T.H.A.N.K.S.G.I.V.I.N.G….

today enjoyG

 

T- Turkey Trot!- I’m starting my morning with friends and family doing the 5 mile town Turkey Trot. Choose an activity, take a walk, let this set a great start to your day physically and mentally.

 

exercise

H- Have a plan! – Take all that you have learned, trust the process and make a plan for your day.

 

plan pic plan

 

A- Ask for help!- Ask for help in your home or where you are going. Ask about the menu, what will be there, and ask to have some things there that will help you. If they are not there, make them and bring them yourself.

 

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N- Never stand or sit right by all the food- take a small plate and move away from all of the plates of chips, dips, etc. Move away and visit, meet new people, play a game, take a walk with everyone in between dinner and dessert, etc. Create new traditions.

K- Keep in mind that this is just one day…a Holiday, not a holiweek or holimonth- Take the food off of the pedestal, put it on your plate and enjoy every choice you made with your eyes wide open. Ask yourself if it is worth it, and then embrace your decision and truly enjoy. Mindful eating.

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S- Share the leftovers, pack them up and make your spaces powerful once again- Send everyone home with the leftovers. At the end of the holiday, ask yourself if your home is now back to being a “Sanctuary of Safety” or a “Tower of Temptation”.

tower of terror

G- Gratitude is the best attitude!- Be grateful for this day, the people around you, how far you have come. You may not be where you want to be, but you can look back and thank God that you are not where you used to be. Give yourself grace. God says, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14)…right now, as you are. Know that!

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I- Invest time in the relationships- Get to know something you never knew about your friends, family. Go deeper in your relationships. Remember…. food is only the side dish, the main dish is the company we keep.

 

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V- Victories need to be celebrated!- be empowered by every little great choice you make this day. Don’t beat yourself up. One great choice at a time.

choicesJPGface it.

I-Intentional – Be intentional in all of your choices and decisions today. Don’t focus on what you can’t do…focus on what you CAN do!

can do

N-Never forget all the reasons you are on this journey of health and fitness. Remember why you are fighting for this. Don’t keep exchanging what you want most, for what you want in the moment.

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G- Go home grateful for this day, ready to Get back on track at your very next meal!
You can do this! Choose faith instead of fear. Plan the day you want to have and……believe!

one meal awayJPGbelieve

Wishing you a Thanksgiving FILLED with blessings!!!!!! Wendy Trunz xo

journey

 

What I learned in the midst of “Insanity”…

I just walked in, drenched from my very first, unexpected, “Insanity” workout. You see, I walked into the gym this morning, expecting the regular Wednesday circuit class, and the gym decided to change the schedule for the fall, and replace it with an “Insanity” class. “Are you kidding me!!??”

As Eliza began to show us the moves we would be doing, explaining the modifications, I could feel my jaw tighten… doubt and anger were creeping in, and an overwhelming fear came over me. The nonsense going on in my head was already insane….”I can’t do this, why are they changing things, I’m going to hurt myself, I’ve seen this on commercials, and those people are in amazing shape and so strong, and I’m not like them, I’m not going to be able to keep up with everyone, my body can’t do these crazy moves and jumps over and over again, I’m not going to like this at all”….

I’m usually one of the people who smile and laugh and encourage others in a class, and during this one, I couldn’t even speak. I was fighting all the doubts and fears in my head, and then part way through the work out, I found myself praying really hard to just get through it. It took a while, but I found a way to grab onto my favorite verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens Me”. So, in sync with the moves, I just repeated these words in my head over and over again…through football sprints, spiderman planks, jump squats, mountain climbers….

At the end of the class, while we were stretching, tears just rolled down my face along with the sweat pouring off of me. Eliza encouraged us all, saying, “you guys did great! This is really hard. It’s really hard-but really good.” Others were commenting that it was really hard but a really good workout, yet, my head was still spinning, and I was still trying to deal with all of the emotions. I hadn’t cried at the end of a workout in a very long time. I think the anger and worry was being released, but so was the realization that I had just gotten through, and accomplished, “The Insanity Workout”… The one I had seen on tv so many times, while sitting on the couch, wondering if I could ever do it, but talking myself out of ever wanting to try. Well, I JUST DID IT.

While still stuck in my very unusual quietness, Eliza finally asked, “Wendy, you’re really quiet, what did you think?” I tried to put into words a huge thing I realized about myself during that workout. Then I answered her… “I realize that I hate what I fear. I hate the unknown. I found myself so angry and worry of change, fear and worry of…what if?…What if I can’t do it, what if I can’t keep up, what if I hate it? What if I hurt myself?” And then I was angry with myself for being angry, and for having doubt.”

I had to find every ounce of courage, along with praying and saying that verse over and over again, to fight my way through this class. At certain times this morning, there were other moments from this weight loss journey that flashed through my memory, …. other times I had to fight through many “firsts”…..the time I cried on turf at “Unleash the Champion” after accomplishing a 2 minute plank at the end of a long workout,the day I got through my first spinning class, ran my first 5 mile Turkey Trot without stopping…..

The emotion that pours out of you when you accomplish things you once dreamed of, or may never have even dreamed of, is such an overwhelming feeling. And the most important thing it does….it gives you a renewed hope to believe that you can do more…. that you can dream even bigger dreams, and take the steps to accomplish them. Hope changes everything.

The hardest part that I have to begin to realize, is that these moments seem to happen when I am brought completely out of my comfort zone. I am brought to the edge of the unknown, which is a place where I get overwhelmed in fear, anger, despair, worry, disappointment…and I now have a choice. I can stay completely frozen in all of this and choose to retreat and head back out the door, go home and never try….or I can join those around me, and try it together, and trust the ones who are leading…encouraging one another along the way, and then celebrate the accomplishments together…dreaming bigger dreams together.

I had recently been praying and asking God to show me what I need to do to break through this plateau I have been stuck at for a while with the weight loss…I am 15 pounds away from my goal. I’ve been eating the same great foods, staying within my points, working out 5 days a week at the gym, moving on the weekend, and the weight just isn’t budging. It’s funny, but one definition of “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result….And although all of the good things I have been doing have worked in losing about 95 pounds, it’s not working anymore. It’s time to change things up a bit. So, maybe this new “insanity” workout this morning was answer to prayer. Although it took me totally off guard this morning, it might just be the answer to my insane plateau.

Nobody wants to stay in a place of insanity, I certainly don’t. So, I looked up the opposite of “insanity” and found the words that I truly wanted to aspire to, to describe my life and myself……balanced, calm, reasonable, rational, intelligent, sensible, well, healthy. Who would have ever thought that an hour of “Insanity” experienced at Power Ten Fitness gym this morning would teach me so much today.

I believe we all have gifts and talents that we were uniquely blessed with, that we are to use to serve and impact the lives of others. One of my greatest joys is passing on the wisdom I have learned in this weight loss journey to others, so that they can come to a place of believing and seeing that they can do this also. I believe we change this world, one heart at a time. I have been praying and asking God to show me where I am suppose to serve and work, as I am looking for my next job/purpose in life. A close friend of mine, who has been praying for me to find my next job sent me this in my email this morning…

YouCan'tBeaWorldChangeUntil

What perfect timing! Praying that I can come to a complete trust in God…in, and especially out of my comfort zones, so that He can use me, and my life to serve and change the world, one person at a time! That would be insanely awesome!!!

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

Going From A Setback To A Comeback…

Yes, Christmas and New Year’s is officially over, and it is definitely time to get back in the gym, choose to eat healthy, and go back to making one great choice at a time, again. I was doing so great, and allowed myself to slip a bit during the holidays, and boy was it tough going through that first workout on Jan. 2, 2104. But as I struggled going back, like so many of us do, I went to bed on Jan. 1st, and I just asked God to bring back all that I have learned, asked for the strength to move forward, and went to sleep praying for Him to provide all that I needed to get back and get moving, to be able to finish what I started. And again, as the promise states…..”The Lord Provides”.

Jan.2nd , I woke up early, dreading having to go to the gym, but worse than that, already beating myself up for all that I felt I needed to “un-do”….the yucky eating, how gross my body and stomach felt, the pounds gained so easily in less than 2 weeks, that took months to take off. And so here comes the first big choice…keep condemning myself and give in and wallow in this and continue to eat the wrong things still in the house from the holidays…or, choose to start putting those logs on the fire, (great choices) one by one (as Olivia Ward, winner of the Biggest Loser) shared with us…in order to get fired up and burning with passion and desire and motivation again.

At this point, I have to remember I’ve lost about 95 pounds, so clearly I know how to do it, but I have to choose to get back to doing it again. That was going to take holding onto all that I had learned…not only what to eat, how much, etc…. but holding onto every truth and every bit of knowledge that got me here.

I stepped out of bed with words from Andrew Pittsenbarger in my head (he spoke to us at Unleash the Champion..had lost over 140 pounds at the time). He told us that just by choosing to show up and move and exercise, no matter how fast or slow you are going, you are lapping everyone who is still sitting on the couch! I grabbed my bag with my spinning shoes and stuff for the gym, and all I said to myself was, ‘Wendy, just choose to show up at the gym, and you are already lapping everyone on the couch.”

When I got to the gym, and set up the bike, I was still dreading the workout. My body felt so gross from all the junk I had eaten. I had already stepped on the scale and was 10 pounds up (I know all of that weight is not all real, (salt, last day of binging before getting back on track, lack of drinking all my waters, etc… and will come off as soon as I stop the insanity, and the faster I get going, the faster it will come off and not stay). I had to face the damage and move on.

The music started, everyone came in to set up…each and every person admitting to sabotaging what they had worked so hard for, giving into the pressures of the holidays…but we were all back and ready to get going.

At that point, I thought about another thing Andrew had shared with me when we were on a hike…he said, “picture the ocean, and then picture pouring a pepsi into the ocean. Does the pepsi pollute and wreck the entire ocean? No, because the ocean is so much more vast, and you are only dumping one can of soda. Think of your week like that.” He continued to share, “all week long I would eat horrible things, and then I would throw in a few salads or healthy things, expecting to lose weight, but most of my week was bad things, so these few healthy things couldn’t make a difference. In my life now, my weeks are filled, meal after meal with healthy things that fuel my body and make me strong and healthy. If once in a while I would like to enjoy a piece of cheese cake, I do. I enjoy it fully, and it doesn’t change what I have done, because for weeks and weeks my food has been good. I’m putting a can of pepsi in the ocean…my ocean is all good stuff now. That one treat will not undo everything.”

I also remembered one of the most important things I learned from Carter Hays, when we worked out with him on his turf. He expected us to bring OUR best, not anyone else’s. The only person I need to outdo every day is me. This workout was tough for everyone in the room, even the very fit woman on the bike next to me. She was moaning and having a really hard time breathing and pushing through the class, and I was a bit relieved to hear others having a hard time along with me. It’s really frustrating how taking off almost 2 weeks can affect your strength, ability, endurance, etc. But step by step it will come back, and even faster, since we have been working so hard most days this past year.

As Elyse, our WW instructor says, “you may have fallen down a few steps, but it doesn’t mean you have to throw yourself down the entire flight of stairs. Stand up and turn around and start climbing again. Step by step, choice by choice. You will reach the top.”

As I pedaled and started the spin class, I had to remind myself… This week and a half of some really bad choices is not going to take away what I have done these past 2 years of changing my life. I have worked so hard for over 100 weeks, and stopping the wrong choices now and going back to what I have been doing right the rest of the year will keep my ocean, my life clean and back toward a new lifestyle of healthy eating, getting stronger and more fit. Time to stand up, turn and face the top again, and take it step by step. I will reach the top.

I continued to spin and pray and bring to mind so many of the truths I have to now grab onto again, and move forward and back into this new lifestyle I want to be my beautiful ocean of life.

*You are only 1 meal away from getting back on track.

*Get up and drink your hot water and lemon juice first thing and take your vitamins

*You must track your food and your movement (bottom line, if you don’t move more than you consume, you will not lose the weight.)…back to writing down, measuring the food, food scale back out on the counter…and putting my heart monitor on as soon as I get up in the morning, making sure the calories burned are what I need for the day.

“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…..