3 Ways to Cook with Freekeh + GIVEAWAY (CLOSED)

As a Sweat Pink Ambassador with Fit Approach, Freekeh Foods has sent me two bags of their Organic Roasted Green Wheat to review. They have also provided one bag for me to giveaway to one of you!

This has been a great opportunity to jump out of my healthy food "comfort zone" and try something new. Have you heard of "Freekeh"? I hadn't until this review! Note: These opinions are 100% my own.

What is Freekeh?

According to the Freekeh Foods website:
"Freekeh is a process which means "to rub" in Arabic. Freekeh was created by accident nearly 2,000 years ago when a Middle Eastern village was attacked and their crop of young green wheat was set ablaze. Most folks would sulk over their misfortune, but the crafty villagers rubbed off the chaff, cooked it up and "Eureka!" Freekeh was created. We're proud to offer you this tasty, nutritious ancient grain with a funny name."
Why should you try it? Freekeh is a healthy alternative to rice because it has up to 3 times the protein as even brown rice! Freekeh is a roasted ancient grain that is equal to quinoa in protein and fiber. Plus, it is available in three delicious flavors: Original, Rosemary Sage and Tamari.

3 Ways to Cook with Freekeh

Freekeh Foods sent me their Original and Rosemary Sage flavors. Here are a few ways I have cooked my Freekeh:

First of all, Freekeh is so easy to prepare. Pour in your Freekeh, add water and bring to a boil. 20 minutes later, it's ready!

My first Freekeh meal was Chicken, Carrots and Rosemary Sage Freekeh. The rosemary sage flavor really added to this meal and Freekeh was a great substitute for brown rice.

Next I made Chicken Stir Fry with Original Freekeh. I chose the Original flavor to go with the stir fry flavor. This was my favorite chicken and Freekeh recipe.

Because breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, I even added a little Freekeh into my morning with Warm Breakfast Freekeh. Add cinnamon, a drop of vanilla and a little brown sugar to the Original Freekeh and top with fresh fruit for the perfect Freekeh breakfast!

For even more Freekeh recipe ideas, visit the Freekeh Foods' Recipes page!

Freekeh Foods Giveaway

Ready to try Freekeh for yourself? Enter to win a bag of Freekeh in the flavor of your choice. 

To enter, follow the below steps and leave a separate comment for each. Each comment is another "entry" for you! *U.S. residents only*

1. Follow @freekehfoods on Twitter.

2. Follow @freekehfoods on Instagram.

3. "Like" Freekeh Foods on Facebook.

4. Tweet about the giveaway:
5. "Like" Life to the Full on Facebook.

6. Leave a comment telling me what flavor you would like to try: Original, Rosemary Sage or Tamari!

The winner will be announced on August 4th. Congratulations to our winner, JUDITH!

Linking up at Fitness Friday and the Fit Dish with Jessica and Jill. #dishthefit

Training Week 3: Running Q&A

For this week's training log, I'm piggybacking on Rachel @ Running on Happy's Running Survey. Stop by her blog to check out her answers, too!

I jump at the chance for a running survey because I rarely talk running in non-blogging life!

My thought is that most people don't care to hear about how many miles I ran today, what race I'm running next or my latest funny story about GI distress. My husband is very supportive yet he doesn't understand how I get myself out of bed to go for a run in the wee hours of the morning. It's fun for me but it's hard to explain the "runner's high" to someone else.

Since I rarely share anything about "the running me" in day to day life, here's a little about my running side.

20 Questions with "The Running Me"

1. Would you rather run along a beach path or on a mountain trail?
Mountains, mountains, mountains! I love mountains because it's a real treat to be around them. Our home area is as flat as a pancake - not exaggerating. The treadmill is my only means for hill training.

Living near mountains someday is a dream of mine!

2. If you could choose the flavor of Gatorade at your next race’s aid stations, what would it be?
I'm more of a water person. During a super hot race I will drink whatever flavor Gatorade they have available for the extra electrolytes. Any other day, I would rather just drink water and eat my GU gels.

3. If I gave you a $100 gift card to a running store, what would be the first thing that you would purchase with it?
A new pair of running shoes. And a sports bra. And new socks. $100 doesn't go that far in a running store :)

4. Do you prefer to follow a training plan or wake up and decide then how far and how fast you want to run?
I really enjoy the structure of training. Even if I'm not training, I have a set amount of time I run to make sure I'm home before the little people and my husband wake up.

5. Would you rather start your run with the uphill and end on the downhill or start your run with the downhill and end with the uphill?
Always uphill first!

6. When you can’t run, what type of cross-training do you choose to do?
Walking, biking, strength training and playing any sport. My favorite "cross training" lately has been playing soccer with our toddler!

7. What is your preference: Out and back, point to point, or loop runs?
It depends. A loop run is my favorite approach for running longer training runs because I can have my own "water station" in the driveway. My usual runs are out and backs because it's easy to track the distance and route. I rarely do point-to-point runs because it means I need to recruit someone to pick me up (and bring the kids with, too).

8. If you could recommend any running-related item to a new runner, it would be:
Buy a new pair of running shoes that really fit you. If you have questions, ask the shoe store worker! Hopefully they can look at your gait and build to help you choose the shoe that fits your running style best.

9. Do you ever see any wild animals while out on your runs?
I see a lot of dogs, not quite "wild animals". Occasionally a deer will cross my path.

10. Ever gotten lost while out on a run?
I thought I was lost in my first trail marathon! The group had spread out and I was running alone on a trail that wasn't very well marked. I came to a fork in the trail and spent a few minutes standing there, contemplating my options and thinking of how bad it would be to get lost in my first marathon!

11. If you could have one meal waiting and ready for you each time you got home from a run for the next 30 days, what would that meal be?
My husband's sourdough waffles accompanied by a cup of dark, bold coffee with half n' half OR I guess I could settle for a homemade cinnamon caramel roll!

12. Capris or shorts… what do you run in most often?
Shorts are my usual for running in the Spring through Fall. In the Winter, I wear a pair of tights under my shorts. When I'm super pregnant, I wear mainly capris because the shorts ride up! So annoying!

13. At what mile (or how many minutes) into your run does your body start to feel like it is warming up and ready to go?
After 1 to 2 miles I start to feel warmed up and relaxed.

14. What do you do with your key when you run?
If I do have keys on me, I carry them in the back pouch of the jogging stroller. Usually I don't run with keys.

15. If you could relive any race that you have done in the past, which one what it be?
The Twin Cities Medtronic Marathon in October 2011. Running felt so easy that day and, after I crossed the finish, I wasn't feeling terribly tired! That was my marathon PR and the pace felt so easy. The weather was perfect and I was soon to be engaged to my husband!

16. What type of run is your least favorite type of run?
Long runs of longer than 90 minutes are my least favorite because they can feeling mentally daunting to me. Plus, they require getting up extra early to finish the run before my family is up! They are very important to full marathon training but I will admit they aren't my favorite.

17. What has been your biggest motivation lately to get out the door to get your run on?
I'm training for a half marathon in September. If I don't run in the morning, it's way harder to fit a run in later in the day! Either I will need to run on the treadmill during nap time (but the boys aren't napping at the same time lately) or push the boys in the double jogging stroller.

18. When you go for a run, do you leave right from your front door or do you drive somewhere to start?
I start up the Garmin as soon as I pass our mailbox :) I drive for races but never for training runs.

19. When running in daylight are sunglasses a must or an annoyance?
Wearing sunglasses is smart when running in daylight but I rarely do it and often regret not wearing them. Maybe I will be smarter about that this year!

20. When you get tired, what keeps you from quitting?
My life verse, 1 Corinthians 10:31. In everything I'm doing - whether I'm doing laundry, changing diapers, writing or running a bunch of miles - my purpose is to glorify God. Persevering through the bad days, when I feel like giving up, develops character and makes me lean on God's strength even more.
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 1 CORINTHIANS 10:31

Wild Hog 1/2 Training Week 3

7/20 M - 4.01 miles, 36:03 @ 9:00/mile. Today was technically a "speed" day but I ran easy instead. My body doesn't feel ready for weekly speed workouts yet!

7/21 T - Strength training in the AM. 2.05 mile "easy" run with the double jogger in the PM. Running with the double counts as strength training, too!
7/22 W - 3.62 mile tempo run, 30:13 @ 8:20/mile. My goal was to maintain a pace under 8:30/mile after the warm up. By the end of the run it felt easy but it takes me a while to get going.

7/23 H - Woke up sick. A sore throat and stuffed up head couldn't keep me from the county fair. The boys and I fit in a lot of rides, fair food and exploring with Grandma E!

7/24 F - Still sick... and now sun-burnt, tired and overdosed on random fair foods :)

7/25 S - LR: 7.06 miles, 1:02 @ 8:46/mile. Despite not feeling well for the past few days, this run went great! Running the distance felt much easier than last weekend.

Total Mileage: 16.74 miles

What are a few of your answers to the running survey?

Linking up at the Fit Dish with Jessica and Jill. #dishthefit

Training Week 2: Random Songs on My Long Run Playlist

Saturday's run was my first "official" long run for half marathon training and it felt great to get back into the swing of things again!

I think long runs are best to do in the morning, before the day heats up and I'm worn out, but some days it just doesn't happen. After mowing the lawn and a little gardening, it was long run time (and the boys' nap time).

Hot, sweaty and tired... I made it!

On some long runs I listen to podcasts, other times it's music or nothing at all. Getting back into long runs feels like a special occasion. I listened to music for 60 minutes straight! I love my boys but it felt good to "run away" (literally) for a little bit.

Here's is a random shuffle of my playlist:

10 Random Songs on My Long Run Playlist

1. Run Wild - For King & Country. Of course it's #1 because the word "run" is in the title!

2. Mind's Eye - DC Talk

3. Chains Hit the Ground - Leeland

4. Radioactive - Imagine Dragons

5. Ordinary World - Duran Duran

6. Greater - MercyMe

7. Shake It Off - Taylor Swift... don't judge :)

8. You Make Me Brave - Amanda Cook & Bethel Music

9. Say I Won't - Lecrae with Andy Mineo

10. Head Over Heels - Tears for Fears

Recovering from training is harder on my body when lacking sleep so the littlest man and I took a nap after church on Sunday. I can't believe my baby boy is already two months old! No, we are not sleeping through the night yet...

P.S. How's this for a lovely sight >>> A mystery package arrived from Amazon and after some investigation I found out it was a belated birthday present from my mom! What runner wouldn't love getting a box of Vanilla Bean GUs in the mail?! Thanks, mom :)


Wild Hog 1/2 Training Week 2

7/13 M - 2.06 easy/recovery miles, 20:01 @ 9:43/mile. Worn out after Saturday's race!

7/14 T - 1.75 miles with the double stroller. Planks for strength training.
7/15 W - 3.06 treadmill miles, 27:01 @ 8:49/mile. Was supposed to be a 45 minute tempo run but Baby W was super fussy during big bro's naptime.

7/16 H - Strength Training.

7/17 F - 3.06 easy miles, 30:39 @ 10:00/mile. Tired but it felt good to get outside for a run.

7/18 S - 6.78 miles, 1:00 @ 8:52/mile. Miles 1-4 on pavement, 4+ on gravel. I was tired before the run even started! My pre-run "warm up" included mowing the lawn and harvesting peas from our garden. Then it was time for 60 minutes of running.

Total Mileage: 16.71 miles

What's random songs are on your favorite playlist?
Are you currently training for a race?

Linking up with Jill at Fitness Friday.

Day in the Life as a New Mom of Two

I love reading "day in the life" posts and so much has changed since I shared my last one almost a year ago.

I'm now a mom of TWO! E is 28 months old and Baby W is 2 months old.

While we have a general "routine", each day takes on a shape of it's own. Baby W's schedule is still quite unpredictable! This is just one of our days last week where I took the time to write down the things we did. Most days feel like such a blur I can't remember what I made for lunch.

Writing down your day - just one day - is something I recommend for everyone to try! Knowing how you spend your time may help with more effective time management. It was a little disheartening to see how much I didn't get done on the "to-do list" yet rewarding to look back on all the memories being made. Plus, for once I would have an answer to the "What do you do all day?!" question. This post contains affiliate links.

Let's get this day started!

Day in the Life as a New Mom of Two

12:30AM, 3:00AM, 5:15AM - I'm up nursing Baby W. Man, that boy likes to eat and it shows. He weighed in at 11.5 lbs at his 6-week appointment last week! (4.5 lbs gained?!)

5:30AM - Might as well start my day. I burp W and grab a granola bar from the kitchen. I read through the She Reads Truth devotional for today on Leo's smart phone and spend time in prayer.

After my morning devos, it's time to get the running clothes on. It's a rainy morning so I throw on my waterproof Boston coat and head out the door.

6:50AM - That was my first run without walk intervals since Baby W was born! I feel more tired than I expected yet it feels good to "accomplish" something for the morning - since I'm not good at the whole sleeping thing.

After a very quick cool down walk and stretch, I come into the house and find that the chaos is starting to brew - everyone is awake! Off with the sweaty clothes and into the shower I go.

7:30AM - Leo made pancakes this morning! On rainy days, he doesn't start work until 8:00 am. Today was a treat! As soon as I got my pancakes, Baby W must have smelled them because he needed to nurse. E looks excited about the pancakes but don't be fooled. That stinker only ate like one bite of his.

Daddy leaves for work. I clean up the breakfast dishes and we go through the boys' devotional book, "The Baby Bible Storybook for Boys". After some "David & Goliath", we read a few more books together. I love our time spent reading because it means I can drink my coffee while sitting down!

9:00AM - Time for dishes. We don't have a dishwasher so this takes a little while some days. Today was one of those days.

I started off doing the one-legged dishes, while rocking the baby in his car seat with my other leg. He was having a fussy/gassy morning! Baby W started crying which made E start crying, telling his brother to "Stop it!".

Now seemed like a good time to boil some eggs for egg salad at lunch time. I took a break to nurse Baby W while I bounced E on my legs as he "rode horsey". After giving up on burping W, I finished dishes. Whew!

9:45AM - E yells from the bathroom, "Mommy, come see!!!" I ran in, expecting the worst, only to find him proudly pointing to his potty and his "#2" in there. "I didn't eat it", he tells me. I thanked him for not eating it. Moving on...

We brush our teeth (forgot to do that earlier) and change W's diaper.

10:15AM - This is our usual park, play date or outside time. Today we prepare to venture outside for some trike practice. I help E get dressed, change W's outfit and fumble over putting the Moby Wrap on myself. I place W in the Moby Wrap and we all head outside for trike ride and walk.

E hops on his trike and we are ready to go. We brought our rain coats with just in case it decided to downpour again.

11:00AM - An urgent potty break brings us back in the house. Afterwards, E face plants in our hallway. I kiss the boo boo and we pick up the toys that flew everywhere.

I finish up the egg salad and fry some bacon. Egg salad and bacon are perfect for each other! We eat lunch right after it's done. W continues his nap while I have some alone time to play puzzles with E.

12:15PM - Daddy comes home for lunch. W wakes up and it's time to nurse. Daddy and E rough house after lunch.

1:00PM - Daddy leaves for work and E goes down for his nap. It's mommy and Baby W time! He naps on me while I edit pictures from a friend's wedding reception that happened a month ago... I still need to finish those!

This is the time when I would sneak in a treadmill run or strength train if I didn't workout in the morning. Since I ran early this morning, I edit a couple pictures and reply to a few comments on the blog instead.

2:30PM - Nurse W. Laundry time! Throw cloth diapers in for wash #1. Lay down for a rest with Baby W. Usually when I'm ready to rest, W is ready to play. Today I caught his smile with my phone's (not very good) camera!

4:00PM - I hear E's door crack open. He's up! Baby W nurses again and we all get ready for more outside time. E rides his trike around the front yard but we stay close to home while a thunderstorm passes by just north of us.

Baby W loves being in the Moby Wrap ! He has been in a growth spurt lately and all of the cluster feeding has left him extra gassy... and fussy. The upright position and movement helps him work it out.

5:30PM - We're back inside and I start supper. I nurse Baby W and Leo comes home from work soon after the food is done.

7:00PM - After supper and some rough-house playtime, I cut Leo and E's hair. This is a monthly sort of thing for Leo's other job and E wants to do whatever Daddy does! After haircuts, the bedtime routine begins. I throw the cloth diapers in for wash #2.

8:00PM - E is down for bed and Baby W continues to cluster feed. I hang the cloth diapers to dry downstairs, clean up after supper and feed the dog.

Leo and I sit down to watch a Netflix show together - we are hooked on Parenthood! - and Baby W nurses.

9:30PM - After getting ready for bed, I pass out after the show to get some sleep before Baby W wakes to nurse again (at 1:00 am) and Leo works on paperwork.

Overall, being a mom of two isn't as bad as I thought it would be! I'm tired and the days feel long but they are filled with so much joy. My husband and I thank God for these two sweet boys and it's such a blessing to spend my days with them!

Do you prefer a regular routine or an unpredictable, let's say "spontaneous" day?

Sizzler 5k Race Recap + Training Week 1

The night before the race was rather sleepless.

It wasn't that I was nervous or feeling restless. It's just this very hungry baby boy loves to spend quality time with mom in the middle of the night. Good thing he's so cute because his little smirk makes the sleep deprivation worth it!

After Baby W's last nursing session, 6:00 am came quickly. I jumped out of bed to brew my coffee and make a batch of egg pancakes before E woke up. My mom (a.k.a. "Grandma") stayed over night and was ready to watch the boys for me during the race, as Leo was gone for the weekend. Baby W was fussing but he calmed down quickly after some cuddle time with Grandma.

While waiting for the egg pancakes to get done, I sipped on my coffee and rolled out my legs with the GoFit massage bar. This was my attempt to appear well rested and fresh-legged for the morning's 5k.

As soon as E woke up, we all ate breakfast and got ready for the morning. After nursing Baby W again, he was due for a diaper change and I dressed him in his day clothes. It was time for me to leave for the race soon so I pumped and prepped a bottle for Baby W.

I put on my Garmin and iPod, grabbed a bottle of water and my entry fee and headed out the door. The morning temp had already warmed up to 73° and the air felt thick at 83% humidity.

Best part about this race? I could walk from my house to the starting line! I did a mix of jogging and walking on the way there and registration went really quick, as it was a small-ish local 5k. After waiting around for 30 minutes, we lined up on the starting line and were off at the blow of a whistle!

At 7 weeks postpartum, my plan was to take it easy and run at a pace hopefully under 9:00 minutes/mile. That plan flew out the window! There were two very speedy women in front of me and my competitive side couldn't help but chase them.

Mile 1 - 7:19
Mile 2 - 7:53

One of my first postpartum race goals was to ignore my Garmin during the race... but I had to look. 7:19?! I knew I was running at a pace that would be hard to maintain at my current fitness level.

My legs felt strong but my lungs reminded me that I haven't done any speed work or tempo runs in a long time. I carried on the huffing and puffing but slowed my pace slightly to a little under 8:00/mile.

Just when I was thinking, "Ah, this is why I don't like 5k's!" I saw a very cute little dude riding his tricycle down the sidewalk. E even blew me a kiss!

Grandma and the boys were cheering me on and that adrenaline boost helped me to ignore my fatigue.

I ran past them one more time as we completed the loop on the course and I blew E one more kiss. To keep my legs moving, I kept thinking "Cadence, cadence! Get those feet moving!". I didn't need to run fast but I wanted to keep a quick cadence as good practice for upcoming longer distance races.

Something I really like about this race is that I know the course well. It's rare for me to know the course I'm racing on and it was encouraging to know the finish line was near. I could keep this pace going for just a little longer!

I gave the last leg of the race all I had, which certainly wasn't much, and got passed by a guy pushing a jogging stroller in the homestretch. I think that was payback for passing people with E in the stroller last year! He was wearing shorts from the Boston Marathon so I didn't feel so bad :)

Mile 3 - 7:38
Mile .1 - 7:14

I FINISHED! Whew. It felt good to cross that line and I'm pretty sure my face was beet-red. According to my Garmin, my finish stats were:

Finish Time - 23:49 (On my Garmin -> 23:53, 3.14 miles)
Average Pace - 7:36/mile
Placing - 3rd female, 5th/39 overall

I ran home to Grandma and my boys and we were all ready to head inside to the air conditioning.

After a quick shower, lunch and the boys' nap time, we were ready for the parade festivities! We headed to the parade and got way too much candy.

E is my candy magnet! Everyone threw candy to him. Grandma held Baby W while we picked candy. E became a pro at parade candy picking this year!

When we got back home, we were all exhausted and in need of a cool down. After supper, we watched Piglet's Big Movie and called it a night. I love cuddling with these boys!


WH1/2 Training Week 1

7/6 M - 3.1 treadmill miles, 30:00. 1 min. walk/4 min. run intervals @ 9:00/mile.

7/7 T - Strength Training
7/8 W - 4.25 miles, 40:02. First day of no walk intervals! @ 9:26/mile.

7/9 H - 2.23 treadmill miles, 20:00 @ 8:58/mile.

7/10 F - Rest Day.

7/11 S - Sizzler 5k. 3.14 miles, 23:53 @ 7:36/mile.

Total Mileage: 12.72 miles

Linking up with Jessica and Jill at the Fit Dish link-up and Fitness Friday. #dishthefit

5 Goals for My First Postpartum Race

Happy Fitness Friday! Tomorrow I'm running my first race since Baby W's birth and I wanted to share a few of my race goals with you.

Over the past three weeks, I have been doing walk-run intervals to ease into running and I had my first "running-only" run on Wednesday. I'm not ready to push the pace but I do look forward to running with other people tomorrow! I run alone these days and really miss the running group atmosphere from our old hometown.

Pregnancy, birth and the postpartum recovery take your body through so many changes! This week's 4-miler this week was a good reminder of all my body has been through. The 9:25/mile pace smoked me at the end of the run.

That workout was a reminder that it takes time and patience to rebuild fitness after having a baby. Consistent stretching and foam rolling helps me to recover between workouts as I gradually increase the mileage and pace.

5 Goals for My First Postpartum Race

1. Run By Feel.

I'm ignoring my Garmin and running by how I feel rather than by numbers. To break the habit of looking at my watch during the race, I wear it on the opposite wrist. Sounds strange but it works for me! Running Garmin-less is an option, too, but I like to have the run stats after the race. (nerd)

As well as running by feel, I am focusing on keeping my cadence at 180 steps per minute or higher. If you haven't counted your cadence before, check out this article for more information.

2. Dress Accordingly

Black is a great color option for tops because it won't show leakage if you are a nursing mom and, well, you spring a leak! Wearing at least two sports bras is another great tip for breastfeeding moms. Anything to save some race day awkwardness.

3. Pump Before The Run

Running is infinitely more comfortable after pumping! It's a nice thought to leave a bottle with the babysitter (a.k.a. my mom) in case hunger strikes my youngest, too. And, who knows, being a few ounces lighter may cut a millisecond off my finish time :)

4. Get Some Sleep

Ha! Just kidding. Sleep's not really happening, at least for me and Baby W. If your 2-month-old is sleeping through the night already, please don't tell me about it! I might cry.

A full night's sleep seems far away at this point but foam rolling the night before and a cup of coffee on race morning will get me moving.

5. Have Fun!

I want to make the best of this running solo experience and not feel guilty for asking help. I really struggle with this but I know Grandma needs some bonding time with her boys and being alone for 30 minutes will be good for me.

Running a few miles by myself feels like such a treat now and, though I love my boys to pieces, I'm going to make the best of this run. Plus, my body is not ready to race with this honkin' big stroller yet:

Starting Next Week:

This has also been my first training week for the Wild Hog Half Marathon in September! Next week I will start the weekly WH1/2 training log posts as I ease into running longer distances again.

What are your racing plans for this year?
How did you ease into running again after having a baby or being injured?

Linking up with Fitness Friday.

How Do You Fuel? Mad Lib with Puritan's Pride

I’m so excited to fuel my #1MillionMinutes goals with Puritan’s Pride! All summer I plan to run my way to a healthier, fitter me, and I’ll need help staying hydrated and fueled during all my family and fitness adventures!

I will make sure I stay on track and will rely on healthy snack options to keep me well fueled before, during and after workouts, and my trusty water bottle to keep me hydrated!

I’m most excited to try the Kind Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate + Protein bars and Crunchy Cashew Clusters from Puritan’s Pride because they look absolutely delicious.

One supplement I’ve never tried but am curious about is the Muscle Milk® Chocolate protein powder. I think it might make me extra recovered after hard workouts.

Bring it, #1MillionMinutes! I’m ready to go!

This post is sponsored by Puritan’s Pride. All opinions are my own. We so appreciate you supporting the brands who support Fit Approach and the #sweatpink community!

Coffee Break: My Story

Let's try something new.

Some of the best conversations happen over coffee. There is something about a good cup of coffee that brings people together. Add God's Word to the mix and it's the perfect time to have real, honest conversations.

There isn't a coffee shop in town, the kids are napping and I'm a firm believer in the "never wake a sleeping baby" rule so a blog-style coffee date will have to do.

To start off this new coffee break concept, I want to share my story with you. Social media and the internet tend to paint a perfect, "got-it-all-together" kind of picture and I want to share the real, very imperfect me. Being vulnerable and sharing my imperfections is scary, but if I can somehow help or encourage someone else through this, it's well worth the awkwardness.

This is the story - my testimony - of my many mistakes and God drawing me to Himself through grace, mercy and love.
I will give thanks to You, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all Your wonderful deeds. Psalm 9:1

I grew up on a small farm just outside a small town. I believed in God from the beginning and would say a quick prayer before bed each night.

I went to Sunday School most Sundays because my parents made me and church on occasion - at least on Christmas and Easter.

If you would have asked me if I was going to Heaven, my answer would have been something like, "I hope so?" I mean, I seemed like a good person and all. Wasn't that enough?

Though I was doing all the "right things" I was missing the most important part: I didn't have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Actually, I didn't know what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus. I had a Bible sitting in my bedroom but had never read it for myself. And I didn't realize that being a "good person" wasn't my ticket to Heaven.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
After the Sunday School years, I went through the confirmation classes and quit attending church after I was confirmed. In my mind, I had no reason to continue going.

I had the head knowledge, but my heart wasn't there.
I could recite the books of the Bible. Check.
Memorized the Lord's prayer and Apostle's Creed. Check.
I had a Bible with my name printed on the outside. Check.

I had no idea who the Holy Spirit was. In church, He was referred to as the "Holy Ghost" which really creeped me out! I didn't understand that Jesus Christ could transform my soul. My heart was hard and bitter but He could fix it all.

I kept up the "good kid" act for the remainder of my high school years and cut loose after graduation.

Bad decision after bad decision, I lived life doing whatever I felt like - trying to push the limits and find whatever it was I was looking for. I knew something was missing in my life but I couldn't figure out what it was.

For the next four years of my life, I chose to run in the opposite direction of God, looking for something to fill that emptiness in my heart. I looked to partying, ungodly relationships, my grades and athletic achievements. Nothing could fill the void in my heart. As for the convictions I had, I chose to ignore them, hardening my heart even further.

Eventually I hit a wall. A bad breakup and relational drama from the past led me to my breaking point. Lying on my dorm room floor in tears, I didn't know what else to do besides ask God to help me get out of this mess I had made.

After a good while of sobbing on the floor, I felt a peace that I hadn't experienced before, though my troubles were far from over. Over the course of the next year, God continued to draw me towards Him and started picking away at the sin in my life.

The Newsboys were playing on campus so I went to the concert with my tennis teammate. I had no idea they were a Christian band!

During the concert, they passed around "next step" cards where you could request prayer, get involved with campus ministries, etc. I checked the "I want to re-dedicate my life to Jesus" box because it seemed like the easiest option... and, well, wasn't I already dedicated to Jesus? I mean, I was baptized as a baby and all.

Little did I know, God had big plans for transforming my life.

That summer I had the desire to learn more about God and what it meant to have a relationship with Him. My brother borrowed me <affiliate link>The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren and I started working through it by myself.

I would read the book in the morning, go to work for the day and go out to the bar with my friends at night. Despite continuing to party, the hunger for God was growing inside me as I worked through that book. It convicted me of the way I was living and explained the importance of going to church for spiritual growth and accountability. For the first time, I was reading the Bible and jotting down verses in my journal.

I knew I needed Christian fellowship but I was scared to set out to find it.

Fast-forward to a few months later and I was moving away for my first job after graduating from college. Though I was in relationship with an atheist, I continued to chase after God in my alone time.

Lonely in my new hometown, I had the perfect opportunity to find that Christian fellowship I so badly needed. I started checking out area churches on my own, which was really intimidating. Soon I started attending a women's Bible study. That was a big step of faith for me, as it was my first Bible study!

As God continued to work in my heart, I knew I needed to end the relationship I was in. Soon after, I started attending church regularly. They made me feel like I was a part of the family right away.

I continued to attend whatever church events were going on. I couldn't get enough of this Christian community! Through the sermons and Bible study group, I was learning how to read God's Word and apply it to my life. The Scriptures that seemed so boring and confusing as a kid were making sense. A passion for God and His Word started to grow in my heart.

On July 3, 2011, I publicly proclaimed my faith in Jesus Christ and was baptized. That was just the beginning.
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38
Four years later, God is still changing my heart and shaping me. Faith is work in progress. God has blessed me with a wonderful, godly husband and two handsome little boys. He is using marriage and motherhood to sanctify me daily, that is for sure!

Sometimes I cringe when I think of how lost I was for the first 23 years of my life - how much time I wasted. But as I write this all out, I can see all the grace God has poured out on me through my past and continues to daily. I can't help but smile.

My heart was so bad, so hard and bitter, yet God is so good. He didn't give up on me though I tried my best to run in the opposite direction for so long. When I first surrendered my life to Christ, my prayer was for Jesus to soften my heart and to break my heart for those who don't know Him (Ezekiel 36:26).
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26
When I think back on my faith journey so far, I pray that I can give hope to those who are running away from God right now. There isn't one person who is "too bad" for God to save. No one is hopeless.

The lie is that you need to get your life cleaned up before going to church and having a relationship with Jesus. That is so far from the truth. Life transformation starts with Jesus.  Jesus took me as the mess I was, He cleaned up my life and brought me into a personal relationship with God. 
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
I am 28 now but, the way I see it, my life truly began four years ago.

Linking up with Fitness Friday, Mommy Moments and the Fit Dish with Jessica and Jill. #dishthefit