Tuesday, December 9, 2014

#Tracis30For30- Fitness




Back in August I promised that I wouldn't write this post a month later than I intended. I mean, I kinda kept my promise because instead I wrote it 4 months later...

Like a boss.

This is the last post of my #Tracis30For30 series and it is still kind of surreal. God has done an amazing work in my life and has turned it around and gotten it back on track. He is to receive all the credit. If I could post a picture of him flexing, I would, but instead you'll have to settle for my fitness pictures.

Which, if I may ask you, please don't laugh at the pictures that go along with this post. It took everything in me to actually pose in such a manner that shows how my physique has changed. And if I am being honest, IT WEIRDS ME OUT, PEOPLE! I am not a fitness model...so naturally, I felt like a troll taking these pictures. But I did it, because I hope to motivate you! I did it all for you!! (See, I am guilt tripping you out of your heckling.) Ok, enough about my glamour shots. Let us get on to the real reason why you're reading this post, shall we?

To give you some back history of the few years leading up to my fitness change, I didn't do anything. Working out consisted of getting winded while walking up my apartment stairs. And I lived on the second floor, y'all!!!! I played pick-up games of football and basketball here and there...but I stopped once I couldn't breathe, which was about 5 minutes into the game. I'm telling you, I was out. of. shape.

(Before and after...though, I am still working on the "after"! I feel more toned and in shape!)

I pretty much made fun of people who worked out, because I was insecure. Judging others is what insecure people do. If you posted about fitness on Facebook, I probably got really frustrated. Mainly because you were living the life I wanted. I was just too lazy to pursue it.

When God changed my heart about the way I viewed myself, I began to realize that I had to work for the results. He wasn't going to make the fat melt away instantly. My sweat, pain, and tears (I'm not kidding, sometimes I cried out of frustration) was physical proof that I trusted in his plan to change my life. Without joining a gym and actually working hard, I wasn't putting my faith into action.

I joined Gold's Gym on January 12th, 2014. I remember the exact day because I refused to make this a New Year's resolution. Mainly because I suck at those. I didn't want this to be a cliché promise I made to myself; I wanted this to be a promise I made to God. It wasn't about starting over on the first day of the New Year, it was about starting over on the day God found best.

Even if you aren't a member of Gold's, they have a great tool on their website to help you start your fitness journey. (Click here for the page) You plug in all your measurements and they give you a work out plan that will help you navigate your way around the gym and give you the best results for your workout level. I highly suggest starting off with this page! I was terrified of the gym before and would spend all my time on the elliptical because that's all I knew how to do! I also suggest taking advantage of orientations with a trainer when you join a gym. I thought he was going to give me a tour of important things, like where the bathroom was. But instead he did a fitness evaluation....that lasted an hour...in which I yelled at him many times because he was killing me. And he laughed. But he taught me how to use a lot of the machines and got me comfortable in a gym setting. I don't regret it one bit.

While I am not going to go over things like reps and technique, I will just give you a peek into my weekly fitness routine and let you make up your own! I utilized social media outlets, such as Instagram and Pinterest, to help find workout routines that were fun and easy! Don't start off killing yourself! Do what you feel comfortable doing and work your way up! If you try to begin by running a mile on the treadmill or trying to bench press 90 pounds, of course you are going to hate working out! Instead, find small workouts that make you feel accomplished when you are finished and work your way up. For example, I made up a routine in which I only did 10 squats on leg day. Now I do 100! Without doing 10 and working my way up, I never ever would have made it to 100.

When I go to the gym, I alternate days in which I work out my arms and upper body, and my legs. I always integrate ab workouts into both those days. I am no fitness expert so I have no idea if that is how you are supposed to do it?! (Hey, I'm just being honest!) Here is what a typical day in the gym looks like for me:

*Note: before hitting the gym, make sure you are properly hydrated. A good rule to follow would be this: Aim to drink 15-20 ounces of water 2-3 hours before exercising. 8-10 ounces of water 10 minutes before exercising. 8-10 ounces of water every 15 minutes during exercising, and 20-24 ounces of water after you are finished working out. I also love snacking on bananas on my way to the gym and eating a protein bar when I'm finished.*

-When I arrive at the gym, I usually warm up on a stationary bike for about 7 minutes. This is to be done at a moderate pace and gets your body warmed up.
-I then do some kind of cardio for 25-30 minutes. I like to alternate between the treadmill, elliptical, or stair stepper. (If you really want to boost your work out, I suggest doing High Intensity Interval Training, also known as HIIT. What the heck is that, you ask? It's a way to work out that helps you burn more fat in a shorter time period. For example: if I am on the elliptical, I go at a moderate pace for about two minutes, then I go complete beast mode for a minute. I alternate between the two paces for the whole time I am doing cardio, and before you know it, I burned over 300 calories in 25 minutes because I kept my heart rate up and healthy. Plus it keeps things interesting. I get super bored on the machines!!)
-After cardio, I give myself a little break to get my heart rate back down. I refuel on water and catch up on a few games on TV.
-I am ready to start my weight training!
Can I please say- DO NOT SHY AWAY FROM STRENGTH TRAINING!!
I believe I have lost more weight, and kept it off, because I lift weights. I don't lift to look like a man, I lift so that my muscles will be in good shape and I will look lean and fit.
-On arms day, we wear pink. (Just kidding, I couldn't help it) But seriously, on arms day, I use free weights! At the end of the post, I have attached some profiles that I follow on Instagram that have little videos to show you how to use different weights. I have found this most helpful!! And I even watch them in the gym while working out.
-On legs day, I use some weight machines and have recently been addicted to kettle bell exercises. Again, the profiles posted at the end have some great videos and charts that show you what to do!! I like to write, but I just can't put those exercises into words so you'll have to check them out!
-After weights, I work on my abs. I like to mix it up. Sometimes I'll plank, and sometimes I will do various forms of crunches that involve medicine balls.
-When you are done with your gym workout, don't forget to stretch!! Some people rush through this but it is so important to take care of your muscles so they are ready for your next work out!

(I hate flexing and taking pictures of myself in the mirror, so naturally I made a face to show how I truly feel.)

*Some of my gym essentials include: a towel, a water bottle, lifting gloves, a ridiculously awesome playlist, and my Polar watch. I LOVE MY POLAR WATCH. It monitors my heart rate and tells me when I am burning the most calories. I am not a calorie-counting freak, but it is nice to know that on an average day at the gym I burn about 600-650 calories. It makes me think twice next time I want a 400 calorie pastry from Starbucks. It puts into perspective the amount of work I am doing in the gym and how quickly I can throw it away with just one snack. I highly recommend getting a Polar watch, and you can usually find a good deal on Amazon!)



Let's say you can't make it to the gym, or maybe it is not in your budget to join one. Here is a little fitness routine I do at home so that I am still staying active without spending any money!

-I start off with warming up and cardio. I use the Couch to 5K app because it is a great mix of walking and running. It also helps you get your body in the right shape to run a 5K...which I've yet to do...but I still love the app!!
-When my cardio is over, I go through this routine in my apartment. Thankfully my neighbor below can't hear me jumping...I made sure to ask her before I continued!

100 jumping jacks (2 reps of 50)
100 crunches ( 2 reps of 50)
50 wall pushups (2 reps of 25)
100 air squats (10 reps of 10 or 5 reps of 20)
and then I dance. I am not kidding you. I have kept track of the calories on my watch and I actually burn quite a few...plus it makes it fun!!

Want to start off slow? Try:

20 jumping jacks
25 crunches
20 wall pushups
10 squats

Remember, work your way up! Try to add a little more every week!

Also, try to find other ways to incorporate little fitness routines into your everyday life.
I mapped out half a mile from my apartment in 3 different directions so that when I take my dog for a walk, we walk to that stopping point and then back. Before you know it, we knocked out a mile for the day! Do the same thing when you park somewhere for work. Map out half a mile from your car to your work and get some cardio in for the day.

Every little bit counts, and it all adds up! In a matter of time you'll be having fun in the gym and feeling good about the way you are honoring God with your body. Protect what he gave you and treat it right.

Keep it tight, treat it right!

How's that for a Christian bumper sticker?!?!?

It also always helps to have a workout buddy, one that helps keep you accountable physically and spiritually!! I'm lucky enough to have such women in my life!


Sorry for the novel, I honestly can't keep these posts short but I hope you feel encouraged and motivated to make a change in the right direction.

Try to workout at least 3 times a week, even if it's for 30 minutes, and build up from there.

If I can do it, anyone can!! Trust me.

-Traci Lynn

Here is the list of Instagram accounts that I love to follow because they offer motivation, healthy food recipes, and awesome workout videos:
@toneitup
@karenakatrina
@laura_fullyfit
@chaselynn252
@kayla_itsines
@emilyskyefit
@fitgirlvideos
@fitforhisglory
@sweetsimplehealth
@shape_magazine
@shape_her
@fitandfearless_
@sugaryjoy

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

#Tracis30for30- Food

As promised, and only a month late, here is my post on my eating habits that made my goal of losing 30 pounds by my 30th birthday a reality!

*I just want to publish a disclaimer that I am not an expert, nor a nutritionist, so I could be completely wrong in the things that I say! However, these eating habits worked for me and I believe they are changes we could all make in our life and still see some results!*

*Disclaimer #2 Please note that I am by no means a food photographer. Some of these photos  aren't all pretty and such, because let's be honest- I JUST WANTED TO EAT!!*

I'll give you a little history on my eating habits before starting this goal. I was a fan of anything fast food, and working two jobs and having long days I felt completely justified in my eating habits! I don't have time to cook, I'd say. I don't have time to eat healthy! Because to me, eating healthy meant meal prepping, and meal prepping took time. Ain't nobody got time for that!

When I started Traci's 30 for 30, I really changed up my eating habits! I knew that if I was going to be working out like a boss, I needed to be eating right too or nothing was going to change. I didn't really have a method to the madness. I just checked out a few blogs and Pinterest boards to see what looked good to me while still being healthy.
(That's the key- just because eating a certain food is really good for you but you hate the taste or texture of it- DON'T FORCE YOURSELF TO EAT IT. Simply find another food that tickles your fancy and is just as healthy. That's what I used to think eating healthy was all about- eating a bunch of foods that I didn't like.)

This post has the potential to be super long, so to save time I'll just give you a few tips on what I did to change up my diet and then give you a peek into my shopping cart. Feel free to take these ideas and run with them, like I did! No need to eat exactly like me, just find the things that you like and tweak it a little.

Let's start with breakfast foods:
As an avid eater of breakfast tacos, I had to get creative with other options that would be just as tasty without turning me into a big burrito!
Like bacon?
Try turkey bacon instead!
Fan of eggs?
I still eat them but instead of flavoring them with salt I just sprinkle a little pepper on them! Still so flavorful!
Love cereal? ME TOO!!!!
Step away from the Cap'n Crunch and try Special K. They have so many flavors to choose from you are bound to find one you like!
Switch to almond milk!
Why? Because it's the popular hipster thing to do in Austin. Kidding. It tastes great and 1 cup only has 40 calories and less than a gram of sugar! It also provides you with more calcium than regular milk! Plus if it takes you a long time to go through milk, almond milk takes twice as long to expire meaning less product waste and more money in your pocket!
Eating breakfast on the run?
Grab a Luna Bar and a banana. Luna bars are a great source of protein and fiber and come in a variety of different flavors. They are also way better than the sugary Pop Tarts or breakfast bars you may find in the cereal aisle.
Don't like oatmeal?
I used to hate oatmeal but it's so good for heart health! I wanted to like it so I made myself find out why I hated it. It's a texture thing. I don't like slimy, mushy stuff like oatmeal or yogurt. So I doctored up my oatmeal to make it more my style.
Take your regular oatmeal and add some protein powder to it. The texture becomes more thick without adding a ton of calories, and you get a good source of protein to start your day! Instead of packing it on with brown sugar and dried fruit which can be excellent source of sugar, flavor it with natural honey and cinnamon powder!


And last but not least, this is one of my favorite things to pack for breakfast when I have to eat at work. I bought this container super cheap at my grocery store and it works well for making my own little bistro box.
I take a whole wheat English muffin (low in calories and great source of fiber) and slice it in half and put in a couple slices of turkey. And then I add some fruit and sometimes string cheese and I have my own little breakfast box on the go!



(Well that was a lot more info than I expected but hopefully you're still reading along!)

Now on to the lunch portion of our menu!
I used to think my lunches were healthy because I made them at home.
Yes that sounds even more ridiculous typed out than it did in my head!
But I realized that mayonnaise sandwiches with a side of turkey just wasn't helping me lose the weight like I wanted. So here are a few switches I made to help keep my lunches healthy:
I switched from whole grain bread instead of wheat bread.
I use almond butter instead of peanut butter. (Still just as tasty!)
And I love me some grape jelly, so I switched to organic so that it was made from natural sugars instead of high fructose corn syrup. It's my jam, y'all!! Actually, it's my jelly but you get the point.
I also try to eat two servings of fruit with my sandwiches, so I will pair it grapes or oranges.
I started eating all-natural cheese puffs instead of chips. 
They probably aren't THAT healthy, but they are more expensive than Cheetos and the bag looks classier, so I make myself think they are healthy. I bet my nutrition logic is BLOWING YOUR MIND RIGHT NOW, HUH?!?!
Try buying whole wheat pita pockets and stuffing them with turkey, spinach and light balsamic dressing. The dressing is better than mayonnaise and spinach has more nutrition in it than your normal iceberg lettuce. PLUS IT'S TASTY!




Now we have gotten to the meal that I dread making the most during the day, and that is dinner.
I hate making dinner because I never knew what I wanted to eat, and I would just usually eat whatever just to have something in my stomach. Then I had to change my mindset and learn that just because it's healthy and good for you doesn't mean that it will take forever to make.
If I have could give advice on one thing it would be to invest in a vegetable steamer! (and by invest, I mean buy one for $5 at Target because it is worth it!)
I steam all my veggies now and it is a game changer!!
Try steaming these veggies:
broccoli
asparagus
red potatoes
carrots
They are so good and they become so much more flavorful when steamed, eliminating the use of salt for flavoring.
What meats should you eat for dinner?
I now love tilapia and salmon, and my grocery store sells it fresh daily. So I buy a few and freeze them for the week. I just grill those with my veggies and I have a lean meal that didn't take forever to make! Scoop a small spoonful of mango salsa on top for a low-calorie burst of flavor! When I get sick of eating tilapia, I switch to grilled chicken and then switch right back to fish. I also make sure to eat a good steak every now and then!!



What about drinks?
Well I don't do alcohol, so that was easy to not consume sugar or empty calories there.
But things like sweet tea and Dr. Pepper were my weakness!
Instead of having a good ol' southern glass of sweet tea, I have black tea and sweeten it with sugar-free vanilla syrup. As disgusting as it sounds, it's actually really good!!
I didn't want to deny myself of a Dr. Pepper...
so instead of having one everyday, I try to limit it to once per week.
To get my caffeine fix I switched to iced coffee!!
Can I tell you how much I love iced coffee now?!?! I get it with a few pumps of sugar-free caramel and a splash of nonfat milk. It practically has no calories and it gives me the same caffeine boost as soda!
I have also discovered sparkling water beverages.
LaCroix has a great line of drinks that give you the same feel of drinking a carbonated beverage and it has no calories or sugar!! I am also a fan of the HEB brand because it's cheaper. And who doesn't love a good deal?!?!
Most importantly- DRINK WATER!!!
I drink the recommended daily amount of water and it has made a HUGE difference!! My skin is clearer and I feel hydrated enough to work out and not have to worry about getting dehydrated or passing out in the Texas heat.

Ok, I think this post has gone on long enough. Sorry it is so long and written in the form of short lists and blurbs, but eating habits is a big thing and I just knew I couldn't cover everything I eat!
I'll end with a few things I like to snack on to avoid hitting up the vending machines at work:

Almonds
Animal crackers
Fruit
Greek Yogurt (plain! add your own flavoring like honey or fresh fruit to avoid the extra sugar)
Reduced-fat Wheat Thins
Celery with almond butter
Pita chips with red pepper hummus
Hard boiled eggs
Protein bars
String cheese and Pink Lady apples

Also, DON'T FORGET TO TAKE YOUR VITAMINS!!
I take a women's multi-vitamin everyday at lunch so that I won't forget!


Now I am finally ending this post!!
Thanks for sticking with me to the end, sorry it was so long but I hope you found it helpful!

The next post will be on fitness and I won't post it a month later....promise!!


Monday, July 28, 2014

#Tracis30For30 - Faith


It is finally time to write about #Tracis30For30!! I've found such peace and freedom from this experience and I can't wait to share everything I've learned. If I made this one big post it would be extremely long so I wanted to break it up into 3 segments:

1. Faith
2. Food
3. Fitness

I want to start off with faith because that is the most important aspect of my journey. Without faith and Jesus this wouldn't exist. So let's get started, shall we?

Everything in me is terrified to write this post. It's because I know that the words I will share will expose the inner fears and insecurities that I've carried with me for half my life. But that's what's so great about the power of Jesus, he gives us the courage to share our story for His glory. Not mine. Nothing about this 3 post series is for my glory. Because if it were up to me I'd be sitting on my couch eating my leftover birthday cake. Like a boss.

For those of you who don't know, on January 12th I set a goal for myself: Lose 30 pounds for my 30th birthday. It was my gift to myself. Why 30 pounds? I don't know. It seemed do-able and if I'm being completely honest the hashtag was catchy (I love me some hashtags). It also was a good ESPN reference...and if you've met me you know I'm all about ESPN. I also made a point to not make it a New Year's resolution because I always fail at those. And I knew I'd fail. So starting two weeks later took off all the pressure.

Let me give you the back story on my struggles with my weight and self-confidence.

When I was 15 years old I had knee surgery. And it sucked. I grew up playing sports almost all year round, so when this injury occurred it benched me for a lot longer than I thought. During that time I wasn't able to excercise as much as I normally did. When my knee healed, I was back in the game but was never 100%. When doing drills or working out I always used the "I have to go easy on my knee" excuse. But to be honest I was just lazy. During that time I put on some weight, not a whole lot but enough to make it stand out when I looked at myself in the mirror. It was fabulous. Not.

So during high school and some of college I was able to keep my weight in a somewhat healthy zone. In my early 20's I was a volleyball, basketball, and track coach for several years but once I stopped coaching and causally working out with the team, homegirls weight got outta control. I wasn't eating healthy, in fact I really enjoyed eating a ridiculous amount of Mac and cheese and drinking Dr. Pepper like it was water. That was my lifestyle. Fast food was my comfort food. I just really liked to eat, all day err day.



Depriving my body of everything it could possible need seemed to be the trend from ages 15-29. Then in December of 2013 while we were vacationing in Georgia I took a picture with my family and it broke me. Who is that girl? It's the first time I really saw the results of my carelessness. And I couldn't take it. I had a pity party for about two weeks and then something in me changed.

Jesus changed me.

I began to feel him pulling me in closer during worship or while reading my Bible. I began to hear Him like I hadn't before. I started to notice that he did care. Jesus cared about my struggle with weight, and he wanted me to come to him with that problem. Up until this point I had been avoiding praying about my weight. To me it was like praying for a front row parking spot, or for Tim Tebow to magically appear in my living room. It just seemed silly. I didn't want to bother THE CREATOR OF THE UNIVERSE with a request like that. But I learned that it wasn't about the request. It was about the trust that I would have in him that he could accomplish this in me. It would be all him, not me. Because for 15 years I tried conquering it on my own and face planted every single time.

So one day, at my dining room table, with my Bible in hand I prayed the words of Ephesians 3:20. I prayed that he would be in control and I would follow. I asked to trust in his promise that he could do far more than I could ever imagine. And he did.

Without crying out to God, I would have failed. I wouldn't be writing this post. Because I know who I used to be. I'd give up, I'd get lazy, or I'd make excuses. But not anymore. Jesus just went beast mode on this goal and crushed it. Through him I am experiencing freedom from food and laziness. I still have a ways to go but I made my goal and I am almost to where I want to be in the long run. I'm almost three sizes smaller, on the last notch in my belt, and wear a size medium instead of large or extra-large in clothes. And it is all him. He changed my heart. He gave me comfort when I looked in the mirror. He gave me hope when I just wanted to take a nap instead of going to the gym. He changed my mindset, my broken and busted mindset that told me I wasn't good enough to beat this struggle.

Jesus changed me. And he is continuing to change me...because he isn't done yet...he is still doing far more abundantly than I could ever imagine.

Jesus wants to be a part of the prayer requests you find ridiculous, unimportant, and insignifanct. Because he wants you to live in freedom and peace, not held captive by fear or shame. I was embarrassed for struggling with something like that, and I never wanted to talk about it. So I hid it deep down inside me. But he dug it out, shared it with my community, and conquered that insecurity.

It wasn't just a quiet relationship with Jesus that helped me through this. I told a few of my close friends and my Missional Community. We prayed over this, they invited me to the gym, and would constantly ask the hard questions. Every. Single. Week.

It takes accountability and you have to invite people to walk alongside you, even if you find it messy or embarrassing. That's what they're there for, to encourage and motivate.

This is a sermon that blessed me in so many ways and I hope that it can do the same for you. It help show me just how much Jesus cares about the little things in our life and how we can trust him in that.

"The 7 Sayings of Jesus"- Woman, Behold, Your Son

The next post will be about the changes I made in my eating habits to help me achieve this goal. I'm not a dietician or wise in nutrition, but these are just things I feel really made a difference and help me shed some pounds.

'Til next time,
Traci Lynn :)

Friday, March 28, 2014

God Is Just Not Fair: Book Review



I love books. And I especially love books that speak to me and teach me something new about my Jesus. And Jennifer Rothschild's new book did just that.

A few weeks ago I was asked to review Jennifer's new book and I immediately jumped on the opportunity, not only because I was excited about being introduced to the writings of Rothschild but because I too am in a season of "finding hope when life doesn't make sense".

To me, my life doesn't make sense. I feel like I am in a season of waiting as I am trying to figure out what exactly God wants for me. For Jennifer Rothschild, her season of waiting looks a little bit different.

Jennifer became blind as a teenager and since then has found herself wrestling with the "how's" and "why's" of her faith. In the midst of painful circumstances, she is a writer and a speaker who encourages women across the country with her words. And this week she encouraged me.

In her new book she addresses six questions that we ask when we come face-to-face with our struggles:

God, Are You Fair?
God, Do You Err?
God, Do You Hear Prayer?
God, Do You Care?
God, Are You Aware?
God, Are You There?

This book addresses more than just the answers to those questions, but it also gives you hope with the turning of each page. The book is broken into six parts, each part discussing one of the questions above. At the end of each part, Jennifer gives you "Threads of Truth for Your Blanket of Faith". Our blanket of faith is a term used to describe a blanket that is "woven together from the strands of what we believe about God, and we wrap ourselves in that blanket to help us feel protected and comforted." The threads of truth are scripture references we can use to make our blanket more comfortable, so to speak.

The part of the book I felt most connected to was Part 3: God, Do You Hear Prayer?
In a season of singleness I have found myself waiting on God to answer an abundance of prayers. Yet those prayers have gone unanswered...or so I thought. Jennifer has taught me how God is present in the prayers we so long for him to answer. Through her own struggles with blindness and depression, she is real and honest about the emotions she has felt when God has yet to heal her. Her heart of a faithful servant, despite her circumstances, has encouraged me to keep praying even when I don't feel heard.

I strongly believe this book is for everyone. Even if you aren't experiencing deep pain in this moment, it can better equip you to disciple those around you who are facing struggles of any kind. 

If you'd like to learn more about Jennifer Rothschild be sure to check out her website: www.jenniferrothschild.com
If you're looking to buy a copy of "God Is Just Not Fair: Finding Hope When Life Doesn't Make Sense", you can purchase one at: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or LifeWay
Also, Jennifer has offered 5 incentives if you order her book this week!!


Disclaimer: While I did receive a free copy of this book, all opinions written on my blog are my own. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Day 24: Living In Community



Remember that time I said I would post for 31 days about faith? And I even made a fancy Instagram image and everything. And then I failed after Day 4. Well, I don't know what I was thinking. I am not sure if I forgot that I am the type of person who crams as much activity as I can into my weekly planning. Tis the reason why I failed.

I just felt I needed to address that before I proceeded on with my regularly scheduled post. (And by regularly scheduled I mean- whenever I want!!) Because that's how I blog, whenever a good idea strikes me. I just can't seem to be a legit blogger and do it everyday. So please don't judge my failures. Or do. It's okay, I'll never know.

Soooooooo.........

The past 8 weeks have been flipping amazing, y'all! I didn't get a new job, a new home, or a raise. So what could have made the past 2 months so amazing?

I received a renewed relationship with my Jesus.

About 8 weeks ago I was sitting across from my dear friend Kim and we were celebrating my birthday at a cute local place here in Austin. Our conversation started out light and fun, something that is to be expected when you're celebrating someones birthday. But I couldn't hide it anymore. I had to tell someone. And Kim was my victim.

Earlier that day God had put it on my heart to confess. Confess everything that I had been struggling with that summer. Confess a certain situation that was robbing me of pure joy. But it wasn't a pretty situation. It was bad. Gross. Selfish. And as I was sitting there across from Kim, enjoying our dessert under twinkling lights, I confessed. My words were accompanied with tears and my tears were comforted by her compassion.

I am not sure why God thought now would be the ideal time to confess. I am supposed to be celebrating my birthday, after all. But as hard as it was to speak the words to Kim, I am glad he made me. Because for my birthday he gave me the gift of freedom and joy.

A week later I was enjoying a typical night in Austin with my girlfriends. A night that consisted of hanging out downtown and eating food out of trailers. Eating food that is prepared in trailers is the best thing ever. But this is also coming from a girl who LOVES gas station hot dogs so you can take my advice with a grain of salt. And put that grain of salt on your trailer food too. (I imagine that would make it taste better actually.) So there we are sitting on blankets, in the middle of downtown, eating some BBQ and God calls me to confess.

Again.

I am pretty sure I did this last week so I am not sure why we have to revisit this so soon. But I did.

My confession to Allison was a little different. It was a confession of sin but also a confession of God's goodness. My story was being transformed and I could see it in the words I declared the second time around.

Over the course of 8 weeks I began to be in the Word everyday. Something that I have struggled with for years but by the Grace of God I was carving out time for the Word. I was anxiously awaiting my time with Him next.

Jesus is the only reason for this change because His words were fueling my joy and I wanted more.

All day. Err day.

Now that some time has passed I thought I was done confessing about this certain situation but once again God had a different plan.

Last night while Jenn and I were driving back home from our Missional Community she asked me to tell her what has happened over the past 8 weeks. Once again confession rolled off my tongue. It was a confession of the crappy stuff but a declaration of the goodness of God. I remember telling her:

"Some days I want to go back to that sin, because I get lonely and it was fun. But I know that at this time in my life that would be the absolute stupidest thing I could do."

Her response: "I agree."

Her response would normally produce a defensive wall and might cause me to respond by saying "Hey, you don't know me." (Similar to the reactions you get on Jerry Springer) But I was thankful. I am thankful for her honesty because it is to protect me and help me strive towards Jesus.

Over the past 8 weeks I have seen the importance of being brutally honest within community. And over the past 6 weeks we have been studying a series in church about the importance of community. I don't think it is a coincidence that those two coincided in my life during this time.

Because of Jesus my words of confession have been transformed into words of declaration.
I want to confess the bad because I want to declare the good.

Jesus takes filth that has decayed my heart over the span of 4 years and makes it new. And he gives you community to walk alongside you and help you clean up those pieces.

So if you are reading this and you aren't in community, I encourage you to get on that!
I know it can be hard to walk into a group of people you may not know and talk about Jesus. But it is so worth it.

And if you are reading this and your walk with Jesus is being held back by chains that are slowing down your walk- confess. And after you confess- declare!

While confession should be a regular part of our Christian walk, I am reminding myself that it is important that I don't live in that state of confession but I also live fully in the state of declaration.

I am declaring that Jesus is better.

"And our souls declaring Jesus is better.
Make my heart believe.
Our song eternal Jesus is better.
Make my heart believe."




Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 7: Community

I'm in bed wide awake right now because I can't fall asleep. So I thought I would catch up on my blog posts that I haven't done in 3 days.

Any of you other #31Days people behind like I am? (Just say yes to make me feel better)

The best part of a sleepless night? Texting my Missional Community leader about things going on in our lives. She keeps it real with me, and I with her, and we are able to share struggles together.

I joined this group almost 6 years ago and these ladies have become some of my best friends. They are the ones I tell all my messy and dirty stuff to and they still love me despite my filth.

If you haven't joined a biblical community I encourage you to do so very soon!! God did not create us to walk through this life alone. He created us to live in community just like the Trinity.


Friday, October 4, 2013

Day 4: Failure

Well crap, y'all.
I forgot to blog yesterday.

I failed.
On day 3!!!

Told you I would do it. But this time it wasn't intentional. It wasn't like those times I set goals for myself and thought "Oh well, I'll see if I can maybe pull this off."

I really thought I could do it!...Well kinda, except for when I kinda doubted myself on my Day 1 post. Oops.

But that's okay. I'm allowing myself a little grace in this area. Mainly because I know I'm not perfect and it takes discipline to go from blogging once a month to blogging once a day.

This is what I love about Jesus.
I can fail over and over at something and he won't give up on me.
He knows I'm not perfect and that what he asks of me requires discipline.
And I will try day after day to be perfect.
And fail.
But he always welcomes me with grace.

So okay, I failed at Day 3 but I got Day 4 in the books.
So tomorrow I will welcome Day 5 with a little grace.
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