8 Life Lessons From a Marathon

1782088_10203288694641122_1539101949_nA marathon is one of the best metaphors for so many things in life.  Now that I’ve crossed the finish line, I can’t help but share some of them with you.  If you follow my blog in any way, you’ll know I’ve got a few months left to share of my entire journey of reaching 26.2.  But before its conclusion, I have to share these life lessons while it’s still fresh on my mind:

1. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  A marathon, like so many good things in life, isn’t easy.  Sometimes, you gotta just deal.

2. Listen to your coach when he tells you to sandbag your energy early on in the race.  It will make all the difference when you face the hardest miles.

3.  Everybody needs a Korista Lewis in their life.  I was supposed to have run the Dallas Marathon with her and our friend, Amy Farley.  However, it was cancelled due to a freak ice storm.  She found another race that same weekend and got her finisher’s medal.  Amy, who’s already completed 2 marathons, had to go back to Africa where she lives.  So Korista came to cheer me on.  And did she ever!  Picture this: hundreds of runners plowing through neighborhood streets with just a handful of spectators.  It was pretty quiet.  Until Korista saw me.  That girl made an absolute fool out of herself jumping up and down and screaming, “Amy Van Pay!!!  Woohoo!!  You’ve got this!!! You’re looking great!!”  Of course, I shamelessly threw my hands in the air letting everyone know I was the one getting those cheers!   It was like getting gas put in my tank.  Yes, EVERYONE needs a Korista Lewis.

4.  Speaking of cheerleaders…nothing trumps family cheering you on and telling you how proud they are of you.  Nothing.  It’s an added bonus when your parents, your in-laws, and your husband all take turns running alongside you.  My race would’ve been so much harder without my family!securedownload

5.  “The Wall” might not jump up around the corner at mile 20 like everyone says.  Instead, she might ruthlessly taunt you from miles 11 to 21.  So at mile 18 you might have to start singing out loud with your iPod, “Settle down.  It’ll all be clear.  Don’t pay no mind to the demons they fill you with fear.” (Phillip Phillips ‘Home’)

6.  Your ability to endure is directly related to how sure you are of finishing.  The burden of being 100% unsure of crossing that line, can mess up your pace, breathing, ability to take in nourishment, pretty much everything you need to complete this thing.  Conversely, 100% certainty is like putting wings on your heels.  It gives strength to your stride and pep to your pace.

7.  Maybe you can.  Maybe you can’t.  You won’t know until your foot steps over the starting line.

8.  As proud as I am of getting it, I know that medals gather dust.  But the memories of what I just accomplished are planted seeds that will grow.  My kids saw me finish, my parents saw me finish, my in-laws saw me finish, my husband saw me finish, I saw myself finish.  Only God knows all that will spring up from there.

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14 Cents Off

securedownloadNot 14 cents short.  14 cents OFF.  I worked an entire day to get our personal finances in order, only to end up 14 cents off.  It might as well have been $1400 off.  Actually, that would’ve much easier to find!

And this doesn’t end with bookkeeping.  Right now, it feels like my entire life is 14 cents off.  I need to get childcare for some upcoming events: all my regulars are booked.  There are appointments to be scheduled: they won’t return my calls.  Laundry: I think our socks are having babies and leaving their mates.  Jerks.

I could go on, but suffice it to say, I’ve been hopelessly overwhelmed.  A few days ago, I sat on my couch frozen from the sheer weight of it all.  The well was dried up and I had nothing to offer all the loose ends.  Honestly, I was really down.  REALLY down.  And that’s just not me.

It was like God started waving the red flags in my heart.  I had to deal with this.  Now.  And by “deal”, I don’t mean continuing to hammer at that list of unfinished business.  I shut it down and let it all sit for about 3 days.  And although that meant more sock babies, it also meant finding center again.

I sat with my 6 year old to work a 500 piece puzzle.  We would work a little here, a little there.  Sometimes, we’d be there an hour, sometimes just 5 minutes.  Never did we weary of the process.  We wouldn’t have enjoyed it if it were quick and easy.  As we plugged away, I could see the Holy Spirit teaching me the greater lesson: when you trust there’s a bigger picture, you can tolerate the details.  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (NIV, emphasis mine)

It does all happen for a reason.  And I don’t have to know the reason to trust its validity, because I trust in the One who is making it all work together for my good.  Even my promiscuous socks.

 

You’re Accountable

1448178195_5780cfd315_oI’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts lately. Some of my favorites have been from the Catalyst Podcast. Each one opens with a series of quotes by conference speakers. The last one always lands on me like a foghorn wake-up call. It’s the voice of Andy Stanley saying, “Leadership is a stewardship. It is temporary. And YOU’RE accountable!”
Boom. Like the Holy Spirit is looking me straight in the eyes, brows raised.
See, I have been waiting for this season for several years. I’ve longed to step out and pursue this calling of speaking and writing. But I’ve always sensed the reigns pulling me back. God saying, “Not yet.” Along with it has come an inexplicable peace, because “yet” implies what will be.
Several months ago, I realized the reigns were gone. The light turned green. To look at my life’s circumstances, the timing doesn’t make a lot of sense. Still, it’s undeniably go-time. And I couldn’t be more excited!
However, this excitement came with an old foe: fear. Not so much of the unknown, but the known reactions that will come as result of stepping outside the box of expectation. You’d think I’d be used to this, but, honestly, it’s frustrating.
There are a lot of people in my life that would be so much more comfortable with my husband and I serving on staff at a church. It fits their mold of ministry for us. This is a valiant and amazing calling, to be sure. But it isn’t our calling. God has led us to the unconventional: we are chaplains to endurance athletes while coaching ministers with their health. Both ministries do not exist anywhere else in the form we are taking them. We’d like to say we’re pioneers in the ministry. Others would call us floundering idiots.
So this is just another opportunity to invite criticism. And I’ve already felt it. Some aren’t outright critics, but their silence speaks loud and clear. And that silence is so painful. That said, “Leadership is a stewardship. It is temporary. And YOU’RE accountable.”
I’m not alone here. Thus, the reason for this post. I believe their are men and women serving in positions trying with all their might to measure up to the expectations around them. All the while, they’re longing for it to be different. Maybe it’s not where they’re serving that’s the issue, but HOW they’re serving. They’re sitting reading this post and they’re heart is welling up inside knowing exactly what I’m talking about. God has given them the green light, but the expectations of man are keeping them confined to their little spot.
It’s scary. It’s complicated. It’s messy. It’s not even safe. But, “Leadership is a stewardship. It is temporary. And YOU’RE accountable.”
Here’s what I know: when I’ve exhausted myself pleasing people, I’m left depleted and empty. But when I’ve exhausted myself pleasing God, I’m left fulfilled and recharged. God has called us and gifted us for specific purposes. We MUST step out. We MUST follow His call. We are ABSOLUTELY accountable to it.

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I’m Not Just “The Wife”

sad-brideI’m writing this for one reason only: my daughter.  I want the world she grows up in to be better than the one in which I did.

That’s not to say mine was all that bad.  My parents loved and cared for me beautifully.  I went to the same church, under the same pastor, my entire upbringing.  My dad was a deacon.  We were highly, no, extremely involved and I loved it all.  But there was a void I never knew existed until recently.  You see, I didn’t have anyone ever say, “Women can’t preach/lead/teach/pastor/whatever…”  No one even whispered under their breath, “A woman’s place is not speaking behind a pulpit.”  In fact, I was raised under a doctrine that supports all of that.  Still, I heard these messages loud and clear.

Here’s where all the women were growing up: directing women’s ministries (my concept of it was a home decorating party that made women feel obligated to buy stuff), leading children’s church, teaching Sunday School, cooking for all the major church meals, and singing.  I can recall one woman speaking behind the pulpit.  I think she was a missionary sharing her testimony.  That’s it.

And here I was.  I knew God was calling me to a life of ministry.  I can remember saying often that I was going to be a preacher’s wife.  There was man who would always say, “No, Amy, you’re gonna make someone a preacher’s husband.”  I always laughed, because it didn’t fit the mold I was given.  I could sing.  That was the obvious choice.

And sing I did.  I loved it, and even earned a degree in it.  So I led worship in whatever church we were on staff at.  There’s nothing altogether wrong about this.  However, it took me years to discover a greater call in me to speak.  I was single when I graduated college, and a few mentors encouraged me to get as many letters behind my name as possible.  I was gonna need it in this highly masculine world called church. So I made sure to get my license to be a minister.  After I got married, I went on to becoming ordained.

In the last few years, I sort of figured this whole speaking thing was something new about myself; as though God had placed an entirely new gift in me.  But that couldn’t be further from the truth.  When I sit and think about it, I can remember nightly sermons I would preach to myself in front of my dresser mirror in my bedroom.  And boy, I could drive a point home!  Getting ready for school, I would have messages burning in my heart to say to nobody but my hairbrush and curling iron.  And what about the man who always talked about my preacher’s husband?  Why did I never recognize this glaringly obvious call to speak?  Because there were no examples in my world.  None.

That brings me to today.  When my new ministers card comes in the mail each year, it’s addressed to me, then “Mrs R M” (my husband’s initials).  When I go to a minister’s meeting, oftentimes my name badge says “spouse”.  Listen, I’m not trying to get up in a tissy over little things people are probably doing unintentionally.  This isn’t me being some kind of uber-feminist coming in with my elbows swinging trying knock down the men.  No, this is me saying I’ve been set back from my calling for decades because what we SAY is acceptable is a far cry from what we DO.

Pastor, if you don’t have a woman on your speaking schedule this year, you are overlooking an awesome opportunity to let a highly qualified and anointed voice bring the Word to your congregation.  Denominational leader, if your name badges/addressing systems for mail aren’t recognizing women for who they are on their own two feet, you are diminishing a divinely appointed call on a life.  Young lady, if you feel a message always stirring in your spirit to speak, don’t wait for a mold to open up for you, break that mold and preach it!

Changes need to be made within our churches.  I don’t want this just for myself.  I want it for my little girl.

5 Reasons Why I’m Coaching For Fit Pastors

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January 8, 2014, FitPastors.com is officially launching and I, for one, couldn’t be more excited. (Read all about what it is here). Here’s why:
1. I want to help women in ministry get healthy. They face their own set of challenges that often contribute to poor eating habits and no time for exercise or self care.
2. I want to help ministry families. I have one of my own and understand how important it is to get easy, inexpensive, and nutritious meals on the table. Keeping health a priority in the home will benefit our families in every area.
3. I’ve dealt with my own set of soda and fast food addictions. However, most people would say I shouldn’t worry about it because it never caused me to become overweight. This is where godly character steps in and makes changes. While my waistline wasn’t affected immediately, my long-term health would’ve definitely taken the hit.
4. I bring a woman’s perspective. The Fit Pastors team recognizes the importance of having a well-rounded approach to coaching men and women in their fitness. We believe both genders should be present to accomplish this.
5. I believe, passionately, in a good splurge. Yeah, you read that right! Just like in the Bible, there is a time and place to feast. The trouble is, our over-indulgent society has misconstrued this entire concept. I want to teach ministers how to indulge appropriately without letting the sin of gluttony raise its ugly head.
This is going to be a life-changing experience for so many. I love that I get to be in on it!!! Click here to enroll in the academy! Do it today for an early bird 10% discount using EARLYBIRD for the code! While you’re at it, share this post on Facebook or Twitter!

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.

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.