Health

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While the calendar does not yet officially say it's summer, it's officially summer break around here. That means a lot of resting, a lot of relaxing, and a lot of fun! Now that my brain has had a few days to shift into summer break mode, I've realized we need to get back to being intentional about some things around here.

Thankfully, I've managed to keep my focus on the big things like Bible reading, prayer, and community, even in the midst of a crazy spring schedule and a book launch. (I'm not saying it was perfect, but those areas remained my focus when life got crazy!)

One area we definitely need to regain focus around here is being intentional with our food. I don't know about you, but when schedules get crazy, we tend to default to quick and easy foods. And if I've learned anything in my food journey, it's that quick and easy food doesn't typically translate into healthy and nutritious.

To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” -La Rochefoucauld | thereisgrace.com #BeIntentional

This post is sponsored by De Nigris USA.

Although I still consider myself a novice when it comes to nutrition, I have learned a lot over the last year. Perhaps the greatest lesson I've learned is that if this girl--who used to live on Diet Pepsi and animal crackers--can make some healthy changes, anyone can!

If you're wanting to make some simple changes for your health, here are 7 quick and easy steps to get you started and help you #BeIntentional with your food:

1.  Read labels. This is the most important thing you can do for your health. Don't stop at skimming the calorie and fat content, either. Pay special attention to the ingredients. Yes, this is tedious and time-consuming, but the only way to know what you're eating is to, well, know what you're eating. Profound, I know.

2. Choose food with the shortest ingredients list. As a general rule, the shortest list will be your best option. And always choose the list with the most ingredients you can recognize and pronounce.

Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. ~Michael Pollan

3. Take baby steps. Don't try to change everything at one time, or you'll end up frustrated. Start with one thing: Cut out sugar (that one will be big enough!). Or commit to avoiding unfamiliar ingredients (that one will save you from a lot of yucky stuff!). Maybe you can start by making your meals at home, from scratch, and choosing simple, whole foods as snacks. Determine your first step. When you're comfortable with that one, move on to the next.

4. Make simple swaps. Here are a few easy ones you can make the next time you go shopping:

  • Swap sugary, flavored yogurt for plain yogurt sweetened with honey and frozen fruit.Swap flavored chips (they have an abundance of additives and preservatives) for simple corn or potato chips seasoned with salt. (Yes, the oil isn't great for you, but one step at a time....see #3).

7 Ways to Be Intentional with Your Food #DeNigris1889

  • Swap salad dressing for some quality olive oil and vinegar, like DeNigris vinegars. Did you know vinegar has many health benefits and medicinal uses? It's great for treating things like sinus infections, sore throats, and even acid reflux! Plus, it's super high in cancer-fighting antioxidants. You can even clean with it! DeNigris has a selection of vinegars and other products, plus great recipes. Be sure to check them out!
  • Swap sweetened applesauce for unsweetened. Do apples really need extra sugar?!
  • Swap soda for sparkling mineral water flavored with a little fruit juice.
  • Swap heavy veggie dips for salsa or guacamole.
  • Swap sugary granola bars for homemade protein bars.

5. Make time for food. Being intentional with your food will take time. It will take time to read labels and find alternatives. It will take time to prepare food (oh, the time you'll spend chopping veggies!). And it will take time to see a difference in the way you feel and look. But your health and your happiness are worth the investment, so don't give up!

Our food should be our medicine and our medicine should be our food. ~Hippocrates

Here's proof that we do still eat out...and that my kids still have the occasional Cheeto! ;)
Here's proof that we do still eat out...and that my kids still have the occasional Cheeto! 😉

6. Choose the best options available. Life isn't perfect. Even with the best intentions, you'll eventually find yourself at a dinner party or a potluck with no idea what's in any given dish. Or you may have no other option for dinner one night than a fast food drive thru. Survey your options and make the best choice you can. Choose real food with the least ingredients (hint: focus on simple meat, veggies, and or fruit.) When in those situations, I try to remember this advice:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. ~Michael Pollan

7. Give yourself grace. So you caved and raided the cookie jar at midnight last night. Don't beat yourself up, and don't throw in the towel. Show  yourself grace and move on. Focus on the things you are doing right and keep moving forward!

For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Luke 12:23

It won't always be easy, but things that are truly worth it are rarely easy--and your health is definitely worth it! I will let you in on a little secret: the more you stick to it, and the more changes you make, the better you'll feel. The better you feel, the less you will desire to go back to your old habits. You are creating  new habits, a new lifestyle, and eventually a whole new you!

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What can you do to #BeIntentional with your food this week? What additional resources do you recommend to someone wanting to #BeIntentional in their eating habits? Share your thoughts in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

 

More Great Reads to Help you #BeIntentional in Food:
What's Wrong With Our Modern Diet?
Jumpstart Your Health with the Whole 30
Begin Your Journey to Whole Food
Understanding Your Food
30 Day Clean Eating Challenge
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
The Omni Diet by Tana Amen
The Bulletproof Diet by Dave Asprey

 

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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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Last year I celebrated Christmas quietly at home with just my husband, my children, and my mother-in-law. My body was weak from six rounds of chemo and I was emotionally drained from the battle we were waging--both physically and spiritually-- for my health. But my spirit remained joyful--hopeful.

I saw Christmas in a new light. Sure, I had a new perspective on what truly matters in life, as often happens when you face a crisis. But more than a revelation on the value of life, I had a new perspective on the whole purpose of Christmas. Suddenly, it was more than a simple story of faith. It was now a glaring declaration of God's love for us...for you, for me, for each of us individually.

Isaiah 9:6

It wasn't long after that weary Christmas Day that I received a Compassion Bag from Compassion That Compels. Since then, I've been privileged to write for their ministry and have grown to love Kristianne and her heart for women battling cancer.

This year, I will gather with all my family and celebrate Christmas CANCER FREE!! I'm talking about it over at Compassion That Compels...won't you join me there? While you're there, consider sponsoring a Compassion Bag for someone battling cancer. She'll appreciate it more than you'll know...trust me. And maybe next year, she'll be sharing her own story of victory!

Read the rest here.

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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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Last weekend someone mentioned to me that they hadn't seen anything from my blog in their inbox lately. They were starting to worry and asked if they might have inadvertently unsubscribed from my blog.  I assured them that, no, they had not unsubscribed; the lack of correspondence was entirely my fault.

In case you, too, have noticed the crickets around here over the last several weeks, I thought I'd share what I have been up to. Plus, two exciting announcements at the end...don't miss them!:

Last month my daughter and I went to camp . It was awesome, as you can see:

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We barely had time to do laundry and catch up on sleep before we piled into our van for a two-day road trip so we could do this...

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And this...

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Ah....those were the days.

We arrived home just in time for a quick visit from family before we began the mad dash to the first day of school. Every year, I forget how crazy the days can be leading up to the start of school: shopping for supplies, shopping for clothes, organizing supplies, and preparing for 180 days of packed lunches. (Are you in the midst of the craziness and in need of inspiration? Check out my Back to School board on Pinterest!)

It's a wonder we made it to the first day, but we did--successfully sending them off to 4th and 1st grades!

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Of course, in the midst of it all, there were the ongoing doctor's visits, scans, and check-ups that come with battling cancer, plus the changes in our diet and lifestyle to support our ongoing battle.

Whew! Just writing it all down wears me out! So, now that we're all caught up let's get on to the announcements (insert drumroll here)...

The first BIG announcement: I will be having surgery next Tuesday, August 26 to remove the first of the three tumors! While surgery is never fun and always a little scary, we are excited about this for a couple of reasons: 1) We were told last year we wouldn't get to this point...but, of course, we know that GOD IS BIGGER than cancer!! 2. This is the first time in a year that ALL my doctors are on the same page...a miracle in its own right! 🙂

While I will be posting on occasion, my main focus will be on recovery in the next few weeks. So I've asked a few friends to stop in from time to time and grace us with a guest post. I'm excited about hearing from them...you won't want to miss it!

As I go into surgery next week, I would greatly appreciate your prayers, especially for the following: Logistics--we have a fantastic support system, but there is still a lot of juggling involved to accommodate everyone's schedules and specific needs;  Peace--we know God is going before us, but there are moments of anxiety when one is facing surgery of any kind; Healing--We are praying for an easier-than-expected procedure--free from any complications--and for a quick recovery. Thank you!

Now, for the second BIG announcement....

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It's coming...MY GOD'S STORY!! There are still some details to work out, and of course the timeline will have to accommodate surgery and recovery, but I couldn't stand to keep it a secret any longer!

If you want to be among the first to know when it's available (and receive special discounts), subscribe by entering your e-mail in the sidebar!

So, what have you been up to this summer?
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signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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If you've faced cancer, or have walked through it with someone you love, you know there are typically three ways to treat the dreaded disease: surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. I have been fortunate enough (yes, that's sarcasm) to experience all three in the last 3 1/2 years.

In 2010, I had surgery to remove a 6-inch, malignant tumor from the muscle of my thigh. That was followed by 7 weeks of radiation treatment. Last August, doctors found a "suspicious mass" on a routine follow-up visit, and I started chemotherapy 6 weeks later. Each treatment worked...to an extent. Doctors removed the entire tumor through the first surgery, and the radiation treatments "killed off" any remaining cancer cells in the area. When the cancer returned (to a different area) last year, chemotherapy was a "success," meaning it successfully shrunk the tumors, even when doctors were skeptical that it would.

In January, my oncologists decided to give me a break from chemo. The tumors had continued to shrink after six rounds of chemotherapy, so it seemed like a good time to give my body a break from the toxicity of the chemo drugs. That's when we began looking into other, "alternative," options.

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I know the very term "alternative cancer treatment" is rife with controversy. (Rife...adjective, "of common or frequent occurrence; prevalent"...you're welcome). I've read/heard stories of people abandoning traditional medicine, clinging to the belief that either God would heal them without the use of drugs or they could "heal themselves" naturally through non-traditional methods. I can't speak to those experiences, because I am not those people. I simply want to share how we have come to the place we now find ourselves.

**This is where I remind you that I AM NOT A DOCTOR...I do not play one on TV, nor pretend to be one on the Internet. This is NOT medical advice, and should not be taken as such. This is simply an account of my experience.**

Step 1: We exhausted medical expertise. We have literally done everything traditional, medical doctors have told us to do. When they said, "Start chemo right away," we did (after doing our own research and having all our questions sufficiently answered, of course). But we have reached a point where doctors have no other tricks up their sleeve and have told us (on multiple occasions), "All we can do is wait  for the tumors to grow again. Then we will do chemo...probably a more aggressive type." We are constantly reminded that (as far as they are concerned), the goal is to control the cancer, not get rid of it. We've done surgery. We've done radiation. We've done chemo. Now we simply wait.

Step 2: We prayed...a lot. I've never been very good at just waiting. I'm always looking for "the next thing," or wondering what I can be doing while I wait. So I prayed...I literally blocked off time every day for several days to pray for healing. My husband prayed for me and with me. We asked friends and family to pray with us and for us. Our church has special prayer each week for healing, and we have gone forward every week. I know God is able to heal miraculously. I've seen it happen in my own family. I prayed...and believed...for total healing. The more we prayed, however, the more I felt led to research other options for treatment. So, in addition to healing, we began to ask God for wisdom.

Step 3: We found an expert. When I began researching alternative options to cancer treatment, the information and advice was overwhelming: stop eating anything that tastes good and sip on a satisfying wheatgrass smoothie throughout the day (or something like that), rub exotic-sounding oils on your body in various, random places (hmmm...maybe not), avoid any type of radioactive airwaves (so, no microwave popcorn?). OK, maybe that wasn't exactly the advice I read, but that's kind of what it sounded like to me. I obviously needed someone with more knowledge and experience than I had.

As we continued to pray and research, one name kept coming up in various conversations. Different friends and acquaintances, on separate occasions, recommended a local naturopath who had experience with treating cancer naturally. I was still a little skeptical. Honestly, I feared what he would say. Would he make me disavow all traditional medicine? Would I have to drink my own urine or sacrifice a small animal in a bubbling cauldron? (I exaggerate...a little.) Still, we kept hearing this man's name mentioned with high regard, so it seemed we should at least check it out.

The short version is this: We met with him and liked him very much. So much of what he said concerning diseases, and how our bodies fight them, made sense to us. We (including my even-more-skeptical husband!) were encouraged by him and by the things he recommended.  He is a born-again Christian, and he views natural medicine as a supplement to traditional medicine.

But here's the kicker...when his wife faced cancer FOR THE THIRD time, doctors told her she had a year to live. He determined to find an "alternative" treatment for her, and he did. That was 16 years ago...she beat it and she's doing well today! So, not only does he know what vitamins and supplements you need to take to beat this year's toughest cold, he knows all the latest and greatest treatments to cancer (both traditional and alternative)!

So, we have begun a new leg of the journey....one that involves a new approach to eating and nutrition among other things. As I learn, I will be sharing more about our lifestyle and dietary changes here. (Probably reworking some of my favorite recipes, and sharing new ones I find/create!)

Don't worry...I am still under the care of a medical doctor (several, actually). As a matter of fact, I had a PET scan at the end of March that showed the tumors are still shrinking...even though I am no longer taking chemo! Woo-Hoo! 😀

I believe this next step is part of the journey God has for us. Yes, He can heal me miraculously. Yes, He can use modern medicine to destroy the tumors. I also believe He can give me the knowledge and wisdom to equip my body to fight the tumors. We continue to pray for healing, and we continue to pray for wisdom in the journey. Personally, I don't care how He heals me, I just believe He will!

If you are searching for alternative treatment to cancer, here are some resources I found helpful:

Books
Beating Cancer: Twenty Natural, Spiritual, and Medical Remedies That Can Slow--and Even Reverse--Cancer's Progression by Francisco Contreras, MD and Daniel Kennedy MC
The Bible Cure for Cancer by Don Colbert, MD

Web Sites (I do not have firsthand experience with these programs, but you may find their sites helpful in your research):
Oasis of Hope Cancer Center
Cancer Treatment Centers of America
Dr. Nicholas Gonzales

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signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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I am a firm believer in learning from our experiences, and if there's one thing that cancer has taught me, it's to slow down and savor life. I am a deeply committed, type-A overachiever. I like to be busy. So it's hard for me to just. stop. doing. When I was forced to do just that last fall and focus entirely on my health and my family, I found a pace that I fell in love with.

I entered 2014 with a resolve to simplify my life. The first thing I noticed is how truly difficult it is to live simply. It soon became clear that if I want my family to eat more simply (and healthy), create wiggle room in our routines, and truly focus on what matters in life, I would need to make some tough choices. It won't just happen; I would have to be intentional about it.

So when I was presented with the opportunity to review Tsh Oxenreider's new book, Notes from a Blue Bike, I planned to decline, proud of myself for drawing some much-needed boundary lines. Then I read the subtitle to the book: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World. Well, given my new lofty goal of simplicity, it would just be irresponsible of me to not review the book, wouldn't it?

So I agreed, and I'm so glad I did!

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Tsh's warm and conversational writing style drew me in instantly. It was less like reading a book and more like chatting with a friend over coffee, hearing about her wild, overseas adventures. I flew through the short chapters easily. Who wants to wade through long and cumbersome chapters in a book about living simply? Tsh nailed it here...short and to the point.

I quickly realized Tsh understood my goals, as well as my dilemmas, in achieving a simpler life. After returning from life overseas, Tsh found herself in the midst of the North American chaos to which most of us have grown accustomed. Realizing her new life competed with her longing for simplicity, Tsh created a list of five areas in which her family would live with intention: food, work, education, travel, and entertainment.

To live with intention means to make little daily choices that resonate deeply in our souls.
~Tsh Oxenreider

The principles Tsh shares for pursuing simplicity, and the wisdom with which she applies those principles in her daily life, are easily worth the read. Yes, living intentionally takes time and energy, and Tsh shows you how to make it completely doable.

Here are some of my takeaways from the areas Tsh addresses:

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Food
Tsh introduced me to the term "slow food":  contrasting the fast-food culture by growing (or purchasing locally), cooking, and eating good, clean food. I love it! As a cancer-fighter and mother of a child with multiple food allergies, overhauling our family's diet has become a pet project of mine. Plus, she set my all-or-nothing personality at ease with her 80/20 principle: "If 80 percent of my family's food consumption involves whole, seasonal food made with care, then we're doing all right. The 20 percent is the sprinkles on top of the ice cream. Literally."

Jobs

Work
Tsh shares a story in this section of visiting a friend who introduced her to the concept of a "boundary stone" which was simply a tangible reminder to work with intention. Tsh explains it this way, "To give myself the time and freedom to create my best art, and to confidently turn down those roles and opportunities that aren't the best fit." As a chronic people-pleaser, I sure needed that one...anyone else?

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Entertainment
Tsh's honest struggle with her family in this area was refreshing...to simply know that we are not alone in the battle is comforting. And to know that she has made intentional choices that fit her family reminds me that, with a little work, it is possible. My favorite line from this section: "When we're intentional about what we watch, it's a lot more interesting to watch it."

Tsh explores two other areas of living intentionally, education and travel. She writes beautifully and compellingly about each, but I'll let you read those for yourself. I don't want to give away all her wisdom!

If you find a longing somewhere inside for a quieter, simpler life, it won't be easy. It will take intentionality and perseverance. But you don't have to go it alone, Tsh has bravely paved the way for us. And if simplicity is a quest you're on, you might want to pick up this handy little guide to help you along the way.

We were made to live slower than our fast-paced Western culture deems normal. But it means paddling upstream through strong currents. ~Tsh Oxenreider

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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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The age-old advice to "choose your battles" is a great rule of thumb for relationships--friendships, parenting, even marriage. But, in life, sometimes you don't have a choice. Sometimes the battle chooses you. In my case, that battle is cancer.

battle-cancer

At first, of course, I was shocked...devastated. I cried...a lot. I prayed...a lot. I hugged my husband and my kids...a lot. Then I had a revelation: I may not have chosen this battle, but I could choose how I fight it. I could wallow in self-pity and depression, dragging down all of those around me.
Or I could lift my head, put my chin up and face this battle head-on. I decided
I was going to do the latter. That meant making some difficult changes and
learning some tough lessons along the way...

Read the rest of this post over at Your Thriving Family where I'm sharing how I am Making the Most of Cancer.

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Like what you’ve read?
Would you like to get new posts delivered directly to your inbox? Enter your e-mail address in the box to the right, and you’ll get new posts e-mailed to you as soon as they’re published. Easy-peasy. Or, follow me on Facebook , Twitter, or Pinterest.

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

chiliDays are short, the air is cold, and it's the perfect time for chili! Whether it's a warm dinner on a cold January night or a staple for your Super Bowl party, try this new twist on an old fave.

I love this recipe, because the black beans give it so much flavor (and extra protein!), plus it's chocked full of veggies and my kiddos are none the wiser. (These are the veggies I typically use, but any veggies you have on hand would work.) It turns out rather thick, so if you like your chili on the soup-y side, you might add need to add more tomato sauce and adjust the seasoning as needed.

You can throw this chili together in a skillet on the stove, which is great for those days when you don't think about dinner in time to get it in a slow cooker. (Oh, am I the only one who does that?!) ...continue reading

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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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My first 5K (with my running parter, Sheila)

In 2011, I committed to run my first 5K.  At the time, I was 38 years old, had two small children at home, and had recently recovered from major surgery.

I've never been what one would call "athletic," and typically, any one of those reasons would be enough to convince myself I couldn't do it. But I had other reasons for wanting to run this particular race (you can read more about that here). So I dusted off my Nikes and got reacquainted with my  treadmill.

It wasn't easy. I was sore. I was tired. And my legs felt like lead.

There were days my children (and life in general) so completely wore me out, the last thing I wanted to do was put in my time on the treadmill.

Many times I did it anyway; sometimes I didn't. Many days I made time for my workouts; sometimes life took unexpected turns and it simply didn't get done. ...continue reading

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So, here we are a little more than a week into the new year. How are you doing on those resolutions?

Yeah, me too.

Actually, I don't do resolutions. "Resolution" seems so absolute, so do-or-die. I prefer the term "goals." That's much more doable...something I'm working toward, rather than a "pass or fail." If I don't quite reach the goal, but I'm closer to it at the end of the year then I was successful.

So, here are some of my GOALS for 2013: ...continue reading

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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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I'm published! OK, so technically I've been published before, but this time it's different. This is a publication that I do not currently work for. And it is not a story I was assigned to write.

This is my very own story about my very own life that I queried to a publication, and they were interested! (Granted, it's a publication I have had a relationship with throughout my editorial career, but a girl's gotta start somewhere, right?)

PE Nov 18My story, Cancer to 5K, will appear in the November 18 issue of The Pentecostal Evangel. If you're not familiar with the Evangel, it is the official weekly magazine of the Assemblies of God. If you attend an Assemblies of God church, it's likely you've seen them displayed in the foyer or distributed in Sunday School. If you happen to see one next Sunday, November 18, be sure to pick one up and flip to page 10. Then leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know what you thought of the story!

**UPDATED: Read the article online here.

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signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.