what route I will take, the time it will take me to do so, the sets, the reps, the rests... you get it. I have a similar picture in my head for race day, which is coming soon. I think today helped me to realize that I need to prepare for anything. That even when I am tired and sore, I have to get my mental game on track to dig deep and pull out whatever it takes to finish strong.

Today I didn't finish strong. I turned around early and ran a measly 1.5 miles. Lesson learned. Dig Deep. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Keep Tri-ing

Its been awhile since my last post, and I apologize. We are typically slammed during the summers with youth ministry. The first week of July we took a team of high school and college students to the Dream Center in LA where we served the homeless and had LOTS of fun taking food to needy families and neighborhoods. One of our favorites was Kidz Jam - where we went into government housing communities and played with the kids and told them how incredible they were and how much Jesus loves them! GREAT WEEK. I will write more on serving later...

 I figure its time for a training update.

I have been at this for 10 weeks now!

I cannot believe it either! At the start of my training, I was swimming 200m (8 laps in my Rec Center pool) and it was leaving me well out of breath. This past Friday, I SWAM A HALF MILE or 750m (30 laps in my Rec Center pool). Although that 750m swim was tough workout, I finished with a smile on my face. 10 weeks ago there is NO WAY I could have done that. Tomorrow morning I will add 2 more laps onto that 1/2 mile swim length and I will not have any problems doing so. :-)

Ten weeks ago I cranked out a VERY SLOW 7 mile bike ride for my first week. A lot of coasting was involved and I wasn't too worried about my times. Or hills. This week I am up to 20 miles and I am faster than I have ever been. I just purchased my first cycling shoes and pedals two days ago, so today I will ride with them for the first time. I will let you know if I fall (praying I don't) and how much time I shave off my ride. Because I WILL shave off time. :)
**Friday night we went to Boulder and scoped out my race course for the first time. Good thing we did because those hills are rolling. Lots of long hill climbs. Now, I have done some rides with hills, but it has not been my focus. I came back realizing I have 4 weeks to become a beast on some hills. So that is my focus now - hills. Lots of them. Every time I ride I will be going after hills. And when I finish, I will turn around and ride up them again so that I can better my times and become comfortable on them.

My first week it was all I could do to run for 10 minutes without wanting to stop and walk. My 20 minute runs were very difficult and spent doing intervals of walking and running because I was so out of breath. I was also dependent on my music to keep me on pace. Currently, I can run for 40+ minutes without even stopping to walk with NO music. I have been running with just me and my thoughts... and the gorgeous scenery on the paths around my house. I can hear myself panting for breath, but I run at 6000 ft above sea level, so that has something to do with it (right????!!! haha), but something is very calming about running unplugged I have found. I find myself talking with God about different things, or focusing on a particular song, and sometimes I am simply counting my steps or focusing on my arms when I am tired. Its nice. Its quiet.

BRICK WORKOUTS- This is where I bike for 30 min then get off of my bike and run for 20 min. If for any reason this sounds easy, I assure you, it is not. 30 min on the bike is right around 8 miles for me, then close to a 2 mile run after. These are called "Brick" workouts because that is exactly what your legs feel like when trying to run off the bike...bricks. Heavy and wobbly. Now, these did not start until week 5 of my training plan, and although they are still hard, I can do the whole thing without walking, which I could not before. That's pretty neat I think. ;)

So, you can see that the training is paying off. I am still training at 6 days/week right now with one day of recovery and rest, but I will taper down to 5 days/week next week and just stack on more miles and harder sessions on my training days. I am just following my plan. It calls for this so that my body is recovered nicely on race day (August 31st).

Practice and Persistence Pay Off! 
I am seeing results all over place and though it is still super tough while training, every session when I finish leaves me smiling. I am surprising myself and hope to continue to do so daily. I started out just wanting to finish this triathlon, but now I want to finish... in 2.5 hours or less. Can I do it? We will see. But one thing is certain, I am going to put in the work and try my hardest to do so!

If you didn't know, I am raising money for Orphans in Haiti as I race. Through Heartwork on my "Your Cause Sports" page (Click the Heartwork link to donate) you can help me. Every $100 will feed 6500 meals to orphans. Please consider helping. $5 will go a long way!

Thanks for the support!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tri Training Week 3

This week's blog will be a little different...

Instead of a progress report, I am going to hit it a little more emotionally because there is a lot of emotions wrapped up in what I am doing. While I am training, it is hard - really hard at times. I feel like a can't breathe when I run, my arms and legs get tired and I start to suck in water when I swim, and on the bike I have to constantly remind myself to not give in to the pain in my quads - push through it!

This week has been more emotionally draining than others - theres a lot going on - for one, Chip is out of town. I've realized he is such a strength for me even through this training - I pull from him when I'm tired and feel like I can't do it on my own - I know he is rooting for me.

The second reason is it is HOT. Colorado is experiencing record breaking heat this week, so it is really hard to stay motivated through trainings when its 90 degrees by 9:00am. Sweat pouring, the sun beating down, cotton from the cottonwood trees flying everywhere - sticking to your face, strong winds blowing HOT air swallowing you up as you try to catch your breath... not my favorite things. But it is what it is. I keep telling myself "This will only make you stronger..."

An amazing friend (Missy!!!) is watching the kids while I train this week and I am SO thankful for her. I was so nervous for Chip to be gone - afraid that if I didn't get to train I would revert on the progress I have made, so she is truly saving me this week.

He is a hunk :) 

On Saturday I was training with my friend who used to be a women's cross country coach - she had some great tips and helped me push through the times when I wanted to quit. About halfway through our run, I noticed some pain in my right shin. I didn't think much of it, stretched it out and we went on our way. Later that day, I saw a lump under my right knee on the top of my shin. It doesn't hurt to the touch, is hard, and I have no idea what it is from, but my knee is doing some funky things as of now. The bump is still there, I have a gnarly clicking in my knee that wasn't there before, and it does bother me some when I am walking around. Yesterday after my swim I had a run planned - about 5 minutes in, I knew something was wrong so I decided to call it a day. This morning I did a 12.6 mile bike ride and had NO problems with it. I am going to rest for the remainder of today, take tomorrow off (its an off day anyway) and resume my swim and run routine on Thursday. Hopefully things will be better by then because I am determined to push through it and get it done!

In lieu of all of the heat and frustration, I continue to come home with a new fastest pace every time I train. Today I thought for sure my stats would be lacking due to the tough ride I had, but I set new records all around. It is really hard to stay focused and motivated during the training, but when I see the end results, it gives me encouragement for the next time. I can do this. 

I saw this on Twitter today and it describes exactly how I feel...

Go find something you can't do, something you're scared of, something you know nothing about. Now go become good at doing exactly that.

I want to become "good" at triathlon. I want to push myself until it isn't something I fear and know nothing about, but something I love and embrace. My reasons for "why" have already evolved and I am only in my 4th week of training. 

- I feel good. I am so much less stressed than I normally am about kids and life. My mental and emotional health are great - I am steady and happy. PMS who???

- I feel strong. My legs, my abs, my arms, and my mind are all getting stronger by the day. I feel those muscles growing, and I experience my mind becoming stronger than my circumstance with each new day of training - I can do this. I can push through. 

- I feel young. Ok, so I am almost 32... not "old" by any means, but I am starting to feel like a younger version of myself. My body is getting back into shape - and will soon be in better shape than ever as my stamina and endurance continues to grow and reach new levels in this sport. I've never been a distance athlete. In swim team and in soccer it was all about the sprint. Building my endurance, although very hard and tiring, is making me feel better than I have in a very long time. 

- I am able to give. Being a stay at home mom can be one the more tiring and draining professions in this life. You are constantly giving and never getting anything for yourself. By the end of most days, I would feel totally spent - like my tank was on empty. Now I have energy at the end of the - because that is when I normally train, because my mind is healthier, and because exercise is just GOOD for me! Good forYOU! Good for the people I love! Sure, my body feels tired here and there, but I am finding that after almost a month, I am adjusting to the 5 days a week training schedule. Next week begins 6 days a week.... that will take a little bit of time to adjust again, I am sure. But I know I can do it!

- I am seeing results. Now, I am thin. I know that. I have, except for when I was pregnant with my children, been the exact same size as I was in high school...still shop at the same stores and buy the same size jeans. I thank my parents and grandparents for this, because God knows I haven't done my part to maintain. My goal in doing this is NOT to lose weight. I don't need to. However, I do want to be strong. I want to have some muscle definition and to be tone all around. I want to look like an athlete - I see those women a lot around here - you look at them and just know they could crank out a marathon or 50 mile bike ride right then and there. It isn't that I am comparing myself to those women, because I am not, but I know based on how they look that they are endurance athletes. The hours they put in on the bike and running, even swimming, show. They're not only strong on the outside, but they are strong inside as well - you cannot be an endurance athlete and be of weak mind. It pushes you both physically and mentally. Endurance athletes are over-comers. That is what I want... I want to feel that strength both inside and out. 

Until next week...

Sunday, June 2, 2013

TRI Training Week 2

This week was a bit harder than last...

I experienced a LOT of muscle soreness this week. Namely in my hamstrings. I've had to stretch everyday, and then stretch some more... and some more. I've even woken up in the middle of the night with sore, tight hamstrings to have to get out of bed and stretch. Eek! My hamstrings tend to me pretty tight anyway, so add on this new muscle growth - oweeee!!!

The good news is, when I am training I don't feel any soreness. The pain usually sets in at night or on my off days. Of course, soreness = muscle growth.

Stretching is at the top of my list so I don't injure myself. Even when I feel like curling into a ball on the couch and fading into a deep sleep. :)

Here is my week... (I know this is boring stuff, but I am hoping to use it as a personal progress gauge.)

Monday -  I swam 200 meters in the indoor pool while Chip and the kids took part in the Memorial Day festivities at the outdoor pool. It wasn't terrible, but I was pretty winded. The best part (being sarcastic) about this tough swim was that it wasn't actually 200m. I came to find out later in the week that the pool is 10m shorter than I was originally told. Yeah. That kind of stinks.

Tuesday - I went on an 8 mile bike ride going South from the bike trails behind our house. The entire way there was CRAZY windy (Parker, the town where I live, is very windy. We sit at 5900+ ft elevation and we experience a LOT of strong wind.) and uphill, so I was struggling to get to my destination, but I MADE IT! As soon as I could see the turn around spot, I was thrilled. The way home the wind was at my back and it was mostly downhill so I felt like a beast having my fastest overall speed ever - shaving off an entire minute from the last time I rode. The downside of this ride was the sideways slithering snake making his way across the path as I approached. I couldn't tell if it was a stick or a snake until it was almost too late. I missed his tail by a few inches and squealed like a little girl. I still get heebie jeebies thinking about that thing. I am not a fan of snakes. Poisonous, harmless, friendly, whatever...they are all the devil.

Wednesday was an off day and for the first time since starting this thing I was limping around like and old woman because my legs were so sore.

This was also Asher's last day of second grade and Amery was sick with a fever and nasty cough so we spent the first half of the day at the doctor's office getting treatment for Am and the second part at Asher's school celebrating the coolest kid in the school. :)

Thursday - This was a difficult day. It was pretty chilly outside by the time I was able to get to the pool and swim laps. I swam in the outdoor pool because the indoor one was full of little kids doing lessons. I swam an actual 200m this time and it was hard! I kept at it and as soon as I finished I did a VERY quick change into my running gear and started a run. The run lasted for about 5 minutes when I could no longer feel my legs. I did intervals until I hit the 20 minute mark, did some cool down and went home to crash. **Chip was awesome and grilled some mahi-mahi and veggies for me to come home to** YUM!

Friday - Off Day. Praise the Lamb! ;)
...soreness ensues

Saturday - The hardest run I have done yet. I was so sore and unmotivated - it was in all honesty the LAST thing I felt like doing. I had a lot of trouble breathing - I kept telling myself to breathe from my diaphragm and keep away from the shallow chest breaths my body wanted to revert to. Thinking about that helped a lot. I just kept pushing and pushing and my 90s hip hop station on Pandora was once again the motivation when I had none. Its really amazing what a great beat will do to get you moving!
After I got back to my house and collapsed on my driveway, I checked my stats to find it was my fastest run yet! That was so encouraging after such a hard workout.

Sunday - Today I did 10.72 miles on the bike with a climb of 402ft with headwind and hills my WHOLE WAY HOME and I made record time! Longest distance, fastest pace... you know what that means? I am getting stronger! 

Although I am still scared out of my mind for the actual race and wonder if I will truly be prepared, but little successes like that seem worth it. The fact that I can physically feel myself getting stronger on the bike is encouraging. I will take it!

This week I learned that even when I don't feel like training, it is worth it in the end. My best run happened to be my hardest run.

I suppose this spills over into most area of life... How much do we miss out on spiritually, relationally, physically, and mentally because we live by how we feel instead of what we know?  Our feelings are flighty and change on a whim, but knowledge and truth - those are steady and unchanging.

..."I don't feel like training but I know I have to finish a race in August and training is the only way I can do that."

What feelings or emotions try to get you down or keep you from doing what you know you should?

P.S. I didn't proofread this because I feel too tired, even though I know I should have. ;)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

TRI Training Week 1

My first week of triathlon training is officially OVER!

I logged right at 20 miles between the bike and running this week and started my swim training by swimming 200m (8 laps in the indoor pool at our rec center).

I'll start with my run on Monday. It was rough. I was sucking wind. Although I've lived in Colorado for almost 7 years, I am going to blame it in part on the altitude. It can be a little harder to get deep breaths when your house is at 5900 ft elevation. I always remember when I lived in North Carolina and Florida and would get on the treadmill (because its MUCH too hot and humid to run outside) and just run and run and run some more. I never felt winded like I do when I run here in Colorado. The only thing that got me through my run was the 90s hip-hop station on Pandora. The beats were just what I needed and each song was a total throwback to my high school days...and knowing pretty much every word helps. Yeah...

Tuesday I had to bike 7 miles. I went 7.55 and I was pulling Amery behind me in the trailer. We had to stop a few times - once when she was SCREAMING about a bee being in there with her. It was a little fruit fly. Everything is a bee when you're 3. Then she needed help with her water, etc, etc... you get the point. Not optimal as far as time goes, but it was a lot harder on my legs, especially on hills, with her behind me. I felt like I could have gone further, but the training plan I am on strongly suggests sticking to plan so you don't overwork your body and are ready for the next day's workout.

Wednesday is my off day and will be for the entire training plan. (Yay for off days!)

Thursday was my swim. I was most nervous about the swim because it'd been so long since I'd done it. To my surprise, it was the easiest of all my "first" workouts (I guess the bike doesn't really count since I'd been going on rides on the weekends prior to official training). Everything seemed to come back to me pretty quickly from my swim team days - my stroke, kick and my breathing rhythm all need some help. Years of voice lessons and being a singer help with the breathing - much of the focus in proper singing technique is breathing from your diaphragm and controlling your breath. Telling my body to breathe properly when exercising... a little more of a challenge. I'm workin' on it. ;)

Friday was another off day. The training plan starts off pretty slow to help avoid muscle injury early on. Each week I will increase my activity. I will talk about that in a minute.

Yesterday, I ran again. This run was MUCH better than the first, but still hard. The breathing is still the hardest part. I kept telling myself to focus on good, deep breaths from my diaphragm and not my chest - which is what people tend to do when exercising. We tend to raise our shoulders up into our necks, tense up, and take shallow breaths from our chest. This is not good. So I kept trying to be sure my shoulders were nice and relaxed and that I was breathing properly. It was still tough, but this helped. And of course, Slick Rick, Mase, and Biggie helped me out.

Today after we got home from church and ate lunch we loaded the kids in the trailer (Asher is way too big, but he came along) and headed south on the trails. I love that you can ride a paved trail to and from pretty much anywhere in and around Denver. It was overcast and windy and we hoped it wouldn't rain, but if the weather is crummy on August 31st, the race is still on. Chip pulled the kids like a beast and trying to pace with him shaved off 2 minutes per mile from my previous time! I still have difficulty with not wanting to brake coming downhill and around tight turns, but its getting better. I am going to invest in some cleats soon so that will help optimize activity once I get used to them. We did right at 8 miles and I felt pretty good when we got home. :)

Week One - COMPLETE.

Tomorrow starts some back to back workouts - Run 20 min followed immediately by a 200m swim. That should be interesting. I will tell you all about it after I finish out Week 2.

What have I learned this week? 
Although the journey ahead is a long one, when I focus on just one day at a time, it is doable. Seeing my plan even for the end of next week seems difficult right now, and it will be hard work when I get to it I'm sure, but taking it day by day instead of focusing on the mountain in the distance is HUGE. I think that can be applied to most any area of our lives. Life is a journey. Our relationship with God is a journey. If we focus on today, the big picture doesn't seem so intimidating.

What is happening in your life right now that seems extremely difficult when you try looking too far down the road?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Why Tri?

Well, it is official. I registered for my very first triathlon in Boulder, CO on 8/31. It is a sprint distance, so I will swim a half mile in the Boulder Reservoir, hop on my bike for a 17.3 mile bike ride over some hills, and end it with a 5k. If all goes well, it shouldn't take too long to complete. But, whether or not everything goes well is resting (for the most part) on my shoulders. 

So, Why Tri?

A few different reasons...

1. Asher's teacher this year is an Ironman. Yes, she has raced in FULL Ironman races (140 miles between swim/bike/run in one day). Talking to her one day stirred something inside of me. I started researching and wondering what it would be like to one day be able to do an Ironman (a half - 70.3 miles). She told me I should try to do a Sprint Triathlon this summer - so I am. Easy enough, right? Err.... 

2. I need goals. As far as exercise goes, although I like to ride my bike,  unless I am working towards a goal, I will not be consistent. I want to be consistent. I need the carrots dangling in front of me. 

3. My kids. They LOVED it when I did the 5k last year. I think it inspires them to see mom and dad active and setting big goals for themselves. I want them to see through me that they can anything they set their minds to. No matter what your age or ability is - you CAN achieve any goal. 

4. I found a triathlon that will allow me to raise money for a cause. My cause will be Heartwork - You can read about them in a previous post. Everything I raise will go to help feed orphans around the world. You can view my fundraising page here Traci Early Sprint Tri  

I have 15 weeks....

Preparation Matters...
Because if I attempted to do a sprint tri this weekend, I would fail. Miserably. Last weekend I logged 17 miles on my bike - over the course of two days- 10 miles Saturday and 7 on Sunday. I am still getting the feel for my road bike, as well as trying to get comfortable riding around other cyclists on bike paths. I get a little freaked out when a group of cyclists come towards me or come up behind me quickly saying "on your left". My first reaction is to pull my brake and slow down, and tell myself NOT to swerve. Sounds easy enough, but for me it isn't. Yet. There's also the whole taking a drink of water while you ride. And whats the deal with turning/leaning into those hard turns? Yeah... got some work ahead of me. 

The 5k should be the easiest part, SHOULD being key, except for the fact I will have to run it with bricks for legs by this point in the race. I ran a 5k last year and had a lot of fun. So much fun that I decided to always stay "5k ready" after the race so I could sign up for more of them. I didn't do it. Summer happened, then school started back up, and here I am. Not 5k ready almost a year later. 

But first, before the bike or the run, is the open water swim. Having grown up on the coast spending many, many days in the Atlantic ocean, having a pool in my backyard growing up, being on swim team, and being part fish... open water swims do not scare me. However, open water swims with people who are freaked out by open water swims and are potentially grabbing onto me while I'm in the water DO scare me a little. You know how as you get older your brain fully recalls how to perform a task that you did often when you were younger, such as flips on a trampoline or a roundoff? Age is a funny thing in that regard - our minds know the drill and tells our body what to do, but the old body just can't perform. This is me with swimming. In my mind, I am still able to swim a 400m free with ease (the tri is 750m), so I don't have far to go... in my mind. Reality is that I am going to struggle BIG TIME to swim my 200m in training this week.

Training is Key...
It is also the thing that scares me the most. I have a VERY strict training plan that I have to be diligent with and stick to in order to complete the race in August. How well I stick to the plan rests on me, not anyone else. It is going to mean early mornings - of which I am NOT a fan, and when I feel like sitting around and hanging out some evenings, I will have to make the choice to train each day. The last thing I want to do is get to the race in August and not be prepared. I know that even if I do this training plan to the best of my ability, it will be just enough to get me across the finish line as the terrain there is much different than the terrain and trails around my house.   

It is all on me. Will I do it? I better...

You can follow my training journey here. I will blog about it each week and talk about progress and setbacks... and probably learn quite a bit about myself along the way. 

Have you ever set out to something that terrified you? How did you feel after you completed the task?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Pure and Genuine Religion

"Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." James 1:27

That pretty much sums it up. God wants us to take care of the orphans and the widows. This is the heart of the Father. We have taken on a challenge for one month with our students to raise $1000 in the next 30 days. That amount will feed 6500 meals to orphans in Haiti.

There are 163,000,000 Orphans Around the World Today

163 MILLION children! That is insane to me. There are certain things in life that I cannot ignore and just walk on, not doing everything I can to change it. This is especially true when my Heavenly Father has instructed me to do something.

Today there are 163,000,000 Orphans... many due to circumstances beyond anyone's control. Many children are having to sell themselves as prostitutes in order to buy food and provide basic needs for themselves and their siblings. They have been abandoned by parents because of death, poverty, and by choice in some cases. Nobody is tucking them in at night. Many don't even have a bed to sleep on. Nobody is praying over them and kissing their foreheads. Nobody is hugging them and telling them how incredibly special and beautiful they are. They are hungry. They are naked. They are scared. They need us.

For the price of TWO Starbucks froo-froo drinks, you can feed 65 children!

What are you willing to give to change this epidemic this month? My 7 year old son is giving his Christmas money that he's been saving up for a toy. His heart is amazing and I am blessed to be his mom - he challenges me.

Join our challenge of $1000 in 30 Days

Visit the website below:

"But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” 2 Samuel 24:24

I want to always be a giver. I want my children to be givers. I will not give that which cost me nothing. I will not let myself or my children be a product of the culture of "Self". 

Will you join with us?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Learning to Live as a Daughter

(a fixed or established mode of procedure or course of life, usually dull or unpromising: to fall into rut.)

We all have them. They sneak up on us from behind, clinging to our backs, pushing us down until we are lying helpless on the floor. Ok, so maybe that is a little dramatic, but I sure have felt that way before. Like there is no way out. The energy I need to complete my tasks just isn't there to pull from, so there I am, on my own and lacking the will to do what I should. Cleaning house and doing laundry ruts happen often for me. I get into ruts with my writing - I am in one now, hence the reason for this post. Relationships suffer. My husband gets the leftovers when he should be getting my best. Even worse, I find that when I am in a rut, my spiritual life takes a back seat to everything and nothing.

When I am feeling down and the stresses of my life seem to weigh heavy, the last thing I want to do in all honesty is take time out to pray and read my Bible. That may not be what you'd expect to hear from a pastor's wife, but it is the truth. I have had many days, especially lately, where I just don't feel like praying or journaling. I had a day not too long ago when I was going to write in my prayer journal only to see that the previous entry was the exact same prayer I had in my heart to pray that day. Turns out I have a lot of entries over the course of the past year or two that bear resemblance. On this particular day, instead of trying to see the silver lining, in true rut-fashion, I got angry and decided that I wasn't going to pray. God had heard my request time and time again, and I was tired of talking to him about it. I know, this sounds extremely mature, but it was how I felt.

Honesty is good.

Something I am learning is that God wants me to be honest with him. Even if I am upset, or feeling down - he already knows what is going on inside of me, so I may as well open myself up to having those conversations with him. When I don't understand why the prayers in my prayer journal have yet to be answered, it is ok for me to express that to him. If I am feeling blue or am down for one reason or another, I don't have to pretend everything is ok for him. He knows me - every part. Being real and honest in my relationship with God will only deepen it.

Growing up I developed the mentality that everything had to be right and when I went before God, I needed to have on a good face - I would feel guilty when I experienced depressed days, or if I started to question anything about what he was doing, or not, in my life at the time. My relationship with God was driven mainly by guilt and fear. He doesn't want that at all. He has called me his daughter. As a daughter, I know that I can go to my father on good and bad days and let him see me as I am, not as I pretend to be, and still experience his love, goodness, grace, and kindness towards me. He desires my honesty and is ok when I question or get upset. He wants to teach me things through those times that I otherwise wouldn't be able to learn.

I want to lose the masks.

I don't want to wear a mask in front of anyone, especially not my Father. I don't need a mask because he loves me just the way I am! He is the one who created me, after all. It is a process - both church culture and the culture we enter as soon as we start school is full of people-pleasing that results in a bunch of mask-wearing men and women walking around.
 I saw a tweet Donald Miller sent out this week that went like this "The fear of 'being yourself' is akin to people pleasing (and in my twisted way, pleasing God). Don't worry about it. Jesus won't be asking a jury to chime in."
Those words were pleasing to me. God created me. He loves me and knows me better than anyone else ever could. He loves me through my ruts, as well as the most productive and happy times of my life.

What would our churches look like if we all began to live real life in front of each other? No masks. No fake smiles. Just the family of God that we are, coming together to worship and do life.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Becoming and Advocate

Sometimes you see and injustice and it strikes such passion you cannot escape it.

There are some injustices in life that strike a passion within us and bring us to action. For me, human trafficking is a big one. In Colorado we are working with Sarah's Home (check out for more details) which be one a very few places in the country that will house and help bring restoration to young women rescued out of human trafficking.

Another injustice that struck passion inside of me was Project Prevention at the LA Dream Center ( when we were there last summer. Project Prevention works alongside the state of California with open cases to help families at risk of losing their children to the foster system due to extreme cases of poverty, regardless of the fact they with a parent or parents who love them, to meet basic needs so that those children are able to stay with their families. As a mother, this was so amazing for me to see. In America the average family is a mere two paychecks away from being homeless. Facing the fact that your children could be taken from you due to impoverished situations beyond your control is heart breaking. The Dream Center has prevented this from happening in so many families and even saved the state of CA hundreds of thousands of dollars, which is amazing and continues to open doors for this to continue.

Other times, it is your own circumstances that cause you to do something.

If you read back to the blog I posted at the end of 2012, you will read about our daughter's struggle with life threatening food allergies. Two nights ago was our second time taking her to the emergency room and having to administer a shot of epinephrine to save her life. Tuesday night I gave her some "safe" chocolate and after a few bites, she (a very bright 3 year old) began to cry saying, "Mommy, I can't eat these!". She began coughing and hives began to pop up on her face and ears immediately. Turns out the way the chocolate was packaged was how the exposure happened. They were contaminated with peanuts and tree nuts, and who knows what else on her long list on known allergens. Those trace amounts caused a reaction that could have taken her life had we not acted. I read about everyone on their gun control soapboxes and screaming about the fact that "guns are killing our children" (forgetting to mention the almost 500,000 babies that were killed in utero via abortions last year alone, but I digress).

My child can die from food. 

Peanuts. Tree nuts. Eggs. Milk. Beef. Garlic.

Any of the above, even in trace amounts, can take her life. I realize from experience that unless you have a child with life threatening food allergies in your family, often times you are naive to how seriously fatal food can be. Even though the exposure the other night was under our care, when I was in the hospital waiting while they monitored her until 1:00am, I began to think, "If we (her father and I) don't, who will?" It is our responsibility to spread awareness to everyone we can about the severity of life threatening food allergies and how to prevent exposures, and how to act should you see someone having an anaphylactic reaction to food.

What are some things that you wish you knew about food allergies?
What are some things you would like to share with others about food allergies?

Monday, February 25, 2013

I Wanna be a Rockstar Mommy

Some days I am so on. Waking up feeling refreshed, making sure breakfast is made and lunches are packed. Through the chaos of getting out of the door on time, I don't freak out. Not even once. I even had time to shower and get dressed before we leave.

Most days I am so off. Hearing the alarm but wishing I could have thirty more minutes, throwing together some cereal and OJ after the kids have been up for who knows how long making messes in their rooms, packing lunches in between sips of coffee, rushing to get everyone, except for myself, ready. Making the school drop off with hair thrown back, glasses on, wearing sweatpants and Uggs. Yeah, this is more like my normal.

I wish so much that I had it all together...the way so many of my friends seem to do from the outside looking in. Always feeling like I am on top of my mommy and housewife game instead of feeling like there is constant catching up, without actually ever catching up, happening in my life. I wish that I felt like cooking every meal. I wish that I kept my home cleaner. I wish I were a rockstar mommy.

I know you're out there - the perfect housewife and mom who always looks her best, the kids are so on schedule, the house is always clean. I would love to be you. But I am not. I like to sleep as long as possible in the morning. I am creative and scattered and things may look a little cluttered from time to time. I am not a fan of house work, and most days my home reflects this. Although I don't mind cooking, most days I am just throwing something together based on the ingredients found in the pantry, because I definitely did not do any meal planning. I daydream, I watch movies with my kids, we sing and color and play all day long when we are home.

I made a resolution to wake up thirty minutes earlier this year. That lasted a week. Maybe. I want to try to cook and plan for meals better, but I have a daughter living with six, yes SIX different life threatening food allergies for which we carry an epi pen and have had to use epinephrine to save her life in early December 2012, and she is picky on top of that, so most days I just figure out what she will eat, and that is what we go with, and her list of "go-to" foods is rather short.

Nothing is what I would picture it to be in my head. Most days I feel like I am just scraping by. Of course I want some things to change, and as my kids get older and daily and weekly circumstances become different than they are now, that will most likely happen, but for now, here we are. I am not a rockstar mom. Not even close. But I love those two kids more than anything else and I think they're having a good time. I try to protect their innocence at all costs, and teach them to love others unconditionally, just like Jesus loves us. I tell them they are beautiful and handsome and that they deserve the absolute best for their lives, because it is true. I speak encouragement and life over them every chance I get. Sometimes I fail. Ok, I fail a lot, but my hope is that they won't remember the failures. That they will remember the fun they had and grow up knowing who they are, not caring to conform to the world's standards, or compromise themselves in any way, because of what they learned in this home, from our family, and what they see in me as their mommy.

Do you have things you wish you could change about your daily life? About parenting styles? Have you come to realize it is what it is, and are embracing the mess and the clutter?

I'd love to hear your thoughts...

Thursday, February 21, 2013

I Don't Want Programs. I Want Jesus.

One of my favorite quotes by one of my favorite authors is: 
"I need Christ, not something that resembles Him" - C.S.Lewis

Think about that. Our world is FULL of spirituality. Many of the people you encounter from day to day practice some type of religion, or hold to a certain belief system, yet they are far from the one true God. That is because so much of the spirituality is resembling truth, but comes up empty in the end. 

Even in our churches (little "c"= the building) we find this to be true at times. The people appear to have it all together. They appear to be in love with Christ, but as soon as they leave the church building, that fizzles and dies out, leaving them looking just like anyone else throughout the week. Maybe they try to live a works-based life with their lists of "do's and don'ts" and they never quite measure up, so they stay discouraged. Maybe, even though they attend church from week to week, they wait like a helpless baby for the pastor to "feed" them with a spoon on Sundays and never do anything to produce spiritual growth throughout the week, so they just bounce back and forth between two places, never truly knowing what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Something that resembles Christ, but certainly is not...

 Or maybe it is the church's "programs" that never change from week to week ( Welcome, upbeat happy songs, slower sad songs, offering, announcements, message, altar time, dismissal) that make us think that we are spiritual and help us feel close to God. Heaven forbid we change anything from that order.... that would no longer resemble Christ. Right? Now, nothing is wrong with the programs churches have in place, but when we focus on the programs and service order instead of Jesus, we have it all wrong. I guarantee that Jesus doesn't care so much about the programs. He just wants His bride to encounter Him. And that does not happen because of any man-made schedule, but because the Church (Big "C"= the PEOPLE. The Bride) come together in unity and get hungry for God to move among them. He moves during and throughout the programs set in place when people worship Him. But how often to we stifle what He really wants to do among us because our focus is on what man has set in place? 

My generation, "Millennials", overall could care less about the programs. As a matter of fact, most would find them as quite the deterrent. Possibly why only 9% of Christian millennials attend a church on a weekly basis. This is the generation that is missing from our corporate worship settings on Sundays. This is the generation that sees no need to come and be part of the programs when they can experience God in their homes. The generation whose unchurched likely will never grace your fellowship's doors. They will not come. We have to go to them. They don't want programs. They have been hurt by the programs and the people who run them. They have been given lists and lists of "What Not to Do", and "How Not to Live", having never experienced the love and good news that Christ died for us all to have. They don't need programs. They need Jesus

The mindset that God will only move if your church service or worship set look and feel a certain way is about as far from truth as possible. If we feel that way, then the programs have become our idols. We are no longer worshiping Jesus, but we are worshiping what man has set in place. That is a scary place to be. 

I don't want the programs. I want Jesus. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Too Much of a Good Thing...

Too Much of a Good Thing....

... Rarely remains a good thing. Of course, there are things that I could do all day, everyday, and feel like I would never grow tired of it, like hanging out with my family, laying on an exotic beach all day, traveling, snowboarding - although my legs would get tired, and it would end badly. But the majority of things we fill our time with, are pretty mundane and meaningless in the grand scheme of things.

Social Media...

Though it is fun to "keep up" with old friends, family, and in some cases, acquaintances without actually having to talk to anyone (eh-hem), it has skewed what friendship and connection should truly look like. For me, there are many friends and family that I used to call and email, but just don't do so anymore because I feel like I know what is happening in their lives based on what I see on my News Feed. In that, the one thing that truly matters has been removed from the equation... each other. I am no longer "connecting" with the people I care about when our relationship has been boiled down to status updates.

*** Social Media can absolutely be a good thing - for businesses, churches, and networking, it is vital.

For me, it has become a habit. I admit it. Whenever there is a lull in conversation, or I am sitting in a waiting room, even watching a movie on our couch, I find myself scrolling through Facebook on my iPhone. Not because I am bored with my company, but because I have trained my mind to do so over the past few years. I am missing real life because of it. Moments with my children that should be focused fully on them, are instead spent with half of my attention on them, and the other half scrolling through meaningless (no offense, really.) status updates.

Facebook is not real life. Real life is in those moments that we are more than likely missing because of our social media addictions. And it isn't just Facebook - there is Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Snap Chat (which I would not advise allowing your teenagers to have this one)...the list goes on and on. For me, Facebook is the one that takes up too much time, and often, I find myself getting upset and disappointed over updates posted, or pictures put up for the world to see (Seriously, folks, once it is out there in internet-land, you can never take it back. You have no idea the way certain things can and will affect your future). But really, how silly is that? Facebook getting to me? Lame.


I have talked about deleting my Facebook for a long time, but have held on until now so that friends and family out of state can keep up with our kids. Twitter is so much more user friendly, and FAR less time consuming that Facebook. I am going to keep my twitter handle @traciearly , as well as my instagram: traciearly , and of course this blog will remain up and running for more in depth details as far as what is happening in our lives.

Too much social media... 

For me, has become a bad thing. I want to simplify things once more. I know I could just refrain from checking it, but I don't need it, so I am letting go. Not to say I will never reactivate my Facebook, but for now, I am walking away. I am happy to do so. What freedom can come from cutting out the (unneeded) things in life that consume our time!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


What. Is. Culture. ?

For those of you who may not know, my husband and I are in full time ministry at an amazing church here in CO. We have lived here for 5 and half years, and before this move, although I had lived in other countries, and even other states (other than NC - where I grew up) for a year or two here and there, I was always in a sort of bubble. There was the very obvious difference in culture living in El Salvador, but in the states, I didn't always recognize it.
In churches, we hear the term "culture" to describe those living outside of the church world. A progressive term for "secular" is really what it has become. My thoughts are stirring from this... the term "culture", especially as we use it in the church world, is so very relative. Culture in life, churches, systems, changes between small towns and bigger cities within the same state, between different states there are cultural differences based on what the main influences of that area may be, and when you take a look from region to region, culture changes significantly. Sometimes so much that a seemingly similar culture, such as the church for example, may not have many things resembling one another. From the outside at least.
In the South, people (not everyone, but in general...) have twangy accents, they love sweet tea, fried foods, good home cooking, they have been four wheeling/off roading many a time for fun, they have played in creeks, swam in rivers and lakes on the regular, have attended Chicken Stews and Fish Fries, and most everyone has had a vacation at Myrtle Beach at some point in their life. :-) Southerners know what hospitality is, they are sure to use their manners, the women typically don't leave the house without makeup or fixing their hair. Its not uncommon to see someone in WalMart with heels on, and regardless of how they may live throughout the week, church is a norm. Hence the "Bible Belt" nickname.
If you were to attend an evangelical or charismatic church in the South, you are sure to see a variety of music being played along with lots of clapping and moving and hands being raised. During the sermon, you will hear a choir of "amens" and even a pause from the pulpit here and there for some clapping when the pastor makes a good point. At the altar call (usually a formal call to prayer to the congregation), you can look around and see many people crying. All of these are great things. They are how church culture works in the south.  It is beautiful to experience.
It is not, however, how church looks everywhere else.
When we first came to Colorado, it was a huge culture shock because people weren't clapping and moving and expressing themselves the way we were used to. After some time, we began to realize that it was less of the emotion that we had grown up with, and a lot more reflection. Expressions of worship being more internal than outward. Growing deeper each day, still. It is very beautiful to experience.
I appreciate different cultures, and sub cultures. No one "culture" (church, or secular) will look the same when you cross regional boundaries. At the heart, however, both are maturing, growing, developing.
My point is, we talk and talk about culture. How it should look, how we believe culture thinks, etc. We may understand culture within our own bubbles or areas of influence, but we have to remember that no one culture or sub culture is alike. The way it looks and feels for you, may not be the way it looks and feels for someone across the city, state, or especially the country. Because its not the way you, or your church, or city does it, doesn't make it wrong. Just makes it different. Embrace our differences. Don't point fingers, don't condemn, don't assume you know the "right" way to think, feel, express oneself, or do something. We all are a part of the kingdom of God, all doing life a little differently, but at our core, we are the same. Don't confuse inward reflection for apathy, or outward expression of being too emotional.
Find freedom to worship the way you, as an individual, were created to worship and live.
And remember, culture for you is quite possibly very different from the culture being lived and experienced around the country, and for certain, around the world. We mustn't lose ourselves in our own cultural bubbles.