Marathon: The Journey of 26.2, Part 2

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Training began March 1, 2013. Baby girl was about to turn 4 months old. It wasn’t a good day to run. We weren’t sleeping through the night yet. My body was still in shock from 9 months of pregnancy followed by childbirth. And there was snow on the ground. Yep, it was the perfect day to punch my excuses in the teeth and run already.

I couldn’t even run for 20 minutes. Imagine swinging your arms in such a way as to create enough momentum to pull yourself off the ground since the rest of your body wasn’t able to manage it otherwise. That was me. And I walked at the 10 minute mark. I. Had. So. Far. To. Go.

My first several runs went just like that. Ugly. Painful. Humbling. But I made my commitment to this thing. It had to get better at some point. And slowly, but surely, it did.

I ran my first post-baby girl 5K in April. And it wasn’t very pretty. There were all these people who knew my Ironman hubby cheering for me. I felt like I had “represent”, ya know? No lie, my heart rate was in the 170’s for almost the entire thing. I thought I might die.

I crossed the finish line and held my 5 month old reminder that I should be crazy proud of myself. And you better believe I was.

My Favorite Gift

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This year for Christmas, I received a priceless gift that wasn’t purchased or packaged or even intended for me. But it was mine nonetheless.
It started as predicted: a tornado of squeals and paper, tossed bags and utter excitement. It was particularly wonderful with Ricky’s sister and her family with us. 3 extra children in the house made it even more joyfully chaotic.
Then came the dreaded words no mother wants to hear: “Mommy, my tummy hurts.” My 9-year-old son, Camden, was hit like a ton of bricks with some kind of stomach bug that kept him near a toilet and trash bucket. “I don’t want to be sick on Christmas!” Me neither, little buddy. Me neither.
Throughout the ordeal, I could hear him praying between heaves, “Jesus. Jesus. Jesus.” I was waiting to hear him say, “Why don’t I feel better yet? I’ve been praying!! But I still feel so bad.” However, despite the never-ending bouts of anguish, his faith didn’t waiver. Rather, it grew.
When he was finally able to rest, he said, “Mom, I’ve been praying.”
“I know, baby.”
“You know what I prayed? God, bless this house and this family. Bless me too! Will You please use all Your powers to heal me?! I know that You can do ANYTHING. There is nothing that you can’t do. So, Jesus, please heal me!”
I welled up with tears hearing his absolute assurance in the power and love of God to heal.
Although I was overjoyed at the sight of his body recovering the next morning, the greater gift was seeing the spirit of my son maturing on his own. My faith grew too.

My Marathon, Part 1: The Beginning

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I had a baby November 2012. Since my husband did his second Ironman earlier that year, we agreed that 2013 would be “my year”. He wasn’t going to train for anything major. It was my turn.
I had this little thought dancing around my head to do something far bigger than anything I had ever tried. So far, I had done a few 5K’s, sprint triathlons, and one half marathon. A full-fledged Ironman wasn’t an option. (I mean, who wants to sit on that little bike seat for 112 miles? Not me!) The choice was clear. It was marathon or nothing.

You ever wanted to do something you just really didn’t want to do? That was my feeling about training and running 26.2 miles. So I trapped myself. My friend, Amy, had just completed her first marathon and had announced she’d be doing another the following year. So I said, on Facebook, making sure the world could see, “I’ll do it with you!” I was in. I was committed to it now.

We managed to rope in another friend, Korista. And there began a journey of 26.2 that none of us would forget.

Reasons You Should Reconsider the Daniel Fast

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The new year is fast approaching and, if the trend continues, churches all over the nation will kick off a Daniel Fast. For those of you who are less familiar with this idea, it’s basically cutting out everything from your diet except for fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Typically, it lasts 21 days.
Now, before I go into why you shouldn’t participate in one of these, let me tell you my personal experience. In 2007, my husband and I were desperately searching for God’s direction for our lives. We had an idea of what He wanted us to do, but we needed clarity in so many ways. So we decided to do a Daniel Fast.
Whoa, Nelly. It was tough. This girl loves her some coffee, bread, and beef. And this girl went 3 weeks without it! It seemed like forever!!! But by day 20, I found myself not wanting it to end in a way. I have never felt more “clear” in all my life. Clear in my mind and clear in my soul. It was beautiful.
So why wouldn’t I want anyone not to experience this? Because real fasting hinges on motives. Here are reasons you shouldn’t fast:
1. Because your Pastor says to. This certainly isn’t the worst reason ever, but it needs to go far deeper.
2. Because this is just the detox you need to kick start your weight loss goals. No, no, and NO!!! My friends, we are sorely mistaken if we believe it’s okay to put dieting and fasting together. From a fitness standpoint, it’s a miserable way to lose 10 pounds just to gain 15 back!! From a spiritual standpoint, you’re missing the purpose of a fast. This isn’t a time to start tacking on all the little perks from your 21 days of sacrifice.
3. So you can show all of Facebook how deliciously indulgent a Daniel Fast can be. I will just say this: “deliciously indulgent” are words that shouldn’t be in the same sentence as a “fast”. See also, Matthew 6:16: “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do…so people will admire them for their fasting.” Perhaps posting about your fast at all on social media isn’t the best idea.
4. So you can get God to do what you want Him to do for you. I want to be very careful here. It’s important to understand the difference between coming to God in need of His hand to move on our behalf, and trying to make God owe us back for what we’re giving up. One can neither obligate, nor manipulate the hand God. He doesn’t work that way. Read Isaiah 58:2-3: “They ask me to take action on their behalf, pretending they want to be near me. ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ ‘I will tell you why!’ I respond. ‘It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves.'”
Those are heavy words right there. I encourage you to really check the motive of your heart before entering into a fast of any kind. It should be a holy time of sacred deprivation. If you’re not there, don’t do it. And don’t feel badly that you’re not.

Unimaginable Redemption

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So many unknowns. Miles yet to travel. All signs of comfort or familiar are far behind. There’s this clock ticking with no idea how much time is left. Life is about to change in a big way. A good way. The overwhelming thought of how this whole thing is going to come together is almost too much to bear. But there’s no turning back.
As the pieces of the puzzle begin to reveal their greater picture, it still doesn’t seem to make sense. The where’s, how’s, and who’s are dramatically different than previously imagined. This can’t be right, can it? Was there a mistake somewhere?
The stress of all the unanswered questions can’t possibly hold up under the weight of doubt. Trust has now unraveled down to its smallest thread. How can another minute pass?
And yet, it happened. The story unfolded just as it should have. Not one detail was missed. Every hardship, every imperfection, every terrible moment found redemption in the beauty it wove together.
This is Emmanuel. This is God with us.
Those who have come after Mary walk a similar road. Struggle, heartache, and many unanswered questions mark the path. And somehow, not a single tear is wasted. Not one heavy sigh goes unseen.
Because Jesus came to redeem. All of it. God, in His great sovereignty, is able to give ‘a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.’
This is Christmas.

I’m Not Listening

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Let’s have a talk about communication. I write. I speak. I live and breath. I am constantly communicating something. And you are too. The question is, do you want anyone to listen? What about that burning topic you’re so passionate about and you’re dying for people to just “get it”?
I’ve read blogs and status updates. I’ve listened to sermons and political speeches. So many opinions. So many truths. So much not getting heard. I just want to stand up shout, “I’m never going to listen to a thing you say when you talk to me like that!”
Examples: “Stop killing yourself with that awful processed junk some people call ‘food’!” “I’m not allowing my children to be brainwashed in this public school system!!” “Who here voted for that idiot anyway?!”
These are not direct quotes, but sadly, they’re pretty close. I just want to put my fingers in my ears and say, “Lalalalala!!!” Don’t you? Somewhere in all 3 of these statements, there may be nuggets of something good that might actually need to be heard or even adhered to. However, unless the listener already agrees with you, you’re getting completely shut out.
Here’s the problem: when we find ourselves taking the high road, we better make sure it’s not on a high horse. In other words, it’s great to have found something good to do in our lives. But if we want people to follow our lead, we’ve got to lose the tone of judgment, fear, and meanness. Communicate in a way that even you’re biggest critic will listen.
Colossians 4:6 (NIV) says it best: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Note, it doesn’t say to sugar coat it. It says to “season” your words in a way that makes it palatable. This isn’t easy, especially when you have strong emotions wrapped up in it. But it is possible. And it is necessary if you want to be truly heard.
I pray I have successfully done that here.

Image courtesy of stockimages/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Picture of Painful Perfection

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Last year, one of my Facebook friends posted pictures of her beautifully decorated Thanksgiving table. From the linens to the neatly arranged place settings to the gorgeous centerpiece, she didn’t miss a thing. It was the picture of perfection.
Meanwhile, I had just had a baby two weeks prior. My party of 5 went to the local Boston Market the night before, so all we had to do was throw it in the microwave the next day. There were no table linens. No place settings. I’m pretty sure our plates didn’t even match. There was certainly no centerpiece.
As I scrolled through my newsfeed and landed on those pictures, I felt a sting in my heart. Ugly thoughts followed: Must be nice to have all that time and money to pull that off. She’s always seemed a little uptight and that’s just the kind of personality that would go to all that trouble. She probably yelled at her kids all day so they wouldn’t mess it up.
Horrible, isn’t it? Let’s be clear here. There wasn’t anything wrong with my friend’s behavior. Not. One. Thing. I, on the other hand, needed to heed a big warning: when someone else’s grand effort stings your heart, it’s a sign of your own dissatisfaction within yourself. For me, that meant I was a tired Momma feeling disappointed in her less-than-ideal Thanksgiving.
Ever been there? I’ve been on the other side too. It hurts when you go all in on something in your life, only to have others criticize it because of their own hangups. Ladies and gentlemen, listen to the alarm going off in your spirit when you find yourself in this place. We do this far more often than we’d like to think. And it’s wounding our hearts.
Stop and ask yourself why you feel this way. Own up to the bad things you feel when faced with another’s good things. While the enemy wants to steal, kill, and destroy us, God wants to give life and make us whole. First, we have to get honest with ourselves.