Fallen But Never Forgotten

It’s been 14 years since I began my senior year of high school, and it’s also been 14 years since one of the most traumatic national events in my lifetime – September 11, 2001.

I still remember that day very well. I was in the locker commons laughing and talking with friends when we saw the coverage on the TV of the first plane crashing into the Twin Towers. It was a surreal moment, and I don’t think I really understood what the repercussions of the terrorist attacks truly were. Looking back I realize that I had such a limited view on the world and so much still to learn.

It’s been 14 years since I had the privilege of going to New York City and serving only weeks after the tragedy. I was there to share hope with the hopeless and joy with the depressed and strength with the weak. What a learning experience and a defining time in my life.

I still remember the somber feeling being at Ground Zero overlooking the hole of dirt and ashes where two prominent buildings were no longer standing. I still remember passing by the fire stations and seeing the array of flowers and cards followed by the pictures of firefighters who gave their lives trying to save others. It was breathtaking and gut wrenching.

Here is an excerpt from an article I wrote shortly after being in New York that was published in the Anoka County Union. It will bring to light some of the emotion that I saw and felt while there just after the attack:

“As I got off the subway at Ground Zero, a distinct stench from the ruins overwhelmed me. This smell I will never forget as well as the faces of many. The expressions on the policemen’s and the firefighters’ faces will forever be imprinted in my mind. The usually busy and loud city is silent at Ground Zero and full of melancholy. Everyone just stares in awe at the rubble where the two tallest World Trade Center buildings once stood. The dust-covered walls of nearby buildings are blanketed with poems and messages dedicated to loved ones who lost their lives in the recent tragedy. The thousands of posters with piercing images of missing loved ones only made me realize even more the reality of the tragedy.

“I noticed in many cases a mask initially covers the pain. But as I started up conversations with people and showed sincerity, compassion and understanding, that mask covering their emotions lifted, and they longed to have their stories heard and their hearts consoled …

 “So here we are in Anoka, where the events of Sept. 11 seem distant in space and time from our everyday lives. We can’t fully comprehend the discomfort and longing they have for everything to be the same as it once was, but being there, I was able to grasp how much people just want to have someone listen to them. They want someone to offer hope for their grief, anger, depression and fear. Hope that there is a God who knows their pain. Hope that there is a God who loves them and wants to have a relationship with them.

“You’ve heard the Sept. 11 story of New York on television. What I saw was the story within that story, a story of hope instead of fear.”

In the midst of the tragedy, we still serve a big God who flooded the streets with love and hope. We came together to help each other out and relied on each other to get through the pain.

Those who sacrificed their lives protecting others they didn’t even know is symbolic of Jesus sacrificing His life to save me – at that time a stranger to Him. There’s a message of hope in the midst of tragedy. I only wish as a nation we could get back to that place where we step up and take care of each other. More tragedies will come – that’s life – but if we don’t figure out how to work together and unite now, then the next tragedy may not have hope attached to it, and our nation may not have the ability to recover. Division is a tool of the devil to keep us from a stronger purpose. We cannot allow him to have a stronghold on our lives.

Today, remember the brave who went before you and sacrificed for those they didn’t even know. Today, be thankful for the small challenges because they make us stronger. Today, step out in faith and serve someone you don’t know. In turn, you will feel blessed and full of hope for the future. Together we are strong. Together there is greatness ahead. The Twin Towers may have fallen, but they will never go forgotten.

Walking in Love,

Gabe

9-11 Article

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Running a Good Race

Twin Cities Marathon 2010 009Motherhood is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. I ran my first marathon 5 years ago this fall. In the midst of training for the Twin Cities Marathon, I started to compare running to my journey as a mom, and now, 5 years and four marathons later, I still see the correlation.

I have learned that I can train as hard as I want, but I will never fully be prepared. How can you prepare for the unexpected?  I can study the terrain, but there’s always going to be that bump in the road that I didn’t see on paper. And it may get simpler with each race – I may have more clarity with each race – but the journey to the finish line is never the same.

Thinking back to 5 years ago, what did I do to prepare for my first 26.2 mile race? I associated with runners who have already been there who could give me words of encouragement and advice. I followed the game plan to build my endurance – the payoff? I finished. Did I finish perfect? No, but I finished strong.

The same thing goes for parenting. As mothers, we need the association of moms whom we see as positive role models who have already been there. They’ve traveled that road and paved the way. They can train us, teach us, and give us a game plan for success.

We also need the association of moms who are in the same season as we are. They know exactly what we are going through at each stage because they’re going through the same things. They can give us a shoulder to cry on, make us laugh, or encourage us to keep going. They will become our best friends. A shared experience always brings people together.

When I crossed the starting line of the Twin Cities Marathon, I was engulfed with many emotions: fear, nervousness, excitement, joy, and a sense of accomplishment.

The first couple of miles seemed easy — The same happened when I became a mom. The first few weeks I enjoyed the honeymoon stage of motherhood. I was so in awe of my precious gift that I saw no flaws and thought that the road would be simple.

Around mile 5 or 6, it started feeling mundane. It started sinking in that I still had a long way ahead of me. However, the crowds of people cheering me on made it fun – In the same way, after weeks and months of tending to baby’s every needs, I began to feel like I was in a rut. It seemed like the same routine day in and day out. I was tired from a lack of sleep and feeling like I didn’t have time for me anymore. But then a mom would say a word of encouragement, or my beautiful baby would giggle, and my joy would be renewed.

By mile 13, the halfway point, I realized running a marathon was a huge commitment. I started seeing the endurance and toughness that it takes to go on – being a mom is no different. I started to feel challenged by my boy’s tantrums or stubbornness. I saw that I needed to be emotionally tough to handle challenges that being a mom brings. If I don’t know my purpose, I can stress and feel like a failure.Twin Cities Marathon 2010 001

By mile 18, I started questioning my ability to go on. Negative thoughts started creeping in. I began playing the comparison
game with all the other runners who seemed unaffected by the pain. I started to think I wasn’t strong enough to be a marathoner — There are times when I question my ability to be an effective mom as well. Sometimes I compare myself to the mom who looks like she has everything put together – she appears well rested and fashionably dressed with makeup on and well-behaved kids right by her side. But then I have to step back and realize it’s not fair to me to compare someone’s best with my worst. And then a little voice softly whispers, “I love you mom,” and it melts my heart.

By mile 23, I started to breathe a little easier. I knew the pain was temporary now. I started to believe in myself and could see the end – I think we all have those days where we breathe a sigh of relief or a little prayer of thanks when a stage our children are in comes to a close.

At mile 25, the adrenaline took over, and I began to sprint with a smile on my face. I was thrilled that it was almost over, that I was about to accomplish something great. I crossed the finish line at the State Capitol with tears streaming down my face knowing my hard work paid off – There’s always a finish line.

I know a mother’s job is never done, but there is a point of victory at every stage of the journey. It’s the little rewards: their first steps, their first word, their first A on a report card, their starting spot in the basketball game. The ups and downs are all worth it knowing you’ve done all you can to raise your children to be men and women of strong character. I see the finish line as all the “I love you’s” and “thank you’s” and hugs and kisses that you get along the way, but ultimately, the finish line is letting them go to affect others the same way you affected them.

I think of Paul in Philippians when he says, “I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

You’re in the race of your life as a mother. Stay on the course and finish strong. It’s always worth it!

Walking in Love,

Gabe

5 Things I learned on my Whole 30 Journey

untitledDuring the month of January, I decided to join the Whole 30 bandwagon.

The Whole 30 (http://whole30.com) is based on the book, It Starts With Food, by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. Going a month without sugar, grains, legumes, and dairy is supposed to help boost energy, kick the sugar craving, alleviate pains, and more. The book shares that many of our symptoms are revealed through the foods we eat. If we eliminate those foods from our diet, the symptoms can disappear.

This was a tough journey, but over the course of the 30 days, I learned five important life lessons:

1. Self-discipline: Anything can become an idol in our lives if we let it, and I was always craving for another treat or more food. Sometimes the thoughts of ice cream or chocolate would cloud my mind and make me lose focus on what is truly important. I would eat when I was bored, or I justified a milkshake because I had a bad day. I realized I needed self-discipline in the small things so I could also have it in the big things. The Whole 30 requires self-discipline. It required me to decide if I was going to give in to my flesh or if I was going to stand strong and win. It would have been easy to give up and go back to my old ways, but I knew they weren’t getting me where I wanted to be. If nothing changes, nothing changes. The cool thing about the Whole 30 is that it is a 30-day plan, and it only takes 20 days to create a habit. Now a lot of what I learned is ingrained in my daily routine.

2. How to cook/prepare meals: I am not a cook. I don’t like it. I don’t want to do it. I don’t even want to be in the kitchen. I hate the time that it requires. I hate the mess that it makes — I could go on and on. Starting the Whole 30, I quickly realized that cooking is necessary to change things up and not have the same boring meal day after day. I needed to learn how to add different flavors to things so I could savor my food instead of crave something unhealthy. In order to eat whole, clean foods, I needed discipline to plan and prepare my meals. In doing so, I learned that it’s not as bad as I once thought it was, and it actually became somewhat enjoyable. I found myself on Pinterest daily looking for yummy recipes to try. The key for me, however, was to find simple recipes for tasty meals. I have had fun finding out how to use spices in meals to spruce things up, something I’ve never done before. I learned it doesn’t have to be fancy or take hours to prepare in order for it to be a family favorite. Now I have chosen to plan ahead for the week. I have a sheet that I write down what we are going to have for dinner, and I stick to it. It helps keep us within our budget when I grocery shop, and it helps me to stay focused. It keeps me on guard at all times. A game plan is good.

3. It’s a lifestyle change, not a diet: A diet is all about what you’re limited to — you can’t have this, and you can’t have that. Count the calories. There’s too much salt or too much fat. The list goes on. I don’t want that! I want it to be about what I can eat and why it’s enjoyable. I want to see my meals as something to look forward to. I wanted to retrain my brain to know what this isn’t about being on a diet or restrictions. It’s about eating what’s healthy for me and having those “other” things in moderation. 1 Corinthians 3:16 says our bodies are God’s temple, and that comes down to the food we use to fuel our bodies. I don’t want mine to be backed up and unusable. I want to be able to be a vessel and a light to others.

4. Real foods can make great treats: Banana ice cream, frozen berries, smoothies — all great, delicious choices for a sweet treat. After the Whole 30, I haven’t had many treats, but I’ve noticed just how sweet they are. Fruit has become sweet enough for me now, and that makes me happy. Does that mean I don’t eat any chocolate or cookies? Nope. It just means I will no longer let the thought of dessert control me. I will enjoy treats in moderation and still be proud of how far I’ve come.

3. It’s going to be OK: If I crave chocolate, and I don’t give in to my desires, it’s going to be OK. If my flesh says I need more, and I don’t cave, it’s going to be OK. I thought I needed all the treats and pastas and breads to be fully satisfied, but I don’t. I don’t need any of it. Food is a tool to fuel my body, keep me healthy, and give me the ability to fulfill my call in life. My life is about giving glory to God. I want my thoughts to be centered around Him and not around my fleshly desires. And if I put Him in the center, then I know everything is going to be OK.

My journey is only beginning, and I know I have a long way to go, but it is worth it, and the refining process is good.

Goodbye Sugar — Hello Freedom

I’m addicted – to sugar.

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Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I have the sweetest sweet tooth and love a good treat! But my addiction needs to end. I need to say goodbye to sugar and hello to a healthier me. I believe treats are just fine in moderation, but my cravings have gone too far.

I was introduced to the Whole 30 by a friend, and it intrigued me enough to give it a whirl. The best part was that she would do this journey with me!

untitledThe Whole 30 (http://whole30.com) is based off the book It Starts with Food, by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig. It basically says eat nothing for a whole month, and I’ll be healthier. OK, not really, but that’s how I felt!

THE RULES: NO sugar, NO grains, NO legumes, NO dairy, NO cheating, for a whole month! Doing this is supposed to kick the sugar craving all together, and it is also supposed to help boost energy, alleviate aches and pains, or decrease allergies. Many of our symptoms are revealed through the foods we eat. If we eliminate those foods from our diet, the symptoms can disappear. The goal is to eat REAL FOOD.

Image courtesy of Iamnee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Iamnee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I did start thinking I was nuts for wanting to go a whole month on just meat, veggies, and fruit. Could I actually have the will power to do this? Eliminate something out of my life that had controlled me for so long? It was worth a shot.

I had two goals in this process:

  1. Cut the sugar cravings for good.
  2. Re-mineralize my teeth

cure tooth decayI’ve been doing research on how to re-mineralize teeth. Three pregnancies has been rough on my teeth, and a once perfect mouth now has five cavities. I am not willing to fill them if there’s a natural way. I really enjoyed the book, Cure Tooth Decay, by Ramiel Nagel, and many of the guidelines coincide with the Whole 30, so I figured I would do it all at once! I’ll do a post in the near future with more details on re-mineralization. I plan to see a dentist in the next month or so to get a second opinion and see if I’ve made any progress.

The first week of the Whole 30, I barely cooked. My two oldest boys (ages 7 and 5) did this journey with me, as they also have a big sweet tooth. We had a lot of eggs for breakfast and chicken with steamed veggies for lunch or dinner. Simplicity was key for me as I transitioned my eating.

The first 10 days were a hard transition. I’m not a cook — I actually used to despise being in the kitchen. However, I knew I needed to train myself to prepare and cook meals so we wouldn’t get bored or give up. It seemed like everything at the grocery store had some type of sugar or sweetener in it, and it was so defeating. I just wanted some easy-to-grab snacks or meals.


 

Image courtesy of franky242 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of franky242 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After 10 days, I felt energetic. I didn’t miss caffeine or any other energy booster for that matter. I was sleeping better, and I didn’t have that sluggish feeling early afternoon like I normally do. Between eating real food and going to the chiropractor, I went from someone who could only sleep a couple hours at a time to getting a 7-hour stretch one night! This was the longest I’ve slept since I can remember! My oldest boy had a rough first week and was in the bathroom quite a bit. He was eliminating so many things out of his system. The icky feeling he had went away by day 10, but the elimination continued.

 


 

After 20 days I realized I didn’t miss my almost nightly go-to treat — ice cream. If it wasn’t there for me to look at, I didn’t crave it. I was starting to find fruit sweet enough. I did still look forward to adding back in an occasional treat, but I didn’t miss all the goodies as much as I thought I would. I felt more energy and an overall sense of well-being. The boys were doing great on this plan. When we went somewhere that they were offered a treat or snack, they politely declined. I always made sure to bring along something for them so they didn’t go hungry. They did miss all the treats, but they were troopers.

 


Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of marin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

By day 30, I was really excited to start trying new recipes that called for honey or maple syrup or just a bread-like food. I noticed my face was clearing, and I lost 10 pounds as a byproduct. That was not one of my initial goals — I’m small as it is — but I noticed more definition in my muscles. Overall, I felt better. My workouts seemed easier, the afternoon sluggishness was less frequent, my energy levels were higher, and I was enjoying this new way of eating and cooking!

 


 

The month wasn’t perfect, but I got it done and was proud of my boys for mostly following the rules with me. I now want to incorporate this way of eating into our daily lives with some additional foods and treats in moderation. The boys and I talked about a junk cereal day for them and keeping a pizza night. They were satisfied with those compromises. The boys learned what healthy eating consists of and why it is important. I learned that it’s OK not to know everything if I’m willing to learn. It’s a process. I will take it one step at a time.

 

I will do another couple of posts about my Whole 30 journey. I want to share some of my favorite recipes and meal ideas along with the five important lessons I learned throughout the month. I hope you’ll join me as I tie it all together!

 

 

Called to be Free

We were called to be free. We were not made to be in slavery, but often times we find ourselves in bondage to things that occupy our mind or time, things that take us off track from our purpose.

We were called to be free, but this doesn’t mean we can do whatever we please. God has bigger plans. We are to use our freedom to serve others. That is what any active military is doing right now and what veterans have done in the past. The men and women who fight to keep our country free don’t do it out of selfish ambition. They do it for their mom and dad, brother and sister, friends, classmates, neighbors. They fight for people they don’t even know. They fight for me.

These men and women had a choice, and they decided to use their freedom to serve others. That is an act of love. I am so thankful that there is someone willing to fight for me – to fight to keep America the land of the free and the home of the brave.

It takes tremendous courage to stand up and say yes to the calling to serve our country and go when others won’t. It takes courage to make tough decisions in the line of duty. It takes courage to stand tall in the midst of mediocrity.

When my mind wanders to other things and puts me in bondage from truly fulfilling my purpose, I need to remember what those who came before me have done. I may never be called to active duty, but I am called to be free. And I need to use that freedom as God intended – to serve others with abundant love and with a thankful heart right where I am, right now, because others were willing to serve and fight for me.Called to be free verse -- JPEG

Fitness Friday — Get the Garbage Out!

Most people have some degree of toxicity within their bodies. This is similar to forgetting to take the garbage can to the end of the street on garbage pick up day. Instead of getting an empty can, the garbage continues to pile up and stink worse. The stench will eventually come into your house if it is not cleaned out.

That is what our bodies are like if we don’t take care of the toxins. Our bodies have natural waste management systems that keeps them healthy; but if they are not taken care of properly, we become loaded with toxins, and our bodies can’t control them.

Since we live in a toxic environment, toxicity cannot entirely be avoided. However, there are ways to lessen our exposure to them. Here is a list of five things taken from The Seven Pillars of Health by Don Colbert, M.D. If you are looking for a good read, pick up this book!

 

1. Choosing more living, organic foods, free-range lean meats, and low-fat organic dairy.

2. Choose clean, pure spring or filtered water instead of tap water.

3. Breathe clean air, and do not stroll, walk, or jog along busy roads or highways. Don’t wait outside airport terminals, inhaling diesel exhaust. Avoid secondhand smoke in restaurants and public buildings (thankfully in Minnesota we don’t have to worry about that one)!

4. Wear rubber gloves if you use chemicals for cleaning. Better yet, check for natural cleaning alternatives and natural personal care products.

5. Work with your doctor to try and get yourself off as much medication as possible. This will give your liver a break and will allow it to rid your body of built-up toxins.

 

Fitness Friday — Clean Eating for Detox

Every Friday I am going to give a fitness tip, whether it be for the avid runner (which I am), someone who’s looking to lose weight, increase speed and endurance, or someone who’s just trying to eat healthier.  I am very passionate about helping others reach their fitness goals and optimal health. I’m passionate about making it a lifestyle rather than a fad. I believe if you love what you’re doing, then you’ll continue on the journey to healthy living.

The environment we live in and the foods we eat are increasing our toxicity in our bodies, and the liver cannot keep up to naturally rid us of these toxins. I do a juice detox quarterly which includes fiber, probiotics, and digestive enzymes to help regulate my body. A few days before and a few days after the detox, it is important to have a clean-eating regimen, which includes eliminating all meat short term.

Today I have made a list of clean eating food choices. I am very passionate about detoxification of the body, and I form teams to do this process together. If you’re interested in finding out more about that, please feel free to contact me, and I can give you more details.

Clean Foods no Meat-page-001