Posts in Confidence Coach
Feeling Empowered
Photo by Natalie Collins on Unsplash

I've been gravitating toward the word "Empower" lately. I think it's a great word! 

Empower means, "give [someone] the authority or power to do something" and "make [someone] stronger and more confident, especially in controlling their life and claiming their rights".

I love that definition and I want to experience that feeling of empowerment in my everyday life. I want to feel like I'm an invested decision maker in what happens, not just someone who is along for the ride. I want to show up in my own life! 

I believe that God is the ultimate decision maker and controller of all things; but that doesn't mean that I sit around and do nothing.  

For the longest time, I didn't take myself or much of anything seriously. I didn't think that I really mattered in the grand scheme of things. I just thought I was a silly girl who's sole purpose was to lighten the mood with a joke. I'm thankful that I've grown out of that thinking. 

Thankfully, alongside God working in my life and showing me things, I've had people come alongside me, believe in me, and help me realize that I have deeper purpose and potential. These people helped me feel empowered. And now, I want to do the same for you! 

You are CAPABLE of making smart decisions. 

You are ABLE to be passionate and make a difference. 

You are QUALIFIED to be a deep thinker and learn things for yourself.

You just have to be WILLING to believe that you can be different. Do not stunt your own growth by relying on someone else to do the work for you. Between you and God, anything is POSSIBLE.

There might be a brand new dream and future waiting for you. What are you going to do about it? 

I would love to hear stories about how you were empowered by someone in your life. You can share those stories in the comments or share them with the person/people who have empowered you. I also want to challenge you to reach out your hand and empower someone this week. Encourage them by telling them about the potential you see in them. Let's spread a little kindness this week. 

Kindness is an Attitude
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A few weeks ago I posted this picture on my instagram account. This is the most "liked" picture I've ever had. Like, a hundreds more likes than I usually get. I normally post a photo and come back and check in on Insta later in the day. I had to do a double take on the like count. 

I started thinking, "what did I do right?" on that picture. It wasn't my cleverest (real word?) caption. It wasn't the best photo of me. Why were all these people liking this photo?

After thinking on it for a while, I realized what it was. Why was this photo striking a chord with my friends and strangers? One word -- Kindness.

Simple right? Be nice to people. Easy enough. Boom. Done. Kindness just happens. 

Unfortunately, that's not the case. Kindness is one of the attributes of Jesus. It's just one of the Godly characteristics given to us when we accept Jesus's gift of salvation. That tells me that it's hard to be kind in the truest sense of the word without Jesus' help. 

What does it mean to be kind? What does it mean to react and respond in a kind way? I've thought through some ideas of what it means to be kind based on personal interactions and what we know about Jesus' character from the Bible. 

Kindness means: 

  • serving others first and putting yourself last
  • genuinely celebrating good news with other people instead of feeling jealous
  • responding to stressful situations with a level head
  • acting for the greater good instead of personal gain
  • respecting other people's time and offering to help even when your responsibilities are complete
  • noticing and responding to people instead of only focusing on yourself
  • listening without interrupting or giving your two cents (unless your opinion is asked, of course) 
  • giving good advice and sharing what you've learned with others
  • saying thank you, genuinely apologizing when there are misunderstandings, and owning up to your mistakes
  • doing something for someone just because

Kindness is an attitude. We can choose to respond to life's daily curveballs with the attitude of Kindness. Our world sees enough hate. Be the person who is willing to be kind no matter what.

I'd love to hear some stories about how someone's kindness impacted you. Let's all share!  - JJ 

Are you a Dreamer?
Photo by Carlos Domínguez on Unsplash

Would you characterize yourself as a dreamer?

To me, a dreamer is someone who cannot shake the idea that things could be different. That you could be, do, and/or experience different things. Different isn't bad, it's just different

Next question. Do you allow yourself to dream?

I know it's easy for some people, myself included, to keep dreams locked away in your mind because they seem out of reach or that too much would have to change for those dreams to become a reality. 

I believe that whatever the dream is, it's there for a reason. Now, you just have to determine whether it's something you're willing to go for or not. 

Today, I'm not sharing a 3 step plan to help you reach your dreams. In fact, I'm still figuring out my own dreams and how they can turn into reality. I guess, I just want to know that I'm not alone. That I'm not the only one out there with a God-sized dream that's been safely tucked away in the corners of my mind for years waiting for me to reach in and do something. 

Does that sound like you?

I recently heard this question by this guy, "What would your life be like if you made use of all the potential you were offered?"

That got my wheels turning! What if we used this potential sitting inside of us? What if we stepped out and did something different? What if we allowed ourselves to dream?

I think, that if we bind together, believe in each other's potential, and get honest about what we want in life, then we can start doing things differently.

And that's what I'm going to do. I just want to know if I'm the only one or not. So today, I want to encourage you to take a few minutes, or longer if you have it, and let your mind wander back to your dreams. Do you believe that those dreams are there for a reason? I do! Second step of encouragement -- allow yourself to dream. Dream about the life you want to have and what you want to do. 

Yeah, this is really broad and kind of generic, but who cares?! Give yourself the space to re-discover your God-given potential. Only then, can you take steps to making changes and become the person you really want to be. 

Your Brokenness is Beautiful

First off, thank you for all of the kind words, messages, comments, etc. on the blog post I shared earlier this week. You guys are incredible. The way everyone has rallied around and encouraged us has been phenomenal. It's a beautiful thing when honesty is reciprocated with kindness, encouragement, and a real sense of "me too". 

I am truly grateful. 

Now, here is my response to the responses I've received since last Wednesday. 

My brokenness is beautiful.

That phrase has been rolling around in my head for the past few days. I think it's been so prevalent because of public and private messages from people who responded with things like, "you have no idea how much I needed to hear this" and those who shared bits of their own stories dealing with infertility. It's more common than you expect. Beauty in brokenness doesn't mean that when you're going through issues you have to "happy your way through it." It means that big things can happen when we bring our broken state to God, expect him to help, and are willing to share our struggles with one another. 

As someone who's been a Christ follower for a long time, the idea of brokenness is not anything new. Type in "bring your brokenness before God" into Google and countless blogs and articles pop up about how God redeems our brokenness and makes us whole. 

I think about the old Shane and Shane song "Beauty for Ashes" (an incredible song on an incredible album that got me through high school). 

And then, there are so many beautiful scriptures about brokenness. 

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." - Psalm 51:17

“Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

I could go on.

But the thing is, I know this stuff, but do I believe it? Do I carry myself in a way that reflects the phrase "your brokenness is beautiful"? It's easy for me to see others that way, but what about myself? 

Do I truly believe that my brokenness is beautiful and wanted by God? Do I know deep down that I'm not counted out or disqualified because something about me is off? This is one of those phrases that's easy to say, but hard to believe day in and day out. It's one thing to know something, but actually believing it is where it counts. 

This is something I really struggled with months ago when I was coming to terms with my fertility issues. I can confidently say that there are more days I believe it and live it out than there are days that I don't. It's also easier to extend that grace to others than to myself. I think that saying one thing to someone, but not really believing it for yourself is pretty normal for people though.

I don't want to be contradictory in this area, or anything really. If I talk and counsel someone about how their brokenness is beautiful (I work at a church and get to hear people's stories all the time and I love it so much), but then don't do that for myself, the truths don't line up. Why would they believe me?

So here I am now believing that my own brokenness is beautiful; that I can be used; that God can and will be glorified through my story; that I am not discounted or disqualified from a life filled with joy and purpose; and most importantly I'm letting God remind me that my brokenness is beautiful. He reminds me daily that I can trust Him and that He wants to do more in my life than I can imagine. I tell him back that I'm up for the challenge. That I am willing to put forth more effort, trust harder, share more, listen more, and ultimately being willing to believe His truth about how much he loves me. 

And now, I say the same thing to you. 

Your brokenness is beautiful. 

It is! You might not be able to see it yet, but it is. The beauty is there. The beauty lies in your response. Will you invite God in and let him start chipping away at your broken state? Will you let him use it for His glory? Will you see your brokenness as a diving board instead of a roadblock? Will you let him use you to spread His message of hope? I think you can. I know you can. 

It's easier to throw a pity party, call yourself a victim, and stay stuck. Belief and change take real effort. Don't take the easy way when it comes to your own brokenness. Let the disappointments be jumping off places for you and God. You never know what can happen when you decide to believe God's truth that he really does "heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3). Believe that we really do have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. (Hebrews 4:15-16). It's going to take work and time, but you can do it. We can do it together. 

If you have a story you'd like to share about your brokenness, I would love to hear it. Encourage someone today like you've encouraged me. 

The Enneagram, Being a Number 7, and Moving the big Rocks

A few years ago (2013 maybe) I was introduced to something called the Enneagram. Luke and I were listening to the Relevant Podcast and Shauna Niequest was talking about the Enneagram and how it's changed her life. Naturally, I immediately wanted to know everything about it because I'm a personality test junkie. 

Give me any personality test or quiz I'll I'll take it 3 times! I'm just one of those people. 

I got my feet wet with a few books and started learning the basics about The Enneagram and the 9 types. I immediately knew that I was a number 7, so I really only focused on my seven-hood and didn't pay attention to anything else. 

Fast forward to this past summer and I dove back into The Enneagram with this book, "The Road Back to You." This book is amazing! The other Enneagram books I had were pretty scientific-y and kind of hard to digest, but "The Road Back to You" is hands down the most comprehensible book out there about The Enneagram. If you can't tell, I'm a big fan. 

So I picked up "The Road Back to You" this summer and my obsession with The Enneagram turned up to 11. It came at the right time for me because, even though I didn't realize it, there were big rock things that God was showing me in my life, unhealthy things that needed development and change.  Reading this new to me Enneagram book, it lined up perfectly with what God was showing. Isn't it crazy when things like that happen? When it seems like you can't get away from a particular thought or message?

So there's my long backstory about how I was introduced to The Enneagram, what I'm reading, and why it's suddenly become so important to me. 

One of the most important things about The Enneagram and "The Road Back to You" is that it's not just about recognizing these habits, underlying fears, and motivations about yourself. It's an avenue for real change and personal development. It's not enough to just know this stuff about yourself, but you have to be willing to actively improve on the weak areas and lean into the strengths. 

I'm a number 7, no question about it. It took me a little while this second time around to really accept my seven-hood. I could've easily slipped into a few other numbers/types, but when I really dug my heels in, did the reading and a little honest soul searching, there's no other number for me.

Before I continue on if you want to figure out your number and dip your toe into the ocean of The Enneagram, there are a few ways you can get started. 

1. Purchase "The Road Back to You." There's not an actual quiz in this book, but there are assessment type questions in each chapter giving you an idea if you're that type or not. Again, the best way to know is by reading the actual chapters. 

2. There is a good assessment in this book that will point you in the right direction as to what number you are. There are also weighted assessments before each chapter that confirm or deny your initial assessment results. Again, it's all about reading the chapters to really know. 

3. There are free online quizzes that are okay. You have to pay for the good online assessments. I've never done it, but if you have you can let me know what's a good one! 

4. When taking the assessments, be gut level honest. It's not about who you want to be or who you are at work. It's about the motivation behind your actions. The Enneagram is all about the underlying issues, why we do what we do, and what's made us who we are. 

5. Remember that there's no bad number. Every number has negatives and positives. 

Some of the main things that I've taken away from my reading are helping me recognize deep patterns and habits about myself that need to be changed at the root level. Learning and recognizing all of these things has actually been quite freeing. Just knowing that I'm not alone in how my mind works and how I'm not the only one who feels the way I feel helps me to know that I'm not crazy. That I'm not past help. That I'm capable of changing for the better. I know that with God's help and new knowledge about myself, I can make the necessary changes to be a better human and take care of myself. 

Here are the top 3 things that I'm learning about myself and how I am addressing these areas.  

1. It's normal for a 7 try to avoid pain.

I'm such an avoider it's hilarious. I'm not an avoider when it comes to conflict resolution and other people. I'm an avoider when it comes to myself. This mostly comes out in my health. I've avoided some pretty serious issues for a while now: High cholesterol, high weight, low tolerance for physical activity, and my PCOS diagnosis. 

Some days I beat myself up about not doing enough to work on these issues. "Stop eating ice cream 4 nights a week." "Stop eating cheeseburgers and fries." That's easy, right? WRONG. I've never understood how people can just completely cut out food groups (for longer than a month, I'm really not sure how I survived my Whole30). It's like my mind can't even fathom long term limits. Being a 7 is all about wanting more and more experiences to deflect dealing with any type of pain. Limiting ice cream, burgers, and fries robs me of experiences with other people. 

Now, it makes sense why other people can stick to food plans and I just can't. 

2. It's normal for a 7 to fear commitment.

I never thought I was a commit-o-phobe. Most of the time we give that title to people who can't stay in a relationship with another person. That's not the case for me. Committing to Luke was and is easy because he's amazing and I love him. I never feared commitment with another person; however, it's hard for me to commit long term to anything. Obviously, jobs and big purchases (think house and car) are different.  This is about a constant need for variety and options because there's always something else out there. How can I commit to just one thing??

Admitting that I have a fear of commitment was one of the most freeing things for me. Luke literally had to tell me and then make me say it out loud. I didn't want to!  It helped me realize why I can't stick to an eating plan, diet, or exercise program. I get bored! Then I want to go have EXPERIENCES (ice cream, burgers, splurges, you get it) because I don't want to miss out on anything. It's a crazy cycle or is it a cycle of crazy? 

3. 7s are good planners and dreamers, but terrible executers.

One of the major 7 things is the joy of anticipation. In fact, anticipating something is actually better than the present moment and that's so true that it's scary. I like making grand plans, setting big goals, and figuring out how I'm going to do something. When it comes around to actually doing it....... I. Just. Don't.

Armed with the information that this is normal and doesn't make me a bad person is a gives major relief. 

Realizing all of these big rocks doesn't mean that I never have to work on them. I'm now responsible to make the right kind of changes and put new, realistic, expectations on myself. It's just comforting to know that these are my issues, they're real, and they don't make me less of a person. It's so easy to discredit yourself when you see other people excel in your weakest areas. I admitted here that I struggle with comparison. Reading "The Road back to You" has shown me that e v e r y o n e deals with real, hard issues. Even though I knew that, it was really important for me to learn what other types of people deal with on a daily basis. 

To sum it up, the Enneagram is a helpful tool for self improvement and helps you play well with others. If you dig into it, it will help you understand other people and how to relate to them, which I think is really cool. I'm always happy to talk more about the Enneagram. Leave a comment or send me a message and we'll chat! 

My Summer Study - Present Over Perfect

One of my favorite joys in life is being a small group leader. I LOVE IT. I love watching a community grow. I love seeing women step out and take steps. I love leaning in and listening to other people's stories and seeing how God is working in each person's life. 

This summer, I'm doing something new! It's no secret that summers are busy. There are vacations, ball games, holidays, lake days, beach days, you name it. With all of the summer craziness, I wanted to try leading an online small group (we call them Vertical Groups). This is a really unique opportunity for people to come together and get to know other women that they might not ever have a chance to meet in person. 

Additionally, this is a great way to put a positive spin on social media. We see so many hateful and sad things online, so I think this is a great way to shift the conversation and cultivate a little joy! This is just one way that we can use social media for good! 

I've chosen to lead the study, Present Over Perfect, by Shauna Niequist. I started reading Present Over Perfect on my India trip (had a lot of downtime in airports and flights... read about our travel drama here) and I basically underlined everything in the book. I was writing things like, "So much yes!" and "this is what I want my life to look like" in the margins. It's really had an impact on me and I'm confident that I'm not the only one who will benefit from this study. 

Here's a promo video from Shauna:

I own a few other Shauna books as well (this one and this one) and I love them. 

Present Over Perfect is a 5 Week Study and I'm excited to lead it this summer! We've got a great group of new and old friends signed up so far and we've got room for a few more! If you're interested in joining us, click here to email me. 

I'm planning to journal through what I learn this summer and I'm sure that it'll find its way onto the blog. On that note, I've got a new approach to my blog writing. I'm going to write about what I want to write about when I want to write about it. I'm not going to let insecurities about my writing or the fear that my ideas are not good enough hold me back anymore. I'm passionate about encouraging others and spreading the joy! I want to do that through blogging. Rant over. 

I think this summer is going to be incredible when it comes to authenticity in community. I'm ready to flex my hospitality muscles (yes, you can be hospitable online) and take big leaps and small steps of obedience. 

So here we go! The Group starts Sunday, June 4th. I can't wait! 

*this is a free online group. You're only responsible for purchasing your study guide. 

My India Adventure Part 1

I'm fresh off the mission field of India and I have so much to share! I'm pretending like you and I are sitting down for a cup of coffee and I'm sharing my stories one-on-one with you. Cool?

I can't emphasize enough that prior to going on this trip, I was not a "missions" person. I wrote a little bit about my decision to go on this trip here. It's been nine years since I've traveled internationally for a mission trip! I'm pretty much a different person now, so I'm categorizing myself as a beginner mission trip traveler. 

I really can't emphasize how big of a deal it was for me to even go on a trip like this. I'm a little, how do you say..... high maintenance. I was very nervous about being away from my comforts. When I say comforts I mean - air conditioning, electricity, comfy beds, my husband, cozy sheets, air conditioning, western toilets, food I'm used to eating, and air conditioning. Did I mean to say air conditioning three times? Yes. That's what I was most concerned about. 

I'll go as far to admit that I even tried to get out of going on this trip a few times. I was coming up with every excuse in the book to back out. I'm VERY thankful that I pushed through, stuck with my commitment, and actually WENT. 

I see things very differently now. I said earlier that I wouldn't have called myself a "missions" person. I think that's the wrong way to look at it. Now, I don't think there's a "missions" person and "non-missions" person. We're all called to GO. The going may look different and it might not mean that everyone travels internationally and sleeps on cots. It might mean that you serve your community by knowing your neighbors, inviting people into your homes and lives, and/or volunteering in your church or community. I'm excited to explore this new mindset and hopefully help bridge the gap of "missions" being overseas work. You can do missions in your own house. 

First, I want to brag on my team. We all had a total blast together! I couldn't have picked 5 better people to go on this journey with. From airport shenanigans to Indian dance parties, these people will always be so special to me. I saw each and every person take huge steps, put themselves out there and trust God a little more. We all came back a little different. 

Have you ever seen those people in an airport who have lost their minds? They're sprawled out all over the terminal seats, cackling out loud without a care in the world, and they look a little disheveled. You know those people I'm talking about? That was totally us. I now have a special empathy for people who are like this in airports. It doesn't mean that they don't have any pride or self-awareness. it means that they've been delayed multiple times and have spent the majority of their time sitting in airports. They've lost it! I've lived it.

You can't tell the story of our India trip without sharing all of our travel drama. One missed flight put us in a tailspin of waiting, hurrying, begging (for hotel rooms!) and praying for 3 days. Where it's supposed to take you 24 hours to get to India (24 hours is a LONG time to travel, btw), it took us 90. Here's how it went down: 

Day 1 - Jackson --> Chicago / delayed in Chicago --> Toronto / because we were late getting to Toronto, we missed our big flight to India. Spent the night in Toronto. 

Day 2 - Toronto / they lost my luggage and planned to send us to Newark to catch the big flight to India, oh yeah, and we were delayed... again --> Newark / missed the big flight to India. Spent the night in Newark.

Day 3 - Newark / bought new clothes and gear, finally caught the flight to India! Flew all night. 

Day 4 - India / found my luggage! --> 5-hour bus ride to the villages

Pretty outrageous right? Thankfully no one listened to me after we missed our second big flight. I was ready to call it and go home. I think an important attitude and perspective to have when going on a mission trip, is to be ready for anything. Even if that anything means sitting in airports dealing with customer service reps. To be able to handle frustrating situations with a positive outlook and not crumble out of boredom or anger, is an important part of travel that training sessions might not prepare you for (hah!), but it's important nonetheless.

Long story long, if you see a group of delirious people wearing disheveled 2 or 3 day old clothes, have a little empathy. They're probably a group of people trying to go on a mission trip *joy/laughing emoji* By the way, we no issues with anyone in the airport, but I'm sure we were a sight to behold!

Once we finally reached the villages and split off from the other team (our team of six was broken up into two teams of three), we hit the ground running. We met our translators and dropped our things off at our host home and immediately started visiting homes. We were DRAGGING because #jetlag, but we were so relieved and excited to finally BE THERE, that we pushed straight through. Usually, I'm an 8-9 hours of sleep kind of gal, so it was only by energy from God that I was able to make it through *insert laughing emoji*! 

This is a straight up evangelism trip. We weren't there to give supplies or medicine, physically build anything, or dig wells (those are all amazing things, just not part of this trip). We were there to pray, encourage believers, and share the Gospel. Before we could blink we were sitting in people's homes praying over families.

I was nervous during our first couple of home visits. I'm generally a very chatty person and comfortable engaging with new people, but I was really nervous! What was I supposed to talk about? How do I work with a translator? What if the translator doesn't know what I'm trying to say? What if I don't like the food or drinks? What if I say something stupid? What if I offend someone or the whole family? I wish I could say that I had this magnetic gusto from God and said everything perfectly, but it was quite the opposite, especially during the first few visits. I sat very quietly, drank my drink, ate some snacks, and waited for someone to address me.

But you know what? That was okay. It was only after the first couple of hourse that I finally loosened up and started praying bigger. I was seeing first hand what pavement pounding evangelism was really like. I was carrying around a message that people were eager to hear and receive. It was after praying specific things over specific families that I realized what was really going on. 

These people were expecting God to do something. Even if they weren't believers yet, they still had hope that God could heal ailments, mend relationships, bring customers to their businesses, and provide. It was a magnificent thing to witness. It made me question the depth of my faith. Did I really believe that God could heal this woman's tumors in her throat? Was I really expecting God to do something miraculous? Do I pray like this in my everyday life? Why not?

That first day visiting people's homes opened my eyes to big, weighty prayers. Unfortunately, we were on a tight schedule. We didn't have all that much time to spend in people's homes. Maybe 15 - 30 minutes per house. It was enough time to drink a beverage, have a snack, share a quick message, and pray.

It's customary when you enter someone's home that they serve you a drink and a snack. The drinks were either fruit juice (mostly mango juice, which I liked the best!), Coke, Mountain Dew, or Orange Fanta. The snacks ranged from almonds, cashews, crackers, cookies, Gulab Jamun (look it up, they're SUPER sweet), chips, and milk candy (don't know the actual name of it, but I liked it). It was truly humbling to be served in this way. We knew that we were nothing special, but they essentially rolled out the red carpet for us. We could all learn a thing or two about hospitality from their example. 

Our main purpose for going on this short term mission was to share Gospel through Bible stories at Compassion Kit Parties. For months local pastors work within their villages, build relationships with people, and share the Gospel. For weeks leading up to the trip, my team and I learned and practiced how to share the Gospel through stories to best fit the culture we dropped into. 

The Compassion Kit parties were amazing! During our time there, we had 3 CK Parties in 3 different villages. People would come from all over, cram into a small courtyard and listen intently to the local pastor and then to us as we shared. The CK Parties are so well thought out and structured specifically for the oral traditions of the culture we dropped into. The Gospel is kind of amazing like that. It can reach anyone. No one is too far gone or too different to respond to the Gospel. It was amazing to see people respond with such hope. You know what? People genuinely responded. I know that as soon as we left those people are being discipled by the network of pastors and leaders stemming from our mission partners. Incredible! 

When we came back together on Friday as a large group (there were other groups there serving beside the six of us), we debriefed with stories and celebration! Our mission partners gave us a report on the week's work. Yall, this is crazy: 4,000+ people heard the Gospel through 43 Compassion Kit parties; 2,000 Compassion Kits were distributed, and over 600 people gave their lives to Christ....

Isn't that incredible! There is a movement happening and it is amazing to be a part of it. I seriously cannot wait to go back. I've taken so many valuable lessons back home with me. At the risk of sounding cliche, I've come home a different person. Your worldview totally changes when you experience a new culture and see God move in huge ways. 

I've got pages and pages of my travel journal filled with things that God showed me about myself. I can't believe that I've been home for almost a week! I'm already recruiting for next years trip. Go ahead and start saving. $10 here. $20 there. Everyone needs to Go. I'd love to talk with you one on one about my experiences and new convictions for missional living. - JJ 

February - March Favorites

I started something new last month where I jotted down some current favorites of the month. I want to do a better job at recording the little things like our favorite foods and activities! 

Something Memorable

Family Photoshoot with our beautiful friend, Brooke of Blackhorn Productions.

Valentines Day date night! 

We led worship with at a couple of Disciple Now Weekends. One in Florence, MS and the other in Natchez, MS. We had a blast exploring historic Natchez! 

We took a weekend trip to Orange Beach and visited our friends' brand new coffee shop in Mobile, Al! 

We took another weekend trip up to Birmingham, AL to see our great friends, Daniel and Laura! It was so fun getting to explore Birmingham. 

 

Every Day

I started noticing how quickly the days were going by. Time is going by so fast! Even though Luke and I work together, we don't spend all day holding hands in the same room. Most days we barely see each other focusing on our own areas. I want to publicly brag on my husband. He cares about every single detail with incredible passion and precision. He works hard behind the scenes to make sure that things are excellent and done with care. Luke, you're an incredible leader and visionary. You challenge me every day to dream a little bigger.

Food

We went to our favorite restaurant in Orange Beach, Fishers, and tried Black Eyed Pea Hummus for the first time. I don't try to recreate restaurant food too often, but I immediately looked up a recipe for Black Eyed Pea hummus when I got home! 

I also became obsessed with tamales! My favorite place to order tamales around here is at Sombra. SO GOOD!

Our favorite restaurant at this point is a Greek and Lebanese place called Athenos. I order the gyro plate every time!

 

Digging up Roots + Working on the Surface
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When thinking about myself, I go deep. I'm not afraid to explore the deepest depths and darkest corners of my heart and mind mostly because I've already done all that work. I know what's there. That's what I did last year. I dug up the roots. I examined the foundational issues of why I overeat, why I feel the way I do about food, and why I just can't seem to break and eradicate old habits.

I overeat because I genuinely enjoy food. To me, food isn't fuel, but an activity (a social activity and something enjoyed in isolation). It keeps me entertained and gives me something to look forward to.

I overeat because I see food as a reward. A huge meal with carb heavy food is a first place prize for a job-well-done and consolation prize for when I fail. It's both.

I overeat because I see food as a celebration of my culture. I can hear my grandmother asking, "did you get enough to eat? Let me fix you another plate." I can see rows and rows of tables full of Southern comfort food at the annual church Homecoming. I can smell the prime rib and all it's goodness on Christmas Eve.

I overeat because gluttony / over-indulgence is one of my major personal weaknesses. I'm inclined to believe that every single person has one or two major weaknesses that they constantly battle.  They  manifest in different ways for each person. For me, it manifests in overeating and laziness. My bent towards over-indulgence stems from the root thought of "you aren't worthy to be taken care of, so you better stock up on ______, _______, and _______."

I overeat because up until this point, I'm not willing to break habits and make lasting changes. I think this is the saddest one of all. I know what's wrong. I know where I can make real changes, but I've been clenching my fists and refusing to do things differently.

It's driving me insane. For too long I've refused to think long, always "living in the moment."

So. There's all the issues and my feelings about the issues. Like I said in the beginning, I've done this work before. It's not new to me. The roots are dug up and now it's time to work on the surface. It's time to move from good intentions and knowledge to action and implementation.

I've finally come around to the "real lifestyle change" or "maintainers mindset" way of thinking. A plan, program, or person isn't going to do the work for me. It's me.

It's me appreciating the journey I've been on. Appreciating and understanding the underlying issues and not getting bogged down, but making the real attempt to change.

Let's change - JJ

Creating Routines

11893745_10205126757230395_8888856255148790787_o The idea of creating a routine is something new to me. In the past I've just fallen into a routine, never really thinking through it or working to create one.

How do you create a routine? First, figure out the purpose of the routine? Is it to start the day in a healthy way? Is it to set healthy boundaries and guidelines? For me, it's both! The first routine I want to set is "relaxed weekend morning." Has a nice ring to it right?

Because Luke and I both work at our church, we have the same schedule. We're off on Fridays as well as Saturdays and we religiously guard our weekend downtime. We go through busy seasons, but sometimes there are weekends where we have absolutely nothing planned. Those are the days that I want to focus on.

I'm thinking my Relaxed Weekend Morning routine will include coffee with Luke, a light breakfast, and extra Bible reading / journaling time. Maybe spending an hour and a half or 2 hours reading, writing, sipping coffee, making lists, etc. I want my routines to set me up for success, even if that success means resting and relaxing well.

I'd also like to include a breakfast date out once a month. I think that would be just lovely! Some of my favorite breakfast spots are the Gathering at Livingston, Broadstreet Bakery and Cafe, and Chick-fil-a. 946275_10200489912352171_426901272_n

Waffles always win.

My next routine to set will be Weekday Working Mornings. Do you have any routines you'd like to create?

Mini Beach Vacay
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This past weekend Luke and I along with his parents took a little mini vacation down to Orange Beach, Al. I love going to the beach before it's blazingly hot in the summer. Don't get me wrong, I love a summer vacation, but I love inching my way into the freezing pool water one step at a time! Just thought I'd share a few pics from our weekend!

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We basically ate our way through Orange Beach! I ordered Shrimp & Grits for the first time. Unlike a true Southern girl, I'm only now coming around to grits. Mainly just cheese grits, but it still counts!

I'm excited for more weekends to unplug and relax. Until then I'll just stare at this picture hah. - JJ

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Podcast Love
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I love to listen to a podcast. I prefer it over listening to music. I enjoy people talking to me, or at me since I can't actually talk back. Anyway, I love Podcasts and I've been listening to two different Weight Loss related podcasts religiously. Months ago, I wrote about my love of the Half Size Me podcast. I still love it! Listening to Heather interview people who lost the weight and are keeping it off is absolutely inspiring. Heather has an incredible story and a wealth of knowledge and experience herself. I love listening to her. Heather, if you're reading this, I feel like I know you and I appreciate you!

Alongside the Half Size Me show, I've recently started listening to a podcast called Primal Potential. It's truly fascinating. I'm just getting to know Elizabeth and I'm hanging on every word. She's also got years of experience and a wealth of knowledge on nutrition, how food and hormones work, and excellent strategies to put into place.

If you're in the market for encouraging and helpful weight loss related podcasts, I definitley recommend these two. They are different in content (one is interview based and the other is informational based), but share the same message -- habit change over time for lifelong sustainability and maintenance.

Honestly, I need other people to listen to these podcasts like I do so we can talk about it. Happy listening! -JJ

 

Remaining
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We've been walking through Open Your Bible in my mid week small group. I've had ups and downs with it, but overall it's been beautifully vital in my spiritual life. It's practical, honest, and drills down to the roots of why consistent Bible reading is important. 5 stars. I highly recommend it. Anyways, a few of us girls got together last week for our weekly discussion. We really keyed in on John 15:1-8. These are beautiful passages of scripture that give an illuminating illustration of what we can expect when we are connected to Christ as a branch is connected to the vine.

These were not unfamiliar scriptures, thanks to Bible Drill, but through this whole study familiar passages have brought on new revelations, which is AWESOME. As soon as we read verse 4 "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me" I immediately felt the pin-prick of conviction.

I discovered last year that my food / health life is directly connected to my spiritual life. The parallels between the two are insane. When I quit working on my overall health (which I elaborated on a couple of weeks ago), I kind of quit working in my spiritual life, merely doing the bare minimum.

How can I expect any progress, in any area of my life, if I'm not willing to carve out time to work on the areas desperately needing growth and loss? (Growth - spiritual, loss - pounds) It's all about remaining. Remaining consistent. Remaining faithful. Remaining joyful.

This is just another example of how I can't just be on a diet. It's got to be an align everything, this-effects-that, lifestyle change that won't work unless I remain. Remain in Christ by connecting with him daily.

Remain in control of my feelings about food.

Remain in the drivers seat and not let a hard and/or emotional day take over.

Remain committed to my commitments.

Remain strong when facing temptations.

Remain steady when I think I deserve a treat.

So many things to remain in! I know I can get a handle on it by taking it one day at a time. - JJ

 

Backyard Times
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This is our first year to ever have a yard. Our lot has a nice sized backyard, especially for a home in town and not out in the country, that we're currently LOVING. Our home is an older home that's surrounded by really tall mature trees. It's nice and shady, but has the perfect sunny spot for a garden.

We set up a badminton net in the middle of our backyard. We say we did it because we wanted to spend more time outside with our dog, he's so cute out there! But the real reason is because we both had badminton nets set up at least one summer in our backyards growing up and it was awesome!

We've gotten pretty good at Badminton. If anyone wanted to challenge us, bring it on.

Also, I've just realized that I've been saying and spelling Badminton wrong for my whole life. I always thought it was Badmitton. OOPS!

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We also planted fresh herbs! I've never had a fresh herb garden before. If y'all thought I was nervous about keeping my indoor plants alive, I'm WAY nervous about killing these little guys hah!

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We stocked up at our local Home Depot last weekend on supplies and I had to buy a few succulents, obviously. A new friend in our church graciously gave me some of her seedlings to plant in our little garden! She gave me zucchini, cucumber, jalapeños, bell peppers, and tomato seedlings. I can't wait to plant! Thanks, Denise!

My goal for my first garden is to learn the basics by trial and error and eat at least one meal with food grown in our yard. I'll keep you posted!

Here's to backyards, fire pits, badminton, big dogs, and growing vegetables! - JJ

Springing Back
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Here in Mississippi we get a short tease of spring. The spring tease is happening right now and it's perfect. There's a lot of pressure that comes with spring time: spring cleaning, beach season is just around the corner, shorts, re-organization, more time outside, etc. None of those are bad things, they're just different from the winter hibernation of blankets, layering clothes, and soup/stew for every meal. Feeling the spring pressure, it's time to spring back into working towards good things and goals that I started this blog to document.

I've really missed blogging. I like knowing that I've missed it. That not only means that I enjoyed doing it, but that it was good for me. The accountability, the connection with other people, and the informational and emotional processing I was able to do through writing has been deeply missed.

So where have I been? Let's see. I've been at Chick-fil-a, the Dairy Queen drive through, lingering in the junk food aisles at the grocery store, and at home in my recliner with my hand in the Cheez-It box, just to name a few examples.

I can admit it. I quit.

I quit putting forth effort to make healthy choices. I quit listening to my body. I quit trying. Things got hard and I bailed.

I can also admit, even though I'm cringing even typing it, that I gained back almost all of the weight I previously lost.  Because of that feelings of shame and regret flood my mind and spirit every day. Sometimes every hour.

So, here I am now. I'm back. I'm choosing to spring back. I'm choosing to try!

The prideful part of me doesn't want to showcase my coming back, but only show the end results. Show that I could do it on my own! TBH, that's a terrible plan.

I'm coming back in a posture of humbleness admitting that I quit, that I feel deep regret, and that I can't do this by myself. I need the vulnerability of blogging as well as a salad.

Am I going to be perfect? Of course not. Am I going to try, make small changes, and be smarter? Yes!

Here's to everyone who's started something and then quit.

Here's to everyone who has (at some point) knowingly ignored and not dealt with something just because it's hard.

And here's to everyone who has experienced failure (in anything. For me, it's gaining the weight back), but is ready to try again!

Here's to us. Let's find joy in rebuilding and facing hard challenges. Here we go!

By the way -- the terrible pun on spring time in the title was indeed intended. 

 

 

 

#DreamBig621 with Amanda Matthews

Today is the first of what I hope will be a recurring theme here on my blog. I'm excited to share a guest post from on of my biggest inspirations, my friend, Amanda Matthews. image2

Hello! First off a big THANK YOU to JJ for asking me to write a post about the most transformational season in my life. I’m thrilled to share my story with each of you and my prayer is that you are inspired and encouraged by my story. But FIRST, let me introduce myself.

My name is Amanda Mathews. I’m a Mississippi girl, that found my way to Texas almost 5 years ago. I’m 27 years old and a lover of Jesus, people, and all things creative. My full time occupation is a Speech-Language Pathologist and Director ofRehabilitation at a retirement community and rehab center. I also run a small business of calligraphy and design which I absolutely adore… but lets cut to the chase! I’m here to talk about the last two years of my life, my journey to health and fitness.

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On January 1, 2014, I was sitting at my kitchen table writing out my goals for the new year and at the top of the list (as always) was "GET HEALTHY." As I pondered that resolution tears filled my eyes and I cried out to God asking "WHY WHY WHY is get healthy/lose weight always on my list year after year and why can’t I win this battle?" In the sweetest, most wonderful way, God spoke directly to my heart and said “My dear, you have forgotten who your creator is and how you were created!”

He lead me to Psalm 139:13-15 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I AM FEARFULLY AND WONDERFULLY MADE; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you whenI was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”

WOW. Suddenly this revelation of identity broke through every wall of shame and worthlessness. My heart and mind were renewed in the revelation that I was a daughter of the Most High King and I was worth it!

After this moment, I went straight to the gym. That minute. I already had a membership to the gym that I was not using, but I knew I had to start. I didn’t know what or how, but that day a grace fell on me and my journey started. I decided to simply commit to 5 days a week and eating clean. I had a little knowledge of what clean eating was, and this blog helped me so much! I highly encourage anyone who is starting this journey to start here.

As the first week went by I decided to give myself a goal of -50 pounds lost by my birthday (June 21st) and -25 pounds by week 12. I exceeded both of those goals! During that first six months, all I did was Zumba or elliptical cardio for 30-60 minutes 5 days a week and eat clean.

That’s it.

After the first 6 months, I decided to start with a personal trainer. I continued cardio, but learned so much about strength training, its importance, and how to move forward into the next phase. I did hit a bit of a plateau the last 6 months of the year. I was still seeing some changes, but the weight and scale moved much slower and I lost 15 pounds the rest of the year.

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In 2015, I kicked off the year with a Whole30. Another resource I recommend is the book It Starts with Food. You will be amazed by how much of our illnesses and issues can be healed if we just feed ourselves the right foods! Additionally, in 2015 I tried Smart Barre classes (LOVE!) and some fun Beachbody workouts. I lost another 15 pounds in 2015, but in the fall I hit a bit of a “rough patch” in life and gained about 10 pounds from September to December.

2016 has brought a restored hope and the word “completion” from the Lord. I don’t know that a healthy journey is ever complete, but I’m hopeful that with 50 more pounds gone, I will be at a place where maintaining is my goal rather than losing!

 

I wish I could tell you that there is one quick fix, but what I have learned on this journey is that a renewed mindset is key! And there are so many different ways to get healthy! Choose one that you enjoy and keep at it!

Love, Amanda #dreambig621

Buddy Bear Campbell
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If you follow me on Instagram (@mrsjjcampbell) you know that we have a new family member. I'm happy to officially introduce Buddy Bear Campbell!

Let me share a little about Buddy and how he came into our life. For the past 6 months Luke and I have discussed and made plans for when we could have a dog. We've researched what kind of dogs would be great for our lifestyle and family. While Luke would take any dog off the street, I'm a little more picky.

We've looked at dog breed after dog breed looking for a dog with the right temperament and protective instincts, etc. Finally, we settled on a German Shepherd! They are always high on the list of family dogs and ranked exceptionally high in overall dog-goodness. Also, I grew up with German Shepherds. They were always our family dogs!

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Now that we had decided on what kind of dog we wanted, we were ready to look for puppies! We realized quickly that good puppies are $$$$. We also realized for the first time that puppies are a lot of work. We were unsure of how we could train and take care of a puppy when we both work 30 minutes away. So then, we decided to wait until we had kids and I transitioned into a work-from-home mom (Not pregnant, just thinking ahead) so that we could be able to spend time with a puppy.

Fast forward to Christmas. We like to call my dad The Dog Whisperer.All dogs are drawn to my dad. I've never seen anything like it!  It's kind of crazy! He was out and about a couple of days after Christmas and encountered Buddy and his previous owner. He commented on how impressive Buddy was and jokingly asked if the owner was looking to get rid of the dog (only the Dog Whisperer could get away with that!). The owner said yes!

We immediately drove over to check out the dog and LOVED how friendly he was, not to mention beautiful. A couple of days later after spending a little more time with Buddy, he jumped in our car and came back home with us!

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It's been a full week of Buddy living with us. We think he's adjusting well. He seems very content, is fun and playful, and makes every step with Luke. We've also adjusted to life with Buddy. He definitely encourages a more responsible lifestyle like taking him on walks and waking up on time to let him out.

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I've always liked dogs, but I've never really loved a dog. I'm LOVING Buddy. He's hilarious and loves having his ears rubbed, but he also likes to chill out. I'm sure that Buddy would love to meet you. Just let us know when you're coming over. We're working on his manners when people come in our house.

Goals vs Resolutions: My 2016 Goals (for now!)

IMG_2357 Hello Friends! I hope that every one of you had a lovely Christmas! Mine was hot, but wonderful. As much as I love Christmas and want to squeeze every bit out of Christmas-time moments, I have a different kind of deep love for the days following Christmas leading up to New Years.

I've already shared and discussed my love of resolutions and fresh starts  here and here.

Anything is possible! You get to do all the prep work for the new year. We're still off from work, have one more sparkly celebration, and get to focus on being your best self.

Now that I've already shared my resolutions, I want to share some goals. Goals are specific achievements. Resolutions are permanent changes to your life. I've reworked some of the resolutions that I originally wrote to make them more resolution and less goal oriented.

2016 G O A L S

  1. Lose -50lbs. It was my original first goal and it's still in place. I got close a few months ago, then lost focus and took my eye off the prize. I've put on about half of the weight I've lost, in record time might I add, just by not practicing healthy habits and refusing to use self control. It's all about effort.I want to be careful about putting a time limit on this goal. When strictly following the Ideal Protein Protocol, you could drop the weight quickly. Because of financial reasons (we bought a house just a few months ago and got a new car a only a month or so ago) I will not be continuing on with Ideal Protein.
  2. Run a 5k. I've walked a 5k only once. I was in college and I signed up last minute for extra credit. I was the 2nd to last person finished. I beat a 75 year old lady only by a couple of minutes... To actually run a 5k would be making JJ history.
  3. Walk around the lake behind our house at least 5 days a week for the month of January. Hopefully, it'll be an engrained habit by then!
  4. Cook at home every week night. A lofty goal yes, but I enjoy cooking and trying new recipes and we all know that restaurant food is loaded with extra calories.
  5. Research gardening. I want to go ahead and plan out what I want to plant and how to take care of it before Spring rolls around.

That's all for now. Just like my resolutions, these goals are on-going. If I think of more, I'll add to the list. Have you thought about your 2016 goals? - JJ

Finding My Style

For the past few months my mind has been consumed with home design. What color do I want to paint this wall? What new / new to us furniture do we need for our new house? How many throw pillows are allowed in my budget? Before I could determine wall colors, furniture, and even throw pillows, I had to figure out my taste and what I like.

My style has evolved over the past few years. I describe my previous style as whatever I could find at thrift stores / what was on clearance / what people gave to me. Things I used to love, I don't love so much anymore. And that's okay! It's good to change and evolve in every area of your life - even your design taste.

It's been interesting to really evaluate, look at designs that inspire me, and try to figure out what I'm going to surround myself with that cause feelings of joy! I want our space to feel cozy, fresh, and welcoming. I also knew that Luke and I collectively like natural elements like wood and plants, appreciate color, and are drawn to mid century modern furniture.

I like the mixing of colors, plants, patterns, and textures of Bohemian style, but I also love the foundation of mid century modern style. One day on a whim, I typed both styles in the Pinterest search board and it all fell together like magic! It was what I was picturing in my head. It was SO cool to see it vividly displayed in front of me.

Here are some pictures that I am using as inspiration as I put together our spaces. Click for attribution. 

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I love how each room is exploding with color and texture!

I'm excited to spend time putting together each room! After the Holidays I'll really focus in on bringing this style to my whole space one room at a time. You can follow along with my Pinterest board as I continue gathering ideas and inspiration!

I've realized that it's important to live in a space that inspires you to be the person you want to be. Loving my space encourages me to make better choices and discourages laziness.

I'm excited to share these projects here on the blog! Any activity I can have that keeps me out of the snack cabinet is worth sharing!

Also, if anyone is getting rid of colorful rugs let me know!

Navigate Change. Stay Consistent.
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That title is an oxymoron, but totally sums up my current season of life. A lot of change is happening and I have to figure out how to navigate those changes, but stay consistent and on plan.

Change is good. We have to adapt to what's going on around us and come out with a positive attitude. A couple of months ago, a whole Sunday at Vertical was dedicated to the subject of change -- Growing People Change. Definitely worth a listen.  We discussed how change is the fuel for growth in our lives. I really track with that.

I can't expect my circumstances to stay the same. If I want to grow, I have to expect change. I've navigated this concept pretty well in most areas of my life except one. The Ideal Protein protocol / eating well / being healthy. For too many weighs in than I'd like to admit, I've cried in Brittany's office and told her that when I started Ideal Protein ______ wasn't going on, ___________ wasn't as stressful, ____________ was different.

Basically, life happened. Things are different in my life than they were this summer. I'm busier and have a few more things added to my plate. Some good, some not ideal. I adapted in every area, but food. I threw my hands in the air and quit. I didn't have my controlled environment like I had when I started and wasn't able to handle the pressure of dealing with life's circumstances and practicing self control when it came to what I was choosing to eat and how much I ate.

This again revealed how weak I am in the area of self control. It proved that I need God's grace and strength more than ever. Instead of rising to the occasion, I crumbled. I shrunk back.

Sometimes I feel like stressful situations give me a free pass to eat how much of whatever I want, whenever I want. That's simply not true. That mindset gets me in more trouble than anything else.

Who am I to think that life will be perfect? That stressful situations won't rise up? That changes will happen whether I like it or not?

Navigate Change. Stay Consistent.

I'm repeating that statement over and over. I want to stay consistent in my eating and planning when there's more on my plate than usual. It may not be the funnest, most convenient, and easiest thing to do, but I know that I can succeed and ultimately I know that it's worth it.

Here are some things I want to start doing to be consistent:

Plan. Plan. Plan.

I want to spend time at the beginning of the week, Sunday afternoons maybe, thinking through what I have going on every day. I really want to think through when / where I'll be eating, what I'll be cooking, and if I'll be eating out. My personality type likes preparation and making a plan, but doesn't really like sticking to the plan. I'm going to try to figure out how I can make a plan that I like, and actually stick to it!

Think Long.

Lately I've had trouble seeing past the food decision at the moment. I haven't been able to rationalize and look at the big picture. I haven't been able to pause and tell myself that I really don't need that snack right now, that I'm eating because I'm bored, or the cheeseburger is only going to taste good for moment.

This phrase is helpful, "What you do today can improve all of your tomorrows."

Set Myself up for Success.

When I am prepared in all of the different categories of my life, it will result in good decisions. When I keep putting things off and choose to have a Netflix marathon, I'm setting myself up for failure and laziness. Rest is good, yes, but I don't need to "rest" all afternoon / evening after work.

Setting myself up for success includes basic things like making a grocery list, waking up on time, spending time reading the Bible, preparing lunches ahead of time so I won't have to eat out, etc. SO  many things! So many things worth doing for the big reward.

I know that I can be consistent in self control. I know that I can make good decisions through stressful times. Now, it's just time to want to do it. I'm taking it day by day, week by week. The goals are fresh and the motivation is there. Let's kill it this week. - JJ