Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Little Moments

 This week, in my little moments, I found laughter in between my moments of (perhaps admittedly exhausted tearful times...I can't help it, I'm a crier.)  And here is what brought smiles:

 1. A funny math professor.
       Classes started up again this week, and for the first time, I am on campus for one of my classes. I do not like math. At all. And the title alone of this class scares me off a little - Quantitative Reasoning. But, the professor is funny. He's not even trying to be, he just is so animated in his expressions and his stories. And wow is he intelligent. He doesn't even bat an eye at numbers and rattles off things while all of us look at eachother like "He didn't even think about that, he just knew." I suppose that is what makes him the professor. It's a lot of group work, and it's going to be an interesting semester. But I think the class will be survivable with this professor. He's excited about what he does. That makes a difference!

 2. Making cards with my best friend.
  She's so creative. and she's such a great listener. And she's so patient. And I am blessed to have her as my best friend. We live an hour apart, but we try to get together every month at least. This month we got together and made cards. She's so good at that (by the way, she also mails me cards consistently, which make me smile). But we had fun learning how to make cards from her. (Elizabeth joined in on the endeavor.)

 3. Running Stairs.
  How, do you ask, is running stairs a "little moment" in my week? Well, I know that either hill training or speed work ought to be part of my training regime. But I am not good at doing that because, well, quite frankly, I do not like it. So when my girlfriend called me up and said "Let's do stair workouts" I groaned inwardly, but hugged her as we finished. Hard work outs kind of suck. But... they also kind of feel awesome. And at the end, my legs were jello, but we have made a new routine out of this. And I am kind of excited to see where it leads. And... to have a buddy to do it with.

 4. New Friends
  I love meeting people. Of course I don't become best buddies with everyone I meet. But I am thankful for the circles into which I get introduced and how each and every person brings a different story to the table. We all shape each other, really, in some way or another. But in my Math class, we work in groups. So I am getting to know a whole new group of people, different ages, different goals, different stories. I love seeing how we are all made up. I specifically connect with Monica, who sits in the first row of the classroom and I sat myself next to her and we laugh at the professor's antics, we discuss our work lives, we both have kids, we are both moms working towards a degree. It's pretty cool.

 5. Beautiful Sunrises
 It's that time of year where the time of the sunrise is beginning to shift. and usually this happens in the middle of my morning runs. And I love watching the sun come up.The colors of the sky changing, the warmth of the sun's rays rising above the dawn-kissed morning.

 6. Nature
 Nature is my favorite way to connect with God. And just feel... free and happy. It's also the time of year on my morning runs when a lot more critters are out. The deer jumped back into the woods as I approached yesterday. What a beautiful animal, really. The weather is in that in between stage, and while I am not at all ready to say goodbye to summer warmth, the cooler mornings are also somehow refreshing- a reminder of the beauty that change can bring.

 7. Good Books
 I love to read. I spend a lot more time now in text books than I do in recreational books, but I still try to find time to read little bits. I enjoy all genres and all authors. But I love to read and learn or immerse myself in a story. I'm currently reading an autobiography by a famous Colombian author and it's fascinating and adding to my knowledge of their culture. I enjoy a good story which also helps me learn.

 8. Peanut Butter
  I don't think that needs a lot of elaboration, and yes, I know it's random. But peanut butter is delicious. :) And it makes me happy. Especially a good PBJ sandwich!

 Sometimes random, sometimes making no sense to others, My little moments help make me take in stride the other moments that can at times feel overwhelming. I am so thankful that I have a lot of these mixed in with the others. No, it does not mean life is perfect. But it means life is being lived.
 One day at a time. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Week 1 Training

With every good intention of being on track with my training again, life has thrown curve balls that have made for some difficulties already in my week one.
 Fasting required by blood work, which in the end was a bust and turned into returning a second day in the week after fasting again made it so I missed two morning workouts. I could have done something, but when routine parts of the workout call for the morning coffee, let me just say that at 4:30 a.m. without that cup of coffee to get going, the morning exercise is made far more difficult!  And early morning at work also threw that routine off. So, week one has started out with a lot of interruptions. The trick is that as these interruptions are only going to continue to be in my path, finding ways around the "excuses" and just pushing through any and all of that one way or another.
 there is always an answer, it's just a matter of figuring out the best answer for that particular day.

 So, onward I will press with the endeavor. Weather has never been a thing to stop me. And unless I'm really sick, that doesn't tend to stop me, either. But at this season in my life, with school, the busy season of work, juggling some various things at home... I admit that not having coffee at 4:30 in the morning before I run was a show stopper. I may have found my weak spot! ;)

 But this morning all of that faded away as I laced up while the others in my house still slept. One cup of coffee in me, I was ready to go. Determined and looking forward to knocking out a solid 5. Seems minimal compared to what I have done in the past , but considering the surrounding events, I was truly looking forward to me, the open air and my feet on the pavement. The ground was wet with rain, and the steam rose up from the grass as the cool rain met the heat of the day and rose up to greet me good morning. And as I stepped out the door, I smiled.

 I love to run. Nevermind my pace or what my week was or wasn't. For me, it isn't about first place, 534th place or last place. It's about clearing my mind. It's about feeling free. It's about the accomplished feel of sweat. It's about the fact that running represents moving forward.
 As I was only a mile in to the run when I thought about how much I've missed these training runs. For me, it's not about what place I am in or who or what is ahead of or behind me. For me, running is a representation of pressing forward. I am working towards a goal. And I am quite goal oriented. I am pushing forward towards my future with my schooling, regardless of the obstacles in my way. I continue to pursue dreams in spite of the naysayers. And I run forward, looking ahead, not behind. I look towards the goals, not backwards at the difficulties. Although it is good to reflect on progress and how far I have come, looking forward is where the hope is. And running is a representation of that.
 I nearly forgot how good it feels. Training for a race is hard some days, just like going to school or spiritually growing or trying to lose weight or change a bad habit. But the rewards in the end, and even in the process, are so beautiful. Because training, running, pushing... it's about moving forward, one step at a time.
 I love my morning long runs.

 This little quote seemed to sum it best for me. So, as I press forward in my races, in my schooling (semester begins again on Monday!) and in all my other endeavors... I am thankful for how far I have come and where I have yet to go.


Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Feeding Program in Colombia

I promised I had not finished my stories from Colombia, so I return to one this week, long awaited by my friend, Barb, who will be mentioned often in this post.

 Currently there is a team there in Brisas right now. I was invited to attend, but had to decline the invitation for various reasons this time around. To not go was very difficult for me, as those people have become a large part of my life. But the team was gracious to me, and allowed me several ways to still participate and be part of what they were doing through helping to write lessons and collect items to bless the women. I cannot wait to hear how their trip goes, as this particular team is doing more of a focus on teaching and discipling  the community and even the surrounding communities pastors, more than on the focus of the construction.

 But I am off track. I want to go back to Brisas and tell you about the Food program.

When we attended in 2016, we learned about the food program the village hosts. This program is provided/funded by the church, and allows for children in the village who do not have enough food to eat lunch to come to the cabana and be provided a meal by the church. This program is honestly beautiful. What a ministry! The problem was that in 2016, we learned that there was a lack of funding and so the program would dissipate and only be able to feed minimal amounts of the children.

 Enter Barb Benson. Barb was on my team that year and she fell in love with these kids and when we returned home, she took on this program. Barb quilts (beautiful quilts!) and she began fundraising for this program by raffling and selling her quilts. Led by her, others in her church got on board by helping donate bits each month to this cause, and for the last year and a half, Barb's efforts have been a large part of what has kept this program going.

 Barb returned with the team in June and she got to see how her dollars and efforts had been put to work. You could see her heart and passion as the kids would show up each day (M-F) for their lunches. I was generally in a different vicinity when this was taking place, but one day I did get to sit and be a part of the program. Pastor Javier, new to the community in January, had done some things with organizing the order of the kids checking in and making a system so that when they don't show up for a few days in a row, he then goes into their homes to check on them, etc. The one day I was able to help out,  as I checked in the kids one by one during this time, in between the moments of interacting with the kids, I was able to do a little translating between him and Barb, as Barb asked questions and shared some of her concerns and dreams, he answered and shared some of his dreams and visions with it, too. Watching Barb's passion in this event was inspiring.

 She loves those kids as if they are her own.

 Ashely and Emma and Cindy did a lot to serve the kids and help with the food during this time too. Barb has a huge heart for this program and came home with more determinations and dreams to keep fueling the program. It was really neat to see how her efforts have helped the program grow. You don't have to be a missionary in another country to make a difference there. It was so clear how she had made a difference there with her efforts here in Ohio. But how cool she got to see those efforts firsthand in June.

 At the end of the trip, I got to take place in a cool event with Barb. One of Barb's concerns as she watched the lunches take place through the week, was the state of the kitchen tools, utensils, pots, etc. And so with discussions with the various leaders in the church, it was determined she would go to a store in the city when we returned to the city to buy what the kitchen most needed as part of her efforts to help that food program. So the ladies of the kitchen made a list. I actually was not totally aware of this.
 But when we left the village, I spent the first half of the drive with Mileth quietly reflecting, sometimes crying, but really soaking in the last moments. I was in my own world a little bit. But we always make a stop half way between the village and the city, when we hit this little "gas station" to use the restroom and get snacks the Bishop approached me (who spoke only Spanish). I had honestly forgotten that he was in a vehicle behind our bus. And he asked me to ride in the car with him and Barb to help translate. Juan, the week's translator, needed to be with the team and the bus driver. But I got to have the special privilege to go with the Bishop and Barb... and then Chris, too, who wanted to buy tools for the construction site. For me, this was a moment I won't forget. Nothing monumental took place, per say, but for me it was just a little more confirmation in my journey. But also it was so cool to go into this IKEA like store in the city, with the Bishop and Barb and Chris, and get to take a small part in gathering up all these items for the village. Barb was having a lot of fun seeing the cart fill up with things the kitchen needed. Bishop was seemingly having fun bargain hunting for the needed items (and he was rather good at it.) And Chris had a good time in the tools, doing a lot of sign language and such with the workers since I was not there to translate for him. 

 By the end of the trip, Barb had a full cart and a full heart. And I had a lot of fun, even though I really did nothing. Just seeing the joy filled me. Barb has made a lasting impact on that little village. The food program has grown and it was a beautiful moment to be a part of it.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Back in Training

It has been some time since I wrote about my running or my exercise habits. So, just as it is time to get back into training better, it is time to share about that realm of life again too. Because when I train, I always learn about myself.

 This weekend I sat down and planned out the next several weeks for training for my fall race. While I have never quit my running this summer, it wasn't my focus. I didn't have any races planned and when you take a trip outside of the country, it really does shift your perspective. Again, not that my exercise or running wasn't important still, it just wasn't my focus.
 But I have put my training hat back on and am gearing up towards my fall race. When I left off in the Spring discussing my training (Yikes! Has that much time passed?) I was left with the lesson that I will not say the word Slow.

 And so I pick up where I left off. Of course not focusing on my distance has left me in a place that my pace is what it is. But really, that is just fine with me. I am happy to be working towards a goal again. I love goals. :) They make me ... me. And I really  enjoy doing races, and so I am looking forward to participating in them again. I've missed it. Each training leg I do tends to bring on lessons of life with it. I can't wait (Dare I say that?) to see what will be in store over the next couple of months.
 Of course, I always wonder to myself about my fall races because fall is a bit of a crazy time with my job at its peak and this fall, with my classes, for the first time I am going to take one on campus and not just online. So, ready or not, bring it on!

 The start is always the easiest in some ways, as my body just knows and is used to 3 and 4 mile runs. It's also the hardest as I push back into my routines. But running clears my head. It relaxes me, even if when I get up at 4:30 I am tired. It energizes me to move through my day. And it helps me feel better all around.

 It isn't about my pace. It isn't about the medal on the finish line or the shirt that comes with participating. It isn't about a name or a win. It's about me continuing to be a better me.
  So, slowly but surely.
      So, ready, set, go! Pressing on towards the goal....