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Friday, December 16, 2011

Driving the other night, Seamus said to me, as he looked at the huge full moon on the horizon, “Mom, do you know that the moon and all the stars and sky around it seem like paper to me?”  “Why is that?” I asked.  “Because it doesn’t look like it can be real.” He explained.  Wow.  This is profoundly true for all of us.   Sometimes God feels so far away, he might as well be a picture on a page. 

Advent is a time of waiting, of lighting, one by one, candles that represent the light of the world that came into our darkness.   The days and weeks before Jesus’ actual birth were a dark time in history, sinful and scary and anxious.  We must remember this is exactly WHY Jesus was coming!      For us, who KNOW the story already, there is the light of HOPE at the end.   Not the END, but the very BEGINNING!

So it is on this HOPE that I focus.  I keep my eyes on the light, no matter how far away it seems sometimes.  The new star that appeared that night and has never left us in all these thousands of years.  The Star of Bethlehem, the beginning of a new life and the fulfillment of a promise God made to us so long before.

The knowledge of God’s love for us keeps us as we go through all the usual activities of our lives;  Grif as a sophomore in Cross Country, Robotics and he’s driving!  Morgan is in 8th grade, is in the Social Studies  and Sign Language  Clubs, is co-VP in Student Council and is obsessed with Harry Potter.  Hale plays the cello when he’s not reading mysteries, playing Lego Universe or collecting owls, and Seamus sports the mis-matched smile of a 2nd grader where he reads voraciously and makes Lego creations he leaves all over the houseJ.  I am grateful beyond measure for these children.  They are my top priority as I build my health & fitness business, working toward my personal training certificate in early 2012.. 

I urge you all, and myself, to reach out to the love of God as we read the Christmas story for the umpteenth time.  Touch its realness.  Fold it up and tuck it into your heart.  Then, no matter how things are, you will be able to look at this miracle of Christmas, this truth and KNOW that God loves you.     

Be filled with peace always.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Are you up for the Challenge?

Take the Beachbody Challenge!

Join my Beachbody Challenge for results, support, and prizes!
Want to get into the best shape of your life? I'm have an ongoing Beachbody® Challenge group! It's the easiest way to achieve your goals ever. As part of my group, we'll track our progress along the way, hold each other accountable, and motivate, inspire, and encourage each other to achieve amazing results. It's easy! And as an added incentive, you’ll be able to participate in The Beachbody Challenge™ contest. All you have to do is log our workouts online at for a chance to win $500 every day—and submit your "before" and "after" photos for a shot at the $100,000 Grand Prize. But the spots will fill quickly—and you don't want to wait 'til the next group! When you're ready, just visit my Web site at Strength & Hope and follow the Take The Beachbody Challenge banner on the right side of the page to sign up. Or call or email me and I'll walk you through the process. Let's do this together and make the magic happen. Here's to our health and success!
I have a PRIVATE Facebook group and will keep you accountable and motivated on a DAILY basis. So if you aren't FULLY committed, don't sign up. I will also be giving you my cell phone number for anytime support and you better BELIEVE I will be calling you if I don't hear from you on the board.
Each pack comes with: 
~FREE shipping!
~A fitness program of your choice
~A 30 supply of Shakeology
~FREE membership in the Beachbody Club!
Here’s the breakdown:

Need help picking a program? Check the comparison chart here: Beachbody Workouts
ANY of the programs except P90X and Insanity are GREAT for beginners. And just so you know, Brazil Butt Lift is a great all-around workout program, it's NOT just for your butt. If you are already fit, the only program I wouldn't recomend is Slim in 6. The rest are challenging enough for everyone.

I know the holidays are coming and everyone excited about all the parties and good food around.  I say, get in the habit of exercise and watching your nutrition NOW.  You'll get a headstart on your New Years resolutions and you won't gain as much as if you'd done NOTHING!

I have one group - room for 5 people starting December 5th! 

Don't worry, we'll be putting together a new group January 9th (to give you a chance to detox :)

Take this first step - You've got nothing to lose!!!  (except a few extra pounds:)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Finnegan begin-again

"There once was a man named Michael Finnegan
he had whiskers on his chinnegan
they grew out, and then grew in-again
Poor old Michael Finnegan begin-again" 

(I apologize to any reference to anyone actually named Michael Finnegan)  This was a song I learned when I was a child from the Big Book of Folk Songs we had on the piano.  For some reason it came to my mind today as I realized (on the first full day of a new school year) I have the entire day TO MYSELF!!!

So, of course I started thinking about new beginnings and I realized that there are many times a year, every year that are times of new beginning for me.  The start of a new school year is one of those times.  Probably reminiscent of my own childhood when August was full of hope and anticipation of new friends, new experiences (new clothes).  It is a fresh, exciting, energizing feeling! 

I am grateful for those ripples of anticipation that flow through my body because without them I would probably never get anything accomplished, let alone get out of bed! 

Like many people I have a tendency to get complacent, lazy, a little depressed with the redundancy of life.  Really, don't you think?  Brush your teeth, make your bed, take out the garbage, grocery shop, make dinner, lunches, breakfasts, lunches, dinners, brush your teeth, go to bed, wake up, do it ALL AGAIN.  etc, etc, etc, blah,blah,blah.   Thank you God for NEW BEGINNINGS!!!

So.  Here's my chance.  A fresh slate.  A new year.  Cooler weather coming.  So much to look forward to!!!

So...what am I going to do?  Aye, that's the rub.

Here I am, thinking out loud while I type this, making plans in black and white so I don't get to the next new beginning never having started this one!

The first and most important thing is a recommitment to starting my day with God-time.  Truly, my father God has me foremost in His mind and I am remiss in my attnetion to Him.  I am an apprentice leader in Women's Bible Study this year and I am so grateful for that structure provided to encourage me to really study God's word and His presence in my life!

Secondly, as I have mentioned, is my exercise.  The kids are on their respective buses by 7:45 am.  I am eager to start MY part of day with whichever Beachbody program I have going (right now its Chalean Extreme)  because, as you know, that is my sanity!  Since I started regularly working out about 3 years ago, it has been my stress reliever through some very tough times.

Thirdly, how can I best serve my community?  I have become passionate about helping others find the same sense of well being and accomplishment through exercise and a healthier lifestyle and I have great plans from a Fit Club to organizing a Health and Wellness Fair with the school.  These things take me committing and organizing and getting out of my comfort zone.  Yikes!  But when else to start than during this "new beginning"?  I see these great possibilities - gotta take those first steps!

After all that, in my "spare time",(and this is where it gets fuzzy) is tackling the 500 gajillion projects that are all over my house.  The first step (I hate this part) is to make a list, write them down.  The best part of the list?  Crossing things off!  Hopefully I'll be able to share some successes here as I plod through my eternal attempt to get organized:)

So, I have been so very busy this summer and the kids and I have had lots of fun.  Thank you God for giving us the many opportunities to enjoy our summer! 

Now it's time to look to this next chapter of our lives.  I anticipate great things! 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Almost there!

Today was Max Cardio & Cardio Abs.  I have four more days before I will have completed Insanity!   I can't believe I've gotten this far and how great it is to feel so exhausted after this workout!  I feel like it's really a double - doing Cardio Abs right after Max Cardio.  I officially hate jump tucks and power jumps.  But I try so hard to have proper form and I am kind of proud of myself that I give it my all.  Thank goodness for time limits!  I have never used my Results and Recovery formula as much as I have during Insanity - my body really needs the replenishment.
I am so amazed that I work so hard, because I would rather sit a leisurely drink my coffee in the morning.  But even though I don't consider myself a competetive person, I hate giving up once I've made a committment to something.  Beachbody has really given me the opportunity to grow in that way.  I am finding determination in myself I didn't think was there.  From the beginning, when I first borrowed P90X from a friend at church, I found a release for the stressors in my life and some successes that have renewed my confidence. 
So, I'm beat!  And I feel good!  See you on July 2!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It takes two (or more)

My goodness!  I've been wanting to write for a while now and life has been getting in my way! 
I've been realizing lately (although I know this is really no new invention on my part), how much better I am when I am with someone.  I know, this isn't really a post about Andy, yet the lack of his presence has an almost overwhelming effect on my days,  This is about friends.  This is about accountability.  This is about love. 

I feel I am a solitary person.  I enjoy being by myself.  I  don't feel like I am very competitive.  I am also inherently lazy.  Really, a cup of coffee in the morning, reading, or a glass of wine in the evening, reading, -  these would be my favorite two pasttimes. 

However, as I've said, I am noticing how much better I am with other people.  I love talking to people.  In the grocery store, at school, at the park.  I am not shy and I will have a great, personal conversation with a complete stranger, much to my childrens chagrin and frustration when they have to wait for me.  I am always thrilled when I find common ground with someone else - be it my faith in God and what he's done for me,  or parenting, or exercise.
Back to my revelation.  I need other people.  I know that God made Eve to be with Adam because it was not good for him to be alone.  Adam wasn't made to be by himself, he was created to be in communion and relationship with God.  So, why is it that I often think I am fine by myself and I should be able to do everything myself and I don't need anyone? 

Oh, right, that pride..

So, when God brings others into my life, and I begin to see, once again, how much joy comes from being with others, I am grateful.  Because I know that encouragement only comes from those who love me, I can't encourage myself.  I have high expectations and only a friend can being me back to reality and push me to be the best I can be.
Being a relational creation transcends to every area of my life - When I suffer tragedy, my friends listen, support and pray for me.  When I experience joy, they rejoice with me.  When I am gardening, they sit and talk to me while I plant.  When I touch my toes in a stretch in YogaX, they are excited with me!  Everything in life is enhanced when shared.  A smile,  when from the heart, extends way beyond the person to whom it was originally given.

We are better with a partner.  I am a better friend because others I have amazing friends.  When I am in contact with my friends, I think of them more often.  I check my actions against what they might say.  I do things that I can share with them proudly, rather than having to share a failure. 

I exercise harder and more consistently when I am sharing my workout program with people.  Just the knowledge that I've committed to workout on a certain day,  holds me accountable.  I want them to be proud of me. 
I like encouraging others to exercise too because I find I love my friends and I want them to be healthy and feel good like I do when I move regularly.

God is my friend too, and I have to realize that the same principle applies to my relationship with Him.  When I am in contact with him I check my actions and thoughts against whether or not he would be pleased with them.  So it is to my benefit to spend time with God just as I spend time working out.  To keep my spirit healthy to stay connected to how much he loves me.

So I can value my alone time, and I need others in my life to fill me up.  I know God gives me these blessings so I can pay it forward to bless those with whom I come in contact.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

So, I made it through year one. It was almost a relief once I got to Sunday.  The anticipation was a kicker. In some ways I do feel like, "okay, moving on now" Like I have permission to keep going like that first year is some magic number and I made it through. So, now what? I guess we'll see. I did one thing that is a baby step - I put away my wedding ring and I'm wearing the claddagh ring Andy used to propose. It just seemed like the right thing to do. I took my ring out of the cleaner last night before I put it away with Andy's ring and I did feel sad. This chapter of my life. I can't believe it's over. My ring looked so shiny, like it did when we got married. So very, very sad. You know, it feels like the bottom drops out of my insides and I take a deep breath and I don't fill up. That's what it will be. This sadness, and I still keep moving. One year ago Monday was the most surreal day of my life (Andy died late the night before) and to think of all that has happened this year. Crazy. I am grateful for all the love and support we have gotten. I have certainly realized how important it is to let people know I am thinking of them, praying for them.  The cards and notes I got helped me immeasurably.  This is one lesson I learned and I am grateful for it how important it is to let people know you are thinking of them.  To reach out an encourage others.  To try to give people a little hope when perhaps they are struggling with despair.  I read a quote today that said, "if hope and despair were two paths to the same destination, which would you rather travel?"  I choose hope. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

What is Strength?

What exactly constitutes strength?
 Is it being able to lift large shrubbery? 
Withstand intense pain? 
Hold fast to one's principles? defines strength as:
1. the quality or state of being strong; bodily or muscular power; vigor.
2. mental power, force, or vigor.
3. moral power, firmness, or courage
I've actually always prided myself on being physically strong.  I'm the youngest and the only girl in my family so maybe I felt I had to prove myself.  Growing up I was very insecure so maybe I protected myself by never needing anyone's help.  I will say now that's a lonely, fearful way to live.

I will say that I still love the way my body feels when it is strong.  It's one of the reasons I exercise, I like pushing my limits, seeing how far I can go and going farther than I thought I could. 

But being able to beat my 15 yr old and his friends arm wrestling isn't really what I believe defines true strength.  It is fun though:) 

I have learned much of spiritual strength these past years.  I would say the past year specifically.  When Andy, my husband of over 17 years fell over the edge of reason and took his life, I went into hyper-drive.  In a zombie like state I told my four children their father was dead and by his own hand.  I made funeral arrangements, planned the service, greeted countless people at his memorial service (yet only a handful of the 600 who attended), took over the financial mess that is left when a spouse dies, took my children to swim lessons, went on three family vacations, cleaned out the house and garage, sold all that stuff and...generally "handled it".

I was not alone.

I had help with every single one of those things that "I" did.  I was, in fact, not "strong", I was a mess.  If I had a dime for I was told how "strong" I was/am, I'd have a good start to a college fund:) 

No, what I learned about strength is that it is not a solitary thing.  I am not strong by myself.  I had and still have the invaluable support and help of family, friends, counselors, and the prayers that are heard by God who loves me.  In fact, I firmly believe that the prayers of these faithful ones have held me up and sustained me. The very reason my children and I are able to go on with our lives is because people pray for us.  We are not alone.

I still like showing off how strong I am.  I am prideful and stubborn.  I know this about myself.  I very rarely ask for help and when I do its usually "tell me  how so I can go fix it myself".  But God didn't make us to be solitary beings.  He created us to live together, supporting each other, encouraging each other, loving each other.  But my pride and stubborness can't bring my husband back to us.  No matter how many push-ups I do, I can't change the past. 

Strength, as I have come to know it, is crying as I write this.  Real strength is only putting one foot in front of the other, resting when needed, and getting back up again to continue on. 

So I continue on.  I exercise, I cry, I pray.  I even laugh with my children and friends.   I am grateful for God's true strength in my weakness.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

lives shared

"Blessed be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like that to that above. "

This song came to my mind today.  It is from the play "Our Town" by Thornton Wilder.  I was in this play in high school and it is a beautiful song.  The reason I thought of it was that the lyrics seemed so appropriate for what I was experiencing.

Today was the last day of the women's Bible study and therefore, a brunch.  A time of eating, visiting and reflecting on the past year's lessons and prayers.   They even have a little drawing with prizes to make it fun.  It suddenly dawned on me, as I sat there looking around, surrounded by all these women sharing, laughing, loving each other.  It struck me how very many lives were represented in that room.  Not just the women themselves, but their families; their children, parents, all those who came before them and all those who would come after. 
This was a room filled with the pain of tragedies suffered, victories enjoyed, blessings bestowed.  These women of faith have endured and will endure even while glorifying the one true God whose love binds us all together. 

A celebration of Life. 

"I will give you all my worship,
I will give you all my praise."

It almost ovewhelmed me to feel how truly grateful and priviledged I am to be a part of such a community.  The common bond that women share of lives, loves and loss.  How vital these bonds and friendships are to our sanity.
The next time you are in a room of people, be it at church, the store, school, any event, look around and remember that God loves every single one of them.  Know that within them all lies strength and endurance.  No matter who they are, God's love and hope resides in each of them.  Our lives are bound to each other in this life experience.  We need never feel alone.  We have each other.

Monday, May 2, 2011

New beginnings

Every day is a new beginning.  Lord knows I have had enough of them!  I've thought long and hard about keeping a blog, and finally, as I'm near to bursting with all I experience, feel and believe, the choice has practically been taken from my hands.  My prayer is I will find renewed hope as I share those things that make me crazy as well as those things that keep me sane.  May God who loves me beyond my wildest imagination, bless me and all you who join me on this journey. 

The LORD is my strength and my shield;
   my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
   and with my song I praise him.
                                 Psalm 28:7