Monday, October 31, 2011

I Thought The Sign Said 2.62 Miles…

The moment was tense and exciting as the crowd of people anxiously awaited the sound of the gun signifying the beginning of the race.  More than 500 people were bustling behind the Start Line ready to get out on the course and see all their hard work in training pay off.  I was one of them for the first time.  Ahead of me there was a man whose shirt read, “What!?!  I thought the sign said 2.62 Miles!”  Beside me was a retiree with another shirt that said, “Waffle House. I Run So I Can Eat.”  Young, old, tall, short, broad, and skinny – there was a collection of the most unimaginable people possible gathered in Greenville, SC to do one thing… Run a marathon.

This was my inaugural marathon experience.  I had been training since July for the last Saturday in October when the race was to occur.  A lot of good advice had come from friends about what to expect. Still, there was a sense of the unknown as I trotted out onto the racecourse and we all began together.  Weeks of training and 26.2 miles later here is what I learned.

1. Preparation is A Priority – Not more than a mile into the race a middle-aged man pealed off from the pack announcing, “Not today.”  Throughout the race, I saw a number of people who said the same thing in different ways.  Preparation in training is key to any large physical accomplishment.  Admittedly, I skimped on a few training days on my scheduled plan for vacation, visitors from out of town, or rainy mornings.  On those days I ran less than the required distance according to the guide I used.  On race day, I felt each and every missed day of training.  Preparation is more than a nice thought… It has to be a priority.

2. Hydration is Huge – On the day before the race we traveled to a location a little closer to the marathon site.  Since we were out of our element, I didn’t drink the amount fluids I should have consumed.  The morning of the race I drank a lot of water, but my body was not properly hydrated.  As a result, around mile 15 I experienced some major leg cramps.  Nothing in my training prepared me for the cramps.  I had not experienced them before.  For the final 10 miles of the race I struggled to run, walk, and limp through the tension in my legs.  In talking with other runners, I learned that a lack of hydration was the likely culprit.

3. Support Gives You A Surge – During the last mile I was hurting, badly.  The miles already run had left me physically exhausted.  The leg cramps had hurt my time and my pride.  Until mile 15 I maintained the exact pace I desired in order to finish with the time I had in mind.  When the cramps came, it added several minutes to my time.  Slowing down and getting passed by other runners can be demoralizing.  It was in that last mile that I saw my wife and little boy ahead.  My wife rolled the stroller out on the course and ran next to me (in boots) for a couple tenths of a mile.  Her words of support energized me and I surged toward the finish line.  Support is necessary for the training, the race, and the recovery.  Make sure you have it.

I could go on and on about the lessons that I learned through this experience.  However, I wanted to zero in on the above three points because I believe they hold value for anyone seeking to achieve some physical feat.  Preparation, Hydration, and Support have to be in the mix if you are seeking to complete your goal in any physical competition. 

Let me end with this thought… YOU can do it!  I was shocked at the variety of people who competed in and accomplished this marathon.  As I reflected back over the last couple of years, I was surprised to find myself out there with the crowd.  Maybe it isn’t a marathon, but there is something else that you would like to achieve for your health and fitness.  It is more possible than you might imagine.  Unless you have doctor’s orders not to, go for your goals!  They are within reach.  

Friday, October 28, 2011

Is your “family room” doing its job?

When I was growing up the thought of having televisions in your room or computers of your own were foreign and ridiculous!  Sure, my parents had a television in their room, but when I was a kid, I never even desired to have a TV in my own room.   On occasion, I can remember plotting with my older brother to get our parents to allow us to pile into their bed after what became an elongated whining session in which we begged them to let us watch “Home Improvement” before we went to bed, but television was really a “rarity” in our home.  My mom had strict rules that involved us playing together outside or in our rooms (or the scary basement) and using our own creativity to fill our time.  In turn, we had a great time pretending to fight off “intruders” while jumping around on our trampoline, or “shooting dinner” while we pretended to go “hunting” in our Dayton, Ohio backyard.  Yes, our imaginations were unlimited and the need for electronics (that really didn’t even exist on a high level) didn’t seem necessary.

Fast-forward to the evenings, after dinner and our nightly “Little Debbie bedtime snack” had been eaten, and you would find the 5 of us together, in our family room.  We had a wonderful book called the “One-Year Book of Family Devotions” (one that Steve and I WILL get once Caleb is old enough to understand) that my dad would read to us, and then we would all try to guess the “Key Phrase” that came at the end of the story!  Afterward, we would all kneel together, at our family room couch, and finish the day by praying, thanking God for everything that He had done for us throughout the day.  My parents made a concerted effort to not just tell us that their faith in God was important, but to show us just how important He should be to us.  Family devotions happened EVERY SINGLE DAY, whether my dad was home or away at work.  (Something we’ll talk about next week!)  They were of the utmost importance.

After our devotional time ended, mom would bust out the blankets for Jason and I, whisk my baby-sister off to bed, and we would lay down and cuddle up, ready to listen to the best story-teller in the world…. Dad.  He would read us the Chronicles of Narnia, Stories from “The Magic Bicycle” series, and even “The Iron Scepter”.  Some of my favorite memories in the world of my dad include his “deep voice inflections, as he gave characters in the stories different voices as he worked to bring his reading to life!   Story time would end, and we would head to bed, looking forward to the next night when he might read 2 chapters instead of just 1!

This morning, as I was thinking about the memories that we’re trying to establish for our own son, I was brought back to remembering these treasured “Family Room” moments and I wanted to remind you to establish the same!

The Family Room was meant to do so much more than house several individuals doing their own thing.  It was meant for more than a TV and a chance to catch up on the day’s news.  The Family Room was meant for quality family time spent together.  It was meant for games to be played, stories to be read, and special family-friendly movies to be watched.  The Family Room was meant for memories to be created and moments of joy to be treasured!

What purpose is your family room serving?  Are you using that treasured room to make memories that will last, or filling it with moments that you’ll forget about tomorrow?  Let’s all work together to use the room for what it was meant…Family time!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Quick Wins

At the center of an urban college campus was a small parking lot near the women’s freshmen dorm. Everyone knew the lighting in that parking lot was terrible.  There were lighting fixtures around the small lot, but most of the lights were burned out or broken.  It was definitely a safety hazard for the ladies who traveled that section of campus.  In an urban setting, there are a number of issues that can arise from a dimly lit area that is out of plain sight from the roadway.  Therefore, when the new university President hosted a forum for students to bring their ideas and concerns, the issue came up. 

A young lady stood in the middle of the room and asked the President about making some repairs so the parking lot could be better lit and therefore safer.  So how did the President respond?  He said, “Of Course!  That one is easy.”  Someone made a note about the issue and within a week the repairs that had been left undone for years had been made.  It was a “quick win” for the leader, the students, and the university.

Leading change is one of the most challenging tasks a leader is assigned.  However, not all change has to be a battle.  As a leader, you can earn credibility for big changes through a series of “quick wins”.  Here is how it works…

Identify A Small Issue That Needs To Change.  There are a variety of these in your organization.  It could be the way copies are run, the way mail is distributed, the way your shared folder works on the network.  It is a small problem in the overall workings of your organization, but it is something that does need to be changed at some point.

Identify An Issue Everyone Wants To Change.  These are not hard to come by if you are listening.  As you walk through your area of your responsibility you will find common threads of complaint that center around a single or small group of problems.  These complaints cry out for change by a large number of people in your organization.

Get Some Input.  Either formally or informally, gather a group of people to give you some input on the issue that needs to be changed.  Really listen to their ideas and reasoning.  Thank them for their time and consideration in the matter you are discussing.

Make The Change.  Go ahead and pull the trigger on making the change.  Do it quickly once you have gotten input so that those who put their ideas on the table know they are valuable.  Once the change is made give credit to everyone who contributed to the process of making the change.

Repeat.  Follow this simple process several times over, especially if you are new to your leadership position or the organization.  As you string together a line of these small, but impactful changes you are chalking up some quick wins that gain you some credibility moving ahead.

Will these “quick wins” guarantee that you will be beloved as a leader? Will they serve to galvanize your team to follow you into the heat of hard times in organizational life?  No, it is not that easy.  However, through a series of “quick wins” you will find that those you lead will begin to develop trust with you as the leader.  They will understand that you have their best interests in mind.  They will appreciate that you are actually listening when they speak.  “Quick Wins” build momentum toward bigger decisions in the future.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Missing the Goal

My sister has played soccer from the time she knew what the game was.  She played all throughout childhood, middle, and high school.  Even as she attends college at the University of Central Florida, she is coaching the JV girl’s soccer team at her high school alma mater.  As we discovered her ability to play the game our whole family had to learn a little about the world’s favorite sport. 

From what I gather, the point is to get the black and white ball into a net to score a goal.  I realize this over-simplifies a dynamic and energetic sport, but at the end of the game the only thing that gets you a “Win” is how many times you get a goal.  The whole world watches to see how many times the ball gets kicked or headed into the net.  It is why everyone collectively groans when the offense misses the goal or a defender deflects a ball away from the net.  Getting the goal is a moment of elation.  Missing the goal drives fans and players into a depression. 

So how do you bounce back from a missed goal?  Everybody has them.  A resolution made in January can become February’s forgotten failure.  For many, the finish line to our goals can be elusive.  It can be depressing to continually set goals that you never attain.  Over time, it can keep you from setting goals at all.  Instead, you may choose to settle for status quo instead.  But missing a goal does not have to be like this.

Every time you miss a goal, there is a wealth of information that makes your goal much more attainable in the future.

Learn From Your Mistakes – More often than not, we are the reason that we didn’t make it to our goals.  Decisions we made and commitments we failed to keep are the often the reason we didn’t accomplish what we set out to do.  When you miss a goal, reflect on what you could have done differently.  Otherwise, you will be tempted to fall victim to the same mistakes again. 

Define The Obstacles – Since you ventured a portion of the pathway to your goals before, you know what some of the obstacles are.  These outside influences are sure to be there waiting for you when you try again.  Therefore, plan for them on your next attempt.  Figure out a way to come up against the obstacles you face to work your way around them.

Keep Going – You are able to accomplish the practical goals that you set for yourself.  After you miss a goal, there is always the temptation to give up.  DON’T!  You can accomplish what you set out to do.  Don’t let the baggage of past failures weigh you down.  You would be surprised at your own ability to overcome if you put yourself to the test.  Keep going.

Missed goals are a part of life.  Watch the World Cup next time it is played.  You will discover that the best and most talented often miss the shots they take at the net.  Still, they don’t give up.  They learn from mistakes, define the obstacles, and keep going.  Those qualities make them contenders and champions.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

He’s making a list…

He’s making a list.  He’s checking it twice!”  Surely you’ve heard the catchy tune about old St. Nick checking his list of presents for little boys and girls!  As I walked through the mall this past weekend, I was amazed at all of the Christmas décor already up!   We even purchased one of our Christmas gifts for family over the weekend, and upon doing so began the spiral into embracing the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year!”   This morning, I couldn’t help but chuckle when I thought of the financial truth Santa Clause teaches us through his sweet little song.

About a month ago, my husband surprised me by taking care of all of the details ahead of time, and whisking me away for a surprise overnight retreat in Atlanta to celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary!  He had secured tickets to the Broadway Musical, “Wicked” which was conveniently playing at the Fox Theater, made reservations for an incredible restaurant for us to eat dinner at, and reserved us a room in a lovely hotel in downtown Atlanta!  5 years later…he’s still just as much of a romantic as ever!

The following week, I was at home balancing our checkbook, and noticed a charge on our credit card that was incorrect.  The hotel that we stayed at, charged us several different times, and because my husband cashed in our credit card points to pay for the room, I knew the charges were incorrect!  We called the hotel letting them know of the mistake, and after several days of watching the charge sit on our statement without movement (or a refund being credited!) I wrote a letter to the C.E.O.  Within hours I received an email back, asking for my phone number so that the hotel manager could contact me and remedy this terrible error.  After a brief conversation with the hotel manager all incorrect charges were refunded, and a certificate for a free-nights-stay was mailed out to us for use sometime in the future!  The charge was far from intentional in the first place, but this hotel went above and beyond to ensure our own satisfaction with their company and this particular hotel.  (To which we were most grateful, of course!)

Why do I share this story with you, you may ask?  Simple.  I share the story to remind you of the importance of balancing your checkbooks and checking your credit card statements.  Although this charge was incorrect, unless I would have noticed it and brought it to their attention, the hotel would have never refunded the charges. 

In our wonderful electronic-age, banks and other financial companies make it EASY to miss these kinds of errors.   We just get going and going, paying bills, buying groceries and spending away without realizing exactly where our money goes, and double checking to be sure that the correct charges have been taken out of our accounts.  We let the “automatic system” do it’s magic and errors are made by accident.  As the holiday season approaches, and swiping that “magic card” becomes more and more often, be sure you’re clutching those receipts and double-checking the charges on your statements when you get home.  No one is perfect and so mistakes are likely to be made.  I challenge you not to allow these mistakes to go unchecked in your accounts, however.  It’s time to start not only making your list, but “checking it twice.”  

Monday, October 24, 2011


“Sure!  We’d love to go for a run with you,” we said.

Even as the words exited my mouth, Beth and I were thinking of a way to get out of it.  Another couple asked us to go for a Saturday morning run with them.  He was a “Wilderness Triathlete” meaning that he ran triathlons through wilderness-style terrain, as if it were not difficult enough under normal circumstance. She had just finished placing first in her age group in her last 5k.  We were experts at napping, lounging, and general leisure.

“We’ll just go for a short run.  Maybe two miles or so,” they replied.

I had never run two miles in my life.  If my life depended on it, I was not sure that I could physically pull it off.  Beth was in better shape than me, but two miles was still a stretch.

“Sounds good” was what we said.  “Get ready to be embarrassed” is what we thought.  For the next couple of days we tried to think of excuses, but none sounded like they would stick.  Besides, if we dodged the other couple this time they would just ask again.  The truth was that we really enjoyed the other couple, but didn’t think we were up to the challenge.  Trapped with no other place to turn, we showed up on that Saturday morning and went for it.

All of us have been there at one time or another.  The desire to get in shape is eclipsed by the fear of embarrassment.  Thinking of going to the gym seems like a good idea until you consider the person next to you who is lifting twice your weight.  Jogging around the neighborhood sounds like a good thought until you begin imagining what the neighbors will think of you as you roll on down the roadway. 

Fear of looking awkward or out-of-shape keeps many from beginning their journey toward improved physical heath.  Sadly, this is a downward spiral.  The more that you feel awkward about physical activity, the less likely you are to do it, the more likely you are to feel awkward about it.  At some point the cycle has to be broken.  This requires a word that many people associate with heroic deeds, but few count as important to get in shape… Courage.

Courage does not mean that you are unafraid about what other people will think.  It simply means that you do what you have to do in spite of how others may react.  Being courageous is an important part of taking the first steps toward improved personal fitness.  Without it, you are liable to shy away from bettering your health forever.

Each of us would like to think that when everything is on the line and there are no other options, we would do something courageous when called upon.  There is a desire to be a hero in our hearts, if the situation calls for one.  Well, truthfully, when it comes to your health, everything is on the line.  It is time to stare down the fears that keep you from taking steps to better yourself and act in spite of them.  Be courageous!

By the way, we did finish the run with our friends.  It wasn’t pretty and we were definitely out of breath.  To our surprise, our friends did not laugh at us, chide us, or revile our lack of physical ability.  Instead, we went to breakfast.  I ordered biscuits and gravy… After all, I just ran two miles…

Friday, October 21, 2011

"We have fun..."

Recently, I heard one of my heroes describe his secret to a healthy family life.  This man is an acclaimed author, a visionary ministry leader, and a dynamic speaker.  His influence is massive.  As he described the heartbeat of his family life, he spoke of being diligent in keeping family devotions, teaching his kids through victories as well as failures, and helping his family find purpose.  But when asked what the key was to having a happy, healthy family he drilled down on one surprising truth… “We have fun.”

In fact, as I have listened, asked, and read from the men who I respect the most for their family life, “fun” comes up all the time.  Another influential leader said of his family, “You should laugh with your family more than anyone else.”  I think that these guys may be on to something.

With the daily drudge of arranging calendars, shuttling kids to appointments, figuring out what to do for dinner, and dealing with discipline it can be easy to miss out on the fact that family should be fun.  There is a lot of seriousness in the American family.  Even so, fun can’t be left out of the mix. 

Thinking about this, I talked with the director of recreation at a large Christian conference center a few weeks ago.  I asked him what the roll of play and fun is in teams, families, and organizations.  He replied, “You can tell more about a person in 15 minutes of play than years of work.  Play unites people like nothing else can.”

Ask yourself, when was the last time that you really laughed as a family?  Can you remember the last time you had fun with your family?  It may be time to get a date on the calendar for some fun.  It could change the dynamic of your home for the better.  After all, it is one thing to endure time with your family.  It’s something completely different and wonderful to enjoy your family.  Have fun…

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Leading the Whiner

Day three.  I had heard from others who work with students that day three is the most difficult when you are leading a student trip.  I had not noticed this phenomenon until I was the trip leader.  Day One – Exciting!  Day Two – Gaining Momentum.  Day Three – What Happened?!?  After two nights of little sleep, close quarters with best frienemies, and a lot of hormonal imbalance, day three has proved to be challenging on most student trips I have led.  The reason?  This is when students decide (consciously or unconsciously) to break out the whine.

No, that was not a typo.  Students are usually pretty good about not bringing alcoholic beverages on trips.  This is wHine. 

When the whine comes on nothing is good enough.  “I’m tired.”  “I don’t like the food.”  “Can you tell that person to put on some deodorant?”  The whines rise in a cacophony of student emotion.  Day three.  Count on it… It’s coming.  However, trips mixed with teenage feelings are not the only place that you can find whining.

Every organization has whiners.  If the there is something to whine about, they will make sure they locate it and tell everyone in ear shot about it.  Sometimes it is too hot.  You adjust the temperature and now it is too cold.  Sometimes it is too much.  You take some away now it is too little.  There is no pleasing a perpetual whiner.  Whiners have to be led out of their whining ways.  So how to you lead a whiner?

1. Refuse to Be Miserable With Them – Whiners love company.  When they sense that they can get someone else to jump on the bandwagon of their whine with them, they get excited.  In order to lead a whiner, you have to refuse to sink to their level.

2. Stay Positive – Counteracting whines means celebrating wins.  Whenever a whine begins to surface, you can quickly put it to rest by pointing to a win.  A whiner will likely try to find fault in the win, but they will at least have to acknowledge that something positive has occurred, even if it is imperfect.

3. Encourage Them To Do Something About It – Most whiners hate been challenged to do something about the very thing they are whining about.  However, sometimes buried under the pile of whining ways there is a real passion that exists.  If you can connect the whiner to act upon their passion, then they can be help instead of hinder in doing something about the problem.

4. Say Good-Bye – There is just no pleasing some people.  You can be upbeat, offer suggestions, and even make the changes that they request, but some will still whine.  It is at this point that you need to move on.  Spending too much time trying to win over your critics will leave you exhausted and off mission as a leader.  If they will not budge from their whining ways then it may be time to say good-bye.

Everybody has days where they whine about their circumstances.  Nobody should be allowed to continue whining endlessly without intervention.  It is the job of the leader to try and develop the whiner.  If they continually refuse, then it may be time for the leader to make a tough call.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Missing Today For Tomorrow

Recently, our little family of three pulled out some of the videos from when our son was first born and watched them together.  Caleb was glued to the image of a fragile little baby moving ever-so-slightly on the screen in front of him.  As a one-year-old, he has no idea this baby is now the toddler that he has become.  Even so, Caleb’s dad and mom could hardly believe this little baby had now transitioned into becoming a little boy.  It has been just over a year since Caleb entered our family’s life and we began to wonder like most parents do… Where did the time go?

Moments like this one help me to remember to live in the moment.  You see I have a tendency to be very future-focused.  Sometimes I run the hazard of missing today because I can’t get my mind off of tomorrow.  This can be because I am focused on a busy week ahead.  It could be because I am more focused on the long term planned.  If you are a goal setter as our family is then there is a tension that exists to keep your eyes directed to the future.  This can be healthy, but it can also consume you to the point of missing today.

You have probably heard the cliché before, “The joy is in the journey.”  The point is to enjoy the moments that you use to get where you are going as much as you enjoy arriving at your destination.  This can be hard to practice in a pace of life that often demands the question, “What’s next?”  However, if we fail to savor the here and now, then we are sure to miss the value of the moments that the future promises to us.  C.S. Lewis once said,

The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is.”

As you consider the direction that your life is taking and the future that you are aspire to attain remember to enjoy the moments that God gives you along the way.  We cannot skip steps 2,3,4 in our quest to get to steps 5,6,7 – nor should we want to.  Soak in today. Capture here and now.  Lead a focused life that is going in the direction of your goals, but don’t forget to really live out each day as it comes.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

GUEST POST: Riding the Stock Market Roller Coaster

Guest post written by Dr. Jason Landry
Jason is a phenomenal Emergency Medicine Doctor who resides in Jacksonville, FL.  Even more astounding, however, is his incredible knowledge regarding the ever-changing stock market and overall financial success!  With the wavering situation we are finding ourselves in economically, I asked Jason to give his insight and wisdom on how to handle it, and what to do!  I'm sure you'll enjoy his hands-on strategies as much as I have!

Let me start by saying that I do not have a degree in Business, nor am I employed by any Trust Funds, Banks, or even the little talking baby you see on TV who has become a day-trader.  I am just like everybody else who wants to know that if I put money away for retirement, it will be ready for me to use one day.  For decades, the most accepted way to do this was by systematically putting money into a Roth, 401k, or other equivalent plan and just watching it grow like magic.
However, over the last few years, it has become increasingly difficult to justify putting money into the market, only to see your account shrink and shrivel.  Sometimes it can even make me a bit angry and frustrated.  I feel like I could do better by just burying the money in my backyard or just setting up a simple savings account.  That way, I know that, at least, my money is growing a little.  Every time I start thinking this way, however, I am reminded of some very simple principles.  Maybe they will help you find the courage to deposit that next check into the retirement fund, even when the market seems to just fizzle it away.
1.     DOLLAR-COST AVERAGING: This is the most important principle.  It means that you put a fixed amount of money into your account at fixed time intervals, regardless of how the market is doing.  In the end you will make money, even if the market ends up at the exact same point as where it started.  For example, let’s assume you  put in $100 every month for 30 years (360 months).  If you buried that in your backyard, it would be worth $36000 when you dug it up 30 years later.  If you put it in a savings account (right now with an interest rate of 0.1%), it would be worth a bit better at $36,647.19.  However, let’s assume that you put it in the market.  And, just to make the math easy, let’s assume 1 share is worth $100.  Over the 30 years, it stays at $100/share 50% of the time (including the ending price).  But, it also is valued at $50/share 25% of the time and $150/share 25% of the time.  In 30 years, if you were diligent, you would own 420 shares, or $42,000.  That’s 14.6% better than you would have done by putting the money in a savings account!
2.     THE POWER OF TIME: If you look back at the last few years, the market looks pitiful.  All it does is go down!  But if you graph out the value of the Dow, for example, over the last 20-30 years, a much different (and more promising) trend strikes you.  Just in the 1970’s, the Dow was valued around 1000.  Now it’s around 11000!  Over time, the markets grow and people make money….if they can stomach the “Down Years”.
3.     Inflation: One big problem with burying your money out in the yard, or even placing it in a savings account, is that the dollar becomes increasingly less valuable over time.  This is called “Inflation”.  If you ask your grandma, I’m sure she will talk your ear off about how she used to be able to buy a hamburger for a nickel, for example.  Good luck finding that burger now!  If you bury $100 outside, it’s not going to be worth nearly $100 in 30 years.  You need to find a way to make it grow faster than the rate of inflation.  Time and time again, the only method that has proven to beat inflation is the market.  If you like hamburgers as much as me (just ask my wife), you’ve got to find a way to save up so you can afford them in 30 years.

      Again, I’m not a financial planner, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.  I just want to be a good steward of the money God blesses me with.  I know this stuff is not simple in the least.  That’s why you really ought to get in touch with a Certified Financial Planner who can figure out what is the wisest plan for you specifically.  Speaking from personal experience, they also make really good therapists when you start stressing out about this crazy Stock Market Roller Coaster.

Find more information about Dr. Jason Landry by clicking HERE.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Payoff

As the wind cut through my sweatshirt on the a November morning, I wondered to myself… “Why am I doing this?”  The chill made consider going back inside to retreat to the warmth of our home.  There had been dozens of moments before this one where I stepped to the thresh-hold of our home and turned back in light of these kinds of circumstances.  That day, I deeply considered retreating from a morning run once more.  After all… what difference would one day make?  What is the point of making this kind of small investment in the grand scheme of things?

It can be very difficult to see the difference your daily investments in personal health make. As you beat the pavement during a run, you may wonder about the value of your steps.  When aching muscles cry out in protest against your efforts to get in shape, you may be inclined to ask, “Why am I doing this!?!”  When the server comes to offer you desert and you decide you pass, you might feel like that decision is too small to make a difference in life.  Our investment healthy living can be very difficult to see in the mirror each day.  But consider the payoff…

Looking in the mirror and not feeling ashamed of the pathway you are on.

Keeping up with your son or daughter on the court or the field.

Being able to actively participate in your children’s life milestones.

Sitting down on the floor to play with your grandchildren.

Living out fulfilling days with your spouse in the latter years of life.

Reducing the risk of diseases that have ravaged the life of many of those around you.

Feeling like you gave your best effort with the life that you have been given.

Setting the example for your family to develop healthy habits.

And so much more….

What would you add to the list?  The reasons abound to get healthy and stay healthy.  The greatest payoff for a healthier you come in terms of life moments that you get to live to the fullest.  Keep striving!  It is worth it!

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Delicious Fall Treat!

(Pumpkin pictured above is courtesy of Caleb Browning) :-)

I love fall.  I love everything about it.  I love fall decorations.  I love fall smells.  I love fall football (Go FSU NOLES!) and I love fall foods!  I love it when the air begins to get cooler and crisp, and everyone pulls out their warmer clothes and spends time playing outside together.  Pumpkin patches become the "must" for weekend activities, and fall festivals bring memories to be treasured for years!

One of my most treasured things to do in the fall is to sit outside, sipping a warm cup of hot tea or coffee and enjoy snacking on a delicious pumpkin chocolate chip muffin (or two!).  I was given the recipe for these muffins from a sweet mentor in my life who worked hard to prepare me to be a wife one day, and I've hung on tight to the recipe ever since, handing it out to many pumpkin chocolate-chip muffin addicts! :-)  This morning, we decided that to help you embrace "family" this weekend, we would provide you with the recipe for a delicious "fall" treat that is sure to be a quick family favorite!  We hope you enjoy it as much as we do!  Happy Fall!!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins - 
(Makes 12 regular sized muffins)

1 2/3 c. All-Purpose flour
1 c. Sugar
1 Tbs Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 tsp Baking soda
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
2 large Eggs
1 cup Plain Pumpkin (Half of a 1# can, but don't worry -- you'll use the other half quickly on another batch!)
1/2 cup (1 stick) Butter, melted
1 cup (6oz) Chocolate Chips

Pre-heat your oven to 350, and make sure that you grease your muffin pans!   (I LOVE Bakers Joy because it doesn't leave that greasy film on my pans!)

Thoroughly mix flour, sugar, pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl with a whisk.

Break eggs into another bowl.  Add pumpkin and melted butter, and whisk until well blended. 

Once everything is mixed, add 1 cup of your favorite type of chocolate chips and mix them in.

 Stir chocolate chips into pumpkin mixture and once mixed, pour pumpkin mixture into bowl with flour mixture.  Fold in with a rubber spatula just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Scoop the mixture into the muffin pans and smooth out the tops using your spoon.  Then, pop them in your oven for 20-25 minutes, until the muffins come out puffed and springy.  

When they come out, they'll need to cool a bit, so pop them onto a cooling rack (if you can!).  In our home, they rarely all make it to the cooling rack!

Then, once they've cooled, add a little butter to the middle and watch the smiles of your family light up!  YUM!

Just in case you missed something....

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins - 
(Makes 12 regular sized muffins)

1 2/3 c. All-Purpose flour
1 c. Sugar
1 Tbs Pumpkin Pie Spice
1 tsp Baking soda
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
2 large Eggs
1 cup Plain Pumpkin (Half of a 1# can, but don't worry -- you'll use the other half quickly on another batch!)
1/2 cup (1 stick) Butter, melted
1 cup (6oz) Chocolate Chips

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  
Grease muffin cups or fill with paper baking cups.  

Thoroughly mix flour, sugar, pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl with a whisk.

Break eggs into another bowl.  Add pumpkin and melted butter, and whisk until well blended. 

Stir chocolate chips into pumpkin mixture and once mixed, pour pumpkin mixture into bowl with flour mixture.  Fold in with a rubber spatula just until dry ingredients are moistened.

Scoop batter evenly into muffin cups.  

Bake 20-25 minutes, or until puffed and springy to the touch in the center.  Turn out onto a rack to cool.  Best if served warm with butter -- delicious!!!