Pinterest A Grateful Life Lived: 2013

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas 2013 in Pictures

     This year was one of the best Christmases yet.  It was so fun to see the family and to have the new house to celebrate in.  I thoroughly enjoyed buying my gifts for others this year and had a blast seeing everyone open-- and hopefully like-- them.  But, as the old cliché goes, a picture is worth a thousand words:

My brothers were just a little more patient than I...

This is the "before" picture.  As in: before wrapping paper and bags were strewn all over the living room.

 Of course: I did my Christmas village again.  Thanks to the new location, I had a lot more room to work with this year!

We had lots of stockings this year, as we did a stocking exchange and regular stockings.  As you can see: some people got creative and used string to lead their stocking person to their gifts.  My person gave me a scavenger hunt that led me to the basement.  Super fun!

A family friend also dropped by with Poinsettas, which replaced the ones we killed already.  I snapped a shot of these before they met the same demise.

 Just lounging around, making memories!

My brother's big gift was only received after a long quest around the house per the trail of a string.  Dad went a little crazy with the string.... it went upstairs, downstairs, outside, around the house and back inside before leading to the gift!

 Christmas Dinner

Finally, we rounded out the evening with Just Dance- another much appreciated gift of the year.  All in all, it was an amazing Christmas full of precious memories and new traditions.  I'm still clinging to the Hallmark Christmas movies and counting down till next year!

Is "A Grateful 2013" Over?


     I started this blog almost a year ago with the intention of blogging about all the things I'm grateful for.  It morphed into a faith/travel/running/health/babysitting/college-life blog where I attempted to recount my close encounters with nature and my deep desire to grow closer with God.
     Let's take a look back at my first blog post.  That's where it all began and it's where I'm reminiscing as the year comes to a close.  I name my blog after this "quest," and as I've experienced this first year of blogging, I'm so glad that "A Grateful 2013" was a part of it.
     While the blog name has stayed the same (A Grateful Life Lived), I admit that my focus has strayed as the year has gone on.  I tried to consistently blog about something I was grateful for-- purposefully opting for small blessings in many cases.  While I'm a bit disappointed I wasn't able to be more regular with this gratitude journal of sorts, I am so glad that I embarked on this journey because I grew so much along the way.  My relationship with God has grown so much this year.  I've taken a deeper look into His grace,  His peace, His joy, His love and His presence!  I have grown in thankfulness as I have grown closer to him, so I would say that A Grateful 2013 has been far from a failure.  It has shown me that I need to be diligent in closely looking at life around me.  If my heavenly father is doing all these things-- big and little-- to show his love for me, the least I can do is train myself to pay closer attention so I can enjoy these things!
     That brings me to the present: December 31.  The last day of the year.  What comes next?  Well, I certainly don't plan on ceasing all gratitude and thankfulness for God's blessings.  I also recognize that it's time for a new beginning, a new challenge.  A few months ago, I read "Practicing His Presence" and wrote a series of blog posts that probably demonstrated an extreme love for that book.  Seriously: it changed my perspective so much in regard to God's place in my everyday life and thoughts.  It was around that time that God gave me the idea for my "theme" in 2014: A Presence Filled 2014.
     I realized that sensing God's presence on a daily basis is something that takes time and it takes a lot of work.  It takes training, but it reaps great rewards of joy and peace.
     For the immediate weeks after reading "Practicing His Presence", that is exactly what I did.  I practiced meditating on God during particular hours of the day, slowly growing that time until I was thinking of him more and more.  Then, life intervened.  The immediate impact of the book faded a little and my regular efforts to pray and thank God slowly diminished.
     That is why I am dubbing 2014 the year of Practicing God's Presence.  My scope is limited to my own blog, but as far as I'm concerned: A Presence Filled 2014 is a universal theme.  It will be in my life.
     I will blog on my sacred moments with God, the revelations that he gives me and even the times when I 'm listening but I can't hear a thing.  That's the point: not to show that I am a perfect vessel of Christ, but that I am consistently seeking more of Him in my thought life.  From thoughts flow actions, from actions flow lifestyles and from lifestyles flow my character and who I am.  That is why this is such an important theme, and one I am excited to kick off tomorrow.
     Thank you for coming along on A Grateful 2013 with me.  Yes, A Grateful 2013 is about over, but a grateful life continues regardless of time.   You might notice that my blog is titled: A Grateful Life Lived.  There's no expiration on that aside from my own death.  As I venture into A Presence Filled 2014, I will take with me the lessons I learned from A Grateful 2013.  I sincerely hope that you will as well.



A Review of 2013: Travel

     I was very blessed to be able to expand my travel repertoire this year, and it was so fun to see more of the world.  Here's the lowdown of where I was in 2013:

1. Indianapolis, IN
I've enjoyed exploring Indy through my college adventures so far.  It is such a vibrant and fun city that is home to more than just the Colts.  You can find amazing art, culture, dining, sports and nature all in the Indianapolis area.  I might be a little biased, but I think Indianapolis is definitely worth a weekend getaway-- at least to convince you that more time is required.   Duckpin Bowling anyone?

2.  Southern Colorado
This mother-daughter trip was a mega-hiking adventure as we wound our way through the untapped nature of small-town Colorado: Durango, Silverton, Salida and Ouray.

3. Hilton Head, S.C
Our family vacation was complete with rounds of putt-putt, kayaking and fun trips to the beach.  Hilton Head is perfect for those relaxing family getaways.

4. Chicago, IL
I enjoyed a great girls' weekend with my mom that included a visit to Shedd Aquarium and a bicycle journey around the city.  The Windy City delivered a memorable and exciting getaway, one that we are already planning to repeat next fall.


Visiting Indianapolis


I'm sure more adventures are in the  near future, but I've already seen so much to love in Indianapolis, Indiana and the surrounding area.  I've enjoyed finding the hidden treasures and exploring the storied oddities.  If you're planning a visit, here are the stops I recommend:

1. Action and Atomic Duckpin Bowling
This is a must for families.  Although, I'll warn you: it is much harder than normal bowling.  The lanes are shorter and the balls are smaller.  Plus, there are less pins to aim for!  Despite this, our family had a great time laughing at our terrible duckpin ability and spending time together in this cool, retro, bowling alley.

2. The Indianapolis Museum of Art
I stumbled upon this gem on a lonely Sunday afternoon.  It's only a short bike ride from campus and offers FREE exhibits, amazing walking grounds and some sweet children's activities both inside and outside.  It's a must see while your in the area.

3. Butler University
Of course, I'm a bit biased, but Butler truly is an amazing place to visit.  The canal runs along the south side of campus, behind the famous Hinkle Fieldhouse.  The beautiful old buildings and kind students and staff make Butler a definite stop while passing through.  Whether or not you've got a prospective college student in your party, someone in the group is going to fall in love with Butler.  I guarantee it!

4. The Indianapolis Children's Museum
If the child in you is itching to blow off some steam, the children's museum in Indianapolis just happens to be the largest children's museum in the world.  If that doesn't impress you, the life sized dinosaurs and indoor carousel should do the job.  This museum is designed to be hands-on, educational and-- of course-- fun!  Butler students, like myself, get in FREE on Sundays.  But the rest of you can check it out for free on the first Thursday of every month.

5. Broad Ripple
This little town center is a few miles from Butler's campus and offers numerous restaurants, cute shops, entertainment options and regular festivals and fairs for locals.  Broad Ripple is a great place to spend an afternoon.  The Broad Ripple women's clothing boutique, Pitaya, has a cult following among college students and practically everyone has a favorite concoction at the beloved ice cream shop, Brics.  Throw in the myriad of art galleries, music shops and local restaurants (try 3 Sisters: my favorite!), you'll find yourself trying to think of another excuse to pass through Indianapolis in the future.
Brics is right in Broad Ripple and right on the Monon Bike Trail, the runs for miles in
and out of the central Indy area.

     I hope that you find Indianapolis as worthy of exploration as I have.  I can't wait till the warm weather comes and I can hit the bike trails again to discover even more.  I've heard of so many other places worth going.  It's a good thing I've got four years to become the expert on all things Indy!

Adiós 2013: A Look Back

     This has been a pretty crazy year.  It's been a year of change-- but good change-- and lots of new experiences.
     I started the year with a decision to attend Butler University and then proceeded to have a really difficult end to my high school running career.  I did gain a lot of perspective on where running is in my life, and that was one of the greatest lessons of 2013 for me.
Hello from the top of Handies Peak!
Click HERE to see all of 2013's
babysitting adventures!
     I had the experience of a lifetime when my mom and I headed out to Colorado after my graduation.  It was by far, one of the most special and memorable vacations of my life.  I got to have great time with her, climb up-- run actually-- my first 14er (Handies Peak).  We also were able to complete a lot of amazing hikes while we were there, like hiking to the base of Engineer Mountain and various parts of the Colorado Trail.
     In July, my dad got married: something I had truly been afraid of for a very long time.  Not only was the wedding really great, but so is the family I have gained as a result!  I was frightened that I would be forgotten, especially with my looming departure for college.  Turns out, that Wedding Day was also a clear portrayal of how God is working to restore every area of my life!
Ah: the day I found the campus
fresh fruit market
     A few weeks after the wedding, our new family-- minus my older brother-- took off for Hilton Head, S.C.  That was another great vacation filled with so many awesome memories.  We found so many great things to do while we were there, and of course: I blogged about it HERE.   I also found a sweet running spot on the Pinckney Island Reserve (I highly recommend it!).

(RELATED- A Review: 2013 in Travel)

College move in day
     In late August, I headed off to college and it was absolutely terrifying and exciting at the same time.  I had a really rocky start.  I was homesick, lonely, missing home, homesick and, (in case I didn't mention): homesick!  I started getting the hang of things though and began to see all the opportunities and blessings God was lavishing on me.  At the time, my stress fracture made the transition 20 times harder, but looking back: I see how much of a blessing it was.  I was able to ground myself in the Lord in that new environment, rather than to fall back on the constancy of running.  It made for a semester of immense spiritual growth and blessing!  With my first semester done and dusted (read more HERE), I am enjoying a relaxing holiday season at home.  It has been great to be with my family and see all my friends at home.
Read about my girls' weekend
in Chicago HERE!
     I also know that Satan is really tugging at my emotions, as I have been really anxious about going back to school in a couple of weeks.  Here's the thing though: I know that God has placed me there for a specific reason.  It is such a blessing and I am excited to get back into things and even compete this indoor and outdoor track season.  I refuse to cloud over these blessings with anxiety and negativity.  The time to return will come soon enough, so until then: I will not worry about tomorrow.  When I'm there, I know I'll transition back and will be immediately enveloped in the love of the Lord that goes everywhere with me!
I had lots of fun exploring the
Indianapolis Museum of Art
this fall!
     If there's one word I would use to describe this year, it would be: restoration.  In 2012, I grew in hope.  In 2013, I began to throw off the fears that have limited me for so long.  It is still a work in progress, but that doesn't mean the testimony isn't worth giving!  God has begun to restore my joy, my faith, my boldness, my identity in Him, my confidence, my passion and vision and my health in all aspects of the word.  He has truly worked a miracle in a girl who's not worth saving.  For that reason, I'm eternally grateful for his work of grace in 2013 and I am expectantly hopeful for more and more of Him in this coming year.
I also got to go Duckpin Bowling
with the gang, during family weekend
     It's been my year of gratitude-- of things both big and small.  And now, I collectively can see the blessing in the entire 365 days.  And what happens to my journey of the year, "A Grateful 2013?"  My focus on being grateful is far from over, but 2014 has a new twist that I think you will like.  Click HERE to read more!  I hope you will continue along with me into the new year as I share more of God's goodness and a bit more of my own craziness :)
I hope you all had a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

First Semester Finals: Done and Dusted

Remember way back when I was
about to go to college!?
     I'm blogging again, which means that finals are done and I have successfully completed my first semester at college.  I think back to Welcome Week and am truly amazed it was that long ago.  I have seen so much growth in not only my academics, but also my personal character.  It has been a semester of learning to step outside my comfort zone and stretch the limits I thought I had set firmly-- in a good way, that is.
     I am so thankful for my supportive family and friends who have been praying every step of the way.  It never ceases to amaze me how God purposefully places people along the way to encourage and minister to his children.  I've seen the evidence of that in so many ways.
     My semester started out really bumpy, and I was pretty sure that I was the most homesick college freshman on the face of the planet- one who was also super emotional and prone to exaggerating.  While I might not have been the most homesick freshman, I would dare to say I was pretty far down the line.
Practicing His Presence, Edition 0003  -     
        Edited By: Gene Edwards
        By: Brother Lawrence, Frank C. Laubach
     I started the year with a stress fracture in my right hip.  More importantly, I was emotionally unstable and insecure in my identity in Christ.  While I can't say that I've figured out my life in these first few months of college, I can say that I've come to a better acceptance that I will never figure everything out, and that is ok.  I don't have to control everything, know everything or have perfection in everything.  That doesn't mean I have to love every trial and test, but I can choose to find God's presence in every moment and decide to live in his joy.  That's something I learned in a revolutionary way through the book, Practicing His Presence.
     Slowly, as I sought God through my injury and the massive changes in my new life, I began to see how complete I am without the label of a runner or a student or a "perfect" daughter, or just about any other box I can trap myself in.  I don't have to conjure up a label because I'm far more than any of that.
     As that lesson was being beat into my head, I also started to gain confidence back.  Now, I'm not talking about the "believe and achieve" kind of confidence.  I'm talking about confidence that God has created me beautifully and has great plans for me.  As I had struggled through a heartbreaking senior year as an athlete and in family matters, I had all but lost that confidence.  I'd resolved to trying to control all that I could so I wouldn't have to trust God, who I had thought let me down.
     He worked in my heart though, and I began to see how much of a blessing the injury really was.  I was able to get my firm ground in faith in my new surroundings, without running- which had become not only an idol, but also a source of identity.
     After Thanksgiving break, I had a new mission: to reach out to others and leave my self-focused pity party in the past.  It was really difficult, but I started to feel a lot more at home at college.  God also continued his work of healing in me and I was able to start running with my team.
      It was super exciting because I had been in a funk for over a year.  Running was not really fun, it was an obligation and I did it in hopes of getting back to that joy I'd had in the past.  I was living with a measly dose of hope that things would return to how they had been.  Turns out: God doesn't dwell hopelessly in the past like I often do.  Thankfully, he moves way ahead of our plans and has much greater things ahead than those that lay behind.  As I started getting my iron levels up (they had been down at 8 earlier in the fall!) and gained confidence, I really started to see God's joy in my running in ways I never had before.       Now, I am enjoying just running with him, but I also have hope that he has great plans in this area of ministry.  The best part?  I don't have to worry about what those plans are.  I just get to sit back and trust that I will receive them in due time.
     Yes, it is a lot easier said than done, but I'm starting to get it through my thick head that God really is in control in an amazing, powerful, awesome way.
     Here's to one life-changing, faith-building semester at college.  It has been a crazy, painful and joyful journey so far and I can't wait to see what God brings next.
     For now, I'm enjoying the warmth of family and being home.  It is a much needed rest!  Merry Christmas and thank you all for your prayers and love during the chaos that has been my life lately.  I hope this update/recap serves to evidence God's moving power in our everyday lives.  Enjoy this week of Christmas preparation and be joyful!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Perfect Gift

     If you are a bit of a perfectionist like me, your mind races at this time of year.  Perhaps you take to Google or Pinterest or Macy's or the shopping mall to find those "perfect" gifts.  Maybe you scour the ads that promise to give the best gifts for fashionistas or the top 10 gifts for the outdoors man.  If you're a bit of a perfectionist like me though, you soon realize that the massive chunks of time spent finding that "perfect" gift don't always end up productive.
     It's an honorable quest to find a gift that will be truly appreciated and loved by the recipient.  After all, we can all think of a few special gifts that have clearly demonstrated someone's love for us.  In fact, gift giving is completely biblical:

Ephesians 2:8
For it is by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

     God is the one who created gift giving.  Sometimes, I like to think of his presence surrounding me and smiling when I notice a little flower he has placed in my path or an encouraging word I read in the Bible.  These are all gifts from God, and he delights to give his children good gifts (Matthew 7:11).  He is grinning ear to ear when he sees you discover a talent for the first time or welcome a new member of the family.  He is not that stern and withdrawn god we often think he is.  
     Here's the deal though, I'm pretty sure God is not super happy when he sees the extreme consumerism that has hit our nation.  I'm also pretty sure it doesn't please him when his kids scurry around in search of that perfect gift, like myself.  The reason I say this, is because when we buy into that worldly mentality, we are looking for Macy's or Pinterest to fulfill our loved one's joy- and our joy in the process.  In reality, the best gifts in the world don't come from any specific store:

James 1:17
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

Yup.  It's pretty simple, really.  The best gifts come from God.  Again, that doesn't mean that buying gifts for friends or family is a bad thing.  God uses these gifts to speak love to others, just like we have probably experienced ourselves.  I for one, know that it is a constant battle though.  I have to continuously remind myself that searching for the "perfect gift" is a mode of control rather than a joyful trusting of God's wisdom.  It's time I take my own advice and make some changes to my Christmas preparation this year:
1. Pray before you pay
Don't swipe that credit card before you pray about what you're buying.  It might seem silly or too much effort, but remind yourself just how much time, dignity and effort Christ gave in his gift for us. Gift prayer also comes with a guarantee.  While we will make mistakes sometimes, the better we learn to listen to God's prompting to purchase a gift or give a gift, the better gift givers we will be!

2. Think outside the box
I read this devotional the other day about gift giving, and it truly opened my eyes to how narrow-minded I've become regarding gifts.  I rarely think about giving gifts of care, time, encouragement or talent-- even though these are some of the gifts I have most treasured in my own life.  I encourage you to look for some Gifts that Matter, HERE and HERE.  

3.Take a step back
The Grinch, Clark Griswold and Ebenezer Scrooge all had one thing in common: the realized that Christmas is not about the tangible gifts.  Now, if only they could have discovered the best gift of all: Christ.  I encourage you, as well as myself, to keep that in perspective when hitting the stores this season.  Find God's Perfect Peace as you enjoy his gift of life.  We can find great joy in giving to others with Christ's love-- whether it be through store bought gifts or gifts of a different kind-- if we avoid the consumerist perfectionism that we are so often tempted with.  God has a greater purpose for this Christmas season than our own personal pride when we find that "perfect" gift.  FYI: God already knew it was there.  He created it!
Merry Christmas!!!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Delicious and Nutritious: And They're All Gluten Free!

   Since going gluten free this past June, I am often asked: "Is it hard?"  My answer is that it shouldn't be.  There are plenty of really healthy and delicious gluten free foods.  While some are more expensive than their glutenous counterparts, I've also learned that coupons are a viable option.  So, before buying any items on this list, look for a discount or coupon.  In many cases, you can find them.  Whether you are gluten free or not though, I'm betting you will really enjoy these foods!  Here are my favorites:

Kale Joy-
These delicious "chips" are made of kale and seasoned to perfection.  They are a perfect snack for on the go, as the contain healthy fats, 130% of your daily Vitamin A, 6g of protein and as much iron as spinach.

goji berries
Goji Berries-

My dad came home with some Goji berries last year and I was skeptical at first.  They are shriveled up little berries, and they just so happen to taste amazing.  I put them on yogurt, cereal or just eat them alone.  The
best part is: they are chock full of protein!  One ounce (about 1/4 cup) has 4 grams of protein.  Pair that with a yogurt and you've got a delicious and healthy snack.  I sometimes grab a baggie for before or after a run as well.  You won't even know how good they are for you, just how good they taste!

Luna bars-
Luna bars a great and inexpensive snack for on the go.  The Luna Protein bars are certified gluten free although the normal Luna bars do not contain gluten either (I eat them because I don't have Celiac, and I've had no problem with them).  Both types of bars contain a lot of protein and are great for a snack to get you through the day- or a devilishly delicious treat before bed.  I recommend "nutz over chocolate" and "caramel nut brownie" for regular Luna bar flavors.  The Luna Protein bars are personally my favorite, with "mint chocolate chip" taking the top spot.  They are my healthy version of a candy bar; no joke!

Chex cereal-
I found it pretty easy to adjust to gluten free eating because I've never eaten a lot of breads or pastas (although they have gluten free versions of those too).  My greatest challenge was cereal.  How in the world could I survive without a food I literally ate two times a day.  I have an extreme passion for cereal...pretty pathetic, I know.  Anyway, I found out that Chex has a number of gluten free cereals that are not only really tasty, but also a lot less expensive than the dedicated gluten free brands.  Plus, the boxes are actually normal sized- unlike the child sized gluten free boxes.  My favorite flavor is vanilla, but I like just about all of them.  I try to mix it up: Cinnamon Chex one week, Honey Nut Chex the next.  There is also Chocolate Chex, Corn Chex, Rice Chex and Apple Cinnamon Chex.  I snack on them all.  They are relatively comparative to the normal Chex and other cereals.  So, while they aren't exactly a nutritional powerhouse, they aren't loaded with sugar and are very healthy as far as cereal is concerned.  Try not to eat a whole box in four days and I'll be impressed.

Glutino toaster pastries-
It has been many years since I've eaten Poptarts.  They were the special breakfast of my youth- I knew it was an amazing morning when my mom let me have a Poptart.  Thank goodness she didn't let me very often though, because those things are terrible for you!  That is not the case with Glutino toaster pastries however!  Not only are they gluten free, but they are actually healthy for you.  Don't believe me?  Check out the stats:

Zoom View - Gluten Free Toaster Pastry Strawberry - 5 Pastries

Though the Glutino Toaster Pastry has a higher level of sodium, it comes out on top in all the other categories- and keep in mind that the Strawberry Poptart is one of the healthier flavors.  The point is, I have found a delicious treat that is not only healthier than the beloved sugar-laden Poptart (16 g compared to 10 g), but also gluten free.  It's not a snack for every day, but it is a "nutritious" treat for every once in a while!

Strawberry Glutino Pastry Strawberry Poptart
Calories 160 200
Total Fat (g) 5 5
Sodium (g) 330 160
Dietary Fiber (g) 4 <1
Protein (g) 4 1

No.  I'm not talking about just any popcorn.  I prefer Orville Redenbacher or Pop Secret 94% fat free. Consuming buttery, fat filled and sodium-packed is not a "healthy" snack.  However, if you choose the recommendations I have listed, you not only get a great snack that is delicious, but also a fiber-filled bite to eat.  There are even small snack sized bags that allow for better portion control if you want a smaller snack.  All in all, popcorn can be a great nutritious food if you choose the right kind.  Go for the low-fat and season it yourself with a light shake of popcorn seasoning.  It takes a little extra effort but is worth the healthy benefit.  Popcorn is naturally gluten free as well!

Are there any other snacks that you enjoy- gluten free or not- that you'd like to share?
Comment below!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What I've Been up to: Dec. 3

    Ok, I clearly have not kept up with blogging lately.  To tell the truth, I haven't had the desire to recount all the details of life lately- too much to remember!  I also have been so swamped with schoolwork, that when I have free time, my brain has pretty much shut off for the day.  So, I will attempt to recount the last few weeks:

1. Thanksgiving Break!
Family Christmastime fun!
Oh my goodness!  It was such an amazing time to be at home and see my family.  We had our first Thanksgiving at my dad's new house, which was really special.  I also got to catch up with my relatives and friends who came to celebrate with us.  I can't describe how exciting it is for a college student to ride home and await seeing your parent for the first time in weeks.  I rode the Megabus back-- I highly recommend it-- and was so thrilled to finally hug my daddy!  Everyone else was out of town so dad and I got to go out to dinner and spend the evening together.  It was so special to have quality time with him, which continued into Saturday when we drove to Terre Haute for the National XC Championships.  Butler placed 3rd and I was so so happy we drove out to see such an exciting moment!  I let myself sleep in a little, had an "old fashioned" game night with friends, got in the Christmas spirit with the annual family trip to Oakland Nursery and had an amazing time at home.  While it was very hard for me to come back-- I always struggle with transitions-- I am doing a lot better today and I am fully aware that God has me here for a specific purpose!

2. Running Running Running!

For a while, I've been on a never-ending journey toward running again.  I've started running progressions, and then had to stop because of other issues.  Finally, I'm out on the trails again.  I've been praying for quite some time that running will be joyful again.  After a heartbreaking senior year of xc and track, I had all but given up on hope of enjoying and succeeding as a runner again.  It's something I don't take lightly too either, because I see so much of God's joy in my running and I did not want to lose that.  So I'm refocusing and trying to build up hope again.  That is why I am so happy to report that running is fun again.  The first few runs back were miserable and I couldn't help but stop a lot of the time.  But I am feeding my body better and I am feeling so much better every single run.  I'm up to 45 min. runs with a cross training day after 2 days of running.  Tomorrow, I get to run with the team for the first time since I've been injured!  Praise the Lord for healing and restoration.  I know there is still a long ways to go physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Yet, I also know that God has already done so much and he is faithful.  There is no need to worry about how fast I will go or what place I will get, because my only job is to do my best and let God worry about the details.  I am so blessed to be able to enjoy running again and I cannot express how grateful I am for that!

3. Finals Preparation
Thus begins the finals preparation.  We have two weeks of classes before finals start on the 16.  I am very blessed and have my last two finals on that first day (Monday).  I have one final that is given a week earlier and my other two classes don't have a typical final format.  That means I will be home with the family by Tuesday!  I am very very thankful for that.  It does mean that I have a pretty stressful few weeks of projects, studying and early tests though.  This week was actually the hardest, with a speech today and a presentation tomorrow.  But I felt good about the speech and am ready for the group presentation, so I coasting home at this point. least that is what I'm telling myself!  In the midst of this craziness, I'm also trying to get out there more and be more sociable- something I've been lacking in.  That is both a praise in progress and a prayer request!

Anyway,  happy Tuesday and I promise that some "fun" posts are on their way.  In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out how to decorate my dorm room for Christmas aside from the mirror and window drawings I have made already.  Stipulations?  We can't have any lights or hang anything from the ceiling.  I need your ideas!

My gorgeous window art

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Deck the Halls with Gifts for Runners!

     Believe it or not, the Christmas season is upon us.  Garlands are up in the malls, Macy's already has the Santa letter boxes up and promotions of every kind are clogging up our mailboxes.  Yet, Christmas shopping takes a little more thought than a kick glance at a Walmart ad.  Chances are, you are going to have to scour the stores looking for that "perfect" gift, only to relent and pick up something subpar or worse: a gift card.  While I can't promise you the perfect gift- I'm never after perfection- I will offer up some products I have and love for runners.  Before you grab that Walmart watch or Nike Dri-Fit, take a look at some truly unique Christmas gifts for the runner in your life:

Yaktrax Pro Walker - Dick's Sporting GoodsI received my YakTrax for Christmas two years ago and can't tell you were I'd be without them today.  These awesome steel coil and spring contraptions attach easily to the bottom of your shoes and give traction for the winter ice and snow.   YakTrax have not only allowed me to get better training runs in, but have also added a sense of security.  I feel a lot more safe knowing I won't slip and slide while out on the trail.  After two years, my YakTrax are still in great condition and make winter runs less about the fear of sliding down a hill, and more about the snow-wisped trees that rise up and beckon me to run.
Price: $30 at Dicks Sporting Goods, REI

Saucony DryLete Arm Warmers
You know how it goes: you're standing in your room, marveling at the random and much appreciated warm winter day, and wondering what to wear.  It's too hot for a thermal shirt but too cold for just long sleeves.  You know you'll regret wearing a light jacket by the time you're 10 minutes into the run and have that awkward elbow sweat going on.  (*Cue the annoying infomercial voice) This is where your Saucony DryLete Arm Warmers come in.  They keep the forearm nice and warm, and can be peeled down when the run gets underway.  I took them with me when I ventured out to Colorado this summer and reviewed them HERE. They fit me great- despite my wimpy little arms- and can either be scrunched at the wrist or tucked into a waistband or sports bra strap.  Basically, they are functional and brilliant!  If you don't know the frustrations that temperature swings can cause for runners, take my word for it, and buy this gift for the runner on your Christmas list!  If you do, then there's little convincing required.
Price: $22 on

Yum! Strawberry is
definitely my favorite!
Gatorade Prime Chews
I hate Gatorade.  It's true.  Absolutely hate it.  Naturally, I also hated the Gatorade Prime drinks when my athletic trainer gave me one to try.  The Gatorade Prime Chews however, are a different story.  I'm not sure why, but I just love these things!  It could be because they are such a great pre-run or workout snack or maybe its because I consider them like my runner's candy.  Either way, I get my guilty pleasure from chewing up a couple of these around run or race time.  My only complaint is that the blue kind has the tendency to turn your teeth blue.  I found that out when my mom posted pictures of an indoor track race and I looked like I'd eaten a smurf.  I raced well though... so the slight tinge was worth it in the end.
Price: $1 (pack of 6 chews) at most grocery stores

The Massage Stick
Running is sometimes a pain in the butt.  And the quads...and the calves...and just about everywhere. I began to notice the Stick a few seasons ago and was curious as to why other runners would be running a massage stick down their legs between races.  Turns out: it's brilliance!  When I finally got my own, I was impressed.  The little bead-like knobs do a great job of getting in between the muscle fibers and working out kinks.  It's often described as the regular runner's massage-- because we can't all afford tri-weekly massages like Mo Farah or Ryan Hall.  The Stick will significantly help with muscle soreness if used a lot over time.  I would highly recommend it as I use the massage stick very frequently myself.  While you're out buying one for the special runner in your life, pick one up for yourself as a little gift.  Your legs will thank you!
Price: $27-$35 (depending on specific size and brand)

Massage Foam Roller
The GRID Foam Roller
A colorful assortment of Grid Foam Rollers
A massage foam roller works along the same lines as a massage stick, except it is better for getting large areas of sore muscles.  It also works really well on your back or your glutes as well.  This is the one product on this list that I myself do not have, but I figured I'd throw it on here in case mom takes a look at the post (and might I add that compression running socks are also a great product...hint hint).  I use the massage rollers in the athletic training room all the time and have shifted from a skeptic to a passionate advocate of the massage roller.  Massage rollers are big, foam sphere-things that you can lay on and roll back and forth on to work out sore muscles.  In addition to being better for larger muscles than massage sticks,  massage rollers also are a more lazy way of getting the kinks out of your muscles.  I will warn you though: your gift will cause extreme pain, like: it'll make any runner cringe.  Massage rollers come in different varieties from soft to hard though, so starting with one on the softer end will help minimize the excruciating pain caused by your Christmas gift.  All in all, I love using massage rollers and you can definitely feel them working.  Again, if you are an athlete yourself, you might want to pick up two of these (you know: your muscles deserve some holiday joy as well!)
Price: $25-$30 (I would recommend Triggerpoint "The Grid" or Gaiam foam rollers)

Reading Material
Whether the runner you know is an avid reader or not, most runners ooh and awe at stories of great achievement.  I for one, love getting my Runner's World Magazine every month and have Running Times on my Nook.  Another great option is "Born to Run", an amazing story of true trail running that is a mainstay in the modern Terahumara people group of Mexico.  The novel is excellently written so it appeals as a running story but also as that of unity within a community.  It's a must for this years' stockings.  Still curious? Ctlick HERE to read my review of "Born to Run."
Price: Runner's World yearly subscription is $20 on Amazon, Nook yearly subscription for Running Times is $10, Born to Run is $12 on Amazon.

Under Armour Women's HeatGear Grippy II Socks
The Christmas of 2011 will stand in my memory as the "Christmas of the Socks."  No joke.  I realized I had very few socks and- being the practical girl I am- decided to ask for some for Christmas.  As a result, I received around 30 pairs of socks.  30!  Among the masses of socks though, one contender stood out from the rest.  The Under Armour Grippy II socks were- and still are- the best running socks I've ever had.  I always wear at least one- I mismatch socks a lot- when I race.  These socks feel so light and wick away all that nasty foot sweat and have grippy dots on the bottom to give traction in the shoe.      These socks are now the running joke in our family, as we eagerly await the release of the Grippy III.  I'm not sure that is going to happen, but if it does: it will probably have  built in IcyHot or will wash itself!  Anyway, I'm content with the Grippy II for now.  As far as socks go, it's a real gem.  The runner on your list might look at you in anguish when they unwrap socks on Christmas day, but trust me: their face will light up when they feel the cool hug of the grippy II on their feet.  If you think I'm exaggerating, you clearly have not tried these socks.
Price: $12 at most athletic stores (Dick's Sporting Goods, Under Armour, Sports Authority)

A running-vacation-adventure
Plenty of organizations offer running vacation and camps.
It's also possible to set up one yourself.
Someday, when I'm somehow successful in some career I have yet to decide on, I will take my running-vacation-adventure.  It's not just a running vacation, or an adventure vacation.  It's certainly not just a vacation.  I will travel to Peru or- if I've already made it there- some other outdoor mecca, in order to have the time of my life.  It depends on the nature of the person, but for me: it can't be a tourist-laden destination or one that has little culture to enthrall me.  I want to go somewhere that offers ample ways to adventure: run, hike, kayak, swim, skydive, bike ride and just about anything else that doesn't involve too much coordination (the kayaking is stretching it).  I've talked to many runners who truly have the dream of taking a running vacation, but have never voiced it.  Perhaps this could be the case for the runner on your Christmas list.  Another, less costly option, is to gift the experience of a destination race within the U.S.  I would also be in favor of receiving this gift when I'm finished with my college career.  Allowing a running friend to take a weekend and go to another city or state to compete in a bucket-list race could be one of the best Christmas gift they get this year.  

My article isn't complete unless I get "all deep" on my readers and offer this final gift idea.  It's not a true gift idea, per say, but it is a very profitable category for any runner.  Running isn't life.  It is great to encourage running friends and family by giving them gifts that help spur on their passion and allow them to hone their skill.  However, it's also important to remember that being a runner is not a sole identity.  I am a runner, but first and foremost: I am a daughter of Christ.  My running flows from that identity.  I am also a daughter of my parents, an adventurer, a writer, a student, a sister, a babysitter and a friend.  Giving the gift of perspective- such as a gift that promotes the other facets of a runner's character- allows them to become a more complete person overall. Focusing too much in one area alone can be detrimental.  So while you're purchasing "Born to Run" and some Under Armour Grippy II socks, throw something else in the cart that- dare I say it- doesn't deal with running.  Open the horizons a little.  Give some perspective.