Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Hitting the Road

The suitcase is packed!

Snacks are ready for road trip munching!

And I am ready to explore and learn about Duke Theological Seminary!

I am extremely pumped about this trip! Sure, it's not your typical senior-year-of-college spring break, but "normal" has just never been an accurate word to describe me. Ha! 

I have known for a while now that seminary is something that I want to pursue. Since I heard God clearly call me to ministry about two years ago, seminary has remained in the back of my mind. 

I'll be honest - I've spent some time in denial about it. I successfully convinced myself for a few months that teaching English or elementary school would be the more "logical" or "practical" route. I've also tried to  avoid the idea of a graduate degree altogether. After all, I have worked tirelessly throughout college to keep high grades, and I am just "too burnt out" to keep going now! English majors can always go into publishing, right? 

Over the past year, there are a few things that I have come to know with 100% certainty:
  1. I am not a desk-job kind of girl. I did gymnastics for thirteen years, have coached for eight, and was a personal trainer for almost a year. I like to move and interact with people too much to be cooped up in a chair for eight hours a day!
  2. I love learning and being in the classroom, no matter how tough it can be at times.
  3. I have a passion for talking with people, and I especially love seeing lives transformed by the simple yet profound truths of God's Word.
  4. I yearn to learn more about the Bible and its history. I long to gain a deeper understanding of theology and doctrine. I want to learn how to minister to people so that they know that God loves them and wants to have a true, deep, matchless relationship with them.
  5. I want to do something that I can't do without God's help.
That last point is definitely the most important one. I want to live my life in a way that I cannot live on my own. I want to lean on Him and rely on His provision with every step that I take. I want my life to look differently because of my faith!

So tomorrow, the journey begins! It's just a baby step, but I can't shake the feeling that it is an important one. I have a sense that I am on the brink of something new, and I can't wait to keep moving forward and see what lies ahead.

I want to leave you with a thought tonight - no matter what you believe or what career you pursue, knowledge and learning have amazing transformative power. In reality, these things are no different from exercise or diet - in order to live the most abundant lives possible, we must strive to improve ourselves from the inside out, and this includes the mind, body, and soul. I encourage you to find your passion and to pursue it wholeheartedly. I encourage you to pursue your dreams with all of your mind and all of your strength, because transformation, growth, and a sense of purpose are always within reach.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Kicking Off the "Working Week"

Today has been crazy! Between an oil change this morning, a meeting with a seminary recruiter in Buford for lunch, and a late meeting for work back in Athens this evening, this day has worn me out in the best kind of way. By the time I walked through my apartment door at 7:15 p.m., I was happy to count my blessings... including the blessing of the sun staying up so late in the evening (thank you, daylight savings!)

Couldn't resist the picture of my record clock, even if it is out of batteries. It is Music Monday, after all!

After such a hectic day, I think that Elvis Costello's "Welcome to the Working Week" is the perfect choice for Music Monday. This is from one of my favorite albums, and it was the perfect soundtrack for my drive up 316 and back today!

"Welcome to the workin' week.
You gotta do it till you're through it so you better get to it.

I hear you sayin', "Hey, the city's all right
when you only read about it in books.
Spend all your money gettin' so convinced
that you never even bother to look.
Sometimes I wonder if we're livin' in the same land,
Why d'you wanna be my friend when I feel like a juggler
running out of hands?

Welcome to the workin' week, oh, welcome to the working week."

Here's to a productive and joyful week!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Delicious Local Lunch

I hope everyone has had a relaxing weekend! It has been a pretty busy one for me, but after lots of driving and family time, I am finally settled back in Athens and ready to face the week! No matter what craziness it may bring!

Today started off with a great morning at church with my mom. After a long week, I think we both needed to kind of push the "reset" button and refocus our attention on God. It is so easy to allow things to distract us from listening and praying to Him ceaselessly, but the truth is that He has promises and plans for everyone and we can't allow little roadblocks to make us forget! This Sunday, it was nice to remember and celebrate those promises and to set the tone for what is going to be a fantastic week. I just know it!

We headed back to Athens after church and decided to head to a lunch spot that we have never tried before: The Local Jam. This little restaurant was a lot of fun!

The atmosphere was really quaint and unique! An Allman Brothers vinyl record playing (and skipping...so I knew it was a real vinyl record!) in the background added a sort of retro feel. And simple but whimsical touches like the paper flowers on the table made the restaurant feel very... well... local. Ha! I loved it!

Even though I didn't try any of the homemade bread and jam this time around, I was impressed by their unique daily homemade jam offerings (yes, that says "raspberry jalapeno" in the bottom right corner... what a combination!). I absolutely plan to be adventurous and try some of these out in the near future.

My mom kept it simple by ordering a pancake and two eggs scrambled with cheese. Looked delicious to me!

And I ordered the egg skillet with three eggs, mushrooms, spinach, and onions and a side of fruit.

This scramble was simple but just what I was hoping for. I loved that the eggs came to the table still in the skillet - it kind of gave it a more homemade feel. And the fruit and veggies were incredibly fresh! It made me look forward even more to summer and spring, when all of my favorite produce will be back in season :)

Overall, it was an awesome afternoon with awesome food. More importantly, I had the perfect company. We spent the rest of the afternoon exploring Athens in the sunshine... definitely my idea of a successful Sunday!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Going Tropical

I'm not sure if it's the fact that the last Spring Break of my undergraduate career started today, or if the warm Georgia temperatures are starting to get to my head, but I was tantalized by some tasty tropical finds during my last trip to the grocery store...

These products are so good! I have never had orange marmalade before, but it is citrus-y and sweet... the perfect spring treat for toast, peanut butter and marmalade sandwiches, and more. And the coconut almond breeze is just as awesome! It has added the perfect unique twist to my cereal, oatmeal, and coffee this week.

Earlier this week, I decided that I needed to put these guys into action together. Since I am such a big pancake fan, I decided to concoct something a little bit different and new! These pancakes are moist and filling, and taste awesome with sliced banana and a little bit of syrup on top. And with 292 calories, less than 4 grams of fat, and 9 grams of protein for the entire recipe, you can indulge to your heart's content!

Tropical Banana Pancakes
Makes four small pancakes. Serves 1-2. Total time: about 35 minutes.

1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes
1 tsp pure cane sugar
dash salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp orange marmalade spreadable fruit
1/8 cup unsweetened coconut almond milk
1/2 ripe banana
1 egg white

1. Slice banana in half and mash with a fork in a small bowl until it becomes as smooth as possible.

2. Add remaining wet ingredients (vanilla extract, orange marmalade, coconut almond milk, and egg white) to the small bowl with the banana and mix until smooth.

3. In large bowl, combine dry ingredients (flour, coconut, sugar, salt, and baking powder) and stir until mixed.

4. Add wet ingredients to the large bowl, and mix all ingredients together thoroughly.

5. Spray skillet with nonstick cooking spray and bring to medium heat. Once heated, pour about 1/4 of batter onto skillet. 

6. Once bubbles begin to form around the edges, use a spatula to flip your pancake. (Rocker pig cheered me on in the process...)
And hopefully it will look something like this. Nice and golden brown! (Not perfectly round, but it is homemade after all!)

7. Once both sides are lightly browned, remove pancake from skillet and repeat these steps until you have used all of your batter. Serve pancakes topped with sliced bananas, fresh berries, whipped topping, or fresh maple syrup. Enjoy!

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Signs of Spring

It has been an amazingly beautiful day in Athens! After last weekend’s scary tornadoes and the cloudy skies that we have been having, the calm after the storm definitely feels like a wonderful treat. Since it was already in the 60s by 9 a.m., I just couldn’t resist spending my morning outside studying at one of my favorite spots in Athens!

Uga, Jr. seemed to enjoy the view while I sipped my delicious coffee and did some reading! It was such a great morning… no rush… no worries… no stress… just time to get my work done and enjoy the gift of the day. I am so thankful that I have had the opportunity to live in an awesome neighborhood for the past two years. It is unique and quirky and Athens-y in every perfect way, and on days like today, it sure is nice to be close enough to walk to class!

After my post on Tuesday about how I first fell in love with running, my long walk left me thinking about how simple exercise can truly be. Even if you aren’t a fan of running or if physical challenges keep you from running, walking can be just as effective when it comes to keeping your body healthy. Here in Athens, you can walk almost anywhere, and the hills provide the added bonus of a leg workout. My mom’s neighborhood is nice and hilly, too, and I always find myself surprised by how sore my quads and calves feel when we finish one of our “mega-walks,” as we like to call them!

Here’s my point - exercise doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to involve running until your heart feels like it is beating a million miles a minute. That kind of vigorous exercise isn’t always necessary, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. So now that spring is right around the corner (We spring forward this weekend! How is it time to change our clocks again already!?), I encourage you to lace up your sneakers and step outside for a nice long walk! I’d venture to guess that you will find that exercise is really not all that bad. In fact, it can be downright relaxing!

And if you don’t have easy access to a good, safe place to walk, or if you prefer to exercise at the gym, don’t worry! The treadmill plan that I am posting here will work your legs from several angles and will break your workout into intervals that keep things interesting and challenging!

3.8-4.0 mph
3.6-3.8 mph
3.4-3.6 mph
3.2-3.4 mph
3.0-3.2 mph
walk @ 4.0 mph or jog @ 6.0 mph
3.0-3.2 mph
3.2-3.4 mph
3.4-3.6 mph
3.8-3.8 mph
3.8-4.0 mph

** repeat this sequence as many times as you desire to finish out your cardio workout **

I use this workout whenever my knees and ankles need a break from running. It's definitely not as vigorous as a good long run, but it still does the trick when you are looking for a low-impact option! I also leave myself the choice to jog a bit to keep my heart rate up during the eighth minute, but you can just walk if you prefer! You can use this walking workout as cardio at the end of a leg workout OR by itself - both are great options that get your heart pumping and your legs moving.

Well, my spring break started today after I got out of my 3:30 class… I am so excited about having the next ten days to work a bit, do some reading, and relax. I have a few exciting things planned throughout the week that I am excited to share with you, too! On that note, I’m off to enjoy a homework-free evening!

Please note: Any exercise tips that I make on this blog are simply that - tips. I love to share my experiences with health and fitness, but it is important that you talk with a doctor before beginning any new exercise program, especially if you aren't working out already! I am always happy to answer questions and comments, if you have any! Thanks for reading :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Simple Truth

There are some days when I just need to be reminded of a simple truth: my strength does not come from me. It does not come from physical exercise or from my own hard work. It comes from an awesome God. And I, for one, am incredibly thankful for that truth, because He never changes, and He never gives up on us.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Free to Run. Free to Live. Free to Be.

I’ll be honest - I used to dread running. It might seem surprising that I did gymnastics for so long and could hardly run two miles at the end of my career, but it’s actually not that uncommon. After all, gymnastics is all about short bursts of power, and no routine is ever more than a minute and a half. Plus, long-distance endurance was never really my thing. I vividly remember Saturday morning workouts, when we would run countless laps around the gym with Madonna’s “Die Another Day” blasting in the background. Even though I was pretty convinced that those weekend practice “torture sessions” were going to be the end of me, I managed to scrape by, but I never imagined that running was something that I would ever really enjoy.

Looking back, I think that my love for running developed when I finally recovered from a nearly year-long injury. When I was fifteen, I blew out my ankle on the night before I was scheduled to leave for my first national competition. The next eight months were the hardest that I ever faced during my gymnastics career - I spent months on crutches and was completely sidelined for an entire season. Still, I went to practice every day, working on my upper body and core strength as much as I possibly could. I came to love strength training, but I still felt so trapped. Even as I watched my teammates struggle through the endurance conditioning that I had always hated, I wished more than anything that I could just take off running. But I had to wait… eight long months.

I remember the first day that the doctor finally cleared me to do some light jogging. I remember the excitement that I felt as I laced up my shoes, which he told me to wear for extra support even though gymnasts typically run barefoot. I remember the FREEDOM that I felt with those first few steps, the JOY that I experienced as my heart began to beat faster, and the sense of ACCOMPLISHMENT that I felt as I finished my first real run in almost a year!

Okay, so I only ran ten measly laps around the 40 foot by 40 foot spring gymnastics floor. BUT I WAS RUNNING. Just a few months prior to that I had hardly been able to hobble around. In that moment, I promised myself that I would never again take my ability to run for granted.

This morning, as I was running on the track at the student center, I was overjoyed with a sense of freedom! With my legs plugging along, heart pumping, and the News Boys’ “I Am Free” blasting, I laughed at the irony of how far I have come since the “Die Another Day” era. Now, running and exercise help me recognize the life and vitality that God has blessed me with, and I am motivated by my desire to remain strong and healthy so that I can lead the full life that He has planned for me.

After the Warrior Dash! It was so empowering to crawl under barbed wire and leap through fire!

Although we may not all be able to run or even exercise as often as we want, we do all have the power to become stronger in a wide variety of ways. A quick half-hour session of exercise each day, even if it is simply walking around the neighborhood, can make a huge difference over time. The important thing is to get moving! If you struggle with finding the motivation to exercise, here are a few tips that I find helpful:

1.     Learn about the benefits of exercise. Believe it or not, working out is great for your mind, body, and soul. People who move regularly tend to be less stressed, less likely to become ill, and more optimistic about what lies ahead in life!
2.     Reflect on the ways that exercise might help you live more abundantly. Maybe you want to have more energy when you spend time with friends or family, or perhaps you want to have the energy for volunteer projects that require you to be extra active.
3.     Exercise with a friend or family member. Walking or even hitting the gym with a loved one can be a great way to bond. Plus, you are more likely to stick with your plan if you have someone to hold you accountable.
4.     Write down your exercise every day. When you reach a short-term goal (like working out three times per week or walking two miles, for example), reward yourself with something like a subscription to a new magazine or a trip to the movies with a friend.
5.     Most importantly, remember that you were created to accomplish amazing things in this life! I believe that when we exercise and stay fit, we are better equipped to tackle our purposes with full hearts and strong bodies!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Music Monday: A Little Vinyl to Kick Off the Week

I am admittedly challenged in the “music-creating” department. As much as I would love to say that I can play an instrument or belt out a tune like a pro, that’s just not the case. Still, I love music. There is something powerful about the perfect combination of lyrics and music… for me, these things just have a way of reaching my soul and moving me in a way that words alone can’t.

A few years ago, I started collecting old (and new) vinyl records. I used to tag along with my mom whenever she shopped and added to her own collection, and I fell in love with the crackle of music played on a record player (that’s definitely one of my “life’s simple pleasures,” especially on a rainy day). I also love the excitement of flipping through crates of old albums at record stores – it’s like a treasure hunt… or maybe like rummaging through a stranger’s attic… it’s not unusual to find things that make me laugh or even make me confused (who WOULDN’T want to get their workout fix with Jane Fonda on vinyl?!). But one thing’s for sure – there’s nothing better than leaving a record store with a bagful of perfectly imperfect, well-loved, vintage-y albums.

This morning I broke out my Jackson Browne Running on Empty album. After listening to the title track, I couldn’t resist posting the lyrics here. So I guess with that, “Music Monday” is born! What better way to kick of the week?

"…Gotta do what you can just to keep your love alive
Trying not to confuse it with what you do to survive
In sixty-nine I was twenty-one and I called the road my own
I don't know when that road turned into the road I'm on
Running on-running on empty
Running on-running blind
Running on-running into the sun
But I'm running behind
Everyone I know, everywhere I go
People need some reason to believe
I don't know about anyone but me
If it takes all night, that'll be all right
If I can get you to smile before I leave
Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels
I don't know how to tell you all just how crazy this life feels
I look around for the friends that I used to turn to to pull me through
Looking into their eyes I see them running too…"

I think that most of us would agree that life can feel like an endless run. Sometimes it can be invigorating and freeing, and others it can feel like a tireless task. Sometimes we have been running for so long that we can’t even remember how we ended up where we are. Life is always going to be crazy. It’s always going to fly by. But we are here for a bigger purpose than this life here. We are here to love others, to live selflessly, and to serve the eternal purpose that God created for each of us… and in the meantime, we can find comfort in the fact that we aren’t the only ones running this strange but wonderful race. And we can know that when we abide in Him, we will never have to “run on empty.”

Sunday, March 4, 2012


You, O Lord, are utterly indescribable - ineffable.
Beyond the scope of my most profound imaginings.
I praise You with my tongue, Lord -
But somehow the words that come from my lips just aren't enough -
They're not enough to thank You,
To express my love for You,
To embrace You.
But I offer my words to You -
Because if I can just articulate this passion within me,
This fire that smolders in my heart,
Then my voice might just be pleasing to You.
My words might just proclaim that Your Kingdom isn't locked in the past.
It's not locked in the future.
It is here. It is now. And it is real.
It is LOVE, O Lord.
You are Love -
Pure, true deep, matchless, indescribable, ineffable Love.
May I love you not with my words, O Lord,
But with my life.
With my heart.
With my soul.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Remembering to Find Joy in the Simple Things

Last night, I finally made it to my first Gym Dawg meet of the 2012 season! I’m a little disappointed that I haven’t had the opportunity to go to more of these this year, especially since it’s my last semester at UGA. But the meet was awesome - #4 UGA upset #3 UCLA 196.975 to 197.7! It’s great to be a Georgia Bulldog! After a week of studying for a New Testament midterm, working, and reading for classes, this was an awesome way to spend a Friday night in Athens! Plus, it doesn’t hurt that student tickets are only two bucks… gotta take advantage of that perk while it lasts!

Stegman Coliseum!

As a former gymnast of fourteen years, I have always loved these competitions… something about the crowd, the fireworks, the team unity… all of the pieces come together and make me remember everything that I fell in love with about gymnastics. It makes me remember the days when all I cared about was having the chance to put on my “sparkly leotard” and walk out on that floor. It makes me remember the excitement that I felt when they gave me my very first medal (a very prestigious 8th place medal, might I add), at my very first meet. Back then, I didn’t really care how I looked to other people out on that floor - I was determined to hold my chin high and pretend like I was in the Olympics even if my gymnastics wasn’t always the nicest to look at in those early days!  

Me finishing my bar routine at the annual "Dawg Days" meet in Athens when I was thirteen.

Over time, I got more serious… I worked hard to become a better gymnast… and by the time I was in high school I was qualifying for regional and even national competitions. The thing was, gymnastics wasn’t a “simple pleasure” for me anymore. It was more nerve-wracking than it was invigorating. I was too wrapped up in trying to be “perfect” all the time that I forgot why I even liked gymnastics in the first place.

Last night, I realized that as I have gotten older, I've done the same thing with life. I work so hard to look like I have it all together that I lose sight of the simple things that make even the most mundane days special - things like a hot bowl of oatmeal on a chilly morning, the smell of an old library book, or the first sign of light in the sky just before sunrise. I have been so busy doing what I am “supposed” to do that I sometimes lose track of what truly gives me a sense of value and worth in this world.  

So often, we forget that we are not here for ourselves. We are not here to become winning athletes or to gain recognition. We are not even here to earn degrees, to make money, or to climb the corporate ladder. We are here to love others. We are here to serve a purpose more profound than we can ever understand. We are here to surrender the lives that we think we want so that we can gain lives that are far more abundant than we can ever imagine.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Line in the Sand

            And so the blogging journey begins! It’s tough to know where to start… especially when I have been contemplating starting this thing for months now! I keep finding reasons to put it off - school, work, and my own insecurities about being vulnerable and sharing my heart have simply gotten in the way of my taking the plunge. But over the past few days, I just haven’t been able to shake the conviction that while I am busy “looking busy” with studying and commitments, I am missing out on the present moment! What’s more, I am forgetting to remember how much I have learned and changed and grown, especially over the past four years, thanks to the work that God is doing in my life. I have been so preoccupied with my to-do list that I have forgotten to slow down and savor life’s simple pleasures. I have forgotten to look back with thankfulness for what He has done and to look forward with faith in what He says He is going to do. Today I am drawing the line in the sand! From this point forward, I am going to relish every moment of every day, and I hope to share some of the highlights from that journey here with you!
            If you already know me, it is no secret that I have a real passion for health and fitness. As cliché as it may sound, wellness isn’t just skin-deep; true vigor, confidence, and life start with the soul. My faith in a powerful God is what motivates me to keep plugging along, and my desire is to help others become the strongest version of themselves so that they are physically and emotionally equipped to serve the purpose that He has designed for them. I hope that this site becomes a place where I can share thoughts, musings, tips, ideas, recipes, quotes, lyrics, scriptures…you name it. And I hope that these words reach someone who needs to hear that all of the strength that they could possibly need lies in the hands of an awesome God.
            So here it goes! I have to admit, stepping over that line in the sand is more invigorating than I imagined! In the coming weeks, I hope to write more about where I have been, where I am, and where I feel called to go… because I feel like I am on the brink of a pretty incredible journey, and I can’t wait to see where the path leads!

Happy Friday!

“Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.” - Deuteronomy 4:9