Picture© Uschi Hering | Dreamstime Stock Photos
If I could tell you every moment that led to this point I would. But you don't have that kind of time and I don't have kind of memory. There have been moments that were so huge in huge ways they are seared in my memory forever. And then there have been moments that have been huge in teeny-tiny, seemingly minuscule, sort of ways. Like today.

Today at a group I am part of the speaker asked us to write 3 things on a post-it-note that we're burdening us. 

I started with the obvious. I am feeling burdened for my sister, her kids and their move. I am excited beyond words to have them coming to live near us and yet I know my sister has so much on her mind and heart…that burdens me. 

Second…finances. I mean how many of us can't write that one?

Then came the kicker. See, this office space for Zone Conditioning, even if temporarily, has fallen in our laps. I mean really, out of the blue clear sky, as only God could have managed. And it's a gift…a beautiful gift. But as I wrote my burdens on that little yellow post-it note I found my pen writing, "My fear of success." WHAT!? Did I really just write that? Did I really come this far to fear the thing I've wanted. I've read about this fear, but I had never experienced it. Or had I?

In a moment, a rush of clarity and emotion told me that I had been fearing it all along. I fear being successful at many things because I fear losing it. Whatever that it is at the time. I fear joy because I fear losing that joy. I fear happiness…real happiness, because eventually it has to go away. Right?

Then the speaker asked me to take the trash can, crumble up my burdens and toss them into the can, which I did. I then had the great honor of taking the can around the room and receiving the burdens of every women in the room into the can I was holding. It was beautiful. It was overwhelming. It was a Kairos moment!

I sat the can back in the center of the room and returned to my seat and fought back tears. 

Here's the thing. 

No, happiness does not last forever. Yes, there are going to be circumstances, people, and things that come to steal my joy. And yes, success can be lost. But today. Today, I have them all; happiness, joy, success, and today I have them all to the fullest! Just today! I don't need to worry about tomorrows joy, that just steals today's joy. The thief of today's joy is tomorrows worries. 

So I am practicing awareness. I'm practicing presence. I'm practicing to be where I am. Just there…here. No where else. (All of that repetitive crap was for me, not you…have to keep telling myself.) And it's not something you do with your head only. You have to bring your body. And you have to have awareness in your spirit. That is living fully in today. 

Lately I've been pondering the words, The Kingdom of Heaven

I've been using this awareness, this presence of mind, body and soul to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. To me. 

Every time I am able to bring awareness and presence to a moment and fully find myself there, I think, I have brought the kingdom of heaven to my day…to my life…today. Living fully. 

Here is where I sit today:

"As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give."

Friends, the kingdom of heaven is near. It lives and breathes in each of us every moment of every day. The only requirement to find it, to access it, is awareness that it is there and acceptance that it is real with each breath, because there is no fear of success in the kingdom of heaven…there is no fear of tomorrow in the kingdom of heaven...in fact, there is no fear at all.

Find joy today. The kingdom of heaven is waiting for you.

Jen

I have to admit that this is one of those posts that I write and then sit and think, "Why the hell are you clicking publish on this one." The voices in our head...a post for another day.


 
 
Picture
"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" 

For most of us we know these words of Jesus well. His last moments on the cross just before he gives up his spirit. He has been ridiculed, beaten, stripped of his clothing and his dignity, and hung brutally on a cross between two criminals. He has already prayed that God would take this moment from him. He prayed it with such anguish that he sweat drops of blood, yet, on a cross he finds himself. 

He knew the plan. He and the Father walked through this course of action many times I would imagine. Looking back at his life he has fulfilled the duties of the Messiah with grace and authority. He preached, healed, taught, loved and lived, and all the while he kept in relationship with the Father. Yet, here he is on the cross crying, "God, Where have you gone?" It is quite possibly that this very moment is when we get the greatest glance of Jesus fully human. 

This scripture brings to mind not only Jesus but the original author of that phrase, David. David so greatly followed God that he is known to us as a 'man after God's own heart', yet in Psalm 22 we find him crying out to a God who did not seem to be answering, hearing or acting. He groans day and night and yet God does not answer. He tells God that he knows He can act if He wanted to because he knows He did it for his forefathers. David seems to pour out his heart with such brutal honesty that it would make some of us shudder. He really at times seems to call God out, while in the next breath confirm his loyalty and continued worship to the God he knows is hearing him. 

I have been learning to watch David and I'm trying to learn to pray like he does. If it earned him the title of 'man after God's own heart' I think he's worth emulating (at least his prayer life). Gut wrenching honesty and unrelenting praise are woven throughout the Psalms of David. 

Have we not all experienced times and prayers like these? If you have not had this experience you are truly blessed, or that is what I want to say. But what I am really thinking is, I wonder then if you have ever really been honest with God? Has anything ever pushed you to this point? Have you cried out to God with all you have and he has not responded? Yea, yea, I hear all of you telling me he works all things out for good, but tell that to the mom who just lost a child, tell that to the millions dying of diseases like cancer and AIDS each day, the list could go on of senseless suffering. 

I am going to admit that this is something that I have wrestled with in my faith walk. I have looked for answers to why God allows certain things and doesn't others. And I have found no answer to the why. I have only found at the end of all of my wondering, asking, doubting, he is still there. This is my statement on that subject, and I am taking my notes from David at how I deliver it...Honestly. 

Many times I have prayed to God and many times he has answered. Many times I have prayed to God and many times he has failed to answer. Many times I have called to him and it seems it takes him a while to show up. But never, never, has he left me to walk all the way through a trial alone. He has never failed to show up.

That is it. God eventually brought David into a spacious place. He saved him from his enemies and set him above them. And when his time here was done we can only assume he ushered him into the presence of the One who would take Davids place of groaning, Jesus. Then Jesus, just moments after he uttered these words of abandonment on the cross was rescued back into the arms of a loving Father who had been dying to bring him back home. 

I can only assume the same for me. That God loves me and I cannot understand his ways. I do not have the answers I want.  What I have are more questions. Where does this leave my prayer life? Will God come to my rescue or will he turn from me like he did the others he loved so dearly? Looking at the state of the world, does God really act at all anymore or is he leaving us to deal with the consequences of our sin for this short period of time we call life? There are more questions but in the end the only answer is this; The words are not what its all about. It's not about which prayers get answered when and why. I don't have to worry about if I said it right, just if I said it true. Its about the honest communication between a Father and a daughter. The greatest gift ever given came by way of unanswered prayer. So I pray with words when I feel moved, or I'm asked, but I know that its not the words I say that matter it's the time spent in the presence of the One who holds my future. Thy will be done. 

Thanks for reading, 
Jen

 
 
Picture
Many of us have a story in the Bible we can relate to. I've heard beautiful testimonies from others about their favorite Bible story and character and how it relates to their lives and I always wished that I had one of those because for me that person is a man called Legion. 

I'm sure I've heard many a sermon on the prodigal son, and the woman at the well, and a host of other well known stories but the story of Legion is usually told in passing. It's the pepper in the sermon. Just a little, not too much or you'll ruin the whole batch. 

But it's my story...

See I knew from a very young age that I was different. I had something in me that made me very headstrong, passionate and often angry. That is not a good combo for a girl who needs to fit a mold. I started noticing it in third grade. I didn't know it then but I would find out years later that I pass all the clinical tests for ADD. I was in my twenties when I was diagnosed, and one should have known because the wake of disaster and rage behind me was wide and drowning. 

I struggled so badly in school. I tried, I really did, at first. But when you try and try and fail and fail with no hope for end in sight you think the best thing to do is give in and quit trying. At least if I didn't study and got an 'F' I didn't feel stupid. I could lie to myself and pretend that had I tried hard enough I would have done better. I knew it wasn't true. The bad part about getting good at lying to yourself is that you get better at it as you go. 

I spent nearly 40 hours a week in a place that make me feel "less than"...school. I was surrounded by kids who seemed like they had it all together. They at least had their homework done. They got awards and AP classes and best of all they got freedom. My grades often landed me in the slammer - my bedroom. I knew I wasn't cutting it. But I had no idea what to do. 

And God was not coming to my rescue. I would beg him to help me understand. No answer. Since that didn't work I would then ask at least let my car get hit my a semi on the way to school. Then I would arrive at school unharmed and pissed off at God. 

To the world around me I looked like everyone else but on the inside I was as crammed into that mold as I was my vintage 1985 Jordache Jeans. 

But see when you cram and cram and cram yourself into a mold, and it still doesn't fit you land in frustration. The only people who may have known my frustration as much as me may have been those who shared a home with me and had to put up with me. They saw the rage and the anger. My mom used to tell me I acted like a caged animal. I was!

Maybe this is why can relate to the man they call Legion:
"They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an evil spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you evil spirit!”

Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.”"

Legion, I have learned, means crowd

Eugene Peterson in the Message says it like this,

"Jesus asked him, “Tell me your name.” He replied, “My name is Mob. I’m a rioting mob.”"

A rioting mob living in one man. I know exactly what that feels like. That is what ADD does to a person. 

Then Jesus proceeds to send the mob out of Legion and into a bunch of pigs sending them to their death. Which is why I'm sure it doesn't make the top 10 best Sunday morning sermons. But when this is all over we find Legion, no longer a crowd, no longer a rioting mob but sitting, calm, in his right mind. A right mind. Calm. That is what I've been after since third grade. I've never known calm. I have fingernails to prove it...or lack of.

Over the past few years I have found my calm. It may not be calm for everyone else but it's calm for me. I'm able to rest. Something I was never able to do. I never slept. I wanted an escape from my own head so bad I felt like I was going crazy. 

One day I heard a pastor talk about Legion. As usual it was in passing during a sermon on another topic and he said these words of Jesus, but slightly different. He said when Jesus asked the man, "What is your name?" Legion replied, "They call me Legion, for we are many." 

I've looked and I cant find a translation that says "They call me...." I only find them that say my name is Legion. But whether it's scripture or a slip of the tongue I believe it was meant for me to hear. I don't think Legions given name was Legion. Now this is not fact, just something I have pondered probably more than most. But what mother would give her son a name like Legion? Crowd. Mob. And it makes me wonder what his name really was. And more importantly...When did he forget his name? When did he give in to the names he was called or that he called himself and just take it on as his own identity?

See there was a man before Legion became Legion. But somewhere along the way Legion was cast into the tombs. Who lives in tombs? Dead people. The man who was before Legion was dead. The mob, the crowd lived among the tombs of the dead. 

I want Jesus to change Legion's name in this story. But instead I think Jesus wanted Legion to find his own name again for himself. I wonder if what came from Jesus that healed Legion was compassion because Legion had forgotten his own name? I just wonder. Legion asked Jesus to save him, and a loving God turned the question back on him and said, "Who are you?" Not so that Jesus would remember, but so that Legion would.

How many of us have forgotten who we are? We have taken the names that others have given us and made them part of us. I know girls (and guys) who have been told they are unloved, unlovable, dirty, useless, ugly, stupid and the list goes on. We have children in schools bullied because they are gay, or are a different ethnicity, or overweight, or too skinny or maybe have a learning disability... And what I hate most is that school will end eventually, but the names they are given during that time will stick. They will. And where will they turn? I hope that they turn to a loving God who will look them deep in the eye and say, "What is your name?" A God who will remind them of the names He has for them; loved, beautiful, smart, just the way He made them, no matter what the world, their "friends", parents, and even the Church tells them. I hope that they find a place, and a people, with the same open arms as that God.

What happens when we look directly into the eye of Jesus and he asks us our name? What would you say to a man you cannot lie to? A man full of Truth and Grace? Would you know who you are so well as to look at him and state "I am ______________." Or would your first reaction be to answer with the names we've learned along the way? Would we allow Jesus to answer that for us or would we allow the crowd in our heads to speak on our behalf? 

Much Love, 
Jen

Jen Mulford is the Founder of Compassion Fitness and Co-owner of Zone Conditioning with her husband Rob. Jen is a Board Certified Health Coach and Certified Fitness Trainer. Her personal mission is to help her clients build strong bodies, healthy minds and soaring spirits. Through Compassion Fitness Jen encourages whole body wellness including fitness and nutrition training, education and spiritual growth to individuals, non-profits, groups and communities. They seek to offer services to anyone, regardless of their physical, spiritual or financial health through community involvement and volunteers. 

 
 
Have you ever developed your own mission statement? A few years ago I started noticing that many books and leaders that I read and follow were urging you have a personal mission statement. I figure if it's guided them to such great success I may as well give it a try, so I composed my first mission statement.
Over the last few years my mission statement has been buffed and polished and I'm happy with where it's landed:

Jen Mulford's Personal Mission Statement:
To encourage others to have strong bodies, healthy minds and soaring spirits. 

That's it! 

I just want to be an encouragement to those around me. I live to encourage. That's the consistent thing in my life. 

But what's the point of having a mission statement if it feels like you never really find that purpose or place to use it? What good is a mission statement without a mission? And that is where I've felt for a long time. I still feel like that one thing I was meant to do is still lingering out there in the future somewhere. But it so often feels like as I move toward it, it moves away from me, even farther in the future. Anyone relate? It's like there is an invisible wall between me and my purpose. 

And this is the kind of person I am - I'm an inward changer. I don't look for the world to change to make me happy, I know if a change is needed it's in me. So I wonder to myself how I am sabotaging my way out of my purpose? How am I screwing this up? What am I not doing? These are the questions my inner voice asks. (That inner voice always pointing her finger at me). 

Then last night I had a mini breakthrough. And the encourager in me wonders if this would be helpful for you so here I sit typing my breakthrough to you…this is an important one. 

I am reading a book from one of my favorite bloggers, Jon Acuff. Jon has written several best selling books now, but if you know Jon it may still be from his blog 'Stuff Christians Like'. If you're an uptight Christian (or surrounded by them - because I'm sure you're not one) you'll get a good dose of comedic relief at Jon's blog. Not just because the stuff he say's is funny but because it's true. Maybe not True. Maybe we don't need to go capitalizing it because then that would indicate a measure of God in his truth and then I would be hounded by theologians far and wide because then maybe I'd be saying that Jon's blog truth is equal to Biblical Truth, because we all know a Capital Letter Changes Everything... (See what I did there, if you thought that was amusing you'd probably like Jon's blog…it's a bunch of stuff like that but better…much better). 

Anyway, I'm reading Jon's new book Start. I've already read his book Quitter and loved it. I guess Jon realized he left us all hanging…we had quit and when you quit you need something to start. So glad he came to the rescue. All joking aside, I'm about 35% into the book and it's already been worth it even if I didn't read another word, but I will. 

So Jon has helped me make this tiny shift in thinking. It's kind of like my post from a few days ago where I suggested shifting from seeking balance to using balance as a tool to get to your destination. 

Here it is…

Stop looking for purpose and live with purpose.

BAM!

In fact he say's forget it…

"Forget finding purpose. It's a never-ending story that will leave you empty. Live with purpose instead." 

As a self-professed encourager one would think I already had this one down. And on some level I do…but I had forgot. And that is what we do when we set our eyes on the 'purpose wall'. Not to mention, it's been a few years but you think I would have solidified this one back when I read Purpose Driven Life…don't remember the details but seems like this was, or should have been, covered in that book. 

He goes on…

"How will you know when you're living with purpose instead of trying to find purpose? When you stop worrying about the great wall of purpose."

BAM BAM!

Ok, this is huge. I don't know about you but this is setting me free in so many ways. I have to wrap my brain around this….I have to learn this one once and for all. Because when I believe this and let it sink in it helps me to silence that inner voice that tells me all of my past trials at my one things have been failures. No ma'am! They were missions!

I beat myself up so much because I've tried so many things…like 10 in the last 5 years at least. And each left me feeling like I had failed. With each one I felt I had found my purpose. Then gone. 

So I thought about my mission statement again…

To encourage others to have strong bodies, healthy minds and soaring spirits.

And I held each of those "failures" up to my mission statement and suddenly I could see it. I have been living with purpose. I have been succeeding. Every singe one of those trial one things stood up to my mission statement. It's never up to me how long any one thing lives. It's never up to me to change hearts of other people, just mine. It's never up to me to decide when and where I will take that purpose next. Instead of looking now for that one thing, I can seek the next thing with confidence and excitement. 

I think maybe that's by design. That's the way I was made. Maybe some of us are made to fulfill one great purpose. I read about those people all the time. I'm currently reading about Nelson Mandela, his book 'Conversations with Myself' (I had to read a book titled Conversations with Myself, I was just so thrilled that someone else like Mandela has conversations with himself…I saw the title and thought ME TOO…I MUST READ THIS!) Maybe some of us (probably most of us) are not made to save an entire nation but instead we are made to encourage one mom, one child, one stranger…and maybe that mission lasts a day, a week or several years. Is that up to us to decide how long God wants us in the life of someone? I'm guessing God made me this way because people can only take so much Jen. Who knows? But I'm not going to question anymore and when that inner voice wants to point her ugly finger at me, I am going to hold up my mission statement and say…TODAY I helped someone have a stronger body, or a healthier mind, or I was the one person today that reminded a desperate mom that her spirit was made to soar.

Do you have a mission statement? How does it change things for you to think of living each day with purpose, carrying out your life's mission right where you are, instead of finding that one thing that will fulfill your purpose? Maybe life is made up of a million life-giving purpose missions? And how great is that compared to one story of the one time I...

I feel like I've taken my mission statement and nailed it to the Great Wall of Purpose and at the first strike of the nail the wall cracked in two and I walked through. If you read this and you even take one mini-step through your wall my mission is accomplished for yet one more day. Success!

Live life on a mission!
Jen


 
 
Picture
I have to admit this is usually a really celebratory time of year for me. Since I was not the worlds best student (oooh such an understatement), I tend to look forward to the end of the school year quite possibly more than my children. School just gives me anxiety. I don't care if it's my school or my kids. If I had fully known before I had kids how much school would be involved I may have made other life choices…I hated school that much (I'm glad I didn't know!). 

And this year some of my favorite bloggers have been making me feel right at home. I read a really great post yesterday from Jen Hatmaker about her end-of-the-year crazy and it was spot on. I soooo got where she was coming from. And she has 5 kids! Can't imagine!

I've caught a few great one-liners on Facebook from Glennon Melton about her kids being home for summer. They asked her how long they could watch TV. Her reply, "Until Labor Day". 

Can totally relate!

So please don't hear me knocking these moms as I go on. I am right there with them, happy that school is over and already dreading the "Mommy I'm boooooored!" that is sure to come all too soon. Hopefully we get through the weekend. 

I also have read these ladies, and many like them, long enough to know that they are also feeling what I'm feeling. 

It's been going on for a few months. 

It started with Sandy Hook, reared it head in Boston and is now in full force following the tornado in Oklahoma.

Every night I tuck my kids in bed and while I get to sit next to them and listen to their sweet voices say their prayers I can't help but think about the mom who is not getting to do that. School has ended and summer is here and nothing is changing for her. She is still just trying to breathe. Every time my 11 year old who thinks she is 18 ticks me off I think about the mom who would give anything, and I mean anything, to have her child sassing her again. As I sit at the second grade assembly and watch those little eyes scan the room for mom and dad I think about the children who will look but not find. 

And I know the women I mentioned above, not personally of course, but I've read their hearts in words so many times I know that they are doing the same. I know it. 

So what do we do? That is always my question. I'm a see-a-problem-and-fix-it type of person. What do I DO?

And I have no answers. 

Maybe this thing I'm feeling, this gut wrenching grief I'm sharing with moms I don't even know is compassion? 

I've always wondered if this isn't how we survive those things that we think will kill us. God takes our hurt and spreads it around to those who are willing to hurt with us. Actually that is compassion…a suffering with. That's what it feels like. Sometimes I want to know what it looks like though. That's the doing that I want to do. But this time there is nothing to do. Nothing but suffering with. Because that is all I can do. I have bought the bracelet, made the donation, blah, blah, blah…that doesn't fix this hurt. Not for me and not for them. 

I don't know what the answer is. If you do please tell me. 

But until then. I will not…will NOT…give into my usual mom complaining this summer. Oh, my kids will. They will be ready to kill each other within 48 hours. I'll break it up. Probably "raise my voice." Then I'll go in the other room and thank God for them. Even for the fighting. Because if it was gone tomorrow I would miss it. And I'll think about the mom who would love to be in my shoes and I'll pray for her too. And all of this will probably get to me after a bit so I'll appreciate it if you'll pray for me. 

So I guess that's it. I asked, What do I do? That's it. Every time this summer I want to complain I will turn it into thanksgiving. And I'll offer a piece of my heart to a mom who would do anything to be in my shoes. 

Will you join me?

Love, 
Jen

PS - Ok, so I wrote this post a couple days before I posted it. And to update you I've only failed at this about 10 times in 2 days. It's not easy. I feel like such a spoiled wuss! Then I found the picture above and remember that I had bought this Boston bracelet at the Country Music Marathon Expo just a couple weeks after the bombing. It was already retired in my closet I'm ashamed to say. So it's coming out of retirement. It's going to stay on my wrist ALL summer to help me with my Moms-summer-ban-on-complaining project. I'm like that, I need reminders, my heart is too prone to wander back to my bubble. I hate being in my bubble so I'll wear my bracelet as a reminder. 

I'd love to have you join me. How will you remember?


 
 
Picture
This morning I was walking with one of the girls I train at The Next Door. We have a race coming up tomorrow so we were getting in an extra mile. We had just finished a group walk, and I do love those, but I have to admit that I especially love getting some one-on-one time with them. This is when they usually open up and tell me their stories…I just do a lot of listening, nodding and smiling. I won't share those stories here. They are theirs to tell not mine. But she made me think about something... 

We were discussing how hard it is to fit exercise into your life. She told me that while she was in prison the women that were there told her that if she did cell laps (literally 7 steps across and 7 steps back in her cell) and with each lap she took a card from a deck of cards (to help count of course) when she went through 10 decks she would hit 1 mile. So that is what she did. Can you imagine?

If you read my blog regularly (this is where I would say bless your heart but I'm not going to because I hate that saying) you know that I have a another friend that was in the same facility and trained to run a full marathon primarily running circles around a parking lot where each lap was just over .25 mile. If you haven't read Suzanne's story you're missing out…go read it and come back. Suzanne is a rock star!

Then I think of all of the excuses I hear. From the women there and from the rest of us…myself included. And I've decided that there is just one thing that separates those who make it work from those who don't. 

As we walked on this morning she was telling me about her cell laps and I told her how amazing I thought that was. Most people just give up. She said, "I figured, I'm in jail. I'm not dead!So she lapped. And lapped. And…Lapped. One card at a time…one deck at a time.

I told her when she finished (remember this is the girl doing extra laps with me), I said "Do you ever watch those shows like The Voice or American Idol? You know how there will be this person come along and you just don't know what it is about them, but you sure know they've got it…whatever it is?" She said, yes. So I went on, "Well I think that attitude is the "it" factor in life. And you've got it." 

And I wasn't just blowing smoke. I mean it. She has it. She just has to believe she has it and trust it to guide her where she needs to go. 

A good attitude know's no barriers. It can work it's way into a bad marriage, a trying job, even a prison cell. And when it does, it makes all the difference. 

But this is the kicker…attitude is a choice. I know it is. Because I've seen it in the darkest of darks and you know it's there because it's the only light. Maybe it's fading, maybe it's flickering in a great wind, but when it's present it casts light and that light can be seen and shared. I've known people with no apparent reason to have a good attitude, I've looked at them and thought if I were you I be wallowing in a pool of my own tears and pity. Yet they are beaming with goodness. Not the fake kind either. The kind you feel radiating from them…it's real. Attitude is a choice. 

So, I ask you, what will you choose today? Because I promise you this, your attitude will guide your life. Will you give in every time an obstacle appears or will you, in the face of great opposition, whip out a deck of cards and do laps in your cell. 

Do you have "it"? It's your choice. 

Jen

Jen Mulford is the Founder of Compassion Fitness and Co-owner of Zone Conditioning with her husband Rob. Jen is a Board Certified Health Coach and Certified Fitness Trainer. Compassion Fitness encourages whole body wellness including fitness and nutrition training, education and spiritual growth to individuals, non-profits, groups and communities. They seek to offer services to anyone, regardless of their physical, spiritual or financial health through community involvement and volunteers. Jen is living her passion by supporting women who are recovering from addiction and incarceration to live healthy lifestyles. 

 
 
Picture
Last week I found this ad in my mailbox. 

Let me just preface this post by saying that I received it from my local Belk store because that is where I buy my Estee Lauder moisturizer. So call me hypocrite, or call me a sellout, or call me whatever you want, because I'm not really saying I'm ready to give up my moisturizer, I love it. I'm just ready to give up these types of messages landing in my mailbox. 

And maybe the solution isn't an all out boycott. Many hardworking women put food on the table working for Estee Lauder so I would never want to do anything that hindered that (as if I could). I just wonder if maybe this 70 something year old company could recognize that we are not uneducated in the ways of marketing. I think it's time for a new tactic Estee. 

So if you're not already tired of my rant and still hanging in let me tell you what bugs me so much about this ad. It's fairly subtle to begin with. It almost slips by us and works it's way into our ever-so-fragile subconscious only to bubble up later in unsolicited insecurity. It's the word can

"Every woman can be beautiful." 

How about every woman is beautiful! How about we start there? I know, if we're already beautiful then why in the world would we need your product? Well beautiful women still need moisturizer! 

I just wonder how many times a day a message like this one slips by us unnoticed, only to add up to a lifetime of subtle messages that tell us we are not enough. 

Oh, but wait, it gets better....

The copy goes on to read: "Every woman can be beautiful, with just a little help to look the part.

A little help to look the part? So what are you saying. Actually, every woman can't be beautiful, some of us just look the part? Or how about those of us who are just tired of "looking the part"? What about those of us who are trying to "keep it real" among all of this crap. What about those of us who judge beauty by who we are not how we look? How about those of us trying to keep it simple among all of this but still want a nice moisturizer!? What about us?!

I guess what gets me is this...

I know so many women that just never feel like they are enough. 

We don't cook well enough. Even when we do, our kids hate our food - unless it's mac and cheese. 
We're not skinny enough. 
We're not curvy enough. 
We don't volunteer enough.
We don't work enough.
We're not home enough.
We're not with our kids enough and when we are we feel bad that they make us so crazy.
And God knows that this world thinks we are not pretty enough. 

So, we need no help feeling not enough

But, I want to feel enough. At the end of the day I always want to feel like I did enough. 

So, I've redefined my enough

This is the question I have to answer at the end of every day:
Did I love enough? 

The rest doesn't matter. Dinner, work, stuff. 

And when I answer that question with a NO, as I often do, I must have enough compassion to offer myself grace. 

Simplicity will never be celebrated out there in the world. It will not ever be celebrated while we are trying to look the part. It is only celebrated by being ourselves, even with dry skin. It's celebrated in our hearts and in our spirits. It's celebrated in a deep breath at the end of the day that says...today...I was enough. 

So in case no one has told you lately...You are enough

You can't be beautiful...You ARE beautiful.

Enjoy your day!
Jen

 
 
Picture
Spending what feels like a lifetime hanging out in gyms I've learned this one hard and fast rule; 
Resistance is a requirement to build strength. 

This week my husband and I have learned that lesson yet again but this time outside the gym. 

This past Friday (just yesterday) he heard the words no man wants to hear from the company he has poured the last few years of his life into, We're eliminating your position. It would be easier to take had he done a subpar job. But quite the opposite is true. He grew his division within the company every year for three years. And we have the bonus checks to prove it. So I am not looking for sympathy. And you'll see why...

And this is not the only thing that has gone wrong for me in the last few weeks. But I also didn't come here to complain.

Life has been interesting the last few weeks. But somewhere in the middle of it all I have felt God whisper to me. First, he lead me to books, podcasts, online retreats and friends that lift me up. He put in front of me the idea of picking a word for the year. Mine is not one word but two; Stand up

I was supposed to be at a silent retreat at Mercy Convent this weekend. An entire day to be silent and listen. I felt bad that I missed it. How can a person miss an opportunity to pray at a time like this? As I ran on the treadmill today I felt God assure me, I heard you the first one hundred times you prayed, in fact I heard you the first time. This is not what it looks like! This is not a time for prayer, it's a time to act. Stand up! This is Me answering you.

A few days ago I read the book The Travelers Gift by Andy Andrews, if that isn't God preparing me I don't know what is. Andy leads you through times in the lives of people we know today to be famous in history, like Christopher Columbus whom everyone thought was a loon, Abraham Lincoln who's conviction that all men are to be free led him through a war, and Anne Frank who we all know choose to be happy among some of the worst circumstances humanity has endured. 

So today I woke and I knew I had a choice. I had a choice to allow myself to feel like a pinball in the game of life or to know that I have a say in my fate. I knew it was not time to sit down and cry, it was not time to pray, I've been doing that for years. I was time to stand up.

As I lay in bed this morning not wanting to get up and wake Rob I was running all of this through my mind. And this sentence slapped me in the face...my smiling face. 

"This is the beginning of a great story." 

I thought of all of the adversity that those lives I had read about had not only endured but prevailed through. I thought about Abraham Lincoln giving the Gettysburg address just after losing a son and about to lose a second. I thought about Anne Frank hiding from Nazi soldiers, and I thought about my dreams. I thought about the ones I've already had and tried and failed at. I thought about the ones I've had that went well but were not made to last a lifetime. I thought about how that may look to others...and then I thought...I don't care. I may chase dreams but at least I'm chasing. At least I'm acting. At least I care enough about something to do something about it. Consistently.

So after Rob woke up I shared my new mantra with him. This is the beginning of a great story. 

I read him the stories of men who have been fired from massive corporations...publicly...doing the right things. Did I mention publicly?

When you've been fired you're among great people. 

I was watching a football game a few weeks ago and saw a story about a Head Coach that had been fired and a few days after his firing he received a shirt from John Gruden. It was a shirt for Gruden's "Fired Football Coaches of America" group — "a hangout where his coaching brethren could come to watch film and talk football." He was now among friends. I bet Gruden had to print a bunch of shirts over the last few weeks!

So today we dust off our knees and stand up.

Today we worked on our next dream. To own our own business. In fact we have been working on it for a while. Yesterday we just got pushed out of the nest. Maybe this one will last a lifetime, maybe not. But at the end we'll know we tried. We gave it all we had.

This is the beginning of a great story. And I am ok if you think I'm crazy. Everyone thought Christopher Columbus was too! This week I see the resistance and I accept it. Because I know that resistance is the only way to build strength. 

Jen

I want to tell you that I actually wrote that post several weeks ago but it never got posted. The Thursday after my husband lost his job my 50 year old Brother-in-law had a massive heart attack and went to be with Jesus. Andy Andrews would call that perspective. He left behind two very young children and my baby sister, now a single mom. I know she is up for the job whether she chose it or not. God is there.


More resistance. More strength.


I just want to tell you that I thought God had prepped me for job loss. I had no idea he had prepped me for such heartbreak. But he did. 


He did.


So I gave myself permission to take a few weeks off from the blog. To have time to love my family more. To breathe more. To live this life. 


I only tell you this because I spend a lot of time on this blog telling you what I think is good for us. What we should do and know and think. I just wanted you to know...it was my turn. I have turns too. And I have to take my own advice too. 


Be still. Breathe. It's ok. 


Resistance = Strength


So I'm back and stronger for taking some time. Can't wait to show you what I have planned for 2013!


 
 
Picture
Well my media break proved to be quite refreshing. I did end up popping on Facebook a couple of times for important matters, but all in all did a good job of avoiding it. And I have to admit that when I signed back on yesterday I felt my anxiety meter go up a bit. So my lesson learned is that Facebook (and the blog, and twitter, etc...) have their good points. I was able to get clothes for a girl in need last week because of Facebook. I'm able to keep in touch with my Runners in Recovery because of the internet. But to pop on there to just waste time is well...just a waste of time. We all have better things to do.


But I have to tell you about a book I'm reading right now. You must read it! Yes you! I don't care who you are you can benefit from this book. This book hits to the core of so much of why (all of us) do what we do. It's scary actually. But necessary. 

The book is called Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. I have highlighted so much in this book I should have just highlighted the stuff I didn't want to highlight. 

See I've been pondering the idea of self-compassion for a few months now. It's what I had in mind when I wrote this little apology/prayer/confession to Jesus. Jesus told us to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. But I'm realizing that it's not just something Jesus told us to do, it's something He knows we already do. We don't have to work at loving our neighbor as ourselves. What requires work is treating our neighbor with greater compassion than we give to ourselves. If we are (and most of us are) harsh a judgmental to ourselves then that is how we will be to our neighbor (read spouse, children, extended family, friends, stranger in the store, etc...). What I'm finding is that the harsh judgmental exterior is usually a coverup for a harsh and judgmental interior. 

For example:

I hate skinny girls because I feel fat. 

Or pretty girls because I feel ugly.

I hate rich people because I am swimming in debt or didn't have rich parents. I don't really think money is bad or makes you bad I just don't have any and that makes me dislike you who do. 

Or as Dr. Harry Emerson Fosdick puts it,

"Watch what people are cynical about, and one can often discover what they lack, and subconsciously, beneath their touchy condescension, deeply wish they had."
(Had to toss that quote at my friend who poo-pooed my iPhone forever before she finally bought one...and SHE LOVES IT!) Hehe...it's my blog and I can gloat if I want to!  :)

Which makes me think of some other words from scripture that go something like: For with the same judgment you judge others, you will be judged. (Simple Girl Version)

I think there are theological ideas here that have to do with judgement...probably...you think. But once again I think God knows what Dr. Harry said to be true (of course I'm sure God knew it first). With the same rule we judge others, we are usually the only one who knows that we are using that same rule (if not more harsh) to judge ourselves. 

Because usually before and after each of those examples above our inner voice is busy telling us what we're not good enough at or dont have enough of. It seems the only way to release from the inner critic is to lash out at our neighbor. To compare. 

But according to Brene Brown, it's not the only way out. The other option is vulerability. To lean into it. To allow who we are and what we have to be enough. And to not lie to ourselves. 

Here is the real kicker - and the topic that has been bouncing around in my mind for months now:
Self-compassion.


Brene's book has made me really take a closer look at this self-compassion issue. Brene is a shame researcher. Sounds fun huh? Well it's really interesting. She uses her 12 years of research to show us how the only vehicle out of shame is vulnerability. Ugh. Really? Is there no other way?  

I understand this fear of vulnerability. Writing a blog is an exercise in vulnerability. A few weeks ago when my blog got over 3000 hits in one week (huge for me), I nearly lost it. Not in a good way. I didn't know what I felt. But a week later after reading Brene's book I realize it was vulnerability. I felt "naked". I felt naked because I know that this blog is full of my opinions. It's full of my heart. It's full of mistakes! 

But see that is the easy vulnerability. 

The hard part has been realizing how I am willing to be vulnerable publically. I can show off. But I am unwilling (or a least much less willing - maybe terrified) at being relationally vulnerable. I'm realizing it in my friendships, my marriage and with my children. I see the places I hold back and hold people at arms length. I say that figuratively and literally - I'm not a hugger. But I am also seeing the walls I've built that I think will protect me. When in reality they isolate me. 

And that is where I am...realizing it. Not much more. But this book is helping me. And I love when I can put something Jesus is working on me with and put it with something like the information in Brene's book. Steps out. Baby steps.

Jesus is right (I bet he is so relived to hear me say that), first we must love Him. Then we must love our neighbor as ourself. But am I the only one seeing the step in between that that requires me to love myself. That I should show the compassion of Jesus to myself. Because when I don't show it to myself I am unable to show it to others. 

I've been told all my life that this self-love thing is crap. As if it's secular, self-help pooey. I disagree!

What about you...

Want to see an amazing video of Brene Brown talking about shame and vulnerability? See her TED talks below.
They are worth your time. I was ordering the book before she was finished with the first talk. 

First: TEDX Houston Oct. 6th 2010

Then: She talks about her vulnerability hangover from that first talk here

Jen Mulford is a Wellness Coach trained at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Her coaching practice helps women of all walks of life seek God, find themselves and live their passion. Wellness is about the whole body and soul, not just one isolated part. For more about Jen's coaching practice go here. Jen is living her passion by supporting women who are recovering from addiction live healthy lifestyles through fitness and running. She coordinates a program for women in recovery that provides race entry fees, group fitness classes, and coaching for races and for Life. To see more about this great program visit JenMulford.com
 
 
Picture
The holiday's can be the most stressful time of the year. Not because of what they are but because of what we turn them into. This year give your self the gift of peace, love and relationships with my Tips for a Peaceful Holiday Season. 

Tip #3: Take a Social Media Time Out


This virtual life we live here on our blogs and Facebook pages can be so fun but it's never more compelling than the actual lives we live out here in the real world. 

Today I had the opportunity to run the Viva la Diva 5k race with an incredible group of women. These girls are in a recovery program where I coordinate a wellness program. They inspire me every day and I couldn't be more thankful for them in my life. You can see more about that here. We even have girls that have graduated from the program coming back to run with us. I love that! I also love that I get to share this with my own daughter, Chloe. That's her in the tutu. 

So sometimes I wonder how much I miss when I allow my computer to take priority over living out there in the real world, with real people, making real face-to-face relationships with people who need me and who I need. 

Not sure this one is for you as much as it is for me. The last few weeks have allowed my computer to completely consume me. Trust me, it's been super-cool to have my blog getting the amount of attention it's received over the last few weeks. Exciting stuff. But the more people visit my blog the more I feel the need to perform. And that is not what I'm about. I do want to enjoy success but I also want to enjoy life. So as of Saturday night I will be shutting down my computer and not reopening it until next Sunday. 7 days no computer. No blog. No Facebook. No tweeting. No peeking!

Honestly I'm not really sure if I can do it but I sure am going to give it a try. It's my phone I worry about most. It's become so automatic to hit my Facebook app anytime I'm sitting idle waiting somewhere. But I'm up to the challenge and I'm going to put an auto-reply on my email and fast from social media for the week. Why? Peace. 

It's time to be thankful. It's time to sit back, enjoy my family, put up my Christmas tree, listen to festive music, maybe read a good book...slooooow doooowwwwn. But I have to admit my computer whispers my name constantly. Every pass through my office brings a tap of the keyboard to wake it up and check to see if I have an email. 

Not this week! 

Do you feel like you own your computer or does it own you? Are you being constantly whispered to just like I am? Maybe you could join me this week and give it a try. It's only one week. 7 days. I really think we have forgotten the peace that we have allowed to slip away through our computer screens. Take a little bit of it back this week. 

I wish you and your family a happy healthy Thanksgiving. 
Thank you for being here and thank you for being here when I get back. 

Jen

Jen Mulford is a Wellness Coach trained at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Her coaching practice helps women of all walks of life seek God, find themselves and live their passion. Wellness is about the whole body and soul, not just one isolated part. For more about Jen's coaching practice go here. Jen is living her passion by supporting women who are recovering from addiction live healthy lifestyles through fitness and running. She coordinates a program for women in recovery that provides race entry fees, group fitness classes, and coaching for races and for Life. To see more about this great program visit JenMulford.com