Labor Day in St. Louis

A long weekend. Yeeeesssssss . . .

Mike and I hit the road for a trip to St. Louis, Missouri to do some site-seeing and go somewhere I’ve never been before. We had looked into going before but apparently it’s a hopping place as economical hotels were already booked up. So for this trip, we planned ahead and booked early!

I had worked all day teaching the Friday we left and didn’t arrive in St. Louis until after midnight, but at least we got a jump on our mini vacay. Our hotel was lovely so if you have a chance to visit St. Louis, I would highly recommend La Quinta. Saturday morning we visited the iconic Arch, of course! So did a lot of other people . . . but now it’s a national monument that I have seen and been inside of! A little scary, I might add, and crowded at the top but great views!

 

Next up, the Basilica Cathedral.  Wow. All of those mosiac tiles! There was a wedding ceremony there when we were but after it was over, we were able to go into the sanctuary. Absolutely incredible.

 

The next day we headed to the St. Louis Zoo. So did everyone else (free admission? Yep, gotta go!) so we went to Plan B, the Anheuser-Busch Brewery. We went on a tour and saw the Clydesdales horses as well as ate outside at the patio BBQ, got free beer, and enjoyed a free concert. Although I had been hesitant about going, I think it was one of my favorite parts of our trip! I had been to the Coors Brewery in Golden, CO and thought it might have been similar but this was much better! We did, however, go back to the zoo later in the day and were thrilled to see the penguins and a polar bear.

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Mike and I with Bruce the Clydesdale!

I loved what I saw of St. Louis in the short time we were there. The architecture and buildings were wonderful. There were many bike paths and lots of trees. Downtown was neat, although parking was a nightmare to get to the Arch. There were plenty of highways to get around with although I’m thankful for Google Maps that helped us navigate the city.

Mike and I enjoy our traveling and try to take advantage of a trip out of town every other month or so, schedule permitting! With us having the kids alternate weekends and Mike having to work another weekend, we’re typically limited to one weekend a month. Taking time out of our hectic schedules to see something new and enjoy each other’s company is wonderful and does our marriage so much good! It’s energizing and gives me a refreshing change with what else is going on in our lives.

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Deep Waters

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The swirling waters of a full Arkansas River.

Have you ever felt that the waters are just deep and life is just too tough? You can’t catch your breath. You feel as if you’re drowning. You’re trying to fight your way out.

Yep, I have. And it seems it’s more and more these days.

When my word for the year came to me (strength), I had no idea that it would be as needed as it was. I guess that’s the way the Lord works, though, when He puts ideas in your head! It seems to be one challenge after another with little to no break in between. Geesh.

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I found this bracelet at JCPenney earlier this year and have worn it every day!

So what does one do?

You MUST relinquish control to the One who loves you. I’m one to hold on to worries and struggle with releasing it. The thing is, many of the issues I’m having to deal with I have absolutely NO CONTROL OVER. How are you to solve a problem if you don’t have any control over it? You can’t.

I was running by the river earlier this week after an exhausting day of teaching, my main goal of alleviating the stress of the day. As I frequently do, I pray but last night I had no words. My sentences wouldn’t come. My words seems to freeze. I was frantically searching for guidance yet found none. I glanced at the river, noticing the rushing current and the swollen banks. Under water. That was what I felt like.

Psalm 121 says the following: I lift up my eyes to the hills– where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip–he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you–the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm–he will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Isn’t that so reassuring?

My second tattoo was inspired by Isaiah 41:13 (NLT) – For I hold you by your right hand – I, the Lord your God, And I say to you, Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you. 

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An infiniti symbol in the shape of a heart on my right wrist, perfect for inspiration of Isaiah 41:13.

I have to keep in mind, however, that there are reasons I am going through the trials that I am. Maybe not reasons that I understand yet, but reasons. 2 Corinthians 13:8-9 (NLT) says: Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. Okay, so I’m not to the boasting part about my weaknesses, but I will pray for His power to work in my weakness.

I hope that you are able to place your hope and trust in Christ. Life is hard enough to manage it alone; grasp tight to His hand and His grace will guide you.

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A Doozy of a 25K

One thing I know about myself – I don’t run well in heat. Especially humidity. And this summer hasn’t been any different than any other except for the fact that the thermostat sky-rocketed early in May. Yuck. That doesn’t do much for my training, that’s for sure!

The UrbanICT was a new race this year and a couple of things appealed to me about it – it was at night, hopefully under the full moon, and the registration fee was much lower than most long races I’ve run. So I signed up.

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Isn’t this beautiful?! We ran across this bridge as the Keeper has the rings of fire on during the first mile of the race. Mile90 Photography rocked these pictures!!

My training was on track for the most part until July hit. My ocular migraines were back with a vengeance as was the humidity and ultimate exhaustion. Of course that didn’t stop me from hiking a 14’er in Colorado, but it did derail my outdoor runs. I ended up on the treadmill at the Y more often than not. The night of the race, I hadn’t run in 2 1/2 weeks. Uh oh. I should have known.

As I toed the starting line, I was hoping that my body would kick into memory mode and knock out the race in about 2 1/2 hours. Ultimately, I wanted to finish without injury and wouldn’t really know until the horn blasted from the start and I began to run. I was thrilled to run with a running buddy that shared a marathon with me a couple of years ago. She helped me keep pace for the first 5 miles but then the side stitches came. Regardless of my breathing, liquid intake and fuel, it was a struggle. Running in the dark was a new experience. I had a lamp but the bobbing of other runners’ lights was a bit nauseating and parts of the path by the river were very, very, very dark. And yes, maybe a little scary. My body was giving up waaaayyyyy too early. The shorts that I have worn on many a run started to rub. My hips ached. My knees started to give me issues. And did I mention exhaustion? To the extreme. It became a tremendous battle of my mind to keep going.

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These are the best race pictures I have EVER had. Thanks Mile90 Photography! (Look at those leg muscles!!! ;))

Although I did some walking, especially through water stops even though I carried my own on my back, I finished. According to Timer Guys, I finished 69th out of approximately 146 people with a time of 2:57:31, just before midnight.

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This smile wasn’t forced — I was FINALLY done!!!!

I learned a few things.

  1. I don’t much care for night running along the river with bouncing headlights.
  2. The power of running with friends is tremendous.
  3. Regardless of how much I struggle running/training in the heat/humidity, it MUST be done in order to be successful.
  4. Running long distances will always be a mind battle.
  5. Treadmill running doesn’t replace street running although it’s better than nothing.

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Next up?

My hubby and I have scheduled another half marathon in October in Nebraska. We had such a great time running the Good Life Halfsy last year that we wanted to do it again! I have started my training again – outdoors and relatively easy for now – to ensure that I’m ready. I don’t want to risk injury by ramping too many miles too quickly. I’m not making the same mistake again!! I’m prone to IT band and knee issues as it is!

A HUGE shout out to Mile90 Photography!! Your race pictures were absolutely fabulous! Thank you for capturing this race!

 

Our Wedding Elopement

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Ahh . . . true love . . . until you try to plan a wedding around work schedules, parenting schedules, kids, and holidays!  If that was the case, there would never be a “good time” to tie the knot! So Mike and I planned an elopement ceremony in Bella Vista, AR at the Cooper Memorial Chapel.

December 27th was cloudy and cold, below freezing, even in the afternoon of our ceremony. My Dad and I walked into a beautiful orchestrated rendition of “Unchained Melody” where I met my love at the altar to exchange vows and rings. Our Reverend Dee even choked up with the amount of love energy between the two of us! Our photographer, Lacey Whitmer Photography, did an amazing job capturing our elopement. After taking pictures inside the chapel, we went out onto the grounds and ended up at the waterfall where we have taken many other pictures. (Yes, I was traipsing around in the dirt in my wedding gown! I did bring my old running shoes, though, as my toes were freezing!!) There was a lot of love and laughter (and kisses!) at our intimate event. I have too many favorites to show here so I narrowed it down to just a few.  God has indeed blessed me in giving me another chance at love and marriage. On December 27th, 2017 I married my best friend. I truly feel that “I have found the one whom my soul loves” and look forward to a wonderful life of love with this man!

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My One Word for 2018

Over the past few years I’ve heard about choosing a single word for a New Year’s focus, instead of a long list of resolutions that could potentially bomb after the first few weeks.  I don’t usually fall into the failure category of my goals, but simplifying things sounded appealing. The question was, what word should I choose?

I mulled over some words that others had used . . . faith, believe, courage, brave, love, joy, heal, forgive, be, cleanse . . . but I wanted something that stood out to me. My inspiration came when I was pounding out some miles on the treadmill at the local Y during Christmas break. Interestingly enough, I can get some of my best ideas when I’m running.

~ STRENGTH ~

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So, why strength?

Strength can fall into many categories. Looking ahead at 2018 I know I have some goals and some potential challenges and the common thread through it all was STRENGTH.

  • Health – As a runner, I need to be in good health and plan my workouts accordingly to ensure I don’t injure myself. Easier said than done, obviously, as last year I struggled with knee issues on top of IT band issues. Although I was lucky enough to PR in my last 1/2 marathon, I need to rebuild my base and start over after a lack of training at the end of 2017.
  • Diet? Yep. Maintain a healthy one! I believe in moderation, none of this drastic stuff. Just healthy unprocessed food.
  • Relationships – My children are growing up which brings parental relationships to a different level. I don’t have a good relationship with my ex although not by choice. As a new wife and stepmom, I will need strength to integrate families.
  • Work – I teach 3rd graders as well as serve on the Leadership Team and am State Assessment Coordinator for my building. State testing is right around the corner!
  • Faith – You might think this should be my word but my relationship with God is super important to me. My faith needs strength to continue to commit my life to Christ and maintain His will as my focus.

Yes, STRENGTH is a word that will work well for me.

Did you choose a list of resolutions? Or did you also choose a single word? Please share what you did!

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Tis the Season

I must admit that although I love Jesus, I find the holidays to be a bit of a downer. Well, maybe not a bit, a lot might be more like it. How can I possibly be feeling funky at the most wondrous time of the year when my Savior was born? Hmmm. . . I don’t know. I honestly struggle to interpret the emotional roller coaster I’m on at this time of the year.

Life itself continues to be a challenge but things have changed, mostly for good this past year. The relationship that began the year prior blossomed and I’ll be marrying this wonderful man next week.  I did some traveling to Sanibel Island with my parents and children as well as Colorado and Nebraska.  I accomplished many things – 3 half-marathons and a personal best, hiking my first 14’er, moving not once but twice, volunteering in a new section at church  – just to name a few. Challenges? Knee issues running, significant ocular migraines, strep throat, relationship issues, my oldest son moving not only out but out of town, family/friends death and health issues, my youngest son’s back issues from weight lifting . . . But I prefer not to dwell on the negative. Or at least I try not to anyway!So, what does one do when they’re struggling? Although sometimes difficult to let go, God’s got it. Even though I can’t put into words why I’m crying, He’s got me. When I want to sleep and never wake up, He’s holding me in His arms. When social media is too overwhelming, He gives me the strength to focus on what matters. When those that I love make poor decisions and my heart is hurting, He’s there. God is good.

I’ve mentioned before that God speaks to me through music. I was mesmerized by Tenth Avenue North’s song, Control that I heard about a month ago. I can’t seem to get enough of it! Here are some of the lyrics:

I’ve had plans
Shattered and broken
Things I have hoped in
Fall through my hands
You have plans
To redeem and restore me
You’re behind and before me
Oh, help me believe
God You don’t need me
But somehow You want me
Oh, how You love me
Somehow that frees me
To take my hands off of my life
And the way it should go, oh …
I pray that you’re able to give God control of your life. If you’re struggling with the holidays like I am, lean on Him. He cares for you. He wants you. Allow Him to fill the voids in your life. He’s got you.