Perfectly Loved

If you’re engaged or married, you’re familiar with the joys and challenges of wedding planning.

I don’t know about you, but my husband to be was an easygoing guy when it came to the details of the wedding. The two things Steve cared about for our wedding was our venue and our photographer, so I agreed he could make the decision on those details.

Steve had expensive taste. He chose to have our reception at Brackett’s Crossing Country Club, as I told you about in a previous post. We invited 404 people to our wedding, and the jury was still out on how many were actually going to show up.

Since I was teaching, I had a set salary. Steve was the personal training department head at Life Time Fitness, so he could make more money if he took on more clients. So he agreed to do just that and I’d do the rest of the planning. It helped that I had the summers off  which gave me more flexibility to get things done.

The next item on our wedding “to-do” list was to get our engagement pictures taken. I had created an account on to assist me in my planning. I actually found the planning was more stressful using that website. I swear there was someone sitting on the backend of the website adding more items to my to-do list just as I finished one task. I felt like it was designed for a crazy OCD bridezilla. And planning a wedding in 6 months was preposterous according to TheKnot! That website loved reminding me how behind I was on my to-dos that weren’t done. I know several people who have planned a wedding in less than 6 months. It can be done ladies!

Originally Steve suggested we get married in June or July, but I didn’t want to wait until then. Besides, summers are known to be wedding season, and I didn’t want our wedding to be just another event to attend on a summer weekend.

Anyhow, we ended up taking our engagement pictures on August 11, 2011 at the Minnesota photography hotspot, the Stone Arch Bridge. We didn’t take any pictures on the bridge, just around that area.

I felt of course like I had nothing to wear. That always seems to happen to me when I have a photography session of some kind. What I have to wear just never feels right and of course it didn’t help that I was still a brunette from my little hair-color experiment.

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When we got our pictures back, I didn’t love them at first, not because there was anything wrong with the quality of the work, but it was more me being nitpicky. My hair wasn’t the right color, my arms weren’t lean enough, my smile was unnatural in some of the pictures, and I had a double chin in one of the pictures we took in the grass. YUCK.

It wasn’t until later that I realized what I was doing. I was tearing apart the beauty of what these pictures captured. The point wasn’t to be perfect, the point was to capture the milestone of our engagement and the joy and love we had found in each other.

The ability to criticize is something that I’ve noticed myself and in other women I know. We are our own worst critics when it comes to our beauty, self-confidence, and what we think are “flaws”. We stare in the mirror and tear ourselves down, being overly critical about the most trivial of things, when there is a woman not far from you that is dying to have what you have. Most of the time it’s something physical.

If we have stick straight hair, we want curly hair.

If we have curly hair, we want straight hair.

If we think we our butt is too big, we go to great lengths to trim it down.

If we weren’t born with a shapely bum, we’re trying to build one.

And the list goes on…


Why do we strive to attain such unreasonable goals of what this world deems as perfection?

When was the last time you were given a compliment and you just said “thank you” instead of dismissing what was just said about you with some lengthy explanation of why what was just said is untrue?

We have to stop doing that. We have to stop acting as if we’re unworthy of such praise. When you’ve given a compliment, the polite thing to do is to say “thank you” and the healthy thing to do is to believe it!

You need to know and believe in your heart of hearts, that there’s a special stamp of unconditional approval that has been given to you. It resides in the essence of all that you are, put there specifically by God and it extends beyond the hair on your head or your buttocks. It’s more like the special signature that can be found on the bottom of a Cabbage Patch doll, but it’s so much more valuable than that.


What do kids do first at school when they’re given a piece of paper?

They sign their name.


What do you do when you agree to a financial responsibility?

You sign your name.


What does an artist do when they finish his/her masterpiece?

They sign their name.


What does a professional athlete do with memorabilia at a press event?

They sign their name.


In all these situations, there is some level of value in signing one’s name, but the value of all of these examples pales in comparison to being created by The King. You have immeasurable value and worth because you were created in the Imago Dei, (Image of God)– in his likeness because he has marked you as his.

We have the DNA of our Creator in the depths of our souls. He knows us at our core, our innermost being. Those deep places of fear, insecurity, self-doubt, He already knows about even if you don’t want to go there with him. He knows you struggle with the comparison game, which is quite a nasty one to take part in. You know, the kind where you scroll through your Instagram feed to see how perfect everyone’s life is, only to look at your own and feel less than adequate. I’m guilty of doing the same. When was the last time you saw a bad picture on Instagram? I bet you haven’t, because WE ALL want to be perceived as perfect so why would we post such imperfection?

But really, isn’t the idea of perfection and imperfection in itself? We’re under some illusion that if we just keep trying, we’ll get there eventually, and if not, we’re going to tough it out until we make it across the imaginary line of acceptance. Oh but wait! As soon as you’re about to cross the threshold, the line has been moved and the standard has been changed.


The bottom line is we need to quit giving the lies of the enemy power over our lives. He’s been allowed to feed you spoonfuls of death and doubt for far too long. We’ve been conditioned to measure ourselves against a standard of measurement that ALWAYS changes because there is nothing in or of the world that is constant.

You see sisters, we need to put our stock in something real…the ONE that is real, authentic, constant, and accepting, and quit trying to compete with the annoying pest called perfection. We don’t just play this game with ourselves, but we do it to each other.


We have all faced rejection in life and part of the problem is we put unreasonable expectations on ourselves to look, act, and be perfect. When we fall short of that perfection we feel rejected and discouraged because of some unrealistic standard we’ve placed on ourselves and each other.


Read this excerpt from the book “You’re Already Amazing” by: Holly Gerth.

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I think we can all breathe a sigh of relief that we don’t have to be perfect! Thank you Lord!


I love this passage of scripture:

For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own.

1 Samuel 12:22


Read it again:

For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own.

1 Samuel 12:22

GOD WAS AND IS PLEASED THAT YOU ARE HIS! He loves everything about you because HE MADE YOU.

As God’s Word says: the Lord WILL NOT reject his people, because the Lord WAS PLEASED TO MAKE YOU HIS OWN. You don’t have to be perfect, because you are perfectly loved.

He is proud of you. He loves who you are, perfect or not.




My challenge to you is to dig into God’s Word and read about what He says about you. But I want you to do more than just read it, I want you to believe it! And the next time you hear someone struggling with feelings of inadequacy, stand in the gap and speak truth into their lives.


And remember, you don’t have to be perfect because you are perfectly loved.





Life has its showdowns–You are Called to Win!

Having a sense of adventure and trying new things has always been part of who I am. Wait long enough you’ll see me try something new and crazy! There is something thrilling about putting myself out there that energizes me. Now this doesn’t mean this tenacious spirit hasn’t struggled with self-doubt or uncertainty, but my internal dialogue always tells me to keep going and that I can do anything.

This whole “energizing thing” when trying something new feels different when I’m the one who is choosing what that new challenge will be, versus when I’m told I’m going to do something, which leads me to the life of dating Steve Toms, the personal trainer extraordinaire.

All throughout my relationship with Steve I was exposed to the inside world of personal trainers. As the personal training department head, it was his job to push the trainers to be successful, which included practicing what he was preaching.

Steve was a great leader. He was the type of boss who truly cared about his team of personal trainers and what was going on in their lives. When we’d spend time together he’d tell me about different trainers and what their life stories were, and there were some fascinating ones! His relationships with people were never about what they could do for him; it was about helping others be their best. Steve didn’t have to put on an act or be crafty in his relationships because there was something about him that naturally pulled the best out of them and everyone he was around.

The same was true for me. His presence drew out a laser focus in my training and I valued training hard and performing my exercises with excellence. Of course this didn’t mean he didn’t say anything, because he was a chatty smart alec that knew just what buttons to push to get you to do what he wanted you to do. Sometimes his brutal honesty was off-putting, but he was oddly loved for it.

As I mentioned before, Steve had a way of getting people to do what he wanted them to do when it came to physical activity.

My routine during training for figure was to get up at 4:45, get to the gym by 5:00 for my first round of cardio training. Then I’d go to school, teach physical education all day and be to the gym by 4:00 for my second training session with Steve.

There were several times I’d get a text during the day from Steve saying: We are running a 5k when you get here.


I read that text and thought, CRAP! I don’t want to run a 5k. I just want to lift. Can’t a girl just lift!


Upon reading that text, I’d grumble to myself. This girl was not in the mood to run a 5k. This happened several times. Steve wanted to show support by taking part in the Run Club races that happened once a month.

The surprise physical activity ventures didn’t stop there.

The next physical conquest we would be part of would be the Life Time Fitness Alpha Showdown.


Thankfully we were able to train for this event in advance because it was by far the most physically demanding of all the physical things I’ve ever been a part of.


The Alpha Showdown took place at the Chanhassen club that year, and there were competitors from all the Minnesota Life Time Fitness clubs.


The Alpha Showdown was broken down into three different segments of exercises in which competitors would demonstrate their athleticism and strength while pushing the boundaries of what it means to be mortal (Life Time’s words, not mine).


As Alpha Showdown participants we would compete in a series of events including the Power Gauntlet, the Hypertrophy Decathlon featuring 10 different stations, 250 meters of rowing, and finally, an obstacle course for the Endurance Gauntlet. All events will be timed and participants will be disqualified for not meeting required time restrictions for each segment.


Since Steve was doing this event, that automatically meant I had to do it too. He also managed to coax my sister into competing as well. As we arrived we signed in and were assigned a start time. Thankfully I was able to watch other competitors go before me so I could learn from their successes and failures.


My goal was to simply finish within the time restrictions. I wasn’t sure how my body was going to respond to the real deal.


It was my turn to go. I stood at the starting line,  my competitive switch immediately activated, you know, that little bit of sass inside that automatically causes you to size other people up. I started the same time as a guy. That alone motivated me. I was going to crush him in this, (that’s my inner voice talking).


Both the men and women completed the same exercises, at different weights. It’s hard not to charge out of the gate when it’s a timed event. This is a problem for people of all ages. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve given a speech about pacing yourself for the mile run to my elementary students. Most of them can’t help but ignore my advice and take off like they’re on fire. It’s only a matter of seconds before they’re walking their laps.


So I tried to hustle and pace myself at the same time because my goal was to finish. I wasn’t going to go through all of that for nothing!

Thankfully I finished. Every limb was begging for me to stop. My heart was beating out of my chest, my lungs were burning and I couldn’t suck in air fast enough. All that lunging, pushing, squalling, thrusting, rowing, army crawling, running was enough physical activity for a month. My sister finished and Steve tuckered out during the squat press portion of the Hypertrophy Decathlon.

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I’m thankful that Steve challenged me to compete in the Alpha Showdown. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of accomplishment and a job well done.


What I ask myself is, why does is it easier to have someone else to push me well beyond my box to truly test my limits? It’s as if I need someone else’s permission to allow myself to jump.


Of course this doesn’t happen all the time, but some times I just need someone to give me a shove and confirm that I can accomplish what I’ve set out to do in order to get back on the horse.

Sure I’m full of great ideas and big dreams, but that’s all they are if I don’t do anything with them.

The Alpha Showdown was physical in nature, but there are other showdowns in our lives that will occur one way or another. It’s usually because of time and we have to “face the music” or we finally get the courage to go for it!


When we fail to address the things that are in our way, we waste time. Wasted time equates to wasted opportunities because we allow ourselves to be hung up.


To be honest, I’ve been hung up myself lately. In my mind I know what I need to do, and there are things on my to-do list that have been staring at me for over a month. I should be blogging more consistently, I should have more speaking events, and I should be further in the writing of my book than I am. With that, I know to sift through the voice that reminds me of the things I “should” have accomplished, because if I’m not on-guard, the lies of the enemy get sprinkled in and before I know it, I’m set back even further.


This post isn’t simply about physical conquest to test my mortal abilities, but it’s about the showdowns we face in life.

I’ve allowed the fear of all the things I don’t know beat me in the showdown. I have moments when I’m totally overwhelmed by what I know I need to do, so instead, I do nothing. But you see, these dreams aren’t just about me. I know for certain that God would love to use me as an instrument if I would be obedient. As my pastor said one Sunday in church, “Partial obedience is still disobedience.”   Doing things halfway is not okay.


Now I’m not one to wallow in a mistake or setback because I simply refuse to let Satan have a field day in my mind. Instead, I will rise to the occasion because that’s what champions do.

Just like me, you, my friend, are called to win!



This love letter is taken from one of my favorite books of encouragement titled “Love Letters from God—Affirmations for Your Soul By: Bonnie G. Schluter. My parents mailed this to me when I was going to college in Hawai`i.





I love this love letter for so many reasons, especially the last paragraph: “Does a winner go it alone in his fight to win? No, he get the best trainer he can find, and he trusts those professionals to help. The trainer maps out a training program. He sets the course, then the athlete follows that course. My child, you do the same.”      Lovingly, God



I truly had the best earthly trainer in Steve and I have the ultimate life trainer– God setting my course. Trust in God as your life trainer and follow HIS course.


Step up to the starting line and stare down the roadblock in front of you. It’s time for you to finally have a showdown… YOU WERE BORN TO WIN!




Say “Yes” to the dress and “No” to the Stress

It was summer and wedding planning was in full swing. Today I’d be going wedding dress shopping with my mom, sister and best girl friends, Jill, Carie and Michelle.

I had made a few bridal appointments for my dress hunting adventure. I did some pre-shopping online just to see what types of dresses were out there. I have always been a fan of one-strap dresses, not only because I like the style, but also because I have a large scar on my chest that I wanted to conceal.

We arrived at the bridal shop and were given the details about where specific dress styles could be found. I had a general idea of the look I was going for, but I was open to trying anything on.

The girls and I picked out dresses and the fashion show began. I tried on all kinds of dresses: strapless, halter tops, sweetheart, fit and flare, mermaid and trumpet to name a few. I’m sure there are guys reading this that are confused by the lingo. That’s kind of how us ladies feel when you talk about car parts, farming or the stock market…zzzz.

I wasn’t totally sold on anything right away. Nothing that I tried on felt like me. On to the next stop…

The same procedure occurred. A small introduction, details about dress locations, searching and then another fashion show.

When I got engaged, my hair was blonde. I had always wondered what I would look like with brunette hair. I figured that now was the time to test things out and figure out what color hair I wanted for the wedding. So after I got engaged, my mom colored my hair. Thankfully changing your hair color is not a permanent change. If I didn’t like it I could always change it back. It helped that my mom was a hairdresser; so making this drastic change didn’t cost me a cent.

In trying on these dresses I was trying to envision myself in my dream dress on my wedding day and my hair color. As I was trying on the dresses I realized none of the dresses felt like me and I didn’t feel like myself with dark hair.

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Thankfully these things are both things that can easily be changed, but some times in life we don’t have the luxury of change. Some times our choices come with unforeseen implications and even consequences.


Have you ever made a decision about life and later realized what you decided did not fit whom you truly were and later you had a ‘what was I thinking’ revelation? Maybe your decision fit a specific need or desire you had in that moment and you stuck with that choice because it was easy and too scary to make any sort of change without knowing what was on the other side.


Maybe you’ve journeyed down the same hallway to a better future, approaching the door that leads to the life you’ve dreamed of time and time again. You’ve reached for the knob of change because you were ready to inhabit a new dwelling place; a healthy place for your mind, body and soul, a place where the innermost parts of you could be at home, where you feel at peace and you experience the freedom and joy of being your true self.


I want you to know that you’re not alone. You’re not the first one to make a bad decision. Yes, your previous decision may have been a momentary lapse in judgment. Maybe you chose to partake in a life-sucking relationship, to inhabit a toxic environment, or took too many turns on the hamster wheel of poor financial decisions or perhaps you’ve harbored bitterness and anger in your heart and then, as if that wasn’t enough, unpredictable heartbreak hit. You really want to yell to the high heavens asking God, WHEN DOES THIS END?



Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson after.

-Vernon Law



But what I really want to ask is: WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED?


Now I know that life is full of trials that extend far beyond choosing the wrong hair color, but the point is the freedom of choice.You have your free will given to you by God that allows you to choose. You get to choose what you’re going to do about your life!

I believe that every thing we go through in life serves to help us grow and to inspire others to do the same. Many people go through trials and refuse to learn. They keep doing the same things OVER and OVER but expect their lives to change. Maybe that person is you? You resist the rich growth that these yucky experiences offer because you refuse to see that there might be some value in your struggle. You’re too busy being mad, allowing your heart to harden in the dark, to step out and embrace THE LIGHT–Jesus.


In case you haven’t noticed, light is a requirement for growth of living things. The same is true for you. You need THE LIGHT to grow. Things that get light grow, change and become stronger. Things that are not IN THE LIGHT don’t grow. They might change but when they don’t grow, they soon die. I’m not talking about a literal death, although that may be true for plants, I’m talking about the death of hope. You can either nurture the  spark in your heart that tells you to keep going because there’s sure, confident, hope in Jesus, or allow your growth to be choked out.  You choose.




My favorite Psalm that has become my chapter of encouragement in my life is Psalm 71. I love verses 20-21, 23 &24

 Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honor and comfort me once again.

 My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you—I, whom you have redeemed. My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long…


He promises restoration and a new start. Praise God for the reset button!


“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. -James 1:2-6 & 12



My challenge for you is to reflect on the trials of your life with new lenses– even the trials that sting to think about and view the stories of your life as growth opportunities.


  • What areas of your life have you grown in?
  • What areas of your life do you still need to make changes in?


ACTION STEP: Share your new perspective with a friend. Encourage them to see the growth potential in the midst of their trial.


REMEMBER: We persevere because when our faith is tested, we grow!





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