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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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.

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.

I Am Woman. Hear Me…

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Well, I’m not going to roar. Not my thing, really. I don’t have a problem with that and I hope you don’t either. On this, my inaugural post, I’d like to shine a light on the place these words are coming from.

There are many women out there speaking. Some roar. Some whisper. Those I listen to speak with the voice they’ve been given. One might have a calm, quiet voice with a message louder than that of any lion. Another might have a southern drawl with words as potent as whiskey, but goes down like sweet tea.

Whatever way we have about us, when we speak with the voice we’ve been given, we have power. Why? Because the message we’ve been given is powerful.
I hope to always bring you the words on my heart without forcing any kind of strength on my own.