“Put the work in now.”

“Put the work in now. You’re only cheating yourself if you don’t.”

A quote by a friend about three weeks ago in a spin class I haven’t been able to shake. She meant it for biking. She meant it for sweating. She meant it for burning legs and lungs. But I can’t help thinking there was a bigger purpose to those words rattling inside my head these weeks.

Work is good. I love work. I really do. It’s a word that never really scared or felt painful to me. It’s a word that I appreciated. Like I could see the end result of my work before I ever started and that was my motivation to put time, energy, and effort into working toward that THING whatever it was.

Growing up, school was my greatest work and feat, but I always made it through those nine months of school and got to live the achievement with each new grade. Then college and grad school. Both rough, but so good for different reasons. Work in finding and starting some sort of career, still discovering what that means, but I love the journey more each year!

What I really want to talk about though is sports. I’ve always loved sports. My parents were big on getting my siblings and I plugged into sports teams growing up. Kids and adolescents have the potential to learn life changing lessons for the good because of sports. Character, stick-to-itiveness, losing, winning, boundaries (what are they, why are they there?), cheating, teamwork, sometimes being in the spotlight, and sometimes giving that spotlight to others, and lastly showing up to practice even when you don’t want to. When athletes reach a level of skill and honing in on their sports that they can be a leader in their community, or even reaching the highest levels of sports by going pro is a great aim for many kids that carry them through to adulthood. Sports are a powerful part of society and I know I’m a way stronger person because of sports.

I learned to push through physical and mental pain and stress, knowing that if I don’t, I’ll be left behind or won’t reach my goals. And this could be goals in anything! Goals pertaining to relationships, my career, finishing my first triathlon, and being able to run a certain distance, but being able to drop the time.

The key is: part of putting in the work is knowing your “why” as I hear so many coaches talk about. Why the days alone training? Why the early mornings and rigid schedules for your career or athletics? Is it for being the best, so recognition? Is it for more money, so maybe financial security? Is it for staying in good health, so as to live your best quality of life? (Your why should be something meaningful and fulfilling; recognition and fame can be flimsy “whys.” They can be easily taken away. Choose your why wisely.)

My friend/spin instructor said it best that day in the spin room: Put the work in now! You’re only cheating yourself if you don’t.

Once you know your why, then putting in the work to get there is the next step. My friend/spin instructor said it best that day in the spin room: Put the work in now! You’re only cheating yourself if you don’t. In the moment, though I was on my bike with the music blaring and lights dimmed as most spin rooms are, my mind was on relationships. I’ve definitely missed the mark in relationships for not putting in the proper amount of work. Whether for good reasons or not in the moment, the fact is I and I alone was the one cheated for not putting in the work. I’ve missed opportunities by not putting in the work to have hard conversations and mending frayed relationships with friends and co-workers.

I’ve definitely missed the mark in relationships for not putting in the proper amount of work. Whether for good reasons or not in the moment, the fact is I and I alone was the one cheated for not putting in the work. I’ve missed opportunities by not putting in the work to have hard conversations and mending frayed relationships with friends and co-workers.

Putting in the work doesn’t always look like getting sweaty and “swoll” in an obvious way on the outside. It might look like internal exhaustion and setbacks, but still trekking forward because your goals and dreams matter and you’re standing on your “WHY.” Your why puts those hard days in perspective.

Maybe your goal is to be the top sales person where you work or to earn the title of manager, what do you need to learn and do to get there? Maybe it means saying “no” to late night shows so that you can go to bed on time and wake up ready for a new work day refreshed. If you have actual #relationshipgoals as the trending hashtag circled around the world got posted, what work do you need to put into that relationship now, so that you reach the goal? In some cases the “work” might just simply be stating a prayer to the One Above to guide you in your marriage when things seem to be falling apart.

I’ve learned the lesson of not putting in the work when it comes to various facets of life. On the other hand, I’ve seen the fruit of putting in the work, and the latter is WAY more fulfilling.

I’ve learned the lesson of not putting in the work when it comes to various facets of life. On the other hand, I’ve seen the fruit of putting in the work, and the latter is WAY more fulfilling.

I’m not suggesting that work is all that life is about. It’s not. Life is also about enjoying the good days before you and learning to love the people around you well; it’s about practicing the true art of self-care because you are worthy of love yourself.

However, what I do know is that work is good and when it comes to work, the goals and dreams we hold onto (athletic goals, career goals, travel goals, marriage goals, community goals…) won’t magically appear without effort. And as my friend said that day as I huffed and puffed my way through a 26-mile ride in the studio—if you don’t put in the work now, no matter what your goals are, you’re only cheating yourself.

When Skin Tells a Story

I was rubbing my sun burnt legs down with lotion and noticed not only the hot feeling of a surface burn, but also felt an itch with a cluster of mosquito bites on my left calf. Scratching only irritated the burn, but if I didn’t scratch the bites were impossible to handle. Then, I noticed the nick where I had cut myself with a razor blade down near my ankle; blood was starting to trickle down my foot. I had rushed my shower, obviously, to have not noticed my beat-up legs and allowed myself to be so careless in cutting myself. Cuts, burns, and bites made my leg looked like it had been to battle.

I studied my other leg taking in an old scar down by my ankle. Fewer bites, but still uncomfortably burnt and a giant bruise on my shin.

All of a sudden, I felt a wave of being proud of my legs. I think typically my mind would rumble through thoughts of frustration having to dress a certain way to cover up the mess that was my legs in that moment. But not this time.

“Look at that.” I thought. “My skin. Taking the heat literally for all I go through and put it through.” My skin protects me from all kinds of elements just by walking the daily ins and outs of life. And look at all it can handle. The sun. Insects. Scrapes. Scratches. Bruises. Cuts that lead to scars. Though imperfect, my skin was beautiful to me in that moment. Is beautiful. And I don’t give it enough credit.

Skin is the biggest organ of our bodies and gets treated the harshest. Do we thank our skin for all it protects us from? Do we take care of it as we should? Do we drink enough water or eat high nutrient foods that hydrate and feed it properly? I try to. But besides the physical necessity that skin is by providing our bodies protection, there is so much more depth to understand.

My skin told the story of a woman who loves the outdoors— bug bites and sunburns. The bruises point to someone who is active, jostling around, and bumping into things. The scar on my ankle showed something of adventure or an experience that might have been rough in the moment, but ended with me being more resilient and now it’s healed. The razor cut by my ankle points to a personality of getting things done quickly, maybe too quickly and even rushing at times.

And what about you? What does your skin say to the world? What stories can people gather beyond the surface from that tough outer layer?

Some people have tattoos. (I love asking people about their tattoos! Sometimes the stories of a person’s tattoos are deep and meaningful. Others say they got a tattoo on a whim because of a bet or a preference. “I just like stars!” someone responded when I asked what the array of stars on their shoulder stood for.)

Some people have unique birth marks.

Some people have freckles.

Some people have stretch marks or wrinkles.

Some people have callouses built up from work and play.

Some people have more or less melanin, making them “black” or “white” or somewhere in between.

Think of the individual fingerprints you specifically were born with.

It’s pliable and soft. Growing with you. Stretching with you. Unique to ONLY you.

You can get skin wet and dry it off in a matter of seconds. Sometimes when it’s rainy and I need to run outside to the mailbox or take the trash out, I would rather go in my bare feet knowing that shoes will take forever to dry compared to wiping my feet off.

Skin gets dirty and it’s never a problem knowing you can then get it clean in the next shower.

Whatever your skin says on the outside about you, your life, your story—know it is absolutely beautiful and deserves appreciation and care.

Be proud of your skin. Be proud of what it says about you. Be proud of the first cover people see to the story and book that makes your life. And live your best life knowing your skin is beautiful even if it’s imperfect.

{Hear From Him} Long Distance Relationships

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Very excited to announce the first post created WITH my lover man and future hubby, Kevin. I’ve wanted to do a post with him for a while, and being engaged and long distance we decided to write our first post on this very topic: LDR’s. We’ve gotten a lot of comments from friends and strangers about how we do it.

“Wow, power to you guys. I could never do that.”

“I had to break up with my ex after two weeks of distance– we just couldn’t figure it out.”

“How do you know it’s going to work out when you are married and living together?”

We know we’re not the only one’s who have been here, my own grandparents were long distance during WWII and wrote letters to each other during their first year or two of marriage!  Honestly, we have it easy with the technology available to us and we wanted to share with those who are curious, or are in a long distance yourself– it is possible to have a long distance relationship, and for it to work!

Here are 6 tips for you from us! Read through em and let us know of any tips you have from your long distance dating experiences!


Your Phone is Your Best Friend – Kevin

Keep it charged. Be mindful of the battery percentage. You don’t want your phone dying when having meaningful conversations or when you are trying to say something important. One huge factor in communicating well is to have (as much as possible) regularly scheduled phone times, where you both know you are available, even if it’s a brief morning call and lunch break check in. Be thoughtful of these times, keeping your schedule as clear as possible and having your phone battery fully charged and ready to go for when you can talk.

Look into each other’s eyes. See each other’s smiles. Laugh as much as you can together and even share in sad times and see each other cry. This establishes a true friendship that can be more durable in the long run.

Try to acknowledge your significant other’s calls or messages as much as you can. Understand that even though you each have separate lives, messaging and calling throughout the day is a big part of any relationship. It’s amazing what a heart emoji can do for your sweetheart days. Reply to their messages as soon as you can.


Gifs, Emojis, and Undivided Attention – Juliandra

Like any relationship, it takes work in communication to be in a long distance one as much, if not more, than an in-person relationship. One huge aspect to communication that has helped Kevin and I is the little things.

Sometimes we don’t have hours on end to spend with each other. Sometimes it’s a 10-minute phone call between work and gym and then maybe a call while doing errands and that’s all we have time for that day. And it’s okay as long as we keep up with the little things like an “I Love You” gif or “Thinking of You” text. Those little messages will help keep communication going, whether or not you can talk much during the day.

And because you don’t REALLY know what your partners’ day is like as you aren’t a part of the daily ins and outs, then being sure to be the first one to send a sticker or gif through the day can just be a stepping stone to showing your partner they matter and are on your mind.

Little things matter too, even when you do have hours to spare on the phone. When you talk, do yourself and your partner the favor of turning off your TV or notifications on your phone, giving him or her your undivided attention. This communicates that you’re focused and fully engaged—Little Things matter so much!


Keep Physical Reminders in Sight – Kevin

This works as it reminds you of your lover and brings memories that keep you going, no matter what is happening around you in your day.

I have mementos hidden in drawers and placed around my room of pictures, gifts Juliandra has given me, and things we’ve collected together on trips. These physical things matter in a tangible way and ease out a smile every time I see them.


Your significant other has a life outside of you—don’t hate them for it.  -Juliandra

As a matter of fact, try to be encouraging of it! Like all things in life, balance is key and though you will want to spend most of your time together on the phone, and that’s important to keep communication lines open, having relationships and activities outside of talking to each other is important too. When things come up that you are home, but they are away for hours or even days, encourage them to take those times and moments with other friends and family. It will give you more to talk about after the fact, and shows you trust them with how they spend their time outside of talking with you. Long distance is hard enough, don’t make it harder for your partner by being selfish that they be at your beck and call (no pun intended) at every moment.


Creative Date Nights – Kevin

The opposite to Juliandra’s point above, it’s just as important to have dates and times figured out in advance, where your schedule is clear just for each other. These nights are meant to be work free and relaxing. No interruptions allowed.

Pick out a movie, get a drink, and order food you both like. Get your phones fully charged so no one gets left out during your date. It usually takes a minute or two, but syncing your movie and watching it at the exact time makes you feel as if you are both right next to each other.

Other things we’ve done is going on walks and even shopping at the same time. Not caring about the looks of others when on a video call during your date night, especially when out and about, gives the feeling of being in your own world together. The rest of it fades away.


Expect hard things to come up when you do see each other – Juliandra

One thing I didn’t expect dating long distance was the awkward to sometimes hurtful moments when were together in person. When talking on the phone, it’s easy to avoid conversations you don’t want to have, or brush things under the rug that are actually a big deal in person. And it’s okay to have those moments. Expect it even. You are two people who might not get to see each other often, and there will be an adjustment period every time you are physically in each other’s presence. Things that you didn’t know were an issue might come up, and have to be addressed to have clarity in the relationship. This doesn’t mean you should end things because it’s hard, it just means that you’re human and so is the man or woman you are dating.

I’ve realized in dating Kevin that every time we see each other I get super sad or even irritable with him days before he leaves. I didn’t understand how we could be together even during fun events and me feel so dejected inside. Or, we’ve ended up bickering, fighting, being less than patient with the other always just before another long parting.

When I realized this pattern, which would surface every visit and always just days before separating again, it has been easier to know that its coming and be better prepared for it the next time. But no matter what happens—giving myself and Kevin grace in the hard, awkward moments of being together after a lengthy separation is key.

 

Love Like a Blanket

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PC: Ruthie Martin

You know what I love most about fall? Curling up in a blanket with a cup of tea in the evening. Don’t get me wrong, I love summertime. It’s sun-shiney, full of campfires, nights on the town with friends, traveling to beaches and cities… But now… the leaves are orange and red. The days are short. The the air is chilly. And fall lends to an increased number of quiet evenings at home. Some days.

With the chilly weather, nothing beats my flannel blanket, a new book, and hot cup of tea. Sigh. Down time.

That said, my job keeps me on the go most of the time this time of the year. I work in sports TV production for a Big Ten team: the Penn State Nittany Lions. The past two months have really been a blur of football games, booking shoots, edits, show builds, directing interns, and emails such as “where is the missing DVD file?” or “why is this video not posted to YouTube yet?”

I love what I do! But still…

As I push through this blur, most days with a smile and an underlying headache, I’ve really had to check myself… Where are my priorities? Who am I relying on?

Seriously. As work as taken over, I feel like I’ve been messing up BIG time in my relationships with both God and people – First, a misunderstanding with a friend of almost a decade led to a hurtful friend breakup. Then, missing Bible Study for the past month because of the heavy workload. And in between, disregarding texts and calls from girlfriends joking that “meh, I don’t need a social life right now.”

So, it was an evening to myself a couple of days ago, when I chose to curl up in that flannel, fall time blanket I mentioned earlier, with a hot cup of tea, when I realized pretty quickly that I’ve been running on spiritual fumes- smiling away the hurts and ignoring the bruises.

Sipping on my mug of tea and pulling the blanket tighter around myself, I finally opened up to the Lord… confessing my actions and questioning others’. Instead of a rebuke, my good, good Father draped His arms of love around me in a whisper and embrace warmer and thicker than any blanket on a chilly fall evening.

His love transcends the ups and downs of life and relationships. Mistakes big or small. Good-byes that don’t make sense. Loneliness despite the busyness. The whole spectrum of emotions that act as guides throughout our days. And the icing of joys and successes in the mix.

He knows all. Sees all. Understands all. And is just WAITING for you and I to fall back into His love and let Him wrap us up in peace and love.

Unlike people who sometimes sprint and other times mosey in and out of your life for a season, be it 1 year or 10 years, God will never leave you nor forsake you. And nothing can separate you from His love, despite what you might feel in any given moment.

So this fall season God is teaching me to stop, confess, and let Him love me as no one else can.

 And that is better than a flannel blanket or cup of tea, on a chilly fall night, could ever be.