Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Easy cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes

Easy cinnamon roasted sweet potatoes

Dice and peel 1-2 sweet potatoes.
Coat with olive oil and sea salt in a bowl.
Pour onto wax paper-lined cookie sheet and sprinkle with cinnamon.
Bake at 450 for 25 minutes.

Coach Steph

Monday, November 14, 2016

A different kind of post

This is a different kind of post. I started to post this to Facebook, but it got a bit lengthy, so my blog was a better outlet.  I pray you'll take the time to read about something that is near and dear to my heart.

I was washing dishes earlier today, and the TV was on in the background. It was Law & Order SVU, a show I have watched a million times; one you have probably watched many times. This episode was about a child neglect case where a little girl died from severe malnutrition, found in a dog crate. She was left there by her drug-addicted mother because she wouldn't stop crying and therefore did not deserve to eat. The case worker was charged in the case for falsifying home visit reports. He was overworked, his colleague was out on maternity leave. He had double the amount of clients as usual.

Now, maybe I'm just particularly sensitive about the subject, but as a woman, a mother not yet materialized, and someone praying for a child in the foster care system, I ask each of you to say a prayer with me tonight.
Pray for foster parents and temporary guardians who are doing their best to stand in the gap. Pray for parents trying to get their lives together. Pray for potential adoptive families who are waiting for their child. Pray for case workers, therapists and coordinators, who are doing the best they can with the limited resources they have and the overwhelming number of families to serve. Pray for attorneys and judges for wisdom to discern and decide what's best for these kids. Pray for the advocates who give a voice in court to these children. And most of all, pray for the children in the system through no fault of their own.
The child welfare system was never meant to shoulder the burden of the magnitude of children and families it supports. We as the body of Christ have to do more. It starts with prayer, but I know we can all do something. I'm not saying you have to foster or adopt; that's a very specific calling. But, I'm asking you to search your heart. What can you do?

Here is the national adoption website with info on how you can help.

Monday, September 26, 2016

HOPE Part VI: Putting my agenda on the shelf

It's funny how God weaves this masterpiece we call life.  This blog series has chronicled a part of my spiritual journey.  It all started with me saying yes to God; yes to a whisper in the quiet. Yes to the voice that now speaks so clearly I don't know how I went so long without listening.  Please read on for the final installment of this series.

HOPE Part VI: Putting my agenda on the shelf

Through all the heartache I have been through, the miscarriages, tears, anger, fear and frustration, it was all for this desire to be a mother; a desire God planted in my heart. Romans 40:3 NIV says, "He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him."

God made me a mother.  I have felt lost, alone and aimless on this journey.  God knew I needed someone to clarify his path for me; to explain the new "song" and desire of my heart. He sent me a friend. Her name is Brittany.

I decided once again to start tracking my menstrual cycles, thinking maybe now that I had lost all this weight and had my blood sugar under control that a baby was possible.  I downloaded an app to keep track of all the pertinent information.  Brittany and I met through an online message board attached to the app for women trying to conceive.  I was looking for a "cycle buddy" who was health-conscious and fit. We matched up and instantly became friends.  We rode the "trying to conceive" rollercoaster.  She was a newlywed.  I had just celebrated my 7th wedding anniversary.  We bonded over daily discussions about nutrition, exercise and husbands.  We texted every day.  We consoled one another monthly as the pregnancy tests came back negative. She was a light in the dark; a confidant other than God who understood my plight.  I was a safe place for her and continually had hope that she would conceive.

After nearly a year, Brittany was losing hope.  I continued to encourage her, pray for her and speak life over her.  And then it happened.  She got the good news!  I was so happy for her. She couldn't believe it. And then once again, I was alone.  The relationship changed.  It was bound to happen. We tried to carry on as normal.  The texts became a little less frequent.  I asked questions about her life and days. She did the same.

Then one day I heard God's voice very clear.  He told me to go to the baby shower. "What? Are you serious?" I literally asked that aloud to God during prayer and devotion one morning.  But the voice was clear.  So, I asked Brittany if I could be included on the guest list, and of course she said yes.  I had never met this person or her husband, but they invited me to come stay in their home.  I was not scared at all. I knew God had ordained this relationship, and I was excited to meet my friend for the first time and support her through this amazing life moment.  But, to say that my heart was not scared would be a lie.

I was still struggling with my lack of pregnancy and motherhood.  I prayed to God to help me put on a brave face and be genuinely happy for my friend. This was all about her. But God had my heart wrapped in his loving embrace.  Below is my journal entry after my first night in their home before the baby shower that afternoon. I have never shared this with anyone.
April 23, 2016 - I woke up this morning to the sun shining through my window.  The birds are chirping. What a glorious alarm clock. Thank you, God! Genesis 1:20 - And God said, "Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky." Such a heavenly reminder of God's love for me. I am where I'm supposed to be. I feel the embrace of my heavenly father.   
Brittany and I at her baby shower.
Lord, I pray for Shawn and Brittany as they prepare to become parents.  I pray for their marriage. Hebrews 13:21 [may God] equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
God gave me the perfect scripture today.  He is so good. Thank you.  I could not have imagined that trying desperately to have a baby would lead me here. 
That morning I worshipped in the privacy of my guest bedroom.  I cried, I prayed, I praised.  God brought me so much peace.  The trip was amazing. It solidified a lifelong friendship. It brought me closure. That weekend, I put my agenda on the shelf, and I stepped into God's plan for motherhood.

One month after returning from that visit, my husband and I enrolled in a class to prepare us to adopt a child from the foster care system.  God had been speaking to us about this decision for months.  We now walk boldly into the future.  As of right now, we are waiting for certification from the state.  We pray, in God's perfect timing, that our child will be in our home, and our family, soon.  

Thank you for following my series and allowing me to share God's awesomeness with you. I pray you are encouraged. Please stay in touch! I hope you'll return for more posts about Freedom, Faith and Fitness!

I also want to speak personally to you, the reader; the one who this resonates with.  The one whose story is similar.  The one who's lost babies.  The one who's never been able to conceive.  The one who wants more children.  The one who's your sister, daughter, wife, mother or friend. If this spoke to you in any way, I want to say something very specific: God sees you. He hears you.  He knows you're struggling, hurting, frustrated, angry, bewildered and sad. I'm here to tell you that God cares for you, he loves you, and he is for you. Whatever road you've walked that led you here to read this blog, there is a God big enough to handle all your burdens.  I'm praying for you tonight.

Coach Steph

Friday, August 12, 2016

HOPE Part V: Blessings come when we walk in obedience

When I answered God's call to leave my brick-and-mortar business to serve women on a deeper level, I had no idea what I was doing.  And 5 months later, I still have days where I feel like that. But I knew God had been equipping me and preparing to grow His kingdom and serve His people, I just didn't know how it would look.  But, that's the beautiful thing about saying YES to God.  We don't have to have all the info to say yes. That's what FAITH is all about.

Please read on for part five of my blog series.  HOPE Part V: Blessings come when we walk in obedience

Hebrews 11:1 NIV "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."

Yes.  God was telling me to go.  I was asking how.  He was saying do.  

I heard Christine Caine say more than once that God is not looking for ability but availability.  He is looking for people who will say yes.  If you feel like you're not ready, learned or knowing, then YES, God wants you! He is looking for people who will say yes to His voice.

When I publicly announced I was leaving my business, I had one private client.  I was TERRIFIED! I had lots of skills, knowledge and experience, but there was no longer a safety net.  I was all on my own (with God, of course).  But I kept pressing, praying and working.  

One week before my last day in my old business, my ONLY client texted me.  She couldn't renew her fitness training.  She so badly wanted to but just couldn't financially continue.  Now I had no clients.  But God's voice was still there.  "Trust me," He said.  So I did.

One month later I had 10 clients.  Five months later I have 15 personal training/fitness coaching clients and a growing network marketing business.  I am the corporate fitness trainer for a start-up nutrition and wellness company.  I am the captain for the Fitness Group Hub at my local church campus.  I lead a small group weekly where 4-20 women show up to hear the words God has placed on my heart to share through fitness boot camp. I am a fitness influencer, coach, motivator, encourager, listener and leader.  

God has BLOWN MY MIND! At the beginning of the year, my dear friend and team leader at church challenged me to pray boldly; to ask God for things I'm not sure he can do (rhetorically).  She challenged me to write them down.  Then she spoke and prayed truth and favor over my life.  She affirmed God would work all things for good because of my bold faith and obedience.

Do you want to know something?  I wrote four big things down.  Four BIG, SCARY, AUDACIOUS prayers.  Eight months into the year, all four of them are in the process of coming true.  I'm not quite ready to share them yet.  I will when it's time.  

This is my point:  God wants to bless you.  The Bible tells us:
  • Jeremiah 29:11 ESV "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope."
  • Psalm 37:4 ESV "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart."
  • Philippians 4:19 ESV "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."
  • Matthew 6:33 ESV "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
God is for you.  He wants to bless you.  He places hopes and dreams in your heart that He wants to fulfill.  Pray.  Trust. Hope. Work. Do.  Obey.

Please join me next time for the last installment of my hope series.  Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Top 7 Tips for Weight Loss

I've maintained a 75 lb. weight loss for nearly four years.  These are my top 7 tips for weight loss.

1. Eat every 3-4 hours
While the science isn't exact, this works because it keeps blood sugar stable.  Not only does it keep the body fueled for activity, it also prevents simple carbohydrate binges, which happen when you go too long without eating and your body craves the simplest form of sugar it can get. 

2. Eat food in its whole form.
You've probably heard about shopping the perimeter of the grocery store.  In addition to that, beans, nuts, whole grains and essential oils (olive and coconut) are key components of a balanced nutrition plan. Fruit, vegetables and lean protein are the basis of any healthy diet.

3. Do exercise you enjoy.
Forget the latest exercise craze.  Do what you love!  As you start to do physical activity on a regular basis, you can explore a more well-rounded exercise plan.  So, if you love to walk, get moving! 

4. Drink water.
Simple enough, right?  Did you know that most people need half of their entire body weight in ounces of water per day?  Depending on your activity level and how much you sweat, a good place to start is to take your body weight and divide it in half.  That's how many ounces of water you should drink a day. 

5. Find what works for you.
There are a lot of great nutrition programs out there.  Find one that speaks to you, that supports your goals and lifestyle, and start there.  A little bit of structure goes a long way. Educating yourself about nutrition is the best way to ensure success in the long run. 

6.  When in doubt, hire a pro.
Don't wait until you've tried everything.  If you're serious about weight loss and improving your health, seek the services of a certified nutritionist and certified personal trainer.  Your physician is a great place to start for help with a nutritionist.  Look for a CPT with a national certification: NASM, ACE, ACSM or NSCA. Ask questions before you hire and make a financial commitment.  A professional should have no problem answering questions about their qualifications or experience.  

7. Take the focus off of weight loss.
Wait, did she just say that?  Yes.  Focus on healthy habit changes.  Weight loss is a byproduct of healthy and balanced living.  Fix your habits.  The weight loss will follow.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

HOPE Part IV: Trust Me

Have you ever prayed so hard for something and get it, only to realize that it was just a resting point on your journey?  Life is a continuum. Each day flows into the next. Every decision we make, even the smallest ones, make a path for us through life. Sometimes the road is winding, straight, or circles. Sometimes we fall in a hole or valley before reaching the mountain top.

I know this is a fitness blog, and you probably landed here looking for motivation, fitness tips or advice.  I promise I will continue those topics, but my story, my testimony, needs to be told.  I had a mentor once tell me to never spend time with people who don't value you. Don't waste your energy trying to convince someone to 'get you.' They either will or they won't.  The people who get you want to hear what you have to say.  So, my goal is that my story will help you 'get' me and that you might be inspired or motivated to keep going on whatever journey you're on; to have HOPE.

Please read on for the next installment in my blog series HOPE Part IV: Trust Me

Hebrews 13:21 tells us that God will equip us to do his will.  Being equipped comes in a lot of forms. Sometimes it's an academic education, and sometimes it's life.  A close friend recently told me that the most powerful testimonies come from a person who lived through pain and came out on the other side, giving God all the glory and praise.

I thought that when I left my corporate job to go into business co-ownership that I would stay in that business forever.  I could see myself running and growing that business for many years.  I never imagined God would use that business to prepare and equip me for my true calling: to serve women through fitness and help them find freedom in Jesus.  If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, your whole mission in the Kingdom is to share the gospel.  It's really simple when you break it down. The Bible tells us that everything we do is to bring people to a relationship with Jesus.  While I knew that, I didn't know how that applied to my life.  I mean, you have to work to earn a living.

Every day is an opportunity to serve others.  Through kindness, through good works and through words. And sometimes, when you've served first not seeking to be served, opportunities to witness happen.  More and more, day by day, I was getting to pray for people and to hear their stories and struggles.

For three years, I threw myself into fitness.  I learned all I could about the business from an amazing mentor and friend.  She taught me everything she knew, which was a lot! I never imagined that me, someone who had struggled with her weight and self-worth her whole life, could be a fitness professional, but it was happening! I became a certified trainer and quickly started serving clients who wanted what I had to teach them.

I thrived on the busyness, on the grind of the fitness business, until I burned out.  It hit me like a ton of bricks one day.  I had been listening to God, as he pushed me to lead a fitness small group through my church.  I had been resisting leading a group, letting the enemy tell me I wasn't good enough.  I finally gave in and after our first group meeting, I felt God tugging on my heart.  During my personal devotional time with God, he was speaking to me to leave my business.  I asked how and why.  He simply said, "Trust me."

Now, I used to be one of those people who didn't understand when others said the Lord was speaking to them.  But as I grew closer in my walk with God, I learned to be still and listen, and I was craving his voice.  I kept praying over how and when to leave my business and God told me it would be ok and that he needed me to serve women in a much deeper way.  I had no idea what that meant, but I trusted God.

The best thing about listening to the Holy Spirit is that IT'S NEVER WRONG! God's voice is always true.  So, here I was, about to leave the business that I had invested everything in, money and time, with no clear direction about what the future would hold, except the words, "trust me."  And I did, and have never looked back.

Please join me next time for the next part of my HOPE series.

Monday, June 13, 2016

HOPE Part III: If God is for us, who can be against us?

When I sit back and think about my journey to motherhood over the last 8 years, I am humbled. I can see God's hand all over my life; orchestrating, molding and crafting a beautiful symphony.  If this journey were set to music, I can actually hear the changes in tempo and melody in my head. It hasn't always been this way, but the beautiful thing about knowing God and having a relationship with Jesus is that you can have peace and joy in the midst of circumstances that seem hopeless.

Please read on for the continuation of my blog series, HOPE Part III: If God is for us, who can be against us?

Four years ago, I received a medical diagnosis for a condition called PCOS or polycystic ovary syndrome.  It explained my miscarriages, the weight gain after discontinuing the use of hormonal birth control, my high blood sugar and so many other symptoms, including cysts on my ovaries that my gynecologist informed me would make conception the old-fashioned way difficult for me and my husband.  I felt strongly that God had led me to this new doctor, who actually listened to me and confirmed I wasn't crazy when I thought something wasn't right with my body.  He referred me to a reproductive endocrinologist, a fertility specialist, who might be able to help.  

The funny thing about getting answers in the natural is that sometimes we read into it.  For me, I thought to myself, "is this from God?" That question should always be the first one we ask, but we should also to pray and meditate about it.  More often than not, God will show us his will through multiple signs, occurrences and people.  But God also uses disappointment, struggle and defeat to get our attention. It's not cruel, vengeful or malicious, but it's love.  He knows us, He created us and He knows exactly what it will take to get our attention.  

The six months following my diagnosis were heartbreaking.  I had four failed fertility treatments. My marriage was strained.  I was still trying to control the outcome, but God had other plans.  He kept whispering to me to leave my job.  I questioned God's command, "How could I leave my job?  My awesome insurance was paying for fertility treatment.  I must be crazy!"

I had been in prayer more than ever before; not knowing how to give up control but knowing I needed to let God move the pieces. God was trying to get my attention. One of the ways he does this is through a restless spirit (Esther 6:1-14). I knew something had to give.  I was miserable, and I worked for a non-profit that focused on maternal and infant health.  It was a daily reminder of my failure to become a mother.  I had been interviewing for lots of jobs, but nothing was panning out. And then came two different signs.  

My husband told me to just quit and we'd figure it out. Money would be tight, but we'd be ok.  And then, a good friend hopped in my car as I was leaving my office one day. She told me that she was serious about hiring me away. She owned a small business, a fitness center, and knew that I'd be an asset (she'd been saying that for four years).  She couldn't pay me what I was earning, but she offered me partnership, controlling interest and the opportunity to build a dream with her. 

I prayed about it and talked with my husband.  This would be the perfect opportunity to focus on my health and wellbeing.  So I jumped in with two feet, not really knowing the path my life was getting ready to take. For the first time, I was fully confident that with God on my side, there was nothing I couldn't do.  

Romans 8:31 NIV
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?