Friday, November 20, 2015

Lovely is Your Dwelling Place | Five-Minute Friday

Halfway through November and we finally got our snow! Now it officially feels like the holiday season is near.

For today's Five-Minute Friday, our free-write word is "Dwell".

What's a "free write"? No editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. Just write!

00:00 START the timer!
How lovely is Your dwelling place,
Lord Almighty!
My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
PSALM 84:1-2
I love these verses.

How lovely is Your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!

For much of my life I wasn't "dwelling" with the Lord. Until I surrendered my life to the Lord almost 5 years ago, I was just a dweller in the tents of the wicked (v. 10).

I can confidently say that even a "bad day" walking with the Lord is better than the best day of living without Him. 

Without the Lord, the weight of the world is on our shoulders and we are left drowning in its weight. Where we will spend eternity is uncertain. In this crumbling world, there is no hope without Him.

When we dwell with the Lord, He gives us a yoke that is easy and a burden that is light (Matthew 11:28-30). He is rest for our souls! He gives us hope no matter what terrible things happen here on earth and He is our eternal security. He is our loving Father and our Guide through life.
Better is one day in Your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
PSALM 84:10
Living in faith isn't always easy for me. My faith sometimes feels as high as a mountain top and, other times, I'm discouraged and struggling in a valley.

The biggest difference in my life now, dwelling with the Lord, is that I have unshakable hope. Whether I am on the mountain top or down in the valley, the Lord is there. He will never leave me. He strengthens me to persevere through the valleys of life and rejoices with me on the mountain top highs. I'm not alone anymore.

There is no place I would rather be.

Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere...

05:00 STOP the timer!

***Bible verses added after the timer***

Thursday, November 19, 2015

MealEnders #FitHolidays Review and GIVEAWAY!

Disclosure: I received this product for free through my affiliation with Fit Approach as a Sweat Pink Ambassador in exchange for a blog review. I received no other compensation and opinions are 100% my own.

Ah, the holidays are almost here! 

Thanksgiving and Christmas are my two favorite holidays. Time with family, extra time thanking the Lord for all of His goodness, beautiful snowy weather, and, oh, the food.

SO much delicious food!

About that delicious food... It is extra hard to keep from over-indulging when you are surrounded by tasty meals, desserts and snacks for days on end (#firstworldproblems). I'm all about sweets but it's the "in moderation" that can be a challenge during the family get-togethers.

As a Sweat Pink Ambassador, I was introduced to MealEnders last week and these tiny treats are the perfect tool to end excessive post-meal snacking.

MealEnders are a 15-calorie "signaling lozenge" made up of a sweet outer reward layer and a cool, tingling center. The outer layer provides a measured dose of "dessert" which is typically associated with the end of a meal. The cool center clears the palate, cuing the end of eating and training your mind to to recognize when it's time to stop.

The MealEnders lozenges are a healthy and safe tool to prevent overeating. Each lozenge contains NO drugs, NO added stimulants, NO herbs or NO artificial sweeteners.

Plus, they come in four different tasty flavors that are bound to fit the taste of each person in your family: chocolate mint, mocha, cinnamon and citrus.

Only 15 calories and 2 grams of sugar?! You can't beat that!

Cinnamon was my all-time favorite flavor, with chocolate mint being a close second. Even my husband liked them! He was skeptical at first, but the citrus flavor won him over.

MealEnders signaling lozenges were a "win" in my book. I did find that they were effective in stopping my snacking after meals!

Enter my giveaway to win 4 bags of MealEnders for yourself! That's one in each flavor, so you can try them all!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
U.S. only. One prize per person. If you win this giveaway, and have already won another prize from MealEnders through another blog, please disclose that you have already won so we can choose another winner.

Linking up with Fitness Friday.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Runner Spotlight: Auralee

Hello, Monday! For this week's Runner Spotlight interview, we are hearing from a runner from my part of the country. You know, the cold part?!
The Runner Spotlight came to be because I love to meet new people and, of course, talk running. Twice a month, a new runner will be featured on the Runner Spotlight. Through these interviews, we will meet and learn from runners of all distances, paces and food preferences.
Meet Auralee. She is a wife, mom of two little boys and a passionate long distance runner. Her ability to balance family life and long distance training (plus running super fast) has been a great encouragement to me!

Marathon training isn't for the faint of heart and, well, neither is motherhood. Being a mom of little ones and training for a marathon at the same time may sound like madness to some - but it's doable. And there is a rare breed that actually ENJOYS it!

Let's hear from Auralee and how she gets it all done.

All About Running:

When did you start running? What spurred your interest?

I’ve been a runner for as long as I can remember, but my reason for running has changed as I’ve changed. I started running when I was six because I discovered that I could outrun every kid in my class (even the boys!). I started to take my running seriously when I was fourteen because I joined track and found out that I wasn’t the fastest anymore. Now as an adult and a mother of two, I’m still running–but not because of who I can outrun or who can outrun me, but because running offers me a form of strength and introspection that I can’t find anywhere else.

When did you run your first race? What were your thoughts before/after?

I ran my first race when I fourteen in the two mile for track. In the beginning of the race I took off with the much older and experienced runners without realizing that I wouldn't be able to maintain their pace. I faded in the second mile, but still continued to run as fast as I could. I learned an important lesson that I think we all sometimes forget - you don't win the race in the first few laps, it's at the finish. As I ran more races, I learned to stay relaxed and conserve as much energy until the closing mile or lap if I wanted to run strong.

What is your favorite distance to race?

I enjoy running the marathon when my training has gone well and I'm having one of those rare days when my legs feel fresh and ready for a hard run. The euphoria of crossing the finish and achieving a goal time is a moment I love experiencing.

Do you work with a coach or are you self-coached?

I'm not coached by anyone, but I follow training plans from other runners and coaches such as Jack Daniel's Training Formula.

What weekly mileage do you run during training on average?

Between 50 - 80 miles

What do you think is the most important aspect of training for a long-distance race?

I think every runner responds differently to training and what works best for them. I don't have lots of time to run several 20 + mile long runs. I will run one in the training, but that is all. Instead of focusing on the long run, I like to get two or one quality runs done a week at tempo or marathon pace. Usually these workouts don't exceed 16 miles. Along with quality runs, I think gradually increasing your mileage so you peak and taper at the correct time plays a key role in how you feel on race day.

What are your PRs?

Half marathon - 1:26, Marathon - 3:09

What has been your favorite race experience? Tell us a little about it!

My favorite race experience was when I ran faster than my goal time of 3:15 in the marathon this year. The previous year I spent months training for another marathon and ended up with a time I was very disappointed in considering all the time and effort I put into preparing for the event. I was looking for some redemption in running another marathon because I knew I hadn't ran to my full potential. I ran a much smarter race by running an even pace with the 3:15 pacer and then running a huge negative split for the second half. I felt amazing the last 10k when normally I'm hurting and slowing down. This race I ran in between 6:50 - 6:35 min miles and cruised to the finish strong.

What is your favorite post-race treat? Food, drink, or other!

I usually don't eat much junk food during my training and off season, but I do enjoy eating a serving of Moose Tracks ice cream.

Personal/Family Life Balance:

How many kids do you have? How old are they?

2 ages 6 years and 2 years

Is your family interested in running as well?

My parents never ran or had much interest in my sport, but they did provide for my endless supplies of running shoes and other clothing I would need to run. My siblings don't run much either, although they do share an interest in my running when I complete a race and how my experience went.

How do you balance family time, daily responsibilities and training?

Running helps me be a better parent, spouse, and friend. I am willing to take time out of my day for this important activity and make it a top priority. Sometimes I have to be creative and flexible when figuring out how to do my run, but it will almost always happen. I will run even if I'm running on empty after a sleepless night with a baby. I choose to run even though the dishes and laundry are overflowing. I run when it's below zero outside and my lungs feel like the inside of a freezer.

To anyone that doesn’t run I probably sound like a loony. Why put up with all that? My answer brings to mind what the ultramarathon runner Dean Karnazes wrote:
“People think I’m crazy to put myself through such torture, though I would argue otherwise. Somewhere along the line we seem to have confused comfort with happiness . . . There is a magic in misery. Just ask any runner.”
I’ve dealt with my share of injuries, doubts and defeats; I don’t consider myself a naturally gifted runner–I have to work hard at it–and I have those days when I’m tempted to leave my running shoes unlaced. But then I remind myself that there is magic in misery. I imagine myself running–my shoes crunching against the snow, my legs gaining strength with each step, my breaths measured and deep. I know that if I don’t run, I am, as Karnazes has also said, denying myself an extraordinary trip. That is all I need to know. My shoes are on and I’m out the door, another stride into my running journey, and it feels like magic.

When do you fit running/training into your day?

I typically run in the morning after my oldest child leaves for school. I usually push my 2 year old in a stroller for base pace miles near my home. On days when I want to do speed work I go to a gym where they have daycare for my child. Then I run laps on a 200 meter indoor track or hop on a treadmill.

What advice would you give to new runners and/or running parents trying to balance running and family life?

Runners invest their heart and soul into training. They sacrifice sleep, suffer painful workouts, and spend countless hours day in and day out in uncomfortable weather conditions. These challenges are worth it when they achieve a new PR. But when that doesn't happen it's easy to become bitter and not want to run again.

I think runners need to realize they can't run a PR every race even if they've prepared as best as they could. Unexpected illness, injury, side aches, muscle cramps, and other obstacles can occur outside of their control. It's normal to feel upset and disappointed, but don't let it defeat and derail you from getting back up trying again. Use failure to become a better athlete; implement different strategies to guide your training and never accept that you can't do it.

Recognize that there will come a time when your body won't physically be capable of running a new PR. When this happens still strive to be the best version of yourself on the race course and in life. Put forth the same work ethic into achieving goals even when it will not be reflected by finishing times. Be proud of yourself when you know you did your best and that you will always get back up again even if you fail.

Thank you for taking the time to share your running experience and life balance insight, Auralee! 

Linking up with Jessica and Jill at the Fit Dish. #thefitdish

Friday, November 13, 2015

Rest for the Weary | Five-Minute Friday

Good morning! It's Five-Minute Friday and our free-write topic is "Weary".

What's a "free write"? No editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. Just write!

00:00 START the timer!

Every day the world is yelling, "DO more! BE more! You're NOT enough!". Satan has orchestrated this culture to find its value in busyness. The Enemy wants our schedules packed, our minds swimming and our household in a constant state of hurry.

There are (too many) times when I say "yes" to a few too many commitments or when I fall for the lie that I need to do more than "just" raise my boys and take care of my family.

My most common mistake is to jump in to a design project or other commitment before I ask the Lord about it. He has given me clear guidance that I am "mom" full-time and designer (or whatever else) after that. (My habit of jumping ahead of the Lord always gets me in a pickle!)

The busy, always-hurried, margin-less life leaves me a big ole pile of weary.

This quote from Susie Larson perfectly defines my experience as "just" a mom:

"Often, because of our society's mixed-up values, young moms are made to feel incidental. In other words, there are countless messages telling them that it is not enough to put their time into raising their children.

Because we live in a society that constantly measures value by what is achieved or produced, many young moms feel the pressure to be involved in far too many things. I was once one of those young, overcommitted moms; now I am older and deeply burdened for moms who are distracted, depleted and completely exhausted."
Susie Larson in "Balance That Works When Life Doesn't" (emphasis added)

Weariness steals our focus from the One who restores our peace.
Weariness distracts us from the little blessings sprinkled throughout every day life.
Weariness makes it so much easier to lose perspective and fall into sin.

Some seasons of life are more weary than others, but there is hope for rest, even in the weariest of life season!

JESUS is our hope. 

He promises rest for our souls when we go to Him. He will teach us and give us only what He knows we can carry. The world can't understand Jesus' ways or the ways of His children (John 14:16-17) but that's okay because HE understands us!

When we live a life surrendered to and focused on Jesus, He is our hope, our rest, our peace, and, best of all, our salvation.
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you. Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” MATTHEW 11:28-30

05:00 STOP the timer!

***Bible verse and quote added after the timer***

Monday, November 9, 2015

My #HolidaySweat Goals

Happy Monday and Day 2 of the #HolidaySweat Challenge!

What's that sweaty challenge all about? The #HolidaySweat Challenge involves tracking your minutes of exercise and your fruit and veggie intake each day by logging them at

Set goals, stay motivated and encourage others throughout the holiday season!

TODAY'S PROMPT: What's your minutes goal this week? How will you get there?!

My #HolidaySweat GOAL(s)

Each week, I am shooting for at least 250 minutes of exercise plus 5-7 servings of fruits and veggies. Fitting in the fruits and veggie servings is more difficult for me than the exercise. Yes, I'm a "freggies" slacker. This challenge will be good for me AND my family!


Fitting in exercise with my two little ones at home sometimes feels like a juggling act but making the time to exercise is worth it! I do my best to stay flexible with my schedule, get creative with the strength training and manage my time wisely. So much of my days are weather- and child-dependent!

My usual week of exercise in non-marathon-training mode looks something like this:

Monday: 30-45 minute easy run with the stroller
Tuesday: 30-34 minute hill or speed intervals on treadmill
Wednesday: 20 minutes strength training
Thursday: 30-45 minute tempo run on treadmill or with stroller
Friday: 20 minutes strength training
Saturday: 60-minute "long run"
Sunday: Rest

My focus is to enjoy the workouts and rest/stretch MORE. Marathon training starts in January and I want to avoid burn out by pushing too hard now!

As for the fruit and veggie goal, I will be extra motivated to sneak fruit and/or veggies into EVERY meal and snack. I love spinach and it is easy to throw in almost any meal.

Join the #holidaysweat challenge by logging your minutes/freggies and sharing the daily prompts! Here are the prompts for this week:

Use these prompts to get you going each day! Share your response anywhere and everywhere: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, your blog... at home!

Monday, November 9: What's your minutes goal this week? How will you get there?! #pranastyle @prana #holidaysweat @runtothefinish @fitapproach #sweatpink

Tuesday, November 10: Show us your sweaty style! What's your favorite workout outfit or gear? #pranastyle @prana #holidaysweat @runtothefinish @fitapproach #sweatpink

Wednesday, November 11: Show us how you take your workout outside when it's cold (or even snowing!) #pranastyle @prana #holidaysweat @runtothefinish @fitapproach #sweatpink

Thursday, November 12: Squats? Pushups? Planks? What's your favorite strengthening move? #pranastyle @prana #holidaysweat @runtothefinish @fitapproach #sweatpink

Friday, November 13: FREE FRIDAY! Show us what you're up to today... sweating, eating, cooking, you name it! #pranastyle @prana #holidaysweat @runtothefinish @fitapproach #sweatpink
Are you participating in the #HolidaySweat Challenge?
What are your fitness goals for this winter?

Linking up with Jessica and Jill on the Fit Dish. #thefitdish

Friday, November 6, 2015

Our First Dance | Five-Minute Friday

Welcome to Five-Minute Friday's free-write! Today's topic is "Dance".

What's a "free write"? No editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation. Just write!

00:00 START the timer!

Flash back 3.5 years ago...

We spent the day surrounded by friends and family. Dressed in our finest clothes. Slightly damp and chilled from a cool and rainy day in May.

After the exchange of our wedding vows and a bunch of wedding pictures, we excitedly made our way to the reception.

We visited with family and friends who traveled from near and far to be with us on our special day.

We ate meatballs, drank coffee and inhaled that amazingly delicious raspberry-filled white cake.

It was time for our first dance.

The song was "Crazy Like You" by Josh Grider (not particularly romantic, but true for us!)
"I say everybody's crazy so what you gonna to do
You need to find somebody crazy like you
Someone you can fuss and fight with
And when you make up then you can love all night with
Someone who shares your particular point of view
Oh they bound to be crazy, just make sure they're crazy like you"
Fast forward 3.5 years...

The house is a mess but it is filled with love.

Toddler is awake and making his requests known to the world.

Baby brother is sleeping in with daddy.

I haven't slept a full night in 5 months and it shows.

Harvest is complete and the first snowflakes fell yesterday.

Our love has changed since our first dance, but for the better. We are two oh-so-imperfect people. We definitely have our marital squabbles. Yet our love is growing deeper through each year and each trial we face as a team.

Who knows what the next few years have in store for us? 

Well, God knows and I trust Him.

His plans for us are good. I thank God for my wonderful husband and the sweet boys He has blessed us with. Life has its trials but this life is better than I could ever have dreamed up.

I look to the future with a joyful anticipation of what the Lord has in store our family!
For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. JEREMIAH 29:11

05:00 STOP the timer!

Disclaimer: This one took longer than 5 minutes. I had written an entirely different post and it just didn't feel write. So... I deleted everything and wrote this :) 

***Bible verse and lyrics added after the timer***

Monday, November 2, 2015

Runner Spotlight: Tina Muir

I hope your November is off to a marvelous start! For today's Runner Spotlight interview, we are talking with elite runner Tina Muir!
The Runner Spotlight came to be because I love to meet new people and, of course, talk running. Twice a month, a new runner will be featured on the Runner Spotlight. Through these interviews, we will meet and learn from runners of all distances, paces and food preferences.
Without further ado, meet Tina Muir.

She is an elite runner sponsored by Saucony. Tina shares her insight into life as an elite runner on her blog, Fuel Your Future with Tina Muir, and is community manager at Runners Connect.

Interviewing Tina was so much fun because, despite being ridiculously fast, she is very down-to-earth. Being a middle-of-the-pack runner myself, the elite runners seem to be off in their own (much faster) world yet Tina is a great spokeswoman for elites being "real" people, too. They deal with the ups and downs of running and the battle of finding balance in daily life as well.

Let's jump into the interview!

All About Running:

When did you start running? What spurred your interest?

I started running at age 14. Before that I ran cross country practice, but wasn’t particularly good at it, and definitely did not enjoy it. I even hid in the bathrooms for the trials for the team. I honestly can’t remember a moment where I realized I liked it, all I remember is ending up on the team, and then being focused on beating the best girl on the cross country team as she really didn't try very hard and partied all the time, so that became my goal. I guess when she became a realistic target, it ignited my competitiveness, then I realized I kind of liked it!

When did you run your first race? What were your thoughts before/after?

I can’t remember a specific race, but I remember the first time I passed the best girl on the team, and it was the greatest feeling knowing that she was much more talented than I was, but I out worked her :) I remember being elated, and then deciding it was time to give it a real try by joining a club (in England almost all running is done through clubs).

What is your favorite distance to race?

Can you ask me again in 2 weeks? I am hoping I will say the half marathon, as that has been the race I have done the best at so far, but one day I hope to be able to say the marathon, as in my heart I know this is the race for me, but so far I have not run to my potential in it….mind you, not sure marathons are ever really meant to be enjoyable during :)

Do you work with a coach or are you self-coached?

I am coached by my husband Steve, somehow it works and it means he knows me better than I know myself, so he knows exactly what workout I need to get ready based on how I am feeling (or acting).

Tina and her hubby/coach, Steve

What weekly mileage do you run during training on average?

Around 80 miles per week

What do you think is the most important aspect of training for a long-distance race?

Getting enough rest/recovery :)

What are your PRs?

16:08 5k, 33:24 10k, 55:19 10 mile, 1:14 half, 2:41 marathon

What has been your favorite race experience? Tell us a little about it!

The London marathon this year was the greatest race experience I could have ever imagined….Okay, it wasn't quite….if Steve would have been there, that would have been the greatest I could have imagined :) But from start to finish it was amazing; I warmed up with my idol Paula Radcliffe, my friends and family lined the course and hearing them cheering my name after so many years out of the country was such a high, running through the famous landmarks I had grown to love, and running the race I had always dreamed of doing, oh, and I felt great! I kicked down 91 people in the last 5 miles and just loved every second of the race!

What is your favorite post-race treat?

I LOVE sweets. Anything sweet! I cannot possibly chose a favorite, but after every race I will indulge in whatever dessert is calling my name….in addition to usually a burger or pancakes…depending on the time of day :)

Breaking the tape at the 2015 Army Ten-Miler in 55:19

Personal/Family Life Balance:

Are your family/friends interested in running as well?

Somewhat. Most of my family and friends are not interested in it on its own, but they are interested in my running, if that makes sense? However, my parents love watching track, and get more excited than I do about the world championships!

How do you balance family/friend time, daily responsibilities and training?

I am very passionate and committed to staying in touch with those I love and care about the most, and at the end of the day, they will come before anything, even my running. I love making people feel good about themselves and letting them know how much they contribute to this world. I love hearing their accomplishments, and seeing them do well in whatever they commit themselves to, that inspires me. As for balance, I definitely burn the candle at both ends sometimes, especially when I go home, but part of me thinks I am addicted to the thrill of being busy all the time, so I have no one to blame but myself. Steve is very good at keeping my feet on the ground and reminding me to relax, something I struggle with!

When do you fit running/training into your day?

I get up at 5am to start working and eat breakfast, and then go for my run around 9am. I almost always do two sets of exercise, other than workout days, so after my run, I will come home, eat, and do work while I rest my body. I then go for my cross training bout later that day before dinner. If I have a strength training workout, that usually follows the run, but I make sure the rest of the day I am off my feet. On workout days, that takes 2-3 hours of the morning away, but then I know I have the rest of the day to work.

What advice would you give to new runners?

Firstly, you ARE a runner if you are out there doing it. You do not have to look a certain way, or run a certain speed. At the end of the day, we are all out there facing those same demons together, but you have to believe in who YOU are, your own strengths, and learn to love running for your own reasons.

Secondly, I would say that rest and recovery is the most important part of running, make sure you take some days to run so slowly you feel like you are barely moving, those are the days your body needs to recover from those tougher days.

Finally I would say there are going to be ups and downs, but trust that the more struggles you overcome, the better it is going to feel if you persevere. It is ALWAYS worth it :)

Thank you, Tina, for taking the time to talk! Congratulations on your Army Ten-Miler win and best of luck in your future races!

Check out Fuel Your Future with Tina Muir for more insight into Tina's life as an elite runner!

Linking up with Jessica and Jill at the Fit Dish link-up. #thefitdish