Don’t Tell Me What you CAN’T Do….Tell Me What You CAN Do!!!….(What are the anchors that keep you going through tough times?…)

Don't tell me what you Can't do
So, I’m not sure if I have sprained or broken my pinky toe, but the pain has been excruciating at times. It has turned a wonderful shade of dark purple, since I jammed it into a heavy chair Wednesday morning.

bruised toe

I limped to the gym that first morning, knowing it would be a circuit day, and I trusted that the trainer would help me modify at each station, so that I could still work out. I ended up doing a lot of upper body exercises, I was proud of myself for showing up (remembering that just by showing up, you are “lapping everyone who is still sitting on a sofa”) I was also willing to be honest and ask for help at each station. The trainer was so happy to help me and keep challenging me…quitting is no longer an option. Putting on those sneakers was so painful, and so was just walking. It’s amazing how much you need that little toe for!

Thursday morning, the pain was even worse. As I found myself starting to worry, feeling sorry for myself, and so frustrated… starting to worry about not being able to work out, how long would this injury affect me, will this slow down my weight loss, etc….I had to pray and just bring everything I knew to the situation. It’s time to hold onto everything I have learned and press through this. “Ok Wendy, Don’t tell me what you CAN’T do…tell me what you CAN DO! Pray for the strength, ask to find the motivation.”

With that, I remembered a picture I took of TV the other night while watching “Dancing with the Stars”. It was a picture of all of Amy’s prosthetics lined up along the mirror. I remember pausing the television, taking in that scene and just being left in awe. Here is a woman who has lost the bottom half of both of her legs, and she is competing on “Dancing with the Stars”. She is one of the most amazing dancers I have ever seen. As she approaches each day, each new routine, she is not wondering IF she can do it, she is wondering, “which of these legs/feet should I use to just dance my heart out and do my best!”

Amy's feet

I brought up that picture on my phone and kept it fresh in my mind — to choose to move on. Thursday’s work out was spinning. I wasn’t sure if my spin shoes were going to go on my feet, or if I would be able to push on the pedals, but I was going to try, and if it didn’t work out, I was going to ask for help in finding what else I could do to sweat at the gym that morning.

I limped into the gym, explained to the trainer/instructor that I was going to just do my best, remembering that was what Carter told us at “Unleash the Champion”…you just have to bring YOUR absolute best to every workout, don’t look around and compare yourself to anyone else.

bring your best

I set up the bike, winced in pain as I strapped my shoe on and clicked it into the pedals…then I took one stroke at a time. I closed my eyes, prayed for strength to get through and for the pain to lessen….and pushed through an hour class, which was a strength ride including 4 long, steep hills….I got myself to stand up and push, and just went along, holding onto every inspirational thought. I had my “Unleash the Champion” bracelet on which also has the words..”Start. Sweat. Finish”, so I thought of all the people I am still on this journey with, that I met there, along with those in my weekly Weight Watcher’s family, who continue to inspire me every single day…. I had my “Believe” bracelet on, and on my handlebars, I happened to have the towel from the Sports Bra Challenge, which I conquered over a year ago. I was surrounded with incredible “anchors”, reminders to inspire me to keep going.

sports bra towel bracelets
When I need help to press on toward this weight loss finish line, I am inspired by the people who are in this weight loss journey with me. Their stories, words and lessons are in my head and memory…they are with me at every work out. I also hold onto every bit of wisdom and knowledge I have learned along the way.

UTC Turf picture

When the ride was finished, I opened my eyes, and I looked down on the floor and saw the drippings of sweat, and I was proud of every drop. During the cool down, I just thanked God for the ability to get through the workout…for the memories, verses, sayings, stories all brought to mind during the ride that kept me going.

foot and sweat

As Courtney Crozier has said many times in sharing her incredible weight loss journey, “it might take a while to change your body, but it only takes one split second to change your mind.” I woke up in pain, disbelief, discouragement, despair, bombarded with feelings of doubt and anxiety….and choice by choice, one at a time…chose to get to that gym, walk through those doors and continue to fight to get across my finish line.

Courtney with sign.04_n

At the end of that ride, yes, the pain was still there…but so was the sweat on the floor, and I was walking out of those gym doors believing again…feeling empowered, strong and really proud of getting through it. There is no better feeling than walking OUT the doors of a gym after a great workout.

I don’t know how long it will take for my toe to heal, but I will continue to search for what I can do in the meantime. I share the story of this day with you, because I saw this post on Facebook yesterday….

because of you I didn't give up
I didn’t give up today, because of the people who have inspired me. I have finally been successful in this journey due to the inspiration, time shared and help of so many friends, as well as strangers I’ve met along the way. Some may never know the impact their stories have had, and continue to have on my life. Amy will never know that I took a picture of all of her “feet” lined up in a dance studio on television, or how her courage and story will forever be a part of what I use, now as motivation to continue in my journey.

My greatest joy is passing on the stories and wisdom I have learned from others, as well as what I have learned along this weight loss journey, and this is one of the greatest reasons I share these stories…so that someone else will choose not to give up.

Share your stories and your struggles, ask for help, surround yourself with people who believe in you, even before you come to believe in yourself, have “anchors” all around you to bring you back to your reason “why” you are going to do this. Don’t give up, you CAN do this… One great choice at a time, bringing your best to each day, one day at a time.
this time is for you
PS…after hurting my toe on Wed, I continued to do all that I could do…. and on Saturday, I had a 3.6 pound weight loss for the week!

on boat

“Wendy, You WILL praise me at the top of the mountain. Trust me.” -God

Wendy hat SONY DSC SONY DSC

These words were a promise from God, impressed on my heart over and over again during one of the toughest seasons of my life, which I went through this past spring (June/July)….

sneakersThe month of June was packed with many many challenges…it was a month filled with tears, anxiety, fear, anger, exhaustion, disappointment, questions…..many times I was asking “are you there Lord?, Are you listening?, Are you kidding me?, Why are you allowing this to happen? Really Lord!?”…. It was a time that Warren and I had to hold onto every promise we knew of from His word, every scripture….we held onto the words and promises in every hymn and praise song, which always seemed to play at the perfect time that we needed to hear it, or the lyrics would play in my heart and head just to help me hold on through another moment at times. There were times I had to just cry out and ask for the Lord to help me have enough faith to get through the next few minutes, but I also realized it was my choice to hold onto that faith…a choice to have a confident expectation that the Lord truly is all that He says He is, and can do all that He says He can do. A choice to believe either it’s all true…or none of it is true. And although every tough thing that has happened in the past few months is not resolved, YET, I am writing this to testify to the fact that, when it comes to God’s word, His promises, His character…. it is ALL true!

I went into the month of June signing on for a fitness challenge that I was going to take on, along with my “Unleash the Champion” family. It was a pretty extreme challenge headed up by Carter Hays, an incredible trainer who has trained many athletes, as well as some of the contestants from The Biggest Loser, bringing them to the finale as strong and as fit as they can be. He was creating the same scenario, an extreme challenge for extreme weight loss, for us to do just during the month of June. Some people went to train and stay with him in Nashville for the month, and others of us were going to do it as intensely as we could at home. We had to set high goals for ourselves. My extreme goal for the month was 15-20 pounds. We had our own private facebook page to check in on each other, encourage one another, as well as receive our instructions from Carter. He gave us the basic info, we had to do it all on our own from home….very specific food journals, and very extreme calorie burns. It took me over 8 hours and over 3 days just to look up and shop for, and figure out the food for the first week. I had it all set. My family was going to do all they could to help and support me, as they knew this was going to take a lot of my time for the next 30 days. I had to start 1 day late, as Weight Watchers asked me to do a speaking engagement on that Saturday. But Sunday, June 2, I was full on. I had never been at my gym on a Sunday, no classes available, so I did every machine I knew to burn big numbers. I put my Bodybugg on, burned more calories than I have ever burned in a day, and was in this challenge full throttle. June 3, Monday, I went to the gym, took 2 hours of tough classes (I told my gym about the challenge, and every instructor jacked up the classes for me to work the hardest I could work.)

June 3rd was my dad’s 79th birthday. I planned a birthday dinner, around the foods I could have, but my dad didn’t feel so well, and he decided to go to bed early, and asked me to postpone his birthday celebration to when he felt better. June 4th, I had completed 2 hours of classes, was on the elliptical to burn a little extra before going home, and one of the trainers came up to hand me the gym phone… by the look on her face, I knew it wasn’t good news.

It was my husband on the phone. He told me to hurry home, the ambulance was on it’s way, my mom had found my dad face down, up in his bedroom. I remember running out of the gym in tears, jumping into my car, calling my mother in law to start a prayer chain, and just pleading with God not to take my dad yet, I just wasn’t ready.

I followed the ambulance over to the hospital. After hours of being in the ER, they determined that he had ruptured his appendix. The infection was pretty bad, but engulfed itself. Lots of doctors together decided to treat with antibiotics, as it was too close to puncturing his bowels, etc.

The following week was spent in the hospital, almost around the clock. Dad was failing as his body tried to fight the infection. As I sat by his bedside, I prayed and wrote a lot. I tried to think of ways I could stay in the challenge, but I couldn’t leave his bedside to exercise. And there wasn’t room to exercise in his room, other than chair squats (which I did). I tried to take one class each morning, and prayed for God to just do a miracle. And in that first week He did. I lost 4.6 pounds!

Week two…more tough circumstances. I had a doctor’s appt. where they were watching something in my body.  It was still there, so they had to do a blood test to test for cancer…and I wouldn’t find out the results until the following Tuesday or so. Week two my dad also got weaker and worse. I remember, along with pleading for his life and restored health, asking the Lord, “why now? Why during this challenge?” This was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I had prepared so hard for it. All I could do was control the food completely, and choose not to take any elevators, just stairs, every time I went to, or left the hospital. I was there from morning until very late at night every day.

I realized halfway through the second week of June, that while I was living in the hospital, everything was coming due for my daughter Grace….final papers, high school finals, regents exams…she also had a big piano recital, dance recital, and was going to be singing at a wedding. While my dad was in ICU, I took a day to find a dress for her piano recital. Coming out of the dressing room, I slipped, and threw my left arm up in the air to catch myself. As I did, I felt a strange pain shoot from my shoulder down to my hand, and I remember thinking,” Ooh, that wasn’t good.” The next morning I woke up in excruciating pain. I couldn’t dress myself, I couldn’t move my arm at all, and couldn’t stop crying from the pain. I went to the doctor, and got an anti inflammatory. Thursday and Friday my husband had to dress me, the pain was worse. I ended up in Pro Health with an amazing sports doctor who told me that I had a big calcium deposit on my shoulder which burst into my arm.
He took a huge needle and put it into my shoulder, broke up more of the pieces, and filled my arm with cortisone. I had a little relief, and some great pain killers to take (which I had never taken before). The pain killers worked a little to sleep, but I slept sitting up, with a sling on my arm to hold my arm against my body. Just walking and swinging it a bit was so painful. I was told it could take months until I could get back to exercising like I was, and if the cortisone shots didn’t work, I might need surgery.

I remember reading all of the amazing posts from everyone in the challenge each and every day. The pictures of their transformations in just 2 weeks was astounding. I was so happy for them, and felt so sorry for myself.  As I thought about having to quit, I decided to just keep praying for, and encouraging everyone in the challenge, and I remember writing to Carter, deciding that I guess I had to give up the challenge completely. I will never forget what he said… He said, “Wendy, you have been climbing a mountain and you are headed for the top. You have to stop and take shelter now, and that is ok. You have come too far. Are you going to turn around and retreat and run back down the mountain..or are you going to stop and take some shelter and then keep climbing to the top?” Those words were so powerful at that moment, and I also held onto what he has always asked each and every one of us…”don’t tell me what you can’t do….tell me what you CAN do!”

I knew that I had come too far to retreat. And I knew I had to take shelter for a while, as I could barely walk, let alone exercise. I could control the food completely, so I kept up with everything Carter told us to do. Week two and week three, I ate perfectly, but could not exercise. I didn’t weigh in, because I was afraid I would be up from the cortisone shots.  I remember strapping my arm to my body, driving with one hand to the hospital, and just walking in the gloomy hallway stairwells, which no one else used. I remember just crying and praying on those steps, asking God to just get me through another day…this was all too much…..My dad was failing, my arm was in such pain, I could barely walk without pain, I was waiting for blood results which may or may not be cancer, (and we also had another huge wave of devastation hit us in another area which I can’t discuss here, but it is huge.) It was also the last month of school for my daughter, which was filled with important responsibilities.

With all of this going on, my husband and I could barely breathe, and we were barely together during this time, as he was working so much, and I was living at the hospital. We had all of our friends and family praying,  we went to church and to prayer meetings on Tuesday nights. We prayed so hard together for all of this.

The timing of all of this was also really hard, because this entire year, we were looking forward to going away and celebrating the milestones of this past year. My son turned 21, my daughter turned 16, and July 22 would be our 25th wedding anniversary. We all agreed that instead of big parties, we wanted to go away together this summer. Our dream was to go to Italy. In the beginning of spring due to other unforeseen circumstances, that dream ended for now. However, my brother had been here months ago, and he and my husband went online one morning when the campsites in Yosemite went on sale. They sell out in minutes. You can’t even ask for a specific day. That morning, they had everything typed out and in order to hit “send”, as soon as the sale started, and they miraculously got a spot that morning, for 4 days in July.

My brother told me not to worry, if we couldn’t join him,(he lives in California), he was going to go anyway, but he knew that renting an RV and taking our family to a national park was one of the things on my “bucket list”, and he and my husband did this for me. That was months and months ago, way before I knew all this would be happening. But God was already orchestrating where we would be celebrating as a family.

We hadn’t bought our plane tickets yet, as I couldn’t see us being able to leave, but every time we prayed, every time we worshipped in church, every time we were at a prayer service, every time I walked and prayed in those dark stairwells at the hospital, the Lord kept telling me in my heart, “you WILL praise me at the top of that mountain.” I would picture myself at the top of a mountain, with my hands both lifted high, just praising Him as if all this was over, as if every prayer was answered. The songs that got me through included, “if faith could move the mountains, let the mountains move”….

“If faith can move the mountains, let the mountains move
We come with expectation, waiting here for you
I’m waiting here for you..

Your the Lord of all creation, and still you know my heart
The author of salvation, you’ve loved us from the start

Waiting here for you..With our hands, lifted high in praise
And it’s you we adore, singing Alleluia.

You are everything you promised, your faithfulness is true
And we’re desperate for your presence, all we need is you.

Waiting here for You

With our hands lifted high in praise
And it’s You we adore
Singing Alleluia

 

Every time I sang this song, I pictured myself at the top of a mountain, with my hands lifted high in praise, singing these lyrics. (even though my arm was in a sling, strapped to my body in excruciating pain, not able to move..with doctors/trainers telling me that it could be months before I get my range of motion back.) And over and over again, at my darkest moments during these months, the Lord kept telling me that I was going to praise him at the top of the mountain. Trust Him.

So, here we were in June, bombarded with all these things happening. In the third week of June, my Dad started to respond to the antibiotics, and he started to get a bit better. When the hospital couldn’t do anything more, they moved him to a rehab center. He miraculously got into an outstanding rehab center that very few people know about, as it is brand new. It would take me too long to explain how that whole “God-incidence happened, but it did, and it was another miracle that I could hold onto, as it strengthened my faith to hold on and trust.  My sister came from Vermont and my brother was coming in from California to help me, as I could no longer do it on my own. My mom told me to take the trip with my family while my dad was in rehab. My sister would stay and help.

dad rehabAt the end of the third week, and second set of cortisone shots, I began to move my arm a bit. As we went into the 4th week of the weight loss challenge, we knew that this was going to be the toughest week. The amount of food was brought down to a minimal amount of calories, and those who were in the challenge were going to work out as hard as they could this week. That Monday, I went to the gym in the morning to see if I could do the treadmill. One major change in my heart, and especially in my mind that came about with this injury, is that I have gone from saying, “I have to work out” to “I GET to work out”. I can’t believe how much I missed being able to move, all the things that I took for granted when my body could do everything. I kept holding onto what Carter says, “don’t tell me what you can’t do, tell me what you can do.”  It was such a gift to be able to walk on a treadmill. Then I tried the elliptical using one arm, and then the stairclimber. I did 20 minutes on each, and it was really hard. I pushed myself a bit, but was careful not to injure my arm more. I wasn’t able to lift even a 3 pound weight with my left arm, my husband still had to help me get dressed, but that first day, I was just so happy to be back at the gym. I told myself that for this final week, I would come and do as much as I could on these 3 machines, and my husband and I would walk after dinner 4-5 miles, finding the best hills in our town to make it harder. I put my arm in a sling the first few days, then took it off as it healed. On Wednesday of that week, I called for my blood test results, and they said that the numbers were fine, there is nothing to worry about. A HUGE weight felt as if it had been lifted off of my shoulders, as my mind had gone into many dark places waiting for the results of something possibly being cancerous.

The last 48 hours of the challenge consisted of a fast. Nothing to eat, just drinking water, clear liquids for 24 or 48 hours, whatever you could do. I had never done this before. I prayed a lot during this last week, asking the Lord to just miraculously burn more calories in me than I could ever do myself, I knew He could, as I wasn’t going to be able to do this in my own strength.

If you have read my stories before, you know that I hold onto the promise, “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me”, and I was asking Him to give me His miraculous strength to finish strong, even in the midst of all that had happened this past month. My brother came in that Friday, and the challenge was ending on Sunday. I picked him up from the airport, and told him that I was in the last part of the fast for the first day. He told me that he was going to help me make it through both days. I wasn’t sure I could. At that point, I was starting to let myself off the hook and be satisfied with 24 hours. But then Carter sent out a message to all of us about finishing strong…

“What you do today during this challenge can completely validate this month for you and catapult you through tomorrow, or diminish every drop of sweat, sacrifice, and tear you’ve shed.FINISH is more than being “done”!!! it is what you’ll remember as a breakthrough time, or a breakdown time. What happen on days 1-28 are held hostage or set free by what you do today… and takes you through tomorrow like a runaway train… (then he added this scripture)..

2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV)
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

….I knew after reading his post that I had to finish this strong, even after not being able to do everything I had planned I would.

Saturday morning, I went to WW and weighed in, I was down another 7.4 pounds, which brought me to 12 for the challenge…but, I still had 1 day to go. Saturday was really tough to get through. I was so hungry, I spent a lot of time praying and journaling. That night, at around 10 pm, my brother said, “grab your sneakers, we are going for one last push.” We went for a long walk. We stopped down by the water, where they were showing an outdoor movie night of “Rocky”. We watched a little bit to get inspired…watched Rocky slurp down those raw eggs, and then we were off to finish what I started. We took a long walk, and when I hit the pillow late that night, I thanked God for being able to do this challenge, in the midst of one of the toughest months of my life, even though it turned out very differently than I had thought. I was thankful for the 12 pounds for the month, and was excited to take measurements and a final weigh in in the morning before church.

Sunday morning I came down, grabbed the tape measure, took my measurements, and then subtracted them each from the ones I took on June 1st. My body measurements went down over 11 ½ inches! Then I got on the scale….and had to look again. I lost 15 pounds!  15!….All I could say was…..ONLY GOD! ONLY GOD could have pulled out that miraculous number, because I didn’t reach enough total burns each day for that to happen. What a gift. What a blessing. What a miracle.

I went to church that morning, just thanking and praising him for this incredible miracle in the midst of one of the toughest months of my life, and as I sang and praised him, he reminded me again, “Wendy, I know things are really tough, but trust me, you WILL praise me at the top of the mountain. You are going to Yosemite, and you will praise me there.”

I wasn’t sure how I was going to climb yet, or even how I was going to pack my suitcase and carry it, and at that point, the idea of being able to raise my left arm above my head was just a dream. And the doctor said it could be weeks, maybe months till I could just raise it above my head without pain. But I was trusting God…the God who makes all things possible, the one who works ALL things together for my good. The God who just pulled out a miraculous 15 pound weight loss in a month with a major injury, incredible stress, and some other really scary and awful circumstances in our family… beyond our control.

We continued to hold onto the fact that nothing takes Him by surprise, He is the author and perfecter of time and of our faith. Even in the midst of the darkest times, He promises to work all things together for the good of those who love him…and we love Him.

Friends and family came together at home to take care of my parents so that we could fly to California to share our vacation with my brother’s family. I don’t think I took anything for granted on this trip, and I asked the Lord to just orchestrate every single moment, and not let us miss one God-incident. I kept a journal, starting on the plane, and on the top of  one of the pages I wrote, “Lord, surround the RV with your angels of protection. Let this be a time together where we share your love and say–ONLY GOD!!..at the end of each day. Orchestrate it all, and all the conversations.”

It was already surreal to all be on the airplane taking off. We were really going. Dad was doing better in rehab. A few weeks ago, we were calling a code alert in the hospital,  thinking he was about to die, and now he was in rehab starting to walk again. My mom was breathing better and on less medications for the first time in a long time, My arm was no longer in a sling, and I could dress myself and even pack my suitcase (slowly) on my own. I had just lost 15 pounds in 30 days, in the middle of one of the toughest months of my life. There were still a few other very very serious and tough situations that were still needing an act of God, but we knew (and  know) He is working on it.
SONY DSCThe trip was filled with the most incredible gifts. His timing and His presence was unmistakable. Everyone, including the kids kept pointing it all out. It was beyond extraordinary. When we arrived in Yosemite on Sunday, we rode bikes over to book our grand tour we wanted to take on Monday. The woman said, “this never happens, but we are sold out.” Instead of having my usual disappointed reaction to this fact, as it was not going with “my plan”, I said out loud, “ok, God must want us to go the next day, is that available?” The lady looked at me a little strangely, and then said, “wow, this rarely happens, but we are almost sold out on that one also. But we do have 7 spots.” I said to Warren, in front of the woman, I can’t wait to point out to the kids that God must have some reason for this timing.”

Knowing we would be on our own now the next day, we asked where the greatest hike would be, where we could see waterfalls… and she said if our kids were older and could handle it, we should go and hike Nevada and Dakota falls. She said it was a tough hike, but so beautiful, and the waterfalls were much bigger than the Yosemite falls. So, that was our plan for the next day.
both fallspgSONY DSC SONY DSC We got up that morning, excited for the hike. We started the climb, and I got to climb and share some great faith stories with my niece and nephew, something my brother had asked me to do months ago…and now this ended up being the perfect time.  We climbed and shared and took pictures at different points, and after each picture, they walked with me and asked me to continue the stories. It was beautiful.
our moment still praisingWhen we reached the bottom of the first falls, it was breathtaking! The majesty surrounding us can’t even be put into words, and even our pictures don’t do it justice. As I walked this part with my husband, we just stood there and said, “this is our moment. This is where we are going to praise Him.” We took a “self” picture and then stood there and praised Him and prayed and placed the rest of our heavy concerns into His capable and loving and mighty and powerful hands. I said those lyrics, If Faith can move a mountain, let the mountains move…. I climbed a little higher, with the falls behind me and threw my hands up in the air for Warren to take a picture. But this wasn’t over yet…
SONY DSC SONY DSC enjoying fallsJPG     The kids didn’t want to climb any further, so Warren stayed with them and they took in the majesty for a while and talked there, while my brother and I decided to climb to the very top of the falls.SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC
The rest of this climb was treacherous. Sometimes I had to climb over huge rocks and have him pull my right arm, and trust that he could pull me up, as my left arm was weak, and hurt a bit. But, it was working, and pulling. There were steps carved into the steep rocks, and my brother lead the way and just told me to follow in his footsteps. As I climbed, this whole fitness journey flashed through my head. I realized I never could have done this climb even a year ago. I was strong and fit enough to do this now. As the steps got steeper, and it was tougher to breathe, I just quoted scripture with every step, one word for each step….”I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, He works all things together for good for those who love Him, He who is in me is greater than He who is in the world, with God All things are possible….etc. etc.”

SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSCThere was a point where there was a metal banister along the wall to make sure you didn’t fall off the cliff, when I  reached the very top of that, the very top of the falls, tears began to stream down my face behind my sunglasses, I was just overcome with emotion, and my brother just said, “let it out Wen, say all that you have to say!”

I shared all the things God gave me, and just said them out loud to him at the top of that waterfall. The water rushed over that cliff, and his promises, and songs just rushed out of me. It was astounding, exhilarating… and my brother and I just pointed out that only a week or 2 ago, we were in the hospital, cleaning up so many tough messes with my dad, experiencing some of the worst moments you can in a hospital… and here we both were, at the top of this waterfall just thanking God for what He has done. We took in the breathtaking scenery, took some great pictures to try to capture what was going on, and prayed for those things, still unanswered at this time. Again, placing it all into the same hands that created everything surrounding us at this moment. It was overwhelming.

the gang SONY DSC

wah n wen It was a day I will never ever forget. God promised me that I would praise Him at the top of the mountain, in the midst of the darkest days, in the midst of excruciating pain and disappointment, at the times I was crying my hardest, and in the dark stairwells of a hospital…not only did he fulfill this incredible promise, but….take a breath here…. He orchestrated THIS promised moment, all to occur…. on the EXACT day of our 25th wedding anniversary!! ( remember how we hit “send” on the computer months ago to win a spot in a lottery where you can’t request a date, remember how the grand tour was sold out?, etc. etc.)
gang on rockThat continues to take my breath away when I think of His timing. Months and months ago, before all of this happened, before this tough month of June even happened, it was placed on my brother’s heart to try for a random spot and a random time in Yosemite,(which was closed out in minutes), yet we got a spot, for 4 days, which happened to fall on my 25th wedding anniversary. Then a tour that rarely sells out, sells out, so that we can’t go, because God knew that He wanted to fulfill His promise to me on the actual date of this momentous occasion. So…..for the rest of my life, we can glorify Him and tell this incredible story about a God who’s promises are YES and AMEN!.. And who is clearly the author and perfecter of time. Nothing takes Him by surprise, even if it takes us by surprise.

us on mtn our family love him! I couldn’t have planned this story if I tried, and it is only part of all that happened during this trip, I would need a few more hours and a few more blogs to tell you about the rest, because just as I asked Him, every night we all said, “Only God could have done that today!”….Just as He promises…He did ABUNDANTLY MORE than I could have ever asked or imagined!

During the darkest moments these past few months, all we could do was pray, hold onto promises, ask for his peace that passes all understanding, especially when we felt alone, abandoned, forgotten…scared, anxious, defeated. As the Psalmist says, “there may be pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning.” We are still walking through some tough stuff, but He is faithful. He has never ever left us before, even in the midst of the toughest times, so we know we don’t have to walk through it alone.

As we continue to pray for all of our concerns, we are brought back to that place, standing at the waterfall, surrounded the most beautiful scenes of nature just shouting out His majesty…we remember that He brought us there together on our actual 25th wedding anniversary, fulfilling a promise He gave us over and over again in the midst of so much heartache… that we would praise Him at the top of the mountain. We praised Him for all He has done, for what He is doing and for what He will do. And we live this day in faith…a confident expectation that He is all He says He is and will do all that He says He will do. He is the yes, and we are the amen!

I pray that this story encourages you today and strengthens your faith, no matter what you are going through, feeling or facing. He is faithful, He loves you so much, and He will never let you go.

The Sports Bra Challenge… Abundantly MORE Than I Could Have Ever Asked Or Imagined…

(Video I submitted for the Sports Bra Challenge Reveal)

The Sports Bra Challenge….Abundantly MORE than I could have ever asked for or imagined….
really hereWhen I watched my “reveal” video that I made for the SBC, after the weekend was over and Roseanne and Bethany had left, I realized how profound my last words were. when I spoke them, it was about a week before the event would take place. I ended the video saying that, I was looking forward to this event, as it started out as a dream I had about 2 years ago, and with this incredible journey I have been on, I was praying that it would be “abundantly more than I could ever ask or imagine…not only for me, but for every person there.”  And as I type this entry…let me start by saying, it absolutely was!  It was beyond my wildest dreams…

The weekend was approaching, Roseanne and Bethany were making all of their plans to come to NY and experience this with me. I was so excited that they were coming. We were just 3 women, out of the hundreds who would be there, who were bringing our individual stories… our issues, our “baggage”, our celebrations, our expectations…our lives….our minds, bodies, spirits….just as we were, at this time, to a place to be together with hundreds of others, to celebrate where we were in our lives that day.

I had dreamed of this day for 2 years, since Olivia and Hannah had announced that they were going, after winning The Biggest Loser..2 years ago, 81 pounds ago, I exercised in my house (alone) to an exercise video, shades down, doors locked, in a sports bra, just to feel a part of that day that was happening in NYC, now I was going to check off a dream that I listed on my “dream/wish list” 2 years ago…..Roseanne was celebrating already being over 111 pounds down, since I met her at Unleash The Champion, Bethany was choosing to mark this moment as an empowering experience and time of transformation as she was going to turn 30 this week. This was going to be a time of proclaiming that this next, new decade was going to be one of health and fitness.

Friday finally arrived, and this extraordinary weekend was about to begin. I got the 2 bedrooms all set for their arrival…beautiful flowers by their bedsides, a “Soul Cycle” bag filled with some of my favorite things to share with them, a binder with some pictures of their journeys, filled with some inspiring sayings and things I had learned. I just wanted these 2 extraordinary women to feel cherished and loved…and to just let them know how honored I was that The Lord put them in my life.

bethanny gifts roseanne gifts

With everything set at home, I took the train into NYC to pick up Roseanne. Then we were going to go to the airport to get Bethany…then we were all going to experience a “first” together….spray tans!!! (the thought of exposing this stomach that hasn’t seen the light of day since I was 18 years old…well, a tan makes everything look better!)

I reached NYC, and within minutes, I found Roseanne, standing with her luggage, and I just hugged her! I couldn’t believe she was really here! She looked amazing! Once we were situated on the train, we started to catch up, take pictures and begin walking through the weekend that we had anticipated for so long!

Roseanne trainBethany’s plane was delayed a bit, so we went ahead to our spray tan appointments, and Warren picked Bethany up from the airport. We shared part of our stories with the people at the spray tan place, and they were just sooo excited for us. Geo, the woman doing the spraying, made us feel so comfortable, and when we came out, we took pictures with her to keep documenting the journey! She told us that she would totally fit Bethany in any time that night,if she saw our tans and decided she still wanted one. Well, when we got home and walked in and hugged Bethany, she really wanted to have it done also, so we jumped in the car and went back. I’m so glad she decided to get it done, it was great to go back and have fun seeing her experience it also. Again, a fun round of pictures, and we went back to have dinner at home.
tanningMy family was so excited to meet Roseanne and Bethany, especially my parents, as they had heard so much about them. We visited well into the night, and finally went to bed after midnight. If not for exhaustion setting in, I think we could have stayed up all night talking.

First thing Saturday morning, we drove to my WW meeting. Another group that was looking so forward to meeting these women whom I had been sharing about fore a long time in my group. We got there early, weighed in and met all the staff, including Elyse, who had been waiting to meet them, especially the “woman that I passed my “believe” bell to”. We took some great pictures all together, before the meeting started. Then Lorraine arrived, and those long awaited hugs took place! (As I watched Lorraine and Bethany hug, I was taken back to the day on the ranch, in September, sitting at the lunch tables after reading Lorraine’s daily letter to me….After I read it to everyone at the table, and explained that she had written one for every day I was away…Bethany asked, “promise me, that if I ever come to NY, you will introduce me to Lorraine?,(and I said, “I absolutely promise.)….and here they were, 7 months later,hugging each other, on Long Island.. at our WW meeting…ONLY GOD!
wwAs everyone started to come in, they met them…Elyse lead another extraordinary meeting, and at one point, when everyone heard that  Roseanne was over 111 pounds down, they gave her a standing ovation! What a beautiful moment. It was just so special to share this meeting with 2 special friends I had met on a ranch in Tennessee last September, and to look to my right, and see Lorraine sitting in between both of them, it was pretty surreal.

From the meeting, we went out for a great breakfast all together, overlooking the Long Island sound. Grace, (my daughter) and Hannah (Lorraine’s daughter), joined us, as they were so excited to be with these women also. It was a great “girly” time of visiting and sharing. The rest of the day was filled with a bit of touring the area, we did a little shopping and “cruising the Miracle Mile”, as Billy Joel’s song made it famous…from sneaker shopping to Sephora… we even took Bethany to Lululemmon to buy her first pair of work out pants there.

breakfast lululemon We took a ride over to see the gardens of The Swan Club, then picked up some great steaks and food for a barbecue. More great visiting into past midnight, and we decided we really needed to get to bed, the big day was tomorrow!

I went to bed praying again that the following day would be all that it was suppose to be. We were all excited, but also very nervous, as we had no idea what to expect. That evening, Lorraine decided to go with us, to be “the photographer” and visit and be a part of all of it, because we read on the website that being in a sports bra was optional, so everyone didn’t have to do it, if you just wanted to be there and experience it. Well, God knew all along that she was suppose to be there, and experience it all with us. There was a point during the day, that she just said how thankful she was that she came, as there was no way I ever could have put into words what happened this day.

Roseanne, Bethany and I all walked up to the station to meet Lorraine and catch the train. Thank God Lorraine came with her car. As we came into the station, there was caution tape everywhere and signs that said they were working on the tracks, so buses were running every hour to take you 2 towns away to get on there. If we did this, we were really going to be late. We met Lorraine, jumped in her car, and out ran the train to a station that was 3 towns away, and we made it in time to jump on that train. It was panic mode for a bit! Thank God, if we had to, Lorraine knew how to drive into the city. (something I have never done myself).
caught trainTaking a breath after finally getting on the train…we were on our way! We were excited to get there and also meet up with Susan and Murn (2 more friends from the ranch), as well as finally meet Jenny Gaither (head of the SEAK foundation and Sports Bra Challenge), as well as say hi to Hannah and Olivia, although we knew that they would really be busy that day.

We came up out of the subway at Union Square, and when we came around the corner, we could see the tents and the set up of hundreds of bikes. My stomach was filled with excitement, as well as nerves. It was the most beautiful day, sunny skies, trees starting to bloom a bit… Excitement in the air.

bikesPG We stepped up to the first tent, and we were given our wrist bands. We were told that our bike numbers were written on them. When we walked through the entry way, We saw Hannah and Olivia doing some announcements on the stage. We checked out the different areas, and then visited for a bit with Olivia and Hannah. It was so great to see them, they looked absolutely beautiful. A few of us were interviewed by a woman there, and then while we were hanging out, we finally met Jenny Gaither. It was so great to meet her after talking to her through so many emails. She is one of those people who just brings such a joy and energy onto the scene, along with an encouraging heart and abundant spirit. She is so genuine with everyone she is with.
interview ldy 2 interview lady

She was in charge of this entire day, down to every detail, and yet no matter who she was with, who was coming up to her, including us, she gave her full time, her huge smile and full interest. Every single person mattered to her, and in such a unique way, full of energy, a smile that never faded….she made everyone feel so special, and that it really mattered that they (we) were there.

Jennie Gaither We took pictures with her, and then she lead us over to the “reveal tent”, where we took some more fun pictures, and shared a little of our reveal. All of the camera men, some of the other Soul Cycle instructors, and Jenny Gaither all took turns taking pictures with us. They truly made us feel like superstars!
Ro's reveal reveal tent

It was also incredible to already be in such a safe environment, where people in all shapes and sizes were walking around in sports bras, celebrating their bodies as they are now….and in the midst of hundreds of people, mostly women, not once feeling judged in any way. That was pretty astounding! What an experience.

fun shot wen loie trio

While we were visiting and talking, and meeting up with our other friends, Murn and Susan, Lorraine was taking lots of pictures, and she made her way over to see where our bikes were, to take a few photos of where we would be spinning. Suddenly, I heard my name being shouted from a distance, and when I looked toward the stage, Lorraine was pointing to a bike in the front row, right in front of the stage, and she was shouting, “you’re in the front row!”….a wave of fear and excitement came over me, as I grabbed Roseanne to go and see our bikes. We walked all the way to the front, and saw A9 and A10…OUR bikes….front row center. Oh my goodness! We took a few photos, and then went back to a table to hang out and visit and take some more fun pictures at the SEAK photo booth.
fun wen loie front row my bike

The first Soul Cycle group was called, and we watched them for a while, and we were inspired by everyone riding, and excited to see Hannah and Olivia right up front riding side by side with lots of excitement and joy. The music was so great, and watching everyone ride, in their sports bras…completely uninhibited, was really spectacular.

As the first ride came to an end, I could see Roseanne getting really nervous, and my stomach was full of nerves. My hands were sweating, we started to get into a bit of a panic mode, I started to just pray for strength and courage, and with that, I assured Roseanne that we would be fine. This is what we came to do. It wasn’t a race, it was an experience, and we were not going to miss this amazing experience, and all that it was meant to be for us. She had never done a Soul Cycle ride, so I assured her that I would be right there, and I could hop off the bike at a moment’s notice and help her with absolutely anything she may need. I told her to just put up 2 fingers to let me know she needed help, and I would jump right off.

When our group was called, we brought our stuff up the the front, put our spin shoes on, and there were people to help us adjust our bikes to the right settings. Susan and Olivia also helped Roseanne get all set and locked in, and encouraged her before getting on their own bikes. We started to pedal and warm up as everyone got on their bikes. I reminded Roseanne that I was right there and would help her however she needed, and to remember…it’s not a race, it’s an experience.
ready to go ro set

I started to pedal and to pray, and as I started just thanking God for allowing me to walk through this next dream on my journey, I saw Ayana and Jennie get on their lead bikes in front of us…Roseanne was to my right, and then I realized Hannah was getting on the bike next to me on my left, and Olivia was on the bike next to her!  “Really Lord!!??? I am in the front row of the Sports Bra Challenge….being lead by Jennie and Ayana….with Roseanne next to me on my right….and Hannah and Olivia on my left???!!! Not to mention all of the cameras taking video and pictures right in front of us…because we are next to Hannah and Olivia???”….and then I just felt Him say, “take it all in, don’t miss what I am doing for you and through you. Trust me.”

jenny ayana group ride

The music kicked in, Jennie and Ayana lead and inspired and rocked it out with everyone there. We were stripped down into our sports bras…and we were riding with over 300 people in the middle of Union Square, surrounded by loads of people cheering us on, taking pictures. The atmosphere and energy is something I can’t even put into words, along with going through it, as we all celebrated how far we had come, where we were now…without one bit of judgement amongst every single person there…..just pure celebration! It was unimaginable! It was such a gift!

riding riding fast

The hour of spinning was really hard, at times when I thought I wasn’t sure I could hang in there, I saw Roseanne pouring out her heart and soul, and she inspired me to keep up and do the same. We spun harder and faster…we put the resistance up higher and higher, we pedaled and did push ups on the handle bars..over and over again…then we took out weights and did some weight training (while our legs never stopped moving)….It was really hard, really intense….and we kept up and did it.

hands up 2 hands up riding strong

When the last song came on, there was a point that my eyes were closed as I was praying for the strength to keep pushing and going…and then all of a sudden, The Lord started to flash my entire journey across my mind, as the words of the song washed over me singing, “anything can happen”…. my mind flashed from watching Olivia and Hannah on The Biggest Loser, to Olivia meeting with me and helping me…to being on the Dr. Oz show and making it from 1.2 million people to the final 20….to the finale of the Dr. Oz show…to going to Unleash the Champion, working out with Carter Hays, some contestants/winners of The BIggest Loser…meeting Roseanne, Bethany, Susan and Murn on that ranch (who were now here with me today)….

And as my whole journey flashed in pieces before me, as my eyes were closed taking it all in, as I kept spinning and pushing…an overwhelming sense of gratitude, joy, love and pure amazement in what I was experiencing at that moment…trying to take it all in….the beauty of the blue sky and weather, spinning this past hour while looking right into the eyes of Jennie and Ayana as they lead and encouraged us and just rocked it out…realizing that I was walking in this dream that I wrote down in a notebook 2 years ago…Roseanne was on my right, 111 pounds down since I put my “believe” bell around her neck after she climbed the mountain at a boot camp we met at last Sept….Hannah and Olivia, winners of the Biggest Loser, who went from superstars onTV to be called our friends… were on my left….we were all together, spinning in the front row, amongst hundreds of people celebrating….

With all of that going though my mind, a huge wave of emotion and tears felt like it was coming up from my toes, through my entire body and then out…my face became distorted, and I just began to cry uncontrollably. It was just overwhelming and beautiful at the same time. I remember just thinking and saying, “Oh Lord, what is this??  You actually placed us in this place, for such a time as this! I NEVER could have imagined this.” It was so mighty, I could barely comprehend it and take it in, but I just kept thanking Him for all that He had done and was doing.

At one point. I was crying so hard, and when I opened my eyes as I was facing the ground, there was a huge camera below me taping my emotional breakdown.  I tried to get it together, but the tears just kept flowing until the end.
break down  When the ride was over, I threw my arms around Roseanne. I was soooo proud of her. She kept up, stayed so strong and pushed through every tough moment…and she made it to the end victoriously! There were so many times during that ride, I just thought, she is one of THE most courageous and bravest women I know! And to experience this day riding next to her, was the most amazing gift ever! She is a superstar!
stretch

sbc finaleAs we gathered our things, the photographer who was filming during the last song asked if he could interview me and find out why I was so emotional during the last song. I got myself together and met him back by the tents, and Roseanne and Bethany and I were able to share a bit of our stories with him. It was very emotional for all of us.

I remember just stopping and looking all around to take it all in one last time. People were celebrating, cheering others on, congratulating one another…we were surrounded by hundreds of people just celebrating their bodies, taking part in this amazing foundation to support all of the efforts to support women in building the confidence they need to feel empowered and beautiful in their own skin.

This experience…this day, truly was ABUNDANTLY MORE than I ever could have asked for or imagined. And the amazing thing to me, as I continue this journey, is realizing, and being grateful for the fact that, although it was 2 years ago, 81 pounds ago…when I shut all the shade, locked the doors, and did the challenge in my own home privately, while I prayed to be able to one day experience it in person…God was already working on it, and orchestrating everything, down to every incredible detail of this day…and was just waiting and smiling as we walked through this entire day, in utter joy and amazement…completely awestruck as we finally met everyone there, who made us feel so special…and rode on our bikes, A9 and A10, right in the front row…with Hannah and Olivia on my left and Roseanne on my right, Sue and Murn riding behind us..Lorraine and Bethany photographing us and cheering us on…being lead and encouraged by Ayana and Jenny…surrounded by the energy, joy, courage and excitement of hundreds of people, with not one person judging another. When I think about his day, all I can do is keep praising God for His abundance! Prayers unleash the power for dreams to come true! Keep dreaming big dreams…and pray without ceasing..and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is able to do ABUNDANTLY more than you can ever ask or imagine!

whole group it really happened

The Incredible Week at “Unleash The Champion” With Some of “The Biggest Losers”… This Is What Dreams Are Made Of!… Day 5 (Thursday)- The Story Continues…

Thursday was another spectacular day on the ranch. Lots of major breakthroughs, life testimonies from Mary Nell, Hannah Curlee, and Carter himself. Today, more women got the courage to go to boot camp for their first time, and even do their first hike to the top of the mountain. There is nothing like being alongside someone experiencing an amazing moment of breaking through what they thought they couldn’t do, and moving to believing that they can do anything, and knowing now that they were made for so much more! This has been a week of those kinds of moments, for me, and for so many others here. And on this Thursday, we experienced many more, side by side…

I heard the alarm go off a little after 3am in our pitch dark room. As soon as I opened my eyes, anxiety set in, as this was the day that Sara and I decided we would wear sleeveless, fitted tank tops for our first time ever, working out. We couldn’t back out now, as she had tweeted it out to everyone on the ranch the day before. I got up, went to the bathroom down the hall, and put on my work out outfit. My stomach was full of butterflies, and I was shaking as I took a picture in the mirror.
tank 1tank 2

I walked back to the room where everyone was getting dressed, and Sara was in her tank top already. She looked amazing. We were both so nervous, but really decided it was time to start celebrating being 70 pounds down. We all discussed how real our feelings and insecurities are when we are overweight. We all shared how we live our lives dressed in black, because it is “thinning”. My actual goal this week was to have the courage just to wear some color, and it was Thursday, and I hadn’t even done that yet. I had been wearing my old oversized shirts, navy or black each day. I packed a few new shirts I had bought for the trip that actually fit. They were a bright teal and a purple, but I hadn’t worn them yet. I remember Darcy saying in the room that morning, “I actually remember buying my first pair of GRAY pants, as if that was a big step moving from black.” These issues are a part of so many of our lives, and it was helpful to just hear other women be honest about having the same issues as I had.

So, Sara and I had our tank tops on…mine was hot pink, and I put my teal t-shirt on top, at least I was wearing a bright color today. (even if I didn’t get the courage to take the t-shirt off). Cars were loaded up and we were driving to the gym a little after 4am. We had another incredible visit in the car, just sharing in complete honesty and vulnerability, growing deeper in our relationships.

We arrived at the gym, walked in from the complete darkness outside into the brightly lit turf…which felt even brighter as we went to take off our t-shirts. We took a few pictures before starting our warm up, then we joined everyone walking around the turf. So many people were coming up to Sara and I, just encouraging us and telling us how great we looked. We were both so “wowed”, and we chose to just take in every compliment. It was amazing.
w&S tanksW&S tanks 2JPG In the back of my mind, the issues kept trying to creep up. I was already worrying about Carter yelling out that it was time to raise our hands while walking….then jog…then raise our hands while jogging. I started to worry about my shirt going up, and how consumed I would be about pulling it down..I was praying for the Lord to just let me release it all and enjoy the moment. And he did. We did all those things, and it was fine. And not only fine, but freeing! I felt so free and fit jogging around that turf. It was a safe and encouraging place to do it.  Sara and I kept catching each other’s eye and smiling, as we both were going through this together, and it was incredible. And, as I looked around and continued to pray for everyone to continue to have breakthroughs, and “Hannah back bend moments” of their own, today I saw women jogging for their first time. Today I noticed women who came to the turf for their first time, and I was so excited for them.

The work out today was going to be different from the previous days, as we didn’t see any equipment on the field. Today was known as “body weight Wednesday”, and some of Carter’s regular attendees warned us that it is always one of the hardest work outs of the week. Everything we did would just be done using our bodies. The told us, “don’t think that just because you don’t see equipment on the field, doesn’t mean it’s not going to be a tough workout. It’s usually the hardest workout of the week.” (and it was…)

The morning was filled with loads of very tough intervals. We started out bringing up our heart rates alternating from jumping jacks to burpees, back to jumping jacks (over and over again). Then we went from jogging– to bear crawls forward and backwards (brutal, so hard), then lunges forward and backward. Our next timed intervals went from jogging, to groucho walks, to skipping. During this time, and amazing breakthrough happened for Sara. Sara was told at one point in her life, that she could not skip, so her entire life she believed that she could not skip– so she never did. Today, Carter said skip….and Sara just did it! Isn’t it amazing what the power of someone’s words can have over you? In this case someone said,”you can’t”, and Sara lived her whole life never even trying to skip. And today Carter just told us all to do it, and she just did it! It was a great moment for her, you could see the amazement in her eyes and her smile….I’ll never forget it… I’m so glad she shared it with us.

In our next set of intervals, I had another “Hannah backbend moment” of my own. We had to be in plank position,(its a push up position but with our elbows on the turf instead of your hands). Then we had to go from plank to push up, one arm pushing us up at a time, then back down the plank and then start push up with other arm, and keep alternating. I have never been able to do these before, but it was Thursday, and I knew by now that Carter expected us to bring our absolute best to that field, and to push ourselves beyond what we think is our limit. So I was determined to try to do this whole interval the way he asked for it.

Plank with alternating arms, then hold a plank, then sideward mountain climbers. We had to do it over and over and over again. I pushed so hard to be able to do this, tears were streaming down my face, I was dying in pain, and started to groan a bit out loud. Bethany was on the turf next to me, it was her first day there, and she was pushing herself so hard also. Right when I thought I couldn’t handle it anymore, Carter shouted, “Don’t be that person who quits!”, and I prayed and pushed and cried while going through it, pushing through and seeing what my body would do, even though I didn’t think I could…it was another huge breakthrough for me. I reminded myself that I had the amazing opportunity of GETTING to be on this turf with everyone, and I also knew after today, we only had one day left to experience what our bodies could be pushed to do here. I fully trusted Carter, that he knew what we could do, and I just followed his voice and instructions, not wanting to be that person who quits.

At the end of that emotional set…it wasn’t over yet. We finished with squats and side switch squats, over and over again. Very hard. Then FINALLY, we were told to make a large circle, and we had a time of stretching, and was taught great stretching techniques for neck and back pain. There was a point during the neck stretches where we were told to move our head side to side stretching far, in the motions of slowly saying “no” with your head. I remember as we did it a few times, in my spirit I just prayed as my head motioned “no”, for the Lord to NEVER let me go back, only forward, only stronger. “Don’t let me forget all this Lord, don’t let me ever go back to where I was.”

We ended with our huddle and shout, and then we took some time to take a few pictures with Carter, celebrating our first workout in tank tops. Everyone was so proud of us…what a special, safe, wonderful place to have this experience.
carter and tanks  Before heading out of the gym, I was so proud of Bethany for sending out an SOS before leaving.  She was afraid to do one of the moves during the hour, and stopped and asked Carter if he could show her how to do it, so that she could try before leaving the gym, and before losing the opportunity to see if she was able to do it. We took pictures as she broke through what she didn’t think she could do! I was so proud of her. She found the courage to come to the turf today, and the courage to break through an exercise she didn’t think she could do. Yay Bethany!

On to the best feeling of walking OUT of the gym…after an amazing workout completed, experiencing new heights of abilities, greater faith and belief! Proud of the turf burn on our hands!  Our car, of course, made it’s way to Starbucks. (ah ahh…yes, we could hear the angels sing as we took our first sip). Another amazing ride back, sharing all that happened for each of us on that turf, along with more life stories.

turf burn

When we got into the car, there was a tweet from Courtney, letting us all know that she and Marci, Olivia, Hannah and Murn had all made the tough decision to sleep in this morning. In a few of the talks, we were all told how important it is to get enough sleep, and not let your body get run down, and as we read her tweet in the car, we all discussed how much we really respected all of them for showing us, first hand, how to make the tough decision and do what was best. We knew how much they wanted to work out, but they were all giving so much of themselves, staying up late to give talks, meet with individuals…take care of all of us, and they were really tired. It was so great for us to see them live what they were teaching us.

On the ride back, we shared how tough this season of life is for some of us, starting to take care of our aging and ailing parents. As they get older, so much of their vibrancy for life has a lot to do with how fit and how healthy they have been or they are, and now we start to feel so responsible for their problems, as we take care of them. All we want is for them to enjoy and love the life that they are living, especially after all they have done for us our entire lives. But for many of us, our parents took care of everyone else, and put themselves last. We all brought that to our own realities now, in that fact that we all really wanted to continue in a lifestyle of health and fitness, so that we didn’t put our children in that same place one day of feeling responsible for us. We want to enjoy life with them and their children (our grandchildren) one day..going on trips, visiting, and not having to have them push us in a wheel chair or leave us behind, because we are too sick to enjoy life with them, because we never took care of ourselves. It kills me to see my mom taking so many medications…prednisone, heart medication, insulin, water pills, breathing in a nebulizer 4 times a day, sleeping with oxygen attached to her sleep apnea machine… and watch my dad barely walk or even speak much since his stroke last year. The effects of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke has limited what they are able to do and minimizes the way they are living day to day. They were 2 people who were the most vibrant, amazing special people, who helped everyone around them and brought so much joy to everyone else, along with being the best parents in the world– who did everything with us and our friends. It was another “aha moment” for all of us sharing on that car ride back.

When we all got back to the ranch, Jim took our “room mate picture” in the living room, and Sara and I decided we would stay in our tank tops all day, and not cover up until we had to in the evening when it got colder. We were both working very hard on stepping out of our comfort zones, it was both scary and very freeing.
roommatedJPGWe all ended up in the kitchen where everyone was sitting around the big dining room table talking and sharing. Our conversations in there were so amazing, time  flew by a bit. Then Carter came in to make a few announcements about the plans of the day ahead.
kitchen  At that point, I guess it was the Holy Spirit’s prompting, but I asked if Carter had ever had a weight problem. When he said no, I then asked if he ever had any problem that would have lead him to having all this incredible wisdom in helping so many people who have had weight problems. There hadn’t been one moment this whole week, that I didn’t have my notebook open when he was sharing at any given time, even if it were just hanging out while eating. The deep, Godly wisdom and knowledge he has, along with him being utterly compelled to share it all, is beyond what my words could ever convey.  Well, as he proceeded to answer my question….that lead to the most amazing time of his sharing his own personal testimony, filled with very personal struggles, burdens, shame, fears…dreams, goals, lessons, victories. He shared his life and his heart, and it was one of the most amazing gifts of that week. He is a living testimony to his own words, “God is a redeemer and restorer, every single day, every single moment. He gave you dreams to make you reach for what He created you for. And the way you thank God–is by using your gifts, asking, “Lord show me what to do.”
carter share We all left that kitchen with Carter’s handprint on our hearts. We all came to this Faith to Fitness–Unleash the Champion retreat with our own life stories of brokenness and weaknesses, issues, struggles, fears, shame….along with our hopes and dreams. And one of the most beautiful parts of this week, is to have the opportunity to learn from each other’s stories. We are all in this together, and we all have tough, yet beautiful stories, even the “famous” Biggest Losers…even our “famous” coach, Carter. We are all works in progress. We were all created for one purpose…to glorify God– To give a correct estimate of who He is and what He can do. And that is our life’s purpose… To show what He has done to restore, renew, and make us into who He created us to be. And as we share… really share,  heart to heart..that is how we see first hand what He is able to do in the lives of those who love Him and ask for Him to do His work in them.

Taking our long walk over to breakfast, I think we were all just inspired by Carter’s sharing from the heart, to do the same. I walked with Bethany, and we had a great time of sharing, and toward the bottom of the hill, we were picked up by Heather in her car, and by the time we parked for breakfast, we all had a great time of sharing, as well as a good cry. More handprints left on each other’s hearts.
Moment by moment, it could be seen that the Lord continued to orchestrate absolutely everything going on on this ranch. Today wasn’t necessarily going along with the original written schedule, but it was already evident that God had a better schedule in mind. Tables were again clearly arranged by Him. Today I was eating with a different group of women, and I realized as I sat down that I hadn’t read Lorraine’s daily letter yet. I reached into my binder to find the one marked, “Thursday”, and explained to some of the women there, who didn’t know about her letters, what I was about to read and share with them. They were really excited to hear the one for today. Again, Lorraine’s words were exactly meant for this moment…

The front of the notecard said, “Live, Laugh, Love”. Then when I opened it, the words she wrote were, “Check out the cover again. I pray that you are making/building amazing relationships. I pray that after you work out or reflect, that you do get to know everyone and their stories. I pray that you can laugh together and play some of the games people brought. I pray that your conversations become so deep that they can break through the wall that has been in front of you this summer. God can move mountains. He is mighty to save, therefore he can move your wall. Just wait until you get on that scale Saturday. But no matter what the #, He has so much more in store! Love ya! Lorraine”

Again, it was the perfect letter to read at our table. As I wrote before, Lorraine really wanted to be on this week, but had to work. What she didn’t know while preparing all of these notes/letters, was that through the words she shared with me and the people around me each time I read a letter.. a part of her was here, and she was connecting with some of these women in a special way already. Some of the women at our table shared that they didn’t have a best friend like Lorraine, and actually made me promise that if they ever came to NY, they could meet her. It was another moment, as Lorraine had prayed for in her letter, where we all went deeper in our conversations during that lunch time, and realized how lonely many women are, as we all really long for wonderful friendships with amazing girlfriends– Friends who you could really depend on, and live life with.. Through good times and bad. I couldn’t wait to get the chance to call her later, and tell her how much she touched these women today.

After breakfast, we went back up to the upper room for our morning talk. This time, Dr. Binkley, (who was suppose to give his talk the day before), was there to educate us in so many areas including hormone balance, the thyroid, soy, stress, insulin, cortisol, hormone replacements, gluten, etc. It was another talk packed with information and knowledge that would empower us in our journeys, and enable us to make great decisions in the future, based on the facts and scientific research he shared with us.

Our heads were filled with lots of new information, my notebook filled with notes so that I wouldn’t forget what we learned. It was definitely time for another delicious lunch made by Chris and his staff. We all savored every bite, and continued to share our lives with the people at our tables. When we were finished, it was on to our afternoon hikes, and just like each day before, we were joined by more courageous women who decided this was the day to believe that they could make it to the top.

After completing the moderate hike, we went over and gathered together for the tough hike. Today there were few more women who decided to conquer this mountain for their first time, and those of us who had done it before all spread out to make sure that everyone got to the top no matter how long it took. We would rest when they needed to rest, and stay by their side the entire time.

Courtney and Marci were with us, and they continued to encourage every person there in such a special way. This is a mother daughter team who has the most incredible relationship with one another. They have gone through their own journeys side by side, seeking the Lord’s strength in their weaknesses, and they pass on living testimonies filled with passion, courage, truth…and a such a strong love that you can feel the moment they look you in the eyes. They are using their lives to inspire and pass on and share all that they have learned, in pure honesty, with unconditional love. It is hard to put into words what it is like to know these women. You meet them, and within minutes, you just feel that you can ask them absolutely anything, and they will do whatever they can to help you believe and reach your goals and dreams. They really are extraordinary

Courtney and Wendy We all started at the bottom taking a few pictures to mark this day, and then we started up the path. Within moments, it became a very special hike as groups of women gathered around each “first timer” to encourage them and help them believe that they could to this. I was walking with a group surrounding an incredible woman named, Roseanne. This was a very tough climb for her, and at one point, Bethanny walked into the woods and broke two branches to make walking sticks for her. They were perfect, and such a brilliant idea. We went step by step with Roseanne, stopping when she needed to stop.
roseanne and courtney At one point, when we could see the top from far away, Heather hiked down to offer her hiking poles to Roseanne. (My hands just had to stop typing for a second, to take a deep breath and hold back the tears as I write this. These are moments I can’t share without crying, just trying to pass on all that took place that afternoon….)

Heather, if you recall, is the incredible woman who shared with all of us at the top of the mountain the first day, that she was battling MS, and had dreamed of getting to the top of that mountain…and promised that she would climb it every day that week. And now here she was, she had already reached the top (for her 4th time that week), and she had climbed back down part way to offer her poles to Roseanne.

Roseanne thanked her, but decided in that moment that she would finish the climb with the poles that Bethanny had made for her. With that, we continued climbing the last steep part, with the top in our sights. Everyone got behind Roseanne as she took her last few steps to the top. I ran up front to record the moment with my camera, as it was such a powerful moment for her, as well as the other women whose first climb it was.
rosanne at topWhen everyone reached the top, Jim lead us as we all broke out singing “How Great is Our God” and “How Great Thou Art”. It was absolutely beautiful, singing and praising God for all He was doing. Everyone was singing, reaching out and putting their arms around one another… and tears were just streaming down the faces of everyone there, as we celebrated more victories for the group of women who took a big step of faith today, as they took one step at a time, believing they they could reach the top with everyone. And to have Marci and Courtney there to encourage, celebrate and cry with us, was a beautiful part of the experience no one will ever forget. They know the struggle, the burden, and what it is like to fight this battle day by day. And there is nothing like having someone there for you who knows exactly how you feel. Pure, sweet, kind, true…empathy.
Jim singJPGsingingEveryone at topfirst climbersClimbing down, we continued to take care of everyone, as the rocky, steep path was difficult to maneuver in getting down also. But climbing down, there were smiles and eyes filled with such joy on the faces of the “first timers” and everyone helping them. We were all so proud of them.

When we finally reached the bottom, we all knew that our next session was taking place back at the big white tent. We took our seats, got everyone water, and prepared for our next talk by Carter. I was sitting right next to Roseanne, and as I sat there just praying and thanking God for allowing me to be a part of such an amazing climb, praising Him for Roseanne and all that she had just accomplished…I was holding my bell necklace that was hanging around my neck, in my hand, just holding it and thanking God for bringing me to this place and continuing to strengthen my faith and believe that I can do ALL things through Him who strengthens me. And in that moment, the Lord whispered in my heart,”Wendy, you need to share the story of this bell with her, and then I want you to give it to her. You believe and know now…you don’t need it anymore…she does.” I turned and shared the story of my bell with her, and I remember so vividly, with tears in my eyes, as I was sooooo blessed at that moment to be living right in the midst of God’s prompting…I took the necklace off of my neck… over my head.. and placed it over her head and around her neck. I didn’t realize some other people were paying attention at that time, but as I placed it around her neck I actually heard some people gasping and crying in the moment. Some of them had read my story and knew how much the bell meant to me, and I actually heard someone whisper, “she’s giving her bell away”. The moment still leaves me with chills and tears in my eyes. It was a very special, divine, “God moment” that I will never forget for the rest of my life. (In fact, as I write these words today, March 7,2013, Roseanne still has the bell, and this week she hit 102 pounds lost since the ranch!)

We had another fantastic talk lead by Carter, where he taught us all about strength and power, along with dealing with pain. More great knowledge that filled my notebook. We had a chance to learn about rollers and try them out, along with great stretching techniques. One of my favorite things about learning all of this hands on stuff, is that we are learning it in such a special environment where we all feel so safe and comfortable to really try things and learn things, and have full confidence in the expertise of Carter and the people he has brought in that we won’t hurt ourselves trying whatever he asks us to try, and there is no need to feel self conscious in any way. What a gift!
stretching This brought us up to dinner, another delicious meal, filled with beautiful conversations, and great laughter. We were all looking forward to the evening talks, as tonight we would hear from Carter, Murn and Hannah. Then, we would also have some time to ask anything we wanted from the entire “panel”–Carter, Murn, Hannah, Olivia, Marci and Courtney.

As we hiked up to the “upper room”, Sara and I celebrated that we were still in our tank tops, walking around still a bit uncomfortable at times, but celebrating how free we felt not wearing our big t-shirts and oversized sweatshirts. Throughout the day, the other women and men were so kind in encouraging us to celebrate how far we had come.

When we got to the top, we had a few minutes, and I just had to call Lorraine and tell her how her letters touched more women today at lunch. I remember standing outside the upper room, looking around the woods, up at the sky, noticing all the beauty, trying to take in all that had already happened that day, as I dialed the phone, hoping that she would pick up. When I heard her voice, it was awesome! And what was even more perfect, was that before I even began to speak, she just said how much she needed that phone call at that exact moment, as she was having a rough day. I LOVE God’s timing!!

We had a little time to connect and share, I got to tell her how she is such a part of this week, even without being here– That women here already know her name and look forward to meeting her one day. And we got to just take in and thank God that we have such a amazing friendship, and that our daughters are best friends, and today we were not taking that for granted, as we were reminded that not everyone has a best friend in their lives. And I have prayed many times since returning home that the Lord would provide amazing friendships, sisters in Christ who would walk side by side through this life together for all the women there who didn’t yet have that.

I continued to share with her all  “God incidences” that were happening down to the second… I also shared with her that Hannah had told me that the letter that I sent her while she was on The Biggest Loser, was really special to her, and that she had read it numerous times going into the finale. What an incredible blessing to find that out, as I had forgotten all about it.  When I wrote to her and Olivia during the show, I never even imagined at that point that I would ever even meet her. It was just placed on my heart to write the letter. And now here I was, over a year or 2 later, on a retreat in Tennessee, on a hike with Hannah this morning, finding out how much a letter I wrote to her, meant to her. Only God!

I had to hang up with Lorraine, but running into the building, I remember just smiling and thanking God, again, for His timing in calling Lorraine and being able to have a special short visit with her on the phone. We took our regular seats, and another spectacular evening began…

It was another beautiful evening where we saw first hand how God brought together, weaving through lives, bringing people and plans together over time, placing dreams and passions within each person..to create this weekend for us. Mary Nell (Murn), was one of the key people involved, and it was her turn to start off the evening. It is always fun to hear Carter introduce each person, giving us his “take” on them, and sharing from his heart what they mean to him.

As he introduced Murn, he shared with us how he first met her at one of his boot camps a year and a half ago. He describes her as, “the Everready bunny on steroids. She is so intense, so passionate about performance, and she puts everything into what she is doing. But, her passion is just as much for other people as the passion is for what she is doing. She is awesome because she gives out as much from her heart as she does with her sweat and her tears. The driving passion of the effort is the driving passion of her heart. You get sucked into her energy–which leads you to get sucked into her heart…and the heart keeps you, and the energy takes you!” Wow!, with an introduction like that, I bet you wish you could spend time with this remarkable woman. And I can tell you first hand, every word is true!
murn 1JPGmurn 2I couldn’t wait to hear her speak, as she had already shared so much with me, and taught me so much on the hikes, around the ranch, at the lodge…She is only around 5 feet tall, but when you are in her presence, she brings with her such joy, strength, faith, belief, energy, love…that literally makes her close to 6 feet tall! She’s amazing!

When Murn took the platform and began to speak, she shared with us, what a true surreal moment this was for her to be speaking in front of us at this retreat, on this evening. Her life journey brought her to a place where the Lord began to show her that she would one day be in a place of helping others get fit and healthy, after battling fitness and weight herself. She always watched the Biggest Loser, and while watching season 11, she felt that she was destined to know Hannah one day. Little did she know, that the Lord would bring her to Carter’s turf, and she would find herself at a bootcamp literally doing a plank, side by side with Hannah, as Carter was training Hannah for the finale. It was at that moment, doing the plank, that she saw first hand how hard Hannah had worked and transformed her life, and it was also at this defining moment that Murn felt a fire inside of her to do this. She became friends with Hannah and Carter during this time, and each of their dreams came together and they started imagining what could be….She shared with us that when they put this retreat all together, booking the property, etc., they weren’t even sure anyone would really show up. And yet, there we all were, over 45 of us, sitting in front of her, on this retreat, which was sold out in around 72 hours after it being announced…and she was now part of a team of people who were changing our lives…. sharing her testimony and sitting on a panel later that evening with Marci, Courtney, Hannah, Olivia and Carter. How does that happen??? Only God!!

When Murn finished sharing with us, Carter then introduced Hannah. You could tell by the way they shared about one another, that the Lord has done extraordinary things through their friendship in both of their lives. In his introduction, Carter said that one of the most powerful qualities of Hannah is courage. He continued, “Courage is a state of mind, knowing God’s will is the will for your life. That’s where your confidence comes from. Hannah displays it through her honor, her laughter. Her laughter is from the heart.”  Then, as he looked at Hannah, inviting her to take the platform he said, “Thank you for your courage–your laughter, your smile, your tenacity of love has changed all of our lives, so thank you.” She hadn’t even started her talk yet, and our eyes were already tearing up just from her introduction!
carter:Hannah   Hannah took the stage, and just as every person before her this past week, she shared straight from the heart–the really tough and really great moments and times of her life. We learned how the Lord brought her life into the lives of Carter and everyone else there, through one divine appointment after another, along with her journey on the Biggest Loser, and how she endured the process and came to a place of victory. She went from a time of being 299 pounds in her life to standing on the stage at the finale, in a size 2 dress, weighing 128 pounds.
Hannah talkJust as Carter pointed out, Hannah is courageous, has a smile along with laughter that is just so endearing. She is honest, sweet, smart, loyal, kind….has an incredible tenacity of love, she is so generous, and has such an excitement and passion to pass on all that she has learned on her journey to everyone who wants to learn from her. She, along with Murn, Olivia, Marci and Courtney, all of them, are willing to open up and share from the depths of their souls…their hurts, disappointments, insecurities, anxieties, weaknesses, etc.

That night, Hannah taught us all so much. She pointed out, again, that we are all great at giving and taking care of everyone else first. Many times, being overweight, we hide in the back or choose not to do things, and just keep going on each day and not reaching for what is ours… not asking for help, not letting anyone know how sad or depressed or helpless or frustrated or horrible we feel. Not sharing any of our dreams with anyone.

One of the biggest lessons she taught me that night was. “You have to send out your SOS’s”. You have to ask for help from everyone and anyone who can help you. Asking for help is one of the bravest things you can do. She asked us, “what do you need from your parents, what do you need from your spouse, what do you need from your friends?” Most of the time, the people around you don’t even know you are unhappy, and if you just start asking for help, people want to help you. She even shared that when she got home from the show, she ask the guy at the local deli if he could have fresh turkey on hand for her…he was happy to do it, and he has it waiting for her now, every week. She asked the local grocery store if they could order her gg crisps, so now they carry them. She shared, “It takes an army, you need help, tell people.

Hannah talk 2She also pointed out that, “All you have is you, everyone else is taken. You have to be your best you.” That has been one of the greatest lessons for me this week. I just have to bring my best. My best is enough. Not the person in front of me or behind me or on either side of me. I just need to bring my best everywhere I go…whether it is the gym, on the turf, at a meeting, with my friends, with my family…wherever I am….bring and do my best.The only person I have to try to out-do is me…outbest my best.

As I listened to her, I started making a list in my notebook of things that I knew I had to start asking for, and because of her, I am getting so much more help in areas that I never would have thought to ask. And just like Hannah said, EVERYONE has been so happy to help me and support me in this journey. As Hannah reminded us…why not me!! Why can’t you want more?…Strive to be a better mother, better wife, better friend, better daughter…better me. She looked at all of us and said,  “Strive to be a better you, because every one else is taken! All you have is you. Every step you take has a purpose…where are your steps taking you? Everything you do has a purpose and effect on others, effects you may never know about. I had no idea that Murn had a huge moment the day she was doing a plank next to me.”

Hannah explained that once she started to get this, she broke it down into “steps and checks”. She got up and decided what she was going to do, asked for help from others, and did it. “Got up early (check), walked 5 miles (check), had a healthy breakfast (check), wrote down my food (check), etc. Etc… she spent her time on The Biggest Loser in steps and checks, and continues to do that today.

I know that I get so overwhelmed with all that has to be done to get to a goal, or even what has to be done in my day, each day. I have to go back to one step at a time, making one great choice at a time. I’ve also learned to stop and make a list of all the things I think I need to do in a day or in a week, and I place my hand over that list and ask God to prioritize it and help me finish it– and in the end, to give me more hours in my day, as it never seems like enough. And when I remember to do that, He astounds me every time! (I just need to learn to do this all the time!)

Hannah’s story continued, and she shared with us what she learned from Carter when she started working out with him as he trained her all the way to the finale. It was all the things he was teaching us this week. “Motivation comes from you, and you have all the tools you need. Work hard and trust your body. You were not made or designed by man, YOU are fearfully and wonderfully made by God. God has a better plan, how’s your plan working for you?” I’ve definitely learned to trust God in this process, as I have never been able to lose weight in my own strength and keep it off before. The number one difference I have shared with others about why it has become a lifestyle and something different this time, rather than any other time I have lost weight before, is because I am doing it with His strength and power, not on my own. That’s why if you bring your best to Him, and ask Him for His strength, it’s enough. Your best, not anyone else’s, just yours.

Hannah then asked us, “what do you want to do with the rest of your life? Do you want more? Do you want to fill your cup every day? Yes! We are great givers, we give and give and give–we NEED to learn to take. How are you successful?–It doesn’t just happen, every single day I’m sowing my seeds–to bear fruit and fill me. He promises us so much, you need to have diligence, faith, belief…and when you can’t believe alone, allow others to believe in you. Get a support team, do it together. Show up and let God do the rest…you never know who God will put in your army, all you have to do is ask. Help is everywhere. Are you asking, are people hearing you?”

To this day, when I think of Hannah, the first thing I think of is sending out my SOS’s, and believing, Why not me?…  Like her, I was great at helping everyone else first, leaving myself for last, but in this journey I have learned, “after me, you come first….after me.”  I try to make my good choices, one at a time, and check them off.

When I didn’t get to the place of winning the entire Dr. Oz challenge, I was devastated. I remember calling Olivia, because I truly believed that I was suppose to win the entire thing. I remember her sharing with me that Hannah fought and believed that she was going to win also, but Olivia won. Then she reminded me that just because I didn’t win, didn’t mean my journey was over, this was just a part of it. Hannah didn’t come in first, she came in second…but look what she is doing with her life, and how she is moving forward and inspiring others. I needed to be reminded that God was in control, and ask Him what I was suppose to do next, trusting that He was in control, and He was in charge of my journey…and that it would be above and beyond what I could ever ask or imagine!

On her Biggest Loser journey, Hannah found her faith all over again. She shared, “the great thing about God is, He made you, carved us out of His own image. He knows every hair on your head, every tear that falls on the ground, every desire in your heart. Why can’t I give Him some credit? This is a masterpiece. God has a better plan..How’s your’s working out for you?”

She ended the night stating, “I got on that stage and left it all there–my best! The confetti fell, my sister and I, we did it together–picked up our cross every day and did it. Every day has a purpose… every step counts… it’s your life. Who are you going to call, skype, ask for help?? There’s only one you.”

Because I got to hear her journey, I have been asking for help, believing in myself, and asking God to show me His plan, because mine wasn’t working. His plans are so much better than mine. I head to the gym and constantly try to outbest my best. I keep adding to my personal army of people who are helping me do this, and I have been amazed at the people God has placed in my life. Hannah said, “your story means just as much as mine–it’s just in a different box–everyone has one–who ya gonna tell?” And  one of my greatest joys has been to inspire others through what the Lord has done through my life…sharing His story.

Well, we could barely take our breath and wipe all the tears…and I could barely finish writing as fast as I could, not to forget anything learned from Hannah, when we got ready to hear from Carter, himself. I made sure I had a lot of room in my notebook, as I knew I would be writing as fast as I could to capture all that the Lord was going to share through this wise, God fearing, God loving, gifted and talented man.

Carter continued the evening sharing his own life testimony. Some of us had had the amazing gift of hearing him share this afternoon at the lodge, but now it was time for him to share with everyone there. Just as we had heard through the testimonies of Hannah and Murn, the Lord had an incredible story to share with all of us, through the life of Carter, also.

He started by stating, “God has a story to tell through all of us.” Then he went on to share his story of how the Lord planted a dream in his spirit, and revealed it over a lifetime. The Lord took a shy and scared child, who was in a very dark place…and let him know deep in his spirit, early on, that he was created to serve people. Then, through relationships, experiences, circumstances, that only God could weave and orchestrate, Carter was brought to a place of where he knew for sure that, “God is a redeemer and restorer every single day…every single moment.”

He reminded us that we all have holes to be filled, and that God is the only one that can fill those holes. He reminded us that by His stripes, we are healed. He took it all on that cross, every pain we have had, every insecurity we have had, every______ you have had….it was taken upon Him and FINISHED on that cross. And it is a daily choice for us to know that and live in it. We all fall and forget this, taking it into our own hands, but Carter reminded us that we can get better at this, as we see ourselves coming back to this promises quicker and quicker, after we fall.

He continued to share with us, “Jesus became ALL the pain, hurt, disappointment,….I had. I see His face, I see Him say, “you have lives to touch. I’ll take it, Carter–you have to go and let me touch lives using you.” God knows what He needs me to do. I am to obey Him and let Him do the work. I get tired if I don’t let Him do it. My job, my work, my passion, my destiny is all one thing–a blessing. You retire from your job, not your work. Your work is what you do until you die..it is your calling.”

There is nothing like seeing someone, or being someone who walks fully in their calling. Carter is walking in his calling. He loves seeing other people really get it. He lives to be a part of helping people “get it and then do it”.  He has come to the place of using all of His gifts and talents to do the Lords work, the work He created him to do. There is no better place to be.

He reminded us, “God wants you to give Him EVERYTHING–the big and the little things. He wants it all. And when you do, you will be the most free you have ever been in your life.  The way you thank God, is by using your gifts. Ask, “Lord, show me what to do.” You can never have a dream and build it alone. God weaves and orchestrates it all through your life. He didn’t give you dreams to hurt you and to get you frustrated. He gave you dreams to lift you to where He created you to be, and He gave you challenges to make you reach for the dreams to make them happen, not to beat you down, but to use them to build you up.”

As I sat there thinking of all the dreams I have, the challenges I have faced, and am facing…thinking about how much further I still have to go in the area of weight loss, starting to think, “someday I will be there, and be at goal weight, and feel fit and beautiful”,….Carter reminded us of who we are right now. “You are the apple of His eye right now. He could not be more proud of you right now. You are everything to Him. He couldn’t love you more or be prouder of you than this very second–He’s your greatest cheerleader!”

That is something that I have had to work on believing. No matter what your weakness is, you believe that everything will be better when you get to whatever goal you have. With weight loss, you live in the…”when I get to goal weight, then I will feel, fit, pretty, confident, worthy….I will do things I was afraid or embarrassed to do…when I get to goal weight.” And in not realizing that we are loved and adored by God, our family, our husbands, our friends, our children…right now, right as we are…really loved now…we are missing out on so very much. I know that I continually regret all that I missed doing, because of my weight.

The night ended with the entire “panel” of front…Carter, Murn, Olivia, Hannah, Marci and Courtney. It was a time for us to ask questions, and have our last time to hear from all of them, as tomorrow was our last day, and we would all be heading home around lunch time. I just didn’t want this night to end.

panel We asked lots of questions, and they all answered so honestly. We heard more great stories and breakthroughs from their lives on the show, and then Courtney said something very profound. She said, “breakthroughs happen in every day life to everyone, ours just happened to be on a show. You have already started….all of you–you are on day 5!” She was right. We had already had so many breakthroughs since we had been here, and we didn’t even need to think about starting when we got home from here. We already started all together, and we were on day 5!. Then she said, “we’re all in this together for life now–under Him.” (as she pointed heavenward)

Courtney was 100% correct. We had begun something mighty, together, here. For many people in that room, this week they had found their “enough”, their breakthrough moment, their moment to believe they could finally do this. It was time to really commit to seeing what the Lord could do for each one of us, realizing that He had incredible plans for us. Carter even pointed out, “there are over 40 people in the room now. The love, and everything–what’s the chance of this happening here? The “Faith to Fitness” group bonded 2 months before this retreat even took place….on Facebook! How does this week happen??—Only God…for such a time as this—THERE IS NO RANDOM!” Everyone took in that powerful statement at that moment.

Panel 2JPGWe ended the night asking how we could pray for each person on the panel, and they shared their requests with us. Along with personal prayer requests, they all just asked to pray that the Lord would be glorified through their lives, that they would do what He wanted them to do, that they would be used in mighty ways for His kingdom, however that may look… and that no matter what, others would see His light as they served.

I had no idea, when I arrived at that ranch the first day, that these people would become such a special part of my life. I knew they would be “up front” sharing their stories, but I had no idea, that they would humble themselves and just choose to literally come alongside of all of us working out, eating, sharing, climbing mountains, taking walks, crying with us….living and doing life with us for a week, day in and day out, sharing so honestly from their hearts, some of their hardest struggles and insecurities, in order to teach us, encourage us, lift us up– believing in us so that we could come to a place of believing in ourselves….becoming our friends, becoming a part of our army…our family in Christ. What a gift. What a blessing to be a part of this group of people brought together this week, for such a time as this. WOW!

Our night in the upper room ended very late, and we all had to hike back to the lodges in order to get some sleep before waking up early for our last boot camp. I started out the door with a group of women, and I forgot something that I had to run back for, and with that asked them to wait for me a minute, as it was pitch dark out, and very scary to walk that long walk alone. When I came running back to the group waiting for me, we started walking down the steep hill in the dark, and as we walked, one of the girls said to me, “Wendy, we were just talking, and we were saying that, if this past week  was on TV like the Biggest Loser, you would have been our Marci.”

As she finished saying the name, Marci…chills overtook my body, and in the black of night, tears just streamed down my face as we walked, and I just looked up in the sky, with all of the stars shining so brightly, as it was so dark…asking God, in my soul, “what is this Lord?….Marci? They can even put my name with Marci’s? (The feeling still overwhelms me, as I type this, the tears are streaming again.) These young girls had seen the love and some of the characteristics of Marci in me. Oh my goodness.. I could barely breathe, as I just really admire Marci so much. She is just one of the most extraordinary women (and mothers),  I have ever met.

While continuing the long walk back, in and amongst the talking, I was still just crying tears of joy and amazement in the dark, going over all the mighty things the Lord had been doing in my life this past week. And I was still trying to take this last compliment in. I was also, already praying that somehow I could share this moment with Marci before leaving the ranch. Tomorrow was going to go fast, as we only had a half day left, before having to say goodbye to everyone. But I knew that I had placed this request in His hands, and that He was the author and perfecter of time and space. And I promised myself, that if I didn’t get to tell her in person, I would find a way to write to her.

When we got back to our rooms, we all had to pack, as well as get our work out stuff ready for our last boot camp. Word had been passed around the ranch that it would be really special if absolutely everyone showed up to boot camp, as it would really bless Carter to see everyone there, so it was going to be full and exciting being all together, working out side by side one last time.

After packing, I grabbed my notebook, and spent a while writing as much as I could before heading to bed. It was a long, extraordinary day..and I didn’t want to forget one moment. Tomorrow we be the last day, little did I know going to bed at this point— the amazing final day the Lord would orchestrate! Above and beyond what I could have ever asked or imagined…..

January 2, 2013- Now this is an amazing way to start the New Year!…Taking my first Soul Cycle Class with Olivia Ward as the instructor!!!

olivia&Wend
Got up this morning, extremely nervous for this new “first”, but also fully aware that I put this on my “Dream List” over a year ago…and was excited to walk through another dream and have it become a reality.
About a year ago, after Olivia had won “The Biggest Loser”, she had started spinning at Soul Cycle. She would tweet about it and share about how much she loved it, and tell everyone what a great work out it was. At that point, I was just starting out in my weight loss journey, but in my list of “dreams and goals” in my binder, I wrote on my list, next to a box to one day check off, “Take a spin class with Olivia and Hannah”. Well, Hannah wasn’t in the Soul Cycle class I took today, but when I wrote those words, never did I dream that Olivia would actually be leading the class, and I don’t think at that time, it was anything Olivia had pictured herself doing either.
A few days ago, Olivia put out a tweet that she would be leading her first ride at Soul Cycle. I thought about the possibility of going, as I really wanted to support her in her new journey, and I knew that it was also an item on my “dream list”.  I asked a few friends, and they said they would love to go with me. (unfortunately one of them got sick the day before).
So Lisa, (my friend who took me to my first trip to Lululemmon when I celebrated my 5 mile Turkey Trot done on Thanksgiving), and I ventured out this morning, taking the train to NYC, then a subway down to Soul Cycle. The closer we got, the more nervous we became. But I just kept holding on to all that I had accomplished and remembered in one of her talks, Olivia once said, “you can do anything for 45 minutes, you just have to hang in there.”
We finally arrived at Soul Cycle, and when we walked in, Olivia and her husband, Ben were at the counter. It was great to see them. We got our lockers, shoes, water…I think Lisa and I went to the bathroom at least 3 more times with nerves, before heading in to set up our bikes. Thankful to be in the back row, we had a really wonderful woman help us set up the bikes. The room began to fill up with others who spin all the time, and when Olivia asked who was there for their first time….it was only Lisa and I raising our hands.
Filled with energy and joy, Olivia counted down to the start of the class, then introduced us to our bikes which she referred to as our “dance partners”, and she started the music and proceeded to lead us in an exciting, exhilarating, very tough first ride.
She was really spectacular at transitioning us from one thing to the next, but it was the hardest spin class I have ever encountered….it was spinning, mixed with push ups and head banging and lifting weights….all while your legs never stopped going, at times faster and faster. There were many times that I just took in the moment, as well as thought about how far I had come to this point. I remembered the first spin class I had ever taken, where I wasn’t able to even stand up on the bike and continue riding. I truly had come a long way, and I needed to remember that and celebrate it.
Today, on this day,  I was actually at Soul Cycle…on a bike behind Ben (Olivia’s husband), being lead by Olivia…this being her first “community ride” as a leader..in a room filled with really athletic spinners. It was another surreal moment in time….another dream that had become a reality.
Lisa and I kept up,we sweat like crazy, and celebrated when the ride was over. It really was amazing, and Olivia truly was spectacular as an instructor! Her energy was contagious, she encouraged everyone to bring their best, as she gave her very best to all of us. Everyone in that room was so happy for her.
We took a few pictures with her before we left. I got to share with both her and Ben how I had put this on my list about a year ago. It was another fantastic day on this incredible journey that I am on. It was also a great way to really get back on target after the little downfall at Christmas.
At the end of the class, Olivia reminded us all to put ourselves first in this coming year. She shared how 2 ½ years ago she woke up and decide it was time to “choose me”, and urged us all to do the same in this new year.
So, I enter 2013, excited to continue to dream big dreams and meet more goals, and live with a great expectation of what the Lord is going to do in me and through me in the coming year. Happy New Year!  (ps, as I wrote this, Soul Cycle responded to a tweet that I sent out…..I wrote, “starting 2013 right, just took my @soulcyle class with @BL11Olivia, she was absolutely spectacular! Amazing class!” and they responded…@wendybelieveit Can’t wait to keep rocking out with you through 2013!”)

The Incredible Week at “Unleash The Champion” With Some of “The Biggest Losers”… This Is What Dreams Are Made Of!… Day 4- The Story Continues…

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It was Wednesday on the ranch, and the sound of the alarm came way too early! This morning, my room mates and I had to be down in the lobby extra early to meet Hannah and Murn, who so graciously agreed to start doing our RMR’s (resting metabolism rates), earlier than planned, so that we wouldn’t miss the boot camp on the turf. There is a special machine that is used to figure out your RMR, but it must be measured first thing in the morning, before you do absolutely anything, including brushing your teeth. We needed to start at 3:45am, in order to have all 5 of us finish in time to get to the turf for boot camp.
wendy rmr I went down and met Hannah and Murn at 3:45, what a blessing it was that they offered to get up extra early in order for us to get our measurements and still be able to get to bootcamp. Even at 3:45 in the morning, they are the sweetest girls in the world! We all took turns, and we got our readings from the machine, and then we jumped in the car to catch up with everyone who had already left for bootcamp. Of course there isn’t much traffic on these roads at 4:30 in the morning, so we were only a few minutes late getting on the turf.

As we walked into the gym, we noticed everyone at different stations doing various exercises. Courtney and Olivia were there working out hard and encouraging everyone around them.(Hannah and Murn were doing RMR’s back at the ranch, and Marci had a speaking engagement she had to be at.)  There looked like 9 different stations we were going to go through multiple times, as Carter lead us through moving from one to the other.

The first station had a huge tire and sledgehammers. At this station, we had to beat the tire as hard as we could, slinging the sledgehammers. It was one of those cool work outs you see on “The Biggest Loser”, and it was really great to be able to try it. From there, we lined up side by side on one of the lines on the turf, and we each had a heavy medicine ball in our hands. We had to squat down slam it on the ground and catch it, over and over again until the time was called… The next line was jumping jacks… then a line where we had horizontal tubes that we had to touch the ground with and then lift to our chest and then lift over our heads and then back down (over and over)… then jumping jacks again…then burpees…then jumping jacks…then sprints from one line down to another and back (over and over again until Carter called time).

When we got through the entire circuit, we went through it again. The energy in the room was powerful. Everyone was working so hard, working to their absolute optimum potential!

After that circuit, we got into lines and did various things while running back and forth down the turf. At one point, we had to get a group together and half of us had to use the sledgehammers to pull a huge tire down the turf while running backwards, as the other part of our team bent over and pushed it running forwards. My room mates, Darcy, Beth, Whitney and Sara wanted us to do this all together as a team, and they asked Olivia if she would do it with us. It was really hard, but it was so much fun, and to have Olivia right by our sides, pulling it out with us was a great moment for everyone. Again, the gym was filled the the sounds of everyone yelling and cheering and encouraging…pushing each other to reach your highest potential. It is the most exhilarating feeling to be a part of that energy and experience!

sledgehammer run sledge run

After all of the pushing/pulling/running, we then all spread out on the turf, and Carter brought us through some abdominal and back work. Lots of killer strengthening/toning exercises.  We finally got to the time of stretching (which I love, because it means it’s over soon.) After stretching, we all came to the middle of the turf to have our “ending huddle” to put our hands in together and shout, “START SWEAT FINISH!”, and celebrate our workout. We went over to gather our things, and then had some fun taking some pictures with each other, along with Carter, Olivia and Courtney. We truly were amazed every day that they all chose to work out along side of us….and their kind words, words of encouragement, and moments they cheered us on…the belief they had in us…we all continue to hold onto forever.
wendycarterbell wendy oliv bell

group olivia

group courtney_n

Olivia group 2_n We all headed out of the gym, into the darkness to our cars…the sun hadn’t risen yet, Our car was headed straight for Starbucks! A wonderful treat we looked forward to after each morning boot camp. The people working there were so nice, and just laughed as we arrived each morning and took fun pictures there.

IMG_5883Today, before the morning hike, we had to get back and put on a minimum amount of clothing in order to get measured by Carter to determine our percentage of body fat. I don’t think any of us were looking forward to this. The thought of getting on a scale, putting on a very fitted tank top and the most fitted pants that I brought, and have Carter take a gadget that pinched and measured the fat at all of those wonderful “trouble areas”… was not something I was looking forward to. But, I also knew that I wanted to take advantage of everything he was teaching us about ourselves, and if we wanted to have the truth of all of our numbers, then we had to choose to have this done. (everything for this week was optional, so the choice was up to us.)

So, I went up to my room to figure out what to wear. I had packed 2 fitted tank tops, which I planned on wearing under my t-shirts, and I chose to put my hot pink one on. I actually put this one on, with my new exercise pants and had my daughter take a picture of me in it before I left for the ranch, for me to use as one of my pictures in this journey.

When my daughter took the picture, she said that she loved my new tank top, and asked of I was going to work out in it at the ranch. Right away I said, “No, I bought it to wear under my shirts. Someday I’ll be able to wear something like this.” She just looked at me and said, “Mom, it looks really good, you should wear it when you get there.” And as she took a few pictures, I just said, “Not yet, Grace, but someday I will. It’s definitely one of my dreams to be able to wear a sleeveless top and feel comfortable.”

So now, here I was, in my room at the ranch, getting ready to be measured, layering on all the clothes that I would have to take off when it was my turn to go. I went downstairs to get on line and get it over with, hoping it wouldn’t be too busy. There was only one person getting done, so I was next. I noticed right away how discreet Carter was, and was being put at ease a bit as I watched. So much nonsense, so many stupid “issues” were going on in my head…. And I was next.

The set up for all of this measuring was in  the corner of the hallway that lead from the main entrance of the lodge, to the kitchen/dining area. There were women in various areas of the lodge, some just getting up for the day, some getting ready for breakfast, others hanging out talking or checking their emails or having a cup of coffee. Carter was doing all the measuring, and someone was sitting at the table next to him. Her back was to me, as she was looking at a laptop computer, typing in all of the information that Carter gave to her as he measured. In my uncomfortable, nervous state, I didn’t even look to see who she was. I took off my oversized t-shirt that I had been wearing, and walked over to be measured in my tank top. Carter began to measure different parts of my body and said them aloud to the woman typing them in, and then when he said my name, she turned around, looked up at me and just said, “are you kidding me? Look at you! Oh my gosh! Who knew that was under there!” It was my room mate, Darcy, who had already pointed out to me yesterday, that my shirts and clothes were too big, and asked if I had brought clothes that fit better. Her matter of fact honesty took me by surprise, but I know that it was something that I had to hear. Because of her statements and honesty the day before,  this morning I worked out in a new shirt that was smaller, which I bought for the trip, but now I was standing there In a very fitted tank top, feeling extremely uncomfortable and very vulnerable.

Now, with her stopping and making this bold statement in the middle of being measured by Carter…a few of the other women had looked up and come over and started to join her in pointing out how great they thought I looked, asking why I wasn’t wearing the tank top to work out in. It was a very uncomfortable moment, but one which became a turning point for me on the ranch.

 carter measurestank home

     With that, Sara, my other room mate, who at this point had lost the same amount of weight as I had, 70 pounds…came over to me and said, “how about tomorrow, we both work out together in tank tops for our first time ever? I’ll do it if you’ll do it with me?” By the time I said ok, she tweeted it out to everyone on the ranch that we were going to do it…no turning back now! It was a very scary and exciting decision.

The other amazing moment which occurred this morning was when Carter took all the measurements and figured out all of my information, including percentage of body fat. Upon calculation… my percentage of body weight was in the “healthy” range. After years of numbers being in unhealthy and obese ranges, this was really incredible for me. Even though I wasn’t at my goal weight, yet, my body fat percentage was already in a healthy range. That was the greatest news ever.

Standing there, I asked Carter, “how long does it now take, as we lose weight, to see ourselves as we truly are? Is it normal to still perceive ourselves as bigger than we are?” It’s amazing that the perceptions are off at both spectrums…when I was gaining the weight, I had no idea how heavy I was, until I saw a picture of myself taken at times, and I would think, Is that really how I look? I really didn’t think I looked that heavy, until I was faced with a picture. And now heading down in weight, others will make a comment about looking thinner or fit or I will see a picture now that really surprises me in a good way, and I will think…is that how I really look? Because in my mind, I still see myself heavier, and of course continue focusing on all of my “flaws”.

scale_n

    Carter, along with most of the contestants from “The Biggest Loser”, agreed that our perceptions are still so far off at times. And, unfortunately, we continue to always see the flaws, instead of celebrating how far we have come. Well, Sara and I had agreed that tomorrow we would celebrate how far we had come by wearing tank tops to work out in on the turf in the morning. But for now, the t shirt went back on….and so did the sweatshirt as we had to head out for our morning hike. The group was a bit smaller today, but we had a great hike, met some more women, and took some more great pictures together. This took us right into a wonderful breakfast, and then a hike up to the upper room for another great talk.

Wed. morning hike

     This is where another crazy “God incidence” took place. Carter was up front answering questions, waiting for the speaker to arrive. All of a sudden his phone rang in his pocket, and he stopped to answer it as he stood on the stage in front of us. As we all listened in on the conversation, we joined him in just laughing, as we could clearly tell from the conversation, that the speaker we were waiting for to speak at this mornings’ seminar thought he was suppose to speak tomorrow. So, Carter ended the phone call by saying, “don’t worry, I’ll call you later, I’m at the place now about to fill in for you.”

Well, although Carter didn’t realize it at this exact time, God did…. God knew that we had all gotten our measurements taken this morning, and we had lots of questions about the results, including the fact that we all thought we would have really been down a lot on the scale by now (Wed.). Instead, most of us were the same or even a pound or two up! How could this be after all the working out we had done since we got there?

The timing of this talk worked out absolutely perfectly. It was the schedule God planned…we all needed to hear from Carter and understand, and have all of our questions answered regarding RMR’s, percent body fat, calorie burns, how to lose weight the right way, etc.  It was the greatest talk that I have ever heard in my life, explaining everything in a way that I truly understood… And I finally really got it! I remembered thinking…I wish that all of this could be explained in the junior high school and High School health classes for all students to really understand nutrition, healthy weight loss, healthy weight and body mass, etc. I understood for the first time in my entire life, why I can’t be 130 pounds, and why, knowing what I know now…I no longer WANT to be 130 pounds for my body measurements. It was SO freeing, as well as empowering to understand all of this information!

The teaching was filled with incredible information and knowledge, and it was also a time for all of us to ask questions about anything we didn’t understand. Carter started out by addressing a question about fasting, which lead to educating us on intermittent fasting and spiritual fasting. From there, he talked about mindful vs. mindless eating in America,  and how so much has changed. For instance, years ago, everyone would eat around a dinner table, even if you had a snack, you ate it at the dinner table..kids finished their meals and were busting to just go back outside a play. You thought about what you were eating and drinking and you stopped and enjoyed it and took the time to have it. Today, we do so much “on the go”, we don’t even taste half of what we throw in our mouths. We don’t even mindfully decide if we are truly hungry or full or satisfied.

Someone asked, “what about having a cheat day?” And I loved his response.” What does the word “cheat” mean to you?” He went around the room, asking for responses. After hearing all of the negative terms associated with the word “cheat”, he went onto say, “I believe in eating days. If you learn how to eat, you don’t need a cheat day. If we could eat normally all week and work in what we would love to have within that week, then you don’t need to cheat.” Then Vinny shared something that Dr. H had asked them when they were on “The Biggest Loser”. He said, “what if you were addicted to cocaine? Would you let me be allowed to have it on a Sunday?” Wow, I never thought about it that way. Vinny then said, “rather than a whole day of cheating, add a few calories for just one day and choose what you would love to enjoy within that day, and enjoy it. Just think, if you are having a huge pizza once a week, every week, then you are not working to break that habit. Everything we do has a cost physically, emotionally and spiritually.”

Then Carter added, “ “Cheat”, what does it say going out of your mouth. It goes against your mind–fighting that you’re not doing the right thing. If you are enjoying food everyday, you don’t need a cheat day.” As I was trying to take this all in and understand it, as I usually give myself a cheat day once a week, and wanted to choose to do the right thing, Carter put it all in perspective as he pointed out something we were living that very week. First he asked, “How many of you have had the joy ripped out of your life, because you don’t enjoy eating anymore?” Most of us raised our hands as we thought about how we eat when we diet. Then he said, “Look at this week that you have been here.  Have you missed anything? Have you been hungry?” It was a HUGE “AHA” MOMENT for me!

We had been exercising like crazy, going from meal to meal, looking so forward to whatever we were going to eat…knowing it was going to be delicious, filling, satisfying..wonderful! We were never starving, and we raved about everything we ate. We were completely satisfied after every meal, and I hadn’t craved anything. We had dessert with every lunch and dinner, and our entire day was 1500 calories. We were eating great food. We were mindfully sitting all together, stopping, enjoying, savoring every bite, and loving every experience. It didn’t feel like “dieting”…This is how it was meant to be!!

Carter went onto talk about real, pure food… What God intended us to eat. When we asked questions about labels and what to look for, and what certain things meant in the ingredients, what should be organic, what doesn’t have to be organic…He went right back to the Bible. He said, “Jesus said there is no bad food, but he was talking about pure food, not the processed food we have now.”

When I explained to him how hard the labels on all the health foods are also to read, he asked me, “Wendy, what’s in strawberries?” I answered, “strawberries.” “What’s in steak?” ‘Beef.” “What’s in Chicken?”…and he waited until he saw me finally understand. It may sound so simple, but that was another lightbulb moment. He explained that if we shop the outside of a grocery store, and buy things that are exactly what they are, we won’t have to read and figure out a label. And the more we eat those pure, good, God given foods, the healthier we will all be. Wow! That was a revelation that I think about every time I go grocery shopping. My time is now very minimal with reading labels, because there isn’t a lot of processed foods coming in anymore. Pure and simple. Steak is steak. Pineapple is pineapple. Yum!

Another great piece of knowledge that I use when planning my day, he left us with after someone asked, “how do we know how much to eat at each part of the day?” His answer was, “Eat for WHAT you are going to do in the next 3 hours!! You fuel yourself for what’s coming. Brilliant! Another reason why you don’t load up on eating before you go to bed. This has really helped me decide when to eat my bigger meals throughout the day.

So much was covered in this brilliant talk, much of which I have incorporated into my every day living. Carter taught me, “You are your greatest science experiment. Grab a journal, write down how things affect you when you try them, note what does great things for your body, and the things that don’t. Use a system where you investigate, then educate yourself, then activate what you have learned, and then do it!  Investigate first–learn what you want to know, read, look, but don’t draw conclusions yet. Educate-select, educate, focus, start trying things. Activate- Select some of the best strategies and make a plan. Make it an “I am” not an “I will”(if you say I will, and focus on tomorrow, it will never happen, you are just smiling at the “thought” of tomorrow, but still not doing anything) For instance, “I am in the process of losing 40 pounds by (date).” Then, Do it-Start right away with doing everything to make this goal happen. At this point he asked,  Do you know how many great plans never get done, just because of saying “I will” and never doing it? You must do it.

I realized when Carter shared all of this, how many times I said, “I’ll start tomorrow, I’ll start Monday, I’ll start the first of the month, I’ll start the first of the year”. One of the biggest changes I have made, is that when I slip up, I say, ‘I AM just one meal away from getting back on track.” And I do it the next meal. I get right back on track.When you go through these steps of progress and conquer something, you start all over again with the next goal. Investigate..educate…activate…do it….  Investigate…educate….activate…do it.  And as you build one thing at a time into your life, all of it adds up to create this new amazing lifestyle! I have finally come to realize that it truly is a lifestyle, not a diet….a lifestyle.

You set these goals, and add each piece of wisdom and  knowledge, and it becomes a part of you. One thing at a time. There is an awesome feeling when you get to say “I did it”. And then you learn and choose to do it again and again again, each time setting new goals and dreams. Even when you finally get to that point in time where your time of weight loss is over, because you reached goal….now you have to maintain. After you get to the point of real maintenance, you add another new goal or dream to accomplish. It never ends. You keep setting up a new finish line after you cross one.

And, although it may be hard to do, Carter reminded us, “don’t get so focused on all the “stuff”, that you miss this huge gift called LIFE. YOU were created for such a time as this…not later..not “when I get thin”….NOW! And as you learn all of the knowledge regarding food, nutrition, exercise….whatever wisdom and knowledge you learn…. and it becomes a part of you, tell it to others, share and teach it.  If you take it in and don’t share it, it doesn’t become a real part of you. You have to be givers and receivers. We are all really good at giving, but we all need to learn to receive also. The food/nutrition is just going to make you better than you already are. It’s going to enhance who you are! You are an amazing, beautiful, awesome child of God. Know that and live knowing that, even now.

We each took out the packet we had with all of our numbers we had gotten from the RMR machine, being weighed and measured by Carter, etc., and the next hour or so was spent learning about what all of those numbers meant, why it was so important to understand these numbers, and how to move forward with the information we were now empowered with. From percent body fat…to percent body mass…to RMR….everything was explained in a way that for the first time in my life, I understood. We all faced the numbers with eyes wide open, along with an understanding of what they meant, and a hope of where we could bring them to and how to do that. Knowledge is truly power. Our numbers and measurements can be really tough to face, but once we face them, we start the process of improving every one of them.

After this amazing morning seminar, we went down to the big tent for another teaching about core training. Carter pretty much taught us that you don’t need anything but a chair to create the hardest workout ever. He had our legs burning, our core burning, just by standing, sitting, hovering.. Using all different counts standing and sitting in a chair. It was so hard, and what he showed us all, was that there is no excuse not to find a way to exercise. All we had was a chair, and our butts were being kicked.

The great core exercise session was finished,  and it was followed by a  delicious lunch with a dessert that everyone flipped over. It tasted like chocolate mousse on a crispy cracker with whipped cream on top. We were all savoring every bite, raving about it, trying to figure out how to make it. Chris came out to see if we liked dessert, as well as to ask us to guess what was in it. He also had 2 extra ones, and asked if anyone would like them.

Well, I was sitting next to this woman….who at that moment jumped up, and practically vaulted over the table, while yelling out loudly that she absolutely wanted the extra one!! We all burst into laughing hysterically as she charged over to Chris to grab it.  It was the funniest moment ever! Chris shared with all of us that it was made with avocado and cocoa powder, and the whipped cream was whipped coconut milk. It was so delicious, we all still talk about it to this day (right Annie?!!)

After lunch, it was time for the moderate and then harder hike. I was excited to see who would be going, and especially who would be trying it for their first time, as I knew that whomever it was, I would stay with them and help them get to the top. I just asked the Lord to show me who I was suppose to walk with today. I didn’t want to miss one moment He planned for me during this week, as He had been doing mighty things.

As the group started up the first incline, I noticed a man who seemed as though it was his first time on this hike. I knew him from other things we had all done together, but he hadn’t done this hike yet. I told him that I had done it already, and that I would stay with him the whole time, and that we would stop any time he wanted to stop along the way. We started up with the group, some people went up ahead, some stayed back with us. We all talked and visited. As the hills got a bit steeper and longer, we stopped and took some “breathers” along the way. I asked him about his kids, family, job, etc., as I knew that visiting and talking would make it so much easier to accomplish the climb, and it alleviates a lot of the anxiety and fear of the unknown. We talked about our families and life… and before we knew it, we were at the top of the moderate hike. We stopped to celebrate and take it all in, and then made our way down to the end. We stopped to take a few pictures with the group at the bottom by a beautiful stream.

When we finished with the first hike, some people left,  and some of us were heading over to take the harder hike. As people were making their decisions, the gentleman I was with was so proud of finishing the hike, he wanted to do the hard hike now. I asked him if he was sure he wanted to do them back to back for his first time, and when he said “yes”, I told him that I would stay with him the entire time, no matter how long it took.

We went over to the group, and there were a few more new hikers today who had the courage and faith to conquer this mountain. I love that every single day, no matter how many people showed up, everyone would wait at the top until the last person arrived, so that we could celebrate every single victory! We started out the hike in a group, and as the climb continued, we all rested at different places. We continued to talk and visit and share…and everyone continued to encourage one another to keep going and persevere, taking one step at a time to get to the top. We were all in this together.

Again, it was just such a blessing to be able to share in everyone’s victory as they reached the top, especially with today’s first timers. And today, it was really special for me to share both “first” hikes, done back to back, with Jim.

When everyone got to the top, Murn shared a song on her phone called “That Wasn’t Me”. We all listened, the words were so meaningful, it was beautiful. Then on the way down, Jim told me that I needed to hear another amazing song, and he set it up on his phone for me to listen to on the way down. It was a song called, “The Real Me”, by Natalie Grant. I had never heard of it, I held it close to my ear as I hiked down, and within moments, the song just hit my heart, as it just put into words how all of us here had felt at one point or another in our lives. As I listened, tears just flooded down my cheeks as Natalie Grant sang…

Foolish heart, looks like we’re here again.
Same old game of plastic smile,
Don’t let anybody in.
Hiding my heartache,
Will this glass house break?
How much will it take before I’m empty?
Do I let it show?
Does anybody know?

CHORUS:
But You see the real me.
Hiding in my skin, broken from within.
Unveil me completely.
I’m loosening my grasp,
There’s no need to mask my frailty
Cause You see the real me.

Painted on, life is behind a mask,
Self-inflicted circus clown.
I’m tired of the song and dance,
Living a charade, always on parade.
What a mess I’ve made of my existence.
But You love me even now
And still I see somehow…

CHORUS

Wonderful, beautiful is what you see
When You look at me.
You’re turning the tattered fabric of my life
Into a perfect tapestry.
Oh, I just wanna be me,
I wanna be me.

CHORUS

And you love me just as i am.
Wonderful, beautiful is what you see
When you look at me.

I told Jim when it was over, it would be the perfect song to use and put together a video with all of the pictures taken during this week… As we are all just trying so hard, to be able to come to a place where we each will finally look on the outside as beautiful as we are on the inside.

As if listening to that song, as well as the song that Murn played at the top… and taking these two hikes wasn’t emotional enough, and clearly divine appointments… a moment I will remember the rest of my life topped off this incredible day…. as we came to the bottom of the hill, and we were about to head over to the tent for our next activity, Jim slowed down and turned to me and said, “I just have to tell you something before this hike ends.”…and he hesitated a minute as I looked at him, and he slowed down walking, and overcome with emotion he said 7 words, that to this day, pierce my heart every time I think about that moment….he just looked at me and said,… “Thank you for being Jesus to me.”

He explained how much it meant to him that I had taken the time to walk and talk and encourage him to do something he wasn’t sure he could do. He had just done BOTH hikes, back to back, and it was just an extraordinary moment to realize what he had done. I was sooo proud of him, so honored to have been a part of his first climb to the tops of both mountains. And I was so overcome by his words, “Thank you for being Jesus to me.” Wow. What an amazing gift, to be used by the Lord to touch someone’s life .

As we continued to walk over to the tent, I was so overcome with emotion, and that moment took me back to where I was just days before coming to the ranch, where friends would ask me, “what can I pray for you while you are away”, and amongst many of my requests, one of them was actually…”please pray that I can keep up, that I am not last.” I had such fears coming here, not knowing what to expect, or how hard everything would be. I honestly didn’t know if I could handle it. And since the very first day of being here, and promising each other as room mates, that we would go and try everything….once I got through the entire first day, and realized that I could do this, I decided that I would choose, EVERY single day to be last, in order to help whomever the Lord lead me to help…not to miss one persons “first” each day. It became the most incredible moments of the week for me, each and every time. Every single one was the greatest gift ever, memories that I cherish to this day, moments that I continue to share with others in order to inspire them.

So, left completely in awe, again, of God’s incredible timing, and the mighty things he prepares and orchestrates for us, we walked over to the tent, where Carter was ready to equip us with more knowledge. It was an afternoon seminar learning all about increasing flexibility/pliability. We learned how to use rollers, as well as exercises to improve strength, proper stretching, etc. All very hands on activities, so that we could do everything in our own homes.

The day was coming to an end, and we gathered for another delicious dinner. One very lucky woman won dinner out with Murn, Marci, Courtney, Olivia and Hannah. She was so excited, and we were all so excited for her. What a special treat.

After dinner, we had some free time to gather together and process all that had happened so far. Some people had seen some of the leaders for Life Coaching sessions, and all over the ranch, breakthroughs were happening, lives were changing, real transformations were occurring. It was amazing to see what could happen in an hour of Life Coaching with these women and Carter.

On this Wednesday night, there were bonfires in a few places where people were gathering to talk or just process all that we had gone through so far. Some women were actually taking tough stuff and burning it for good in those flames. It was a very powerful night of letting go, and letting God transform lives. It was beautiful.

Time started to feel as though it was going too fast now. It was Wednesday night, so we only had a day and a half left on this ranch, and only one more night. The relationships we were making here were really special, and to share this experience together, was something that was already bonding us in a special way forever.

As I went to bed, after writing about the whole day in my notebook, I just thanked and praised the Lord, again, for another extraordinary day filled with miraculous moments that continued to leave each of us in awe. And I prayed for Him to just continue the amazing work that he was beginning here in each one of us.

Our bags were packed for the gym, our clothes were laid out, tomorrow Sara and I promised to work out in tank tops for our first time ever…headed to bed praying that I would have the courage to keep that promise. Looking forward to the gift of tomorrow, filled with more mighty moments and miracles!

The Incredible Week at “Unleash the Champion” With Some of “The Biggest Losers”… This is what dreams are made of! ….Day 1

Sunday, September 23, 2012- Got up very early to head to the airport. Bags were packed, everything was organized at home for my entire family, as I was leaving for about a week. My stomach was a mess with excitement..mixed with nerves and anxiety…This was the first time I was ever flying alone, the longest amount of time that I was leaving my family to be away by myself..and although I was extremely excited about spending the week with my “Biggest Loser” TV inspirations… Olivia, Hannah, Marci, Courtney, Carter Hays… and all of the women I had already been meeting through the internet, I also had my mind going crazy with all of the “what if’s?”….what if I can’t handle this? What if I can’t keep up with the work outs? What if I’m last, and everyone has to wait for me? What if I’m not strong enough? What if we have to run a lot? What if everyone else brought friends with them? What if I didn’t bring the right stuff?….What if?…

Little did I know then, what I know absolutely, for sure, now…that the Lord was orchestrating this week, starting many many years ago,  in order to create a life changing, life altering week/experience for each and every person, who was hand picked by Him to be there. I was just one of over 40 people who were there, and when you hear my story, mixed in with some of the lives of others there, you are going to be absolutely astounded. I actually wish that I could see your faces and hear your reactions as you read about my story on this ranch, and I wish that every person who was there could share their individual stories of how their lives were impacted…from the people who attended, to the team of professionals who came together bringing all of their gifts and talents to bless us.. All of whom we found out while we were there, each had a vision and dream to create such an experience, and through their prayers and faith, they were all brought together to meet one another, through miraculous, divine timing…”for such a time as this.” Their dreams and prayers became a reality and incredible experience for all of us, and we were part of the “pilot program” that forever changed all of our lives. I will blend in what I know of their stories, as I take you through the week.

So, as my journey begins, we left very early on Sunday and headed to the airport. My husband was taking me to one airport, as my son was heading to another airport to pick up my brother, who was coming in from California for the week to take care of my parents. On the way, my husband prayed for me, then stayed while I checked in curbside… and after a long hug, I walked away with tears streaming down my cheeks, took a big breath, and just asked the Lord to hold me tightly as we walked through this together. I got through all the security, found my gate to wait at, and then picked up some healthy choices to have a little breakfast. Olivia and Hannah always send instagram pictures of their healthy choices in airports when they travel, so instead of just grabbing comfort food and not thinking, I really looked around at two venues, and chose some good foods from each of them. That was a ‘first’ for me, and I felt really great about it.

I sat at the gate, ate a bit, and then opened my notebook, knowing that I had to read a packet that Carter sent to all of us, which was downloaded and placed in my notebook the night before. The title of it was “Today is the day to…Unleash the Champion…start.sweat.finish…-never quit.”

Let me stop a second and introduce Carter Hays to you. I could probably spend a few pages just writing about him, but let me take a quote from Hannah Curlee, as Carter was the trainer who took her to the finale of the Biggest Loser, where she came in second to her sister, Olivia.  This is the man who envisioned this “Unleash the Champion” program, along with Hannah and the team God divinely placed together. Hannah writes, “…We trained so hard, Carter’s nutrition plan and training program transformed my body in a way that I thought was impossible. I began to meet people who had been touched my this ministry he calls physical fitness. It was amazing.” Carter is an amazing trainer, and physical fitness is his ministry. He gives all the glory to God, and pretty much everything he passes on so eloquently and with such passion is not only scientifically sound and true, but also Biblically based. This week that we were all about to walk through, was now his dream come true.

So there I was, waiting at the gate for my plane, reading his packet, highlighting and taking loads of notes already. I was trying to focus and not let the fear of flying take hold of me. Well, here starts all of the incredible “God-incidences” of the week ahead….The packet started out talking all about hope, perseverance, confidence..then lead into a whole section on fear and courage. As I read his words, I was feeling more and more empowered, and couldn’t believe that this was the section I happened to be reading at this point in time. I underlined and starred and put the words, “wow” and “yes” next to so many statements…”Fear can be transformed into freedom”, “face your fear when you are experiencing great anxiety”, “you may have been anxious about many things, most of which we all realize will never happen”, “overcoming fear is the application of faith”. Courage is the opposite of fear. All of these words of wisdom were just washing over me   and helping me let go of my fear and anxiety.

My niece, Noelle,  who is only 12,  actually had to fly from California to Pennsylvania all by herself for a funeral the day before I was leaving. She called me a few times, as she was nervous, and I prayed with her and told her to picture the Lord holding her right hand, and I told her that when she got nervous, she should just squeeze His hand. I shared Isaiah 41:13 with her..“For I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. We prayed for the Lord to put his angels around the plane and I told her that she was in the palm of his hand, not to worry. I prayed for her throughout the day while she was on the plane, and prayed that she would enjoy it, and when she called right when she landed, she actually said that it was “fun”. I kept thinking of her and how brave she was and kept saying, Lord, if Noelle can fly across the entire US, I can fly a few hours to Nashville, and I know that all of the promises I shared with her are for me also.

Right when I finished reading the last sentence of the fear and courage section, they announced that we would be boarding in 10 minutes. I remember literally saying to God, “if this is just a glimpse of your timing and of how this week is about to go, it’s going to be mighty!” I wrote on the bottom of that page I was reading, “already, Only God could have orchestrated down to this moment, both the words I have read and the exact timing of what I’m about to do! This is going to be a mighty week ahead!” Then on the other side of the page I wrote “9:20am-LGA-Now getting on plane alone for the first time! He is with me- He who is in me is greater! I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! With God all things are possible! Fear not…(why)…I am with you!”

I shut my notebook, got everything together, and my seat was called. I boarded and got buckled, and remembered that my friend, Lorraine, had come over the night before and placed 6 letters and notes in my binder for me to open each day while I was away. She wanted to come with me so badly, but she is a teacher, and there was no way that she could take off for a week so early into the school year. So, she promised to pray for me while I was away, and placed all of these letters and notes into my binder so that she could be with me in that special way.

After getting settled in my seat, I opened the first letter. It was on notepaper, and on the cover of the first page it said, “September 23rd To be read on Plane” and had a drawing of a plane on it.

It read…
“Day 1-Take off!!! Wow, you are taking off on yet another new journey…but know this…YOU ARE NOT ALONE!! -The lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Psalm 46:7.
-The Lord is with us. Numbers 14:9
-Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you;he will never leave your side. Deuteronomy 31:6.
HE is with you my friend! I will be praying for you each and everyday. I am in AWE of your willingness, your desire, your perseverance, your bravery…and much more. Of course, there is a piece of me that is jealous and wish that I could be sitting in the window seat next to you. But since I can’t be, I commit to you to do my very best at a workout routine while you are away. I was able to start walking/jog this week 3 times so far. But I want and need more…so I commit to work out, someway, somehow everyday you are away. I will write it out or log it in too!
As you take flight, I pray Lord that you give Wendy an open heart & open mind to the week ahead. Lord you have already ordained these days. Bless her roommates, her workouts, her meals, her new relationships. Lord, Wendy has so much to offer the people she is about to meet, but allow her to be open to the changes you may begin in her. I pray blessings upon her flight & drive to her ranch. Lord take care of my dear friend. I know she is in good hands. In Christ, Lorraine.”

Wow, what a gift! When I read her letter, the amazing thing was that when I taught 2nd  grade years ago, Deuteronomy 31:6 was one of our class verses that we said together in a certain way together all the time, sort of a song. It came right back to me in that instant, and as the plane sped up heading down the runway, and we started to climb into the air, I held onto that verse, I closed my eyes and just kept saying it over and over again until we were level in the sky, smiling,again, at another “God-incidence”… that Lorraine would choose this verse to share with me at this particular time. She had no idea how much this would mean to me as she was preparing all of these letters, allowing the Lord to use her in such a special way, choosing a verse that was so important to me.

As we leveled off, there was a really nice woman next to me, she flew all the time, as she worked for American express, I told her it was my first time flying alone. She was so calm and just told me that I was doing great. She flew this flight all the time, and then she said it was “so easy.”

During the flight, I finished reading Carters booklet, highlighted so much of it, then actually slept for a bit and actually didn’t think about the flight at all. When I woke up, I decided to be brave and open the window shade, I saw that we were pretty close to the land, and within seconds, the pilot then said, “10 minutes to land!” It was a quick, perfect landing, and we were at the gate very quickly. When I reached the baggage claim, my bag was one of the first ones coming out.  Then, I found the baggage claim area where we were all suppose to gather to meet Carter for our ride to the ranch.

I was one of the earliest flights to arrive, so I was the only one there at that time. The Nashville airport is absolutely beautiful. You can hear people singing country music in different venues as you walk through, and there are beautiful adirondack rocking chairs throughout the baggage claim areas to just sit in and relax. I grabbed a cup of coffee, sat in a beautiful rocking chair, and then called my husband, my brother and Lorraine. After telling them all what the Lord was doing already in His amazing timing, I also told  Lorraine about the story of that verse she gave me in the letter. I had chills and goosebumps while I was telling her, and just said to her, “if God is already creating these moments– I know we’re in for a mighty week!”

Eventually, I looked over and saw some girls sitting by the baggage one area where we were told to meet. I went over to talk to them. (I didn’t realize it at this point, but one of them would be one of my room mates). Within a few minutes, we saw Carter coming towards us. We knew it was him from far away as he is so fit, and as he got closer, he was carrying an “Unleash the Champion” sign.  It was really exciting to finally meet him.

We all talked while waiting for other girls to arrive, and we took some pictures with Carter. I handed my camera to another woman, and when she took my picture standing next to him, with his arm around me, I just thought, “Wendy, this is Hannah’s trainer,… you are standing next to THE Carter Hays, and you are going to be working out with him…at his gym… all week long. This is the man you have seen on the videos, and you are standing RIGHT NEXT TO HIM! You are REALLY HERE, THIS IS REALLY HAPPENING!” It was truly a surreal moment, (just one of many that would happen over the next few days).  Then, while we were taking turns taking pictures, continuing to introduce ourselves, one woman had said that she read my blog and was excited to meet me! (Really Lord?!!,  this woman read my story and was excited to meet me?…another surreal moment.)

When the last woman for our group arrived, we made our way to the van. I was really happy to find out that I wasn’t the only one with 2 suitcases. Pretty much every woman had 2 suitcases. As we all started to get to know each other, and compare luggage amounts, we all admitted that we had no idea what to expect, how many sets of workout clothes we would need, etc… It just goes to show, women are women…our fears, insecurities, worries seem to be the same no matter what state or country we are from.

We all loaded into the van, women were from all over the US and there was a woman from Canada. She actually had to sit right in front of me, sitting on 2 cases of water, facing me, as we were one seat short. As we drove, we started talking and getting to know one another, and Carter also told us about the areas we were driving through. We passed gorgeous houses and ranches..neighborhoods where many famous singers lived, as Nashville is definitely a place to come and record music. Carter pointed out that they are well known for their recording studios. My son has actually gone to Nashville with his band a few times, and he has said on more than one occasion that he would love to live there. As we drove to the ranch, listening to Carter share about the area and the people, I began to understand why.

As we pulled onto ranch, there was a big “Unleash the Champion” sign. Horses were in the meadow, and it was a beautiful piece of property. We pulled up to a huge white tented area, where there were such nice people there to greet us. They had bags for each of us, with the logo of the company that Hannah works for, and each bag was filled with fun stuff for us…”Unleash the Champion” shirts, bracelets, water bottles, bars, magazines, etc. We all hung out there for a while sharing stories and getting to know one another as each group arrived. I got to share some of my Dr. Oz story with a few women. We continued to mingle while waiting for our rooms to be ready.

At one point, a beautiful woman got out of a car that pulled up, we all actually thought it was Hannah, as she had sunglasses on, and we couldn’t fully tell, and we were all saying, “Hannah’s here.” As she got closer, she took off her glasses, and it was Carter’s wife, Candice. She and Hannah could be sisters. She had actually just had major surgery a few days before, and was still healing, but she was there to greet all of us, and help with everything. I talked to her for a bit, and when I told her my name, she knew who I was right away, and actually said, “oh you were one of the first ones to sign up. I know, because as people signed up, I started to pray for them by name.”

I was just so totally blessed in that moment. Candice, Carter’s wife, had been praying for all of us by name since we signed up…what an incredible gift. Especially since I know even just for my circumstance, that only by the grace of God and with much prayer, was I able to take a week off from all of my responsibilities at home, especially with my ailing parents, and be at this retreat.  I know that only through prayer and God’s grace and timing.. was I on this ranch, along with each and every other person there…”for such a time as this”.

A little while later, we were driven up to the lodge, and on the way, we were told that our room assignments were written on the back of our name tags. We found our luggage on the porch and then entered the beautiful lodge and were directed to our rooms.  Ours was up the stairs, off the main living room, in a section by itself. We had a bathroom in the room and another small one in the hallway….so great! Then when we entered the room, there were 2 sets of bunk beds, a bed up in a high loft and a queen bed on the other side of the room. Mine was the queen bed!!! Wow!…God knew ahead of time that I was going to be up very late every night writing about each day, and there was a lamp next to it that I could leave on while writing, so that I wouldn’t disturb my room mates too much having to keep the light on while writing…. Only God!

As we unpacked and visited and met our room mates, it was already becoming evident that the Lord literally hand picked each one of us to be in that particular room. After we organized all our stuff throughout the room, We were all sitting on our beds, and Darcy asked, “OK, so why are each of you here?” It was a brilliant question that not only broke the ice, but lead our room into the greatest time of sharing some of our stories.  It’s both amazing and beautiful how Christian women can go straight to the “heart to heart” talks. That time of sharing was really special, and we began to build strong friendships from that very first day, those very first hours of meeting one another.
After our great visit in our room, we all went downstairs to dinner. For this first night only, it was in the kitchen/dining area of our lodge. It was set up sooo beautifully. It felt like a beautiful fall dinner in a log cabin. The tables were set with candles and pine cones and wooden trays. We met our cook/chef, Chris, and his assistants. He explained all of the healthy foods we were about to eat, how they were prepared, the approximate calories, and he showed us what a healthy portion was. Everything was so delicious, and as moms/busy women, it was such a gift to have someone cook such incredible, healthy meals for us.

As we sat at our tables, we started to meet more of the women, shared more of our stories. I heard a beautiful accent coming from the table next to us, and found out it was a woman who flew all the way in from England. She was inspired through the internet watching Hannah and Olivia on the BL, and she had lost 100 pounds! Her name was Mary ( in my head I referred to her as Queen Mary from England, so that I wouldn’t forget her name-later). When I had the time in the coming days to hear how she lost 100 pounds, I found out the she just walked and cut back on food portions…wow! What an inspiration!

During our dinner, Keith Curlee (Hannah and Olivia’s dad) stopped at our table for a visit. He is absolutely one of the most precious men I have ever met. He had driven another van of girls from the airport. He was so excited to share with us, that since the show, his family has all gotten on board, and together they have lost over 700 pounds! He was almost 100 pounds down. He was just so proud. He said to us, “I use to eat my daily bread, and everyone else’s daily bread!  Now I have learned just to eat my own, and not too much of it.”  I told him that one of my favorite episodes on The Biggest Loser, was watching him play volleyball with Hannah. He got choked up a bit, and said that it still makes him cry just thinking about it. What a special man. It was really great to meet him in person. I have read many of his wise words, and would love to hear him preach or speak one day. I think he will be one of UTC’s speakers on a retreat one day, he has a lot of great wisdom to share, and I would love to hear him speak.

As we continued visiting at the table, another women heard my name and said,“Oh, you’re Wendyweighsin!, I read your entire blog on vacation. I stayed by the lake and didn’t get up until I read the entire thing!”  I was stunned, excited, had goose bumps on my arms,… literally trying to take in the fact that, again, someone far away, who didn’t know me, was reading my blog and was inspired. Wow….again, think about all that is happening so far… can you believe this is just day1?!

After dinner, Carter gave some instructions about signing up, as everything was optional. There were sign-ups for boot camp, hikes-moderate and hard, etc. We decided right from the start, as room mates, that we weren’t going to miss one thing. No matter how hard something was, we would all try it together. So we went right over and signed up for everything. At one point, we were all told that there were only so many spots in the van for boot camp each morning, but one of our room mates, Beth, had her car, so we could all drive together, to and from the gym (which was 45 min. away), and this way we would get to go every day. Although it seems like 45 minutes was a long way to go for boot camp every morning, this actually became a great time for all of us to visit and get to know one another even better….ONLY GOD!

So after having dinner and completing all of the sign ups, we were all standing around visiting in the lodge, everyone was getting to know each other, and shared about how excited they were to meet our “inspirations from The Biggest Loser”. I was standing near the front door, in the main foyer, talking with Carter and his wife, Candice. I was sharing about how I knew Olivia, how she was a big part of my story and journey so far, and also shared a bit about my Dr. Oz story. As we were sharing stories, the front door opened….and in walked Hannah, Olivia, Courtney and Marci, and another amazing woman, Mary-Nell, also known as Murn, who you will learn about as our story unfolds during the week….well, Oh-My-Goodness!!… we were all completely star struck! They walked in, slowly conversations halted, and everyone looked over toward the front door, and we were all just in awe! They all walked in, spread out, and just started hugging each of us… saying hi, thanking US for coming!…they were all so genuinely happy to meet all of us. First I hugged Hannah as she came in, introduced myself, and she was so excited to meet me, and knew who I was already because of Olivia. Then, it was so exciting for me to see Olivia and just hug her.. she is just extraordinary, and really continues to inspire me every time I see her. Then I hugged Marci and Courtney, and they already knew who I was from Olivia. I was astounded! I had just dreamed of somehow getting to know all of them during the week ahead, and they already knew who I was. Really??!!!!

After they greeted and hugged everyone, they sort of ended up spreading out  in the rooms… and I’m telling you, within moments, each of them, individually on their own, just began to visit and share from their hearts with the women around them in such a beautiful, honest and precious way. They shared right from their hearts, answered every question we had, and listened to some of our own personal stories.

I spent the first part of the night talking to Courtney. She is absolutely so beautiful in person. She just glows and shines as she speaks, with a joy and passion and love that goes beyond words. Her mom, Marci, was only a few steps away with some women around her. She also exudes such joy and love and confidence and passion… and it was really beautiful to see how close they are, even keeping an eye on each other.. And even from afar, sharing some stories together as we all listened. What an incredible mother/daughter relationship. You could see it on the show, but to stand there and just see in their eyes…and personally feel their love, respect, admiration for one another, and the way their stories and lives are so intertwined, was such a gift that night.

I asked Courtney all about her surgeries, and she was so honest about everything she has been through. Anything I asked, she just shared from her heart. It was just incredible. Just as in our room with my room mates, we all , as women, shared heart to heart that evening. I got to visit with all of them. First Courtney and Marci, then Hannah and Mary Nell for a while, and towards the end of the night, when things were winding down, I was in a circle of women listening to Olivia. At one point, while she was talking, Olivia mentioned a little bit of my story, and with that, another woman said, “oh YOUR Wendyweighsin?”…I continue to be absolutely blown away at the thought of these women reading my story from all areas of the US, and even Canada! And, again, it was quite a surreal moment to be in a group of women, all there to meet and hear from Olivia, and have her share a bit of my story with them.  CRAZY! I keep wanting someone to pinch me at times…. ONLY GOD!

We all took some pictures with the girls, and we were then reminded that we all had to get up around 3am, as we had to leave for our first bootcamp workout in the morning by 4:10am! Carter said that we really had to let the girls leave and also get some sleep, so everyone said good-bye, and as they all headed out the door, I have to just tell you…
they went from walking in as “super stars”, to leaving us that night, already as girl friends. It was absolutely surreal, like walking through a dream…. the whole evening.. the whole day!…and to think all this unfolded and was orchestrated in such a mighty way…..and it is only the end of day 1!

We went to our room, it was really late, but we all had to figure out what we would need to take out for the morning, as we would be getting up around 3am, leaving at 4am, and had 5 women sharing 2 bathrooms (praising God for that second one!) The nerves started to kick in for me, trying to decide what to wear, what to bring to the gym, starting to worry a bit… “what if I can’t handle what we will have to do?”

I laid everything out, packed my bag, filled my water bottle, then, although it was so late, I stayed up for a while to write down as much as I could remember about the entire day, so that I wouldn’t forget a thing. I was absolutely exhausted, but knew I had to get it all written down. I realized at this point, also, why the Lord blessed me with the queen bed with the lamp on the other side of the room…it was so I wouldn’t disturb all of my room mates who wanted to get to sleep as soon as possible. I continue to be absolutely amazed at how he cares about every detail of our lives.

So, already, I head to bed,  at the end of day 1…saying my prayers, praising Him for all that He as already done, as well as what He is going to do in this week ahead..placing my head on the pillow, exhausted and in awe….knowing for sure….ONLY GOD!