Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Looking Back and Moving Forward: A new Year

I can't help it; I am a reflective soul.
 I pick apart and analyze in order to understand myself better to grow spiritually, mentally, and physically.
 I look back and learn, and I for sure am always setting goals to keep moving forward.
  It's who I am.

 The truth is that I do it year round, but I especially do this during mile marker places.... like birthdays. And today is my birthday.

 I am not writing that so people will say "Happy Birthday!" I am sharing that simply because it has caused me to pause and reflect.

 To be grateful.

 To have more open eyes and a better listening soul.

 To see God more deeply.

 I have spent some time looking back over the last year and standing in awe at how much God has done in my life, as well as evaluating the more painful moments and how those have also propelled me into a better woman.

  And of course I have also put some thought into what goals I have for my upcoming 34th year of life. Not everyone wants to listen to me talk about these things, so my blog is a great place to think it out, share it, use it to shape my thoughts. Today, I share some of the highlights and lessons learned from the last year of my life.

 - Let Go. In the last year, that has become a powerful theme for me. I have always held tightly to people, to words, to experiences, to desires, to hopes, to dreams, even to fears. And over the last year, God has really been teaching me to let go. It's been severely painful at times, but amazingly beautiful as well. I have let go of friendships, hardships, hurts, fears and even some dreams. But in letting go, I have found revived paths and new friends. I have seen prayers answered in unexpected ways and I have also learned to let go of some desires, too. I am still being molded by letting go. I still don't always do it superbly well. But it continues to teach me.

- Friendships. In the last year, I learned to let go of some friendships, which was/is a struggle for me. In the process of some friendships shifting, as I took time to reflect the last couple of days, I can see how God replaced those with even more beautiful people. People come and go. Some are for seasons, some are for life. I am thankful for some of the new people who have entered my life this year: Paula, James, Michael, Eric, Paola, Tia, Aaron, Meghan, Tammy, Sharon, Cheri.

- I started back to my dream of obtaining my college degree for Spanish, so I can become a translator! I thought that had died, but God certainly revived it and has made the path clear for it. Being in school again is a challenge, but it's well worth it. It's teaching me great lessons in and of itself, and I can't wait to see what the next year will hold with classes and growth.

- Running and fitness took on a new level. You would not know by looking at me- if anything, I have put on a little more thickness (aka... weight) but it's been a beautiful year for me. I got to run several really cool races and I discovered TRX, which has grown into something I really love. I am stronger than I was a year ago, even if it does not show in my body, I feel it. My passion for fitness has grown and is providing new avenues of ministry and friendships. I ran a race in the worst conditions ever-sleet, snow, hail and rain and finished strong. I ran on an island in Michigan (who knew Michigan had an island just outside Detroit??). I added up to having run in 5 states now. A small chunk out of my goal of 50, but progress towards the goal nonetheless.

- New places: I got to visit Detroit, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Pennsylvania this year. I ran a race in 3 of those places. I ate some incredible food and certainly found some cool coffee shops. I document all of this through photos, which is a fun way to remember experiences.

- Colombia. I could write and write about those experiences, and you can find many of them in my archives in February/March. Colombia allowed me the opportunity to taste, see, feel, and hear God in a whole new light. I found healing from hurts and hope for the future. I rediscovered myself a little and learned new things about myself. When I was at my birthday this time last year, I had ideas about Colombia, but it was not in the full force works yet. I had absolutely no idea just how much God was going to use that trip in my life to propel me forward on a whole new journey of a path He originally had for me. Obedience is beautiful.

-Prayer took on a whole new life and meaning for me.

- My kids are growing into teenagers, which brings on new parenting moments But I love the conversations and moments we have.

-Michael and I have weathered some storms and chased some rainbows. Growth is painful at times, but beautiful. He has become the number one salesman for his company, while I am the quiet cheerleader of those endeavors. Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint.

- The battle of depression became more of a struggle, but at the same time, has given me a new platform to see God's strength when I have none. People do not often understand it and talking about it makes many uncomfortable. But it is part of my story... part of His story... and I want to be used in spite of the battle. Every day I choose to wake up and fight it. God is in the midst of all of those moments. They hurt and I don't like them, but He is the light and the healing.

- This year I got to Paddle Board for the first time and Zip line for the first time. I also did TRX for the first time, and I am sure some other things I can't quite remember. It's FUN to do new experiences!

 Year 33 of life is now in my history book. I had some amazing experiences. I can't wait to see what year 34 will hold in store for me. Tomorrow I will share some goals for the next year.

 I close by sharing some fun highlights from today's birthday:
  - Michael bought me a birthday card, as usual. But when I opened it, I was pleasantly surprised to find he'd bought me a Spanish birthday card! So sweet. I loved it. He had no idea what it said, but he knew I would like it.
 - Birthday work lunch. Laughs and chatter. Good times.
 - The surprise gifts I got in the mail from my long distance friends.
 - An incredibly special card from my older brother.
 - A special gift from a special friend who knows my journey very well. A bracelet that says "She believed she could, so she did." Beautiful. Even more so because of how it captures my journey. Accompanied with a Snoopy birthday card... it's special when a friend remembers that Snoopy is sentimental to me.
 - Sweet special conversations with my kids. Surprise family dinner. Molten lava cake.

 I am a sucker for birthdays. My mom instilled that in me, I think. Since all of my siblings and I were born in July, mom always made a big deal out of each of ours. I think I carry that on and have a special feeling for birthdays. I will never make a big deal out of my own to others, but I cannot end this day without reflecting on how special those few made it be for me.

  Today was one of my furiously happy days!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Little Moments

It's time for a blog post about the little moments.
 You know what I'm talking about: all the little things in life that often get disregarded or go unnoticed that actually add up to a heart of gratitude when I allow them to.
 So, today I share some of the little moments from the last couple of weeks....

 1. Time with my brothers. It was really great to have my younger brother in town and spend some time with my brothers. They tease me and love me and push the envelope of my thinking. They are so intelligent that they inspire me to grow every time I am with either one of them.

 2. Evening runs with Joseph. I am usually pretty beat by the end of the day, but as he is training for Cross Country in the fall, I am happy to give a half hour of my time to help him train. And as we cool down with a walk, we always end up having great chat time.

 3. My friend, Paula. Paula and I went to Colombia together and God has blessed me by having her in my life. This weekend, she came up and we went zip lining. Zip lining has been on my bucket list and I was able to finally go.  We had great talk time and made some new memories. I love discussing faith and friendship and family with her.

 4. Surprise gifts! It makes me happy when something comes to me as a total surprise. Today I got a super gift in the mail from my friend, Sharon. I met Sharon through the marathon and that was another cool friendship with which God has blessed me. We are miles apart, but never far from each other's thoughts or prayers. Today I got a gift from her that thrills me! It's a Runner's Devotional. If you read my blogs, you know running often parallels spiritual lessons God is teaching me, so I am excited to dive into this book and see how God will use it. Books make me happy :) Devotionals make me happy. So... I was double happy to get this surprise in the mail.

 5. Speaking of prayer, it may seem like a little moment, but it was important to me when someone recently asked how they could pray for me. Read about it here if you want. That simple question spoke volumes to me that day and has remained with me strongly since. Grateful for new friends and more grateful for prayer.

 6. Blank journals. I got this handmade gift that excites me... and it came with gel pens! Call me a nerd if you wish, but those little things make me smile. The purpose of the blank book is to fill it with things that make me happy, and I look forward to seeing what that content will become. I've already put a few little items in to it, like a few photos and a letter from Colombia I just got from a precious teenager over there.

 7. My nephew's laugh. It was contagious. He was pretty clingy to my brother and didn't always want much to do with me, but when he laughed, the whole room lit up.

 8. Warm sunny days and walks at lunch.

 9. Thunderstorms. I could listen to that sound for hours.

 10. My YMCA people. I have had a membership there for many years....who knew what I was missing out on all that time? Doesn't matter... they are kinda stuck with me now. It's like a little family of sorts.

 11. Watching silly teenage girl shows with my daughter. I admit, I get into the storylines. Plus, it provides some great and interesting conversations with her.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Family Group Exercise and How I Learned Pride Comes Before A Fall

Proverbs 16:18 says "First Pride, then the crash-the bigger the ego, the harder the fall."
I took a pretty hard fall yesterday, and somehow again exercise parallels the spiritual lessons for me. The more I work out and experience different exercises, the more spiritual lessons I take away as much as physical ones. I love how that works.
But I am getting ahead of the story.

 My brother is in town. And anytime he comes into town, we always work out together. If you know my running story, you know my younger brother is now a former marine drill instructor and he is the one who truly taught me about running in the beginning. He helped me grow in that way and every time he's in town and we work out together, he continues to push me and help me grow. 
 So, in our endeavors to hang out and have a workout time together, my older brother asked to join, which we were excited about. And then my cousin, in town from MD, asked to join. Lastly, my son decided to come as well. So, we had a family group workout session, which was totally awesome.
We were all on different cardio levels, but that didn't matter. What we proceeded to do became like an outdoor natural TRX class kind of. Tim led the way, of course.
Steve, Michelle, Joseph, me, Tim

 We warmed up, we did crab walks across the yard one way, bear crawls back. We did stretches. And then we ran, keeping our heart rate at a certain place. 3 out of 5 of us were wearing heart rate devices. I am new to paying attention to my heart rate. Yes, I have been a runner for years, but I always just ran and knew when to slow my pace, but due to multiple conversations with my brother about a natural method, I am trying to be more aware. 
 So we ran about a mile down to the local park. Then we did crazy exercises, led by my brother. We did pull-ups, or modified ones for the 3 of us who could not manage a pull up (I have a new goal I want to reach now, in being able to do a pull up on my own.) We did hand stands against a wall. We did bicycle kicks and other calisthenics like those. We really did a true body work out. But now enters the story about my pride and my fall. 

 We did what most would think of as box jumps. Only there were no boxes around, we were using wood beams. There was a set of beams pretty low to the ground and the next one up was probably a height just below my waist. Well, of course I wanted to keep up with the big boys - aka my brothers- so when they were doing the jumps on the higher beam, I decided I needed to do that, too. After all, I work out, I should be able to do those no problem. 
When my older brother finished the set, I began my prideful attempts. My first one was an "almost" success. I got one foot on and then another, but not in a stable way, so I jumped backwards quickly. The goal is to do one jump, landing both feet on the beam. It's a box squat jump. Anyway, my second attempt was an utter fail. I missed the beam totally and caught my leg coming down, leaving a nasty scrape/bruise and scratches all down my back and leg (the area was mulched underneath, not grass.)

Pridefully, I kept going, refusing to move to the lower beams where I could successfully do a jump. I was determined to keep up with my brothers and accomplish this jump. It became a matter of pride instead of a goal of getting better. 
 In the end, we moved on to a new exercise and instead of accomplishing this one at all, I moved on with the rest of the group.

 Now, it was no big deal that I could not do this, except my pride was wounded. I so wanted that accomplishment for no other reason than to keep up with the boys and to feel like I was as good as they were. Much of the problem with the jump was my mind. I was fearful of taking the leap with both feet and falling flat on my face. Result? I still fell flat, though it was on my back, and I did not make the jump. I pretty much accomplished nothing out of that moment, except that later in the day I was able to use it as a lesson to teach my son, because he was watching me get frustrated over not being able to do something I so wanted to be able to do. 

 We walked back as our cool down and as we talked about various topics, including my attempt at box jumps. My older brother indicated my pride. When I rebutted his statement with an insistent "No... it wasn't that..." my younger brother called me out, as my rebuttal proving the pride statement.
 I hate it when my brothers are right! But they were.... 

 My pride kicked in and then came my fall.

 I don't mean to cliche the Bible verse. It's a very accurate verse. Anytime I get prideful, a fall is bound to come around. Be it'd in the physical realm or the day to day interactions I have or the spiritual realm. I am often humbled, only to realize I was letting my pride get in the way. 

 My physical world and my spiritual world collide again. 

 I am thankful for the lesson, honestly.
 I am not going to give up on box jumps... I am still determined to conquer them. But I will humbly begin with baby steps and choose a lower platform. After all, I didn't run a marathon the first day I tried to run; I could could only plank for 20 seconds when I started TRX, but I have tripled that now; and I cannot jump a high platform on my first try..... but one day I hope to be able to tell a different story. 

Humility is a great teacher. 
 (And  So is my brother. )
They tease me relentlessly, but they love me fiercely. My brothers.(As they were pushing my hand in this photo to try to shift the camera and it was causing us all to laugh hysterically)

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Power of Prayer

Through the last year, the topic of prayer keeps circling back around to me. I have learned when that happens, I need to pay attention because God is wanting to teach me.
 I am a little dull to learning at times, so He has to keep bringing it up again and again.

 Today,  a powerful concept of prayer dawned on me, and it began with 6 simple words.

 "How can I pray for you?" 

 That simple question sparked a fire in me that I hadn't realized was a smoldering smoke, on the brink  of dying.
 When I was asked that, a hundred answers came to mind because I wrestle with a hundred circumstances a day that I feel could use the power of prayer from more than just my own voice. There is power in prayer.
  But, I defaulted to a generic answer, which was still important to me, but one asking prayer for someone close to me. The request was relevant, but not my own issue.

 I dwelt on that for about an hour before going back to that person and asking if I could share on a more personal level for prayer. The reply I received was "I'd be honored" which was once again a humbling response to me.
 Truthfully, I can't remember the last time someone asked me how they could pray for me. It has been a while.

 We are made to pray for one another, but in the course of contemplating this, it dawned on me because it meant so much to me to have that asked, that I so rarely ask others how I can pray for them. I am eager to talk about what's happening in my life and quick to share what I need prayer for, but how often do I really ask others "How can I pray for you?"
 It takes one minute to ask and maybe a few minutes to listen, and we pray to and talk with an all-powerful God who is ready and waiting for us to sit at His feet and talk to Him.
 About ourselves.
 About others.
  About hurts and fears and dreams and hopes and desires.
He wants to hear it all.
 But so often a quick whispered word is all we utter.

 That very simple question asked to me this morning has sat with me in a powerful way all day. I need to be asking others that question more often because honestly, it meant more than I can explain to have been asked. I felt like I mattered and I felt like I was cared about and that someone wanted to really listen to me and take time to go to God on my behalf. It's not a thing of "all I can do is pray" but it becomes "the best thing I can offer is to pray for you"
 I feel convicted to raise this question to others more often.

 That being said, I have watched God do amazing things through prayer over the last year, especially in my own life. He has completely remolded me and is reshaping me to be the woman He has always designed me to be. The woman who got a little lost for a while, but God had the grace and the patience to wait for me to come back. And much of that is due to prayer.
  I have watched Him supply needs in amazing ways.
  I have been transformed to see myself differently through prayer.
 Through prayer He helps me fight depression and anxiety.
  Through prayer I was able to experience Colombia and reignite my passion for mission.
 Through prayer.... all things are possible.

 Prayer is an amazing, underused tool in our walks with God.
  No, He is not a genie in a bottle. He won't answer every request we bring to Him.
 Sometimes, His answer is to wait and we are required to pray for years even. It's those moments, those requests, that I often need someone's help with because I don't have the energy to keep it up all the time on my own.
  Sometimes His answer is no. We don't always know why, but He can use those "no's" to transform us if we allow Him to do so.
  And sometimes the answer is a resounding yes.

 I have begun to keep a prayer journal and it amazes me to read back over those hand-written letters to God and see how God has answered them. Or it reminds me to keep pressing forward with a cry from my heart, even if it seems unanswered.

 I wonder if we don't ask the simple question to others because we are afraid to be vulnerable?
 Or maybe we don't ask it because we feel rushed and hurried and that we don't have the time to stop and listen.
  Still perhaps we fear we might offend someone by asking the question.

Regardless, the moment convicted me, all the while completely encouraging me. We take prayer for granted.  I hope to grow more diligent in awareness of the power of prayer.
 One day at a time.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Choosing to Laugh

When studying for math is not getting me very far, it's pouring rain outside, the watermelon made a complete mess all over the clean floor and the dog knocked over the lamp and broke it and then peed on the carpet because it scared him.... I decided it was time for my third cup of coffee for the day.
  Some days I can laugh at my situations better than others. More often than not, my emotions choose the tears. But after working a set of math problems for two hours and getting frustrated, I chose laughter with the dog's accident. 
 After cleaning it up, my  husband graciously told me I should go to Starbucks for the evening and study. (Where I could enjoy my fourth! cup of coffee for the day)
  Either he was tired of listening to my frustrated sighs from the other room or he was feeling pity on my frustrated soul. It doesn't really matter. I am thankful for the change of scenery in my study area. 

 I used to be the barista serving the students. Now the roles are reversed. I am thankful for the quiet haven. I plug in my headphones to tune out the possible distractions and wouldn't you know I Aced my math quiz? I suppose I just needed a refocus.

The math homework and quiz due today have been completed....and after much agony through the new lesson, I think I finally have clicked with the material. 

 The lamp in the living room has been replaced already.

 The dog is happy again. 

 And I can breathe a little better so I can enjoy my holiday. 

 The point of this very short blog is simple: 
 Sometimes it's better to laugh than to cry. 

 I'm not always able to do this with ease, but when I do, I get through the frustrations so much quicker! And I can find the good even in the mess...Such as 

 1. Sometimes the need for a slice of peace- aka coffee- outweighs the extra calories the creamer will add to my count for the day. And it's totally worth it. 
 2. Michael was completely gracious when he could have been totally annoyed with me. Giving up a few hours for me to go to Starbucks was a sacrifice, I know. And I don't take those moments lightly.
 3. In the end, I aced my math quiz. 
 4. We love our new dog. His name is Bronco. He's a beautiful black Lab. He's lovable and training really well. He will become my running buddy in time, but needs a little work (clearly!). He was a rescue from the shelter, so we are lucky we found him.
 5. The rain is chilly, but soothing. And our grass and crops really needed it. 
 6. I still have one more day off work!! And I can relax and enjoy it because I accomplished the school work today.

 One day at a time..... it's the little things.... like coffee and just a change of atmosphere that refresh the soul!  One day at a time... today I chose to laugh instead of cry :)