Running Towards Joy

Running Towards Joy

She is as lovely as the first time I met her 5 years ago when asked to interview her for a transfer from one business location to another.  Long, strawberry blond hair and a smile that lights up the air around her.  She speaks softly and laughs readily.  She is a gem of compassion, love and mothering…she just has that way about her.  Meet Cathy Engen, Strong:Her Woman of the Month – June 2019.

Cathy hails from the Dakotas.  Born in Cleveland, Ohio, her family headed west when Cathy was 10 years old.  Their 800+ acre farm literally straddles across the North and South Dakota lines.  “I think the state line ran right through the middle of the house,” she says.  She attended high school in both states, as well.  From the time she was little Cathy was always singing.  Singing and running.  Even in her crib, the baby noise she chose was a song. Her passion for both would weave its way into the story of her life.

Cathy, performing in the musical, Brigadoon (1970’s)

In high school Cathy longed to be on the track team, but there was no such thing as a women’s track team for her small town.  Maybe in the bigger cities, sure.  For this tiny farm-girl, however, she was only allowed to train and run with the boys, but not compete.  This soon changed as she and a group of girls advocated for equality and were eventually allowed to form a track team to compete against other girls.  They did not have funding to be very official and certainly lacked equipment.  Passion fueled solutions, however, and the girls would wear the boy’s football cleats and stuff socks in the toes.  They would then take to the track and run their hearts out.  They soon found themselves allowed to compete in local competitions and like the freedom a bird must feel in flight, Cathy ran.

In college she reignited her love for music and majored in vocals.  She became a music teacher for the next few years and spent her time teaching, mentoring, coaching, singing and sharing her love for music.  It was harder in those days, the early to mid-80’s, to find good paying jobs for women in music in small mid-western towns.  So, Cathy moved into the business sector and became one of the first female managers for the Sioux Falls, South Dakota Chamber of Commerce.  She is proud of that position, even when finding opposition from other women in the workforce.  She overcame resistance by determining herself to be an example to other women around her and to show them that they could be strong and successful, as well.  “We need each other,” she advises.  “We just don’t do enough (as women) to support each other.  It doesn’t take anything out of me to help you get ahead!  If I pour out of myself into you, God will just come along and pour back into me.  One act of kindness can spread further than only I can reach.  I help you and you help the next person and it just keeps going.  Why wouldn’t I want to help someone else?”

Cathy as Chamber of Commerce Manager, Sioux Falls (1980’s)

That philosophy has carried her throughout much of her life.  Cathy has also found that her faith has been the central-most grounding force in her life. “Life is going to hold challenges,” she wisely admits.  “You will face dark times, trouble will find you.  You have to be grounded.  The most important thing is faith.  You must have that foundation and nurture it.  You can feel like you give away so many pieces of yourself as a woman, a wife, a mother, or at work.  Take time for yourself.  Set healthy boundaries for yourself.  I have found that it is in the valleys of life that I have experienced the most learning.  There are seasons of growth to be experienced in the middle of those trials of life.”

Cathy puts her own philosophies into action.  A few years ago she took time to pause and take an evaluation of this season of her life.  She and her husband have been married for three decades and their baby daughter is now grown.  She has seen success in life in business leadership and fostering relationships around her.  With this reflection, Cathy decided it was time to exit working and give time to focus again on what truly brings her joy.  “I wanted to hold music again!” she gushes.  “There’s just something about holding it in your hands.”  So, she joined the choir at the Fourth Baptist Church in Plymouth, MN.  She also started running again.

“I wanted to be an example to my daughter and I wanted to be mindful of my health.” She continues, “Life is a gift and I took control of what I could manage and change for myself.  It’s important that we mind the things that sustain us like eating good food, getting enough sleep, resting and paying attention to our emotional health.”

She admits that working towards her personal fitness goals takes a little longer in this season.  “Just start by walking,” she says. The pace is not the most important part, it’s the act of doing, being, striving, engaging, participating, setting a goal and working towards it.  “Sometimes I think, could I be better, yeah, but I’m using my talents, my gifts and living the best in my body.  There’s only one of me, I’m one-of-a-kind and I’m worth taking care of!” 

She built a regimen for herself that she could stick with and embraces the trail as an adventure that brings her joy.  “I’m an athlete and I run almost every day, even in the winter,” she says.  Cathy wants to make the most of what God gave her and she loves to meet people on the trail.  Like a magnet, she attracts others to her warm, caring and genuine nature.  She strikes up conversations with other runners and enjoys pouring love into those whom she meets along the way. 

It’s only been a few years and now she has a whole shelf of medals.  She has run races in multiple seasons, including sunshine, snow, warmth and cold.  One of her biggest dreams was to run a race with her daughter, which they recently did together. They have since shared running for joy together, including celebrating their fourth annual run of that first race, the Minnesota Hot Dash.

Cathy and her daughter, Kiki

“I just want to make the most of what God gave me.” Cathy proclaims.  “It’s never too late to start or try something new – or to go back to something you love – every day is a chance for a new beginning.  I hope to make the most of everything I’ve had in my life – my marriage, friends, family, work.”  She states, “I am not a human being, I’m a human ‘be-coming.’  Until I draw my last breath, I am still a work in progress.  I want to be everything God wants me to be.  I may not achieve that in every moment, but I am trying.”

Cathy and her husband, Tim

We think Cathy has achieved that and so much more.  Her passion and faith is evident all around her from the dedication to her training for the next race, to the voice that carries out hymns and praise on a Sunday morning, to the very words she chooses to speak to a mere stranger.  Cathy is a StrongHer Woman and she’s striving to fulfill her purpose.  “I’m still a kid,” she laughs.  “Still goofy!  This body is housing me, but the me inside is ageless, timeless.”  Her greatest accomplishment?  “I joy in having a part in the good for others,” she exclaims.  “At the end I just want to be able to say that it was a good run.”

Cathy, finishing up the Twin Cities Marathon in 2017

We applaud Cathy and her passionate zest and zeal for life! This is just the beginning of sharing stores of our Strong:Her Women. Come check out more of our inspiring ladies on our Her:Stories page.

Want to be featured as a Strong:Her Woman?  Submit your request for consideration here.

Redemption of a Critic

Redemption of a Critic

How do I judge thee?  Let me count the ways.  I see wrinkles and some laugh lines.  Wait, your style has gone astray. A little chub, a little drab, too many freckles dot your nose.  Some grays are showing through that dye job. You are tired and it shows. 

You are too busy and too scattered.  When is the last time you worked out?  Overworked, underappreciated.  Oh, I wouldn’t eat that amount.  You’re unkempt, trying too hard, maybe today is not your day.   I’m sure there was a better outfit choice this morning.  Um, you shouldn’t wear stripes that way.

I would have dressed up or dressed down.  Painted my cheeks a different pink.  I surely would have pulled my hair up.  It would look better, don’t you think?  Your face is too long, eyes too big and shoulders wide.  Hide your ears, quiet your voice, stuff all your fears inside.  Wear something different, that look is lame.  Same favorite sweater? Lacking grace, what a shame.

Sigh. Maybe I have made myself feel better by criticizing who you are.  But, it will be brief and very fleeting as selfish thoughts splinter my heart.  It will take a bit of warming, a bit of letting down my guard, before I can look much deeper and see who you really are.

What I have not noticed is that you’re so unique. Creative and amazing, you are truly at your peak.  I hadn’t seen it all before.  But, by looking a little deeper, I can appreciate you so much more.

Girl, yes you are too tired.  Can I help you out with that? I understand when days feel short and life’s demands have knocked you flat.

Girl, you are so busy.  I can see you focused in.  You’re climbing the ladder of success, looking for a total win.

Girl, I commend your effort, giving life all you’ve got.  You show tenacity and spirit.  From you, I could learn a lot.

Girl, you could be more recognized, but it’s not approval that you seek.  You’re happy if the kids are fed and you’ve kept up another week.

Girl, I do love that sweater, those boots and that smile.  But what I have learned today is worth cannot be measured by a sense of style.

My friend, great job on all you’ve accomplished and for letting your light shine.  I hope my passion can mimic yours and someday be just as fine.

Rachel Asks: Have we ever found ourselves on the receiving end of unkind words and criticism? It makes us feel as if life is a performance sport where we are judged constantly based on our ability to perform at someone else’s standard. Conversely, have we found ourselves on the the giving end of such harsh words and thoughts? Where we have deemed someone’s worth based off our personal opinion of them? We can do much better as women! We can do much better as moms, sisters and friends. How can you show love today? How can you reverse this trend?


Learning to Trust

Learning to Trust

The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, my salvation, my high tower, my refuge, and my savior…

II Samuel 22:3

It was insufferable, the agony of waking to each new day but feeling no new sense of sunlight, of purpose or relief. The weight of the previous day and the day before that, and the one before that, clung to me like a concrete brick, with the full force settling on my chest and making it difficult to do simple things like breathe. What was the sense in trying today? I had no hope on the horizon, no reason to believe today was going to be any different.

Reminded of my obligations to things like work and bills, I moved through the day with robotic existence. Trying hard not to let myself feel too deeply or get too lost in my own sorrow and self-pity, I filled my days with busy things from sun-up until sun-down. Work was mostly my outlet, my excuse to be too busy to feel. I started a 2nd job to fill in the gaps the first one left behind. I volunteered, I worked, I busied.

I had no idea why my marriage had ground to a screeching halt. It wasn’t perfect, by any means. But I had not realized it was on the brink of utter failure. In fact, I didn’t realize this until I was away one Sunday morning, returned home and found our townhouse cleared out. Not even a note.

I figured out quite quickly that life would require a great deal of commitment to survive. Thankful for friends and family who provided emotional support, who cheered me on and came to my aid, I indeed did survive.

It took me quite a long time to feel alive, however. Being a victim of circumstance was challenging. I felt as if I had lost my husband, my home, my stability, my future, my hopes and all my dreams in just a single day. Now aimless and uncertain of the future, I spent quite a bit of time in prayer. For a while, I felt aimless in that too.

I wanted to know why and how I had failed, he had failed, we had failed in our vows to one another. I could not afford our home on just a single salary and I was forced to move within the matter of a few weeks. I fell to my knees again, “God, why am I going through this? Why is this trial in my life? How can this possibly get better?”

One such prayer session it was as if I heard in my mind the words “Matthew, seven and nine.” Unsure of the verse I opened my bible to search. “Or what man of there is you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?” Intrigued, I scanned the previous statements.

Matthew 7:7-11, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened unto you: For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a snake? If you then, being unholy, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more will your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”

“God does not arbitrarily or unintelligently answer our prayers. He is a faithful father, one who responds with love and understanding.”


It hit me all at once, God was communicating to me that he was, in fact, listening. He heard all of those prayers, saw every tear, understood every moment of confusion. I was asking him for direction and as my father, he was not going to leave me faltering on my own.

Immediately, I clung to this hope. Faith is not intended to be a magic wand and God does not arbitrarily or unintelligently answer our prayers. He is a faithful father, one who responds with love and understanding. He saw the brokenness in my spirit and he gave me hope that he would meet me there for the mending.

I now realized that this trial was an opportunity. If I were willing to let him in, God could use it for my good. He could fashion something out of all my failures. I began to change my prayers. “Father, what can I learn in this moment and what are you trying to teach me? Help me to grow! Help me to trust! Help me to move forward and out of this dark place.”

This perspective and application of faith began to change the vision I had for my future. I became forward thinking again, not because I trusted myself, but because I knew the hand of the Father was there to guide me.

I began to channel my energies into productive choices. I returned to college, I looked for ways to serve my community. Instead of just being busy for the sake of filling my time, I was now passionate again about life because hope surrounded the day.

For some people they are able to recover marriages and restore those relationships once again. I am ever so thankful and excited when I see this come together for struggling families. For me, this was not my story. Although something very precious to me had been lost, God was still there in the middle of it all, working on my fragile heart. He taught me how to open my arms wider to those in need and to desire to love each day just a little deeper. He showed me the power of faith and that no matter what circumstance that I was in, that he was still completely faithful, loving and there. He was right there. Just a whisper away.

He taught me that I had not been buried, but rather planted. That I was in a process of growth that he would bring to full bloom at his appointed time. I did not have the power in myself to change the course of events leading up to this time of planting, but I did have the heart to trust God in his timing and in his process.

Rachel Asks: Will you join me on the journey of learning to trust God today? Take a few moments to breathe in and rest for a moment. Close your eyes and allow peace to come to you. Ask for clarity, for direction, for his guidance. He will meet you in this place. Allow him to meet you here.


6 Ways to Enrich Your Life – Starting Today!

6 Ways to Enrich Your Life – Starting Today!

 You deserve to make the most of every 24 hours you are given, so use the steps below to begin to enrich your life and create harmony.

1. Find time to relax
True quality of life begins when we have time to contemplate, slow down and prioritize our thoughts. To enrich your life today, take a bubble bath, enjoy a walk or settle in with a good book. According to Harvard Health, taking these moments to unwind enables the body to fight the effects of stress by relaxing the muscles and reducing blood pressure.  I love to relax by getting into a good story, either through a book or a movie.  With a book I can take my time, dream about the characters and set the pace of the story.  With a movie, I often reflect afterwards and always enjoy when I can really feel in-touch with the characters. This time away from the busyness of life really helps me feel more at peace in my day-to-day life.

“Relax, Recharge and Reflect. Sometimes it’s okay to do nothing.”

Izey Victoria Odias
Bath salts and essential oils are a great way to enhance the experience of relaxation

2. Mind your Stressors
Having a mind-body connection can be a powerful tool in enriching your daily life. Try writing out the times you feel most stressed so you can readily identify when stress might occur. Stress can come from multiple places, our relationships and/or home life, workplace, internal stressors (anxiety and worry) and life concerns. Identifying what brings you stress can help you determine how to handle that stress. Some stress can be controlled with simple changes. For instance, if deadlines are causing stress at work, look for ways you can set yourself up for success. Organize your desk, get a calendar, set reminders on your phone or desktop. These small actions can help reduce stress in your day-to-day tasks. If you need further help or if stressors are outside of your ability to control, then reach out to a professional, such as a counselor, therapist, a pastor or mentor.

3. Get Enough Sleep
There cannot be enough said about letting yourself rest! Sleep is the time for our bodies to recharge and repair. Most normal adults need 7-9 hours sleep, according to WebMD. However, the specific amount of time can be adjusted to fit your own needs. Ultimately, be aware if you are lacking sleep for any extended period of time. Lack of sleep can cause impaired judgment, delayed reaction time, memory issues and even a weakening of your immune system. Having a bedtime window works well. Tell yourself, “I will aim to go to bed between 10pm and 11pm tonight.” That way you have a cushion of time to allow yourself to prepare.

4. Prioritize Nutrition
Food is literally your life source and what sustains you. It is very important that you make nutrition a priority to enrich your life. Fresh fruits and vegetables are packed and loaded with essential vitamins, minerals and things like antioxidants and amino acids. (Trust me, your body needs these!) Calories are just measurements of energy, so consume wholesome calories in a rainbow of colors – leafy greens and celery, orange carrots, red tomatoes, yellow squash, purple beets, blueberries…you get the idea! Limit processed foods, high-fat foods and excess sugar. Select recipes ahead of time, then grocery shop for these specific ingredients. I love to meal plan and create a menu board on my fridge each week. It helps me stay on track with diet and my budget – double win!

5. Meditate or Pray
Being in-touch with our inner-self is just as important as our relationship with the world around us. Taking time to meditate, being mindful or spending time in prayer helps enrich your life connection to our true selves and our creator. I find that I enjoy prayer time in the evening. I like to reflect on the day and chat with God for a few moments before I go to bed. I also try to make time to reconnect in prayer on my way to work in the mornings. Often the sunrise reminds me of the magnificent beauty in life and that there is an entire force at work so much larger than myself! God designed this day for us, he put this world in motion. Each sunrise reminds me of this and sometimes it’s as simple as a “thank you” to make me feel at peace. If you can, at whatever time of day feels best to you, find a quiet spot, turn off distractions and allow yourself to just be in the moment. To read more about Meditation and Prayer, click here!

6. Own Your Environment
The immediate space around you can have a profound impact on your mood and the feeling of contentment. To enhance your environment, take 5 minutes to de-clutter or reduce visible chaos. Light a candle or turn down harsh lighting. Music is also known to have stimulating effects. So, occasionally I turn on some tunes while I’m cooking to elevate the experience of relaxing after a long day. I love soulful worship music from Lauren Daigle, Selah, Hillsong, NeedtoBreathe, David Crowder Band, For King & Country, Matt Maher, Chris Tomlin, Jars of Clay and Elevation Worship. Even though I’m still on my feet, I begin the process of unwinding this way. Scent is a great stimulant to boost your surroundings, too. An electric diffuser for essential oils is my chosen method and I find the ability to vary my scents is a fun way to incorporate the element of aromatics. Select scents for relaxation such as lavender and jasmine if you like florals, or bergamot and sandalwood if you prefer spicier aromas.

Rachel Says: Don’t hesitate to put these ideas into effect today! Simple changes can enhance the way we experience life, from reducing stress at work to creating our own home sanctuary. Be intentional with your actions – you deserve to live your best life today!

Have other ways you prefer to enhance your daily routines?  Comment below!

 

Not Today, Fear

Not Today, Fear

It came out of nowhere, this rapidly beating heart and sense of anxiety and dread. I begin to scurry about, hurriedly turning things over, flipping things around. It has only been a few seconds, how could I have possibly lost them this fast? I retrace my steps, one time, two times, three…

This isn’t like me at all. Normally organized, meticulous and constantly working through a plan, I do not typically misplace things. I have systems for this, rhythms, rules.

I stop to realize that all my plans account for nothing if I have overwhelmed myself with work and tasks. My memory bank is not keeping up with my pace and now it has lent me to this mistake. I sigh, I turn and then I spy them. The bright orange wrist band peeking out from the corner of a shelf. I walk over and tug gently and out pops my ring of keys from their resting place. I whisper a prayer of relief and thanksgiving, a follow-up to the prayer I prayed while frantically searching. Truly, my heart is grateful.

It’s not that keys cannot be replaced, its the process of having to complete it since they belong to work. We have to replace the locks to the entire building, those above me have to be notified, all others who work in roles under me have to obtain a replacement, the fire department has to be called to replace the one in the lock box…the list goes on and on.

This sense of fear and dread stems from another past failure. Of misplacing something of critical importance at work that ultimately cost me my job. I wasn’t being careless or even non-committed, I had just simply taken my eyes off my responsibility for a moment and a moment is all it takes some times for things to fail. No one was personally affected by my error, but it was of importance to the company and they required me to be responsible. No hard feelings, but walking away from a failure like that leaves one totally susceptible to those fears taking over at the slightest hint of pressure in the future. My greatest personal failure is now my greatest stressor and I have to push that anxiety down over and over again since that time.

Fear has a funny way of taking it’s toll on our mind and body. As WebMD states, fear can cause our body’s sympathetic nervous system to release stress hormones like cortisol. This can cause physical reactions such as fast heartbeat, fatigue, headaches, inability to concentrate, irritability, dizziness, dry mouth, nausea, muscle tension, sweating and more. If experienced long-term, these symptoms can lead to more serious issues like stress on the heart, digestive disorders, suppression of the immune system and premature coronary artery disease.

How can we overcome the effects of fear, especially if we have experienced a traumatic life-event or significant loss? For some the pain from the experience continues long after the event, such as the loss of a loved one or someone who has experienced physical or emotional harm. Time can distance us from the event, but our memory replays like a loop in our minds, our heart feels the weight, our body realizes the effect of the stress.

For some, it is a great idea to seek therapy and speak with a professional. Counselors do much more than just listen, they are an advocate for your cause. They can direct you to the best resources to give you support.

To speak with someone today, try BetterHelp.com or call the
National Women’s Health Network

Find additional information at LiveLoveDeep/Resources

You can also make space in your day and apply yourself to quiet times of meditation, relaxation and prayer. According to WebMD, meditation helps balance the body’s systems. The relaxation response your body receives from mindful meditation helps lower blood pressure, improves heart rate, breathing and brain waves. It can also help increase one’s attention, learning, conscious perception, working memory.

The Bible has over a dozen different verses encouraging meditation and almost ten times that amount which speak about prayer. Psalm, chapter 1 describes a person who walks in good counsel and meditates on the Lord and states that person will be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, one that is fruitful and prospers.

Meditation and mindfulness can also be a designated quiet time where you remove yourself from the demands of the day and take time to relax, breathe slowly and let your mind slow down. Even if just for a few moments, you will benefit from a pause in your daily routine. Let’s get practicing!

Rachel Asks: Take 3 minutes and devote yourself to quiet time. Set a timer on your watch or phone. Practice breathing at an even pace, close your eyes and remove distractions. Engage in prayer, if you desire. Ultimately, be calm and allow yourself to relax. Add a minute each time until you reach your desired amount. You can practice this several times per day! Check out the site below for recommendations on apps you can download to assist you in this new process.

Click here for Top Prayer Apps from FreeAppsForMe.com

Click here for Top Meditation Apps from Healthline.com

Disclaimer: Author and LiveLoveDeep do not endorse any of the resources listed above. They are merely provided for your convenience. Please speak with a licensed and trained healthcare professional and/or counselor for your personal needs.

Disclaimer:

All content provided on this blog is for informational purposes only.  Any views or opinions represented in this blog are personal and belong solely to the blog owner and do not represent those of people, institutions or organizations that the owner may or may not be associated with in professional or personal capacity, unless explicitly stated.  For more details, click here.