How to Treat Kids Who Are Different: Part II

I know it can be awkward when your child asks an innocent, valid question about someone who may look or act differently. We don’t want to say the wrong thing so sometimes we avoid the situation/conversation altogether. I’ve been there.

I think before we can teach our kids anything about how to treat people, we first have to examine how we treat people. If we don’t spend time with people who look, move, live, worship, vote, or speak differently than us, why would our children want to?

First, let’s talk about verbiage.

  1. PLEASE remove the “r” word from your vocabulary. You know, that word you’ve used when you feel silly or stupid. The word that means “late or slow.” This word, to a special needs family, is the equivalent of the “n” word to an African American family. It is degrading and ugly.
  2. When you’re talking to your child about someone who may be different, try not to use the word, “wrong.” This implies they are broken, not right…less than. Wouldn’t it feel awful if a blonde child asked your brunette child, “What’s wrong with your hair?” For example, instead of asking, “What’s wrong with you/him/her/them?,” ask, “Why are you in a wheelchair?” “Why do you only have one leg?” “Why do you use that device?” “What’s your name?” “What’s your story?” I like that one the best.
  3. Speak in positives, not negatives. We say Finn “uses a wheelchair to get around” instead of “he can’t walk.” Say what they CAN do, not what they can’t. img_6605
  4. Remind children that we’re all different in some ways, and give specific examples of people they know. I wear glasses because my eyes don’t work quite right all the time. He has lighter skin and not a lot of hair. Her dark skin is beautiful, isn’t it? You have freckles, but I don’t. He has more energy and excitement than you. She likes to be quiet.
  5. Most importantly, tell children that although someone may be different, we all have similarities. Finn loves Paw Patrol, do you? He doesn’t run, but he can race you in his wheelchair! She has red hair like you! He’s the oldest too. You guys both have the same color eyes…

To provide well-rounded insight, I asked six brave moms of uniquely different children how they want their kiddos to be treated. Here’s what they said:

Brenda:

Sometimes the moms apologize for questions their children ask. And sometimes they join in explaining. I don’t think an apology is needed. Kids notice the difference but I also think they are better at adapting. They see beyond the wheelchair and see the kid (at least in most instances). They have an innocence…

Basically, I encourage the questions even if it’s awkward. It’s a learning moment for all! I never realized how “not” disability friendly our world is. The more we talk, explain, and educate the better the opportunities for change.

I’ve been so surprised by how many people are willing to think outside the box and help include my son. They just don’t know how to sometimes.

Last, thought…. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for my kid. Yes, he struggles with things and has been through so much throughout his short life, but I don’t want that to influence how you treat him. The more normalcy in the chaos helps him to develop and grow like his peers. It builds his esteem and character. I put him in time out just like others his age.”

No apology necessary. Ask questions and push through the awkwardness…your kid (and you) will learn a lot and you’ll make our child feel valued. Include us in creative ways! Don’t feel sorry for us.

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Christi:

When kids ask “What’s wrong with him?” my response is, “Nothing. He was born where his legs don’t work like yours or mine, so he gets to ride around in this cool wheelchair.” Most of the time this is a satisfying answer and they move on.

My mom told me one time of a book she read, and in that book it said that everyone has their own disability. If you think about it there is something off/different about each of us. Someone who wears glasses obviously has poor eyesight, and that’s their disability. And not all are visible.

We just have to talk, educate and make it normal to not be normal. I tell Ryder all the time that it’s better to be different, because no one else is exactly like him and that is his power. “

We are all disabled in some way, right? Some of us came from crappy homes. Some of us aren’t very good in social situations. Some of us are too loud or too quiet. Some of us struggle with addiction. Some of us struggle in our minds. Some of us feel mastered by food. Finn’s disability (and others like him) is just more visible. He can’t hide it. I think this actually makes him MORE FREE to be himself.

I love how Christi tells Ryder his “ab-normalcy” is his “power.” Our differences can be like our super-powers! I cry like a baby in every super-hero movie because the story is the same: they are born a little different, pushed to the fringes of society, and then rise above it all for the greater good. Mighty Finn.

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Stephanie:

“I love it when parents and kids ask questions. I love to tell people about Caleb and about Down syndrome.

Caleb and Tyler (siblings) are quite a pair. Sometimes Tyler is a bit too much of a “mother hen”. Most often, though, he is Caleb’s biggest cheerleader, helper and friend. I love watching them together, and I think they are both better people because they have each other.”

Keep asking questions! Don’t “shush” your children. Approach us. Value us.

I’ll never forget this little boy in a doctor’s office when we first moved to Tulsa. We were in the waiting room and my stomach dropped when a 7-ish year old boy approached Finn. He looked Finn in the eyes and asked, “Do you want to play with me on the slide?” Then he looked at me and said, “I can help him get up.”

I watched through my own tears as this little boy lifted Finn up the steps onto the next platform to go down the slide and then cheered him on at the bottom. Changed my life.

WHO ARE YOUR PARENTS, CHILD?! I WANT TO KISS THEM ON THE MOUTH! (He was with his grandma and I gave her the highest praise for her mature, kind little grandson.)

Raylea:

Your friend’s intentional parenting is what is sticking with me today. As my kids have aged, it has been increasingly hard to keep them involved with peers who don’t have disabilities….

In the last year, we have been involved in Special Olympics, and I have found some spectacular ‘typical peers’ there! There are High School kids who volunteer to play sports with my kids…they want to be there. Several of them have a sibling with special needs, but they are there to help whether or not their sibling is. Parents should encourage their kids to participate in a peer program like this.

I wish that all parents would be intentional with their kids. Evaluate whether their schedule is adding lasting value to their life? Do they have time to help a neighbor or a friend in need? Do they have time to participate in activities that are inclusive of those who are different? …

I want them to be given the opportunity to succeed at age appropriate skills, but I feel like they are losing the ability to engage in age appropriate skills because everyone else is ‘too busy’ trying to achieve some unrealistic goal.

I do enjoy when kids are naturally curious about Micah. I don’t discourage questions. I like to answer them. The most common question is, “What happened to his leg?” when they see his AFO or his wrist splint. He will respond now, “Nothing happened, it just helps me walk better, or use my arm better.” And then they head off to discuss Star Wars or Captain America. Cool.

People need to know some of the ways he is different so they can understand him. He wouldn’t ever want someone to think he was being unfriendly because he didn’t wave back when they wave to him. He simply didn’t see them!

A doctor once referred to Micah’s weaker side as his “BAD SIDE” and that chapped me. I would encourage people to avoid using negative terms when referring to our kids in any way.

I want to ask my kids how they want to be treated…that may be Part III. 😉

Be intentional in your parenting. Help your kids invest more in people than sports or activities. This will help them become adjusted adults.
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Ask questions–there it is again! Avoid negative words. Try to understand.
Brooke:

“Just treat Cash the same as you’d treat any other friend. He can do the same things other kids do, especially when he is encouraged and cheered for. (But isn’t that what we all want?)  If we were all the same the world would be a super boring place!

…Honestly it would thrill me to death if they took the time to research and maybe attend a local event that benefits people with Down syndrome.


I would want parents to tell their kids to be kind to ALL people. Just because someone is different than you are doesn’t mean they are weird or bad or scary. They want friends just like the rest of us. We are more alike than different.
We are more alike than different. Take time to research and understand your friends who are different.
Encourage your kids to get to know other kids who are different. Attending a Buddy Walk or Special Olympics or Endeavor Games adaptive sports event is a great start. At these events, you will feel like the different one…and that’s not so bad.
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Jordan:
“Ask.  Please ask.  Don’t scold your kids for asking.  I love the chance to de-mystify braces or a zip zac or the scar on Poppy’s back that most kids think is a “belly button on her back.” I’ve been the mom completely anxious around a kiddo with special needs, just cringing and praying that my kid wouldn’t be the one to say something insensitive.

…I love the opportunity to get to normalize something for a young, formative mind.  I love to watch it not matter to them as much as I thought it would.  Like when I said to the little girl asking why Poppy had a belly button on her back: “That’s actually a scar because she had a surgery when she was really, really small.”  “Oh, I like her ponytail too.”  Very un-scary.  

I also love to let Poppy hear us talk about her proudly and confidently.
Please ask.
We get a lot of “oh, what happened to her?” or “oh, what’s wrong with her”.  While USUALLY these don’t upset me, the kindest and most inviting way I’ve ever heard a stranger ask about Poppy was “Would you share with me about why she wears those braces?”  I loved it.
Be mindful of the setting.  I’ve had people yell questions at me across a crowded public space.  I recognize this as someone who was probably really passionate about identifying a commonality, but it was embarrassing and made me feel like I should protect Poppy.
Invite and include.   We’ll decide if it’s something that we can’t do (ie.  A gymnastics party or a party at a Bounce house).  Most special needs parents and kiddos are pretty good at figuring out how to adapt, so we’ll either figure out a way to make it work.  Don’t assume that being asked might be too painful.  Being uninvited is usually more painful. 
Again, let your kids ask. Who cares if you’re feeling awkward, but be prepared with a response. Invite us! Include us! We all want to be invited even if we can’t make it, right?!
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THANK YOU, moms, for your input. You and your husbands are saints in my book. I know well the difficulty of cathing and lifting and worrying and struggling to put on jeans and pre-op and post-op and being left out and IEPS and ER waiting rooms. God is with us.
THANK YOU to those of you who have responded so well to these posts, wanting to learn and teach your kiddos. Jesus smiles when we love (all) people well. The fact that you’re reading this makes me feel you value Finn, and if you value Finn, you value me.
Please add to this conversation if you have any input or questions! I know there are many other friends of mine who have great wisdom here.
There are also many differences unmentioned in this post…racial, religious, behavioral, terminal disease, etc. I want to know your heart.

How to Treat Kids Who Are Different: Part I

This blog post is in honor of Finn, on his 5th BIRTHDAY! I cannot believe it.

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You may be one of those people who want to be different. March to the beat of your own drum kind-of-person. Most of us, however, just want to fit in. I was the “new girl” every two years of my life, as my family moved around the country for my dad’s job. All I wanted was to blend in as quickly and seamlessly as possible, make friends, and become “popular.” Finding a cute boyfriend was a plus.

My son, Finn, however, cannot just “blend in.” Nor, do I believe, he wants to. He sits happily between two wheels, zooming through the lobby at church, holding back the urge to pop a wheelie in line at school, and eager to help me “treasure hunt” for groceries at Whole Foods.

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Finn’s 5th birthday party: bowling and pizza with 19 buddies from school and the cousins!

He is obviously different from the average five year old…and he seems okay with that.

When Finn was born, OU Children’s Hospital hooked us up with another family for emotional support. This child was several years older than Finn and also had Spina Bifida. I got up the courage one morning to call his mom, Debbie. I asked her what her son was currently struggling with. “Well, he’s really ornery and lately he’s been in trouble for annoying his big sister.” Her answer took me off guard! It was a relief, honestly. I expected something medical and tragic in nature, but her wisdom assured me that Finn will likely be like any other boy–mischievous and annoying, just on wheels. 🙂

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Spina Bifida will be a part of his life. It will not define his life.

Your differences will be a part of your life. But don’t let them define your life.

When you are unique or have a child who is unique in some outwardly obvious way, it is common to get stares, double-takes, sweet and curious questions, rude statements, unsolicited advice, and oftentimes unwanted attention.

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I hated this for the first two years of Finn’s life. I avoided birthday parties, crowded doctor’s offices, playgrounds…anywhere some child or parent might ask or say something I didn’t know how to answer. Now, though, I love to share Finn with the world; it just took some maturing, prayer, and preparation on my part.

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Cousin Ev, Tucker and Sully came all the way from Missouri to celebrate!

Today a sweet college friend messaged me and told me she took the initiative to tell her son all about Finn recently. She showed him videos of him wheeling up ramps and being silly. They laughed together and had a good conversation about being different. Her kindness and intentional parenting prompted me to finally write this post I’ve thought about for years. Her words: “My prayer is that God will continue working in his already sensitive heart…and that he will have eyes to see and a desire to befriend kids who are different than him.” Thank you, Claire.

I’ve had several friends ask great questions in confidence, “How do you like Finn to be treated?” “What should we say when our kids ask questions?” “Do you like to be approached or would you rather be left alone?”

These are all valid questions, and ones I will answer with the help of a few other moms of uniquely awesome children. That info will be in PART II of this blog post and I hope to post that late Wednesday night or Thursday.

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My mom and Finn share a birthday (today!). We celebrated my mom’s 60th in Dallas this weekend! She’s the cute one holding Paisley on the right. Check out Finn at the head of the table. 😉

I’ll leave you with this tonight. One of the best quotes I’ve heard on this topic is:

“If you want to know how to treat a child with special needs, watch their sibling. They will show you.” (simplyrealmoms)

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Hotel giggles and shenanigans…TOOK THREE STINKIN’ HOURS to fall asleep!

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SO GRATEFUL for their friendship. Thank you, Jesus.

Come back Wednesday night (or Thursday if I don’t get to it) for some more insight (and other opinions) on this topic!

Present Over Perfect

Shauna Niequist is my favorite Christian author for her raw vulnerability, her transparency, expert story-telling skills and her love for good food. I cook recipes from her book, Bread and Wine, weekly.

I knew her most recent book, Present Over Perfect, would rock my busy little world, so I put off reading it for several months. It would slow me down, settle my heart and convict my soul, and I wasn’t ready to be reigned in. The title speaks for itself–stop trying to be and just be.

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All my life I’ve been an achiever, a doer. I value efficiency, honesty and follow-through. In job interviews, I take pride in the fact that I’m responsible–I do what I say I’m going to do–and I’m efficient–I can do more work in less time than most people. I am goal-driven and feel incomplete until my goals are met. Even then I feel like I could have probably done more, been better.

These things, of course, matter very little in the Kingdom of God. At the end of my life, Jesus is not going to ask me about my work ethic. He’ll ask me how I treated people. He’ll lift my chin with His calloused hand and ask, “Ashley Dawn, were you kind? Did you obey me? Did you love the least of these? Did you give generously? Were you loving and slow to anger with your family behind closed doors? Did you share My love with my children who were hurting?”

Although the pace of my life hasn’t changed since I read this book over Christmas break, my mindset has. I’m consciously asking my mind to rest, to be fully present with the people I love, and to give myself grace.

Some of Shauna’s truths from this book that…changed me, quite frankly:

“I believed it was better to measure my life by metrics out there, instead of values deeply held in my own soul and spirit.”

Production values. Promotions. Credentials. Grade point average. Body fat percentage.

“The very thing that makes you you, that makes you great…is also the very thing that, unchecked, will ruin you.”

For me this is efficiency, commitment and drive.

Women often do what Niequist calls, “fake-resting. I’m wearing pajamas…It looks like I’m resting, too. But I’m not. I’m ticking down an endless list, sometimes written, always mental, getting things back into their right spots, changing laundry, wiping down countertops. Some might say this is being a mother, a homemaker, or this is what women have been doing for generations.”

For me, this behavior is handed down from a long line of strong, independent, capable, and restless women. My grandma Mary, at 80-something, has a hard time sitting still. My mom never does. If I am, my mind is somewhere else…I’m distracted by everything left undone.

Saturday morning, though, I was so proud of myself: Paisley snuggled up to me on the couch in her jammies and I held her tight, smelling the sweetness of her neck. I couldn’t put my feet on the coffee table because it was stacked high with laundry.  Dirty dishes lined the countertop, and my laptop was open with a business production number that was far from my lofty goal for February. I held my cold mug of coffee in one hand, and my tiny baby girl in the other. I closed my eyes and soaked up the long minutes she let me snuggle, truly resting.

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Paisley Dawn loves to do dishes!

“Busyness is an illness of the spirit.” -Eugene Peterson

“Loving one’s work is a gift. And loving one’s work makes it really easy to neglect other parts of life…Being good at something feels great. Playing ninja turtles with two little boys for hours is sometimes less great.”

I love my job. I get to coach people (mostly women) toward their best self through fitness and healthy living. I’m good at it.

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I oftentimes feel less good, however, at being a mom–and sometimes a wife. I can get more easily frustrated with my kids than my clients. I have better customer service with strangers (WHO COULD CARE LESS ABOUT ME) than I do with Joey, the love of my life. Ugh. Holy conviction.

“This is what I know for sure: along the way you will disappoint someone. You will not meet someone’s needs or expectations…These are basically sharp blades into the hearts of people like me, who depend very heavily on meeting people’s expectations.”

Disappointing people terrifies me. My greatest fears are to let someone down and to be misunderstood. I’ve lost sleep this past year over feeling misunderstood by people I cared about and for feeling like I’ve let people down.

“But here’s the good news: you get to decide who you’re going to disappoint, who you’re going to say no to…What you need along the way: a sense of God’s deep, unconditional love and strong sense of your own purpose…Aim to disappoint the people at the center of your circle [family] as rarely as possible.”

Ah, my purpose. I know my purpose, my “chazown”: helping people live life to the fullest through healthy living. Inspiring people to reach their God-given potential.

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Our relationships are like concentric circles, with those closest to us at the very center. Then our most trusted friends and extended family. Then more friends. Acquaintances and co-workers. Strangers. I chose “servant” as my word for 2017 because I want to be a servant FIRST to those people God has entrusted to me at the center of my circle: Joey. Finn. Paisley. If I can’t be really really good to them, nothing else matters.

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Here’s where I’ll leave you (and I’m only on page 55 of 234 of incredible wisdom, but I’m going to play Nertz with Joey):

“We disappoint people because we are limited. We have to accept the idea of our own limitations in order to accept the idea that we’ll disappoint people. I only have this much time. This much energy. This much relational capacity.”

I don’t like to feel limited. Do you? I like to feel powerful and unbridled. But it’s so incredibly freeing to me to accept the fact that I can’t do it all.

I need Joey’s help around the house. I can’t remember everyone’s birthday. I’ll forget some clients’ squat weight. I can’t remember to pray for everyone I want to pray for. I need my mom’s tenderness. I need my dad’s wisdom. I need grace from my kids. I need a committed team to help me reach my goals in Arbonne. I need my training clients to show up to get paid. I need my long-distance girl-friends to check up on me. I need people, and I deeply need God.

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I will disappoint people. I may have disappointed you. And that’s okay, because I am imperfect; an intrinsically flawed, yet redeemed daughter of God, doing my very best. And it’s enough. It’s not perfect, but it’s enough.

The Last Slice

As a child, pizza made me a crazy person. Ask my brother, Chad. I would split the pizza down the middle (my slices were larger, of course) and if he so much as stole a half of pepperoni, I’d flip out. I would have lost a friendship over pizza. It’s embarrassing.

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One of Craig’s sermons last year changed my outlook on life. I didn’t realize it had affected me so much until one evening I didn’t care if someone else took the last slice of pizza. Honestly.

The thought is this:

I live in a place of abundance, not scarcity.

Instead of mourning the last slice of pizza or punching Chad in the arm for taking it, I think, “Take it. We’ll just make/order another.” There’s always more pizza.

Or think of it this way: you either see a half-eaten pie as plenty or not enough. Glass half-full or empty. Bank account never enough or provision for our needs.

This mindset changes everything.

My relationships improve with this worldview. I’m more generous because I’m not worried about “getting mine.” I see people as more important than things (or food). I give of my time and my love and my resources, trusting my friends will also give back to me. And if they don’t, that’s okay too. I celebrate their promotion, their new car and their children’s accomplishments because their gains aren’t my losses.

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Psalm 84:11 “No good thing will He withhold from those who walk upright.”

My career improves. I used to worry that the other trainers or the other consultants would take all the business, leaving no one left  for me. The reality is that whether it’s training or promoting Arbonne, my goal is to help people; and there’s always someone who needs help because we’re all unhealthy in some way or another. As long as processed food, artificial ingredients, obesity and low self-esteem exist, I will always have a job. There are certainly enough clients to go around.

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My marriage improves. We haven’t run out of things to talk about; there are more dinner conversations yet to unfold. There are new, creative ways to show love. More arguments and more reconciliation. We have collected more love and respect for each other as the years progress, not less.

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My relationship with God improves. When I see God as a loving Father and King, I realize that as His child, I inherit those riches. His creation is full of beauty and wonder, waiting to be discovered. He doesn’t manipulate me by withholding good things. He is an extravagant God who lavishes His love on me if I’m willing to receive it. He’s got enough blessings to go around and around and around…but I think I must have eyes to see them.

2 Peter 1:3 “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.”

Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul.”

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Jesus, continue to teach me how to be more generous and live life with a mindset of abundance. Thank you for blessing us richly…more than we need.

Fitness Tips from a Trainer: 2017

Gosh, I’ve grown a lot as a trainer and a leader this year. Here’s why:

  • I’m connected weekly to a mentor, a friend I respect and trust. She asks hard questions, encourages me, and leads by example.
  • I’ve developed measurable goals, and I’ve written them down. (We’ll come back to that.)
  • I’m reading again…voraciously. Books on entrepreneurship, the pursuit of Christ, parenting, rest, personal development, habit-formation, leadership skills, and nutrition.

Maybe you’re struggling with your weight (again), or monotony or motivation, or maybe you’re just tired of feeling terrible. Hopefully some of these tips can give you the swift kick in the glutes you need to make 2017 the start of your BEST YOU. Just because you didn’t achieve last year’s goals doesn’t mean you can’t achieve them this year. 😉

1. Develop Measurable Goals.

-What do you want? Really? Now write that down. Like on paper…don’t type it. Use your hand and a pen and paper and write it down, then stick the paper somewhere visible. Writing them down makes them more real; established.

“It’s only a dream until you write it down, then it becomes a goal.” Thanks, Emmitt Smith!

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2. If you are clinically obese, overweight, have Type II Diabetes, COPD, high cholesterol, hypertension, or heart disease, did you know these are preventable diseases?

-To reverse the process of disease, you must change your habits…habits that are just as easy to do as they are not to do. Walk daily. Lift heavy things (with proper form). Order a salad and soup instead of a burger and fries. Drink more water. Restrict alcohol and sugar. Sleep. For more help on habits, read The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg.

DID YOU KNOW: If you eat a bowl of conventional cereal and a glass of orange juice for breakfast, you’ve maxed out your sugar intake for the DAY?! Can you imagine if you had several donuts and a Dr. Pepper? So start with breakfast…less sugar, more protein.

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Take care of the ONE BODY you were given, and don’t complain too much when it rebels against you for treating it poorly.

3. Decide. 

-I’ve been hearing this phrase a lot lately: “Because I decided to.” Sometimes our mind has to decide what our body, heart and soul needs. This is true of monumental decisions like the covenant of marriage or committing our lives to Jesus Christ. It’s also true of lesser decisions like paying the registration fee for a half-marathon, hiring a trainer, calling the friend, cleaning up our diet, quitting a job, joining a gym, saving money, attending church, etc. We may not fully know what we’re doing, but we know we need to do it. So we decide to.

I’m mature enough (finally) to slow down and take notice when God sends the same stories, same phrases, same testimonies like paper airplanes floating across my busy life.  I’ve heard, “I just decided to…” at least a dozen times in the past couple of months. This definitive decision just may lead you forward toward achieving your goals.

10 Whatever your hand decides to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. Ecclesiastes 9:10

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4. Do cardio at the end of your workout; about 5-20 minutes worth.

-Save your mental and physical prowess for the tough part: the strength or functional training. If you’re eating properly, strength training will do more for body transformation than cardio ever will. I strength train 5x/week with cardio bursts on two of those days. I don’t even teach cycling anymore…and though I miss the sweat, my body hasn’t suffered.

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A frigid Bentonville 5K last year…about the only time Joey and I run anymore is for a 5K.

5. Develop Your Why

-This is so cliche, but I can’t convey to you how important it is. First figure out why you are pursuing better health, then determine how. Your “why,” they say, should make you cry. It should get you out of bed in the morning. If it doesn’t, there’s a good chance you won’t follow through, especially if you’re someone who hasn’t developed healthy habits. Spend time on this. Come up with “21 Reasons Why,” so when it gets hard (and it will), you have 21 reminders not to quit.

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I don’t know what it is for you, but for me, I cannot–simply cannot–make excuses not to move my body when Finn, my little man curled up warm in his toddler bed as I type, does not even have the choice to jump, run, climb, cycle, walk. What he wouldn’t give for the opportunity to run until his knee hurt or hike a mountain with his Daddy, legs bloodied and bruised! I’ll use the body God gave me to inspire others and honor Finn.

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Okay, confession: I have this terrible habit of seeing potential in people.

You name it, I think it has potential to be redeemed. Marriages. Sinners. Children with disabilities. Foster children. Churches. Insecure women. Ugly homes. Struggling businesses. Boring recipes.

And when I see an overweight person, my mind can whittle them down to the way I believe God created them to be: strong and firm, capable and alive. I’ve seen so many body/mind transformations over my 13 years of personal training that I know it’s possible. I see the clean whites of their eyes, the blood pumping confidently through their veins, and they stand taller.

This “vision for potential” gets me in trouble because I dream big for myself or for you, but oftentimes I’m let down when that vision may not become reality. God sees potential in us too because we are His craftsmanship, made in His image. Your first “why” can be to give God your best effort because He created you to live abundantly.

1 Corinthians 10:31 “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.”

If you’re feeling bold, share your “why” in the COMMENTS below! I’d love to pray over them for you. 

For more fitness tips:

2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

One Word: Servant

2015, my one word for the year was Peace.

For 2016, my word was Rooted. I don’t feel I fully embodied this word. It will be a lifelong goal of mine–to be firmly rooted in Christ, unshaken by what others think of me. However, I was challenged to dig down deeper into Him this year. I had many opportunities to be alone, rejected, ignored, heartbroken, disappointed, and worse: misunderstood. But like an oak in a summer storm, my branches sway, but my roots go down deep and I am unmoved. If His love for me doesn’t change, then it grounds everything.

For 2017, I’m focusing on who I want to become: a Servant.

Luke 22:24-30 “And there arose also a dispute among [the disciples] as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. And He said to them, “…but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. “For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves. “

Leading is natural for me; I’m confident in that role. Following, going unnoticed, and being a servant is not so natural. Jesus says the leader must be like the servant. He was a servant to his disciples on earth, going so far as to wash their nasty feet with his calloused hands.

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Paisley is impatient like me…she pushes me to listen to her FIRST.

 

I’m reading Present Over Perfect by my favorite Christian author, Shauna Niequist, and though I’ll write a lengthier blog post about what I’m learning from her wisdom another time, I want to share something that resonated with me.

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She said to think of our relationships as concentric circles, and the people closest to us (Joey, Finn, Paisley) are in the inner circle. Jesus, of course, is at the very epicenter. Then the relationships extend outward in more and more circles.

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My “center circle.” Our little family at Life.Church for one of our Christmas services.

 

My aim for 2017 is to be a servant to the people who matter most, those Loves in my inner circle. Sometimes I’m best at serving strangers…people who will forget me tomorrow.

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We had the BEST time at Nana and Papa Armstrong’s log cabin for Christmas! We are richly blessed.

“We disappoint people because we are limited. We have to accept the idea of our own limitations in order to accept the idea that we’ll disappoint people. I have this much time. This much energy. I have this much relational capacity.” -Niequist

I hate disappointing people, and I hate admitting that I can’t do it all. I’m not Supermom. I can’t train every warm-blooded human being in Tulsa. I can’t become an Arbonne RVP without a team. My energy and time and patience are limited. If Jesus needed to get away on a mountainside to re-energize, pray and rest, I will need that even more so.

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Joey read the Nativity story to us on Christmas Eve-Eve morning.

 

Servanthood is not allowing people to abuse me and my kindness. It’s not passive. Instead, I believe it’s an active choice to put others’ needs ahead of my own–again, unnatural for me. I think first about how to serve Joey and the kids–how can I make their lives richer? Then I think of myself. I think first about my clients’ health needs and then about my paycheck.

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I’ve gotta get it right with Joey, my Love, my Best Friend.

1 Corinthians 10:24 Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor.

Jesus, help me become a more humble, willing servant this year, starting with the people in my home. Ultimately, I’m pointing others toward you, who “existed in the form of God, [and] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant.” (Phil 2:6)

Happy New Year, dear friends!

How to Roast Vegetables

(Many of you have requested this post, so here it is, but please don’t judge. I’m FAR from a foodie blogger or photographer…but I have some friends who are great at that if you’re interested!)

As a kid, I hid my green peas under my mashed potatoes like the rest of you. But early in our marriage, Joey and I found a way to LOVE vegetables…roasted. Here’s how we do them:

  1. Preheat a smokin’ hot oven…like 450-500 degrees.
  2. Wash (duh) your veggies and cut them all about the same size so they cook evenly. This is important, people. You can’t have a long stem of asparagus with diced zucchini or some large potatoes with some cubed.

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    SHARP knives are safer!

  3. Create a “medley” of veggies of about the same texture. Some examples:
    1. Sweet potatoes, purple potatoes, carrots
    2. Zucchini, onions, zucchini squash, peppers
    3. Asparagus, artichokes, French green beans
    4. Broccoli, cauliflower
    5. Brussels sprouts and green onions…or add sliced red grapes for sweetness

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      This is honestly not the best example because they aren’t all the same size…but it was what was left in our fridge before Christmas. 🙂

  4. Chopped onions and minced garlic go well with all veggies. We love red onions, sweet yellow and green onions the best. White are gross. Ew.
  5. Drizzle the veggies with extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). My mom actually pronounces this “ee-voo.” 😉 You could also use coconut oil. img_6008
  6. Sprinkle with sea salt or Pink Himalayan salt if you want to be fancy. We don’t do black pepper but you could.
  7. Roast on the top rack for as long as it takes for them to get soft, caramelized and golden brown. Usually this is 15-25 minutes…potatoes take the longest. img_6009
  8. DIVE IN! In our house, veggies take up at least half our plate at dinner. img_6010
  9. If your kids are picky, call them “chips.” We eat “green bean chips” and “kale chips” and “edamame chips.” Make them crispy.
  10. The prettier (more colorful) the vegetables, the richer they are in nutrient content and the more fun your kids will have with them. fullsizerender-67