Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A View of our 2011 Cross Country Season...

Cross Country--near and dear to my heart for many reasons...  This video is a snapshot of how our entire family has spent the last three months...and whom we spent them with.  We've spent four out of the seven days of every week with these kids and their families and our coach--they've become like family to us.  We made this video as a 'thank you' to our Coach at our end of season party/bash.  Enjoy and come join our team next year! (but make sure you pause my playlist (on the lower right) so you can hear the music on the video)  

Friday, October 14, 2011

Too Legit to Quit

This Sunday Eric and I are supposed to be running the Columbus Marathon.  My prayer is that all systems will be a go, because this forty-one year old body has taken a beating and is screaming, 'nnnnnooooooo!'  My IT band has decided it doesn't want to support my leg anymore and is causing quite a ruckus to my outer knee.  While my knee has been screaming no, no, no, my head is refusing to comply.  You see, I have spent the past four months of my life training for this day and to have to throw in the towel at the end would be the ultimate disappointment. I liken it to the artist who has spent weeks on a painting or an actor who has spent months preparing for the big show, only to be told that someone dumped paint on and ruined his entire masterpiece or that there will now be no performance.  Such circumstances are just hard to accept.

Two weeks ago I was supposed to begin tapering, which means easing off the miles.  It is the honeymoon phase of the whole marathon training process (if you could even say there is such a thing!).  It's supposed to be the enjoyable time.  Instead, I have been doing IT band exercises, foam rolling, icing and taking lots of ibuprofen. Tuesday I even got a cortisone injection. 

Why?  Why, you say, are you still going to go ahead as planned?  Why not set this one out?  There will be plenty of other marathons, right?  Yes, this would seem to be the most logical answer, just based on the facts, based on the surface of things.  Yet let me share with you that which is going on beneath the surface...

Sure, running is one of the best ways to stay physically fit.  It is great exercise, etc, etc, etc.  True statements, right?  True, but surfacy...You see, these are all great benefits to running, and I am glad they are true, but they are not the reasons I run.  I run because it is a form of worship.  I run because it brings things I have been wrestling over in prayer into focus.  It makes that which looked fuzzy become more clear.  I run because it puts me into a position to hear from and listen to God.  I leave all the activity and noise behind and I can just nestle in and listen.  He then infuses me with His strength so that that which appears difficult and unbeatable in my life becomes manageable and conquerable.  He transfers His peace and His quietness into my spirit, and thus,

                 through the discipline of running,
                                                    He gives me His rest.

On the surface, choosing to run this marathon was about finishing what I came to do last year--qualify for Boston.  Unfortunately, I missed my time by nine minutes.  I was determined to come back this year more adequately prepared so I could accomplish that goal.  Yet, this training turned into something much deeper than that.  You see, we began this year (2011) with a newly acquired identity:  umemployed.  Jobless is scary for anyone and is especially so when there are five little younguns' depending on you.  So we started down a path that we had yet to venture on with God.  It has been a daily battle of choosing faith over fear.  It has been a precious time of watching our God come through in the most creative ways.  In 2011, the name Jehovah Jireh (the Lord will Provide) has become very real to us, and is a dear Name to our family. 

Training began at the beginning of summer when the heat came in with a vengeance.  Our family was experiencing a drought in more ways than one.  Job opportunities from the first of the year had come and gone...dried up.  Job leads...dried up.  As the three long, hot months of summer loomed before us with all its heat and intensity, we were tempted to let our hope...dry up.  But God had a plan, and that plan included running.

So we ran.  Some days I hit the road full of frustration (a polite word for anger) with God.  Venting and complaining, I would lodge my arguments.  Mile after mile, He would diffuse me...His Spirit would minister to me.  Mile after mile, He would share His perspective and enlighten me with His promises:

'....Wait...strength will rise as you wait upon me...My ways are not your ways...My power is made perfect in weakness...A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold...Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk (run)...So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness (emphasis added), and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own...'

And so we waited, and we ran.  Day after day, through His Word, a devotional, a song, or a podcast, He sustained.  And on the run, He ingrained.  He turned fears into faith, He turned sadness to joy, He turned complaints into thanksgiving  and He turned strife into peace. 

                           And through the discipline of running,
                                                                    we found His rest.

And as our training began to taper and summer came to a close, our circumstances hadn't really changed.  God had chosen to remain silent in regards to our many heartfelt cries of employment.  He chose to say no without an explanation and without direction.  Just simply 'no...and wait.'  In fact, we seemed further away from an answer than ever.

And yet, by the route of the road He had supplied Himself...quenching our thirst along the parched path. Yes, we had experienced Him as more than enough.  As tears and sweat slid down and off, converging together--paining and training colliding into a stream--along the route of the road in the desert of discipline, He gently and firmly established that:  'For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.' 

And four hundred or so miles later, one week before the marathon, I was supposed to be tapering.  Yet, I was staring at an injury.  Honestly, I didn't take it well.  You see, at this point, God, Eric and I--we had some mileage going on.  Along the route of the road--day in, day out--it had become so much more...so much more than a marathon.

            We were a team.

I just had one question on that lonely Monday, one question to His 'no' that was the straw breaking the camel's back:  

                                               Why--why are you kicking me off the team? 

One question followed by a few more, a tantrum of sorts:  "All summer long, your answer has been, 'No, no, no...'...all summer long... and now you are going to say no to this too?  This, this way of worshipping, this thing we got going on, this really good thing--you are saying no??!!!"

His retort came quietly the following day through my Oswald Chambers devotional, befittingly entitled 'Getting Into God's Stride':

'It is painful work to get in step with God and to keep pace with Him--it means getting your second win spiritually.  In learning to walk with God, there is always the difficulty of getting into His stride, but once we have done so, the only characteristic that exhibits itself is the very life of God Himself.  The individual is merged into a personal oneness with God and God's stride and His power alone are exhibited.  It is difficult to get into stride with God, because as soon as we start walking with Him we find that His pace has surpassed us before we have even taken three steps.  He has different ways of doing things, and we have to be trained and disciplined in His ways....It is God's Spirit that changes the atmosphere of our way of looking at things, and then things begin to be possible which before were impossible...Getting into God's stride means nothing less than oneness with Him.  It takes a long time to get there, but keep at it.  Don't give up because the pain is intense right now--get on with it, and before long you will find that you have a new vision and a new purpose.' 

...And suddenly, I feel small.  And my wailings, they feel small...

Oh forgive me, God, for once again making my life and circumstances all about my wants and my desires.  Forgive me for not trusting you even when things don't go my way...help me to remember it's not about the results, it's about the relationship.

My rebellious spirit submits and I match His pace and catch His stride.  As we bow our heads during our family prayer time, I choose to thank Him for this newly aquired difficulty.  I choose to thank Him that He might be delivering another 'no'.  As I did, His Spirit of Peace fills me with sweet surrender to a marathon Sunday that might or might not involve me as a participant.   

As the week went on, my knee slightly improved.   I've decided to go forward by faith on Sunday and run this thing and give it my all--until I can't.  Today's Jesus Calling was most fitting:

Be prepared to suffer for Me, in My Name.  All suffering has meaning in My kingdom.  Pain and problems are opportunites to demonstrate your trust in Me.  Bearing your circumstances bravely--even thanking Me for them--is one of the hightest forms of praise.  This sacrifice of thanksgiving rings golden-toned bells of Joy throughout heavenly realms...When suffering strikes, remember that I am sovereign and that I can bring good out of everything.  Do not try to run from pain or hide from problems.  Instead, accept adversity in My Name, offering it up to Me and My purposes.  Thus your suffering gains meaning and draws you closer to Me.  Joy emerges from the ashes of adversity through your trust and thankfulness.  

Sunday I am running into the wilderness of the unknown, an unknown that is more than likely going to involve some pain.  Whether my body can withstand the race, only God knows, but since He happens to be a team member of mine, I figure He'll keep me posted.  My goals have lowered a bit; I honestly will be ecstatic with just crossing the finish.  Anything better than that is a long-shot.  But since God specializes in long-shots, I am going to go in with everything and give it my all, knowing His power is perfected in my weakness. 

Sunday, as I'm running along and hearing 'Too Legit to Quit' blaring in my ear, I'm going to be praying for His help, His power, His ability...remembering that yes--

He is definitely TOO LEGIT, so there is NO WAY on this side of heaven that I am going TO QUIT.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Life Story

Had to repost this--it just can't be told enough in my opinion :).  Thankful every day to God for drawing us to Himself!

It is with great joy that I share this story with you. This story involves my husband, myself, our wedding day, a friend who gave us a Life Application Bible and our Almighty Father in heaven who orchestrated it all. It is a story that truly reflects the words of the verse ‘that God so loved the World that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believe in me will have everlasting life – John 3:16.’ God is a personal God. He loves each of us so dearly and cares so deeply that He woos us and draws us to Himself through people and circumstances. This story is my personal account of experiencing the ‘Lord of All’ in a very real way.

Growing up, my family didn’t really go to church—just on occasion. My childhood began as a very typical childhood full of the norm. I had parents that loved me and cared for me. The school year was spent at various sporting events and activities; the summer was spent swimming with friends and vacationing with my family. I had the typical American suburban life; we were living the ‘American dream’, I suppose. However, as I grew and matured, I began to have questions that I believe we all have -– those questions that pop up in all of our heads at one time or another. Questions such as: Why am I here? What is life all about anyway? What will happen when I die? Who is God? Is there a God? Who is Jesus? I asked many people around me these questions from whom I got a myriad of answers: ‘just be good’; ‘you need to be baptized’; ‘make sure your good deeds outweigh your bad’. My best friend in first and second grade, Chrisi White, gave me an answer that would stick with me, though: "You have to ask Jesus into your heart," she told me. I didn't understand what that meant, but from that time on, I consistently began praying that Jesus would indeed come into my heart. I also looked for the answers to these questions in a King James Bible that we had in our home. However, I always got hung up on the ‘thee’s’, ‘thou’s’ and ‘thy’s’ and couldn’t quite interpret what it was saying.

When I was in the eighth grade, my family life fell apart. My mom and dad got divorced and everything about my childhood changed. To say my teenage years were rocky and difficult would be an understatement. To this day I do not like to think back on those years. Those years conjure up memories hinged on emptiness, loneliness and a sense of not belonging. Statistics show that young girls from divorced families often go looking for love in all the wrong places. I could be a poster child for that statistic.

I graduated from high school and was ready for a fresh start. I couldn't wait to go to college and leave behind all of those memories. Unfortunately, I didn't choose to do life any differently than I had in the past. I don't really think I understood how to live differently. Thus, my college years compared to my high school years were very much one in the same.

When I was a junior in college, I met Eric and we began dating exclusively. He and I experienced and lived what I guess you would call the typical college scene: studying during the week, and partying hard on the weekends. Drinking and hanging out with our friends was a huge part of our life. I guess you could say it was the center of our life. Yet, I can remember standing in the middle of a bar, surrounded by all of our friends, looking around at everyone…and again those questions would come to mind—Why am I here? What is life all about anyway? Someday I am going to die, this life will be over—what then??? As I tried to ‘fill’ my life with alcohol and fun, I felt very empty inside. There was a deep void within me that I was trying to fill with everything under the sun, but it just wasn’t working…

Fast forward a few years. Eric and I were engaged and about to be married. It was the summer of 1994. It was a very exciting time as we were planning our wedding and about to begin the next chapter of our life! What I didn't realize was that God was very much there working behind the scenes through this union between Eric and I. You see, He led a friend of ours to give us a Life Application Bible as a wedding gift. Little did we know that this gift would dramatically impact our life and the generations to follow.

Over the next two years of our marriage, I picked up that Bible many times. This Bible was so different from any Bible that I had ever seen or read growing up. It had footnotes and answered many of the questions that no one had seemed able to answer for me. The footnotes and commentary explained every passage that I read.
The more I read it, the more I was drawn to it. You see, the emptiness/that void within my soul seemed to get satisfied every time I read His Word which made me long for it all the more. When I read it, I experienced a peace I had never quite known before. Reading this Bible gave me a yearning to go to church. Eric had grown up going to church and felt it was ‘the right thing to do’. So, we began going to church on a regular basis.

During this timeframe, we also bought our first house which just happened to be right next door to a sweet, Christian couple who happened to be the same age as us. I was so impressed with the fact that they were so much fun, yet went to church. And they did all of this without drinking. Our very best friends from college, Christy and Doug, also began going to church right around this time and I could see a change in them occurring. Partying and drinking seemed to be less and less important to them.

Through the combination of reading God’s Word, going to church, and observing these friends around me, I learned how I was a sinner just like everyone else in this world. I learned that I will always make mistakes and mess up on this side of heaven. I learned that God had come to this earth in the form of His son—a man named Jesus—who had lived a perfect, sinless life. After performing many miracles and teaching many about how to have eternal life, He was crucified upon a cross. While He could have stopped this from happening, He didn’t, because He loved us so much that He took my sins, your sins, and all of humanity upon Himself. He died so that we can have life—eternal life. After being dead for three days, He came back to life and ascended up to heaven where He sits at this moment at the right hand of God. I learned that all I had to do was believe that I was a sinner who needed Jesus as my Savior and all I had to do was believe this and accept this to be a child of His. Yet, I still wasn’t quite ready to claim all of this for myself--I was still holding on to my way of doing life...

Then on January 1, 1997, I met my best friend Christy for lunch. She talked about how they had spent New Year’s Eve with some friends from church—playing games and then praying the New Year in. I remember sitting there, feeling yucky, nursing a hangover and—-well—-embarrassed. I was not proud of the fact that I had spent the evening drinking with friends. It all felt so empty and hollow and I felt so empty and hollow. Right at that moment, more than ever before, I yearned for what I was seeing in her. Again, all of those questions I had been trying to answer all of my life were ringing in my ears. Yet, now I realized God had given me the answers. I just needed to claim it for myself.

A few days later, I finally let go; I relinquished control of my life. I was in the car on my way to work when it happened. I cried out to God and surrendered everything to Him. I prayed and asked Him to forgive me of my sins. I thanked Jesus for dying on the cross for my sins. I asked Him to become the Lord of my life. The peace I had felt each time I had read His Word flooded my inner being in that moment in a way that I’d never experienced before. I felt new--I felt different! I had a joy within that I had never felt before. That emptiness within me that I had tried all of these years to fill with so many other things was finally filled with the One and Only thing that can truly satisfy—Jesus Christ.

God works so differently in all of our lives. Each salvation experience is a work of God uniquely befitted for that person. For me, God instantaneously took away a desire to drink and honestly, for several years the thought of doing so repulsed me. Drinking felt like such a cheap substitute after experiencing being filled with the One and Only Holy Spirit. Please understand that I am not saying to have a glass of wine or drink a beer occasionally is wrong, nor do I believe the Bible says it is wrong.  In fact, my husband and I do enjoy drinking a glass of wine or having a beer now and again.  However, I do believe the Bible has a lot to say about drinking too much (or doing anything too much, for that matter). In fact, I have friends who are alcoholics and me choosing to drink in front of them would put them in a tempting situation. I believe we have a responsibility to those around us and we should weigh carefully whether drinking will influence them negatively when choosing to partake.

The word 'repent' means 'to turn'. If you can picture me turning around and completely changing after this day, that is exactly what happened. Let me be clear. I didn't quit sinning on this day, nor will I ever quit sinning on this side of heaven. We sin every day, if not outwardly, than inwardly in our thoughts. What He did do is put conviction in my heart. He gave me His eyes for sin and made my heart break over things I did and do that are contrary to His Word. He gave me a desire to infiltrate my life with His Word so that I could live for Him.

God was working in my husband’s heart over this time period, too, through our friends and through church. But the thing that he says had the biggest impact on him was the change that he witnessed in me. He could not deny the fact that I was different—a difference that he found appealing. He, too, surrendered His life to Jesus about five months later at a Promise Keepers rally.

The past thirteen years have been the very best, fulfilling years of our lives. Of course, there have been struggles and difficulties. Yet through it all, God has been our anchor and our strength. He has been and continues to be the glue that holds us together. He has never left us, nor forsaken us. Oh, how I praise Him for this!

Sometimes, I think about how God chose to work in our lives and I am just awestruck. I am blown away by His grace and His love for us as I contemplate the imagery He used in our personal life story. You see, in God’s Word, He tells us that His followers are the bride and Jesus is the bridegroom. He uses the picture of marriage to show us the union between Himself and His children. The fact that He began drawing Eric and I to Himself through the gift of His Word as a wedding present to us is a beautiful picture of His redeeming love. He loved us before we ever even knew how to love Him. That day, I thought I was walking down that aisle to marry Eric. I thought that it was the beginning of our journey together. What I didn't realize was that there was also another Bridegroom standing there ready to begin a journey with me. It was Jesus--standing there with His arms outstretched to receive me, His beloved Bride.

…and it all began because a friend gave us a Bible…that one decision changed the course of our lives and the lives of the many generations that will follow in our footsteps. It is a fact that cannot be denied: God's Word changes lives. It just does.

‘For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.’ Hebrews 4:12