Posted on March 30, 2016
God gave us grace to enjoy this place.
The space He creates to replace our race
…just for a little while.
Life’s rip current can relentlessly grip and pull…
It’s essential to bask in the space of blessings.
Where time stops …and minutes stretch.
Waves of emotion may ebb and flow, and even erode …
but when the tide subsides,
Christ is constant.
He’s my constant.
I may weep but only for a moment …
Anger will break like the surf but then foam back into the sea.
For me, Jesus is joy
…and I cling to His hold on my hand.
Between this post and the last, I have been hanging out in the space…
I can’t wait to tell you about it…
“Be joyful always.” 1Thes.5:16
Posted on March 16, 2016
“MOM!” I could tell Lo was annoyed before I laid eyes on her “scrunchy-face.”
“Daddy is counting wrong to vacation,” she huffed.
Her daddy might actually be counting right, but it’s not the way I count. Once the day is here, I don’t count it. And, I don’t count the first day of vacation as a day left to wait. Hence, if today is Monday and we leave on Friday …3 days left until vacation. My husband likes to practically add in days, which may make sense to a mathematical mind, but I’m just trying to get through this Ohio winter as fast as I can and make it to Florida to thaw out.
“Yep, Daddy is counting wrong …I know, Lo.” I agree. Well, I’m not going to lie to her. That’s the way I count.
Walking the pier after I dropped scrunchy-face off at school that morning, I was reminded by the dull backdrop how anxious I was to get to the gulf. Before I wrapped up my work to relax, a river full of driftwood ironically pieced together the “driftwood” blog that had been floating in between my ears.
The river isn’t always filled with driftwood, and on this particular day it flowed out towards the lake. I feel like a piece of that wood, bobbing up and down a midst the muck, debris, and litter …but at least I’m floating. At least I’m drifting. At least I’m flowing in with the current. I could be stuck up river muddled into the beaver’s damn …or taken up to the top of the tree to wield the eagles’s nest. Not a bad view from up there, I’d imagine, but it’s not mine. I’m out on the water …drifting…
The clear view of muddy water is telling. It’s not a “pretty blue lake meets the powder blue skyline,” but He’s still here.
I’m settling into my silent, “kids at school” days. Though the toddler years were loud, they were quieter. I was much less adrift with the day’s routine …confident in my calling to “stay home.”
Now, I’m drifting in the middle. It’s no coincidence that I’m drifting along in this juncture while a literal river of driftwood flows beside me. God sees my struggle. He picks up on my optimism and He feels my faith. I love how personally funny He is with me and my excessive tendency to drift. Hence, all the driftwood.
Drift, per Google, is: “To be carried away slowly by a current of air or water. Move passively, aimlessly or involuntarily into a certain situation or condition. (Of a person or their attention) digress or stray to another subject. (Especially of snow or leaves) be blown into heaps by the wind.”
I love it when people say they are driven to a fault. Really? What’s that like? Am I the only one who has no idea what that feels like? I live exactly how I race …at my own pace. And my pace sucks. I start out fast, die in the middle, and sprint the end. I absolutely cannot pace myself.
I was relieved, when training my puppy, that it was a good thing to stay one step ahead while walking the dog …everyone else complains. I have to be one step ahead. Until race day. Then then I spaz out completely and lose all sense of strategy.
It took me until my thirties to figure out that it was a lot more fun to start at the back of the pack and pass everyone during the race than to sprint out ahead and be passed by everyone.
That’s some learning curve. Not for lack of good influences, either. I’ve had some of the best coaches and inspirational teammates any athlete could ever dream of being around. But I drift. I’m too busy laughing …talking …friend-ing …socializing …drifting …to ever realize my full potential at anything.
Insert hopeless “Aw.”
No, don’t. I’ve got God for that. And He gave me a nifty little acronym I think you’re going to like.
Don’t wReck It For Timmy.
Let’s be real, we all drift a little. Some a lot. Some worthy of a title. When you find yourself drifting on the river, just make sure you’re flowing with the right current.
“O my soul, come, praise the Eternal with all that is in me- body, emotions, mind, and will- every part of who I am praise His Holy Name.” Psalm 103:1
“Don’t” drown, just drift. If I fall into the water and panic, I’ll most certainly start to sink. But, if I calmly curl up into a ball, I eventually float back to the surface. When I catch myself out in the left field of my life, I stop and re-calibrate. Normally, I process life through my gift to run, but I’ve been injured for a year. I had to improvise by blasting my favorite worship songs with a hairbrush microphone and awesome dance moves that only my bathroom mirror knows about …or I just walk the pier and admire the scenery. Find your thing. God’s there. He gave it to you.
“O my soul, come, praise the Eternal; sing a song from a greatly heart; sing and never forget all the good He has done.” Psalm 103:2
“Wreck.” That’s what happens if I choose to speed through a yellow light. Maybe not every time, but it’s a heck of risk I”m taking. The drift is the warning. The chance to regroup before I wreck. God knit a sense of right and wrong into us, but He didn’t choose all of the right answers for us. We have to slow down and pay attention to what we’re doing or we’ll crash. In the pause of the drift, I pray a lot. I slow up and search through His Word for answers and arrows.
“Despite all your many offenses, He forgives and releases you. More than any doctor, He heals your diseases.” Psalm 103:3
“It.” What is “it?”
Are you sick? Hurt? Depressed? Mad? Bitter? Confused? Lost?
Our Savior knows suffering. “It” happened to Him as He died on the cross for all of our “it’s.” He is the reason why we’re still bobbing up and down on the river. He’s hope.
I’ve literally been healed from disease, but cannot recover from tendinitis. Who knows why some pieces of wood drift longer than others. As I spend more time in the current learning more about Him, I rest in knowing His ways are superior to mine.
“‘For’ God’s sake.” There’s a lot of casual “God” catch phrases. I’m not a fan of any, but swearing isn’t a struggle of mine …
“He reaches deep into the pit to deliver you from death. He crowns you with unfailing love and compassion like a king.” Psalm 103:4
Perfect people don’t exist. We all suck at something. I fail big and fall a lot. Quite literally, I fall a lot …over my own shoe laces …it’s embarrassing…
Recognize the struggle behind the smiles. I put them up all over Facebook. Smiles. Smiles. Smiles. I’m grateful to God for them all. I want the world to know how good God is to me, even though I spend most of my life drifting out in giggly la-la-land. Behind each one of those smiles I post is a struggle. A hard day overcome. A difficult disease healed. A painful loss, but life moving forward. Optimism. Faith. Trust. In God’s flow, perfection isn’t required to be pulled from the pit. He is patient to let us get up and try again.
“Timmy” is slowly becoming one of my favorite characters in the Bible. 2Timothy 1:5 tells how Timothy learned his Christian Faith from his mother and grandmother. The New International Encyclopedia of Bible Characters describes him as “somewhat diffident and lacking in self-confidence, so he needed reassurance and support from mature Christian people.”
#relate. I feel relieved that if Timothy needed encouragement, the talent to motivate exists among us because we aren’t all confident all the time, even if we’re able. Where did his doubt come from? Maybe the lack of religious leadership from his father. He was Greek, and his mother was a Jewish believer. Old school Bible “mixed” family.
Timothy preached with Paul and Silas. Paul, the apostle Paul, wrote him letters to encourage him. I believe the root of faith that his mother and grandmother passed down to him coupled with Paul’s encouraging friendship helped him press on to preach the gospel, despite struggling with his health along the way.
“When our soul is famished and withering, He fills you with good and beautiful things, satisfying you as long as you live. He makes you strong like an eagle, restoring your youth.” Psalm 103:5
Don’t Wreck It For Timmy. Drifters, drift. Just make sure you’re flowing in God’s current. Parents and Grandparents, don’t give up. I feel it, too. My kids bother me a lot. Just keep loving on them. You’re rooting them in faith just like Timothy’s family did. Friends, keep listening …keep encouraging …keep sharpening each other. Be Paul to someone, and let someone be Paul to you.
Even if you’re not prone to drift as much as I am, you’ll be bobbing in the river sometime. Don’t panic. Just stop, float, and re-calibrate. We’re not going to be perfect, but we’re not going to sink to the bottom, either. Not with Christ. We must keep confessing our sin, and trying to get better a little bit at a time, all of the time.
It’s important to see the struggle behind the smiles. Optimism is just that, isn’t it? There’s a struggle going on, a fight. Optimism is a silver lining view. It’s faith. It’s praise, appreciation and trust. Trust in the flow of the river. Trust in God’s flow…His plan.
Posted on January 18, 2016
The habit of holding on prevents our stumble down the stairs, but falling is not failing.
“Mmmmmmmmoooooommmmmmmm,” Brianne wailed, through broken breaths of crying…”Oooooowwwwwwweeeeee.”
Happens at least once a week. One of them falls down the stairs, and I’m greeted by Brianne’s cry of shock, or Lo running to me out of breath and holding her butt. I’m used to the routine of hurried footsteps followed by awkward clunking…
Despite my best efforts to educate and warn, my little Lo will come flying around the corner high-kneed and stomach punched often enough to warrant her own hashtag. Her crash down the staircase is often prefaced by a symphony of Ty eye-ball plinks as they reach the first floor first.
I caught an interesting directive falling out of my mouth as I held a sobbing Brianne after her latest tumble down the stairs.
“Hold on to the railing,” I begged her, “You’re too precious to fall.”
How many times do we want to bolt up a railing for kids to hold on to …thinking they’ll surely recognize, appreciate, and grip it tight, preventing a nasty fall. But they don’t. Three reasons why:
1. They don’t recognize it when they need it because they weren’t paying attention to something they didn’t need at the time.
2. They don’t appreciate the love and care bolted into the wall of protective measures we surround them with, because they don’t understand why it’s necessary.
3. They don’t grip it in swallowed pride when they are about to fall down the stairs, because they don’t think our protections are as necessary for them as they are for us.
Down the stairs they tumble …and we’re helpless as our precious babes fall.
“I told you so.”
“Why didn’t you hold onto the railing?”
“We talked about this.”
I used to frustrate my face into a fury over their lack of listening skills, until I tumbled down the stairs with the vacuum cleaner one day.
“Well, that was stupid,” I said to myself out loud in an empty house.
God revealed a few things through the railing:
1. Falling isn’t failing.
“Therefore, in order to keep me from being conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh…” 2Corinthians 12:7
The apostle Paul was clever to point out that our imperfections and insults to injury are what keep us in check with reality. And reality is, God knows we all need something to hold on to. Just because we let go doesn’t mean we give up.
2. The railing is Jesus.
“For through Him we now have access to the Father by one Spirit.”-Ephesians 2:18
God has bolted His Son to our hearts, that we may access Him through prayer, The Word, and the Holy Spirit. The access is there for the acceptance. I’m no better than my daughters at holding on to the railing, but
God doesn’t punish me every time I fall down the stairs. Don’t you punish yourself, either.
He is not waiting at the bottom with an “I told you so,” or a “well, that was stupid.” No, He’s waiting at the bottom, already knowing how much it hurt. Because of Jesus, God says,
“It’s not too late, grab the railing and pull yourself up.”
3. Jesus knows that life is difficult…that’s why He put the railing there in the first place. He died for us… He’s not going to give up, even when we let go.
“For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses…” Hebrews 4:15
Jesus felt what we feel, “yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) He was tempted, but never failed. The railing is there, but He knows we’re not God. We’re to have faith, not be perfect.
4. He watches out for us.
“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” -2Chronicles 16:9
Often when I’m out walking in the morning, I can’t help but feel God’s warmth in the beginning of a new day. The sky is so much prettier in the morning, after it pierces through the darkness of night. I look for God in that sky, and He meets me there. Day after day, railing still securely bolted to the wall of the staircase.
“My heart is confident in you, O God; no wonder I can sing your praises with all my heart.” Psalm 108:1
Through Jesus we can come to the Father and receive grace. A God who cares for us, watches out for us, and forgives us. “Hold on to the railing…you’re too precious to fall.” But when you do, I hope you know, He’s with you.
Hold on tight, but don’t forget to look up.
Posted on April 2, 2015
“Mom, I’m sooooooo hungry,” came the voice promptly at 6:15 am from my four year old daughter, Lo.
“Ok, Ok,” I responded sleepily,” let’s go get you some breakfast.
Normally, my little one wakes up about an hour before everyone else’s alarms go off, pitter patters into my room, crawls onto my bed, steals half my pillow, and soaks up some cuddles before she starts her day. It’s honestly my favorite way to wake up, and every morning I utter prayers of thanks for those cherished moments, and pleadings for her to stay little forever. I know all too well how those morning cuddles are fleeting. My older daughter now sleeps like a brick through her alarm most mornings.
“Ok Lo,” I said to her as I poured she and her sister a bowl of cereal, “you can’t just eat the marshmallows. You have to eat the cereal, too.”
“OK MOM!” little Lo stated matter-of-factly, and back upstairs I went to start getting the family ready for the day.
By the time my oldest daughter, not such a morning person, got ready and went down to eat her breakfast, little Lo had already bounced back up the stairs to get dressed and brush her teeth. She passed her Daddy on the stairs, on his way to have a relaxed cup of coffee on his Friday morning off of work.
It was then that I heard the following arguement waft up the stairs…
“Dadda, there’s not enough marshmallows in my cereal,” Brianne complained.
“Brianne, that’s rediculous,” he stated. “Eat the bowl of cereal that your mom poured you.”
(To my husband’s credit, silly morning conundrums are not out of the ordinary for her, so he launched into the normal parenting tecnique.)
While my husband continued to reprimand Brianne, sending her flying out of the kitchen in tears, I sauntered over to Lauren’s room. Happily humming a tune as she got dressed, I interrupted,
“What Mom,” she answered in a way-too-happy, I-just-got-away-with-something- tone.
“Did you pick all of the marshmallows out of your sister’s bowl of cereal?” I pryed…already knowing full well that’s what had happened.
Little Lo smiled, giggled, and then confessed, “I just couldn’t help it, Mommy!”
Both of us in total laughter by this point, she added, “THEY ARE JUST SO DELICIOUS!!!”
I flew down the stairs to rescue Brianne from her plight, and pour her a new bowl of cereal. Explaining to her and to my husband what had happened, trying to get them all to join in on the laugh. Brianne was content to swipe her sister’s purple vitamen and replace it with an orange one…thinking she’d surely evened the score. My husband was confused as to why no one was going to be held accountable for their behavior.
“It’s 7:30 in the morning,” I explained, “Do you really want every woman in this house in tears before school?”
There are so many instances in life when I want to pick the marshmallows off the top. Times when I feel like taking a shortcut, and others when I put in the effort, the work, and the discipline…realizing that the outcome is still out of my hands. Parenting has given me a front row seat to this show for seven years now, just as my passion for running throughout my life.
“I’ll try, and see how far I get,” I said, responding to the possibility of running a marathon.
“You’re going to run a lot of ‘halfs’ in training for a full,” George told me, when I asked him to help coach me through my attempt at the half-marathon. (My cousin is a distance runner, too, and is running the Boston Marathon again in 2015.) I nodded and laughed in response, but agreed.
All along, I doubted that my back would allow me the opportunity to run that far. (If you’ve kept up with me on this blog, you know why…if not…just know it’s not conducive for a marathon runner. In fact, it was in the shape of an ‘S’ the last time it was x-rayed, but no longer fused at the bottom…which is a literal miracle. Praise God.) Fear and anxiety nagged me every long run day. Six miles, seven miles, eight, ten, eleven…and as a the distance I originally set out to conquer faded into the entries of my training log…thirteen. (13.34, to be exact.)
I’m so knicked up, it’s become more practical to take an ice bath than to rotate the ice pack around every 20 minutes. Yet, as I write this entry I am attempting to prepare for a 15 mile long run. The doubt is creeping in and magnifying every pain that I have…exploiting every weakness I struggle with… tempting me to give into the fear, instead of trusting in the faith has carried me this far. Faith that “can do anything…far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams.” (Ephesians 3:20) Like, maybe, run 13 miles.
In the spirit of Lent, imagine if Jesus just picked all the marshmallows out of the cereal bowl. What if he only liked the sweet, brightly colored parts of me? When Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethseneme, he said that “His soul was overwhelmed with sorry to the point of death.” (Matthew 26:38) On the way to Jerusalem, he told his disciples that he would be betrayed. (Matthew 20:18) As he made his way to the cross, “Those who passed by hurled insults at him.” (Mark 15:29) He was spit at and hit, his clothes torn. (Matthew 26:67) He was beaten, and given a crown of thorns. (Mathew 27:28) He carried his own cross up to Golgotha and was crucified. (John 19:17-18) There were no marshmallows in Jesus breakfast on that day.
Simply imagining a morning without cuddles from my daughters brings tears to my eyes. Recalling the sacrifice that God made…I guess that’s why God is God.
He has encouraged me through every stride. Through my cousin’s advice and encouragement, friends and neighbors that encourage me in conversation, Facebook comments, and high fives. Through a high school teammate who responded to my Facebook post about GPS watches, mentioning that he listens to sermons while he runs. While I logged a 10 mile, 11 mile, 13 mile…run, I learned through Moodswingers how to “beat burnout” and shift my attitude. To focus on God’s voice in moments when the other is picking me a part. (Crash the Chatterbox). To push through “weakness of the flesh” (“The Genius of Jesus.”), and become the healthy person I was designed to be (The Daniel Plan). Marshmallows.
“He is not waiting for you to cross the finish line first. He is smiling at you as you run the race.” The Daniel Plan.
“I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me.” Phil. 4:13
“Push through what you dread to get to what you love.” Pastor Steven Furtick
Marshmallow. (I think that one was a purple moon…)
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corintheans 10:31
“God whispers to us in our pleasure but shouts to us in our pain.” CS Lewis.
Marathon training has revealed itself to be such a painful, unfathomable, anxiety-filled, and incredibly joy-filled task. It’s bringing me closer to God, because it keeps the conversation going. I need Him out there on the road..to survive every stride. With every step forward….every mile I run…every distance I complete that I felt terrified to try…the roots of my faith extend into the ground a little further.
When Jesus died on the cross, He died so we may live. He ate the whole grain cereal, so that we could enjoy the marshmallows. When I choose to let Him lead me through parts of life that I am the most afraid of…guide me through situations I don’t know how to handle…pray to Him for help I cannot give myself…I get to experience His love. I celebrate Easter because Jesus rose from the dead of that cross. His tomb was empty. God made the impossible, possible. For the love of his son. For the love of his people. For the love of you.
(…I decided to add an update to this entry before I click on publish. God willing, I completed that 15 mile run, and the following week a 17 miler. Never stop praying.)
“Maybe one day we’ll see that the greatest setbacks in our lives were setups to seeing God’s glory in places we didn’t even know to look.” Pastor Steven Furtick, Elevation Church.