December 24, 2012- The Best Christmas Gift This Year…80 pounds lost!

Christmas and New Year’s Day is now over, all my visitors have gone home, and it is time to get back to writing my book and posting on my blog. 2013 is going to be an amazing year. A year that I will actually reach my weight loss goal, along with walking through more dreams and accomplishing things I never thought I could.

So, grab a cup of coffee or tea, and let me continue to share this incredible journey with you….It will take a few posts to catch you all up. I’ll start with sharing what happened around the holidays, then I will take you back to the experience I had at Unleash the Champion to finish sharing the spectacular events that happened there. This journey continues to be something that incredible movies are made of…and I am just busting to share it all with you…..Enjoy!

amys blazer

December 24, 2012- The Best Christmas Gift This Year…80 pounds lost!
It’s Christmas Eve day, and I am starting it this year unlike any other year…..80 pounds down for Christmas….and in the gym! It was pretty amazing to get up with my husband and say, “who goes to the gym and works out on the morning of Christmas eve? We do!…We are now one of THOSE people!”

I actually couldn’t wait to get there to see everyone, and to just hug the owner and thank him again for supporting me, believing in me and helping me get my life back. The work out was really tough– weights and cardio, doing a lot of it on a step. Eliza worked us out hard, and early on I was dripping with sweat. As I saw it fall onto the step and floor, I just thought about one of the speakers at Unleash the Champion saying, “sweat is just your fat crying”….and so looking down, I just smiled and loved the fact that I was starting this Christmas Eve out, making my fat cry!

It’s amazing how much stays with you in your heart and head as you continue to stay on this journey and really want to fight and make it a lifestyle. I have my “believe” bell back on, which I placed around my neck one year ago today…and today I am also blessed to know that wherever my friend, Roseanne, is today, she has my original bell on her neck, and I know she is doing amazing things throughout this Christmas, believing that she can do all things through Christ who strengthens her. She is transforming her life and inspiring so many others, also.

In the past few days, so many facebook messages and emails have gone back and forth between all of us from the “Unleash the Champion” family. I posted that I reached my Christmas goal and lost 80 pounds for Christmas. Only God could have allowed me to pull out a 3.4 pound loss this week, in and amongst all that I have had to do. I prayed all week for Him to help me with this miracle, as I knew that the only way that I could have done it in my own strength and ability would be to work out at least 2 times a day. I was going to try all week, but life got in the way, and it didn’t happen.

When I got on the scale, the woman’s face was in shock, she reached for the calculator, said,”Oh my gosh, Wendy, what did you do?”… and then she looked back and forth at the numbers, checking her math, and then said that I did it! I lost 80 pounds exactly!  The loss of 3.4 pounds brought me to exactly 80 pounds! It was all God! I jumped up and down, and I spinned around a few times. All the people coming in the building could hear me shouting with joy, “I lost 80 pounds for Christmas!”. It was the greatest gift ever!!!! I couldn’t wait to tell everyone at home, but sharing it at Weight Watchers was just as spectacular, as they were all pulling for me, they knew that I was working so hard to try to make this Christmas goal, and they were all so proud of my accomplishment. Other members got on the scale and also had losses, and we just “high fived” each other and celebrated the fact that we actually lost weight the week before Christmas…. With Christmas parties and all!

It was a fabulous meeting….great ideas, more inspiration to keep us all on target. And when I left, and pulled out of the parking lot, I turned on the radio as I stopped for the light and my favorite line from “All things Possible” was playing at that EXACT moment!!…
I know mountains can move
I’ve seen what You can do
In my weakness
So my heart will believe
If I wait I will see
My God doing, what only He can do

It was an amazing miracle and gift this Christmas. It’s something I prayed so hard for as I worked out, and He provided.

So I go into this Christmas Eve blessed beyond words, for the journey I have been on, the friends I have met, the “God incidences” I have walked through and continue to walk through. I am in awe of the treasures that have been unveiled this past year, and I am beyond excited to see where this new year will lead me and my family in our journeys.
It was the toughest, most exciting year to experience. A year of truly finding out that the Lord really is ALL that He says He is and can do ALL that He says He can do. Nothing takes Him by surprise, and He never lets go of us! We will walk through trials beyond what we think we can handle, but He walks through them with us, and He provides.
Praising Him this Christmas for all that He has done and will continue to do…in His amazing timing, with His unfailing love. And praying that everyone will experience Him in their lives the way I have experienced Him this past year. I am in awe and left breathless every time I share what He has done. What a gift! One that I pray every person will unwrap in their own lives this year! Merry Christmas!

The Incredible Week at “Unleash The Champion” With Some Of The “Biggest Losers”… This Is What Dreams Are Made Of!… Day 2 – The Story Continues…

Monday, September 24, 2012-
The first morning of bootcamp came very quickly. I heard the alarm go off a little after  3am. I hopped out of bed pretty quickly, as I hadn’t slept very well. I kept waking up a few times during the night, worrying and panicking about this first day, then going in and out of crazy dreams of actually thinking I was on “The Biggest Loser”. It was a very restless night, mainly due to all of the “unknowns” of this first day and the week ahead.

We put on a few lights in our room, as it was pitch dark outside, and started taking turns using the bathroom and getting ready. At one point, I was in the small hallway bathroom, dressed and ready, and I was literally holding onto the sink, looking in the mirror…my hands were shaking, my body was shaking with nerves and I was in a panic trying to take a breath, wondering, what if I can’t keep up at the boot camp? What if I can’t do what Carter asks us to do? What if I am last? What if I just can’t do it?….I took a few breaths and just prayed that the Lord would be with me…I held onto my verse that I had been holding onto during all of my challenges at the gym and with the Dr. Oz challenge in the last year, “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.”  In that moment, I just asked Him for the strength. I prayed, “I know that you tell me to be anxious about nothing, but in prayer and thanksgiving, give it all over to you….so I am asking you to take these nerves away, calm my spirit, and let me know that you are with me in a mighty way. Thank you for this amazing opportunity to be here. I know that I am suppose to be here, so help me to be able to do all that I need to do, and then please give me your peace that passes ALL understanding. I need your peace, Lord. I can’t go to the gym shaking and fearful like this.”

I also remembered asking the Lord this particular morning, something I had begun to ask for before leaving for this trip.. When others asked me about the trip and what they could pray for me, I said to them, “remember the episode on The Biggest Loser where Hannah was with Jillian and experienced her “back bend moment?” (it was a very powerful moment on the show, where she was brought to a place where she was able to do something she never even dreamed of being able to ever do, which resulted in a huge breakthrough for Hannah in her journey)… please pray for me and for every other person on that ranch this week, that we would each experience a moment like that at least once during the time we are there… And, I continued to pray for this throughout the week.

My room mates were ready, our bags were packed, water bottles filled, and we went downstairs to wait until the van pulled up. When it did, we got into Beth’s car and lined up behind the van. We all pulled out of the ranch, onto the dark country road which lead us to the gym. We were told it would be about 45 minutes, which sounded like a long time, but we had another great visit and time of sharing in our car, and before we knew it, we were pulling into the big parking lot in front of the gym.

We entered the gym around 5am, and although it was still very dark outside, the gym was brightly lit up. We walked around the corner, and there was Carter Hays.. standing on the turf. This part of the gym looked like a huge indoor football field, and lined up along the beginning of the field, were metal sleds with weights on them. As we entered and put our bags along the edge, Carter told us to warm up by walking around the outside of the field, making a huge oval as we walked. Everyone started to file in and walk, including all of his regular clients who got to be with him every day. They were all so kind and so encouraging as they worked out side by side with us each day that week.

A few minutes into walking, we were told to raise our hands straight up and continue walking. A few minutes after that, we were told told to start jogging if we could, and then jog with our hands in the air. Already, Carter was explaining all of the modifications for each person there, only asking us, each individually, to bring our best to the field, and to push ourselves to only do what we were able to do, not the person next to us.

At this point, I noticed Olivia run by…then Marci….then Courtney….then Hannah. You could see everyone starting to notice them jogging around the field with us, and although it might sound crazy, we had no idea that they would all be working out alongside of us. We were all really excited to see them, and really inspired to be working out with them. I remember feeling like I was in a dream, jogging around, listening to Carter shout out instructions, looking around at all of these people on this turf, and also seeing Olivia, Hannah, Courtney and Marci spread out within the group. Their smiles, their comments, their words of encouragement…their presence, literally each of them letting us know that they were fully in this with us, was an experience beyond what my words could ever convey.

After jogging for a bit, we were told to line up on the different lines of the turf. As I stepped up to the one in front of me, which happened to be the first line in front of Carter, I looked to my left, and on my same line was both Courtney and Olivia. Again, I was literally in dream mode…and this was what dreams were made of….after months of waiting and anticipating…there we all were, working out with Carter Hays, Hannah’s trainer… on his turf….the actual gym and turf that we had all only seen in pictures and on the internet. And we were all here at our first bootcamp…with Hannah, Olivia, Courtney and Marci…all working out by our sides. Unbelievable!

And then the workout began….we did walking lunges, high knee walks, high knee jogs, and yes the hardest one of all…bear crawls (crawling on the turf using your hands and feet, no knees down)…alternating one exercise to the other, going forward to the next line and then moving backward to the line before. I hung in there and did my absolute best, pushed myself hard, as I had Courtney doing it all right next to me, and Olivia a few people down from me. They were both in my peripheral vision, they were working to their max, which made me work as hard as I could. After doing a lot of different reps, in certain amounts of time,  we were eventually brought down to the beginning of the field and formed lines behind the metal sleds, which had various weights on them. The sled we were pushing today was 150 pounds. Everyone cheered as we took turns pushing… first pushing it 10 yards and switching to the next person, all while jogging down the field behind the person pushing..and back again, as it was pushed, then we were pushing 20 yards each, then half the field, and eventually we worked up to pushing it the entire field. The energy in that gym, the people cheering one another on, the feeling of pushing that sled and having everyone behind you, believing you could accomplish it…, was the greatest feeling ever! And again, to have our “idols” doing this with us, hearing them cheer us on and believe that we could do it… was absolutely amazing!

We continued to work hard, up until the end of the hour, we cooled down and stretched a bit, and then Carter had us all come in together, place our hands in the center of the circle we had all huddled into… and all yell the famous words that Mary Nell came up with for this week…”Start. Sweat. Finish!”, as we all raised our hands up to celebrate as we shouted. What an incredible first work out. We all got just a taste of what Carter does when he trains athletes, clients, famous people, regular people…and it was incredible. I was so relieved and proud to have been able to do what he asked us to do, and to do it with all of the amazing people on that turf was beyond words.

As we left the gym, we walked back out into darkness. The sun had not even begun to rise yet. We lined up behind the van, waiting for all of the cars to get into line. I remember getting out of the car to take a picture of everyone lined up, because we were leaving the gym after a complete work out, and the sky was still black.

We had a great time talking on the way back. Again, the time just flew by. We were talking about how great God is in His planning, and Beth said, “I just picture God sitting around with the angels, our loved ones, and Jesus in heaven, as he has been planning, since time even began, special moments… down to the second for us, and at times like this I picture him  just pointing at us and saying, look at them just smiling and laughing and enjoying this moment that I created for them.” It was such a great visual that we referred to many times that week as we stopped and enjoyed those moments.

One of them actually happened in the next few minutes of our drive back. As we were almost back on the ranch, we pulled over to the side of the road to see the mist rising in the fields, the horses grazing, and the sun just starting to rise. It was breathtaking, and we know that the Lord was just pointing, smiling and listening to us take it all in and enjoy it.

We pulled up to the lodge, placed our bags, notebooks and all that we would need for the day in the van, which would eventually be driven down to the area where we would be for the day (which was a bit of a hike away). At that point, the next work out was a long walk through the woods. This would be the moderate one, and the steeper one would be later on.

The people who wanted to go on the hike started to gather in front of the lodge. Then, appearing on the porch…Carter, Hannah, Mary Nell, Olivia, Courtney and Marci. We took some fun pictures while we were waiting, and then Mary Nell lead us on a hike. Again, we were all just so touched that they were all doing everything with us, right by our sides.

I started up front, walking and talking with Mary Nell, also known as “Murn”.It was so great to meet her and begin to hear her about her story and journey. The Lord brought her together with Carter and Hannah in a way that only He could do. Carter met Murn about a year and a half ago at one of his bootcamps. She had showed up, because her boss was working out with Carter, and told Murn that Hannah had been coming to work out with them. Murn loved “The Biggest Loser”, especially this season. She felt that deep down somehow she had a special connection with these women, and she really felt she ‘knew’ the people on this season, especially Hannah. When she heard she was working out with Carter, she showed up at the gym, but that day Hannah wasn’t there. She showed up a few days later, and that is when she met her. Although she had seen what she had been through on TV, she didn’t realize fully, until she was working out side by side with her, what she had actually accomplished. She shared with us, that It was when she was literally doing a plank next to Hannah, she looked and thought, “Wow! Look what she has done!” She said that being next to her at that moment was a privilege, and now being able to call her a friend is beyond anything that she could have ever imagined. She said it was in that moment that she felt a fire in her that she had never felt before, and knew then and there that this was what she was meant to do. She and Carter and Hannah began to talk about the possibilities of creating this Faith to Fitness…Unleash the Champion retreat, and together they began moving forward and walking in faith.

As we started hiking, my first question to Murn was, “can I ask you how you chose who went into which room?” I told her that our room seemed so completely hand picked by God, that the women in our room were just really meant to be together through our stories, struggles, journeys… I just wanted to know how they did it. She said that they all got together, and through prayer and just trusting that the Lord would provide, they just went  through the lists and “randomly” assigned the rooms. Ok then…..again…. All I could say was, Only God!

As we were walking through the woods, Murn told me how they found “Deer Run”, the ranch we were at, and how they knew right away that this was the place. The owners of the ranch are also Christians and continued to follow the Lord’s leading years ago, in building their land and ranch in order to be used to glorify the Lord. As Carter said during one of the talks later that week, “there’s something that happens here at Deer Run. You can feel it, you can’t deny it, it’s something very special.”  One of our nights all together, when he thanked the owners, Dave and Liz, he said, “Deer Run has brought a lot of laughter,  you put the hills exactly where they needed to be, it’s easy to design this retreat here…but the spirit of love that permeates everything around here, from a tree to whatever…it’s inherent In the hands that built it, and God works through the hands of the people who build.” I can tell you that after being so blessed to have been there for a week, it is a special place that has touched my heart and created memories and moments I will cherish forever!

Monday was our first morning being at the ranch, and through talking on that first hike with  Murn and Hannah, just sharing as we walked through the woods…along with learning from Candice the day before, that she prayed over each of us by name as we signed up…it was so beautiful to see how the Lord used each person, this ranch, each vision, each dream, every single prayer, each journey…..all to bring us to this place and time. Again, it was just a glimpse of what was to come from this week.

We hiked, took great pictures along the way. We waited and encouraged those people who had never hiked before. And when we got to the last section before walking down the last hill to breakfast, we took a picture to celebrate everyone completing this first hike together. All this…and it was only breakfast time!

Our chef, Chris and his team made us a delicious breakfast. He, and they, are one of the greatest treasures here. He and his team worked for hours/days, maybe even months before this week, to research and create the most delicious, nutritious, low calorie beautiful meals for the entire week while we were there. We consumed about 1500 calories a day, and that included dessert at lunch and dinner! Many times he would have us eat something before letting us know what it really was. And usually, we were absolutely astounded. We had a dessert one day that was so chocolatey and delicious, and it was actually avocado and cocoa powder! And many desserts were topped with whipped cream…yum! (made with coconut milk).

After breakfast each day, we would climb up a steep hill, which starts out with a bunch of steps and then goes into a steep, winding path that leads to a building called the “upper room”. That is where all of the speakers gave their talks, so it was a big climb that we had to make up and down, at least twice a day.

Today, we were heading up there to hear “Big Vinnie” speak (also a former contestant on The Biggest Loser). Vinnie shared his life journey with us.. we laughed, we cried, and we learned so much, as he poured out his heart right before us. He was born a fighter and a survivor, which he needed to be as he experienced so many hard things throughout his life, trying to grow up and make sense of things..violence, abuse, divorce, broken families, a traumatic childhood, being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes at 27 years old, reaching a weight of  well over 400 pounds.

He spent the morning sharing with us all that he learned from, and during these devastating events, and how his journey lead him to being a contestant on “The Biggest Loser”, and how he eventually met Carter, Hannah, Olivia, Courtney, Marci and Murn. He shared how an amazing God could take someone with a very “poisoned mentality” of thinking he could do everything by himself, to a place where he finally realized that he never used any of his gifts for God, and wanted more than anything to do that first. He was honest in saying that the things that are difficult never stop being a challenge, but what matters is that you are trying to change.

He took us through some of the hardest, most devastating times in his life, and showed us what forgiveness and restoration looks like. The Lord continued to place people in his life to draw him back to Him. And now, His testimony gives hope to everyone who hears it.

At one point, he asked us to close our eyes and envision the one thing that we wanted more than anything else in this world. Then he said, “find your reason why. Until you find your reason why, you won’t ever do it. Your reason why has to be bigger than every single reason or excuse that you’re not going to do it every day. Focus on these things every time you want to quit or say no. Ask God to give you this. Every single day there are new choices. Take this life.. one choice, one decision, one day at a time. Don’t think, I have to lose 100 pounds, that’s too overwhelming. Make small choices each day to get there.”

He then challenged us to take a notebook and write down one thing you can change every day of the week, and then choose to do it. “The next thing you know, you will have changed 365 things in one year. It’s an every day thing you can do to make little changes that will lead to big changes.” He pointed out that we watch other people do amazing things all the time, and then stated… “why can’t that be you? The only difference between you and them is that they chose to do something.” He challenged us to lead by example, and people would eventually join you…”surround yourself with people who will help you and continue to be teachers in your life, those who will help you do great things. You have to put yourself first  in order to be able to really love others.” And I loved this one…”no matter how slow you are going, you’re lapping everybody whose sitting on the couch!”.  “You can go out and change it all, you can do anything. It can be you!”

He learned an invaluable lesson from Carter early on, “don’t compare yourself to the other people, just be the best YOU that you can be. The only person you don’t need to get beaten by is yourself.”

When he finished with all of his inspiring words, Carter ended by saying, “you’ve all got a story. The beauty of life is that you are creating and living out your story. That never ends. The book of “Acts” never ends..and you get to have a chapter. What’s your story?…”

( ok…are you still with me?….guess what…all this, and it’s not even lunch time yet!)

We had a great time visiting and taking pictures with Vinnie. We all felt so close to him after hearing his story. He is such a beautiful young man, inside and out. What a gift it was to meet him and hear his story.

It was time to head back down the hill and experience a zumba class. I was really excited, as zumba has become one of my favorite classes of the week at my gym, but I was even more excited to be with most of the people who were experiencing this as one of their “firsts”. Even at my gym, many people don’t come in and try it for fear of the unknown, and not believing that they can do it. I remember walking in my first time with Meg, and trying it. It was a little confusing, but it was so much fun, and the instructor helped us and modified it, so that we could do our best for our first time. I knew that Carter was going to have the best people brought in all week to teach us so many different ways to exercise, so I was excited to go to this zumba class.

We made our way down to the big white tent. You could hear and see some hesitation, but even Vinnie came down to try it with all of us, and I think his enthusiasm really made so many others want to give it a try. The woman leading was so much fun! She broke it down and did lots of repetition so that everyone could get a feel of what zumba was. The fun and laughter was contagious, and in the end, there were people talking about taking a class when they got home. We all had the greatest time.

After zumba, it was finally time for lunch. Chris created another amazing lunch and dessert, and it was fun to meet more people at the table I was sitting at. One of the greatest things that happened right away, was that everyone really mixed up where they sat, so that we were always meeting new people. There wasn’t any “clickiness”, and no matter what table you walked up to, you were welcome to sit and felt included right away. And again, it was so beautiful how Carter, Murn, Olivia, Hannah, Courtney, Marci, Vinnie….all spread out and just sat and shared with everyone they were eating with.

The weather was so beautiful all week, most of the time, we were eating outside at the tables, which was really nice. Each day after lunch, there were two hikes. The first one was considered “moderate”, and the second one was steeper and harder. This was our first day, so we were still walking through all of the “unknowns’’. Remember though, we decided as a room, that we were going to try it all, so we were fully going to go on both hikes.
The first hike was considered “moderate”. There was a pretty large group of us who decided to go, and Murn usually lead the hikes. It was another great opportunity to visit and share stories as we walked. After we completed the first hike, we were all at the bottom of the hill and it was explained that the next one would be the tougher one. Those who decided to go gathered, and we continued back into the woods, this time looking up at a steeper hill. It wasn’t as long as the first climb, but was definitely steeper.

We took some pictures along the way. We also stopped at various points to wait for others who were coming along. One of the wonderful things everyone decided to do was that we would all wait, especially at the very top, until the last person made it, so that we could all celebrate together. And many of those celebrations involved cheers, smiles, incredible testimonies, and tears of joy!

One of those incredible moments happened on this first steep hike. We were all at the top, watching each person come over and reach the top, cheering each group on. Then we saw Hannah walking beside the last woman to come over the top. Her name was Heather, and this is a moment that I still remember so vividly and can’t hold back the tears, even as I type this story…Heather is a beautiful woman, who always has the brightest smile, who looks very athletic to me, and was hiking up the hill with two ski poles in her hands, and as she and Hannah arrived at the top and the cheering ended, Hannah told Heather that she had to share her story with all of us. Heather then proceeded to tell us that she was diagnosed with MS, she had been working with Carter on his turf for a long time, and she was dreaming of being able to climb this mountain. When she finished sharing her story, we were all crying and all sooo proud of her, and she then said, “I’m going to climb this every single day this week!” And I vowed in my heart, at that moment, that I wasn’t going to miss one of those days of being able to hike with Heather and all of these amazing women and men on this mountain. What an inspiration she was to all of us at that moment, and every single day following. I’m so blessed to know and love her. She continues to inspire me today.

After our hikes, we were brought back to the main tent to go through a series of movement assessments. We broke into groups, and within those groups, we took turns squatting, first on both legs, then we had to do single leg squats  as we were watched and assessed through a form which Carter and the others assessing us had. We were viewed from every angle, so that our weaknesses could be noted, in order to then focus on those weaknesses and learn appropriate exercises to strengthen them. It was just another wonderful tool to know our strengths and weaknesses individually, and then be empowered with the information to work on those areas.

If I had done this exercise a year ago, I know that my form would have read much differently than it did now. I have gone to so many classes where I have had to do so many squats, and my legs have really been strengthened during this past year through all of the exercising. The people in my group actually said, “wow, you’re great at squatting”, which made me feel good, and then as I was doing the single leg squats, Carter was filling out my assessment sheet, and there was a point that he said, “you have really strong leg muscles.” (another proud moment that I will hold onto, as it reminded me, again, of how far I have come. I have a long way to go, but this moment I could celebrate what I had accomplished so far.) Our notes were made, and I was looking forward to the next day when we would learn how to strengthen our weaknesses. All of this information that Carter and his team were passing onto us was just invaluable. What a gift.

After assessments, it was time for dinner. On this evening I sat at a table with some more wonderful people to meet, and Courtney also sat at our table. We shared more great stories, laughter, and continued to share from our hearts. I am just in awe of how the Lord continues to place people at certain tables at specific times, it’s just beautiful!

Another delicious dinner cooked by Chris. This night, I think it was Salmon. I never eat fish. I hate fish. I am NOT a seafood girl. But…I know I was really hungry, and I knew that I would try anything Chris was making. Believe it or not, I really liked it, it was delicious. Who knew? I wish that I had thought to take a picture of each meal. Some women did. I will try to get their pictures, just for you to see how beautiful and delicious our meals were. And again, what a gift, as women, moms…to be waited on and not think what we are cooking for breakfast, lunch and dinner. (and dessert!)

Bellies were satisfied, and yes, it was time to climb the big, steep hill heading up to the upper room, again.  So, we grabbed our bags, etc. and made the climb. A nice little work out after eating. We were all excited to head up there, as our speakers for the evening were Marci and Courtney. It was also going to feel nice to sit down and relax for a while. Remember, it’s our first full day…we have been up since 3am….went to boot camp, then on a morning hike, then Vinnie shared, went to zumba, lunch, a moderate hike, a harder hike, movement assessments, dinner…and here we are.

Carter got up to introduce Marci. I have learned early on to grab my pen when Carter is about to speak. The wisdom that the Lord pours out of this man is something I don’t want to miss or forget. He started with a quote that I read in his book, “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.” He then said, “ Marci will share-You’ll hear it, you’ll see it, and now it’s also time to take and integrate it. When you do, YOU will understand and it will go inside. Inspiration is a gift to take in. YOU are the next story. You will inspire others. You can tell passion (who you are),by the way someone wears it.” He set the stage beautifully for this passionate woman, mom, wife, friend…Marci…to share her heart and story with all of us.

Her story also encompassed much of Courtney’s story, as it was her daughter, Courtney, who brought her to “The Biggest Loser” show. As Marci began to speak, she shared that she had three major fears when she entered the Biggest Loser ranch…mice, heights, and public speaking. She really started to worry about the public speaking and all that she may have to do, but then came to a wonderful place where she realized, “I don’t have obligations….I have privileges.” Which was a beautiful, freeing revelation for her. She went on to share that Courtney taught her everything on the ranch, along with Hannah and Olivia.

Her story began by sharing a bit about her family, and a little background about Courtney. As a mom, she brought tears to my eyes in the first few minutes as she stated, “You see, I could die tomorrow, because my kids know why God put us on this earth–to serve other people–that’s why we’re here! I thought I would have to teach my kids about life, and the truth is, when I look in their eyes, just like when I look in your eyes, I find out what life’s all about. It’s about love–it just comes down to love. We have to take care of one another. The journey doesn’t end. We need each other. I’ve been nothing but filled since I’ve been here.” I was already inspired and in tears, and she had only been speaking for a few minutes…

She proceeded to share how the Lord clearly orchestrated the timing and all the events that lead up to her and Courtney being chosen for the show. Courtney had been rejected 2 times after trying out for the show, she even went out to California to try out for Extreme Makeover, and although they loved her, they could only choose 8 people and she was choice number 9.

Courtney is another woman filled with wisdom, and one of her great sayings that I hold onto since meeting her is something she taught her mom at a huge turning point on the ranch, and with all of us at this retreat… “It’s going to take a while to change your body–but it only takes a split second to change your mind.”

Around this time, it was her 21st birthday, and she was so crushed that she didn’t make the show. She said on her 21st birthday she took that split second and decided to make a change. She told us that it really is about changing your mind.  She was 435 pounds when she started. She shared that it had to be small changes, so that she could make it a lifestyle. She gave up soda, then fast food at first, and just doing that, she was down 25 pounds. Then she did a 30 day “jumpstart” and was down 50 pounds. She began to walk, and eventually had the courage to walk into a gym and try a sitting elliptical machine. She continued to make one small change at a time and doing that, Courtney actually ended up losing 112 pounds before getting on the ranch.

Meanwhile, the producers were watching how well she was doing on her facebook page, and they ended up seeking her out. She knew at this point that she didn’t need a show to lose the weight, she had lost 112 pounds on her own, but after being called 6 times in 5 days, she decided to pursue it, and since it was couples…she needed her mom, Marci, to go with her. (I’m so thankful for their obedient hearts, as I believe the Lord needed to place them on that show to use their lives and testimonies to inspire the world….including me!)

Well, the Lord continued to orchestrate everything in a mighty way…as Marci states, “God had a plan–it was His time and His plan–we had to give up the control.” And in His amazing timing, Marci and Courtney got to choose Bob and Jillian as their trainers, along with Hannah and Olivia…and the Lord brought them all together… for such a time as this.

Through their journeys, they saw the hand of God in every moment and experience…before, during and after life on the ranch. Courtney lost another 110 pounds and ended up losing 230 pounds in 18 months, Marci was on high blood pressure medication, and has not had to take medication since stepping foot on that ranch, their season of The Biggest Loser was like none other (and continues to be the one that is most watched even now through you tube) due to the love and support, faith and prayer that they all shared, and they continue to share their testimonies and pass on their wisdom and gifts of inspiration and all that they have learned with everyone they meet….including us this week.

On this night, we not only heard all of the amazing ‘‘behind the scenes” stories, which are now woven into what we saw on TV, but we learned so much from this beautiful mother/daughter relationship…The power and depth of a mother’s love, the sovereignty, grace and mercy of God, and wonderful words of wisdom, along with great knowledge which they passed on from their weight loss and fitness journeys.

At one point, Marci said, “this is about hope–when you really want to change and make it happen, you have to have hope and believe it can happen. Proclaim it. Tell people and commit to it.” They both impressed on all of us that, “you have to ask for help, we’re all in this together, you have to find friends and family to help you, and as you do, you will realize that this is your family.” Courtney even asked us that night, “Do you realize how close you have all gotten in just a day?..You’re making bonds you won’t break. I already feel like we are a family.”

I sat there in amazement at how close I had already gotten with so many people here, and it truly was less than 24 hours that we had all been together. We had the same common bond found in the struggles we have been facing throughout each of our lives, and we were here to battle this together. The more we opened up and shared, the less alone we felt. And to have Marci and Courtney, two of our “TV superstars”, share the honest truth of their lives this first night…hearts and lives wide open…in order to help each one of us, made us realize that we were all part of a new, very special family.

Marci shared that she learned to do some of her best communicating on the ranch, and knew that it would be really important to communicate all that she needed when she got home. She taught us that you can’t put people above you, which is an important lesson that I have learned this past year. I love how my Weight Watcher’s leader taught it to me, “after me, you come first.” Still one of the toughest, but most important lessons I have learned. Then Marci told us, “you must have a plan and a strategy. You need good time management skills.” This includes planning for eating, working out, scheduling your day. “Your heart needs to be open to share your knowledge. You have to find your powerful “why”.” She explained that we all know what we are suppose to do, but many times we just can’t find our “why”. (Just like Vinnie said, “find your reason why. Until you find your reason why, you won’t ever do it. Your reason why has to be bigger than every single reason or excuse that you’re not going to do it every day.”)-are you seeing a pattern here?

Courtney also reminded us to be proud of, and cherish, the little things…like fitting into a restaurant booth, using the regular seatbelt on an airplane, being able to now do something you could never do before.  She explained, “those things are always going to be a part of me, but it doesn’t define me, and I won’t go back.” She went on to say, “weight is a number on a scale. You can love yourself at any weight, if you have your faith. You have to believe you are a beautiful person now, because you are. You’re perfect with your imperfections.” (I love that!) Courtney is one of the most self confident people I have ever met. Even Marci told us, as her mom, Courtney has always been a very vibrant person, no matter what he weight or situation has been.

Anyone who refers to Courtney speaks of her amazing spirit, her strong faith, her determination, her strength, her endurance, her love. She said to all of us, at the end of the night, “I have to celebrate where I’ve come from and always figure out what I’m fighting for—everyday. It’s all part of God’s plan. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t gone through what I’ve gone through. We all have something. We all have a story, our own story. I’ve come a long way.”

Anyone who describes Marci speaks of her gifts as a mom, caretaker, her strong faith and determination, her incredible wisdom,her strong love. She set such an amazing example and tone on the BL ranch, and touched lives in such a mighty way, that the day she was voted off the ranch, some of the others cried for hours! She is a person that you meet and feel like you have known her forever, and you want to just spend as much time with her as you can and take in all that she has to share.

At the end of her testimony that night, Marci reminded us to “be still and know that I’m the Lord”–she said, “I can’t be anything to anyone else unless I listen to him.” She also pointed out that, “on a healthy lifestyle, there are no finish lines.” Then, she wrapped it up by saying, “ I want you to remember 2 things….If you do everything in love, in His name—You are guaranteed success….and, if you do that , you really are taking care of you—and that’s not selfish, it’s selfless…as long as you want to do it in His name.

Our first spectacular night at the upper room had come to an end, and we all had to get to bed in order to get up a little after 3am for our next morning of boot camp. When we got back to our room, we placed all we needed out for the morning, then all of my room mates went to sleep, as I stayed up, sitting next to my lamp, trying to write as much as I could down from this day, so that I would remember it. I got to bed way after midnight, but slept a bit better, as the many of the “unknowns” from the night before.. we had all gotten through today.

As I try to even share half of the notes I wrote down during these talks, and during this first full day,  it is so hard to choose what what to write. I just keep stopping and holding my hands up, praying and asking for the Lord to just choose the words and use my hands to type what He wants me to put out there. I also continue to be overwhelmed with gratitude for the amazing blessing of having been able to be here at this place, “for such a time as this.” with all of these extraordinary people who have become a special family to me.

So, this is the end of the first full day, Monday. I can’t wait to share the rest of the week with you…..

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!

Had the perfect day before leaving for bootcamp…

Started the day off at Weight Watchers. My friend, Lorraine, and I celebrated this morning as I lost 1.4 pounds and she lost 2 pounds. It’s always a better meeting when you are sitting there with some loss…I know it’s not suppose to be about the number, but it does have a lot of influence, unfortunately. However, last week was the first week that I could sit there with a bit of a gain and be ok with it, as I knew I did everything right the whole week, but the night before ww, went to a progressive dinner and drank 64 ounces of water throughout the night in order to stay on track with the food. So I was really proud of myself, and the water really helped, but I was drinking that water from 6-10:30pm, so I know it had to be water weight on the scale. But to truly be ok after a gain that morning was a huge step. Our leader, the people who weigh us in, and the entire group is filled with such special people. I wish everyone could experience a morning with these special people who are so honest and encouraging. We are all in this together, and you can just feel such a camaraderie in that room. They are all so excited for me as I leave on this trip, and I can’t wait to share with them next Saturday morning. I’m sure that I will be sharing so much of what they have all taught me with everyone this week.

Anyway, after WW, I finished up some packing and organizing everything at home for my family while I am away. I also have been blessed with the greatest gifts while being away….. Lorraine set up meals to be delivered to my parents from her along with the church meals ministry, my brother is flying in from California to help with my parents, my husband is incredible and has everything under control with my house and my children…so all of this puts me at ease and allows me to go with a wonderful peace.

This afternoon, to top it off, Lorraine also met me at a nail spa and treated me to a manicure/pedicure, with an extra 10 minute foot rub….absolute heaven! Another very special gift. I am so blessed.

As I packed, my daughter took a few pictures of me in some of my new workout clothes, so that I could have the pictures for this journey. It was a really fun photo shoot, as she is taking photography in school, and she made me feel so great, she really is proud of me.

So, there are lots of butterflies in my stomach, my bags are by the back door, the flight is very early in the morning. I am just praying that this week will just take my breathe away, and I will return with those 2 amazing words….only God! I’m praying that he uses everyone there, including me, to just touch lives in a mighty way. That He will bring me to a new level physically, mentally and spiritually. I just can’t wait to take in all of the wisdom and knowledge they all have to share. I don’t want it to go too fast, I know  that this is another part of this journey that I am walking through, that is so much bigger than I am, or can even imagine. Very nervous, yet very excited…. ready to move forward and watch it all unfold….Can’t wait to share it with everyone!