It was a race for the girls!

shirtAnother Saturday, another half marathon race!  And yet, over the past seven years, I’ve learned it’s never just “another race”.  Each race is unique, each has it’s teachable moments, each leaves it’s own mark, both in my memory and in some sort of body ache.  This day was no different.

It started in the dark, as most do.  Three girls met in my driveway, we shared our sleepless nights stories, pre-race Advil was shared, tunes were ready and cued up on our devices of choice, and off we drove.  We arrived, parked, and walked up the incline that was soon to become the finish of our race.  Yes, we walked up.  Oh little did we know…

The girlsHaving some moments to spare we decided to pause for a photo op because, let’s face it, the “before pictures” are so much more cheerful than the after :).  It was a great scene, lots of ladies, and the music was already blaring!  Next to me is my early-morning, go-getter of a dear friend.  Next to her is a friend who’s a newbie – first half-marathon today!  And next to her is my long-time, speedy, and humble-spirited friend.  They each have a great story about today.  Friend #1 celebrated her 13 week pregnancy with #4 while running 13 miles, I know, hero.  Friend #2 is a working Mom of 3, reaching her goals and celebrating her health – hero.  And friend #3 earned an amazing PR (personal record) time on this very challenging course – hero.  You see, this road of life is never lived alone.  Though our “training” runs may have happened separately, and even these race miles were experienced with distance in-between, we ran this together.

My take-aways from this race:

1.  No matter how many training runs I’ve experienced, when it comes to race day, it’s always best just to “roll” with it.  As with life, one is never for certain what may come, no matter how much effort is put into the preparation.  Today brought some humidity, as evidence in light-headedness, frizzy hair that sticks to sweaty skin, and sweat that literally flies.  Nothing you can do about it, but I could choose to be smart.  I needed water.  At every opportunity.  And that meant taking time to do it.

2.  Let gravity be your friend on the downhill, because you know an uphill is coming.  Here enters the “roll” with it part, literally.  Hills are not fun.  You don’t let it stop you, but you do notice a difference – certain muscle groups absorb the extra work, breathing finds a different rhythm, and the mental looks for the top strain to carry you through.  This course had them, in other words, very few parts were totally flat.  Aesthetically, it was beautiful – some urban, wide streets, some wooded scenes on a trail, bridges that took you across the river, a turn-around at the Santa Maria boat.  It wasn’t dull by any means, yet as the miles ticked away, you knew fatigue would set it.

Brynn's hug3.  Voices and faces of encouragement can literally lift and carry.  Around mile 4, I saw the family of friend #1 – lift.  Around mile 5, I saw a familiar face, gave a high-5, and heard the words “lookin strong girl!” – lift.  Around mile 6, you could see the ladies in front as they turned, headed for the second half of the race, lots of “good job”s were uttered, and I hollered at my friends as they passed – lifted.  Around mile 9, I saw them, the ones I love, and my arms reached forward – lift.  And I needed it.  Energy was lagging, legs were heavy, it was a time of questioning my sanity, and yet, I only had 5 to go.

4.  Sometimes your best isn’t something that can be measured.  Though I had a hunger to continue the pace I was able to keep up until this point, the reality of my body’s limitations begged to be accepted.  I could choose to be disappointed, but I’ve learned to choose to delight.  Delighting in the truth tells me the time I receive at the finish line is a gift.  The sheer fact that I am ABLE to start and finish a 13.1 mile course is a blessing.  I’m not entitled to it, I’m gifted with the ability, today.  Today, my best included a mental challenge to finish well, and to finish with a smile.

5.  Running is just a part of life.  For a part of a day, I get to run.  Running helps me to balance all my zones – mental, physical, and spiritual – because when one ain’t happy, they’re all unhappy.  I’ve learned to get-er-done, and then embrace the rest of the day.  After the race, we came home, grabbed packed bags, and headed to our daughter’s first swim meet.  My son and I stood as timer’s on lane 5 where 3 of her 5 events occurred.  And we cheered, and we sweated, and we pressed our timing buttons.  And then we went to dinner to celebrate our son’s 13th birthday.  And then we baked a cake for his friend party the next day.  And life is lived.  And life is celebrated.

And for all these, my heart is full.  1 Thessalonians 5:16 – Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

collageboys swim team

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Running mirrors life

medalWhat a day!  After this, my 20th half marathon over 7 years of running, I’ve learned one thing – you never know what a particular day may bring.  Running mirrors life. You do the best you can with choices you’re given, and the rest is a battle for that ever illusive idea of control.

Jesus’s words also mirror lessons I’ve learned in running – to gain life, you have to lose it. To “lose it”, I view this concept as releasing my need for predictability. For example, if I chose to train a certain way, chose to eat certain foods, and rest like the “experts” tell me, I am guaranteed this particular outcome. So not true. So not life. And catch me in the right mood, I would believe that predictability would be boring.

I’ve LEARNED to say, “thank The Lord above for the adventure of life!” I’ve learned to roll with the bad, KNOWING He has my best in mind. I may not like His plan at the time, but I choose to stand on what He tells me in truth.

All that to say, this race was an adventure. Somehow I knew it would be, just didn’t know how. I prayed that He would show me, and indeed He did.

I awoke early, let out the dog, was greeting by a delightful cool blast of fresh air, grabbed my usual water, and began to stretch.  Thanks in part to my friend Erin, this has been a usual routine for me this summer.  Despite a few hour of sleep due to a wonderful family outing at an Indians game the night before, my body was awake and appeared to be in gear.  We arrived on time, waited a bit longer in the corral than expected, but at 7:12 am, off we went!

girlsAnd… yikes.  Soreness, yep!  But, you’ll have that, perhaps my body will be kind and release the tension before to long.  Mile 4, nope still there.  And… cue my sciatica.  For those of you saying, “What?”  Here’s the definition – Sciatica is a symptom of a condition, where one experiences pain, tingling, and numbness down the bag of the leg.  I call it butt pain.  It comes and goes, today it came.  “Well, hello pain!  And how long do you plan on staying?”  The answer – the entire race, yep.  One of those.  And honesty, around that mile 4 mark, I was changin up my game plan.  New plan – be happy to finish today Heather, just finish.  Why?  Because at the moment, my body is screaming to stop and I still have 9.1 miles to go!  And around mile 6, I actually started to believe that it would be possible to finish, about half way there.

The miles slowly ticked away, I appreciated the park scenery, I re-lived past races along the same course, I watched people as I passed or they passed, certain songs came through my earbuds, and even a friend jumped in and ran with me for a short time.  And I reflected again on the similarities of life and running…

1.  We all have different stories, and yet in this particular leg of life, we started our journey at the same time.

2.  In this season, some of us are able to run, and looking up, some are laying in a hospital bed just a few floors above our vantage point at the starting line.  Their journey also includes pain.  Is it possible that there is purpose in this pain we experience?  Do they know they are not alone?

3.  What motivates us to endure hardship?  What is our default mode as doubt creeps in?  What is it about the “hard” that makes it so “good?”  Today, I was able to trust my training.  I could fall back on the truth of my milage, hill workout, and speed workouts alike.  My body was prepared, strengthened and stretched in a way that recognized the strain happening and even yet to come.  It was almost on “auto-pilot” mode.  The battle for me took place in my mind.  It could land and settle in confidence on this truth.

4.  Perspective.  A song came through my ears at just the right time.  It spoke of Christ and the time in which he endured hardship.  To be honest, in light of my momentary troubles, it doesn’t even some close to the pain that Christ suffered for me.  Enough said.

5.  Take the race one mile at a time.  By breaking a long term goal into sizable chucks, I can celebrate the victory of each step, therefore relegating all negative chatter to the back seat.  A positive mindset will carry me to the finish every time.

6.  I knew I would finish, one way or another, I didn’t want to regret a moment that I couldn’t return to, a moment that I knew wasn’t my best.  And within this desire, I was rewarded a great gift.  This gift I didn’t expect and had let go off way back at mile 4.  I knew a good time was not in the works for today, and I had made peace with that, and then I heard my split time at mile 12, and I knew I had a chance.  I was gifted with a time 1 minute faster than in May, and 2 minutes faster than a year ago.  In all that pain, in all that release, I finished well.  Simply, a gift.

familyAnd I waved to my family on the last corner before crossing the finish line, and I looked up to receive my medal, and there before me was my friend, and my hero.  Another member of the sisterhood of sweat, and she greeted me with a huge smile, and a hug, and a medal.  And I don’t remember feeling the pain, I now just remember the picture, captured by a race photographer, one that will symbolize for me the greatest gift of all – relationships that mirror the love of Christ.  Though this life is short, eternity will be forever.

How will you join Him in this race today?

A runner’s dream day…

Cap city

Yet another Saturday morning, another great morning for a run.  Except this Saturday, May 4th, I would be allowed to run in another race.  I do not write the word allowed lightly because as anyone can testify, simply to be ABLE to run is a gift in and of itself.  Simple fact is bodies do wear down.  This feat defies time.  It defies logic.  In fact, I dare say this feat starts first in your mind, then your legs simply obey… mostly.

For me, this particular race had me backtracking…. in my mind anyway.  For this race, run in the streets of Columbus, was the first first time I towed the line for a long-distance event ever, seven years ago.  It’s been a privilege to run this one every year since.  And not only did the day bring about perfect weather conditions, but I was privileged to experience yet another start with a friend who’s “run alongside” me in various ways for over six years now.  You cannot actually see her giant-sized heart in that lean and healthy body of hers, but I’m telling you, not sure how it fits in there.  She has a heart of a champion, not only in her hard work efforts, but more importantly in her compassion and generosity for others. To many more years my friend!!

I could share many memory-pictures of today.  Some have meaning to me alone, some have a greater meaning to us all, some just celebrate the family-hood that comes from enduring the hard and cheering on it’s members.  I simply share so that I can remember.  I want to remember these lessons to share them with my children.  I want to remember because when things get hard again (and they will), I want to trace His faithfulness, His strength, His lavish love.

And it was for this reason that I have one crystal clear memory.  It was mile 7.  My mind celebrates the past-half-way point, but my body begs to differ.  In the excitement of race day, in the flow of being surrounded by the mass of others, I run faster than my typical pace.  And in that excitement, I start to think about numbers.  And when I start to think about numbers, that becomes my focus.  And the mind games begin.  I really don’t want to settle there, but in the flow it happens.  And so, just ahead, I see a sign.  It’s held up strong and high by it’s owner.  It has three simple words written on it.  And it rocks my thoughts.

Run For God.

That’s it.  That was this is all about.  That’s why I began, that’s why I continue.  I run – FOR God, BY God, IN God.  And my countenance shifted.  And the sun seemed a little bit warmer, and the sky appeared a little bit bluer, and the breeze was a little bit cooler, and my smile was a little bit wider.  Pain?  Yep, still present.  But therein lies a blessing in pain, it’s a reminder of the work I’m putting in.  Work that is worth it each and every time.  So much so, that I keep on working, until He tells me otherwise.

And I finish.  And I celebrate with my family who have come to support, and friends who have traveled the journey as well.  I also celebrate those who have finished this course for the very first time, with a story each their own.  And I receive a medal that serves as marker #19 in my count of half-marathon races.  And I cherish this day to honor my God who has blessed me beyond what I deserve.  And I return home to a full family day that includes shopping for and planting flowers with my girls, hearing my boys talk about their games of pick-up basketball, and jumping on our bikes for a ride to DQ, and my heart is full.

And to top it off, I receive an email from Cap City.  I hadn’t seen a time of 1:52 in quite awhile.  I was happy with thinking I hit the 1:53 range, because for a long while I couldn’t break the 1:54 mark.  And what number did I see flash across my iPhone screen?

1:52.59   Boom!  I celebrated like a 2 year old on Christmas, just God and I in that moment.  So fun.  I’m so grateful.

And through our current family situation, His words ring loud and true:

Philippians 4:11-13

11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

May we all continue to remember.  Thank you Jesus.

Another day, another race!

Here we are again!  A week after battling both the inclines and the heat of Nashville, we suited up and headed out to hit the streets again.  This time – our hometown of Columbus!

As with any race, or journey for that matter, there is always something to learn.  I found myself a bit reflective with this one.  This journey for me started just about 6 years ago.  As you can attest to, lots of things happen over the span of 6 years.  Within these crazy years of running, I decided to take some inventory.

The Lord has allowed this flesh & bone body to endure 4 full marathons, 17 half-marathons, one quarter-marathon, a hand-full of four-milers and 5ks, 2 triathlons, shoes too numerous to count, and mileage in the thousands.

I say all this not to be puffed up, but instead to boast in the One who gets all the credit.  I say this not because it “sounds great” but that I fully know my weakness.

It still hurts every time.

Yes, I know, the questions begs, “well then why do you do it?”

Simple.

I do it because He asked me to.

I do it because in my weakness, there is the reminder of His strength.

I do it because to Him, it matters.

Every time I want to quit, I remember.

I remember the days of training in which my mind was focused on the preparation for race day.  I remember that I don’t need to look too far ahead, I just need to take the next step, to reach the next “marker”.  I remember that if it was easy, the rewards would not be so great.  I remember that today, I can, especially when many others can’t.  I remember that my children are watching.  I remember that in doing my best, I win every time.  I remember that it matters.  Pain, for the moment, is temporary.

I needed to remember.  I read past thoughts.  I viewed past pictures.  I recalled lesson upon lesson.  You see, somewhere along the way, that same joy, the one I could in the faces of the first-time racers, had somehow fizzled out.  This wasn’t just another race, this was another mile marker in life.

Today, we came together as a “team” with 30 other participants and spectators wearing a shirt that said – Rock City Church.  In the heart of a downtown city, God was reaching out.  It’s not about the building where we gather, it’s not about the denomination, it’s not about worship style, it’s not about preaching.  It’s about the team.

In a silly analogy, at this moment in our lives, we all take a position somewhere in the “race”.  We might be at the starting line of our faith, we may be a spectator, we may be running at mile 2, we may be leading the pack, we may be serving at a water stop, we may be cheering others towards their finish line, we may be the announcer calling out the finishing times.  No matter where we are, the finish line of our life will come.  What happens to us at the finish line?  It all depends on what “team” we’re running with.  THAT’s what matters.  That’s why I run.

Aaron, I can’t thank you enough for having the courage and the persistence to join me in this adventure.  Sharing this part of the journey with you has lifted me up more times than you will ever comprehend.

Amanda, you are a priceless treasure to me.  Picture after picture, we have stood together at a starting line, some at a finish line, always there in celebration of the experience of a great finish.

To all the girlies, you continue to inspire me as your commitment to your health, your families, and your pursuit of life lived to the full, help me celebrate on race day in new ways every time.

To my Jesus, I love you.

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

 

Nashville! What a trip!

It’s so hard to know where to begin in a humble attempt to recap this magnificent weekend with my husband.  I found myself making an assertive effort all weekend to “document” so that I could remember. I wanted to remember ALL that my senses could take in for a few reasons.

1. My memory seems so fleeting more times than I care to note…. where was I?

2. Even more than my insatiable need to soak in all the details of my children’s thoughts by asking a myriad of questions, I desire to share with them the details of all that God shows me when they ask questions of their own.  Therefore, documentation.

3.  I want to remember years from now.  I want to recall the hard, because within the hard, there is God.  When I recall, His faithfulness unfolds in my mind just as the moment it happened.

So. Friday morning, we wake, enter our usual weekday routine, yet add one more task: load the car with extra stuff.  We gave extra hugs, extra kisses, extra instructions (only a few extra times), dropped the kiddos off at school, and headed for the freeway.

6 hours.  Seems like a long time to be in a car.  It honestly felt like 2.

I have truly enjoyed this stage of marriage.  There is such peace in simply being in the presence of one another, without the need for words.  We’d listen to country music… a lot.  We’d share about funny tweets (only me, he was driving).  We’d joke about the way he we always end up on an unplanned road at some point during our trip.  We’d recognize little blessings (due to said detour, a Chick-Fil-A could be located right off the freeway – score!).  We’d talk deeply, we’d talk lightly.  We didn’t talk at all.  Sheer bliss.  Sometimes we don’t realize just how much we need something until it is placed right in our laps.

And… before we knew it… Nashville’s unmistakable skyline came into view.  For the third year in a row, we found ourselves in the same parking garage, headed to the same convention center to pick up a similar race packet, and to meet the same dear friends.  We walked down Broadway, took in all the sights and sounds of the Honky-Tonks, had some dinner on the patio, and headed to our hotel to get to bed early.

4:30 am our alarm went off.

5:00 we headed downtown.

6:00 we parked and stood in line for a shuttle.

6:45 we arrived at the starting line

As we walked to our corral, we saw a sign.

At 6:50, a sweet, southern gentleman’s voice spoke the name of Jesus over a small group of us.  My emotions rose at the sound of His name.

Here we go.

The next name I heard echoed was my own.

35,000 people there, and right behind us, in this sea of runners were our friends.

I’m not making this up.

We listened to the National Anthem.  I snapped a few videos with my beloved iPhone.  We turned on our tunes, and off we went.

The first 2 miles of this race are great.  You head downhill for the most part, crowds are large, sights are fun, it’s the celebration of it all.  And then, you turn the corner, and it’s uphill, uphill, and uphill.  Now, having already stated that this is our third go-round on this course, one would think I would remember this, but no, I don’t.  Maybe it’s a little bit like labor.  Anywho, the hill part leaves you with one word – humbled.  It takes your breath, brings muscle fatigue, and kicks you out of any type of rhythm you were hoping to hold onto.  In a nutshell, you come face-to-face with your human limitations.

Then, the mind games kick in.  You realize how short of a distance you’ve thus traveled, and how much further you still have yet to go.  You try not to panic, for as you know in training, panic does you no good.  So, you do your best to distract yourself.  You look around at the people, the signs, you focus on the next water stop, you try to get lost in a song.  Some attempts work, others leave you muttering, “Nice try”.

Yet, somehow, onward you press.  The sun was warm, fluids were in dire need of being replaced, people around were either walking or passing you, yet somehow our bodies kept stepping.  Somewhere in the midst of all the sweat and the insanity of how you got yourself here, a peace remained.  Somehow I knew that I knew that I would finish.  Somehow I knew that one more step would eventually lead me to the place where I wanted so desperately to be, at the finish line.  And somehow is mattered.  It mattered that I not only finished, but that I ran the race well.

Not for a time, though that is how it’s measured.

Not for a medal, though they are favorite markers of remembrance.

Not for man’s approval, but for my Lord’s.  He matters, so this matters.

I have realized that my pain is temporary, but how I responded in the hard would make a difference in the”after”.

In calling out my irrefutable weakness, His strength was acknowledged.

I did finish.  His unfailing strength, with grace I do not deserve, had me finish well.  My goal was to squeak in under 2 hours.  He gave me the gift of 1:58:18.  His blessings, through obedience, never fail.

The rest of the weekend was simply more showering of blessings.  A little rest, a little food, some great company surrounded by friendships that only come from a bond through unity in Christ.  We received hospitality, fellowship, and time in abundance.

Aaron, I look forward to doing this again in 5 days!  Some may call us crazy, I consider myself pretty darn lucky.  Thanks for “hangin in” with me in life’s adventures.  May we have many more!

Feel free to hop over and read Aaron’s take.  He has such a way with words…

 

Another fabulous Columbus race…

 

What a crazy adventure yet again!  I’ll say one thing, when you decided to say yes to God, he never disappoints with boring!

We began with a 5 am wake up call, dressed for success, and headed out to pick up 2 neighbor friends before heading downtown.  We knew 17,000 people would be running today, but it didn’t quite sink in until we saw the line of red tail lights all getting off at one exit.  After a 40 minute wait, the girls decided to jump ship to head to the starting line in time.  Aaron so kindly gave up his on-time start to locate a parking spot (which he had no money for since it was in my pocket, gulp).

With a warm-up under our belt, we were ready to start, weather was great, spirits were high, and then… the people.  So many people, in fact, there was no more room in the starting corrals.  We had to wait for the race to start and the herds to move in order to make room for us to jump in.  But before we knew it, we were off!

Right away, I was given a gift.  Four years now, I have had a friend experiencing the same adventure.  As we ran alongside each other, my mind repeatedly relayed glimpses of sights, sounds (and smells) that have transpired over those same roads.  What a joy!  My legs were treating me well as we zigged and zagged around people and road obstacles.  At times I felt like we were in a video game, a familiar one at that.  The miles ticked off, one after another, and the thought that washed over me was this…

What a joy.  What a privilege.  I hope I do not ever take for granted the gift of the ability to be ABLE to run.

Pain free?  Not so much.  I had a nagging injury related to my sciatic nerve.  It reached up and grabbed me at mile seven.  What it didn’t reach was my mental stamina.  I found myself at peace.  One mile at a time.  I ran just as my training runs have been, running in the moment how my body could handle.  Amazingly enough, I was able to maintain a pretty steady pace.  Some may call this tenacity, I know the source of this capability, and it’s not my weakened body.

I found myself praying throughout the streets.  I wondered how Aaron was faring.  You see, he decided just two days prior that he would run.  Many would say he was crazy, just now coming back from an injury, but he had been taking great care of and listening to his body, and ultimately, He was trusting the Lord.  His story is one for the books.  He has such a marker for the remarkable power of the Lord’s ability to restore despite the odds.  He too ran with peace.

I prayed for my friend Amanda, you see, as I was veering off to finish, she was only half-way done.  She ran with such peace when I saw her.  Just one year ago, she experiencing a crushing blow from a car, and here she was again today, just content to be able to finish such a task.  She finished well.  She finished with her best time to date.

I also prayed for my friends Jen and Richard.  We ran for Gracehaven today due in part to their passion in getting the word out.  This was their first.  They finished well.  I prayed for my sister-in-law and her sister, running together.  I prayed for friends Heather, Keith, Dave, Chris, Angela, Stan, and Trevor.  A few of the many who had trained for this special day.

The race ended with a time that exceeded my expectations, but more than that, I realized what God was intending to show me today as both Aaron lifted me high in a hug, then my father who wrapped his arms so tightly around mine…

God sustains.

Psalm 54:4
Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.

Running for Gracehaven

Gracehaven is a faith-based non-profit organization started in 2008 for the expressed purpose of providing shelter, security, and rehabilitation to girls under the age of 18 who are victims of commercial sexual exploitation in central Ohio. Gracehaven is a long-term rehabilitation facility allowing girls to stay as needed until they reach the age of 18. We will then help them transition to the next step in their life.

While at Gracehaven, the girls will be able to earn their GED, as well as receive counseling and treatment for the horrible trauma and exploitation they have been forced to endure.

With God’s grace, I will be running a half-marathon here in Columbus on Oct. 16th.  After 5 years of running with my Lord, he has asked me to run with a slightly different purpose.  A purpose that allows others the opportunity to give to others, strangers in fact, without expecting a thing in return.  This opportunity fulfills a human desire given to us by our Creator – the fulfillment of giving from the heart, to extend a hand, to make a difference in another’s life.

Would you do me a favor?  Would you pray about this opportunity?  There are many amazing passions and callings that come into our lives over the years.  Sometimes it’s an opportunity to pray, sometimes an opportunity to give of our time, sometimes an opportunity to give of the resources the Lord has given to us.

After praying, take a moment to click over the donation page.  They really do make life easy.  Amazing people, with an amazing vision, and a doubly amazing passion to do what Jesus would do – extend a hand, a heart, a hug, and some pogniant words to young girls who have some deep scars.  These girls are not even oversees, they’re right in our backyards.

Thank you for taking the time to pray and to consider giving.  Every penny counts, every dollar will be put to use.  I appreciate you.  Have a heartfelt day.

A weekend to remember

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Ever have those days that just seem to fly by in a blur, and in a moment of “sitting down” you realize all that transpired and then your body truly SHOWS you all that transpired? It hit, hard, but it was such a good feeling. In the spirit of simply sharing the good news, just wanted to journal a short recap of the events in the Conrad household.

Thursday, my dear friend Rachel sent me a text – Scored some free tickets for Women of Faith, can you go? CAN I? Let me check with the hubbie…. – I’m IN!!!! To wrap up the experience in one word I would call it a gift. Plain and simple, I did not earn it nor deserve it, yet we simply drove, parked, picked up free tickets, and walked down to the floor section, fourth from the stage. Yep, I literally felt like Mandisa was giving us a personal concert. We were even close even to see her sport her blue snuggie in between times (rock on!) Incidentally, there are only a few CDs that I actually listen to all the way through, hers is one of them, AND I so happened to be listening just that afternoon as I walked the puppy! It also just so happened the Lord placed a book in my mailbox, WHICH just so happens to be the book that author Lisa Whelchel spoke about THAT NIGHT! (review soon to come!) As if that was not enough blessing, Rachel was tweeting with a very special lady, who we just so happened to walk a few feet to meet right after the session. None other than the wife of Michael Hyatt, president and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishing – beautiful Gail herself! Yes, I was giddy to take a picture with her!

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