Category Archives: Be Well

Strengthening the Soul

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It’s that time of year again.  The time of year when we all head to the gym in an ambitious frenzy vowing to show up, build our biceps, test our endurance and reach our fitness goals. And that is so great – I’m a firm believer that health and wellness and simply getting out of your mind and moving is intricately linked to becoming your best self.

But if your goal for the new year is to become a better more whole more loving you (and who’s isn’t?) then you can’t neglect your spiritual and emotional health.  I’m no expert, but here are six elements I have found through personal experience to be essential to the betterment of my inner being.

  1. Face Facts – You know when you step on the scale and convince yourself that all of those extra pounds are merely the result of the boots and heavy sweater you’re wearing rather than the daily dozen cookies you ingested from Thanksgiving through New Years? Well looking at the state of your soul can be like that. We don’t want to see our faults, we make excuses and blame others and tell ourselves everything is fine because it’s painful to face the truth. Terribly painful. And that’s okay – because growth comes through pain. Like a field left fallow, nothing good is going to grow until that hard layer of earth is ripped open and plowed, allowing the best parts to come to the surface and sifting out the hard and fruitless pieces.  It is only through seeing our truth that we can transform.
  2. Know You Can Do It – When you take a deep look at who you are, you’re going to find so many faults with yourself. My faults could fill a list from here to the moon and back. To realize that can be completely daunting and make you question, “Can I really change all this or am I doomed to be a bad/unworthy/insecure (etc., etc.) person?”  It’s enough to make you lay down and give up. Don’t. Don’t believe the lies – live in the truth of your goodness and your unique beauty. Because the truth is you are good. You are human and you are broken and you are full of faults, but essentially you are good. If you believe you are a bad person, you will be. But if you believe you are a good person, nothing in the world can stop you from becoming your best self. No one ever succeeded in running a mile when they convinced themselves they couldn’t.
  3. Feed Your Soul – Just like eating a burger isn’t exactly going to propel you towards the gym, ingesting negativity will inhibit your spiritual strengthening. So block out the messages that make you feel empty – log off Facebook, quit complaining and comparing. It’s true what they say, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  Feed your soul with encouraging and uplifting words and images. Not sure where to start? If you’re a Christian, the Bible or a good devotional book (like Jesus Calling) are a great places. If you seek something more secular, Eckhart Tolle and Brene’ Brown are incredible teachers. There are so so many honest and encouraging and uplifting blogs out there to turn to. Some of my personal favorites are: Momastery, A Cup of Jo, The Happiness Project, Marc and Angel Hack Life, and The Happsters. Or just Google “inspiring and uplifting blogs” and you’re bound to find something great. Whatever resonates with you personally is what you need to read, and re-read, and re-read, and read one more time just for the heck of it until it sinks in and becomes a part of your being.
  4. Work Hard Every Day –  If you go to the gym once and walk on the treadmill for a half hour, that’s great, but it’s not going to make a lasting difference. You have to be willing to drag yourself up, pull your brain and heart out of the numbness of daily living and really work – read, write, meditate – whatever works for you. And don’t be mistaken – it will be hard work. Your calves may not ache and your biceps may not throb, but your heart will ache and your head will throb. But that’s okay, that’s part of the process. I’m a firm believer that all truly good things come through truly hard work. So make a commitment to put in the effort, block out time everyday and do something, anything that strengthens your soul and sense of self.
  5. Seek Out Support –  There’s a reason that programs like Weight Watchers and group fitness classes are so successful at attaining and maintaining results – they provide a support system and accountability. Though strengthening your soul may feel like such a personal and solitary journey – uncovering parts of your personality that you may feel ashamed to share with the world – it’s still so important to have support. Support of others who truly love you allows you to uncover those tough parts of yourself, while still knowing that you are loved and good at your core. Support helps you work through your fears, doubts, and weaknesses by providing a perspective outside of yourself. Support holds you accountable to making and sticking to the necessary changes in your life in order to become your best self.  Opening yourself to support allows others to believe in you even when you don’t believe in yourself.
  6. Stick With It –  Not seeing the results you want? Remember that life is a marathon, not a race. Even if you’ve been working out consistently for a month, it can take weeks upon weeks before you see noticeable change on the outside. But with each step you take, your insides are becoming incrementally healthier.  Again, strengthening your soul works in much the same way – transformation starts from the inside out. So though you’ll face times of frustration and setback, stick with it; then stick with it some more.

Often like an uphill climb, becoming your best self and cultivating true strength within your soul is not guaranteed to be an easy journey. But those glimpses of truth, beauty, and hope you’re sure to experience along the way make the struggle so very worth it.

Keep climbing friends – we can grow in strength in solidarity together!

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Why I Write Cards

Yesterday I was at the store buying a few last minute (or overdue) birthday cards for my father-in-law, brothers-in law, and best friend when the woman behind me in the checkout line commented, “What a nice girl you are.”

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Sending hand-written cards and letters has largely become a lost art among my generation, and I am certainly no exception. Little did that kind woman in checkout know that this was probably the first batch of birthday cards I’d bought in months (ok maybe years).  But as I sat down to the seemingly tedious task of writing my own personal message in the cards, I realized that there is a great reason to write.  And, for me, that reason is really pretty selfish…

Of course the point of sending a card is to make someone else feel good on their special occasion, but I have to admit that I revel in the joy that writing cards brings me.  When I write a heartfelt card to a loved one, I’m instantly reminded of all the great qualities they possess and how lucky I am to have them in my life.  I’m reminded of the unique joy that particular person brings to the world.  As I’m trying to think of kind things to say, I’m instantly flooded with the fun, funny, sweet, and sentimental memories, big or small, of my times spent with this person. And sometimes on a lonely day, that’s just what you need.

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So feeling down or a bit lonely? Pick up a pen, put it to paper and let your loving thoughts take flight. It doesn’t matter what you write – your letter recipient will be so grateful, and I’d be willing to bet you’ll feel a whole lot better too.

ps – I know I have been out of the world of writing for far too long, but planning a wedding, honeymoon, etc. can overtake one’s life just a bit. Here’s hoping my writing days will be more frequent!

Thoughts on Grace

This past weekend the world celebrated the annual spring awakening that the Easter holiday brings.  For many it was a joyous time to gather with friends and family, an excuse to indulge our sweet tooths, and a reason to break out our floral and pastel clothing.

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As with many things in life, in the hustle and bustle of it all, it’s easy to forget the real reason we do what we do.  For me, and fellow Christians, Easter means so much more than a day of colorful eggs and fluffy candy Peeps.  It is a rebirth, a renewal, and a reassurance that  all will be well through God.

Yet, I’m not here to profess the reasons why my beliefs and religion might be right for you – if you’re a Christian you already know, and if you’re not then there are plenty of other resources out there that delve into the faith.  I would, however, like to discuss a Christian-based concept that is near to my heart: grace.

You may notice that my blog name includes “graceful.”  This is not because I breeze through life with “simple elegance or refinement of movement” (as one definition of grace notes).  I am admittedly completely clumsy.  No, my passion for grace stems from the religious definition that Merriam-Webster states as, “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification” (which really just sounds like a bunch of big words to me).  So what then does that definition and the concept of grace actually mean?

To me it’s much simpler than the standard definition would imply.

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The long and short of grace, in my unprofessional opinion, is this:  The idea that we are all utterly flawed – from the murderer to the saint, we’re all human – and we screw up and “sin” time and time again throughout our earthly lives.  No matter how hard we may try to be “good,” we’re at some point (or many) going to fall short and be completely undeserving of love – whether it be others’ or most especially God’s.  Yet, despite all our grit and grime and gory humaness, God loves us greater than we can ever comprehend.  And there is nothing that we can do to earn or rebuke this love – it is wholly unconditional.

That idea of grace give me boundless hope.

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But I don’t think grace should be confined to the religious realm.  Though we’re human and naturally incapable of this level of Godly unconditional love and forgiveness, I think it is something that all people regardless of religious belief can (dare I say should) strive for.  Of course we’re going to fail, but that’s the point.

Imagine for a moment forgiving someone when you know they were wrong.  Imagine loving someone in spite of how horribly they may have treated you.  I’m not talking about letting someone walk all over you, rather just releasing that pain and anger from your heart and filling it instead with love and joy to pour out into the world.  For I believe there are no good or bad people in the world, but that all of us are some proportion of those characteristics – all equally in need of grace.

Of course don’t forget the person most in need of your grace – yourself.  Let go of the self-doubt and worry over your errors.  Learn from the mistakes of your past, accept that you will likely mess up again in the not-too-distant future, and choose to love and forgive yourself now.

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It’s a constant journey understanding, much less actually practicing, the concept of grace.  But that’s the kind of wandering I hope to do throughout my life – wandering filled with the love, joy and forgiveness that only grace can give.

The Fountain of Youth

This weekend I got to visit my grandparents for a couple days of rest and relaxation by the lake. While I spent most of my time lazing around, there was someone who did not take a break from all her delicious cooking and running around taking care of us…

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Just watching my beautiful grandmother, Mama, keep up with everything exhausted me. What makes her gorgeous looks and incredible energy all the more amazing is that she turned 82 years young today!

While there are surely many secrets to her success and graceful aging, one gem that she was kind enough to share is the magic of apple cider vinegar. After brushing off grandparent advice for years, I’ve recently become wise enough to realize that most of what they tell you is truth. And in the case of apple cider vinegar, there seems to be an endless list of benefits to this old remedy.

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From weight loss and detoxification to clear skin and repelling insects, Mama’s little cure seems to be quite the powerhouse. Yet, there’s still the issue of taste when consuming apple cider vinegar. Choosing to take a note from Dr. Oz, I mix my apple cider vinegar with grapefruit juice.

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Sip of Youth

  • 1 cup 100% Grapefruit Juice
  • 2 Tbs Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Honey (optional – if the taste is still too sour)

Drink before a meal once a day, and be sure to rinse with / drink pure water after to prevent any acid damage to teeth.

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I find this simple combo quite refreshing between gym and dinner. Besides, who am I to argue with the health advice of such an ageless beauty as my Mama?!

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Ever the picture of beauty and grace…

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Happy Happy Birthday Mama!

Thanks for always inspiring.

Where’s the Light in Daylight Savings?

Daylight Savings Time – you win.

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I don’t know about everyone else, but this week I have been dragging.  I keep trying to fight it, but in my old age it seems like that tiny time shift has really thrown me out of whack.

To be fair, I’ve never had a great relationship with mornings.  So now getting up at the crack of dark only adds fuel to the fire that is the daily battle with early mornings.

The funny thing is, I love the idea of being a morning person.  The thought of waking with (or as the case is now – before) the sun is lovely.  And the beautiful possibilities of being a morning person seem endless.  I could enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee.  I could read, write, and pray.  I could take the dog for a nice long walk or get in an energizing workout.  Yet, when the alarm sounds far too soon, in that moment I know, without a doubt, that there is surely no better thing in the world than staying snuggled between the covers.

So I hit that snooze button one. last. time.

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I hold on hope that a day will come when I bask in the glory of the morning sun.  Until then, please let me sleep in just a bit longer…

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Are you a morning person – what is your secret?  Wishing everyone a restful weekend!

Finding Balance

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As we slowly begin the season shift out of sleepy winter time, it seems that the pace of life has begun to pick up. It’s as if everyone and everything simultaneously got the memo that it’s time to come out of hibernation – every day of my schedule is suddenly scribbled with commitments.

I can hardly call them obligations, because who can really complain about a great job, babysitting adorable children, fun gym classes, birthdays, and other plans with friends and family. Nevertheless, when I think of the busy days ahead, it can start to seem a little frenetic. How do I balance it all and maintain my calm?

Sometimes finding that balance; staying centered, sane, and on top of everything – both externally and internally – feels like chasing the impossible dream.

Perhaps that’s because we’re chasing the wrong idea. Earlier this week in my yoga class, the teacher read a quote (which I can’t remember precisely) about finding balance amidst chaos. This idea really resonated with me, and also reminded me of this month’s illustration in my beautiful Brian Andreas StoryPeople calendar.

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It’s easy to think of balance as this mystical zen place where your mind, body, and life are all in order, but, for me anyway, it’s also utterly unattainable. What I can and do strive for, however, is to find peace in the ebb and flow of life. To simultaneously strengthen the core that keeps me centered, while relaxing into a flexible happy balance.

Besides, I’ve discovered sailing is a lot more fun any day!