a big change: we're moving!

Our two-year stint in San Diego is coming to an abrupt halt at the end of this month. Two weeks ago today Luke accepted an offer to be the head men's soccer coach at Indiana Wesleyan University (side note: I find it funny that Luke went to a Wesleyan high school, Wesleyan college and now will find his first head coaching gig at a Wesleyan university...and we're not Wesleyan). We will be moving to Marion, Indiana--about an hour north of Indianapolis--in less than two weeks!

Luke has been applying for head coaching jobs since the fall season at Point Loma ended. A couple prospects seemed promising, and one in particular at Roberts Wesleyan didn't work out and left him pretty discouraged about the reality that he could secure a full time coaching job this year. We kept saying that even if nothing came to fruition, we would be able to make it work in our current scenario, even with a new baby. True, our apartment is teeny tiny. True, we don't make a whole lot of money. True, we don't get benefits. But we are confident in God's provision and he has never let us down.

After celebrating Christmas in Chicago with Luke's family, we planned to drive down to Charlotte to spend the last few days of vacation. Luke had already applied for the IWU job so we made a slight detour to see the campus. As we got closer to Marion I was reminded of my visit to Houghton College with my parents. It was SO desolate, even for a girl who grew up in rural Pennsylvania. My dad poked fun at me, offering to buy a purple school bus that was for sale on the side of the road leading up to the college. I was convinced I could never go to school there based on location alone. But there can be something inexplicably special about these places and the kind of community they foster, which is exactly what happened for me during college. Marion is in central Indiana, and all I remember are the corn fields and total flatness as we drove into town. My honest thoughts were probably along the lines of "Oh dear God where are we?" We drove onto campus, and thankfully things started to look up. It's a really impressive school on the edge of a not at all impressive town. The women's soccer coach, Tim, met us and was kind enough to tour us around and answer our questions. At the time, I really didn't realize how valuable this visit would be--I'll be honest, I was in a bit of a foul mood. I was cold, hungry and tired from our early wake up call. I couldn't imagine Luke and I leaving our lives in San Diego for this place. Luke and I both left the visit feeling somewhat "meh" about the whole situation.

However, in the weeks to come our tunes began to change. Deep down, I must have already known that this could be our future, because for a couple hours on the remainder of our long drive, I looked at local real estate on Zillow. (Another side note: shockingly real estate low costs. After living in New York and San Diego, there is no other word to describe it. Shocking.) We started to imagine what this opportunity would mean for Luke's career and our growing family. Luke secured a phone interview, and in the days following, we waited anxiously to hear if he would be invited onto campus for a full day interview. The morning he got an email saying he would be one of two final candidates to interview, I've never seen him so excited/proud/relieved. He prepared incessantly until the day he flew out for what was to be one of the busiest and most grueling days of his life: an hour of Q & A with the dean of the chapel about spiritual beliefs and theology, teaching a class, meetings with the hiring committee, HR and men's soccer team, lunch with the interim coach, and finally running the training session for the team that night.

When I talked to Luke that night, he was so happy with the way the day went. He told me that he knew these were good people and that IWU was a special place. He was impressed by the professionalism of the program and the way the school was run. He loved the team and the people he would be working with. At that point, on my end, I'd already picked out a home for sale near campus--you know, just in case. :) We waited a week for the phone call which finally came on Thursday, January 29th. It was the weirdest feeling when Luke's phone rang and he just looked at me, held up his phone and said "Margaret." I flopped onto the couch and listened to him in the other room, knowing right away he was being offered the job. My stomach was all in tangles. It sounds really dramatic...but I can't really articulate what this opportunity means for us and our growing family. I haven't even fully absorbed the extent of all this job provides for us. Answered prayers, goals achieved, and the joy of seeing the person I love most step into a role he has been preparing for for years...and a season of transition and unknown finally coming into focus.

Since that day, life has been a whirlwind. We are in the process of buying our first house, trying to fit as much time in with the people we love as possible, packing up our little apartment and mentally preparing for this new phase. It kinda feels like we're riding a crazy wave.

At the beginning of the year, a mantra came into my head, and it goes like this: "Be generous. Be grateful. Trust that the Lord will provide." In recent months, weeks and days we have experienced generosity in a huge way through the support of friends, family, and even strangers from our new community. The Lord has proven his faithfulness and provision in huge ways. And we are so, so grateful. So many people ask me how I feel about everything that's happening, and the first word that comes to my mind is "grateful." True, I'm also scared, nervous and aware of the great challenges that lie ahead...but gratefulness trumps all, because we are experiencing a truly sweet time in our lives right now. And life, with its constant ups and downs, is worth savoring in those moments when everything seems to fall into place.

loss | part 2

She was quiet for too long, I knew, as she studied the monitor during my first ultrasound. I had waited weeks for this appointment. It felt like forever since I'd taken that positive pregnancy test, and every day I felt unsure, not knowing exactly what was going on or if I was really even pregnant. I had every symptom in the book, but this was all new to me and I just wanted a doctor to tell me all was well. I had been so nervous as we sat in the waiting room, and Luke had told me not to worry, but now amidst the silence I saw the look on her face and I worried. I didn't dare look at the screen. What truths did she see there? How could I bear them?

Just before the ultrasound, I remember saying to Luke that I might not be ready for whatever was about to happen. I meant it more in terms of the positives, the joy--what would it be like to actually hear our little one’s heartbeat and have everything sink in? Could I really be ready for that? But deep down I also knew there was a chance that things might not go as we hoped and planned. Despite the fact that I wasn't exposed to it growing up--my mom gave birth to 5 children naturally and never miscarried--I was well aware of how common miscarriage is and never really thought it couldn't happen to me. In recent years, especially, I'd heard of numerous women who joined this "terrible club," as one friend aptly put it. Maybe God allowed me to be exposed to these stories, these realities, so I wouldn't be shellshocked when it happened to me.

“Well, you ARE pregnant…" she finally said. I almost had time to sigh with relief, but her voice still held concern. First she told us that she thought I wasn't as far along as we'd suspected. Not surprising. The truth was I had no idea how far along I was--I'd made an assumption based on a guess at the date of conception, but I'd never kept track of my cycle. She told us she thought I was 6 or 7 weeks pregnant versus the 8-10 weeks I thought I was. And then she spoke the words that made my heart sink: there was no heartbeat that she could see. She told us it could possibly be because it was still so early, or it could be that the pregnancy has ended.

I don’t remember really what happened next. I was devastated, scared and frustrated to still be in this place of unknown. The rest of the appointment was a bit of a blur. She explained that I should wait another week or so and then get another ultrasound, but in the meantime, I could get blood taken to test my levels of pregnancy hormone, which should multiply every day if the pregnancy was healthy. We agreed to do it.

Luke kept telling me we had to stay positive, that we didn't know anything for sure yet. He didn't want me to lose hope or let my mind go to dark places. It was a massive struggle over the next couple of days as we waited, but work kept me busy and the Lord kept me at peace somehow. When the day came to find out my blood test results, I dreaded making the call. I spoke to the girl at the front desk and thought she'd transfer me to the doctor or have her call me back, but instead she just read me my numbers from the blood tests: 30,000 and 32,000. I can't blame her for reading them off like the final score of a game she didn't really care about, but to me, those numbers held the difference between life and death for my child. I  didn't know what they meant, so I implored her: was that good or bad? She said the doctor would call me to talk about it. I immediately googled info about hcg levels. I couldn't figure anything out; I read one thing and started to cry because it hit me that those numbers probably meant something bad, but then I read something else and got a little hope back. Everyone's experiences are so different. When the doctor called me back an hour or two later, she told me the numbers were "not a good sign". She too, delivered this news as if it weren't the most earth-shattering information I'd ever received, as if I somehow wasn't still holding onto hope that our baby's heart was still beating, as if I'd actually accepted the fact that it was unlikely I would ever hold him or her in my arms. She asked me if I was bleeding (I wasn't). She said I should still go get an ultrasound later that week "just to confirm." That word rang in my ears. Nothing was "confirmed" for me; I still believed that our baby could be healthy and knew the Lord has power to do whatever he wants against all odds. But deep down, devastatingly, I felt there was no longer life in me. My symptoms were lessening by the day, the glaring nausea, the super sore breasts, the constant need to pee. Still, my body wasn't showing physical signs of loss so I still felt caught in between two realities. It was a scary place to be.

loss | part 1

I remember it clearly, sitting at my desk in the All Across Africa office a few days after returning home from a road trip with my Mom. We had driven nearly the entire coast of the Western United States, from Seattle to San Diego. It never occurred to me along the way that I could be pregnant, otherwise I probably would have skipped that glass of Pinot Noir in the Sonoma Valley. Sitting there at my desk, I got a strange feeling in my belly. It was brief, but unfamiliar, so I decided to stop on the way home and pick up a pregnancy test.

I took the test that evening and it seemed to take no more than 5 seconds to display “PREGNANT” on the screen, like the test was just that sure of itself. I can’t even begin to describe what emotions followed—I remember looking up at myself in the mirror, my eyes wide with shock, my hand instinctively coming up to my mouth. I felt unbridled excitement followed by a wave of panic. I think I may have started hyperventilating slightly, but my mom and sister were out in the living room so I had to keep these feelings quietly to myself. Worst decision ever: to find out you are pregnant with your first child but not be able to tell anyone because your husband isn't at home and you can’t tell your mom and sister before him and you’re in the middle of a project and you have to go about the rest of your day as though it’s normal even though your life is actually completely changed forever.

After what seemed like a very long time, Luke got home from practice, but immediately got in the shower. I couldn’t wait any longer so I took the test to him in there. “I have to show you something,” I said as I held up the test so he could read the screen. He stared, blinked a couple times, and then finally looked at me, mouth open, eyes wide, similar to the face I’d made at myself in the mirror earlier. He asked me if I was messing with him and I remember adamantly telling him that no, I did not in fact stage a fake positive pregnancy test just to trick him. He had to sit down in the shower. I was laughing at him but I sat down on the bathroom floor too and we just looked at each other. I had already gotten used to the idea of being pregnant after just a few hours—it’s amazing how much the worry and uncertainty fade when you’ve spent time imagining all the wonderful things about having a sweet baby. I was a little concerned about his apparent ratio of panic to excitement, but I didn’t blame him. He assured me he was actually happy. I believed him.

 

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1) 2-3ish weeks. Didn't plan to share this but it's one of few photos I have of myself with that little life still in me.

2) Luke wanted me to take a second test before we told my mom the news.

3) A day after we found out I was pregnant. Minds blown.

joyride

this evening, a few minutes before 5pm (closing time for my local post office), i jumped on the scooter to rush one final piece of mail to the drop off, as i often do. i didn’t even have time to put my coat on, but was surprised to find the air warm enough that I was still comfortable, even in my sleeveless shirt, even with the wind whipping against my skin as i buzzed down the hills of point loma. every single light was green, and what could be a 10 minute drive took me about 4, but i won’t pretend i didn’t push the speed limits too. i pulled up right in front of the door and kicked the stand into place, taking off my helmet before heading inside. it’s typically in a panic that i approach the door of the post office, half expecting to find it already locked, but today there were still a couple people being helped. after seriously hustling to complete today’s mailing, prepare the label and speed down to send it on its way, it struck me as funny to coolly set the package down on the counter and walk out as if i’d been that calm and collected all along.

walking back outside, the weather was so pleasant that i decided to do a little joy riding. point loma is amazing in that it’s a peninsula, which at its highest point is 422ft above sea level, but the streets wind down to the pacific ocean on one side and the San Diego bay on the other. so if you live on one side of the peninsula you could have an amazing bay view with downtown San Diego beyond it and some really impressive mountain ranges beyond that, and if you live on the other side of the peninsula you could have an ocean view. win/win. except if you live somewhere in the middle and only have a view of your neighbors (raising my hand). oh well. from our balcony we can see the teeniest sliver of the ocean, a little under two miles away, so i still count that as a win.

on my joyride i actually felt incredibly joyful (imagine that!) as i tried to find which street had the best city/bay view. i found a pretty good overlook at the corner of hugo and plum. i wished i had my phone for a panorama. you could see mission hills and the entire bay, city, coronado island and even down almost to the point of point loma. so good. i kept going and inexplicably i was singing “i’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts” at the top of my lungs. i decided to head to sunset cliffs. i crossed the 10 or so blocks to the other side of the peninsula and when the ocean came into view, i thought about how very lucky we are to live here. seriously, why don’t i enjoy it more? i don’t know how much longer we’re going to be here. i doubt we will live here forever. i need to get out of my house and away from my computer and get into the sun, warmth and sea as much as possible from now on. i drove down to froude street and starting noting some discoveries i was making: first, that there are some streets i haven't heard of yet in point loma. no! why is that? i should be walking them or running them or scooting them every day. i need to explore these streets. second, there are homes down by sunset cliffs that have ocean views to the west AND south based on the nature of the peninsula. that is just unfair, but really cool none the less. third, it smells like flowers everywhere right now. the air is just insane. spring has full on sprung and the roses are killing me the most.

i parked on the street right by the cliffs and walked to the edge. it was just the perfect evening. i watched the surfers catch some really good sets and i wished i could do what they do. i find it incredibly relaxing to watch them, but i know they’re working hard. on the secret beach below, three people laid in the sun with their dog. sun, waves, surfers, sunbathers and a dog. i had a revelation right then and there. we need to move into a studio on the beach and finally get our doggie. live the real beach life for awhile. i’ve already run it by luke and he agrees. so i’ll keep y’all posted.

a post about nothing and something

Last Thursday Luke set off for Vegas to do some recruiting and I made my weekend list. Now, I love my husband more than anything on earth and I absolutely adore spending time with him. When he leaves for a recruiting trip, I get sad. But then after I’m on my own for a little while, a couple things happen...

First, I get uber-productive. I make lists, I accomplish tasks, I clean the house, I tackle things that I’ve been putting off. It’s AWESOME. A less awesome thing that happens is that I revert back to being in some kind of weird bachelorette mode: I stay up too late watching bad television, I sleep in, I don’t cook a darn thing. Tonight I had chips and salsa and wine for dinner, although I must say it was delicious homemade salsa with avocado, mango, kiwi, tomato, cilantro, salt, pepper, garlic & lime. TRY IT. My new basil plant lost a leaf in transit so I chopped that up and tossed it in to boot. Why not?

Earlier in the evening, since the apartment was empty, I had all the time in the world to let my jog linger on and on. I haven’t done much running lately, but I ran 2 miles down to the beach just as the sun went down. The thing about sunsets here is that they, too, linger on and on. Long past the time the sun sinks below the horizon, the sky is alight, shifting from pinky peach to burnt orange to dark blue. I love sunsets, the way they slowly change. You think they’re good, but then they get better; right up until the last tiny bit of light fades from the sky, they are beautiful. Good ’til the last drop. I walked down to the water and watched for awhile. I sat on the sand and listened to the waves. There’s something about being right there on the edge of the land, imagining how far and long and wide the water stretches out before you. Because I’ve learned that sometimes a simple change in perspective makes everything come alive, I turned my head sideways. I noticed the clouds, illuminate, small and scattered at random across the sky. I studied the way the colors of the sunset faded from one to the next—a perfect gradient. Then I sang a couple songs to myself. I thought about joining a choir again.

After awhile I got up and started jogging again, only because I wanted to speed up the next leg of my journey to a local co-op market. The best. I knew that the moment I walked in those doors, life would slow down once again. It would be nearly as peaceful as the crashing of the waves—strolling the aisles, basket in hand, taking in the bounty of fruit and vegetables and plants—I wasn’t expecting the baby plants!—and all kinds of other wonderful products. I was there for a few simple ingredients for the salsa, but as I said, the baby plants seduced me and before I knew it I had basil and heirloom tomatoes and three packets of seeds in hand. How could I not, when the beet packet boasted of greens in 20 days, beets in 40?

When all was said and done, my bill came to $23.13. I walked out of the store with my brown paper bag and marveled at the incredible resources I have access to. How thankful and blessed I am to be able to afford $23.13 for a few items at the market. I have to say, these days Luke and I have less than we’re used to in the way of finances. I’m trying to run my own business as my primary means of income, and that’s shaky ground to tread on. It means that we’ve gone without some of the things we’ve enjoyed regularly in the past: meals out, an overabundance of groceries, the occasional clothes shopping trip or home decoration item. But what I’ve found is that the money equation is really quite simple: you make more, you spend more. Making a lot of money is great, and I would never fault anyone for it. It's the natural thing to want to do and pursue. But the flip side of the equation is also simple: you make less, you spend less. Right now we’re in a season of making less. There are things for our apartment that I’d like to have. In fact, I’d like to not have an apartment at all—I’d prefer a beach cottage or bungalow. But these days we are going without the bigger place, the weekly restaurant jaunts, the $12 movie tickets, the nicer car, the newer clothes…and I am none the wiser, folks. I’m actually more aware of every blessing I have. I’m more thankful for every want and need fulfilled. And I am keenly aware of God’s provision in our lives, which never ceases to blow me away. These days our emptier bank account really seems to go further. Our goal is not to have money in excess, but to be generous with what we do have.

Anyway, by the time I was walking home from the co-op, it was dark out, but I felt completely safe. The air was cool but I was comfortable. As I considered my blessings, I thought about how lucky I am to live here. This thought comes to mind all the time. Daily my eyeballs are bombarded with beauty: the constant sunshine, the sparkly marinas, the pretty boats, the bursting florals, the breathtaking landscapes, the waves crashing on cliffs, the soaring palm trees, the masterpiece sunsets. It’s an amazing place and I wish you could all be here with me. I won’t pretend it’s all easy—it’s very hard sometimes, of course. The toughest part is being 3000 miles away from most of my family. But overall I can’t express how grateful I am for this place in our lives. It’s a sweet time for sure.

Luke said something about me that gave me a lot of joy and pride awhile back. At our community group we were asked what each other's life motto would be if we could assign one to our husband/wife. Luke stole mine from North Face: “Never Stop Exploring”, and I loved that. What an amazing life motto to have. Never stop exploring the beauty of this world. Never stop exploring how much you can love others. Never stop exploring the depths of Christ’s love for you. Never stop exploring how far you need to step out of your comfort zone to find real excitement and fulfillment. Never stop exploring how much you can give and be amazed at what is provided. Never stop exploring the endless things you have to offer. I never knew it was my life motto, but I’m glad Luke revealed it because now it’s time to live it more. 

I don’t have an ending for this blog post and it’s already incredibly long and choppy, so I’ll end with a story from the other night. I was walking in the Target parking lot and a homeless guy asked me for money. Whenever I get asked for money, I give it, as long as I have cash. Everyone approaches this type of thing differently but I always think of something our old pastor offered on the issue of giving money to beggars: “People say you shouldn’t give cash because ‘They might use it to buy beer.’ Yeah? Well, YOU might use it to buy beer!” Touche, Pastor Frank. That I probably would. So I gave him a dollar and he thanked me, and then he spouted off this long monologue that made absolutely no sense. He said he was going to get some money soon because he was the King and people owed him tax money. He said some other nonsense and then abruptly ended with “Well, thanks again! Love you.” And he reached out for a fist bump. There was a crazy innocence in the way he said it. I think it was because he was strung out, but still, it really struck me. I fist bumped him back and said “Love you too” and went into the store. He was gone by the time I came back outside.

brokenness

some days more than others i am just reminded of how incredibly BROKEN our world is. someone's beautiful blonde precious daughter underwent her THIRD open heart surgery…as a three year old. and now they wait in recovery…wait through complications…wait through uncertainty. someone else waits and wades through uncertainty for a baby boy birthed by someone else, though they have already fallen in love with him as if they can recall the very moment they conceived him, but they didn't conceive him because they can't conceive. they applied to adopt him and now they don't know whether or not they will ever get to open their arms to his perfect tiny warm body because the birth father may not consent to his release. jesus. a friend recently lost his mother to a battle with cancer. another friend recently lost her father to a battle with cancer. another friend bravely faces each and every day with a father who is battling cancer. jesus. help us. this world is so so broken! this is not what you intended!

my own problems and grievances feel so massive these days. my family is broken. my parents are getting a divorce. my thoughts and feelings whirl around in the salad spinner of my mind and i dream dreams that confuse me and i toss and turn at night and cry and feel fear and sadness and grief for what has been lost, and what has never been at all. i curl myself up on the floor of the shower and all i can utter is "help God help God help" and it's my prayer for the entire world.

but there is hope amid the brokenness. two friends are getting engaged today…maybe as i type this. tonight i will go to a celebration to see her blue eyes glow and her diamond ring sparkle. in a world full of broken families and broken hearts, the two of them get this brand new chance to stand against all the hopelessness that sickens and pollutes our world and CREATE a destiny together, a family together, a story together and i know it will be a good one. God has not deserted us, i believe he weeps with us in the hardest of times. dances with us in the best of times. and this is what we MUST do for each other. life is too impossibly CRAZY difficult not to hold each other and cry together and lift each other up physically or figuratively in prayer. and life is too incomprehensibly beautiful not to laugh and sing and share joy with one another. friends. we belong to this incredible body of believers…for a reason.

PLEASE let me know if there is any way i can help, pray for, encourage or celebrate you. 

 

just popping in to say...

Life is crazy. Not in the "I'm-soooo-busy" way, although there's always that. What I mean is that life is a crazy ride, and when lived in obedience to God it will NEVER be boring. God's prompting via books I've been reading (1, 2 and 3), messages at church, and the voices of those who love me have caused me to realize that I need to step out in faith knowing that God is calling me to something deeper with Him. I honestly don't even know what that means or what it entails. Those are just the words echoing in my mind for the past 3 or so months. So when I feel that I'm being called to something deeper, and then receive opportunities to act on that calling, I want to say "yes" without hesitation.

afc half marathon

Running a half marathon was never on my bucket list. I've never really even considered myself a runner, per se, since my routes don't typically exceed 2-3 miles. I simply never pushed myself beyond that distance--maybe because deep down I didn't really believe I could do it. Now I know it's not that I couldn't run long distances, it's that I wanted to avoid the discomfort of running long distances. I also now know running is never without discomfort. It doesn't matter if it's a 15 minute run or a two hour run, at some point you will probably want to stop. But when you don't stop, you will feel like a champion. 

Shortly after moving to San Diego, I decided to train for this race, mostly so I would have something to do. Running helped get me out of the house after work each day and into the wonderful sun. Every time I achieved a new high distance, it felt like a miracle. "Did I really just run 6 miles? 7 miles? Seriously, 12 miles?!?" It definitely wasn't without pain, and I let my training go for a couple weeks and worried myself towards the end, but I had committed to running 13.1 on August 18th. So, just a week before it sold out, I finally registered to run America's Finest City Half Marathon along with 8,000 other runners!  

 Runners getting ready to begin.

Runners getting ready to begin.

Although the race consumed most of my thoughts on Friday and Saturday, by that time I wasn't nervous. I've been training since April!  I felt ready and even excited to finally do it. I read articles online about what to do and what to eat the days leading up to a race. Hydrating was a no brainer, but I found good information like this about eating lots of carbohydrates so my muscles would store up extra glycogen as an energy source during the race (this is obvious to many of you athletes, but it was all new to me). Then I enjoyed every second of getting to eat extra bread, muffins, pancakes and pasta starting two days before my race (okay, maybe I took proper carbo-loading a TINY bit too far). On Saturday I went for a 15 minute run that felt like 45. It didn't do a lot to boost my confidence, but still I held out hope that I could conquer my race the next day.

On Sunday I woke up at 4am to eat breakfast: dry granola, a cup of blueberries and lots of water (I took two mini LARA bars for later on). I put on my running clothes and made sure my hair was in a bun that wouldn't fall out while running (the worst). I have a tiny pocket in my running shorts where I kept a small bag of sport beans, which I was told help give you energy during a race. I also put two dollars in my pocket in case I needed to buy a water bottle before the race. It felt cool to pin on my bib and attach a cool contraption onto my shoe that would keep my official race time.

 So overcast. Perfect running weather!

So overcast. Perfect running weather!

One of my favorite parts of the experience was, interestingly, the playing of the national anthem just before the race began. It still surprises me to feel the sense of reverence as hats are removed and hands are placed over hearts in a huge crowd like that as our country's anthem plays. We were at a national monument site that sits basically on a military base, so I was feeling very patriotic and truly grateful for the opportunity to do what I was about to do. After that, we all lined up for the start. I heard the gun go off, and slowly people began walking, then trotting, then we all settled into our individual paces.

To be honest, the race as a whole is kind of a blur in my memory. I don't wear headphones while I run and often my mind wanders, but I don't remember a single thing except for little moments and decisions I was making throughout. The first 4 miles were basically all downhill so I had to be very intentional about running at a pace that felt natural and not faster than normal. I was feeling really good. Then, at mile 4, I realized I was going to have to stop at the next port-o-potty. Stupid! I had drank a final cup of water about an hour before the start, and looking back, I really should have skipped it. Now I was uncomfortable and knew I couldn't run 9 more miles feeling like I had to pee! So I made a quick stop and was back at it in no time (feeling much better). :)

I started looking for Luke around mile 7.5 since he had given me a general idea of where he would wait to see me mid-race. I was still feeling strong at this point, and I decided to get my first drink of water at an aid station. At about mile 8, I began to have some pain in my right knee. This knee has given me trouble for awhile now and is the reason I took a little time off from my training program, but I thought that rest and foam rolling had really helped it, so the amount of pain I was suddenly in really took me off guard. I decided to eat my sport beans to take my mind off of it. When I retrieved them from my pocket, my two dollars fell out! Looking back, I feel like I was a little delirious at this point because it seemed totally not worth it to stop and pick up my two dollars, so I let them fall to the ground and kept running! What?! So, two dollars in the hole, I ate a few sport beans and tried to focus on the sight of Luke from the side cheering me on. Finally I spotted him at mile 9, and I was in so much pain I was almost limping. My pace had drastically slowed down--from 8:36 in mile 5 to to 9:47 in mile 9. I ran over to Luke and asked him to pray for me because I didn't know if I could finish. He did. He cheered as I ran off again, and I really think he prayed and cheered me right to the finish line. After that, there are stretches of the route that I honestly have zero recollection of. I was focused so hard on getting to the end. I yelled out "YES!" when my RunKeeper app talked to me to say I'd run 10 miles. Only 3 to go. 

By now we had run from the tip of Point Loma (a peninsula) all the way into downtown San Diego. At mile 11, the course began a steady uphill that would continue nearly to the end. SO. CRUEL. I had to keep reminding myself that I was fine, I could still go faster, I could push myself harder. When someone would pass me, I tried to match their pace for as long as I could. The crowd support was unbelievable--spectators lined the sides of the road holding signs and yelling encouragement. At mile 12, I was saying weird things out loud to myself. I tried to share my excitement with the girl next to me when I exceeded my longest distance ever. She didn't seem impressed. Oh well. I had to do everything possible to keep going! It felt like we climbed that hill FOREVER. My body was so tired.

Finally, the road leveled out and someone yelled to us "The finish is right around the corner! For real this time." He was right, people had been telling us that for the last mile! Not helpful. We entered the final stretch and I scanned the crowd for Luke. I spotted him along with our friends Emilee, Kyle, Olivia and Cathi.  They were cheering like crazy and I especially remember Cathi jumping up and down with the hugest smile on her face! I ran across the finish line with a final time of 2:03:22.  

 At the finish!

At the finish!

I know you've heard this a million times before, but if you think you can't run a half marathon, YOU CAN. Your mind is your only obstacle. When I started training, I couldn't wrap my brain around the possibility of running 13.1 miles. I honestly don't even really enjoy running! But it's incredible to set a goal and watch yourself achieve it--just give yourself lots of time and patience, and don't give up. I was lucky to have a lot of support from family and friends, too. Thanks especially to this awesome crew (& Cathi who took the pic) for being there for me at the end of the race! 

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current living space

Hello! It's been awhile! We've been settling into our day-to-day routine here in San Diego. We've met some kind people, been attending a church downtown, spent a fair share of time eating fish tacos. I'm training for a half marathon! We are learning to trust God more and more every day. And, of course, we've had more than a couple beach days. :)

Today I cleaned our apartment because our landlord asked to show a couple people the floor plan, and then later I thought to snap a few photos so we remember where we spent our first several months in San Diego. We're looking for a new place to live with 2 bedrooms--however, if we don't find anything affordable, we might stay in this current tiny place! It's month-to-month until August so we have a bit of time to decide. 

Enjoy a few snapshots. There's not much to see! We sold or donated most of our possessions and I'm enjoying this massive simplification of our belongings. Turns out we really don't need much to live at all. 

 

 

Here's one of the two of us from last night after a mini-date of craft beers from a cool place down the street. Oh yeah, did I mention that THE BEST taco shop, bagel shop, donut shop and happy hour joint are within walking distance of us? We're in trouble!

 

easter sunday

 

 

Our God is so faithful to provide for all of our needs. Last Sunday we planned to visit 2 different churches...but ended up not even making it into the service at the first church because I started to cry. It had been a hard week (2 weeks ago) and I was sad, lonely, and feeling like we didn't belong anywhere. This particular church didn't have its own parking lot so we parked several streets down and began walking, coincidentally alongside another member of the congregation. Maybe this middle-aged woman was shy, or maybe she was having a bad day herself, but she made no effort whatsoever to engage with us in conversation or even ask our names. It was an awkward, silent walk to the church a few blocks down. I was in a weak, self-pitying state and just before we entered the church doors a thought came into my mind that caused me to utterly break down.

"We don't belong here."

I couldn't control my tears and we had to walk away. I cried because of all the things I was deeply missing--mostly, at that moment, our sense of belonging. We had a place in Nyack among our friends, in our work, and especially in our church, and I was grieving the loss of that. I felt sorry for myself for the hours I had spent alone that week and the many uncomfortable situations I'd been in, fully aware of the fact that I just didn't quite fit in.

But I know that our God is good! In him I have the power over those debilitating thoughts (lies) telling me I have no place. As a child of God I belong to his family, and in him I find comfort just like a little girl finding comfort in the arms of her mom or dad. I can trust that his plan for my life is good and that no matter where I find myself (even on the opposite side of the country from my family and friends!) God is with me and will not leave me alone. After that very difficult morning, we went on to the second church and were received by some of the most warm and welcoming people. I believe that God was teaching me to find my place, my fulfilment and my sense of belonging in him.

What a different experience I had this past week. Holy week and the celebration of Easter are all about what Jesus did for us so that there would be NO MORE SEPARATION between us and the Father. This intimate relationship I have with God--one in which I find all of my hope and peace and belonging--exists only because Jesus died on the cross. I am so thankful for that sacrifice!!

So we had a wonderful Easter day. Like all wonderful days, it began with pancakes and bacon. We went back to the warm and welcoming church, came home to make salsa and watch basketball, and then spent the rest of our day feeling like adopted family members at the Easter gathering of some of our good friends' relatives who happen to live in San Diego. Luke and I are blessed and thankful. Thank you so much for your prayers for us!

 

 

hello california!

 

 

We're here! Just over a week has flown by since our Subaru first rolled into San Diego. It has been a really good week of exploring, settling in and enjoying the sunshine.

San Diego is beautiful. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by such brilliant scenes as the blue skies and seas that make Point Loma so beautiful. In the mornings, Luke and I have been going for walks around our new area, and the other day we grabbed coffee and then found ourselves down by the Point Loma marina. We passed a lot of dogs and their owners and we got jealous (we really really want a dog). It was sunny and lovely.

 

 

I feel a little foolish and even mad at myself for all the energy I spent stressing and feeling fearful of our move. I was doing all that worrying when I could have been getting excited! Yes, I miss my family and friends terribly and I wish that we could all live close together, but this is something pretty cool that Luke and I are getting to do for a couple years. I should have trusted that God was going to take care of my heart and let go of all the worry from the beginning. Because here we are in California, and I'm not sad or lonely or hating life here or any of those things I was fearful of before we arrived! Thank you, anyone who has been praying for me!!

One thing we have definitely been enjoying is the local fare. There are "taco shops" all over the place, and we were tipped off that Ortiz' is one of the best places to get a burrito--luckily (or unluckily, depending on how you look at it) for us, it's just around the corner from our apartment! Apparently, the "california" is a popular burrito variety here and it is a burrito with FRENCH FRIES on it. How have I never heard of this before? When the guy in the shop said "french fries", I had him repeat himself because I didn't think I was hearing him right! Needless to say, it was amazing. 

 

 

Luke has been absolutely loving his new job. I am so happy that he is doing what he loves. I'm also incredibly proud of him for doing something that few people actually do--realize your passion, pursue it wholeheartedly, work hard to earn knowledge & qualifications, and then enjoy doing it every day! He is an amazing coach and I know he'll come out of our time here even better. 

I have been getting back into my work routine too--workdays last week found me at many different coffee shops as we waited for our internet to get set up at home. Now that we're all set up (after countless hours on the phone with service providers), I'm spending way too much time scouring Craigslist for a desk and shelving and other workspace items so that I can get my little home office corner set up! Paperfinger: San Diego Edition is underway! 

Oh! Lastly: we had a GREAT drive out here. I took thousands of pictures and I will post here once I've gotten a chance to go through & compile them. For now, enjoy this amazing Pacific coast sunset I watched last week! 

 

 

breathing the breath

Moving to San Diego scares me. It's hard to write about because I'm usually jumping at the opportunity to go somewhere new. New places excite me, and I've never been one to stay put for long. But this feels different. Is it because I'm getting older? Is it because it's SO VERY far away? Maybe because San Diego feels like a different world? Expansive, bare, brown. I grew up in lush woods, tree canopies, rolling hills.

I have never been against the decision we made to move there. I know in my heart that it's the right decision. I'm so proud of Luke for pursuing his coaching career and I know he has never once put that above what's best for our relationship. Together we prayed and struggled with the decision of what to do next with our life, and this is where God led us. I'm not about to doubt that it is right, but it is so hard.

I'm going to miss being close to my entire family and my sweet little nieces. Every single member of my immediate family lives in my hometown. We've been able to visit them for a weekend anytime we wanted. Now what will it entail? Saving for months and a cross country flight. My nieces will get bigger without seeing me for long stretches of time. It hurts my heart to think of all the little phases of their ages I will miss.

I'm going to miss our friends here in Nyack. I remember when we first moved here, how lonely I was, and then how we gradually became part of a wonderful community. Friends who host breakfast every single Saturday. Friends who checked in on me and invited me for dinner when Luke had to go away for a month. Friends who play music together, make food together, drink together, laugh and cry together, go camping together, play games together, throw parties together.

Friends who go to church together. Here in Nyack we are a part of the most wonderful little church we've ever been to. I have cried in church every Sunday since we made the decision to move because it hurts to know we can't be a part of such a beautiful community anymore. In the past, church has hurt and damaged my heart at times. Now at SaviorCC we are refreshed and inspired every week and throughout the week by teaching and fellowship with people who don't pretend to have it all together and who love Luke and I for who we are. God's love is represented well there.

I don't want to be afraid anymore. I am comfortable here and surrounded by love and friends and community, but we're leaving and we have to find new friends, a new community, a new church and a new life. I want to be filled with excitement. I want to focus on the wonderful things about our new city and surroundings. I want to kick fear out for good so that I can be filled with God's peace and know that he would never steer me wrong. This morning Matt Redman's song "Breathing the Breath" came on as I was washing dishes and I thought, that is my job. That's all I have to do. I'm merely breathing the breath that God gave me to breathe, and he will take care of the rest. My life is an act of worship no matter where I am. I don't have to be afraid.

"From him and through him and to him are ALL THINGS. To him be the glory forever, amen." Romans 11:36

 

merry christmas

 

 

Merry Christmas to all of the wonderful people God has placed in our life!

The season for us so far has been busy and a bit stressful as we try to determine what's next for us in 2013, but we have been meditating on the fact that we have JOY because God decided not to remain distant from us, but instead he sent his Son--our hope, our light, our Savior--to live among us. The words echoing in my mind all this Christmas have been "Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel has come!"

I am so thankful that Jesus entered the world ultimately to save it for our joy and His glory. We wish you all the hope and gladness offered by our Lord and this wonderful season.

 

Luke and I recorded a Christmas song to share with our families this year and decided to post it here. Please forgive the poor quality and focus on the love with which it was recorded. :) We love you!

 

 

can't buy me love

I know for a fact that money doesn't buy happiness. Because tonight, in an ongoing attempt to save save save, Luke and I had the cheapest date night ever: dinner at IKEA for $10 and then shopping with a $15 price limit. And we had more fun than anyone who went on the fancy-pancy-shmanciest date ever. 

 

I spent $10 for a really great pair of winter socks. He spent $3.50 for a pocket tee. 

 

Sharing Joys and Burdens, Part 2: The Bicycle Deliveryman

Dan and Alaina paid us a visit recently. I love visits to our New York home. I love taking friends and family into the city and playing the part of the guide. On this particular night it was just chilly enough for a light coat, and Luke was at the wheel trying to find a parking spot. After the usual 30+ minutes, he and I had, impressively (to us), kept our cool AND found a spot we were 95% sure was legal (I think Dan and Alaina were impressed, too). Good start to the night.

We began the walk to one of our favorite dinner spots and we were feeling the good city vibes. The buzz of action was all around us and we took in the people and the sights. I felt like I was showing off the great city of New York, in which I wasn't born, but have been a frequent visitor this past year; in which I still feel like an outsider, but have become somewhat comfortable; in which I've gotten lost many times, but know my way around fairly well now, for a non-native.

We walked along with countless others, paying little attention to anyone until we approached a busy intersection along with two other girls who were acting a little odd, a little jittery. They were dressed in black, one taller and one shorter, the shorter wore spiky boots and cropped hair. The taller called out to her as she began to walk straight out into oncoming traffic, ignoring the don't walk sign. "No, wait! Don't do that!" but the shorter one was already in the street. We heard shouts and horns as she was struck by a bicycle deliveryman who then nearly fell into the path of a speeding yellow taxi. It was one of those things you never want to see, so you just wait, cringing, not knowing what will happen next. Somehow both individuals managed to stay on their feet and avoid contact with moving vehicles, but as she came stumbling back towards her friend on the curb, she was laughing. LAUGHING, while the deliveryman stood with his bike off to the side, traumatized, surely having just seen his life flash before his eyes. It was a terrifying series of events, but what followed was even more shocking.

I recently read a New York Times article about NYC food deliverymen on bicycles, just like this man was. Every day is dangerous for them. I read that many receive a base pay of about $30 a day, plus tips, but could be ticketed at any time for riding electric bikes which are banned in New York (but are by far the best means of working efficiently). I read that they work 10+ hours a day, 6 days a week, and that every night wealthy New Yorkers in fancy Park Avenue flats receive takeout deliveries from them and tip minimally. I recalled all these things as I watched what unfolded next.

At the intersection, the walk signal finally flashed and everyone began to cross, relieved it was over and all parties were okay. The girl who stepped out into oncoming traffic turned suddenly toward the deliveryman, who hadn't moved, and kicked his bike with her spiky black heel. She yelled obscenities at him and, in a final fit of rage, she threw her drink on him. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. It was all I could do to sputter "What are you doing?!" as she stormed away.

I looked at the man on the bike. I saw the liquid covering him and the bewildered look on his face. "That was not your fault," I said. A man behind me told him "We all saw it! She walked out right in front of you!" I was so angry. We kept walking and found ourselves just behind her and her friend for the next three blocks. She was laughing again, and I was imagining all the different ways I could potentially hurt her. Luke knew; he said "Margaret, she's messed up. She's on something." You could tell by the way they were walking. I heard the taller one say "That was the most hilarious thing I've ever seen in my life." All I could think about was the deliveryman and the drink soaking his coat. She had no reason to throw her drink on him. My heart was heavy with the scene: the man, the article, the drink, and this girl who was perhaps drunk or on drugs and had just come close to killing him. 

I couldn't stop thinking about the man on the bike for a long time. I replayed the events and pined over whether or not I should have said or done anything more. The opportunity has passed, but maybe I did all I could humanly do at the time: to share his burden. And maybe, just maybe those who are burdened need only for someone to come along and carry part of the weight.

 

more:

Beautiful blog post about bearing one another's burdens.

The Bible talks about sharing each other's burdens, too.

 

Sharing Joys and Burdens, Part 1: Song from Beijing

Yesterday should have been a relaxing Sunday, the kind meant for napping, but I was restless. Too often the effects of working from home catch up with me and I feel like I just need to GET OUT, so Luke and I went for a walk. We made our way down winding Lowland Road and over the expressway to downtown Nyack where we knew a fall festival had been taking place. The festival was over by the time we arrived, so we found an empty park bench overlooking the Hudson river and continued what had turned into a somewhat involved conversation about our future.

My body was turned toward Luke as we sat, and in the middle of our conversation I saw him look past me for a split second with confusion on his face. A very pregnant Asian woman had sat down next to me--I mean RIGHT next to me--on the park bench. I felt a little invaded, a little irked, and immediately I attributed her actions to her internationality. Luke and I tapered off our conversation and as much I wanted to get up and leave then, I looked at the woman and said "Hello." In all honesty, I didn't even know if she spoke English. But she said hi back and apologized if she had interrupted our conversation, she was just so tired. I noticed how beautiful she was. Cropped black hair that fell in short waves around her roundish Chinese face, bright white teeth, very stylish sunglasses and a camel poncho that tied just above her big belly. She was a real estate broker in Manhattan, but she had only moved from Beijing in 2009. I asked a few more questions about what brought her to Nyack that day until the conversation inevitably went to the pregnancy of her first child.

"When are you due?"

"November the 6th."

"Do you know what you're having?"

"A baby girl."

I'm not sure why, but at the mention of her baby girl, tears came to my eyes. I was filled with joy for this complete stranger. We continued our conversation for a little while until Luke asked if they had a name picked out. She smiled, hesitated, and then said "You will be the first ones I've told." We all started laughing at the craziness of it: Luke and I, having no connection to this woman whatsoever, knowing the name of this precious baby even before the grandparents?! We felt honored and promised not to tell anyone she knows.

We parted ways soon after that, but I was very touched by our meeting. I was ultimately glad she sat down on our park bench in a stroke of very un-New-York-like behavior. I was also glad I didn't get up like I wanted to and walk away without a word. It was a good reminder that in a society where anonymity and keeping to ourselves is the cultural norm, that's not what we we were made for. We were made to connect with one another, to share the joys and burdens even of strangers on a very personal level. Getting up from that park bench would have been to miss a great opportunity to live out what I am created for.

So for little Cleo Song who will be out in the world in less than a month, I pray God's grace and blessings. Her middle name is after her mama, who I was glad to know for a very short time on an early fall afternoon. 

 

I'll be back this week with part two about a burden shared with a New York City bicycle deliveryman.

 

two years

Today is our official two year anniversary, but we celebrated on Sunday with a day trip to the Catskills. We had so much fun hiking, exploring little mountain towns, taking in the GORGEOUSNESS of upstate NY fall, enjoying some good eats and trying to wrap our minds around the fact that we've already been married for two years!

We left home early Sunday morning and had to make it a whole HOUR to New Paltz before we had our coffee. It was tough, but we managed. ;) It was worth it too--The Bakery in New Paltz was sooo yummy. We had egg sandwiches, obviously (you know my love for egg sandwiches!) and took a big pumpkin chocolate chip cookie to go.

 

   

 

From there we drove another hour north to hike to Kaaterskill Falls, the highest falls in New York. Even higher than Niagara top to bottom!

 

  

    

 

Kaaterskill was so beautiful. After trekking around at the base, we ended up driving to the top since the trail from base to top is now closed because it's so dangerous. At the top, we took in some of the most unbelievable views of the Catskills and the changing colors. There were hundreds of names and dates etched into the rocks, some dating back to the early 1800s!

 

   

 

We did a bit more hiking at a nearby park and campground, and then continued to Hunter Mountain, a ski slope, where we went SKYRIDIN'. 

 The skyride was just a ski lift they were running to the top of the highest mountain, but we enjoyed incorporating the term into as many conversations as possible. It was beautiful actually, a really cool way to see the Catskills. I love how a simple change in perspective can really wow you. We took a nerdy video which I will share.

 

 

 

At the end of the video I say "I'm not going to drop it" because he was nervous the whole time that I was going to drop my phone off the lift. Nervous Nelly! 

 

 

   

 

Hunter Mountain had Oktoberfest going on, so we walked around a bit before hitting the road again. We went to a little tavern that had over 300 beers. I've been wanting to try Wolaver's Pumpkin! SO YUMMY! and we got cheese fries. We walked around Hunter, Phoenecia, and then Woodstock where we saw an amazing drum circle and channeled good vibes from the 1969 festival. 

 

 

 

We stopped in New Paltz again on the way home for a Thai food dinner. It was a perfect way to spend the day with the man I love. 

 . . . . 

Guys, TWO YEARS. It feels like we've been married forever, but at the same time it's gone by so fast. I am the luckiest girl in the world to call Luke my husband. Never have I known a man so faithful, loving, encouraging and respectable. I could go on and on about his good traits, but the one I am most thankful for is his ability to love me so well. 

It is difficult to put into words the love I have for Luke. Growing up, I was that girl who ALWAYS had a boyfriend. I dated from roughly ages 13-21 until the final breakup of my life as a sophomore in college. I knew of Luke then--he was the cute Southern transfer student who played on the soccer team and had recently started hanging out with my friends--but I did not anticipate what would happen between us. The last thing I expected was to get into another relationship, let alone the one that would last. You just never know what life has in store. God is so good and kind. He knew Luke had just what I needed. Of course we have our difficulties sometimes (sometimes often), but we are incredibly blessed with a beautiful, happy marriage and life together. And I have never been so proud of him as I am now! He works so hard every day to complete his graduate work and to be the very best he can be for Nyack College. The way his players respect and respond to him has shown me worlds about his character. I'm so so so excited to see where his coaching career will take us down the road.

Thank you so much to everyone who has loved us and prayed for us these past two years (and prior). Thank you for being part of our relationship and support system. I ask you to continue to support us in prayer these next several months as we determine the next steps of our journey. It's always a bit intimidating when the future is unknown, but God is so faithful and he has provided all that we've ever needed and I know he will continue to do so!

We really really love you all! 

 

the unknown

 

I woke up wanting granola, so I made some. It's nice to be able to cook something up in my own kitchen after a summer of not being able to make our own food. It's a pleasant morning. I took some time to admire our tiny balcony garden and thought about what a nice weekend we had with friends and family. So many people asked us what we're doing next, since Luke is finished with his grad school and commitment with the soccer team in December, and we kept saying we don't know, we can't know yet--we like Nyack but we could go anywhere, Luke will be keeping his eye out for anything that opens up, but it's a saturated field, we love our friends and church here and I love my job so there are many reasons to stay, but no, we have no idea where we'll settle down.

The other day Luke voiced a question, what if we stayed here? I like Nyack, he said. I do too, I said, but inside I was frightened at the thought of STAYING somewhere.

I grew up in rural Pennsylvania, moved to even more rural western New York for college, spent summers in Savannah and Charlotte, moved to Rochester after graduation, when we got married we relocated to South Carolina and then came up to Nyack last fall, with a recent stint in West Virginia. And I love it. I think I'm nomadic by nature. I get restless, antsy, anticipant, always wondering what adventure is next. I worry that I'll never want to settle down anywhere.

So what is next for us? 

 

 

 I guess we'll find out in December.

 

pura vida, pt I

Many of you know I was in Costa Rica for 10 days last month, but you probably don't know why! It was a semi-sporadic decision I made, and it began when I met Maria at church. Maria is a great friend and currently the program director of Birchcreek, a weight loss retreat in Costa Rica. In one of our first conversations, she told me all about what they do and their focus on juice fasting and healthy living. I thought it sounded intriguing--exercise, juice fasting, and outdoor activities all taking place a resort in a gorgeous beach town in another country? Sign me up! When she mentioned that they took on interns, I was all about it.

So off I went. My ticket was cheap, my flight was direct, and my room/board was free. I was so excited to see another Central American country (Honduras being the first and only) and meet some really interesting people. Samara (in Guanacaste) is a popular surfing town and there are a TON of travelers there. Many go on vacation and never leave! I'm going to tell you more about Samara in my next post about Costa Rica, but for now I want to tell you more about the weight loss program itself.

 

First Samara sunset

Birchcreek Retreat basically gives people the opportunity to jump start themselves on a path of weight loss and healthy living. They participate in a juice fast of one to three weeks (sometimes longer!) while working with personal trainers for multiple hours a day doing cardio, strength training, yoga, pilates, etc. I took part in the juice fasting and exercise for four consecutive days, and I've never been that physically challenged in my life.

Juice fasting was a brand new experience for me. If you don't know what it is, I didn't either a few months ago, and I'm not claiming to know a lot about it now--but I'll tell you what I've learned. You need a juicer (we used a Champion), which extracts the juice from pretty much any fruit or vegetable, leaving behind a dry pulp (we discarded it, but some pulp can be reused for baked goods, etc.). We drank 8 oz. of juice for breakfast and 16 oz. for dinner using different concoctions approved by a team of doctors and nutritionists. The juices amounted to a daily intake of approximately 1200 calories, but the nutrients you receive from them are more than what you could ever get from eating a regular day's diet. Made from fresh, raw fruits and vegetables only, the juices are basically amazing for you. Your body gets to rest from breaking down and digesting all the solid foods (mostly crap) you are used to eating and has the chance to benefit from all the amazing things you're putting in from the fruits and veggies. Paired with the several hours of fitness and exercise a day, you are immediately launched into some extreme weight loss. Although that wasn't my goal in going to Costa Rica, I did really love the results--I felt amazing! The way I viewed it, juice fasting was purely to detoxify my body and give it a break from all the crap I eat.

The juices were incredibly delicious--especially the fresh, local pineapple! It was the best I've ever had! Some of my other favorites were: cantaloupe (love that flavor!), a pineapple/apple/cinnamon blend, and, oddly enough, a dinner drink called "salad" made from tomatoes, green pepper, celery and cilantro. I never was much of a V8 fan, but I guess when you're hungry enough, many things will unexpectedly taste amazing.

 

Salad juice! Mmm.

One of my favorites: Pink Lady. So pretty!

I'll be honest--I had a difficult time at first. Maria warned me that people typically get pretty emotional the first couple of days, and it happened to me too. I was hungry, I was missing Luke, the dirty dishes never stopped piling up. One afternoon I was stocking juices in the refrigerator when one toppled and, like dominoes, they all spilled out at once. I broke down and cried.

I also learned an important lesson from the difficulty I experienced at the beginning, and that was how IN LOVE with food I really am. Before my trip I never would have said that I'm addicted to food, but this reality hit me the second morning of juicing when I woke up hungry and extremely unhappy. My thoughts were so negative…I wanted to go home. As I made the breakfast juices, I was staring out the window at the gorgeous blue sky, palm trees and tropical flowers blooming brilliantly around the resort and I wondered how I could be so unhappy in such a beautiful environment. I asked myself "What would make me happy right now?" And my first thought was…breakfast. Sitting down to a big breakfast and a cup of coffee (at that point I'd been off of coffee for several days, too)--THAT was my happy thought! Scary. I'm hoping to control what I eat more now that I am aware of how easily I can make food my love.

But then by day four I had come "over the hump", and it was basically a breeze. My body felt amazingly cleansed and my hunger level decreased significantly. I slept great, I woke up feeling great, and my cravings were gone! If I was staying in CR longer, I would have absolutely kept the fast going. However, my time there was limited and I didn't want to miss out on the local fare, so I cut the fast a bit short in order to enjoy some restaurants my last couple of days.

The exercise was amazing too! What a perfect way to launch into summer--getting out and doing some walking, hiking, conditioning, yoga, pool cardio, you name it. I hope I can keep it up. I have such a hard time getting myself out for a workout sometimes, but when it becomes habitual nothing feels better. Like one of our clients said to me while I was there, "The only workout you'll ever regret is the one you didn't do." Wise words.

If all of the above sounds completely foreign to you, you might want to challenge yourself to take a few days to eat raw fruits/veggies only and up your exercise regimine. You may be shocked at how amazing you feel afterwards.

Here are some more photos. Enjoy!

 

 

The picture above is from one of the most amazing experiences I got to have on the trip. The terrified-looking woman clutching the rock is a Birchcreek client who was continuing her weight loss journey (I'll call her Jen). Three years ago she was over 350lbs! She decided that she wanted to go on an adventure tour while in Costa Rica which included horseback riding, whitewater tubing, rock climbing, and ziplining. Everything was going smoothly until it was time to do the zipline. I looked over at Jen and she was crying. She had never done anything like this before because her old life wouldn't allow it. I tried to be as encouraging as possible, and she faced her fear and completed the zipline. I was really happy for her, but little did we know we had about an hour or more left of extreme climbing, ziplining and rappelling. When we had to scale the rock wall in the picture, Jen looked at me like a deer in headlights and said "Margaret, I can't do this." I was also super nervous at the sight of the handles protruding out of the rock (one actually had some kind of glue seeping out. eeek!) but I just looked at her and told her she could do it and was going to do it. She was shaking profusely as she tried to hang on to the handles, but she made it! I screamed for her the whole way until she was on solid ground again. I was so so so proud of her. When it was all over, she could not believe what she had just accomplished. I can't imagine how awesome it must have felt to do something you NEVER could have done three years ago due to the restrictions on your lifestyle from your weight. She's living a brand new life now. So amazing!

 

wild and wonderful west virginia

I've arrived in West Virginia to spend the next month and a half with Luke! It was a whirlwind week. Last Wednesday morning at 1:15am, my two sweet friends Courtney and Tawnie drove me into the city to catch an overnight bus to DC (thank you girls!!).

Bye NYC! Times building at 1am

Four hours later, I arrived to Union Station to catch another bus to Christiansburg, VA, where Luke drove to meet me. This was my first time traveling a decent distance on a bus (10 hrs total), and I would definitely recommend Megabus. My entire journey cost $44 total, the bus was a double-decker with WiFi and outlets, and I didn't have a seat-mate for the second leg of my trip, so I was able to sleep easily.

When I met up with Luke at the final stop, my heart was completely giddy with excitement to see him. It had been over a month (the longest we've EVER been apart!) and I was so ready to share life with him again. My normal had become a daily life without him--and that's not exactly what I had in mind when I married him! I'm so thankful to be back together again. It's been completely blissful. He was so so sweet in how he prepared for me to arrive. He spent hours cleaning our little shanty (this is the name we've given to the place we're staying this summer) and he bought some new flowers and plants to brighten up our little porch. Don't know why I deserve such an amazing man, but I am sure thankful for him and the love we share! I don't want to be apart for a month ever again!

 

 

After a yummy dinner at Cabo Fish Taco (a Charlotte favorite we found in Christiansburg!) we stocked up on some necessities that I couldn't fit in my luggage (towels, dishware, etc.) and headed back to WV where I met a number of Luke's soccer players. So far I have been super impressed with this group of (mostly college-age) guys. They are such nice guys. I got to go to my first Warriors game on Friday! In true West Virginia fashion, we enjoyed a little pre-game and post-game entertainment from a bluegrass quartet. Awesome.

 

 

The Warriors worked incredibly hard to earn their first win of the season. I was SO glad to be there to see it. Fireworks and bluegrass were enjoyed by all for the occasion. Everyone was super excited. :)

 

 

I have to tell you all, West Virginia is a totally different world than New York. Before I left home to join Luke here, he said to me "Margaret, you just came home from a foreign country (referring to Costa Rica), and you're about to enter another one." He was right. However, it is also absolutely breathtakingly beautiful here--mountains, rivers, blue blue skies, and so much lushness and green you wouldn't even believe it. I already have quite a few stories that I want to share with you. I also have a couple of posts and photos from Costa Rica that I want to share! I've really fallen out of touch with blogging and often don't have the patience or desire to make it a priority. What makes me want to keep at it the most is thinking of how much I love reading YOUR blogs--Kaylan, Arryn and Heather just had beautiful little babies I could look at every day, Melody makes all kinds of wonderful things and is creative in every way, Mary beautifully documents weddings and her personal goings-on...this list could go on and on.

In light of that, I'm going to try to keep you updated on my West Virginia happenings. I want to introduce you to Jerry and Mrs. Alice at Kirk's Market, Gayle and Layla and their horse Denali, and my favorite coffee shop, the Chestnut Revival. We're going to have a fun summer.