Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Power of Encouragement

Encouraging words go a longer way than that for which they are often given credit.
 There is power in words.
Words can knock down or words can build up.
Words can keep a person going or make one want to quit.
  Words can make the difference in a  person's life without the speaker even knowing it.

 As much as running is a parallel and platform for my writing some days, the TRX I have begun doing is becoming the same for me. I don't mean for it to be a life-lesson experience when I go into the classes, but somehow I often walking away feeling like I have gained strength from within as much as physical strength.

That comes from the power of encouragement.

 I have been doing the class now for almost a month. It's a love/hate relationship, I must say. I love it because of what I know it is doing for my body. I hate it for how hard it is!
  I love it for working new muscle groups. I hate it for how awkward I am with it.
I love it for the people in the class.  (I don't have a hate word to contradict that aspect)
  I love it for how it makes me sweat. I hate it for how it makes me sweat. (Contradictory, I  know, but  some of you can relate to that statement.)

 It's a growing relationship that I have with it. I am clueless on some of these exercises and often times by the time I get the hang of the exercise, it's time to move on to the next one, so I have missed the point of what was being done! Yesterday, I got all tangled up like crazy in the straps, all twisted around. As I flailed around slightly, trying to figure it out, I sort of exasperatingly said " I have no idea what I am doing!" (I really don't.... it's very humbling, actually.)  But the class instructor said back to that "You're doing awesome, that's what you're doing!"

 And that was enough to keep me going, to keep me determined to figure out these crazy poses that fixate new muscle groups. He had no idea the power of his encouraging words in that moment. Sometimes I watch the others in the class to figure out how I'm supposed to be doing my movements. The instructor is very good about helping me as well. But as I watch them, it is easy enough for me to slip into the habit of comparison and thinking "I'll never get this. I'll never be as good as they are." And yet, I find myself rarely in that space because of how encouraging every one in the class is. It's not just the instructor.
  It's his wife, it's the person next to me (who seemingly also has the ability to teach the class in the absence of the instructor), it's the girl across from me who has definitely been doing this for a while. No one is down on me for looking like a 2 year old, twisted in all kinds of silly ways. They are all in my corner, cheering me on in their own way, including me in their world.
 For all I know, they might think what in the world is that woman doing?? But none of them say anything along those lines.
 When I talk about the class to others or my confusion in not being able to get the exercise done immediately, I have been made fun of by others. But, never by those who are alongside me in the class. And I share all this to say there is power in encouragement. A kind word goes a long way. I carry it with me all day, an into the next day even. Those encouraging words are propelling me forward in more ways than one.

 These new friends of mine are making a difference in my life, and I am sure they are completely unaware of that. Not only are they helping create a new love for me at 6 am in the morning, but they are also creating a space in my heart and mind that is the hand of God, nudging me forward in my journey of life. Their words echo in my mind and soul when the negative ones want to rewind themselves and try to play over again. But the more positivity I take away from those moments, the stronger I am becoming. Physically, maybe (hopefully! that is part of the point!) But more importantly than physically, it's strengthening me spiritually and emotionally as well.

 I told one of my friends yesterday that honestly, it would be easy enough for me to leave the class completely discouraged because I just feel like I am taking forever to get it, I'm not improving and I often times feel a little .... dumb. But, I have yet to walk way feeling that way. Because of the power of encouragement.

 Little do they know how God is using them in more ways than just a physical strength train tool. They are helping me grow in my self confidence journey.

 I share all of this to say that you just don't ever know what your words will mean or do for someone around you. Don't discredit the power of an encouraging word, a high five, a hug a letter or a card. It's true that I may take it to a deeper level because words hold much worth to me, but i know that it makes a difference. Words have the ability to build up or destroy.   Which will you choose today?

Sunday, April 24, 2016


 My running/exercise world often collides with my spiritual world. The parallels are just similar for me. I'd say the same must also have been true for Paul in the Bible, since he wrote a few different passages about running the race and comparing it to our faith. (Hebrews 12 and 1 Cor 9 to name a couple.)

  Currently, I am working on getting a little bit faster. I have been stagnant in my pace for too long. While there is a part of me that doesn't mind that pace because, hey, I'm out there running, there is another side of me that wants to be better. To grow stronger. To run faster. And so right now, I am working on all of those things. I am not obsessed with them, but I am diligently pursuing those goals. I don't talk about them too often with many around me. This is my place to do that, I suppose. But, regardless of who I'm speaking to about the goal or not, I know I am diligently doing all I can to implement results.

 The same is true in my spiritual journey. After going to Colombia, with it being such a life-changing experience, I don't want to remain stagnant. That was a time where God really spoke volumes to my soul and it would be a shame if I didn't carry those differences into my every day life. But, like not remaining stagnant in my running, it takes work not to just go back to all the old normal ways. It takes work to keep growing.

 My Colombian journey took me to new places spiritually and emotionally, but putting those into practice every day is more of a challenge. I found peace and healing in my heart when I was there. I heard God's voice in all new ways. I saw His hand in my life through incredible answers to prayer. But, it's easier to hear and see all of that without the distractions of TV, internet, text messages, FaceBook. It's also easier because in that environment, gratitude cannot help but be the attitude of the heart. When you experience living amongst people who have nothing, that puts life into perspective. But being back in the States, it's easy enough to fall right back into the trap of "things." Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we can't have things. I am only saying that I gained a fresh perspective and don't want to lose that.

I also found joy in who God has created me when I was there. Here, it is more difficult to hold onto that, with the comparisons and the words that swirl around my every day environment. But having a glimpse of that internal peace, being content in who He has made me, sticks in my brain and heart. And though it is work to hold onto it, I remember it (and write about it so that I can remember it) and I work hard to embrace it.

 Yesterday on my long run of 8 miles (as I am preparing for another half marathon on May 15) I was thinking about this, even as I was pushing myself physically. I wanted to obtain a certain time in my running. But while I was thinking even about pushing myself a little harder physically, I was thinking about the word overcomer- in both a spiritual and a physical sense. I was breathing a little harder, pushing through the mental obstacles of wanting to walk. I was thinking about conversations I'd had through the week- both ones that held hurtful words as well as the flip side with positive words- in regards to my physical goals/self. It's amazing what words can do to play into the outcomes. A few high fives and positive words of "you can do it!" carry the spirit far. But the negative words have the same effect of knocking me down and wanting to quit.
 My obstacles are not seen to others. They are mostly in my mind. The battle of depression and anxiety. But in my run yesterday, I thought about how God has created me to be an overcomer. Not on my own strength but through His. As I kept pushing through the miles, working to become a little faster, so I do the same in the spiritual obstacles. I hold onto what I have learned and keep pressing forward to grow more. Some days I want to quit- on both fronts- but as I get knocked to the ground, I keep getting back up. Because I caught of glimpse of myself through His eyes when I was in Colombia, and that did not include quitting.

 I have had a song stuck in my head for a week now, which goes along with this theme. There are many songs out there which describe one as being a fighter. I have several on my running playlist. I had a friend send me one this week which she said adequately describes me. But the one playing over and over is one I want to share today.  It's called Overcomer, and it's by Mandisa. I recently added it to my playlist as well. Yesterday as I was going towards the last quarter mile of my run, it blared through the headphones. I found that appropriate, helping me finish the run strong.

 Anyone can take running and spirituality and compare them as two similar aspects of life. For me, right now, the word to be used with both is OVERCOMER. I will stay and fight till the final round. In my running and races, but more importantly, in my faith. One day at a time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Two are Better than One

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, MSG
 " It's better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps. But if there's no one to help, it's tough!" 

 I have been drinking in this lesson lately. Pride stops me from asking for help sometimes. Pride keeps me from being the godly woman God wants me to be. Pride tells me I don't need help in most scenarios, but clearly the Bible teaches differently. So, I am taking that and applying it quite literally. 

 In some scenarios, I do not have a hard time asking for help. In other ways, I can be as stubborn as the old mule. I want to figure out how to do it. I want to become a better runner. I want to be stronger. I want to host a better 5K.... see the theme? While the verse that says two are better than one didn't necessarily speak directly to those areas of life per say, it's still applicable.

It's not to say that I can never be independent or never work out a scenario on my own. I just have been learning too often lately where support and a second person are better than me trying to tough it out alone.

 I have struggled with my running lately. Not in getting out on my own or in getting up in the mornings, but I have hit a plateau I am fighting to get through, and I need help. My friend, Mary, is a faster, more lean runner than I am, and she is gracious enough to run with me one day a week now. It will take time to become faster, but - it's better to have a partner than to go it alone. During the fall when I was training, it was going well and that was a season that was clearly meant to be time of just me and God on my morning runs. So, I wanted to pridefully push through this difficult block on my own, but humbly I will accept the help. I'm honestly grateful for it. When no one is there to help, it's tough! When no one is with me to tell me to stop walking, will power only goes so far.

 I have been frustrated with strength training. That's never been an area I have succeeded well on my own (or in general). The TRX class has become a perfect setting for me. There is accountability and there is encouragement. I don't really know what I'm doing (yet) and when my legs are in the handles while we work our core, I certainly flail around at times. But little by little, I am getting to know the others in the class and becoming more comfortable. They are there to be my help as much as they are there to enhance their own strength. There is beauty in numbers. And while I may be one of the more quiet ones for now, the high fives and silly banter make me smile.

 In pushing through some personal obstacles and overcoming negative aspects of life, the prideful me wants to say "I'm strong enough to handle this!"But honestly, I need a partner. (Or 2 or 3) I need a friend to help me stay strong in my convictions and remember where God has placed me and how far He has brought me and where He is leading me. In my weakness, I am inclined to give up. But, I am an overcomer. Not on my own strength, mind you. But there is power in numbers. And strength in God's grace.

 In parenting, I need Michael to be my backup - or maybe the frontrunner. And since I don't have my mom to go to for advice, I use the help of other women around me who have walked this road before me.

 Two are better than one. When I fall, when I need a word of encouragement, when I need a shoulder to cry on, when I need to keep going, when I need someone to pray for me, when I need advice, when I can't see clearly..... the other is there to get me. Whether it's my best friend, my mentor, my husband, or my boss.... this is a lesson not alway easily learned but beautifully being played out. One day at a time.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Finish V. Start

"You can't finish until you start!" - Steck

 My TRX instructor said those words in our class on Thursday to get some of us moving. (disclaimer: I do not know if he heard that and repeated it or if those were words he is the original author of.) 
There were some less than thrilled to get moving that morning, but when he said that, it stuck with me. I have thought about it over the last few days.

 That statement is true of, well, pretty much any task in life.
  You can't finish something if it does not have a beginning.  You have to start in order to see a finish.

 You can't finish a marathon until you line up and cross that start line.
   You can't get stronger if you don't start the process of strengthening.
     You can't Finish a degree if you never start it.
       You can't write a book and finish it if you never write the first page.
        You can't finish a project at work until you begin working on it.

The list goes on. The statement applies to every area of life. It's simple, yet profound.
 And guess what? Starting is often the hardest part, but finishing, whether it's first or last or expected results or not, is something to be proud of.  Starting can be quite intimidating. I'm 33 and I'm about to launch back into school. That's slightly scary. But starting is the hardest part. And I cannot finish getting the degree I wish to attain without starting. After 15 years of having all kinds of reasons for not going to school (all of which have been valid, mind you) I decided that the excuses will just keep going until I start. And so start I will.

 Gaining strength does not come overnight. I am pretty awful at all this TRX stuff, but I'm there, and I'm giving it my best effort .  And as hard as it is, I keep showing up, Starting so I can finish. (Confession: I may flex in the mirror post-class to see if there are results yet! Conclusion- not yet. But results do not come overnight. This will take time and I know it, but I am like a silly person wanting immediate showings.)

I can't just wake up and run my races. I have to train for them. I have to get up each day, make a choice that I'm going to start my run, lace up and head out. I have to start the runs so I can finish. There are plenty days where I am tired and don't want to. And trust me when I tell you that lately, I have been more frustrated than joyful after my runs because things aren't budging too far out of the zone I'm trying to break out of. But, I make the choice each time to keep going. To start it.

 I am not a quitter. I am a go-getter. Sometimes that is to my own detriment, but I have learned well through the years how to better balance. I may not see the results I'm really wanting to see right now, but I keep making the choice to begin so that I can finish. And each finish, whether it's one mile or 13, one hour of class or 10 minutes of squats, one pound or ten...etc. etc. those all add up to every day victories. Perhaps not in the eyes of anyone but me. But for me, I know I didn't quit. I didn't give in to the frustration. And I didn't give up. I started. And I finished. And I will keep going.
 One day at a time.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

My Rocky Balboa Moment

an excerpt from my journal after my run yesterday. 

April 9. 2016.

 Saturday and my long run day. I look forward to these runs, especially because now that I'm doing a new training program, finally incorporating what I should always be doing: strength training, and I want to figure out if it is making a difference yet. I don't expect magical results, I know that it will take time for that new training to help me improve my running time, but I look forward to seeing if my body feels a little stronger today.

 Only today I am not excited to step out the door because it's April and it's snowing! I don't like cold weather, and I am over winter, and somehow, I wake up and find snow on the ground! This is ridiculous! however, I need to run so I will drag out my running gloves and see what I can do.

As I step out the door, the biting wind nips at my face. I hope that as I get going, my body will warm up. In my mind I think to myself oh good, the wind is hitting me now, so on my way home, it will be at my back. At least that was encouraging. Perhaps the cold seeping into my skin will also motivate my speed. It's very strange to see bright green grass, a beautiful sign of spring, blanketed in a fresh coating of pure white snow. If it were December, I'd probably enjoy the sight. Today, I am less than thrilled. But I push on.

As I gear up my speed into mile 2, the wind somehow got worse! I am so glad I put on lip balm before going out the door, because this is wind that will peel the lips for sure. I muttered some words under my breath, kicked my feet a little harder and bent my head for a moment to attempt dodging the wind for a brief second. The wind is so bitter that it makes my eyes water and that moisture seemingly froze to my eyelashes. I can pretend that I'm so fast like Flash Gordon, that the wind is making it freeze, but that is so far from the truth. My lungs burn in the frigid air,  and I feel like my heart is pumping out of my chest. I guess I need to slow down - I'm running so fast my heartbeat is out of control. I'm running to warm myself up, but I am allowing my feet to get ahead of my body and my heart is telling me to slow down.  I carried on for another couple miles and then turned around to head home.

How is it possible that the wind shifted so that it is against me on the way home, too?!? I am not a fan of this run. Or this weather. The competitive side of me wants to see improvement. I'm running a 12 minute mile- that is a de-provement (I made that word up... but you get the point). I was reaching a cross-walk area and I have only a half mile to go. The wind is more fierce now, piercing my cheeks. I tuck my head and punch at the air. When the passengers in the cars look at me, I pretend I'm listening to Eye of the Tiger and for a minute, I'm like Rocky Balboa, training for a huge fight. For a moment, I act like this is my movie star debut.  (The truth is, I was punching the air in frustration because the wind was punching me in the face.) But I pretended I was Rocky, conquering the world.

 I finished the run in an hour. I didn't get in quite as many miles as I wanted and I certainly was not as fast as I would have liked. But I didn't quit. I kept going. Because I am not a quitter. As my friend told me earlier this week, "Knock it off, you don't have quit in you!" He was right. But every now and then I need that reminder.
  I took a deep breath as I reached my front door  and stepped into the warmth. The change in temperature was so drastic that my glasses fogged up. I was glad to have finished.

  An hour later, as my daughter and I drove away to run errands, she said to me "Mom, I admire you for going out running in this weather, especially when you didn't feel like it."

 I smiled. The mile time didn't matter, but because of my daughter's statement, somehow my crazy Rocky Balboa moment in the morning in the end made a difference. And THAT made the ridiculously cold April run 100% worth it. I wasn't Rocky Balboa like I pretended, but somehow I somehow had accomplished setting an example I didn't even realize. And for that alone, I'd go out in that cold wind all over again. You never know to whom your actions are speaking. Don't give up. Even if it means pretending to be Rocky Balboa.

Friday, April 8, 2016

#The Little Moments

 too much time has passed, so it's time to write about the Little Moments again this week.... 

 Gratitude is often times very difficult to maintain. And in the chaos of life, as I have always said, it's impertinent to take time to recognize those things for which we are grateful. (Especially when it's April out side and snowing!!! Yuck! ) I've not done well with gratitude lately, so here we go. Let's recreate this habit.... again!

  1. When your very good friend gives you a gift just because she loves you. :) I was given the cutest coffee mug that tells me I'm loved, along with a painting she made for me! How unexpected and special! I smile as I drink from that mug at work every day. 

 2. I started a new workout class. TRX. I LOVE it! Oh, it's painful! And I'm terrible at the exercises. But every muscle in my body hurts, which is a good kind of hurt. It's great cross training. I feel healthy afterwards. And it's a new challenge. 

 3. We awarded mom's scholarship this week. I made a new "friend" and we were able to watch God bless another individual. THAT is what matters in life. 

 4. A few of my closest friends always remember I love Snoopy. This week I got a text 2 different days from 2 different friends that was the SAME picture! Hmmm... I suppose God is telling me something. I love when a friend tells me she is thinking of me. And when God speaks in the very same manner. It looked like this : 

5. I registered for classes for this summer. Yes, friends, I am going back to school. I am going to finally begin what I intended to do 15 years ago. Scary? Yes! But exciting, too. It will be a very long process.... but one day at a time, right?? 

 6. Healing. Life is painful. I love the peace that comes with a healed heart. A wound that heals and reveals a scar, but that scar tells His story, Because it's healed, not open and bleeding any longer. God's grace is absolutely amazing. And healing is beautiful. Even if painful some days. 

7. I will be the first to say I am not enjoying this weather. It's April and I am absolutely craving Spring and warmth and it's snowing! However, as my umbrella nearly snapped yesterday in the wind, I was reminded that we cannot appreciate the sun without the clouds, the warmth without the cold, the calm without the storm. And so as much as I am not excited about this current weather, I can choose to view it that way to the best of my ability.

 8. Listening to my kids' chatter in the backseat, laughing (and not fighting- a miracle sometimes with 2 teens!) and talking about the nerf war fight they just had at church. Those are the moments that matter.

 9. Music. I absolutely love music. It encourages me and inspires me. Current Favorites: Creeré by Tercer Cielo, Just be Held by Casting Crowns, Same Power by Jeremy Camp, Humble and Kind by Tim McGraw. 

 10. Bacon and Eggs. And avocados. Yum. I'm on a new kick and I'm enjoying it. :) 

 11. Time with my kids. They were sort of odd moments, but provided time carved out for conversation without all the electronics in front of us. I had Monday with Joseph, where we had a few hours while we were at an appointment, and we talked the whole time. I loved it. Then last night I had the same with Elizabeth. I know my time is quickly slipping away with these 2 beautiful kids. 

 You guys, it's the little moments that add up to be what matters. One day at a time. 

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Sarah's Story (The 2016 Linda A. Ferguson Scholarship Recipient)

For those of you who have followed my blog for some time, you will be familiar with the Linda A. Ferguson Memorial 5K, which I help put on in memory of my mom. The entire reason that exists is to raise funds for a scholarship in mom's memory, given to a student studying to be a nurse, with an interest in oncology. 
 Directing that event has taught me lessons which have helped me grow in tremendous ways. The event has seen growth and decline both. It's taken place on a bike path, a cross country course, and now the Cedarville University Campus. There are a handful of participants who have been there for each race. I have had friends along side me through the experience, as well as losing some of my friends who were once dedicated helpers (which were hard lessons, but ultimately, I learned that some friendships are meant for a season.) The 5K once took place in the fall, but has been moved to the early summer time now. I have discovered strength I never knew existed within me, that is completely God given, as I try to honor Him through this event and through the gifts He has given me. And ultimately, the event is what provided me the avenue to be in the career which I now do, working for the Air Force Marathon. 

Now, we approach what will be the 5th Annual Linda A. Ferguson Memorial 5K in June.  I am not a quitter, so I won't say I have felt like quitting with the event at times, but let me share that many times discouragement and frustration have existed within the planning. Like with any event, there are twists and turns that come unexpected, we compete with a handful of other events in the same weekend, and most of the planning is based on a guesstimated number of participants, because with a run, many people do not sign up until last minute. But, every year, I keep going with it because every year God blesses the efforts. Like I said, I have learned lessons that at times leave me at a loss for words and humble me. 

While the 5K for 2016 will not take place for 2 months, (which any event planner will tell you will be here so quickly!) the scholarship from the funds we raised in 2015 was awarded yesterday, April 5, at Cedarville University, and I want to share a little about it. 

This is why I do this event. This is the whole reason we exist. My dad and I are not so worried about carrying on mom's name- that just happens to be a beautiful piece of what takes place. No, what we care about is seeing students being able to continue their education so that they can go into the world, into the darker corners of cancer patient's lives, and carry them a little bit of hope with the love of Jesus that exists within them.  The 2016 Scholarship recipient has become a young lady who has touched me in a way she may never know. Her story, though I only know slices of it, inspires me to push on with this event so that we can keep awarding this scholarship. Her testimony is one which spoke to me. While every recipient has had a beautiful story to accompany their life, Sarah, the new recipient, connected with me in a profound way.

 Perhaps it's the fact that my heart is in a new place this year. I have done much personal healing in my own life, not to mention finally being a pretty healthy place having moved past the ugly trenches of grief and mess. While in the past, giving away the scholarship and hosting the 5K brought me much joy, this year it is accompanied with much peace. Perhaps it is the genuineness of Sarah's gratitude and testimony. Or maybe even it's a combination of all of those and the fact that I see God in every little detail these days. But, I want to share with you just a little bit about Sarah, the little bit that I learned. 

 I likely do her story injustice, only sharing the pieces that I know. However, I want you to know the impact this scholarship played in her life, which is leaving an impact on me.

 Sarah is a sophomore at Cedarville University. She is a twin, which my dad loved because he also is a twin. Her twin brother is also a nursing student. Sarah comes from a background of having grown up on the mission field in France. That alone connected my heart a tiny bit more to her. She was so grateful for the scholarship and very easy to converse with. I do appreciate the opportunity CU offers in hosting a luncheon for the recipients and donors, so we can learn more about each person. 
 In conversing, when I asked Sarah what she wanted to do with her nursing, without skipping a beat, she said "Pediatric Oncology". I liked the determination in her voice. But, she then went on to tell me and dad why....
  She shared that when she was 11, she had Leukemia, spending much time that year in St. Jude's Children's Hospital, so she knows firsthand what it's like for a child to face cancer. She remembers those nurses who helped her, and she wants to become that same ray of light to other kids battling cancer themselves. 
 If she hadn't shared that, of course I would never have known. There's no evidence of it having been a part of her journey. 
 When I said something about how hard that year must have been, her response humbled me. Sarah told me that it actually is one of the best years of her life. Not because of the cancer, mind you. Of course that was horrible. But because of how strongly she could feel the presence of God in her life that year. 
 What an incredible testimony. I love that she is our recipient this year.

 One more amazing fact to share about all of this. Every year, I spend time in prayer over what we do and that God will use it. I never know how that's going to unfold. I pray in faith. And over the last 6 months, I have watched God do some incredible acts through prayers of myself and others. One of the conversational pieces that went on with Sarah was how much she had been praying for a scholarship or some provision. Look at how God interweaved the prayers of my heart and the prayers of hers!  That is awesome! She had no idea about the scholarship and so the gratitude she expressed spoke volumes to me, let alone her story to go with it. 

 I see so many little life lessons to take away from this moment in time. I don't know how many more years the 5K will take place... I let God guide that each and every year. But He keeps showing up, so we keep pushing on with it. But, moments like this remind me that the efforts and prayer and work that goes into it, regardless of how much I enjoy it (or  how much it might stress me out!)  it's not about me, it's not about mom and it's not about running.... it's about using gifts for His glory so that others can be blessed. And not just the recipient, but all of the hundreds of patient's lives she will touch in the years to come. 

God is good. All the time. 
Sarah getting her scholarship from Dean of Nursing, Angelia Mickle

Me, my dad and recipient, Sarah