Friday, July 13, 2018

The Little Things

Today, things that I am grateful for... some little, some big.

 1. A new job. Same office, different focus. It's kind of strange to be in a different desk and it's a little challenging to change the mindset, but it's really exciting to have a new opportunity and see new growth through this. I am thankful.

2. Answers to prayer. We sometimes are told no, we sometimes see a yes. Other times we are told to wait. But it is so incredible to pray in faith, be obedient in my role of the request and watch God do amazing things. I love when that happens.

3. Gladiolus Flowers. My favorites! They are so beautiful and I love what they represent. My friend showed up at my door with them yesterday. They make me smile :)

4. When you get a text that says "Has anyone told you you're amazing today? Because you are."  For really no reason except to encourage me. Things and words like that make me smile and go a very long way.

5. A good, sweaty workout. I do not like stair workouts nor speed workouts and I tend to avoid them, but in the end, I know it's what is good for me and I feel better after I've done one. I'm far from where I want to be physically at this moment in time, but .... back to the basics and enjoying the process of what will be recreating a new routine for me.

6. Education. As hard as this semester has been, I have 3 weeks to go. A 12 week semester, I tell you, has felt like 22 weeks! However, my cultural anthropology class has opened my eyes in many ways, and I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Astronomy, on the other hand, well... not so much. However, through this class I am learning to let go of perfection and accept the challenges that come with this particular class and grow through it. It isn't really about what educationally I am learning in this class so much as what it is teaching me about myself and life.

  Life has challenges and changes... but there are always blessings to be found. These 6 are just a few from my week this week. TGIF my friends!

Friday, July 6, 2018

Another Trip To Brisas del Mar

“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” 

Words speak volumes to me, but so do actions. Hugs go a very long way, a person holding the hand when I cry says more than any one word can ever do, or a person laughing alongside me, extending grace and freedom to be who I am carries me farther than I can even begin to explain. As Steve Maraboli said…. a kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal. If i may elaborate on that, I also would say that those wounds sometimes lie inside a place that the person extending the gesture would never see or even know their gesture is touching.

 That is what it is like for me in Brisas del Mar. In Brisas, every time I go, I find more healing, I regain strength in who God has made me to be. Sometimes I go, not even realizing the depth of my wounds but only to discover through tears and hugs, the healing is found when I am there. Words cannot sum up my week spent there. Every time I go, I try to come home and recapture the stories to those around me who will take time to listen. I share hundreds of photos and try to explain all the little inside jokes, the things that make me laugh in the middle of the day that would make absolute zero sense to anyone else around me. But it’s inadequate to describe this village that has captured my heart. I so love these people for a million reasons. 

I really don’t think much of myself, but I am reminded that God called the disciples from all walks of life… fishermen, tax collectors, and normal every day guys. And I realize without a doubt, that today, I am called just like they were. I don’t understand it, nor do I feel worthy of it. But I believe that He wants to use me there… or perhaps it’s more that He takes me there so I can be more efficiently used here.Because as much as I go try to share the love of Jesus with those people, they end up teaching me more about love than they can ever know. I am not the only one to say that, but each person’s story is unique. And God is using the people of Brisas to bring healing to my heart. When I feel weak, their words and their hugs carry me so far. It’s not magic…. it’s simply the love of Jesus carried out through others. And it’s that same love I want to share and be to those around me. But in my every day life here, I wrestle at times with that, feeling unworthy, feeling not good enough, feeling like “who am I to do this?” . It’s difficult to compare my life to theirs… it’s two cultures, two very different circumstances, two very different ways of life.

I have a home with a soft bed and air conditioning and for pity sake, a working toilet. They have a “shak” of sorts, with a thatched roof, a makeshift bed (for most of them) and certainly no toilets. I have hot water. They have what’s available. I have food and luxuries. They are happy with rice and coconuts. I have electronics and internet and tv. They have… none of that. I have had hard days, but really, I don’t know what “hard”  is. They have no money, often no food, no means of transportation and certainly no federal support in improving. And yet they capture everything with their hugs, with their laughter, with their love. I wish I could bottle it up and bring it home because it’s such a beautiful image, I want to freeze it to have forever. It’s in my heart, but busy life and harsh words so often cloud the gorgeous picture of joy I capture in those few days. The wounds that find healing in Brisas seem to get picked back open wide upon return, making the moments seem like a blink in time. 

 So this time, I am determined to carry those acts of compassion, those words of love, to a deeper level that changes me. That might bring change that is even scarier to face. But what can really be scarier than continuing to lose myself in the mess of hurt and pain when God has called me to serve him freely? He has called me to laugh and love. 

And so as I process things learned, I want most to carry on this joy that grows deeper in me each time I go. This joy that comes not from words of others, per say, although that helps, and not from hugs, although also those help bring healing. But the joy that I find in who Christ has made me to be. The joy that the people of Brisas help me see about who I am, because Christ uses them to help me heal places I didn’t even know needed it. I want to push that joy outward, so while there may still be moments of sadness, all in all, I live in His joy. 

 And in the meantime, I will hang onto and remember all the silly moments and things we expereinced together. Moments I don’t want to forget  that will not make sense to anyone but will always make me smile: like David’s "Uno, Dos, Tres… Uno…. " when Yuleida was in the hole digging.
 Or when Steve nearly rolled into the hole himself trying to pull Tom out. Or when David kindly said to Karen as she climbed down “I’m going to be at your posterior” (that is to say, he was going to touch near her butt to help her down into the 8 foot hole we'd dug). Or the moment of my trying to catch Greg the gecko, dumping Marilyn’s dirty clothes looking for him, and then startling Yulieda by tickling her foot. Or how every time John measured the hole in the last day he kept telling us 40 / 43/ 42 more cm to go! It never ended. Or Tom’s face, how it totally fell when John said “one more to go” And Tom was so excited because he thought it was one more foot, only to realize it was One more METER = 3 more feet! Miguel with his “what happened” phrase on this trip. 

 Or Pastor Dani’s ridiculous rhymes… Discrimination…. Chickato… and all the things like that he would say at dinner, with the very little English he knew. The song "Te Amo I love You". and "Vamos A Cantar". The beautiful program that was put together for our goodbye. And dancing for a long while after it. or how it was said to me “Don’t cry. We don’t want to remember sadness, we want to think on the happy things. Don’t let others or hard moments steal your joy, but focus on the beautiful. you will be back soon. Focus on that, and not on the goodbye”  

I go to Colombia because I feel called. However, I think God calls me there not just to translate for the team or love on the people, but so that they can teach me what God so hard tries to engrain into me, but I wrestle so deeply with in my daily life here. He tries to teach me how much He loves me and wants me to be happy and wants me to live freely. 

The time has come for me to implement these lessons in new ways. Change is scary. But as I have watched my whole job and career change over the last few months, then I walked into Colombia with a  change of staff in Brisas, to the changes I am finding in myself… God is showing me that whether or not the beginning of the change was something He designed, His hand is in every piece of it. I need to let my heart trust the changes he is implementing. Not to believe in myself, per say, or the words of others, (although those are important) but to believe in that which God is showing me and teaching me. It comes back to faith….. the word I chose at the beginning of this year, and the one which has a profound meaning, deeper than can ever be put into words. 

 “A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” 

It is time to heal because those kind gestures have touched me deeper in these days than I ever thought possible. 

 (PS. To end on a less serious note... I have a new android phone and I have a MAC computer. I'm really not tech savvy, so I have yet to figure out how to get my android photos onto my Mac , although people have kindly tried to explain it, it's remained a low priority. I want to share photos, but... you can find them on my Facebook page if you look me up. I'm lucky I got a blog up here, the connecting of the photos can wait. ) 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Hodge Poge

Today is just going to be a bunch of hodge poge of my thoughts. To be quite honest, there are several deeper blogs brewing inside the details of my head and heart, but so much so it's almost overwhelming to break it down.
 So, for today, and until I can find a sense of regularity with this again (which may be not still for a while) I share my hodge poge thoughts.

 May is almost over and I have learned so much over the last few weeks, let alone this entire year thus far in 2018. I share some sketches of May with you...

 - My son turned 14! How is possible that as he finishes up 8th grade and moves to high school both of my babies will be high schoolers?? I love them so much. Something I have learned about "momming" the last few weeks are this:
Although it is no surprise, time is flying by fast and soon these kids of mine will fly into the world in their own ways. I want to savor these  years. I loved the toddler years, I was a stay at home mom. the preschool and elementary years were fun, too. But as they have grown and become more independent adults, I find little things I still want to teach them, lessons I wish they had gotten when they were younger and I am working hard these days to savor the moments with them...
 Play more games, go to more events, drive them without complaint, listen to my daughter's stories, let my son tell sarcastic jokes.
 This winter was way too full of providing (which is necessary) but now it's time to be more available and live in the moment and savor the time with them. I have been very much aware of this lately.

- In May I got to do 2 10K races. I shed 3 minutes between the two of them (meaning the first one I finished and felt good about what I did because of what winter had been and the second one I ran 2 weeks later was 3 minutes faster!) It feels good to be regularly running again. I feel some kind of goal coming on...

- School. Whew. The deeper I get into the harder it gets (DUH!)  I start off every semester by saying "this one is going to be challenging" so much so that my friends really just kind of laughs at me for that. Really it's just a matter of developing a new routine every semester along with life's schedule. This semester all 3 courses are online, which is OK, but who knew Astronomy was going to be SO HARD! I have to take 2 sciences and I picked astronomy thinking it would be kind of cool to study the stars, etc. Um... that was the not so educated me choosing. Astronomy is no joke. This semester is short but... it's going to be very challenging. Cultural anthropology is up my alley, however, carving time to read is the trick. In a (hopefully) soon to come blog, I will share about the group that awarded me the scholarship I am using to be able to take classes this summer. They are a neat group of people who would fall into things I've learned the last few weeks...
This is an example of a chart I did this week... it took me way too long but I did end up with a decent grade on it! However, it really took me a long time to understand and do it. 

- Change is inevitable. It is part of life. they say the only constant in this life is change, which is rather an ironic saying. But nonetheless, I have been sifting through a number of changes taking place around me... processing them, sometimes being way too emotionally spent over them. I am an analyzer- I look at every angle, every detail I possibly can to a point of it driving myself nuts at times. As change has been taking place around me the last few weeks I am recognizing strengths that have not had the ability (or maybe chose not to??) to  shine. While these can challenge me, it also excites me to see this growth and pushes me to keep being that person. I also can see my weaknesses. Change does that - it opens the eyes if we let it. I am choosing to let it. BUT I have to admit to you it took me some days of wrestling, exhausting moments of anxiety and a very good friend to lovingly push me to get to this place of doing better to embrace the change and shine through it.

 And that was May in a nutshell. Lots of learning moments. It's interesting to me that the times I experience the strongest growth and push through in who I am becoming the more my old insecurities want to push through. That's my next thing to ponder and process, I suppose :)

 But one day at a time. As cliche as that may sound, I have also been reminded well of that in recent weeks, too. One day, one decision, one battle and one victory at a time.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Getting back up

I stared at my palms, trickling a bit of blood. I wanted to quit. I thought about it. But I got back up and kept going...

 Yesterday on my run, I fell hard. My foot caught a crack in the sidewalk just the wrong way and as hard as I tried to keep myself from hitting the pavement, it was happening. As soon as the trip came, I worked my muscles to pull myself upright so i would not fall, but when I kept propelling my feet forward in an effort to gracefully continue (hey... it has worked in the past to keep going without actually falling) my body said "nope. This is happening." And so I managed to get my hip to hit closer to the grass and catch myself on my palms.

 But not without a little bit of blood and even more frustration.

 The fall happened quickly. I skid across the sidewalk a little bit, but I stood up. I looked at my palms, which were throbbing, and very seriously considered calling my husband to come get me. But, as frustrated as I was, I needed to finish that run.

 I can count on one hand in 10 years how many times I have fallen when running. That's a good thing, as if I had to use two hands to count my falls I might be in worse shape. But every time I fall, I learn a new thing about myself.

 Right now, I am re-learning some aspects of believing in myself. Running has always taught me that. For that reason, amongst others, I love the sport. I am not an elite and never will be, but I learn that I am capable of more than I credit myself. I learn that I can do what I put my mind to. Running teaches me to move past words said or opinions held and be me. I love that running teaches me to keep going.

 So, when I fell yesterday, i was reminded of this lesson. The truth is, I have a "race" this weekend and it will be my first since October. I won't be racing against anyone but myself. I know I'm going to have to push hard because it's going to hurt a little.(okay, maybe a lot.)  The competitor in me may be slightly frustrated for the backwards momentum of my ability to run because of the circumstances of life. But here is running once again teaching me that I CAN. and I WILL. so I am really looking forward to this event, just because for me, it is proof to myself that I am more than what I often believe. And that is one reason I run. Because it helps me believe.

 I am a dreamer, a goal setter and a go-getter. I sometimes fail, I sometimes go backwards. But I always get back up and keep going.
 I may be stagnant at times, but I figure out how to muddle my way through it and come out stronger. And that is sometimes the only way God teaches me, or rather, the only way I stop to listen. Because when you're stuck in the mud, so to speak, forced to slow down on whatever it is.... I figure out it's time to listen.

 Falls are the same way. Like a knock over the head (or scraped, bloody palms....) a fall teaches me God is there. He's waiting. He's leading. And He's encouraging me always to get back up and keep going. Don't let life knock me down. Don't let the words stop me. Don't let others' actions get in my way. Follow Him. Keep going. Let Him clean off the rocks from my wounds and take my hand and lead me (to the finish line....)

 So yep... yesterday I fell really hard. It hurt a lot (and my muscles today are reminding me how they helped catch me....) but I am glad I fell. Because I remembered that when I fall or get knocked down, I have the courage and the strength to get back up and keep going.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Attitude of Gratitude

Today I return to my thoughts on "the little things" moments. I have had a hard time embracing those on many days, if I am being honest. But I've had so many... and let so many go unnoticed... that I wanted to share a few of the very beautiful ones from this last week. Sometimes, when I am feeling the most doubts, whether I deserve it or not (ok, mostly I know I really never deserve it)
God shows up in the coolest of ways to just remind me that I am on the right path and that I am taking the right steps and growing more into who I am supposed to be. Here are a few from the last week...

 1. School
  This semester has been long and exhausting. And I am already signed up for summer courses. In lieu of finances, I was questioning myself slightly whether I was doing the right thing or not. And yet I could not make myself feel any other way because it just seems right. And I am afraid if I take one semester off it'll only be too easy to take another one. And so I signed up, not sure how finances would play out. And lots of prayer. Guess what?
 Last Friday I got not one... but TWO... phone calls to tell me that I was awarded two scholarships! God is good! And I am reminded I am on the right path. I asked... I took steps of faith.. He provided.
 And like I kid, I was grinning ear to ear when I heard of them.

2. More Scholarships... But not Mine
   Many of you know that since my mom passed away in 2011, we have had a 5K in memory of her to raise funds for a scholarship in her memory. It's exhausting... and so much work... but so worth it in the most humbling of ways. And now, being a student myself and receiving scholarships, I have an even deeper appreciation of it, if that makes any sense. I have questioned and doubted myself in this area too. But I have learned so much along the way of putting this event on and meeting students who are recipients and hearing their stories.
  This week we awarded the 7th Linda A. Ferguson Memorial Scholarship. I shouldn't be surprised that I still tear up at this, but ... I was caught off guard by it. I had to choke back tears a few times in talking about mom to the recipient, listening to dad, and hearing her story of why this scholarship was meaningful.
 Sadly this year I am taking a break from the 5k, but funding is still there for future scholarships and it's not to say we won't host the 5K again next year. But... it was the right thing for life to take a year's break from it.

3. School
 I guess school is the theme of this blog. :) But this week I got to present my honors project. I have worked on this all semester. Taking the Spanish course as an honors course was my choice, and I did it because that is my end goal and I want to push myself in those areas. The requirements were: write a paper (due at end of semester) in Spanish about what I learned through my research of my topic. My topic was my choice, approved by my professor. The other requirement was putting together a presentation, to be given at the Honors Symposium, amongst all the other honors students. No other students in Spanish courses were in honors, so I was up against psychology students, art students, business students and engineering students. The symposium was really awesome to be honest. I saw cool projects and talked to neat people and most of all, got to educate others on my topic, which is one close to my heart: the Indigenous of Colombia. I had the opportunity to read some books recommended to me by the Colombians as well conduct some interviews while I was there from people who lived with the Indigenous tribes. I learned so much. I loved this project. And I had a great time presenting.

4. Running
  Hello, my friend... I missed you... and it feels so good, even if slowly doing so... to be out on the pavement again. I am looking forward to a 10K event in just 2 weeks. Sometimes the hardest races are the best ones, not because of time (to be determined, but entering knowing it will not be a PR) but because of what I learn or see in myself.
5. Family Movie Night
  We haven't done one of those in quite a while, but this weekend we watched The Greatest Showman... excellent movie! I highly recommend it. I've always enjoyed musicals and this one was exceptional. I suppose a part of me relates to the storyline in some regards, so that is likely a piece of it, but the music was great, the actors did well and the story was well told. I'm not a movie critic, but I really enjoyed it. One song in particular I really enjoyed
 This Is Me

 in the midst of changes and sometimes uncertainties, there are always positive moments to be found. This was a beautiful week.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Step One...

Step 1. Get up when the alarm goes off at 4:30
 Step 2. Bathroom while coffee brews
  Step 3. Drink coffee and have some quiet time
   Step 4. Get dressed and RUN

 As I referred to in my last post, this winter has been long. The weather has been less than ideal, I've been a bit tired from working 2 jobs and of course my semester schedule was strange, causing me to need to be at work a little earlier. So, I don't share that to complain, I'm sharing that to talk about how the struggle to exercise has been real, which makes the success feel all the greater.

 I love my exercise time. Temperatures have never bothered me when it comes to running. And getting up early in the morning has never been an issue for me. But this winter it has been a challenge. And many days... the challenge won over the determination factor I usually can put into full force.

 However, my determination cap is back on and I am running again. I MISSED it! The feeling of the fresh morning air. Greeting the day before most people have even gotten out from under the covers. Watching the sun rise. Breathing in the beauty of a new day, new beginnings. Running is part of me. Not running=not feeling completely me. That sounds totally cliche, but I am being serious. And so being back out there every morning is a very good feeling.

 Now, I am feeling like I'm at square one, on that very first run, such as I felt back in 2008 when I began the journey of running. It's a struggle. My breathing is a bit labored and my pace is even less than it used to be (which was never elite) .  And that competitive piece of me cares about that. But... the heart of me does not. It is SO good to be doing something I love again.

 I'll pick up a couple of May races, and I am not out there for a time, but I am out there because it's part of who I am. And it feels good, regardless of where I am in the pack of others. It's not about them; it's about me. It clears my head, shakes my anxieties, gives me a smile and starts me out right for my day.

And so I run again. Truthfully many of my blogs come from running because it is a time I can think without pressure and the thoughts flow freely. I learn much about myself through my training. That's a piece of the beauty in it for me. I look forward to sharing my running journey with you (again.) Sometimes priorities shift, but we should always come back to the core of who we are. Running does not define me, but it is a part of me.
 One step at a time, beginning with that alarm at 4:30 am.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Finger Painting Masterpiece

My most-read blogs, or my "best" ones, not by the standards of the likes or the comments, but just by my reading back through them recently, are my most vulnerable blogs. I have said that before. And as I was reading through the last several years looking for a few specific things, I remembered lessons learned I had nearly forgotten. And for that reason I am glad that I write.

 Being vulnerable at times is really hard and also scary. And yet, those are the times I allow myself to actually drink in what God is trying to teach me. Rather than just talk about it with the many around me, I am pondering it, processing it and putting it to 'pen and paper.' 

 And so this morning, here I sit. And the image that keeps coming to my mind is finger painting. 

 Do you remember being a kid in preschool or Kindergarten and the teacher bringing out the paint? We were given a semi-glossy fresh sheet of white paper and draped in an apron to spare our clothing and then given free reign over creating a finger painting. 
 More often than not, what happens is that it starts out with separated colors and then the more that the child gets going on the painting, the more the colors just smear together and in the end often create a mess of colors on a page, looking more greenish-brown and just smears, than looking like some type of guided painting. 

 I can't separate that image from my own life right now. I'm not finger painting, but it just feels like everything is overlapping and smearing and getting messier until it's becoming one page of just blurred movements. A lot of "What If's" hang in the wind the last few weeks, leaving me smearing my paint rather than making calculated movements to create a clear picture for presentation. To me, I can see each line I draw with my finger (each what if), and I can see each color I am choosing (each category of life needing decisions) but once I get going with all of those, they blend, becoming a smeared painting. One overlaps the other or depends on what happens in the other area. It's messy and complicated. And to the eye of the beholder ..... not all that pretty.

  At the beginning of the year, I chose the word FAITH as my word of the year. Faith plays a role in my every day life, whether we are referring to my faith in God or faith in others. Faith plays a role in everyone's life one way or another. Even if you don't have faith in something or someone particular, you're probably putting faith in yourself. 

 I had little idea when I chose that word what it would come to mean. Faith is not easy. It's a stretch. and I am an analyzer, so for me I complicate the process of faith. I am not always looking to "fix" something, but neither am I just living it out on faith. 
  Here is what I am learning currently about faith... 
 first of all, I have a very VERY long way to go in being a living example of daily faith in God. I know I refer to my Colombian experiences often, but these friends and moments have taught me and continue to teach me about how little faith I sometimes have. The last few weeks for me have been hard. I'm experiencing a change in just about every area of life and honestly, I don't really have many answers to the questions that are arising. 
 I speak with my Colombian friends nearly daily and in two separate conversations, it was lovingly said to me that I have good health, I have a job, my family is well.... I should be grateful. 
    .... and they were both correct, as they shared with me not having a paycheck for the last several months, stories of ones close to them fighting hard illness and not being able to get the healthcare they need, the difficulties of the government's opposition, and the struggle to survive. And yet do you know what they are doing every day in my conversations with them? 
  They are always saying how good God is. How they don't have fear because they have seen God provide time and time again. They tell me how yes, it can be stressful, but God is in control regardless of what the outcome in their immediate life is. They are teaching me about faith. 
 My problems are real, yes. The changes are affecting me, yes. My depression and anxiety play a role in how I view and feel what is happening, but listening to them, learning from them, always helps me put my own self and faith into perspective. 
   I have a very long way to go. 

 Each change happening for me right now is all faith dependent and I have no control over any of them, mostly. And the "control" I may have is also faith dependent. So, like a wham over the head, even though it's not so simple to act on faith, that is where I stand. Pray. Pray . and Pray some more. And I know that He knows what is going to happen, what the outcomes will be. He never fails. We fail.People around us fail. But He never does.

 The winter has been long. And exhausting. And a season of faith that I have not been embracing all that well. Winters are blah. It is April and the snow is STILL falling here in Ohio (some days). I am dying for spring to come. But, it matches the season of life I've been facing. 
 Hard decisions. Exhausting days. Questioning results. Let me be real for a moment. For the last few months, I have been working two jobs- my day job and one on the weekends. Through that I have learned so much, but it has been draining. My semester has been long- really it's been good, but long. It changed my schedule at work a little, which changed my workout schedule. And then we have the cold, winter days. So, the winter has been long. But a verse came to my mind the other day...

 Isaiah 40:8 "The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever."

 His promises stand true when the grass is dying and the flowers are hidden beneath the snow.  His promises hold me up when others let me down. His word stands true when circumstances change. I am reminded of a hymn from growing up...
  On faith the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand. 


 How could I forget that one small word that God whispered in my ear in the early days of January? I didn't know what the year was going to bring.... but HE did! He knew I would need to stand on my faith stronger than I ever have. He knew that I would be tested. he knew that my world was going to change. And HE wanted to stretch me and grow me and give me opportunities to choose faith over fear. (ouch... just typing that... I realize how many times I choose fear....) 

I take you back to my image of the finger painting. It gets messy, right? The paint is all over the page... the paint is often on the apron and on other places besides the fingers. And yet when the finger painting is carried home by the child, how often does a parent take that painting and hang it proudly on the wall or on the refrigerator? Just like a parent does that, God really takes my own messy self and  holds me up as a masterpiece as well...His masterpiece. He created me. And messy or not, He loves me and He is teaching me and He views me as beautifully and wonderfully made, even when I feel like a smeared mess.  Faith.... it makes all the difference in these days.