Thursday, November 26, 2015

Being Thankful

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

 Today is a day that naturally brings most writers to speaking about things which revolve around gratitude, as it should. Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday. While I truly love Christmas and Easter for the meanings of each of those days,  I really love Thanksgiving the most  because it brings about words of thankfulness... a habit lost in our every day busy lives.
  Most of us are guilty of it. But, I will just try to speak from my own perspective here.

 I truly try to help others find the half full glass side of life.When they are down, I try to find the positives for them. I enjoy encouraging others and striving to see the best. But, when it comes to my own life, I am a deep thinker and evaluater. I feel every emotion to the most intense degree. When I love, I love with everything in me. When I hurt, it affects every part of me. When I am happy, it bubbles over onto others.When I am trying to muddle through a new circumstance, my quiet spirit will let you know I am deep in thought. The point is, for myself,  when it comes to my own life, while I try to help others find gratitude, I don't always practice it best in my own life.

 This week, my friend reminded me of all the many blessings I have, just by listing a very few of them for me, finishing the thought by saying "if you ask me, you have a pretty good life." I thought on it for a moment and realized that, while it's good to be real and talk about life's struggles, the blessings cannot get lost in the midst of those. So, (to piggy back off my one attempted theme of The Little Moments ) I want to make more effort to be grateful.

 Every Day.

Not just on Thanksgiving.

So, today I recommit myself to writing down all the little things that happen each day, so that I can better focus myself on life's blessings, and not life's challenges.

 Today is a reminder of how many wonderful things we do have. But, why not make that an every day habit? I certainly cannot eat every day like I do today, but I can dwell more on my  blessings.

 As I am preparing for my trip to Colombia, there are a hundred blessings folded into that. I am grateful for those who are my prayer warriors, walking the road of the trip with me just as much as if they were on it. I am thankful for those who have donated money to the cause. I am reminded just how many wonderful people do exist in my life and care very much about me. And... as I prepare to go to a tiny village of people who have next to nothing, I am realizing how much I take everything that I do have for granted.

 As I reflect on the last many months, I am thankful for my husband. We have waddled through some muddy days, but all the while, he is by my side. I am thankful for my kids. Teenagers now, they are both teaching me day in and day out lessons of patience and dedicated love. But both are healthy and smart and I am blessed to have them.

 I am grateful for my dad. He is amazing, and every day sets an example for me. He is strong and patient and loving and kind and extremely giving. He loves God with everything in Him and strives to follow Him all the time. He doesn't always understand or relate to my world, but he is always there for me.

 Throughout the last many months, I have made some new friends. Women I never would have imagined being part of my journey a year ago. I am so thankful for them.

 I have some very true friends that have stuck with me through the many years of knowing me.... and I could not continue to navigate the deep waters without the wisdom and support they provide for me, each in their own unique way.

 I am incredibly grateful for God.  Words can't sum it up, quite honestly, but none of the above blessings would exist without His grace and love. And I don't deserve it. But He lovingly extends it to me. Every Day .

 The list could really go on, couldn't it? Today is a day of Thanksgiving. Of family. Of lots of great food. But, a reminder to me that I need to be more grateful every day.

Psalm 106

Praise the Lord.[a]

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his love endures forever.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Littlest Sacrifices Matter

And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, "Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all, for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had."  Luke 21:1-4

 I am not a Bible scholar, so I hesitate at times to throw my interpretations out there. However, this passage has crossed my path enough times the last few weeks, that I have begun to dwell on it a bit more and ponder its meaning. I believe that it could be interpreted different ways, and maybe even at different times in life, stand out with different significance.

 But, I find it to hold value in 2 different aspects in relation to my life at this time.

 First of all,  as I am on a faith journey right now in my pursuit of going on the mission trip to Colombia,  this story crossed my mind a few times. No gift is too small. Anything that anyone has given towards my trip matters. I have had some say to me "I'm so sorry it's not more..."  And my response is, " Are you kidding me? It means more than anything to me just to have your support, so a financial gift on top of that is God's confirmation  and a huge blessing to me."

  I have watched God provide in amazing ways through this time, as I have vested hours in prayer towards this adventure.  But the gifts people give touch me every time. I think of this story of the widow who, to an unwise eye, may have thought "that's all she is giving??"  But God saw and knew what a sacrifice it was.  God saw her heart.  And it was recorded to teach all of us for years to come. I should never be surprised by God. When we seek Him with our whole heart, He provides. And yet, I am constantly amazed at the sacrifices I see many make, as they contribute towards my trip to Colombia. I want to go to be His hands and feet, to be used by Him. To use my passion for Spanish. To love on others. And, to be transformed myself.  But, I am finding every single person walking this trip with me, be it in prayer or in financial giving, is just as much His hands and feet. Each one of (you)  are like the widow.  Giving selflessly.... for His good. And their sacrifices touch me every time.

 There is a secondary way I have begun to look at this story. (Again, please note, I am no scholar here, so this is my interpretation and how God is working on me using this story, maybe not how any other person who has dedicatedly studied the passage would say it is meant.) 

  The widow has no name. She may not even have known her story would be recorded for everyone to know. If I had to guess, she probably didn't even know anyone was really watching her. She may have been embarrassed by what little she had to offer to put in that money giving, considering the rich who were around her. But she gave it all, and it mattered. 

 As much as the story is about money, I have begun to see it in other ways. I have many times said that what I am doing in life doesn't really matter. That I am just a nobody. That my role is not important. If we are honest, we probably all struggle with that on some level. But what God has begun showing me through this story is that anything we do for His glory and with the right intentions, matters. No action is too small.
  A written card. The hugs given.  The kind words said. Maybe just being there, and not saying anything at all. Doing tasks happily, no matter how small, with no desire for recognition. Praying for someone. Being a true friend. Making a meal. Giving someone a ride.
 The list could go on of  tasks that we often think nothing of, but just like God saw the widow give her all with her money, He sees what we do, too. Nothing goes unnoticed. Nothing has a lack of value.  Every little thing counts.

 So, when I think of this story, I am grateful for those who give sacrificially to my upcoming work in Colombia.  But I also am challenged to remember that what I am doing for His kingdom, even if I think it is nothing, makes a difference. The widow didn't have her name written in the Bible. But God knew who she was.  He knew the sacrifice she made to give.
 And He knows the same for you. and for me. And really, what He knows is what matters.

 Do not discount anything you do... whether it's a financial gift or an act of love. Every action matters.

40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Race Recap

"To be a champion, I think you have to see the big picture. It's not about winning and losing; it's about every day hard work and about thriving on a challenge. It's about embracing the pain that you'll experience at the end of a race and not being afraid....." - Summer Sanders, former Olympian

 As I shared in my previous blog post, No Holding Back, I had my fall race this weekend. I haven't been so excited for a race in a long time. However, for multiple reasons, I had been anticipating this one for months. I had very little idea of all that I would learn/embrace along the way. But just as this race's title was Monumental Marathon, my experience was monumental. 

Thursday evening, my co worker and I enjoyed exploring some of the sites around the city and exploring the unique restaurants and sculptures downtown. When she and I are together, we enjoy being silly. 

Friday was another day of the expo, doing what I love to do as part of my job, and carb loading for Saturday's race. 

 Then finally the day I had been training so hard for came around. 

While the morning started out chilly, the temperatures were actually perfect for a race. The sun was out, and it was about 41 degrees. It's not fun to wait around at the start line in those temperatures, but once you get going, it's ideal. I was focused and ready to go. My mantra of LET GO was written on my hands and ingrained into my head for running. I pushed my headphones in and geared up to cross the start line. 

 As we started off, there wasn't a cloud in the sky or a breeze in the air. PERFECT! I shed my throw away gloves by mile one and felt great. My pace was pretty on-target for a PR. Of course, it was only mile one! We passed by the Colts stadium and rounded some streets to pass through the heart of the city, by the monument that stands tall in the center of the square. (Sorry, no photos... while I really enjoy the scenery along the way of the race courses I do, I do not stop to take photos while I run!) 
 As the miles faded one by one, I was feeling good, but a little uncertain if I could maintain the good pace the entire way. I did not go out the gate too fast, as some do. I just knew for weeks now, that while I would be close, I would be pushing it the whole race. 
 Somewhere around mile 6, there was a fire in a house along the course, so the firetruck beeped its way through the street, moving all of us to the sidewalk until it passed, and then off to the left of the street where the fire was. At mile 7, the half and the full marathon split apart. That was the first time I slowed down for water. That was where I lost a tad bit of my momentum for a moment.  I found it again, but I know from past experiences that when I lose momentum, it slows down my adrenaline a little.
  But I pressed on. Around mile 9, a crazy driver tried to (ok, not tried to, but DID) pull out onto the course. I know this has happened in plenty of races, but it was a first experience for me.It shot my heart rate up a little because the car did this literally with only 2 runners ahead of me. I have no idea what that driver was thinking. One of the other runners ahead of me stopped and handled the situation, so I kept going. 
  Halfway through mile 9, I was surprised to hear a spectator yell "Go, Rachael!"  One of our lead volunteers/sector bosses was out there to watch his girlfriend run. His cheer gave me a little new push. 
 When I hit mile 10, I knew that if I did not maintain my pace, I was going to lose a new PR. I kept repeating to myself to Let Go . No Doubt. Keep going. Let Go. And while it helped, I will just share with you that when my watch hit 2:27, I was rounding the bend into the final stretch, and I knew I was pumping out all I had left. 
 I finished the race in 2:29:24. 
 I missed my PR by just a minute and a few seconds. 

 I cried a little. 

But I did not cry because I did not make the PR. While it is so true that I wanted that pretty badly, what rang more true in my heart is just how much I have gained along the way the last few months. 
 I gained new confidence.
   I gained new perspective.
     I gained new friendships.
       I gained a stronger faith. 

And all of those "gains" are worth far more than a new PR. I will have plenty more races to run to push for a PR. This race was meant as a learning journey. And that was my reason for shedding a few tears. I felt great. I let go. In running, yes. But I let go in so many other areas that, as I stated previously, this race was was a huge victory for me. I even learned another lesson of letting go during my finish. I had this time goal in my head... and I didn't quite make it. And sometimes I have to let go of not accomplishing a goal. To not beat myself up over it. Let go of that, because in essence, while I didn't meet the goal, it doesn't mean I failed by any means. If I met every goal I ever made, what would I ever learn?? 
To many, running a half marathon in 2:29 is super slow. For me, I pushed through some walls. And I improved very much over the last race I did. So if you ask me if I ended happy... the answer is YES. 
So, the Air Force Marathon half marathon course still holds my PR for now. Which is perfectly OK with me. The Monumental Marathon, while not my favorite race I have ever ran, holds my best training  journey. 

  Upon my arrival home, the family was happy to have me back and to celebrate my accomplishment. We enjoyed the post-race tradition of a Mexican meal. That started after my very first half marathon, and without the intentions of it becoming so, has become the now-traditional post race occurrence. We decided to try a new place, and if you live in Dayton, or are ever in the area, you have to try Taqueria Mixteca. It's traditional and delicious! Best post-race meal ever! 
 Needless to say, I had the best night's sleep I've had in months. And a happy heart. Because letting go does that. 
 It was no PR, but far more was gained..... 
   Who knows what the next leg of training will bring?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

No Holding Back....

I'm not holding back any longer. I am going all out and I am letting go. I am weary of the roadblocks I allow to be in my way.

 Over the course of the last 4 months, I have been training for a fall race. One race. One day. Just a couple of hours long. One victory. Hundreds of hours invested in getting to this place.

I have been looking forward to this race for months. I have not written much about the training because 1. I am no expert, so who am I to really say how to train or even talk about my methods? 2. Many people don't really care to hear all about the runs (but I'm beginning to be over that and just write freely about it because, after all, this is my blog and it doesn't have to be read.) 3. (and mostly for this reason I haven't shared much) This training journey has been a very private one.

 It's been private not because I have been running alone (although there is that, for sure). But it's been private because this has been very much of a learning journey for me through this training.  And sometimes, there just aren't adequate words to express what the heart, mind, body, and soul are learning. As they connect to each other through a run, my running and my training become as much of a spiritual experience as it is a physical benefit to my body. To express those moments out loud can present a challenge. Some people think that's crazy.

 So I haven't talked about it.

I don't think that just because it's race week that I am done learning the lessons I have accumulated over the last few months. But I don't want to hold back any more. I want to share what I am learning. About myself. About God. About this journey we call life.
 And I don't want to hold back in my running any longer either. I want to push the limits. I want to go faster than I ever have. I want to let God carry me through the walls I constantly find in my path. The mental walls. Because the mental walls present more of a challenge than the physical ones. The "I can't " statements. The settling for good enough. This training journey has brought me to a new goal with my fall race.

 It scares me a little because I don't like failing. And a part of me feels like if I don't meet my time goal for the race then I will be failing. But, actually, this race is probably one of my greatest victories, no matter what my time outcome is; the finish time will just become a bonus. So, even if I don't meet my time standard I am setting up for myself, I haven't failed. Because along the last 4 months, I have gained some amazing new perspectives.
 Just like pushing the limits physically and the lungs hurt, sometimes these perspectives have pushed my emotional limits and my heart hurts.
 But not a hurt that is lasting. It's temporary. Because as I have recognized new things about myself, about others around me, and about how much God loves me through every aspect of my being, the hurt fades and victory replaces the pain.

 This training journey has come to mean so much more to me than just running a race. It's become one about embracing confidence. Letting go of old insecurities. It's become a time in life where I have said yes to new experiences (Colombia), said no to hindrances that can stand in the way (sinful habits). And it has become a time of no longer  holding back. I have been learning to really let go.
 Let go of words. Let go of habits. Let go of people. Let go of expectations.
  Which leaves me....
  Free to run better. Be stronger. Love deeper. Work harder. Trust God more.

 This leg of training has been amazing. Physically, yes. I have begun to push past a wall I never thought could be knocked down. But emotionally and spiritually even more so. Because through these many weeks, I have been learning to let go.
  So as I go into my race on Saturday, my mantra is... LET GO. and in essence, Let God.
Simple words. But full of depth for me. with every step, I am learning to let go. Figuratively and metaphorically.
  In my running, and in my life.
   Do both hurt? Sometimes, yes. But is the victory worth it? Absolutely.

 So, I can't wait to see what will happen in the race Saturday. I am going for a best time. But, as I said, I have already gained a victory through this event.

   I close by sharing this: During the beginning of my training, I read Unbroken, the story of Louis Zamperini. What an incredible story. What an incredible life that man lived. But his brother said to him " A moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory."  That has stuck with me. But even more so, Louis said to himself upon recalling his brother say that as he entered his Olympic experience, "Let Go" . And he opened up and went for it.

 No holding Back. Let Go.
 One day at a time.