Between My Ears

I’ve learned a very profound truth from Finn and Paisley this month:

What we say about ourselves in our mind eventually becomes our reality.

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Mindset is EVERYTHING for any real life change. Yeah, yeah, yeah…but I like action. I’m a doer. I do things…I don’t generally spend much time thinking about things. I often tell my clients not to “think about it, just do it.” We can waste time contemplating, worrying, planning about the good habits we need to establish instead of actually doing them.

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In January, Craig preached about personal declarations, a message called, Words to Live By. Joey created his and recites them every morning. Great idea, I thought, but not for me.

Last month, my business mentors noticed I’ve been speaking negatively about my leadership skills, feeling very much like a failure. They told me to change my mindset. “It’s all between your ears, Ashley.” A couple friends told me to find and recite daily affirmations. Okay, okay.

So, I did. I found some online and then changed the verbiage so it included God instead of “the universe” and I taped them on my bathroom mirror under a note card with the word, SERVANT, my word for 2017. They are statements about the kind of leader, entrepreneur, mom, wife, and believer I AM and the kind of life I WANT.

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I can’t tell you how awkward and clunky it feels to say overly-positive, optimistic, almost arrogant things about myself in the morning. It feels…contrived; and I value authenticity so much that to say positive things when I’m thinking negative things almost affronts my core values.

But, here’s what I’ve learned: when I’m filling my mind with positive thoughts, my thoughts become positive. Imagine that. 🙂 Thoughts of gratitude will have the same effect.

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“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9

My kids reinforced this truth for me. Here’s what I’ve heard them say just in the last week:

Finn:

“I’m so strong.”

“I have lots of friends.”

“I can do anything.”

“I’m like a superhero.”

“I am really fast. No one can catch me.”

Paisley:

“I am so pretty today.”

“I am really really big.”

“I am so strong and brave.”

“I am going to be a princess in a really big dress.”

“I am so good at coloring.”

 

Where did they get such confident, overly positive thoughts? Well, Joey and I, of course. They’ve adopted our beliefs as their own. What’s in their minds hasn’t yet been polluted by comparison or the opinions of others. I envy them.

Last week Pastor Craig reminded us that comparison either makes us feel superior or inferior…and neither honors God.

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When did I stop believing what my Heavenly Father says about me?

Probably as I scroll through Instagram. Or when I’m not in the Word, filling my mind with my Father’s thoughts. Or when I focus on my failures instead of my potential. Or when I allow Satan to warp my truth.

So much of the battle for all good things in our life is won (or lost) in our heads–between our ears. I pray you are combating your negativity with simple, biblical truths. And though it may be awkward at first, try say something positive about yourself and the life God gave you every morning.

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!

A Perfectly Boring Marriage

June 30th, 2006 Joey and I were married in San Antonio, Texas.

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It was hot, but a coastal storm rolled in that evening and knocked the flower arrangements off my reception tables, cooling off our happy guests.

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Yes, I let Joey and his groomsmen wear those ridiculous sweat bands at the reception.

Joey’s dad performed the ceremony and it was personal yet powerful.

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Our sacred vows were witnessed by 350 of the most influential people in our lives. I didn’t sleep much the night before from excitement and my eyes felt puffy. There was no real drama, catastrophe or anxiety that day. I was marrying my best friend, someone who felt like “home” to me.

Now, a decade later, our love is standing taller, battered by a few storms and it’s maturing like a good wine. We’re friends; we like each other most of the time, and more importantly, we choose each other. Every. Single. Day.

We’ve been asked many times how we’ve maintained a healthy marriage. “What’s the secret to staying happily married for 10 years and beyond?” The answer is nothing fashionable, shocking or dramatic. In fact, you may find it boring.

Daily, (seemingly) insignificant good choices. Today. Tomorrow. The next day…

“…They [successful people] achieve these dramatic results in their lives through making choices that are the very antithesis of drama–mundane, simple, seemingly insignificant choices.” -Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge

I apply this principle to my personal training career, my own physical fitness, parenting, my Arbonne business, my spiritual life and marriage.

*Before I go any further, I must say, our marriage is far from perfect. In fact, this past year has probably been the hardest of our ten. But we are working on it, praying through it, and fighting for it.*

In the moment, these good choices seem inconsequential, but compounded over time, they yield massive results. (I’m obsessed with books, The Compound Effect, The Slight Edge, The Power of Habit these days.) The trouble is that these small, simple choices are just as easy not to do as they are to do. Kissing each other goodbye in the mornings won’t save or ruin your marriage that day—but done (or not done) for hundreds of days over time just might. Daily bad choices (or perhaps the absence of good choices) have the same effect over time: destruction, divorce, obesity, bankruptcy.

Some simple choices Joey and I have made, by the grace of God:

We go to bed at the same time every night. This causes us to be on the same schedule. One person is not more tired than the other, we pray/talk a little together in bed, and it allows for physical intimacy. No kids in bed either, unless it’s May in Oklahoma and they are afraid of the storms.

We are a team. This is tough when you feel like you’re playing a different game altogether, not seeing eye-to-eye. But like any sport, we practice and we get better. IMG_5778.JPG

We go out on dates regularly. With no kids around, we can give each other our undivided attention, we can listen and get to know each other, we can flirt, try new restaurants, hold hands. IMG_6259

We put the kids to bed early. No brainer: more time for us. Structure and sleep for them. High five.

We put toothpaste on each others’ toothbrushes at night. Silly, but sweet.

We don’t make close friendships with people of the opposite sex. This is just smart; he is the only man I should be “emotional” with.

We work out together on Fridays. He rarely lets me train him, but I love including him in something that is so important to me–physical fitness. We think it’s important to stay fit (aka: HOT) for each other. 🙂

We appreciate delicious, healthy food and black coffee. Oftentimes, we cook together. Chemex pour-over coffee every morning. IMG_6615

We play together and we play with our kids. Dance party every night; Justin Timberlake on repeat. Our kids remind us not to take ourselves too seriously. IMG_2874

We travel together (minus kids) at least once a year. It’s a true break in routine, scenery and responsibility. We invest in each other this way and create memories to think back to when “normal life” gets tough. IMG_1350If anyone has an excuse NOT to travel, it’s us. Two full-ish time jobs, I actually lose money when I go on vacation, two kids–one of which is disabled and has a potentially life-threatening condition. But it’s THAT important to us. Albeit, we have incredible parents that we trust to watch our kids.

We speak highly of each other. We chose early on not to make fun of marriage or put each other down, even in jest. We respect marriage and each other too much.IMG_4085

We apologize and try to fight fair. Even when we don’t feel like it. Ugh; this one’s hard.

We kiss each other every morning. 

We value friendship outside of one another. Life is more fun with friends. I think this is partly why our marriage has been hard this year–we’re lacking consistent friendships with other couples. DSC_2511

We take turns doing household chores and getting up with the kids. As a working mom, this is such a blessing to me. Joey is so helpful (acts of service is my love language).

We make time and energy for sex. I’m blushing just typing that…we are really private about our sex life. It’s the part of us that’s just for us.

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6 months pregnant with Finn

We share our calendars. This means less surprises for me.

We support each others’ careers by asking questions and allowing time for personal growth and study. Joey pushes me to achieve my goals and I’m so grateful. IMG_1922

Joint bank account. 

We read. Less screen time is my struggle, but I’m working on it. Currently reading The Slight Edge by Olson and up next are Niequist’s new Present Over Perfect, Maxwell’s 12 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader, and the new Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

And finally…We individually seek to know Jesus more and work on improving ourselves. This is, without question, the most important element. The secret sauce. Because without Him, our love for each other is incomplete, shallow and self-serving.

I believe God made marriage a sacred covenant, binding unto death, because He knew that at some point, we’d want to get out.

“So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Matthew 19:6

It seems easier at times just to give up, do our own thing, or try someone new. But I said “I do,” to Joey on June 30th. Then again on July 1st. And July 2nd…And I’m saying “I do” today.

A healthy marriage isn’t fancy and it doesn’t make you famous. There’s no one event that changes everything. It’s the boring, mundane, good choices over time that lead to renewed vows when you’re 75 and wrinkled.

To the singles: are you the person that the person you’re looking for would want to marry?

To the married and healthy: thank you for your example! We’re watching and inspired.

To the married and struggling: dig in your heels and fight for your family. It takes two to make it work, yes. But pray for your marriage like it’s your full-time job. Go to counseling. And work on you. Let God work on them.

To the married and abused or neglected: Get help. In some cases, get out.

To the divorced: there is redemption. I’ve seen it and it’s beautiful.

To Joey: thank you for choosing me then and choosing me now. Happy TEN YEARS, my Love.

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Creating Space

My client of 5 years, John, drives to Tulsa to train with me from Norman once a week.

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He attended my indoor cycling classes at least twice a week in 2011 but was shocked to learn his nagging back pain was caused by blockage in his heart. He underwent a quadruple bypass shortly after. John faced life differently after that. He stood taller, but more humble; grateful for each breath. He does not back down from a challenge. He changed his nutrition drastically, stopped drinking, and he’s active more hours of the day than not. John has lost about 80 pounds, maybe more…I lost track and he doesn’t let me weigh him anymore.

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It wasn’t uncommon for him to ride his bike from downtown Norman to yoga on the west-side about 10 miles away, then up to Moore another 10 miles to train with me at Next Level, then back home. I told him I wouldn’t train him anymore until he bought a helmet. John watched me struggle through my pregnancy with Finn from the back row of my spin class, where I was oftentimes wiping tears along with my sweat. He’s one of Finn’s biggest fans and created a website for brave, imperfect people to share their stories: Courage Endures.

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Courage Endures dudes: Eddie and John. They live bravely.

He and I had a conversation this morning about creating space in our lives for creative thought, spiritual inspiration, revelation, and meditation. We decided it was repetition that provides enough rote, automatic, flowing movement to allow the mind to wander and dream.

Activities like yoga, cycling, swimming, painting, crocheting, running, playing an instrument and fishing are repetitive in the most therapeutic ways.

When we busy our minds with television, radio news or surf social media, there’s too much “noise” to give our minds rest. We’re thinking, sure. But maybe we’re overthinking. [What’s she doing these days…Who is that with her?…What makeup does she use?…I didn’t know she…We’ve got mutual friends…She has more friends than me by like 500…He’s got a new job…I wonder what happened… ] My mind becomes mush with too much unimportant information.

I love the books, The Power of Habit and The Compound Effect. They are life-changing for me because they’ve changed my mindset. Simple habits, repeated over time create massive waves in the sea of our lives. Our days are made up of a collection of habits and the seemingly small, mundane routines are its foundation. Collect the right habits…create the right life.

Kissing Joey goodbye as we head off to work.

Praying over my kids, singing songs before bed.

Exercising–sweating–daily.

Reading Bible plans, devotionals, the Word.

Putting lotion on after I shower.

Brushing my teeth.

Making coffee e v e r y  m o r n i n g.

Thanking God for the day as Finn and I turn left out of our neighborhood.

Roasting vegetables in a hot oven.

Washing dishes.

Watering plants.

Buckling seat belts.

Folding laundry.

Wiping butts.

These are the stuff of our lives. Although I appreciate spontaneity and I’m a sucker for change, repetition and routine have great value.

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” Luke 5:16

“…Daniel got down on his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he had done previously.” Daniel 6:10

I think monks would argue (okay, monks probably don’t argue) that ritual may be one of the best opportunities for spiritual enlightenment.

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Go do something boring, repetitive, and let your mind free.