Category Archives: health and fitness

clean eating, fitness, healthy lifestyle

He’s Sovereign Over the Shuffle

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles. It’s extra appropriate to post right now, because I am running another half marathon this weekend!

This past weekend, I ran my third half marathon. As usual on race day, I’m driving to the race, asking the Lord for strength, endurance, and peace as I run. I enjoyed an incredible sunrise as I was driving east, reminding me of His promises that His mercies are new each morning, and His love never fails. I just so happened to be late because of the hurricane that had wrecked trees and power lines all over the region, leading to road closures and power outages (including red lights). So as I literally ran to the starting line while tying my shoes, the peace I had felt in the car left me pretty quickly.

However, I love a long run on a cool day, and that’s exactly what I got. Headphones in and shuffle turned on for my race playlist (yes, I have a race playlist, more on that later), I REALLY enjoyed my first ten miles. It didn’t actually get tough until then. You’d better believe when the running starts to get tough, I rely on my playlist to get me through that tough spot to where I can breath easily again. I craft a race playlist to be way too long, in case I hit a song I don’t want to listen to in the moment. I ask friends for upbeat suggestions of things I’ve never heard of (bonus points for Latin pop) and worship songs that don’t drag. I stack the deck, so to speak, with interesting or new songs, songs about Jesus, and songs I’d dance to at a wedding. It’s actually pretty fun to see what comes up, and the Lord shows His kindness to me by reigning over the shuffle.

For instance, around 10.5 miles, I began to drag my feet. The next song up was Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”. Just being fair, there’s no beat to perk you up like this one. Later, there was a huge, slow hill leading up to the finish, and my shuffle provided me with a song that has kept me going in other long runs: “Alive In You”, sung by Kim Walker-Smith on Jesus Culture’s Let It Echo. This has long been a favorite for my running playlists, and these lyrics are why: You are strong in my brokenness, sovereign over every step. Even in the fire I’m alive, I’m alive in You. I won’t lie, I need that reassurance more often than I’d like.

I often feel broken. It’s a result of the fall. We are all broken. It’s the plight of living in the world but not of the world… we realize we’re made for something more, and this world leaves us feeling dejected, like we’re missing something, like we aren’t a good fit. But in the midst of this brokenness, Jesus has entered in, met us, saved us, and made us whole. As it reads in 2 Corinthians 12:9, His grace is sufficient for me! His power and strength are made perfect in my weakness!

As for needing my Heavenly Father to direct my path and show up in His sovereignty over my steps, I need it daily in a literal and a figurative way. Amid the big-picture choices I make alongside my family, the ways I spend my time, and the choatic shuffle (see what I did there?) of everyday with young kids, I need my steps ordered for many reasons: so I am productive, so I am honoring God, so I am setting a good example for life and Godliness for my children, and (not the least of which by any means) so I don’t get all tripped up and fall where I should be soaring.

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! 1 Corinthians 15:57

Speak Life.

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles.

As I’ve taken the past few weeks to be silent pretty often, it’s been a good time to think about the words I do actually say out loud.

We tend, as well-meaning adults, mentors, Christians, and friends, to offer advice (usually unsolicited) or counsel. We offer opinions (however squirrelly that gets in the moment) and ideas, agreements and rebuttals. We speak all sorts of words that are just plain unnecessary.

Let me explain.

The Bible shows us from the first few pages that words have power. I mean, God created the world, light, darkness, not to mention us, by just breathing words out of His mouth (Genesis 1, y’all). And then, He did the incredible thing: He created us in His image. WE are created in the very likeness of a God whose words have creation power! Even the penman of Psalm 33 proclaims the power in verse 6 – “By the word of the Lord, the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth, all their host.” The numberless stars were spoken into existence by a creative and powerful God – in whose likeness we were also made!

So why is it that, sometimes without our even realizing it, we speak fear, confusion, hurt, and unkindness over many, even the ones we love the most? It’s like we forget this God-given gift of words with power. It’s almost as if we – wait for it – speak without thinking! Before you stop reading because you’re thinking I’m a hypocrite, I most certainly am. But keep reading, please.

It’s as simple as remembering when we saw Disney’s Bambi as children: Thumper famously says, “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” And yes, it was RIGHT AFTER hurling a good-natured insult at Bambi. But don’t we all do that? We say the hurtful thing, and THEN we remember that it might be have consequences, even those we won’t see for a while.

But even more than saying things that are “nice”, I think we’re called to say things that have more power. Instead of saying something that could tear someone down or shame them, let’s say something that will build them up, call them up, call them higher. Jess Connolly puts it this way in her book Dance, Stand, Run: “…I think if we spent more of our time attempting to speak life, we wouldn’t have to worry as much about the death coming out when we’re not being watchful.” If we turned a little bit of our efforts over to actively speaking life, love, encouragement and value into people, how much less of our words would be hurtful ones that spoke death to dreams and fear into places that should be full of confidence?!

Let’s end with this: our words are really, really important. Use them wisely. Say less of them, if that suits you. Think before you say your words; think about what will be heard by the recipient. Above all, speak life.

Currently – May!

Hello, friends! I simply cannot believe how this year has FLOWN by! The fact that it’s already May has me reeling a bit. But, I’m always glad to give a little update and link up with the fabulous Anne in Residence and a new friend, Carrie at A Stylish Fit. Comment below or link up and tell us all about what you’re up to currently!

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Celebrating || summer! I know there are still five weeks of school left (for us in NC at least), and I know it’s not that hot out there yet, but I also know that going to the pool, eating fresh tomatoes from our garden, and not having a wake up time are all GREAT things that are coming soon!

Creating || my summer to-read list. I want to actually try to stick to it, since I’ve got so many things on my TBR list. I’m hoping to finish Peace Like a River (y’all – SO GOOD), Too Much and Not in the Mood (beautiful non-fiction, but this style is just a little slower-going for me as a reader), AND Everybody Always (shout out to Bob Goff!) by the time summer ACTUALLY arrives. At that point, I’d like to read the other books in the A Wrinkle in Time series (L’year of L’engle, says Annie Downs) and The Turquoise Table (one that I heard about a year or so ago, and only just bought). I’ll probably have time for more than just those, but I haven’t locked down what I’d like to move on to after that.Snagged these at Barnes and Noble yesterday!

Wearing || Chacos every DAY! And a new hat I got for running. It’s mesh in the back (because hot, y’all), and has a nice big G on the front. Any UGA fans around?!

Sharing || my current reads… it’s been so fun to have a little journey with some online friends about what I’m reading, what I’d like to read next, and getting suggestions for my next books! (This is mostly taking place on my stories on Instagram! Follow me @onlyhsuman if you’d like to come with me!) I’ve always been an avid reader, but recently I’ve enjoyed making time for it more and more. When I was in the fog of raising actual babies (you know, the ones who don’t sleep through the night or do anything for themselves) I just didn’t have much brain power leftover for reading. But now I can even have a few minutes to read while they’re AWAKE because they understand that Mama needs some down time, too. It’s actually lovely. I don’t mind this stage!

Going || to run my next half marathon next weekend! This round of race training has been a little more low-key than the last. There’s definitely an element of “I’ve already done this, so I know I can do it again.” and I’m not pushing myself quite so hard. I also am fairly certain I set a PR last time finishing under two hours, so I’m trying to not be mad that I’m little slower this time around. I’ll finish, and that’s the goal. Prayers for one more good long run this Friday and healthy knees and ankles for the next week and a half are appreciated!

That’s about all for me right now. What are you up to currently?!

Married with Kids – It’s OK Not to Like Your Spouse Sometimes.

This piece originally appeared on Perfection Pending.

This is what being married with kids looks like – sometimes you don’t like each other and that’s okay.

Sometimes, I think back to the first couple of years after my husband and I got married. It was so… easy. We didn’t fight like many newlyweds might, over who should take care of dinner or why there were clothes left on the floor next to the hamper. However, when we started having kids, we realized the times of things being quite that simple were over.

For starters, we were exhausted. Correction: we are exhausted. There hasn’t been a day (that wasn’t some sort of child-free vacation) that has gone by since 2012 that both of us have felt “well-rested”. Either one of us gets the rest, or neither of us do. Which, as you can imagine, leads to some stress in our household, and our relationship.

But what we’ve figured out (and learned from wise friends) is this: even though some days you don’t like each other, it’s important to still love each other, and furthermore, to show it.

You have to prioritize your marriage, even though in a lot (let’s be honest, most) situations, you’ve got to put your kid – or all your kids – first. Their needs seem more pressing (butt-wiping, feeding them, keeping them from falling off ledges, you know the drill) and so you neglect the other relationship in the household while you’re meeting the more immediate needs – or simply, the ones that are shouting at you more loudly.

You see, there are more than a few reasons to take care of your marriage, even when it means putting aside the other stuff for a little while at a time.

One of the most, if not THE MOST  important reason to show the love, spread the love, and take care of your marriage even after you have kids is because those kids are always watching.

You’re setting the number one example of a marriage in their eyes, and you want it to be a positive and healthy one, right? Set an example for them of the importance of marriage, the teamwork it requires, and the love that it stems from. Show them a healthy relationship so they know what it looks like. Even have healthy disagreements in front of them sometimes; they need to know about that, too. They don’t need to see only the “good stuff” or they’ll have unrealistic expectations. Healthy dialogue, PDA (yes, affection is important to show!) and the importance of spending time alone together are important things for your kids to know about!

Among the myriad of other reasons to nourish your relationship with your spouse, I think the next biggest reason is this: one day, your kids will be grown and live in their own homes, and it’ll be just you and your spouse. Again. Alone.

Don’t wait until then to try to fall deeper in love with your spouse.

Don’t wait until there’s not the glue of parenting young children binding you.

Don’t wait until your lives have been growing apart for years to really cherish your relationship with your spouse.

I won’t say that won’t work – but I will say I bet that it’s harder that way. Communicate with your spouse, about big stuff and small stuff. Practice honesty – even when it hurts.

Say “I’m sorry.” and “I forgive you.” Do the easier things too, like dating your spouse! Have date nights or early breakfast together. Chat on the phone when you’re in the car. Send sweet text message to each other during the day.

Take a weekend away somewhere from time to time if it’s possible for you. Those things aren’t reserved for “dating” relationships unless you let that happen. “Dating” your spouse is a way to rekindle, reconnect, and intertwine your lives again when you feel like you haven’t been so “together” recently.

Make time in your schedule and room in your heart for your spouse. Even when you’re exhausted, feeling frumpy, and thinking it’s the last thing you want to do. Chances are, you’ll be so glad you did. Make sure to kiss, to chat, to hold hands, and to have sex! Those things are important… Don’t let them wait until the kids are gone.

Silence Is a Virtue

This piece originally appeared on Everyday Exiles. I’m now on the other side of this struggle, but it’s no less real and difficult because it’s already happened.

Let me set the stage. I’m a mom of three kids five and under. I’m a worship leader by trade, meaning, so to speak, that I sing for my supper. I taught music before that, and studied vocal music in school prior to that. I have been singing by trade for as long as I can remember. When I was a senior in college, my voice teacher noticed I struggled with something she herself had dealt with, and sent me to an Otolaryngologist (that’s a fancy name for an ENT) in town. He hooked me up with a little medicine and a slightly altered diet, and I’ve been seeing him once or twice a year ever since. However, I just began seeing a voice therapist to try to solve my ongoing problem of vocal fatigue (basically I’m hoarse after limited vocal use) once and for all. Fast forward to this week: I go into my therapy appointment very optimistic. I’ve been working my butt off to “relearn how to speak” so that I am using my voice to its fullest potential and not incorrectly (and thereby causing fatigue). I’ve finally started to feel like it’s sinking in, and I’m getting magical results. I get in there, she’s happy, I’m happy, and she says, “Let’s do a scope before we discharge you from treatment.”

A scope. Okay. I’ve had those. (It involves sticking a tiny camera through your nose or in the back of your mouth to see your larynx and vocal folds/chords. Ew. Not comfortable.)

She proceeds to tell me the therapy is working. (YAY!) Then she says I have a hemorrhage (that’s a scary word in ANY situation) on one of my vocal folds and I need 7 days of total vocal rest.

Total. Vocal. Rest.

Do y’all know that means I can’t talk… OR SING… or whisper or laugh or cough or chat on the phone with my bestie or read books to my kids. Or say anything. Period.

I began this stint of vocal rest by crying in the doctor’s office. Selfishly, I’m sure, because I’m a loud, outspoken extrovert (often to a fault) and it sounded like pure torture, but also because if the hemorrhage becomes a recurring problem, then I have to have a laser (!!!) procedure to make it stop. More stuff? More work, time, money, effort, and heartache put into this issue that hinders me from doing what I love most?

Let’s pause here, because this next part is what’s important. I believe my voice is a gift that the Lord gave me. I use it to glorify His name whenever possible, and now I do that professionally – which was/is my life goal. Boom. But having my voice taken away from me? I’m like Ariel – “but how will I communicate?!” (Ursula would say, “You’ve got your looks, your pretty face… and don’t underestimate the importance of body language – HA!”) That isn’t going to work so well. An extroverted singer doesn’t have time for not using her voice.

But what I’ve realized is that not speaking has given me a freedom to stay silent when I don’t know what to say. It gives me reason to think before I speak (or write something down, since speaking isn’t an option). It gives me extra margin to think, to pray, to consider what I’m ingesting from all the outside influences (good and bad) without needing to respond to them immediately, or at all.

It’s also given me cause and time to ask the Lord for healing, for strength for the next few days, for a blessing of quiet joy as I learn things about my personality I hadn’t known before – such as how often I interrupt people, which is impossible to do when you’re writing things down – the topic of conversation has already changed by the time I have written my quip. This silence has forced me to pause and appreciate being home (since going out and extroverting means using my voice more) and staying and resting in the stillness whenever possible. These things are hard for me, y’all, but I know that He provides strength. I’m crying even as I write this, because it’s a battle for me to know that in all things, He is working for my good (Romans 8:28) but I also know that we are sometimes grieved by various trials so that our tested and genuine faith results in praise (1 Peter 1:6-7).

Why Five Minutes Makes Me a Better Parent

This article originally appeared on Perfection Pending.

It’s overwhelming, this whole motherhood thing. I think back to the days of answering only to myself, and doing things only when I felt like it… I don’t necessarily miss those days, but I’d give a large sum of money for a day or two like that every once in a while.

When I get up in the morning, it’s usually to the sounds of (at least) one of the kids. Often, it’s the jabbering of my youngest, playing happily in his crib, knowing I’ll come and get him soon. Those days are so nice. I can go to the bathroom, wash my face, and drink a little water before I start the diaper change and breakfast hustle. But other days, I hear stomping on the stairs, drawers opening and closing, or even cries of, “He hit me!” or something similar. As you can imagine, that’s not quite as pleasant at start. Some days just begin in a more relaxing way than others.

I find myself, on difficult days, craving a moment to myself. That could be almost any sort of moment… for instance, I love the grocery store. I could take a mile-long grocery list to the store, alone, ideally with a cappuccino, and it would be the perfect hour: super productive, not a waste of time, but relaxing, and also delicious if I ended up with that fancy drink. Just to have that bit of time to myself to regroup is my biggest desire in a hectic day. I suppose that’s how the memes about moms eating chocolate while locked in the bathroom are born. Boy, can I relate.

But actually taking the minute to myself doesn’t happen as much as needing it does. If I end up – for whatever reason – pushing through my need for a break, I’ll just end up back feeling crazed again in another half an hour. If I don’t take the moment I need to center myself, zap my coffee and take a big swig, or sit down and zone out for a minute or five. I’m so driven by productivity and “getting things done so that I can relax later” that I rarely let myself take a few minutes for myself before the to-do list is finished.

I do know one thing, though. I can prevent the feelings of stress and anxiety from getting worse (and sometimes break that cycle entirely, if I’m lucky) by taking that time I need for myself sooner. Need a breather? Take one. Need to just sit down for a few minutes? Do it. Need three minutes to calm your brain and scroll through Instagram? That’s just fine. There are very few things on my “list” that won’t still be there in five minutes – including the kids. A mental break is just as important as a physical one, but sometimes I can’t pull my brain out of the frenzy unless I pull my body out of it, too. Sometimes, I even leave the house… I step out to the back porch, or walk to get the mail. Sunshine and fresh air are an immediate shock to my system when it’s bogged down by detailed-oriented tasks and grabby hands that need me. The way my home is set up, the kids are usually in the room that leads to the porch, and it’s full of windows, so I’m not exactly leaving them unattended. But I’m getting out of the situation enough to hear birds instead of the arguing, or to see sun and trees instead of the pile of laundry I was about to get to. Sometimes, even sitting down with the kids and watching Octonauts is a break. It interrupts their cycle of crazy when I redirect them to something else, and it interrupts my cycle of “can’t slow my roll” when I get in there for a snuggle.

So, if you’re like me, sometimes (often?) wound up tightly, pushing yourself through those moments of anxiety or frustration in the sake of thinking you can handle it – or worse, for the sake of productivity – then give yourself a break. Take that minute, or 5, or 10 that you need. Do whatever you need to do to find the time, sooner rather than later, to let yourself unwind. Drink your coffee while it’s still hot. Sit down to chat or snuggle with your child before you get started on the dishes. Sneak that candy bar in the bathroom! There’s no shame in the game of saving your own sanity. You do something for you, mama, and don’t feel bad about it.

RACE DAY!

Y’all! I finally ran the race! I got up early, ate a healthy breakfast, got there on time, managed to poop beforehand (fellow runners, you know how important that is) and CRUSHED it. My goal was to finish within two and a half hours… and I finished under two hours! My typical pace while training (on my long runs anyway) had been 9:45-10 minutes per mile. Almost exactly in that window. So I figured I’d be slower on those last couple of miles, or need to walk a little bit, or whatever. But y’all, I didn’t walk at all, I didn’t stop to pee, and I only grabbed the Gatorade twice (you know, so I didn’t die). My jitters went away pretty quickly and I got into the flow quicker than I thought. I had my two energy goos (we might talk later about how those things make me gag but they’re super necessary) earlier than normal – one at mile 3ish and one at mile 7ish – which I think was helpful. I usually wait for the first one till mile 5 or 6, so I was afraid it wouldn’t last me till the end. But it did! Can I tell you my favorite part about the whole race?

Community.

Lots of runners just did their thing. Or they ran with people they’d probably been training with. Or they just rambled on (that Led Zeppelin song was on my playlist, by the way) through those miles without much thought for anything. Or maybe they were thinking a lot. Who knows. I myself was jamming to my music, praising God because the rain held off, and praying that my knees wouldn’t die at mile 10 like they sometimes seem to want to do. But I was near this one guy the whole race, who I found out at mile 11 had just turned 30, and just proposed to his girlfriend/fiancee (who was also running the race) and so his friends were stationed every couple of miles with signs and shouts of congratulations/happy birthday. It was actually quite a contagious amount of fun, and so I got caught up in the happy. He was also acting as my “pacer” because he was going a little faster than I usually went on my training runs, but not so fast that it was unreasonable to keep up with him. So anyway, at mile 11, his buddy come on and started running with him, realized I was close by, and started telling me that story.

Another gal who I realized was going our same pace was close by as well, and she noticed I was starting to fade, but trying my darnedest to keep up with them. So she started looking over her shoulder for me, and saying, “Come on! One more mile! You can do it! Last hill!” every time I fell a few paces behind. I had my own built-in cheering section, y’all. Runners know how to do life together.

I did most of my training alone, and so I expected to race alone. But I didn’t. I raced with hundreds of strangers, all of whom were pretty cool. It was neat to see everyone’s style: some raced in tutus, some in basically nothing at all, some decked out in shirts that had their running troupe’s name or a scripture that resonated with them. Some, like me, had jackets tied around their waists because it was freezing when we started. Some had iPod earbuds, or huge Beats By Dre (is that what they’re called?) that I don’t think I could’ve worn for the whole time.

OH! I almost forgot my other favorite thing. At mile 5, and again at mile 10, there was a bagpiper! WHO DOES THAT?! If you are reading this and happen to play the bagpipes, please attend the next race nearest you, so that the people can enjoy your pipes. Seriously. It was awesome.

Because I ran way faster than I thought, I finished earlier than I told Hubby I would. I told him about 2:15, and I finished at 1:56. Crazy. So naturally he and the kids were parking and hadn’t made it to the finish line yet… but they did hang around for the donut truck, taco truck, and beer vendors. Every race I run is gonna be a beer run now, by the way. I finished tenth in my gender/age group, which made me really proud. It’s not award-getting, but I was REALLY stoked to have done as well as I did. I definitely will be racing again, and hoping just to get the same time. I know that was a PR for the books, so I won’t set my standards TOO high.

I’m just so proud that I had to share with y’all. Thanks for reading, and for all the encouragement I got along the way. Half-marathon, you were pretty good to me. See you again soon. Real soon? Maybe in the fall.