If you wanna feel better about your family, just read about ours...

Starring: a dad, a mom, a son & daughter-in-law, a daughter & son-in-law, a teen, a tween, 1 grandson, 3 granddaughters, 3 dogs, and a whole lot of love.

Family Story Pic

Family Story Pic


Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Mudder's Testimony

I didn't blog this at the time because quite frankly, I didn’t want to Mudder anyone out. Maybe it's the approach of our 2nd one on Saturday, but this has been on the forefront of my mind and I've been feeling the nudge to share it. If you’re ‘Mudder-ly exhausted’ with me, move on, don’t read it and please accept my apology. But it's been my experience that I wouldn't be feeling the push unless someone could use it. If that's the case, here it is.  This entry is everything God taught me through my first Tough Mudder back in October. I was scheduled to speak at a Women’s Conference 3 weeks later. The timing was no coincidence and this is the revised and written account of my experience:

Before I tell you how I ended up in a Tough Mudder, let me give you a brief history of what was going on in my life leading up to it. From 2007 to 2011 I was in a season of life where I felt like I was getting taken apart. My life was being changed and rearranged and at the time it felt like loss. Relationships were evolving, restoring and some were ending. Each Beth Moore study I did pinpointed everything I was doing wrong and more changes God was asking me to make. I started feeling like God's “Special Project” and that His main goal was to show me what a hot mess I was. And it was working.

In what seemed like a spiritually unrelated choice in my life, I started running in 2011. It was absolutely miserable for awhile and I hated every minute of it, but I struggle with my weight and running kept me physically on track, so I stuck with it.

When 2012 rolled around I was feeling pretty good. Things were smoothing out in my life emotionally. I was feeling great physically. I noticed that God had replaced relationships that ended with healthy ones that were thriving.  Spiritually things were calm, meaning I didn't feel God asking me to do anything different and that's just the way I like it. I felt free and really comfortable.

Then last May the rug was pulled out from under me when I was asked to participate in a Fashion Show and my smooth sailing life came to screeching halt with a 5 second walk down a “runway” at church. It might surprise you to know that despite my desire to be a cheerleader again, my comfort zone is writing behind my computer and I was in complete turmoil in the weeks leading up to it and actually cried before walking out on stage. I kept thinking, “What am I doing here? I'm not supposed to be seen!” That day, I was brought face to face with my insecurities, fears of looking foolish and fears of what people were thinking about me.

Right after that, all my worlds collided and everything shifted. Beth Moore, Joyce Meyer and a spiritual gift assessment called PLACE I took at church became about my identity in Christ and how much He loves me.  As weird as it sounds, all of that transitioned into my workouts and every time I ran, I felt God saying, “I made you free. Now I'm going to make you strong.” I didn't know what it meant, but it felt really good. And then I started hearing the song, Redeemed, all the time in unexpected places and times. You know when a song comes on the radio and the words just speak to you? Well these words spoke comfort to me. So every time I heard it I started turning to my husband and saying, “God's hugging me right now.” It was happening so often, it became a running joke in our family. But it was like a veil was lifted and God took my focus off of everything I still needed to fix and instead revealed the many areas He'd healed. It felt amazing!

That’s when God began shoving me out of my comfort zone through my friendship with Lissa, a wonderful young lady I met in Massage School way back when. Suddenly, I found myself training for and participating in, physically and mentally demanding events.

Enter Tough Mudder. Besides what I could find on YouTube, I had no idea what to expect, so I didn’t know how to prepare for it.  Keeping in mind my fears of looking foolish and embarrassing myself, this became a training nightmare for me. I went to the Mudder website and found a workout called ‘Tough Mudder Boot Camp.’ It's 5 circuits of 6 different exercises and you run a mile between each circuit. So I printed it off expecting it to be a step-by-step guide of the obstacles that would be on our course. Here's the problem. It’s written in Tough Mudder language I didn't understand. The exercises are called things like “Kiss of Mud” and “Boa Constrictor” and “Log Bog Belly Bombers.” It gives a description of what to do, but no explanation of how it would apply to the course. I just wanted somebody to tell me exactly what was about to happen so that I knew how to prepare!  How in the world was that supposed to prepare me for unknown obstacles? But here’s the deal. That was written by someone who knows the course. And since that was the only thing I had to go by, I had no choice but to dive in and trust the one who wrote it.

That training is hard and it's not fun. I was working out 7 days a week, even on vacation, because in my mind, to take a day off was to miss an opportunity to prepare myself for this unknown event that loomed on my calendar in big red writing. Although I still didn't know what our course would entail, my whole body was getting stronger.  Could it be that this boot camp workout creator knew what he was doing?

October 20th. was Mudder Day. No kidding, we heard Redeemed at least 4 times on various radio stations as we drove to Kentucky. At one point, my husband said, “Oh, this is ridiculous.” It was funny, but on a serious note, it was reassuring to me. God really was in this....and it's a good thing, because when we stopped at Kroger in Kentucky to go to the bathroom, a lady started telling us how all of the local hospitals had been put on High Alert for some Tough Mudder event...and then Lissa shoved me out of the bathroom to prevent me from hearing the rest of what she said.

We parked at a fairgrounds and were bussed to the Mudder site. As soon as we stepped off the bus, we were herded through the registration lines where they wrote our number really big across our foreheads with black permanent marker. I was wearing workout clothes made specifically to be light and dry quickly, which was supposed to help on a cold day. It was 88% percent spandex from top to bottom. So there I was, the 40 year old woman who's terrified of looking foolish, standing in a crowd of people, squeezed into a spanx suit with a giant black number scrawled across my forehead thinking, “Where's that hug now, God?”

Looking around, I noticed a lot of us marked by our numbers, clean and dry, but cold and nervous. Then there were those wearing orange headbands around their heads, covering their numbers. Those people were wet, filthy, scraped up and sometimes bleeding, but they were celebrating. They had finished. They were no longer identified by the numbers on their foreheads. They were known as Tough Mudders. They'd achieved what they came for and despite the cold, pain, fear and obstacles along the way, they finished and I was envious of them.

After climbing an 8ft wall to get to the starting line, it was 12 straight miles of mud. Most of those miles were spent crawling up very steep hills or sliding and falling down them. Some of those miles were spent trudging through mud that was knee or even chest deep. There were 25 obstacles that consisted of crawling under barbed wire, jumping into an ice tank, monkey bars and rings above water, jumping off a 20 foot ledge into cold water, running through fire, crawling through water under live wires dangling above, jolting us with electricity. Then there were under ground tunnels and tubes that were immersed under water. Do you know that I'm claustrophobic? Not to mention my strong aversion to electro-shock therapy. A woman broke her ankle right beside us and people were quitting throughout the course. Tough Mudder is not meant for someone like me who lives her life afraid.

It became obvious early on that this course was not designed to do alone. You could, but it would increase your risk of injury by a lot. Our team had 7 members and we all became very bonded with each other that day. Believe it or not, we laughed a lot throughout the course. How could we not? We were falling down all the time, squeezed into spandex wet suits, wedgies like you've never seen before and we looked like we'd been dipped in chocolate. At one point, my husband was suctioned into waist deep mud and our team and a group of strangers formed a human chain to pull him out. When he finally broke free I said, “Maybe God was hugging you in there.” Sometimes he doesn’t think I’m as hilarious as I do.

When we came to an obstacle that was especially hard for someone, the rest of the team would rally around them, going before them and after them, shouting words of encouragement or even comfort until they reached the other side and then we'd all celebrate the personal victory. Several of our team members were able to fearlessly jump off the 20 ft plank, so they went first and then relentlessly cheered until the rest of us got the courage to finally take the literal leap of faith and step off the ledge. Around the 8th mile, I was shivering from cold and I'd damaged my shoulder when we approached the swinging rings. The last thing in the world I wanted at that moment was to plunge into more freezing water. My friend went on before me and I said, “Is the water cold?” She said, “NO! It's really warm!” I grabbed the ring above my head, swung out and dropped into the freezing cold water. Turns out, Lissa lies. When I climbed out furious, she used one of the phrases from the Tough Mudder pledge on me: “Do not whine, kids whine.” I kinda hated her that day.

At the very end of the course, we had to run through more live wires, but on the other side stood the woman handing out the orange headbands. I crossed the finish line and she placed it around my forehead and covered my number. We were the last group of the day, so as we were leaving I knew the people who still had numbers visible on their foreheads had been unable to finish for one reason or another. They'd either quit or gotten injured. I was soaking wet, muddy, freezing, bruised and hurting everywhere, but I felt sad for them. They didn't get to feel the victory of finishing.

Looking back, it reminds me of how slaves were marked with a number that became their identity. In a way, my fears & insecurities were my own personal identity that I saw every time I looked in the mirror, like an ugly black number across my forehead. God used Tough Mudder to bring me face to face with real fear, to finally break me free from being a slave to mine.

When we got in the car to head to the hotel, I kid you not, Redeemed came on the radio. My husband rolled his eyes and I was like, “Dude, it's not my fault that Jesus loves me more than you right now.”

So what does this have to do with anything? Real life is nothing but the unknown. We live in uncertain times. We have no idea what awaits us from day to day and many of us are walking around enslaved to our own fears & insecurities. So here's what God taught me from Tough Mudder:

  1. The strength comes from the training. The Bible. Consider it Life's Boot Camp. It’s the tool we have to prepare for the unknown of every day life so we shouldn't be willing to skip even 1 day of training. Sometimes it'll feel like a foreign language and it might hurt. We might even be asked to do hard things that we don't understand. Do it anyway. He's strengthening the muscles He knows we're going to need for the challenges ahead.
  2. Form a team. Surround yourself with people who are not only going to challenge you, but go before you and come behind you and cheer you on and help you up, and laugh with you and cry with you and even find someone who's brave enough to tell you to stop whining. Look for people to help along the way, whether they're on your team or not. Because God did not design this course to do alone.
  3. Claim your identity and wear it across your forehead like a badge of honor. Galatians 4:7 says, “Now you are no longer a slave but God's own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.” Our identity is not an ugly black number across our forehead. Regardless of how we see ourselves, God looks at us and sees His royal bloodline. So celebrate!
  4. And finally, start living. Romans 8:37 says, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Unfortunately, I'm the type of person God had to take across 12 miles of muddy Kentucky hills to get it through my head how much He loves me and that He created me to do things and that He alone is enough to cover all the things that scare me. We have to stop putting the faith in ourselves and start putting it in the one who designed the course! God called Peter out of the boat to walk on the water, not because Peter had the power to do it, but because God did. God called me out from behind the safety of my computer again to tell my story and it was not comfortable for me. But ya know what? God's not calling us to be comfortable.  

    I still struggle with my insecurities and here on my blog I like to joke about my crisis-inspired adventurous streak.  But in reality, I'm simply trying to stop allowing those insecurities to rule me.  I've decided to LIVE!  I'm just sorry it took me 40 years to start!

    Now what is it God's calling you to do? Step out of the boat. Stop hiding. Don't let your fears and insecurities dictate your choices. Live like the conquerors God says you already are! You might fall down. You might look foolish. People might laugh at you and you might even get hurt or bruised along the way. But at least you can say you finished the course!  

    So what are you waiting for?

Monday, April 15, 2013

Midlife Blogger

"I Blog," said 90% of stay-at-home moms across America. It's not original. The term is as commonplace as Google these days. Parenting, Marriage, Recipes...You name it, there's a blog about it. It doesn't change the fact that I'm 41 years old and I love writing one. 
When I began mine in 2010, it was for the purpose of documenting the entertaining things that happen to our family and lessons learned, mostly the hard way.  If anyone outside our family enjoyed reading it, that's awesome. It's been my not-so-private journal, so to speak.

I can't pinpoint the exact moment things shifted, but somewhere along the way, my blog has transitioned from the 'Journal of a family' to the 'Biography of a midlife crisis' and 'Our Random Events' morphed into 'My Bucket List.' A list I didn't realize existed until things started getting checked off.

What happens when Midlife Bucket List collides with Blog? That would be me. The Midlife Blogger. A state where common sense no longer exists. A place where fears and phobias get put on the back burner, all in the name of a blog entry. Or in my case, the title is usually enough to do it.

Gone are the days when the recounting of a story occurs secondary to the events. Suddenly, I see every opportunity through a distorted Blog lens and before I know it, a title pops into my head and just like that, I'm committed. Then reality strikes. In order to experience the thrill of the write, I have to actually live the event. That almost always requires me to face a major fear and very often some hard training.

A mere 5 months after swearing off ever doing Tough Mudder again, I signed up to do another one with Z. I've spent the past 2 months rigorously lifting weights, running trails and popping B12 supplements again because how could I pass up the opportunity to write what will be called, 'Mudder-Son Bonding?'

Last week he asked me to go skydiving with him next month. That means immediately following Tough Mudder Part 2, I'll switch from extreme physical training to quietly sitting in front of electric fans and practicing my Kegel exercises while the wind whips through my hair in an attempt to avoid an embarrassing accident the moment I'm hurled out of an airplane at 13,000 ft by a man who is strapped to my back while I pray the giant piece of nylon tucked into his backpack will unfurl and be enough to slow our descent before plummeting into the earth below.  All for the love of my persuasive son and a story titled, 'Jump For Boy.'

But I should clarify something here. Before you think I've gone completely off the deep end for the love of writing, fear not. The Tummy Tuck I'm scheduling in November is strictly midlife crisis. The Blog series that will follow with titles, 'Tuck & Roll, Tuck It Up and Tuck You' is purely a coincidence. 

So you have a little preview of posts to come...unless of course things go terribly wrong at Tough Mudder next Saturday or my chute doesn't open on May 15th...in which case, it's been fun.  The End.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

G.I. Jipped.

(((WARNING)))  This review of the G.I Joe movie contains what you might call a Spoiler Alert.
I, on the other hand, call it a Deal Breaker and would want to know.  Your call.

G.I Joe Retaliation
Rated:  PG-13
Starring:  Dwayne Johnson, DJ Cotrona and Channing Tatum
(As listed on the official website.)

The Premise:  The G.I. Joes are not only fighting their mortal enemy Cobra; they are forced to contend with threats from within the government that jeopardize their very existence.

Or as women read it:  Blah blah blah, Channing Tatum, blah blah blah.

I knew nothing about this movie until 3 weeks ago when my husband asked, "Do you want to see the G.I Joe movie?"  In my mind that screamed Little Boy Cartoon so I said, "Why would I want to see that?"  He said, "It's starring your guy.  Channum Panning."  Dude, show some respect...and of course I want to see the G.I Joe movie, don't ask ridiculous questions.

Tonight was the date night I'd been waiting for.  I wore my tightest jeans and teetered the dangerous cleavage line.  It's what Channing
stalkers fans do.  When I excitedly handed my ticket to the worker, he said, "Ahhh...you're the shoot em up type."  I said, "Actually, my husband is the shoot em type.  I'm here for Channing Tatum."  He handed my ticket stub back and said, "Oh. I'm sorry."  That's what we call a Red Flag, but in my Channing-induced excitement, it went right over my head.

Pay attention, ladies.  This is an important piece of information you won't see on the previews.  The Channing Tatum character DIES IN THE FIRST 30 MINUTES OF THE FREAKIN MOVIE!!!!!  The ole 'bait and switch' and I fell for it hook, line and sinker.

I sat in my seat stunned before working my way through the 7 stages of grief in warp speed...Shock & Denial; Pain & Guilt; Anger & Bargaining; Depression, Reflection & Loneliness; Reconstruction & Working Through; The Upward Turn; Acceptance & Hope.

I was speechless and sat there hovering somewhere between Reflection & Loneliness and Working Through when out of the blue, The Upward Turn appeared. 

See the guy in the white suit on the far right of that picture at the top?  Well, 15 minutes after they violently ripped Channing Tatum away from us, that guy took his shirt off.  Might not sound like that big a deal.  It is.  And suddenly there was Acceptance & Hope. 

I've gotta be honest.  It was a good movie.  One of those movies I didn't totally understand, but would like to see again to pick up on more details.  But the bottom line is, I feel misled.  False advertising is not something I can condone.  They lured me in there under false pretenses and I'm left to work through the betrayal of it all.

Oh gosh, I've slipped back into Anger & Bargaining.
Quick!!!  Upward Turn!!!  HURRY!!!

My grade for G.I Joe Retaliation:  A..for Abs...

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Piece, Bye Peace

Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self-Control.

You would think that a Beth Moore Bible Study on the Fruits of the Spirit would leave you feeling warm and fuzzy inside.  Or at least that's what I mistakenly thought.

This is the study my two best friends and I moved onto after wrapping up our study on James.

The first 2 weeks, she lay the foundation affirming the kind of intimate parent-child relationship that God desires with us, the many roles of the Holy Spirit within us, deciphering His voice and the importance of submitting to, and not quenching or grieving, His Spirit.

She also gave an important reminder.  We are not enemies with each other.  According to scripture, our enemies fall under three categories:  1. The world  2. Satan  3. Our own sinful natures.  Those 3 enemies are constantly at work against us.  To attempt to possess the Spirit's fruits on our own is futile and allowing our circumstances to dictate our reactions is a recipe for disaster.  Therefore, intentionally and continuously submitting yourself to the Holy Spirit is vital.

Sounds good, right?  I'm a person of action, so I entered week 3 with a game plan:  Submit.
The Fruit:  Love....5 days later, I drove to Bible Study with tears streaming down my cheeks on the heels of an emotionally devastating week with my husband, arguing with the Holy Spirit.  It wasn't a matter of deciphering His voice.  I could hear Him plain as day.  He was just wrong.  Because do you know what He was telling me to do about the situation?!?  Do Nothing.

What?!?  Noooo!!!  I want to fight this out!!
Do nothing.
Ok, let's compromise.  I'll call my husband and tell him that the Holy Spirit told me to "Do nothing" so that's why I'm gonna take the high road and stay silent.

And then God gave me one of these:
This submit thing is harder than it sounds.

Week 4.  The Fruit:  Joy.  On the heels of being Spirit-ordered to keep my big mouth shut?  Not cool...5 days later I ended up sitting on my friend's couch crying over coffee.

I'm currently on Week 5.  The Fruit:  Peace.  A week that kicked off with our annual Easter celebration at chaotic Chuckie Cheese, perfectly coinciding with PMS.  Yes, God has a sense of humor.  The good news is, my marriage isn't the target this week.  The bad news is, it appears to be my sanity...and my gag reflex.

(Skip straight to the bottom if you have a weak stomach.)

Tuesday morning when I let our small Llassapoo puppy in from outside, she brought something with her.  At first I thought it was poop.  Yeah, she's gross like that.  But upon closer inspection, the thing protruding from her mouth had toenails. (Cue the gagging.) What followed was a chase through the house while I screamed her name between dry heaves.  (I would normally make a joke referencing my 'dramatic side' here, but in this case it was totally justified.)  Because, what I removed from her mouth was the complete leg of a small animal and I'll spare you any further details.  You're welcome.

Skip ahead to yesterday afternoon when Z casually entered our freshly cleaned house, caked in mud from the waist down and smelling like a swamp after "disc golf got legit."  Whatever that means.

And this morning as the girls were getting ready to leave for school, Z let the dogs in from outside.  The puppy had something in her mouth.  (Insert a prayer that God has probably never heard before...please, Lord, let it be poop...)  As my children and I watched, she dropped what was clearly the fully intact spine of a medium size animal onto the carpet.  Long story short.  The phrase "All hell broke loose" is the exact opposite of Peace.

I'm scared.  I have 2 lessons still to do on Peace and who knows how many pieces of that mystery animal left to be delivered into this house.  And I'm not even halfway through these stinkin fruits.  So I guess this is a good time to remind myself exactly who my enemies are....or rather who they're not... My  husband is not my enemy, nor is my swamp smelly son, and as hard as it is to believe at this moment, my 13 pound carcass-carrying Llassapoo isn't either.

The Fruits change. The circumstances change. But, like it or not, the game plan doesn't change.  Submit.

And hold on tight because Week 6 is comin.  The Fruit:  Patience.
*Dramatic Music of Doom here...duh duh duhhhhh....*

Llassa-Poo by day,
Llassa-Killer by night.

Be afraid.