The Incredible Week at “Unleash The Champion” With Some Of “The Biggest Losers”… This Is What Dreams Are Made Of!… Day 3- The Story Continues…

4am lodgeJPG

The alarm in our room went off at 3:15am. Second day of boot camp… and yes, again, our whole room was going. This morning I woke up with a lot less fear, because after yesterday, we now all knew, somewhat, of what was in store for us in a regular day on this ranch. However, upon entering that turf for boot camp each morning, we had no idea what Carter would have planned for all of us… and believe me when I tell you, he has quite an imagination! Those who live here and have taken his bootcamps for years, have said that they have never had the same exact workout twice. He really is brilliant when it comes to changing things up to work your body to it’s optimum potential…and this morning was another example of that.

We all came in and warmed up by walking around the turf, walking with our hands above our heads, then adding a jog to it, if we could. Then the tough stuff began. First, we had to do some sprints… then we had to do a bunch of side shuffling.. then we all had to use the lines of the turf and go quickly over the line and back, side to side, all while being timed by Carter, and then he told us when to start and stop.

Then, it was time to do something I had only seen others do on TV…flipping a huge tire,(148 pounds!) We were taught how to bend down, get underneath the treads and then lift and flip it. I couldn’t wait to feel what that felt like! We lined up in our lines at the end of the turf, then the first person flipped the tire and went to the back of the line, the next person did it, and we followed our line as we flipped the tire all the way to the end of the turf and back–over and over again. You could hear everyone yelling and cheering each other on…it really is the most amazing feeling to be on this turf, doing things you only see on tv, and now YOU are the one actually doing it! And when it’s your turn…all the yelling you hear around you… is for you! It’s incredible!

flippin tire

After that part of the workout was completed, we had to get into lines again at the end of the turf, and we were introduced to “mowers”. Sooo unbelievably hard. There is a huge heavy weight disc on the ground in front of you, you have to bend over and run, pushing it along the ground as fast as you can. Your line runs along with you, and you keep switching off at so many yards…and the yards get increasingly longer each time you go. There was a point I thought I wasn’t going to be able to do it for even one more yard, and my room mate, Darcy, was running alongside of me and said, “come on Wendy, you can do this, YOUR MIND GIVES OUT BEFORE YOUR BODY, you can do this!”….it was amazing, I held onto what she was saying and just pushed my body as hard as I could. It was so difficult, but I lived that statement that she shouted, and now believe it to fully be true. And so now, to this day, when I start to think I can’t keep going, I push to see just how far my body will go, even after my mind starts saying I can’t, and it’s pretty amazing what I can do. I always surprise myself.

After the mowers, which still remain one of the toughest things we did, the morning was still not yet over….We were told to get a partner, and Darcy and I partnered up for this one. I was excited, because I knew she would continue to push me to accomplish whatever Carter was going to ask us to do. She has been working out hard for months at home, she does “cross fit”, and I was going to be happy just keeping up with her if I could.

This time everyone had to line up at the end of the turf again, and facing your partner, one person was moving forward, as the other one was moving backwards. The person moving forward had the big round disc weight held on top of their head while walking and doing forward lunges, while their partner faced them and moved backwards, doing backward lunges. At certain lengths, you would switch places. It was really hard, my legs were burning. But the cheers of everyone inspiring you to continue, just keeps you moving and believing that you can accomplish it…and you do!

Ok, not finished yet….our next activity, each person had to find a place on the field and face their partner. Then when Carter said “start”, one person had the 25lb disc weight on the ground in front of them, they had to bend their knees, pick it up, do a chest press and lift it over their head, then back down to the ground. When they completed one, the partner would drop and do a burpee (drop to your hands on the ground, arms straight like a push up, shoot your feet out to a push up position, then jump your feet back in, stand up and jump.), when the burpee was over, the partner did the chest press with the  25lb. weight, and when finished, another burpee was done. You had to just keep alternating until Carter said stop. After what seemed like a very long time, we then switched places. (are you out of breath yet? I am, just thinking about it all over again!)

After that segment of endurance and pain…we all did some abdominal work. Everyone found a place on the turf, we had to lay down and then come up to make a “V” with our body and hold it for a certain amount of time and then release.This was done over and over again for different lengths of time. Then, we added our legs kicking quickly up and down as if we were swimming, all while holding our bodies up to work the abs, working and alternating from 4-8 kicks within the time, and then back down.

Finally…it was time to stretch and cool down….YES! It felt so good to stretch and take in the fact that we made it through another work out. This one was really tough, and we all worked so hard. Can I just tell you…It feels sooo good when it is over. There is no better moment…than the moment you are walking OUT of the gym, after working to your absolute best, knowing you gave everything your all.

We all left the brightly lit gym and walked back out into the darkness, as the sun had still not even begun to rise…and our car was headed to Starbuck’s, now that we knew how to get back to the ranch.  We saw one on our way, and we all couldn’t wait to grab our favorite coffee’s to celebrate. We all placed our orders, got our favorites, and stood there taking in our first sip together….like a hug from the inside…so delicious, I think I heard the angels singing….ah, ahhhh!!!

starbucks

We had another great visit in the car heading back to the ranch. We, as women, are just so energized by face to face, heart to heart visits with other women…Again, this ride was 45 minutes each way, and every time we got back, it felt like minutes. Such great talks.

While everyone regrouped for the morning walk, we had a little time to visit in the lodge a bit, and Carter was there. I can tell you this, I KNOW that when Carter is anywhere in sight, I am not going to miss the opportunity to learn from whatever he is sharing, and he is always sharing his knowledge and wisdom. And if I have a pen and paper nearby, I can barely write fast enough to keep up with writing down all that I don’t want to forget.
Carter

This morning he was just hanging out and talking about the power of God’s Holy Spirit. He has a beautiful metaphor where he explains that our lives are like having a sail on  a sailboat…He explained, ”everyone has a sail, do you let Him fill it, and if He does, does it just sail to and fro, how are you sailing?…Now you need to take the rutter…your voice, your tongue, what you speak…you have to use all of these things, along with choices, etc…and determine where you are going. You are not responsible for anyone else’s journey or happiness. You can’t make anyone do anything. You can inspire them, but the motivation must come from them.”  Just a few moments of great wisdom for the morning before our walk.

Everyone began to gather outside for our morning walk. I stepped out onto the porch and just prayed for the Lord to show me who to walk with, talk with, share with. I was learning very early on, that I didn’t want to miss one minute that He was orchestrating to bless each and every one of us. Mary Nell “Murn” lead the hike, I started out up front in her group, and she shared more great “God stories” of how the people working on, and running the ranch this week actually got there. Every single person was brought there for this divine appointment, including our wonderful chef, Chris. We found out that Chris was the regular camp cook for Deer Run, and had never had to prepare the low calorie, healthy foods that we needed for this week. They shared with him about who was coming for this week, the purpose, etc., and asked if he would be willing to research and create menus for all of us, and he said yes. He worked tirelessly up until us being there, and created a week of foods which made us feel as though we were eating at a high end spa for every single meal. Everything was so delicious, so beautiful…we had dessert with every lunch and dinner…was satisfied, and I know that I felt totally “spoiled” and “special” being waited on for every meal, not having to think about what to cook or what to eat or even count calories or worry about it being healthy….because he prepared amazing, healthy meals that were so delicious and satisfying, and were only about 1500 calories a day! What a gift!
Chris dessert lIlzlKgOuS6IpnMpY5oQs     Chris was so excited for us to try things and see our reactions, and most of the time, he wouldn’t tell us what we were eating until after we at it. One day we were all flipping out over the most delicious chocolatey dessert topped with a whipped cream…which ended up being avocado and cocoa powder topped with coconut milk whipped! So yummy!I still have to write him a letter to let him know what a gift he was to all of us.

So,on this morning hike,we walked and talked, I met more amazing women and heard some of their stories.I had a great time talking to Hannah and Marci, as well. While sharing a bit of my Dr. Oz story with some women, another woman shared with me that she had read my entire blog! I am still astounded that some of the women there had already read my story before meeting me.

One woman who became an inspiration to absolutely every person there was a beautiful woman named Roseanne, so when we all came to a nice, flat area toward the last part of our walk, we all wanted to take a picture with her. This week was a real powerful beginning for her on her weight loss journey, and as she shared her talents, her heart, her story… she touched everyone’s heart and life in a way that we have been forever blessed. We had fun taking a few pictures, and then proceeded to the last part of the hike

Hike with Roseanne

darcy and roseanne

 During the last part of the hike, I ended up walking alongside Andrew. Andrew was going to be our speaker that morning, which I found out as we were walking and talking. He had lost 140 pounds at this point on his journey, and in those last 10 minutes or so of walking, he shared some of his story and wisdom with me. I loved him right away, as he was so passionate and honest. He immediately stated with conviction, “ it’s tough work, it sucks, but you just show up day by day knowing that they will never see me on this day, this weight ever again, because every single day I will be less.” He shared about meeting Carter and the tough work outs he has gone through, talked about the things he eats now….and he said, “having 1 cookie or 1 piece of cake or 1 bad thing is ok, because the rest of your week you’re eating good foods. Your lifestyle now is the opposite of what it use to be. Before, you would try a few times a week eating a salad or 2, or chicken, but the rest of the week was fast food, bad foods, etc. It’s like throwing a can of soda in the ocean. If the whole ocean is ocean, then one can of soda is not going to affect it at all.” It really made sense, and I had to think as he was pointing this out… is my ocean the part this is good foods, good choices, or am I still living a lifestyle where my ocean is all bad foods, and I am throwing in a salad and expecting a difference in my weight and health? It was a great analogy. I couldn’t wait to hear his whole story, which would be after breakfast.
wendy andrewjpg      So after our delicious breakfast, we all hiked up the hill, back to the “upper room”, and heard Andrew’s amazing story. As usual, Carter began sharing, and he introduced us to Andrew with a few words…He started by saying how powerful Andrew was, but that HE (Andrew) had to find out how powerful he was. Then he looked out at all of us and said, “you all have the power in you, you just have to find your “enough”. Andrew had to find his “enough”, just like you all have to find yours. It’s the truth..you all have the power inside of you. And the thing is, you can deny the truth, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is the truth.” He then gave a great analogy about denying truth, using the idea of gravity. He said, “you can deny the truth that gravity exists and jump off a building… you can deny it all you want, as you fall to the ground.” Andrew had to find his “enough”, “I’ve had enough!”… and once he found his enough, he’s finding out a way to let that power out. He has an awesome story, just like you all have an awesome story, and you will all be able to relate  to him, because we all share the same story, it’s just that yours is uniquely you.”

andrew

     Andrew stepped up, and with such passion and enthusiasm and raw honesty–he shared his life story and weight loss journey…that was uniquely his, with all of us. He grew up in a family where no one was healthy. He started out by saying that he would take a pair of pants that fit over a winning powerball ticket any day. He had been overweight his entire life.

His friend, David Griffin was very overweight also, but he was a contestant on “The Biggest Loser” season 4, and after getting voted off around 60 pounds in, he came home, found Carter Hays as his trainer, and got fit and lost a huge amount of weight. He came on Andrew’s radio show, and when he saw what Dave had done he thought, “you’ve got to be a fool not to find out what he did and do it yourself. You need to find out what he’s done and just do it.” Andrew’s mom had had gastric bypass surgery, and he knew that wasn’t for him. This was going to be the way to do it for him.

So Andrew showed up at Carter’s turf, weighing in at over 400 pounds, and on his first day he started out walking down the turf holding a 50 pound dumbbell. Leaving that workout he said, “I cried and cursed out Carter to my momma from the doors of the gym to the first stop sign…but from that day on, I never stopped.” He looks back on that first day, and at that time on that turf and explains that it was a marathon to him. All he could do was walk and carry a weight, but he was so proud of accomplishing that day, he posted it all over his facebook page. He said to us, “We will all start out our first day pushing to do our absolute best that we can do at that time. And each time we show up, we will push a bit harder and go a little further.”

There were times he entered the gym and had to work out with NFL players and high intensity athletes. But although that was so intimidating, he decided right then and there, they were never going to see him at this weight again. Because although today they were seeing him at 400 pounds, next time he would be 399, then 398, then 395….and that is something that kept him showing up no matter who was there. Never in a million years, at that point, did he think that one day he would be 250.

He remembered going into a great store called “The Buckle” with a friend, and in that store, only two things would fit him….a hat and a watch. He would have given anything to be able to fit into something there. Sitting there, we all knew exactly how that felt.. wondering and praying for one day to be able to walk into a regular store and be able to fit into something there.

He went onto say, “what I control is something that I choose to do every day, it’s 45 minutes of my life…I started with Carter on Feb. 6, 2008 and it sucked, it is the hardest thing I have ever done it my life, and you couldn’t keep me from it now. It feels so good to get something on your own… your hard work. You feel proud. What in life is there to have that’s not worth working for? I looked up to those people who could run a mile, now I can! I’m doing things I have always wanted to do, BECAUSE…I wake up at 4 in the morning and drive an hour everyday to get beat up. But when you’re done…there’s NO better feeling! Carter gave me an XL shirt and told me that it was going to fit…and one day it did! You get on the right track and then people start asking you what you are doing… and then YOU start helping people, and it’s contagious! It’s my passion now! You just want to stand on a mountain and shout to everyone… get off your butt, no matter what your fitness level is, and just do it! You can! Get out there and fight for EVERYTHING you want! I won’t stop. It’s the most beneficial thing you can do for your life. I started on a Wednesday afternoon, and I know Carter didn’t think I would be back. It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle. You got where you are, because of your lifestyle, a lifestyle of just doing what you are doing. Your lifestyle is overeating.

When you just decide that you are done with the unhealthy lifestyle, if you can take each bad choice and replace it with a good choice, if you can put the good stuff through your veins and body. Each choice will make a difference. You will find that you don’t get sick anymore.” He was so inspiring, I could barely keep up with writing all that he was saying.

Andrew continued to share how his life has changed. He is no longer sick, he doesn’t have sleep apnea anymore. He doesn’t ever want to stop this healthy living, and he wants to pass it on to everyone. He has lost 140 pounds! He believes it takes a support system and divine intervention.

He shared some of the big accomplishments and moments in his life, that many of us have also walked through or dream of one day walking through…going on a plane without a seat extender, being able to fit on the amusement park rides so you don’t have to make excuses to your friends for not going or being afraid….when inside, you are dying to go on that ride or to that park, but you are too embarrassed to tell the truth. Dreaming of going on a cruise or to a beach and being able to take your shirt off and walk around in a bathing suit, having someone you know not even recognize you, because you look so different. We all have those things we dream of one day being able to do…buy clothes in a regular store, wear a shirt tucked in, wear a belt, wear a sleeveless shirt, wear shorts, play a sport, play with our children, swim in front of others, have your doctor say that your internal numbers are great, and your weight is fine, and you are fit and healthy. And Andrew was here to remind us that all those dreams can become a reality…why not you!

During the time where we asked questions, Hannah asked Andrew what made him come back after that first day on the turf. He thought about it and then said, he knew even after that first day that he felt part of a team and loved that. He wanted to belong to something that made him feel like this. Then he said to us, “what do you get out of quitting? You have to give what you’ve got and do it, always fight, give what you have, don’t cheat yourself. It’s hard, I was 400 pounds and I hated it, and knew that this is where I had to be. I’m not at goal weight yet, and I don’t want to quit, I’ll never stop! Today I’m working alongside some people who are where I was or even bigger…and I just want to say, Come with me, I want to share it with you! It’s so easy to beat, if you just have the knowledge to beat it– and a support system. It will work!”

At that point, we were also all watching old videos of Andrew on the turf, which were on a big screen playing behind him as he spoke. Carter paused the video and pointed to the turf, which we had all worked out on, yesterday and this morning. He said to us, “Tim Tebow sweat on that turf, NFL players sweat there…what makes you any different than them?….NOTHING!!!! That’s the exact same place that they sweat, that’s the exact same place you sweat, we are all the same in this thing, it all takes effort..it’s all about sweat and bringing your best to the workout.”

I remember thinking about that every time we were on the turf…all the people who sweat on that turf…all the famous athletes, the Biggest Losers…and my sweat was on that turf with theirs! Pretty amazing.

As Andrew wrapped up the evening, he reminded us that doing the same thing every day and expecting a difference is ridiculous. You have to make the time. After accomplishing all that he has, his dream is to pass it on to everyone. He wants to give it to the world. I know exactly how he feels.

Carter reminded us that whether it’s a loved one or yourself, we all have our defensive mechanisms ready. If you try to beat it out of someone or force it, they will just hold onto whatever it is tighter. What you have to do is just show up. Just show up. Because when you show up–you learn to get up…and when you get up–you learn to get down, then you learn to run 5 yards, then you do a push up, then you get up again, then you climb the stairs, then you climb the mountain, then you do a jumping jack. The trainer/instructor already knows what you can do, and they will help you as you show up. And slowly you will let go of every defense on your own as you show up and see what you are able to do. All you need to do is just choose to show up.

I know this first hand. I finally got off the couch and out of the house and started moving and showing up by just walking an hour a day. Then I started jogging a bit. Then when it got too cold outside and the excuses were going to kick in, I joined a gym and showed up at one class at a time. I modified everything at first, and made a list of goals in a notebook of things I dreamed of doing one day…and slowly I have checked those boxes off one by one. And the amazing thing is, every time I check off a box, I dream up another. You WILL see progress as you show up and do it. And to see what your body can do as you get stronger and more fit is just the most exciting thing ever!

Carter ended the talk by asking us to write down 2 sentences…1.)What am I willing to do? And 2.) What am I willing not to do?   Then he told us to completely CROSS OUT   number 2….and leave answering the question… What am I willing to do!

We all left the upper room and hiked back down to the main tent where we were all going to experience a very intense yoga class, with a woman that came highly recommended by Carter. As Carter introduced her and gave us a little bit about her background, you could already notice, not only did she seem fun and passionate about what she did, but she was also really really strong and fit. She began with some basic poses, and then began to add onto them. I had taken a month of yoga classes two summers ago with my daughter, Grace, and although she is really flexible as a dancer and could do everything and anything the instructors did, I could not. I tried some of the classes, and we had fun doing them together, but I remember having to modify a lot, and there was also so much I couldn’t get my body to do.

Yoga lady Yoga lady 2

So I went into this class with some hesitation, but trusted that Carter had brought the best person for us. I also thought, as an introduction class, how bad could it be? Well, let me tell you, she started out with wonderful breathing techniques and moves, and then she brought us to a place where we were doing things with our bodies that I never ever thought I could do. In fact, I know that two summers ago, I couldn’t do what she was asking us on this day to do. But, she was so brilliant at what she did, and kept working us over and over again, adding and building the movements to flow into one another.

When I started, I would break the flow and drop my knees or feet or hands and then catch up to the pose she was leading into, and believe me, 5 minutes into the workout, I was dripping sweat onto the ground. The way she had us move and hold poses, until all areas of our legs, abs, arms were burning and shaking as we held them and built up our strength and agility….it was so stinkin’ hard! But…remember when I shared that I had prayed that we would all experience our own “Hannah back-bend moments” during this week?…this was my first major one of the week. As I followed this woman and all of her instruction, and pushed myself to a place where I wanted to see what I could really do…putting aside all of the memories of what I couldn’t do last time I took yoga (and yes, a big part of that was the endurance and strength and agility and flexibility that I had built up in the last year), I worked up the the place where I could follow her and push my body through every pose that she took us through….from the hardest poses and contortions on the floor, taking us all the way to standing in warrior poses, etc… on angles and in positions that were so hard but soooo exhilarating! As she had us build up to them and do them over and over again, until we could do them the best we could, the emotion of what I was doing just poured out of me in tears. I could not stop crying. It was the strangest, most wonderful break through moment that I will never forget. And as the tears rolled down my cheeks in the last few moments of finishing the class, as she finished with beautiful words of inspiration, I was just praying and thanking God for what I realized at that moment was the “Hannah back bend moment” that I had asked for. I just praised Him and asked Him, again, to let every person there experience at least one that week for themselves. (one day I will have to send out an email to ask everyone there if they had one, and what it was).

After the class, I had to go up and just thank her and tell her what had happened. She really knew, through my tears, what I was trying to put into words, and was truly grateful that I had shared it with her. It was extraordinary! (and again, talk about full days on the ranch…..all this happened BEFORE lunch!)

We were all hungry and ready for lunch. We moved a little slower, walking over there, as our bodies had already been through a lot that morning…Work out on the turf, morning hike and yoga…all before lunch.

This was only Tuesday morning, but it was already hitting me in a huge way that miraculous things were happening on this ranch, and we were all a part of something much bigger than we had ever dreamed or imagined. I remember starting to literally stop in my place and ask the Lord where to go next…where to go, which table to sit at and meet someone, which group to walk with, which activity to choose. I realized early on, that I didn’t want to miss anything that He had divinely planned for me. I didn’t want to miss one person to meet or talk to, or miss any experience there, that was going to be amazing. And, by stopping and literally asking Him where to go next, I was left in awe every single time. There were things that I got to experience down to the second!…just because I stopped and asked Him to show me, instead of jumping forward in my own plans.

This lunch was spent at yet another table filled with great people, some of whom I hadn’t met yet. Olivia sat with us, and she and one of my room mates, Darcy, shared all about what goes on at cross fit. It is something that I have always wondered about, but never thought I was strong enough or able to endure it, and after hearing about how much they loved it, along with my room mate Sara, I put it on my check off wish/goals list to accomplish as soon as I can. They gave me the encouragement I needed to believe that I could do it.  Olivia also shared all about how much she loves Soul Cycle, as well as another cycling class in NYC, and it was so great to be able to ask her what actually goes on during the classes there, as I have had Soul Cycle on my dream/wish list for about a year now. So I look forward to trying that also some day.

After lunch, it was time for the moderate hike. Although it was optional, more and more people were finding the courage to try it. Since I had done all the hikes yesterday and knew what to expect, my fear and anxiety about it was gone. However, as we began to head up the hill with the group, I could see “worry” in the faces of some of the new people. As we walked up the hill, I saw a woman with a NYC taxi cab shirt on. I walked over to her and asked if she was from NYC. She wasn’t, but she explained that her mom had bought her the shirt on a trip. We started talking and walking, and came to find out that this was her first hike. She was struggling as we started, so her friends and I told her that we would stay by her side and do this with her. I shared my “Hannah back bend moment” with her, and I told her that this was going to be hers.

As we started, we told her that there was only one big hill, and we pointed to it in the distance. However, when we finished that hill, we forgot that there was one more, twice the size of that one behind it. We stopped when someone needed to stop and take a breath, we shared some of our life stories as we walked, and we encouraged one another in this weight battle that we were all in. We stopped and took a picture at the half way point.
Elisa 1 Elisa 2Then,when we reached the highest point, one woman took her phone and hit the Miley Cyrus song, The Climb, and we all sang it to her. The words were perfect, the moment was powerful…another experience that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss for the world.
I remember all of us just celebrating with her getting to the top for her first time…singing together..

There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Somebody’s gonna have to lose

Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb, yeah!

We had reached the top, the rest of the hike was all downhill. We hiked the rest of the way down, and just hugged at the bottom. We thanked our new friend for allowing us to share the hike with her, and we made her promise to do the  hard hike before the week was over.  Some of the group broke off to rest, and some decided to head down the road to meet the people doing the steeper climb of the day. As I praised the Lord for what we all just experienced, I asked Him again to just show me who to walk with, talk with and meet on the next hike. It was another great hike, helping others experience their first time. We all waited at the top for every last person to reach it.
group at top 1group at top 2

top timsarahtop murnandrew

Andrew came on this hike with us, so it was a great opportunity to just thank him for all that he shared that morning, and have even more time to hear about his testimony, and get to hear about his wife and family. Another special visit. We all took great photos at the top, to celebrate and remember. We used the time to visit more on the way down, and continued to just share heart to heart with one another.

On this hike, the Lord had another special woman share her story with me, just to point out what a divine appointment this was for all of us. This woman explained that by the time she worked out being able to take off from her job, etc….when she went to sign up for this week, it was completely booked! She was absolutely devastated. She said she just cried and wondered why God would allow her to work everything out in order to get the time off, and then have the weekend sold out when she went to sign up.

Well, instead of just giving up and giving in, she prayed and emailed Carter to see if there was anything that could be done. And, because of her prayers and moving in faith to ask and keep knocking…and in God’s sovereignty, Carter was able to open up a cabin to house just a few more women. And I can testify to the fact that,  after meeting all of these women throughout the week, they were all part of this divine appointment, and were meant to be there even before it was ever a dream in the making. I loved that the Lord allowed me to walk and talk with this woman, because it reminded me of just how blessed I was to have my husband sign me up immediately, and just bless me with that gift, because I would have waited days trying to figure out if I could work everything out at home, as well as find the courage in myself to decide to go…and if that were to have happened, I would have been locked out of the retreat completely. So God knew that I would wait and wonder and go through way too many “what if’s”, and placed it on my husband’s heart to just sign me up right away. Amazing!

So, It was only Tuesday, and we had already started to become a family. But as Carter explained it so beautifully, we are already family in the body of Christ, so when we meet one another, it is almost as if we knew we were going to one day be together… and finally as the moment happens, our souls and hearts and minds are saying, as we look into each other’s eyes “oh, it’s you, I’m so glad to finally meet you”…and we connect forever in a special way…because one day we will be together for eternity. I thought it was so beautiful when he explained it that way.

From the hike, we met back at the big tent, and Carter lead a great class on preventing back pain, along with having proper posture. He shared lots of great tips and invaluable information. That took up the rest of the afternoon and lead us right up to dinner. Wait until you hear this God-incidence at dinner…

We ate dinner outside at the tables, and when we were all seated, I looked around, and for the first time, my roommates and I were all sitting together (now before I go on, let me also tell you, that although it is only Tuesday, for the rest of the meals we never get to all be together, just us, again which is what makes this so amazing.) As I wrote earlier in Monday’s story, my friend, Lorraine, wrote notes/letters for me to open up each day while I was away. Each one had the day posted on the front, and was meant for that specific day. After we began to eat and visit for a while,  I realized that I hadn’t stopped to read the letter of the day yet. I shared this with my roommates, as they knew about the letters by now, and when I took the “Tuesday 9-25-12” letter out of my binder, I opened it up and saw these words in the middle of the page before I even began reading it, and it said, “This one is for you and your roommates”.

Loie letters

I stopped, took a breath, and smiled and looked up and told my room mates, “you are NOT going to believe this, but this is just how amazing God is, down to THIS very second. Lorraine wrote letters for the entire week, we haven’t sat for a meal all together yet, and here we are at this moment, and the first words I read are…This one is for you and your room mates…so, let’s just take in this letter, because evidently the Lord even made it so that we would all be together at this meal for this letter, at this very moment….How crazy is that!!??!!”

So, in tears and with chills, in great anticipation for what it was going to say, I read the words that the Lord placed on Lorraine’s heart, days ago, just for all of us, at this moment…and here is what she wrote…

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6).
This one is for you and your roommates, as well as the entire group. As each of you grow in your faith, in your knowledge of who Christ is, you will come into fellowship together more honest and ready to share…to go deeper…to look inside…to pass through these challenges.
Lean on one another in the knowledge that it is our King who gives you all the endurance.
Persevere friends…you are being prayed for!!  Love ya! Lorraine”

It was absolutely amazing. We were discussing some of what was in this letter right before I read it. It really was incredible. We all just took in the words and the gift of His timing. It still astounds me.
upper climbWhen dinner was over, we made the climb to the upper room to hear our speakers for the evening, which were going to be Olivia and Hannah. When I got to the top, I had to just grab my phone and take a chance and see if Lorraine was home to share with her what had happened at dinner. I was so excited to hear her voice, and it was so great to show her, again, how the Lord used her in a mighty way here in Nashville, TN even though she couldn’t be here, but wanted to be with me on this trip so badly….and even though she couldn’t physically be here, she was still with me impacting lives from thousands of miles away, because she listened to His prompting and was used by the Holy Spirit to write all the words in those letters to bless all of us.

Never underestimate how the Lord can use you right where you are, even when you think you should be somewhere else. I also got to share with her something beautiful that Hannah shared with me on the walk this morning. While we were hiking, Hannah and I were talking, and she reminded me of a letter that I had written to her and Olivia while they were on The Biggest Loser. I had forgotten that I had even written a letter to them. But here is the amazing thing…she then shared with me that she had read that letter over and over a few times before going into the finale and that it had meant a lot to her and helped her get through that time. I absolutely couldn’t believe it. It’s another surreal moment…Think about it…

Over 2 years ago, a very overweight woman,( that would be me), was watching yet another season of The Biggest Loser, praying that I would one day be able to find the motivation and knowledge to lose weight and win a lifelong battle… I was watching tv and was being inspired by the people on this season 11, Marci, Courtney, Olivia, Hannah.. especially this incredible purple team.. sister team, Olivia and Hannah…wishing that one day I could meet them and learn from them…being so inspired by them week after week, praying for them the whole time as they made it to the finals and actually won first and second place!….and here I was this night, 70 pounds lighter, talking on the phone to Lorraine, outside the upper room, where Hannah and Olivia were about to share more of their life testimonies, and I was on this ranch, in real life… with all of them, working out, learning, building relationships, and had found out on this day, today, that a letter I wrote during that year, during that tv program, impacted Hannah’s life.

As I talked on the phone with Lorraine, I remember saying…”Can you even begin to take all this in?…The timing of your letter, the words the Lord gave you before I left to be read tonight with my room mates sitting at the table…Hannah read my letter over and over before the finale of The Biggest Loser over 2 years ago, and I got to hear that amazing reality, while hiking with her today in the woods.” I was talking on the phone, pacing, looking around the woods, trying to just take it in with her. WOW! Somebody pinch me!

I had to say good-bye and head into the upper room. Hannah and Olivia were our speakers for the night, and we were all so excited to hear their testimonies and learn from them. Carter introduced them to us, and let them know, even before they started, that all that they had to share would be taken in by us.. and then be in us forever, and I know that to this day, I hold onto all that they have taught me.

In his introductions, Carter started by saying, “there are events in our lives that define us and help forge who we are. Friendships bring out the absolute best in you…just a smile or a note can touch your heart. The power of that friendship refines you and changes your life forever–Hannah was like that for me. People can refine you and you can recall them the rest of their lives. We carry others with us.” He spoke about some of the things he admired in both sisters…he spoke about Hannah’s humor, and Olivia’s tenacity and tenderness.

sisters 1 sisters 2

  Hannah and Olivia took the stage, and just as Marci and Courtney did the night before, they opened their hearts, their lives, their wounds…they shared their battles, their life lessons, and their living testimonies with all of us.

bef aft

They began by pointing out that this week reminded them of where they had come from and how they started. Just like some of the women there were taking their first hikes, or climbing their first mountain, Hannah remembered her first hike on The Biggest Loser Ranch with Marci and Courtney and some of the others. She shared with us that she actually had to stop 19 times on the first hike, and didn’t believe that she could do it. She pointed out what a gift is was for us, to be able to be with one another and learn from Carter, Courtney, Marci, Murn, Olivia, Hannah for this week. It was a gift that we should cherish. She asked us to notice, again, how close we had all become already only 2 days into this experience. The relationships we were building here, were going to, as Carter said earlier, be carried with us forever.

Just as we had all come to a place in our lives where we had cried out to God, for Him to help us with our weight loss battle, Olivia also had hers. Her battle with weight started when she was a child, and her “enough” came at the time of her 35th birthday. In her praying for the Lord to do something “extreme”, in His perfect timing, for such a time as this…God-incidence after God-incidence lead her to the amazing opportunity of being on The Biggest Loser with Hannah. (I’m sure they will be writing their own book at some point, so I don’t want to tell their whole story here…but it is absolutely extraordinary, and will be a best seller one day! In fact, if you ever get the chance to hear them speak, don’t miss it!)

We all got to watch their transformations on tv, but what went on behind the scenes is the most amazing story ever. It is still referred to as the best season of them all, but that is because of the special group of people who were on at that time, including Marci and Courtney. It was a season where everyone really supported one another, cared for one another, and even laid down their lives for one another. We only saw what was shown on tv, but when you hear these women share all that went on, even when the cameras were not rolling, you find yourselves in awe of what was taking place on that ranch.

When you hear the stories of each individual, and all the ups and downs…doors closing and opening…at the exact times in order to take a place on this show, there is no doubt that God is in control. Olivia even thought that she was taking her husband with her, until “circumstances” lead to Hannah as her partner for the show. (and Hannah didn’t want to go, and in fact to this day, hadn’t even seen a full episode of the show.) But God had plans for these two sisters. He was going to use them, their lives, their transformations, inside and outside…to change and inspire the world, not only through winning the show, but also through changing and impacting others’ lives even after the show has been over.

The beautiful part about being in the presence of all of these inspiring people, is that they have the freedom off the show to share their transformations giving glory to God… Being able to share with all of us the great moments, along with the really tough stuff along the way. Tonight, Olivia shared a story about surrender. A few minutes into her story,on the side of my notebook, I wrote the words, “hey Wen, she’s the one”.

You see, in the beginning of the week, Carter told us that everyone would be offering Life Coaching sessions. A time to have a one on one hour with any of the leaders there. He pointed out that they all had been trained in different ways, and you could meet with anyone, or even a few or all of them. Some of my room mates had done sessions, and they literally came back different people. They worked out so much in their hour, and had such amazing break throughs with issues they were battling. I would have loved to just sign up with every person there, but I knew they would run out of time, and there was an extra fee to be able to do this, and the sign ups were already filled with a lot of names. I kept praying for the Lord to show me who I should make it with. I wanted each person, each for different reasons. If we had a few more days, and I had lots of extra money, I think I would have tried to have a session with each one. Anyhow, the more Olivia spoke, the more I saw that we were alike in so many ways. The way she approached and thought about things, being a type “A” personality, the oldest in her family, worried about taking care of everyone else, controlling all of her stuff and feeling like she had to control so much other stuff in her family, the perfectionist, the student that had to get all “A’s”…the pressure she put on herself that no one else put on her. I could relate to so much of what she had gone through and who she was. I think it was only a few minutes into her talk that I wrote these words on the side of the page.

Olivia talk

I listened so carefully to her talk, as I wanted to learn all that she had learned in her journey. She taught us what it is to truly surrender. She showed us how she went from years of watering and cultivating seeds of bitterness, anger,  and disappointment in her life…to now being placed on this ranch, on this show, with all the challenges, along with playing the game… and she shared the amazing process where through the circumstances, relationships and moments on this ranch, the Lord brought her to a place where she surrendered, truly surrendered to Him and trusted Him…that His way was better. She learned to trust Him even though it didn’t seem like the way she wanted it to go.

And as she continued to make it week after week, staying on a show where they told her she would probably be voted off 2 or 3 weeks in, others were placed in her life to guide her and speak wisdom, point out what she needed to do, and as she chose to open Her Bible every day and see what the Lord had for her, He transformed her from the inside out. As she truly surrendered, He brought her from bitterness to a place of true forgiveness to restoration!

There was a week in New Zealand where she was put up for elimination for the first time, and was put up against a beautiful man named Moses. She and Moses had become very close, and he knew that one of the major reasons Olivia was there was to be able to one day have a family. So he told everyone, “I have a family, and she wants a family.. She needs to be here”, and he asked everyone to write his name down so that she could stay. He literally laid his life down for her that week, and Olivia got to stay.

That week, the Lord gave her Psalm 71:20, at a time where He really wanted to lead her to a place of  forgiveness and restoration and let go of all the bitterness and hurt. She shared this verse with us…

Though you have made me see troubles,
    many and bitter,
    you will restore my life again;
     from the depths of the earth
    you will again bring me up.

When she was given this verse, she shared something that she did on the ranch that night which gave me a visual that was so powerful for myself. She explained that the things that weigh us down are like chains or ropes attached to heavy cinderblocks or an anchor. All of those are things that are keeping us chained up and weighted down, and we have to cut them one by one by really forgiving and letting go. After reading this verse, she asked God, what do I do with this? And He told her to climb to the top of the mountain on the ranch and shout out every name, every thing that is attached to her, weighing her down, and cut them one by one. So she climbed up by herself and started shouting one by one…and cutting one chain by one chain until she was freed. She said that she shouted for over 2 hours! Can you imagine! What an amazing, freeing moment.

Her next words…”after that, the restoration began!” “He wants to restore you inside and out. That’s the promise, He will restore your life again and again and again, just like it says in this Psalm.” From that moment on, she was on fire. If you watched the show, the following week was the week she won the car, kept losing the weight and eventually went all the way to winning the entire show. Little did we know, all watching from home that season, what had truly been taking place in her life there. She said it was literally as if her body exhaled and said, I don’t want this anymore.

She shared one of her favorite sayings, which is on a bracelet that she wears, that Bob Harper gave her, “Stand up and finish what you started”. Those are words that she continues to live by. She explained to us that we all have to choose to keep going. There is no final finish line, because every time we cross a finish line, we should be setting out for another. We should be setting goals, and when we reach them, set out another. She continues to dream big dreams, set new goals and strives to keep finishing what she starts….The Biggest Loser…Soul Cycle Instructor….completing a marathon…doing cross fit…  What are your dreams and goals? Are you writing them down and moving toward them. Have you stopped to cut the chains that are holding you back?

She ended with an amazing illustration in dealing with motivation and inspiration. She said the number one question she gets is how do you stay motivated and inspired to keep going? She gave an amazing metaphor of building a fire. You need kindling and a match. The match is something that lights you up to want to lose the weight, but in order to start it, you need kindling. Find your kindling….kindling can be something you read, a pair of pants you want to get into, an activity you want to be able to do, an event you want to go to, getting better numbers at a doctor’s visit, being able to ride a bike, swim, play with your kids…kindling just starts the fire. Now you have to tend to the fire. The fire needs oxygen, logs and stoking.. So, one by one your good choices are the logs you throw on the fire. You make a good breakfast (log), you go work out (log), you park far away and walk (log), you drink your waters for the day (log)… each log you choose and place on the fire, you are tending to the fire.

Then she pointed out the most important log…your Bible. (another great analogy..it’s made out of paper, which comes from a tree…log!). View this journey as a fire that you want to burn your whole life! Light it, stoke it, keep the logs on it, so that it doesn’t burn out, otherwise you have to start it up all over again…but you can!

She ended by saying, “Go build your fire! That fire will burn inside you the rest of your life. It’s the best gift to give yourself!”

When it was over, I was leaving, walking down the dark path back to the lodge, and the Lord told me to turn around and go back in and just ask Olivia if she would fit me in for a life coaching session that week. I walked back in, expecting to wait in line to be able to speak to her, and believe it or not, she was walking toward the stage, where I was walking in the door, and she was alone at that point. (unheard of)…I walked over to her and told her that I had been praying about who I should see for a LC session, and that the Lord told me that she was the one. We started talking about some things right there, and I have no idea how long I was with her, but before I knew it, I was in tears just sharing heart to heart with her. I shared a lot of what was going on in my life, and how much her talk meant to me, how similar I was to her, and how her story about cutting the chains meant so much to me. She was so honest and open with me, and helped me with a few things right there. I told her that I would go back and see if she had any appointments still open for the week, and we could talk then, and just thanked her for sharing so much with me right there. It truly was a divine appointment.

We all met back at the room. Shared a bit with each other, but it was extremely late, and we would be getting up extra early tomorrow, as Hannah and Murn were so gracious in doing our RMR’s at 3:45am so that we wouldn’t miss Carter’s boot camp. I wrote down as much as I could before heading to bed, and then just praised God again, as I went to sleep for another unbelievable day filled with life changing events, fully orchestrated down to the second…by Him!

TO BE CONTINUED…. On WED.Morning at 3am…

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