Monday, May 29, 2017

Journey to Colombia...Trip 2

As I sit and enjoy the luxuries found in my every day life, like the internet or hot shower or my washing machine... my mind is turning to the fact that in just 2 weeks I will once again be on a plane to Colombia.
 The beautiful Brisas del Mar.
   A forgotten village, tucked away near the Caribbean Sea.
A people eager for us to come, ready to welcome us off our bus with open arms.
 I have tears just thinking about the journey I am about to dive into once again.

 The experience of preparing to go back to this small village is such a different journey from my first visit there. In the months leading up to my first trip, I had a spiral of thoughts and emotions and prayers answered and a heart prepared. This journey has been different, but I am confident that God has plans nonetheless.

 The season leading up to this trip has been a frenzied one. Between work travel, hosting my own 5K and winding up my first year of school, the planning of this trip and the preparation has been different. Not bad, just different.

 The next 2 weeks I have details to arrange for schedules of my kids while I am away, last minute items to buy to make sure I am prepared for this trip, and moments to soak in with the family before heading off and away for 8 days without them.
 But most importantly, the next 2 weeks will involve a lot of prayer and quiet time. Working to sit still in the presence of the Lord so He can truly prepare my heart.
 I should always be doing that, but some seasons I am not so successful at sitting still.
 I think that is part of why this journey is different. I have not sat still very well. Not intentionally, but really just because life was busy and full. But sitting still can be uncomfortable for someone like me. When my mind "rests" or isn't busy preparing for the next thing, the thoughts can be a little overwhelming. But I need to declutter my head and heart because I know that God is preparing me for something beautiful. I sense it, even if with uncertainty.

 I was clueless about how He would work on me during my last time in Brisas. I had no idea the overwhelming sense of His presence and peace I would feel. This time, I am sure there will be that, but I am clueless again as to what He will show me.
 3 weeks from now (roughly) I imagine I will be sitting here typing out words, trying to explain to you all what the experience was like. I will probably look back at this post and say ... "aha, so that was what God was preparing me for."
 But right now, I sip my coffee and let the breeze tickle my skin and push the hair around my ears. I let the sun grace my body and listen to the birds sing happily near me, and I am prayerful that my heart and eyes will be open to the next thing He has in store for me.

 Since going to Colombia a little over a year ago, I have endeavored back into school to obtain my Spanish degree. I have been able to connect deeper and build on the relationships I developed with people during that time - both people in Colombia and my teammates here in Ohio. Those people have become a part of my journey, too, part of my growth.
 I learned more about myself from that trip and have learned to carry that into my every day being. I have grown stronger, even if I have to fight some days to remember that. It's difficult to imagine what this leg of the journey might teach me. But every day I am growing more excited about the trip.

 Our team consists of 4 members I traveled with last February; 2 teenage girls, who I am excited to watch experience this time;  A couple I am growing to love already, just in our brief interactions; And a woman who has lost her husband in the last year, from whom I know I can learn. Each person will fit a piece of the puzzle of this leg of the journey.
 I am looking forward to meeting Juan, our in country translator, whom I have never met yet. The village has a new pastor, who I am told is vibrant and fun. And I can't wait to embrace my old friends in Colombia, Tia, Yuleida, Paola and all the teens in the village.
 I am nervous, once again, about teaching the youth lesson. I am hopeful that my Spanish won't be too rusty, seeing as how I still don't get to actually speak it much. I am worried about my family as I travel away from them. But I am mostly so grateful to once again get to embrace this cultural, God-given experience.
 The journey leading up to this trip has had its bumps, but it's had its blessings, too. I look forward to chronicling those the best that I can in the weeks to come, so that perhaps you can feel you are a part of this journey with me, too.

 God is so good. All the time. Whether I acknowledge it always or not, He really is. I can hardly believe the time to go to Colombia again is almost here, but I am eagerly anticipating what will unfold. And I can't wait to share with all of you what those things will be.
  T minus 15 days..... and counting.

   In the meantime, I work to be still and listen to His voice and ask Him to prepare my heart for this time. And share with you all in the process the lessons and memories with it.
 One day at a time....

Monday, May 22, 2017

Semper 5ive and Lessons Learned

In my life, I am an analyzer and a learner. I am constantly taking in what is being said and done around me. I would like to say I use these moments to grow in who I am learning to become every day. I admit, though, that sometimes the lesson takes a little longer to sink in than other times.

 This weekend I took in a lesson in a grandiose way and it is now sitting in me and stirring thoughts that must be shared, even if it is just my way to process and apply them. Although perhaps a reader may take something away from it as well.  This is about running, so excuse me while I dive into that world. It can apply in many areas of life, though.

This weekend I got the opportunity to run the Marine Corp Semper 5ive race with a good friend and mentor of mine. While it was only 5 miles, and still not quite the distance I like to do, it was a race I learned a lot about myself and about running, in general.

 I have always struggled with saying I am slow. I have been running since 2008 and I have been in the same zone for all of those years. 2010 was my PR race, and even that was not a record breaking time in my age bracket by any means. So I tend to begin my conversations with people who are also runners by saying I am Slow. Even though I tell the others around me who discuss their own abilities that time isn't important, it's that you are out there, I have not applied that to my own self very well.

 I also know what it takes to get faster. If I am going to "complain" bout being slow,  that means I likely want to change that. But if I want to change it, I need to put in the work to fix it. That means speed work or hill training. I KNOW all of this because I have a wealth of knowledge around me in the running industry. I know all of this because I have seen it. But every time I have set out to do this, something tends to interrupt it... or, let's be honest... I just don't like doing it. I get so frustrated by not making goals or I get so distracted by my watch that I lose the enjoyment from the run. So then I quit doing it, because I want to enjoy my runs. But I will find myself a few weeks later saying once again how slow I am. It's a silly cycle I take myself through, but I answer my own issue by knowing that trying to get faster actually takes the enjoyment out of the run for me.

 I also feel the need to prove myself to others. Other runners, probably. But even non-runners. I have had it said to me multiple times  that I've been running now for this long, I ought to be faster. And I took those words to heart and somehow told myself I wasn't good enough and I needed to push myself.
 But the reality is, I am pushing myself. I run about an 11:10 mile. That is my pace. Some people are natural runners. I love the sport, but I do have to work at it.

 Who determines what fast or slow is, anyway? What I think is fast may be slow to that person running that 8 min mile. My slow may be fast to the new runner who is just starting out. So where do I even get this idea of fast or slow? Isn't the point to be healthy ? Isn't the point to have a hobby I enjoy? Isn't the point to yes, push myself to being a better me? yes. But that push might just be a consistent 11 minute mile.

 I wish that we, as runners, would stop saying so much "What was your time?" And start focusing more on "Did you have a good time?" The focus gets to be so much on that finish time that I get caught up in it and almost am embarrassed to say what my finish times are because 1. They aren't improving from 8 years ago that much and 2. I somehow feel I need to prove myself to the other runners around me.

 Listen, I know a lot about running because I have taught myself, I have learned from great runners around me, I have read about it and I have tried out different methods. And the bottom line is... when I am plain and simple out there doing it, I do enjoy it. And when I enjoy it, it's freeing. But when I get caught up in my times, I lose a little bit of the excitement because somehow I feel like I am not good enough.

 This is a me issue. I know this. And it was kind of in my face this weekend in a good way. And I am determined to work on this and fix it. The competitive part of me will probably always fight the desire to just get faster. But being a healthier me does not have to mean faster. If you watch a finish line sometime, you will see that people twice my size my finish ahead of me. It isn't about size. In the running world, that is one aspect I love. Size doesn't define speed.

 I am not used to having a person faster than I am be running a race with me. While there could have been an intimidating factor to it, I really enjoyed it. And while I found myself saying out loud "I told you I was slow" I later was humbled by the fact I'd said those words, but knew I hadn't done anything to try to be faster. Honestly, my pace for me is a beautiful pace. So I just need to let it be. I'm not out to win a race, just to be the best me I can be.

 So I am going to work on eliminating the words "I am slow" from my vocabulary. I am going to work on asking my runner friends more if they had a good time rather than what their time was.  And I am going to work on applying what I know to what I do.

 This applies to all areas of life, too. Honestly, how many times do we learn something or know what we need to do, but we don't apply it? Because it takes work. And then we complain about a lack of results.

 I am very thankful for having an honest friend/mentor in my life who will encourage me in my abilities but also humble me and be brutally honest with me, too. That is a rare person to have around.

 So, I am not slow. I am perfectly me at my pace. I will continue to push myself to be healthy. But I will just enjoy the sport rather than beat my own self esteem up by continuously repeating the negative words others have said to me.

 By the way, I had an amazing time running the Marine Corp Semper 5ive Race. They do an amazing job. The marines take much pride in what they do and who they are, and I enjoyed taking all of that in this weekend. I enjoyed the 5 mile course, too. Yes, I pushed myself a little bit through the way, but I felt great at the end. I had fun. I had fun with my friend. I learned new things about myself. I found ways I can improve my running by being with and listening to my friend/mentor. I saw a new city and took in some good memories. I gained a new excitement for running because I learned. And I ran the race and finished well.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Just Run

Today I don't have a fancy or super inspiring tale to tell about the race I ran this weekend. But, for my own sake, I like to recapture what the journey was for me nonetheless.

 This weekend I had the chance to run the Flying Pig 10K.

 Now, if you know me, you know my favorite distance is the half marathon. So, while to many a 10K would be a long distance, for me, in all reality it is not. But it was a great race for me to be able to participate in this weekend for many reasons, between my hours of being there to promote the Air Force Marathon.

 If you have followed me this winter in my writings, you know that I have not been up to par in my training. This has been a frustration and a struggle for me. I'd seem to conquer one obstacle, only to have it followed by another. So, as spring came in to my view, I knew that I was not going to be able to do the half marathon. This is the first spring that I have not run that distance since 2009. And honestly, it has made me a little sad. But, I guess that has been part of the journey of this particular event this weekend. I had to relinquish my own desires and settle in at what I thought was a disappointment for my own self.

 But it turned out to be a great event for me. Perhaps even a little bit of a turning point?

 Even leading up to this event, I was not feeling so confident in myself. The struggles have been real. And if you want me to be honest, many of those struggles have been mental (as many running struggles are.) But my mental struggles go deeper. As I have wrestled through the battles of anxiety in depression, this winter was a time of really working on those. I wrote some time ago in one of my blogs that I'd even been able to go off my medications.... and while I have not wanted to  share the update, being real is what I do. And the update is that that period only lasted for a short time.
 I have learned myself and my struggles pretty well, and while I don't always enjoy admitting them, I have found the value in assessing them so I can be the best me possible.
 Apparently that means remaining on the medications. But if that is what it takes to be me, I accept that. Some people- like myself- just struggle with a real chemical imbalance that seems to get better at times, but still needs that bit of medicinal assistance to be whole.

 Truthfully - I believe that was some of my battle in my training this winter.
 You see, a person who fights depression can show those symptoms in all kinds of ways, most of them very hidden from anyone around them. I am a very motivated person, a goal setter, a doer. But when I find my motivation lacking, I know that something is wrong, and I have to evaluate that. I never quit running or training, but I was missing the drive I've always had with it. That, coupled with many other events that transpired in the last month, led me back to the reality of needing medication. And fighting that silent battle of depression and believing in my own self, regardless of what others may or may not say.

 So, all of that semi-intense and vulnerable story to share with you that this particular 10K was honestly a victory for me. I did not think I would run it super successfully. I was not anticipating a great finish time; I simply wanted to finish. I have always loved races- and sometimes I wonder if I do too much. But, sometimes you have to have something taken away just a little bit to step back and evaluate and reflect in order to fix it and keep going and becoming better.
 I started this year desperately wanting a new PR. I can't say that desire is eliminated from my blood, but at this point, it's about being healthy and strong. Physically, emotionally, and mentally and spiritually. The journey to this race was all of those things.

 The struggle has been real in each of those areas. And while there was no magical element to this 10K, I feel that there has been reasons and purposes behind not being able to run a half this year.

 My identity is not in running or finishing a race. But I have been able to learn more about myself through this training leg, without even realizing it until it was complete.

 I was lucky to have a few people encouraging me in my race this time around. My co-worker loved me enough to sign up with me and get up early and endure my pre-run routines. She doesn't like running. But she did it to support me.  I told her to go ahead of me, she is much faster, but having her there was meaningful. My best girlfriend, Paula, also not a morning person, got up early and endured my pre-run routines as well and cheered me on during a few parts in the course. And a few people who have listened to me cry or whine about the struggles this winter have been my cheerleaders the whole time.

 So, I ran that 10K with my heart. Not my legs. And maybe in part, my mind. But it was a beautiful event for me. Because I discovered great things about myself along the way. I am a fighter. It lives in me. Whether it's fighting the silent battle of depression or the struggle to be healthy or the spiritual battles or the fight to be a stronger, better me. But God is fighting for and with me for those things, too. And that is where the real strength comes from.

  I finished my race in a time I was happy with considering the obstacles of the winter. And I am excited to keep on pushing. I do not know what my next long-distance race will be, but I look forward to the continued journey of running, physical growing stronger and the spiritual parallels I always learn with it.
Bonus moments to my weekend run: reconnecting with an old friend I hadn't seen in a while who I had no idea would be at the race. Reconnecting is good.
                           - Spending a little time with Paula
                           - Laughing with Danielle and telling stories
                           - Hearing other runners' stories
                           - Meeting a few new friends

 #JustRun. #Heismystrength #Thankful #Iloverunning #Ilovemyjob

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Road Map

Have you ever taken a road trip and gotten off the beaten path....without knowing it? That happened to me before.
 My friend, Beth, and I were going to visit our friend Kelsey a couple of hours away. Her dad had driven us there multiple times, but for the first time, we endeavored out on our own. We were so excited! Mind you, this was before the days of GPS and navigational items that you plugged in and it verbalized how to get there step by step. These were the days of actually reading maps....and also the days before cell phones. 
 So, the two of us, teenagers, were out on an adventure! We thought we were doing really well until we realized we should have already arrived to our destination. We knew it was about a 2 hour trip. We also knew the territory we were driving in was not one we had seen in our previous trips there. Long story short: a 2 hour trip turned into 5 hours or so. And left us with a story to tell. We missed  a road somehow and were having too much fun before we realized we were not on track. We had gotten distracted. It took spending time investigating our map to figure out how to get back on the right road and get where we needed to be.
 The thing is, we didn't even know we were lost for a while! 

 Life can be like that. I was once like that.

When I was preparing to go to Colombia last year in 2016, I had spent some years walking through some messy days. Losing my mom to cancer left me in a lost state of mind for a long time. I hid it well, even from myself, to be honest. But the reality is, I had quit looking at my map: i.e. I had quit digging into scripture and seeking God's path for me. I had fooled myself into thinking I was doing that, and I suppose a part of me was. But the reality is that I wasn't letting His map- His word- truly guide me. I was trying to figure it out on my own, getting distracted by people and things along the way. And without knowing it, I had gotten lost.
 I got caught up in pleasing others or working so hard to make sure everyone was taken care of that I got a little lost For a long time. 
 My trip to Colombia was a time that really brought me back to re-discovering who God made me to be. I didn't know I was lost, honestly. But on that trip, I found myself. Do you know the secret to that? .... I want to share.
  the secret is in order to find ourselves, we must actually lose ourselves for the sake of Christ.
 Let me explain.

 I had been very wrapped up in my own world. I had quit serving in the church. I had given up any idea that I should go on a missions trip or have any involvement with missions because I wasn't good enough.  I took care of my family and I worked and I thought that I didn't have time to do those other things because I was too busy.
 But the honest truth is, I gain the most joy from serving others. Because that is what Jesus asks us to do, tells us to do.
 Take up your cross and follow me, He says.
 I had laid down my cross and was making my own road maps.

 When I was in Colombia, I rediscovered my passion for missions. It was never gone from my heart, I just had buried it, rather than grow it. I remembered how fulfilling it is to serve Christ. I refreshed my soul with giving up myself to serve Him.

 This is not a post to share and brag and be prideful. This is a post to share that during that time in Colombia, I lost myself  in His service, but in the process found myself again. I came home more whole because His road map became a little more clear for me.

 My purpose is not found in my job. My identity is not found in how fast I can run or how many sit ups I can do. It's not about the number on the scale. It's not even about how good of a wife or a mom I am. those are all pieces of me, but they don't define me.
 Christ defines me.

 I had been told many times by people close enough to me that part of my lack of confidence was the fact that I didn't know who I was.
 I understand what they meant. It wasn't a criticism, it was actually meant to be an encouragement to keep pushing forward on my journey to being me.

 And in Colombia I found that. It's not about who I think I am. It's about who Christ says I am.

 Matthew 10:38-39 are our team verses for our trip this year. They have deep meaning for me, as for when I went to Colombia last year, these verses came to life. They became part of my road map.
 " If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it."

 I clung to my life for a long time. I tried to define myself. I tried to let others define me. But it is not about any of that. It's about Christ. And serving Him. And giving my life up for him. When I do that, I am my happiest. I am found.

 It's very hard to explain, to be quite honest, until you experience it, too. But I went on that trip a little lost, but unaware of it. Until I came home more whole. I found healing in my heart when I went there. And for the first time in many years when I was in Colombia I knew I was going to be OK, no matter what.
 It's not that Colombia is magical. It was more that the experience was part of my road map that God had laid out for me, and I followed His directions.
 Getting off the path is so very easy. We live in a self consumed world. Getting distracted and "missing an exit" can easily happen. But when we pull out our maps- His word- He promises to guide us back to His ways.

 Lose yourself so you can truly find yourself.