The Smiley Faces

the-smiley-faces-pic-1“MOMMMMMM-A!!!”cried my wallowing six-year old, accompanied by her trademark stomp of dissatisfaction. “It’s doing MINUSES now …that’s too HARD….”

For days, exasperated sighs and incorrect buzzers had drifted from the kitchen counter at breakfast. But every once in a while, I would hear a jubilant yell:

“A smiley-face! I got a smiley face! I beat the teacher! Ha ha ha ha !”

It’s my hope that, somewhere in her small victory celebrations and the obsequious high-fives, the fact that she’s learning math trumps beating the “teacher” on the other side of our tablet.

The capricious people-pleaser innate to humanity seeks “the smiley-faces” from life’s the-smiey-faces-tweet-1audience. And when their approval alludes us, it can leave us feeling unworthy, unqualified, unloved, and all sorts of other “un” words. We can relieve our hearts of the burden to please others, when we start to see Him first.

1. Start

“I do not run like a man running aimlessly…”1 Cor 9:26

Paul is talking about the discipline he enforced upon his own life to serve Christ. (NIV Notes) When my life get’s hard, I tend to snap. When the side of my brain that signals I’ve earned the right to lose a little control trumps the logical side, I am libel to tell my kids to pick up there “s-word.” Or, ask them what in the “hocky-sticks” they are thinking. I might stomp up the stairs, roll my eyes at my husband, or cause my kids to flinch in fear. Anyone relate?

When the endurance of preparedness kicks in, the logical side of our brains replaces the-smiley-faces-pic-2lunacy with a pause. A moment, to just sit in the pocket of reaction and allow the memory to search out truth. If we read the truth of God’s Word day after day, it will remain alive and active to guide us on the fly.

Paul knew the cost and sacrifice of such discipline, but knew also it wasn’t aimless.

2. Stamina

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Cor. 9:24

“All the runners run” challenges me to lay down my efforts to succeed in exchange for consistency and discernment.

In a long-distance track event, I like to watch the runners who get boxed in after the lanes merge. Despite all of the preparation and experience the sport can offer, some of the best runners in the world still end up there. Against all odds, sometimes a runner jolts out of the pressure pocket like lightning …and sails back into the race. I love to root for those runners.

the-smiley-facesHave you found yourself boxed into places you’ve never wanted to be …places you prepared never to be? Let me encourage you from a place of commraderie. Human weakness will never go away, but neither will Jesus. Sometimes the only way to get the prize is to take a leap of faith. To reach out for His hand through the spikes clipping by, and let Him pull us back into the race when we’re ready to jolt.

3. Seek

“Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last forever.” 1 Cor. 9:25

Phil 3:14 explains that the winner of the race, in the time period Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians, won money and a wreath of leaves. (NIV notes on Phil 3:14) We train awfully hard to earn promotions, win medals, buy houses, and take vacations. The incomparably majestic crowns in Heaven are going to make a free trip to Disney World equatable to a free Oreo cookie. Just one cookie. Without the milk.

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When I get to heaven, I want God to be proud of me… like a whole reward chart overflowing with smiley-faced stickers. He’ll always love me, but I want to have endured obedience in the pursuit of holiness. I want to break free from the pack and run down that straightaway praising His name as the tape breaks across my chest. I want to win. For Him. God doesn’t paint a whole picture of what that looks like for everyone. It’s as individual as each one of us. And His is the only approval we’re intended to rely on.

Happy Seeking,

Megs

 

 

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The “Yes” Shoes

imageHe will straighten our stride, in His time, when we lace up our “yes” shoes.

I’m convinced my daughter thinks that her shoes will magically jump onto her feet if she stares at them long enough. When they don’t, her shoes fly over the foyer in frustration. And, oh …the agony …when a pair that normally slip right on no longer fit.

“Lo, stand up so I can zip them up,” I stammered in frustration.

“I AM,” she yelled and convulsed, convinced my help was overkill.

“Push your foot down harder,” I ordered. Her boots were swimmingly large mere “mommy” moments ago, but now needed to be pushed on.

“OK, let’s do the other one…”

Expanding feet shift goals. They also outgrow shoes.  image

Growth is predictably unpredictable, and keeping goals in stride with a shifting destination is hard. Has your finish line ever moved as you were about to break the ribbon? Here’s what I learned from my missed marathon and mommy moments.

Shoes too small.

A complete year off running didn’t yield a healed heal. And if I could go back, I’d risk a snapped Achilles and line up at the start of my first full marathon. God swapped my shoes regardless of my readiness to understand why.

“By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated with soon disappear.” Hebrews 8:13 (NIV)

I ran through snow and wind and ice …in shoes that were a complete size too small. Something that the runners at the running shoe store would have told me had I went there to be fitted for the right shoes before logging hundreds of miles.

Sometimes, we pray into God-sized goals. He wants us to dream big, and will bless our ambition to pursue, for His glory, the passions He laid in us.

imageProperly prepared with the right pair of shoes, the impact is absorbed efficiently and the weight is distributed properly. Experienced runners know that injury arises from a misaligned stride, often corrected by a shoe fit to guide feet as they strike the ground.

God does this for us. Through Christ, we capture the key to a corrected stride. God’s love is giant. He found a way to fit us for freedom. Jesus absorbs the impact and distributes the weight. To run straight, stick by His side.

In addition to personal conversation in prayer with God, He seeks to speak specifically through His Word. Dig in beyond devos, follow side-trails, and chase after characters. The pull to know why and the curiosity to question fit our feet for training.

Shoes that didn’t fit “in.”

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Hebrews 8:13 (above) speaks to us about outdated goals. About Old Testament customs and traditions that are no longer applicable or necessary. Jesus filled the gap those things attempted to bridge.

Google defines the effect of “obsolete” as “replacing it with something new.” And, anyone that lived through the 80’s can define “outdated.” Remnants of style may return redefined, but are fit for the “now.”

365 days ago, I took my running shoes off. I’ve been striding and striving everywhere but the road, tired and frustrated. God grew my feet before my shoes were fit to comprehend the change. The healing I prayed for came laced in lesson. I thought the goal was the marathon. He knew it was time to sit down …and write.

Every time I load the trunk up with bags of shoes that are too small for my kids, I feel ill-equipped to replace them all with the size that fits them. I’m not even sure what size to buy, what they will need, or if they will like them. Clearly, I need help with my own shoe size…

imageWe may have to adjust, grow, and shift …learn new patterns, drift in new waters, pursue new passions, open different doors, and stand on new stages. But Jesus picked us to fit where we fly.image

My identity in my daughter’s eyes is still “runner,” and she misses it just as much as I do. Her note is the nudge I’ve been waiting for. Could it be possible, that time spent obeying the development of one passion could be rewarded with the return of another? On this day, number 366 since the last time I laced up my running shoes, I believe His answer is “yes.” Fit in His shoes, the weight of many passions is bearable and possible. Today, I began to run again.

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God pauses passions to add in complimenting attributes to the fabric of our stories. Chapters and pages that we might have edited out, or never written, yet essential to who we are in Him.

Whether you’re training for a marathon, building houses, crunching numbers, or digging through a mountain of laundry …ask Jesus to adjust the fit. Children discover their passions by watching us let Him fit us to ours.

Jesus ushered in a new era. Life isn’t a Browns draft failing to produce a quarterback yearimage after year. (As a hometown Clevelander and life-long Browns fan, I’m allowed to say that.) Sit down, and let Him fit your feet.

Happy Strides,

Megs

imageMy long-time friend, Cherie, is the picture of perseverance as I type this, crossing the finish line of her first marathon. She has not just run through pain, but lived through it. A survivor in so many ways, never giving up …and always full of joy. A Mom showing her little boy anything is possible, and a light to everyone that knows her. Thank you for inspiring me with your constant kindness and positivity. Forever thankful to call you “friend.”  

The Good Sick Day 

The gagging rapidly approached. I shot up from a deep sleep to dig defensively against my exhaustion. The bright red clock glowed, “4:30 AM.”

“MO-GAG-MMY-GAG,” my daughter heaved. “I-GAG-DON’T-GAG-FEEL-GAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGG…”

Up and out to usher her away from my room, I prayed my toes would remain in tact and my shins wouldn’t be shattered by the debris of low lying furniture that littered the route to the hallway. Our eyes squinted in protest but my heart jumped for joy when we made it to the bathroom without any projectile fallout.

“Why did you pass the bathroom to run to my room?” I asked her as pulled her new, short hair-cut back. She smiled and started to giggle, and then whatever was ailing her finally released. Bleh. The “every thirty minute” trip to retrieve water sips ensued; and as I attempted to sneak in some sleep between changing trash-can bags, the dim glow of dawn lit.

imageHer sickness seemed to fade rapidly as we pulled away from dropping her little sister off at school, and I was serenaded while she “rested” to the tune of Barbie’s shenanigans. If not for witnessing the vomit first-hand, I’d have pronounced her a big fat faker.

We sat to chat …laughed …sorted through her bookshelf …ate lunch …watched a movie …took the dog for a pier-walk …and went shopping. Cuddled up on the couch that night, I knew God had gone above and beyond answering my prayers for her healing. I silently celebrated the scenery of a Spirit-led day, that lent me the time to witness my rapidly maturing little girl grow up a bit …right before my eyes. #gift

To live in the motion of The Holy Spirit, replace your race with a pace to match His stride. It’s a humble walk, painfully slow at times, but always moving forward. Like the rhythm of a runner’s depart from the start, we can establish a pattern to race with the Spirit as He moves.

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Let’s learn how to harness a “good sick” day, by investigating an amazing verse.

1. On your mark…

“Here’s my instruction: walk in the Spirit, and let the Spirit bring order to your life.” Galatians 5:16a(Voice)

If I break into a full sprint without running things by God, I may appear very busy and productive …but I assure you it’s masking a disheveled and over-tasked mess. Breaking time off to have a real conversation with Him sets the tone for my day and signals the Holy Spirit to start translating.image

When words to describe what we’re going through aren’t present in our vocabulary, or we lack the motivation to mumble what words we do know how to string together, the Spirit relays our message to God. (Romans 8:28) The One who speaks life has an infinite vocabulary.

“Let the Spirit direct your lives.” Galatians 5:16a (GNT)

Start talking to God about life. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, we have full access to the Author…and Translator. #prayaboutit

2. Set…

Being set to launch life the way God intended us to live it requires reading the Bible. What good is the answer to life if we never hear it? The Spirit aides our interpretation (John 14:26) of God’s living Word (Hebrews4:12), and a conversation is born.

“Let the Holy Spirit lead you with each step.” Galatians 5:16a (NLV)

It seems less daunting when broken down into footsteps. God isn’t calling me to change my personality, He’s asking me step into the ingenuity He laid into my life’s foundation. God’s Word reliably directs my footsteps with the disciplinary truth my heart needs to digest His love and direct my steps.

Read His Word in faith that it will answer prayers, apply currently, and ready life to shift and grow. #ReadTheWord

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3. Go.

Galatians 5:16

“Walk in the Spirit.” (KJV)

“Walk by the Spirit.” (ESV)

“Live the way the Spirit leads you.” (ERV)

“Walk habitually in the [Holy] Spirit [seek Him and be responsive to His guidance.]” (AMP)

I discovered that in the original language, and within the context of Galatians 5:16, live and walk are synonymously derived from the Greek verb peripateo.

“Literally, means walk around…The NT uses peripateo to refer to the way believers behave or conduct daily life.” -Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary

Walking is living. Living is walking. “Spirit led” is a daily process that we walk out for life. Step in one obedient stride at a time.

“Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit.” Galatians 5:16a (MSG)

imageFaithful training makes for great races. The blocks are empty and the runners are already rounding the first curve. As the gun-shot-start adrenaline wears off, preparation relaxes us into the rhythm of our own breathing. Don’t look back…#Go

I am forever grateful that she passed the bathroom to come and get me first. I might have missed a footstep…

Happy Walking…

Megs

“Run your lives by the Spirit.” Galations 5:16a (CJB)

Reading different translations of Biblical verses can be done with a swipe of the screen. Bible Gateway is an amazing resource I reference to bridge my gap between average person and Biblical scholar. It’s a very large gap. I’m very thankful for it! You know what they say …”If I don’t know the answer I know someone that does!” #doyourresearch #neverstoplearning

 

…the other side.

Ahhh, the beginning of Track season.  32 degrees, but the sun was out and the wind was dead.  “Shorts and T-Shirt” weather, as one of our brightest observed.  My view of the track has always been linked closely with pain…and joy…and hurt…and triumph…and nausea…and pride…and…well, you get the picture.

From the other side of the track as a volunteer coach,  I recalled my initiation into track at fifteen. A green pea, I thought over a decade of ballet wold lend me the coordination and speed it took to be a hurdler.  Yet, I took notice of how much fun the distance runners had out on their runs… and I fell over a lot of hurdles.  

I laughed as some of our Cross Country runners deserted the distance crew to be sprinters, and wondered what painful episode caused the sudden change in heart.

Quickly pulled back to reality by my run-away child, I caught the glance of every non-parent in the weight room as she stumbled hazardly through bars and leg press machines.

Practice rolled on, and I fed my 8 month old a bottle while attempting to coax my stubborn ‘almost-3” year old down from the bleachers, I collected goals and last week’s mileage from the distance runners.   Learn new names, calculate workout paces, establish new goals…and chase after my 3 year old who believes with all her little heart that she can keep up with the ‘runners’ as they exit the track to log some miles.

The thrill of the “chase” made me question my motives,  Why coach?  Why drag my 2 kids up to the track?

Truth?  Track is a piece of me.  My little peepsters misbehave and make the experience a wonderful combination of gut wrenching and embarrassment on some days, but being at the track never was a completely comforting experience.

I had drifted towards distance runners, just like I had at fifteen.

I always wonder how people know what their passion is.  (Little kids on American Idol that say they’ve known since they were 2 they wanted to sing.)  Perhaps it’s just what you gravitate to….what you love so much that any pain that goes along with it is overshadowed by the triumphs.

Maybe my daughters will learn to love distance running and it’s masochistic ways, too.  If not in running than in something that they question why they love, until they are out there in it. I’m trying to instill an experience in them that will help shape their determination, by simply showing them who I am.  I might not have it all figured out yet, but maybe that’s a good thing to accept early on in parenting.

Practice isn’t perfect, but it can make it.

Happy Track Season,

Megs