Thursday, June 30, 2011

Running a Good Race

In preparation of the upcoming Peachtree Road Race, and in honor of our approaching thirteenth wedding anniversary, I'm posting something I journaled nearly a year ago.

A strange mixture of feelings engulfed me as I awoke Sunday morning:  anticipation, excitement, fear, nervousness, hope, uncertainty, and relief.  My feelings were justified.  For you see, Derek and I were about to run in our first-ever 10K race, Georgia's own Peachtree Road Race, to be precise.  Ever since I started working out two years ago, I had this goal in mind—to run down the streets of hot Atlanta, on the fourth of July, with 50,000 other people doing the exact same thing.  Now it was time. 

As our wave of runners approached the starting line, I had already been to the Port-a-Potty five times, because of the amount of water they tell you to drink before running, but mostly because of my hyperactive nerves.  For an ardent observer like me, the visual and auditory stimuli were almost overwhelming at times.  I watched the people intensely—how they prepared, what they were wearing, how they behaved.  I heard the announcer on the loudspeaker, giving instructions, encouraging the crowd, counting down.  I looked up and saw the enormous American flag waving over my head, and most of all, I felt the near-smothering intensity of the runners on every side of me.  Truly, this is a day to celebrate and remember forever.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1-3

The crowd started running and we joined them.  I set the timer on my watch, smiled at Derek and we headed off.  We had discussed starting slowly, making sure we paced ourselves for the 6.2 miles looming ahead of us.  In this case, it was easy to do that.  The number of people surrounding us made a quick sprint near impossible.  The feeling was exhilarating.  A friend told me running the Peachtree could be compared to being in a parade.  She was correct.  There were bands playing upbeat music throughout the course.  There were unknown fans on either side cheering for perfect strangers.  And there was a feeling of expectancy in the air.

My prayer leading up to the race was that Derek and I would run the race marked out for us with perseverance and that we would run without growing weary or losing heart.  I also had some personal goals.  I did not want to stop running, unless absolutely necessary.  Even if it was a very slow jog, I wanted to keep moving.  Derek and I had also discussed the possibility of one of us running ahead in case the other one had to stop.  We agreed, for the most part though, to stay with each other throughout the race. 

Sometime after mile four, Derek looked at me, utterly exhausted and clearly struggling with the constant pain in his knee and said, "I have to stop.  You go on."  Really?  Now?  We just made it over the infamous "Cardiac Hill".  We're over half-way there.  We can do anything now.  We're on the down-hill slide.  Come on, Derek.  Don't stop.  Keep running.  As much as he wanted, he couldn't keep going at that moment.  He was in pain.  He was wounded.  He didn't want to fall.  He needed to rest.

So, I had a choice to make in that moment.  Would I run ahead of him, leaving him on his own, or would I stay?  My heart was pumping.  My legs were moving.  I was experiencing what they call, "a second wind".  I wanted to pick up the pace, and Derek needed to slow it down.  

Therefore, in a very uncharacteristic, unselfish move on my part, I chose to slow down my run to a near stagnant jog.  He earnestly tried to wave me on, saying, "Go!"  I kept turning around, saying, "No, come on!"  I stayed just a bit in front of him, constantly looking back over my shoulder to see how he was doing, watching runners who we'd passed earlier, whizzing past us.  It was frustrating and honestly more than this competitive first-born could handle.

After a few minutes passed, I looked back impatiently, and saw Derek running to catch up with me. With huge smiles on our perspiring faces, we pressed on.  Still trying to encourage him, I eagerly sought out the mile five sign up ahead and said, "Come on.  This thing is almost over.  We can do it."  Those words became a mantra in my head, as well as, words I spoke to him as we passed mile six and came closer to the finish line. 

As we sprinted downhill for the last part of the race, the action intensified.  People seemed to be everywhere.  A great cloud of witnesses, spectators, on both sides of the street, cheered us on toward our goal.  I was overwhelmed with emotion at that moment.  I looked over at Derek and said, "Give me your hand."  I wanted to cross the finish line with my husband, hands held high in victory, celebrating our accomplishment. 

"You were running a good race.  Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?  That kind of persuasion does not come from the One who calls you." Galatians 5:7-8

But as he reached out to grab my hand, out of nowhere, a woman cut in front of him, becoming this huge obstacle for him to avoid.  She and Derek nearly collided so close to the final leg of the race.  By the grace of God, and minus any major stumbles, he managed to get around her without injury and catch back up with me a few steps from the finish line.  Amazingly, we had reached our destination.  Race over.  Mission accomplished.

"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 Corinthians 9:24

Exhausted and trying our best to recover from the run, we followed the weary crowd toward the volunteers handing out souvenir bags.  Only the participants who finish the race get their much-anticipated prize, the coveted Peachtree Road Race t-shirt.  As the bag was placed into my hands, I held on to it for dear life.  A feeling of pure exhilaration surged through me.  So proud that we'd run in such a way as to get the prize.  Our desire was to finish well, finish strong.  We did.  Together.  Just the way we imagined when we started this adventure a long time ago.

"But thanks be to God!  He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
1 Corinthians 15:57

Thank you, Jesus, for setting the ultimate example for us to follow.  You endured the cross and never gave in to the opposition from all sides.  You finished strong and were victorious.  Specifically, today I pray for my marriage.  As Derek and I approach our twelve-year wedding anniversary, may You continue to strengthen us, reminding us to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  Let us fix our eyes on You, the author and finisher of our faith.  May we run and not grow weary, nor lose heart, knowing that we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.  Empower us to run in such a way as to get the prize--Your approval, Your affirmation, Your blessings.  We are running a good race.  Protect us from those people and circumstances that might try to cut in on us and keep us from obeying the Truth.  May we finish well and finish strong.  Thanks be to You, God!  You give us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

July 7, 2010

Friday, June 24, 2011

In the Storm

Biopsy. CT scan. Surgery. Malignant. Port. MRI. Bone scan. Chemo. Cancer.

Not one of these terms ever crossed my friends' minds two weeks ago. Two weeks ago they were a happy, active family thinking only of all-star baseball, swimming, and making plans to get down to the beach. Now, less than two weeks later, they are striving to navigate the raging winds, the crashing waves, and the drenching rains of the worst storm of their adult lives.

Their six year old son is the one in need of rescue, in need of deliverance, in need of healing. And his parents are right there with him in the fragile boat as it’s being tossed about in the tumultuous waters.

Just this past week my dear friends' son was diagnosed with an extremely rare kind of bone cancer--Ewings Sarcoma. He had not one symptom before, but then a small, suspicious lump on his left jawbone became the first indication something wasn't quite right. Even after ingesting nearly two rounds of antibiotics, the lump continued to grow and consequently, more urgent action was taken.

Now this active little boy is experiencing things no child should have to face in his or her lifetime. He's being as brave and as strong as he possibly can, mustering courage neither he, nor his parents, even knew he possessed. He's already being described as a "hero" by those who know him and love him the most.

No one who has ever battled cancer wants cancer. Not one soul raises his or her hand and willingly volunteers to take on this brutal disease. Cancer is non-discriminative.  It doesn’t care who it attacks—male, female, adult, child.  Unfortunately, over and over again we hear stories of those who are now forced to face this vicious giant head on.  My friends’ son has just now been added to that sacred list.

The journey ahead of this family is unknown. Not even the physicians can predict exactly what will happen during treatment, in between treatments, and even post-treatment. They can only suspect what will transpire. They can only guess. The family can only imagine. And hope. And pray.

So, without hesitation, that’s what we do.  We pray.  We pray.  And we pray.  We appeal to our Father, carrying our burdens, our cares and our worries to Him. And then, we revel in the fact that in a host of unknowns, we know the sovereign One who knows it all-- how this chapter in the story of their lives began and ultimately, how it will end.

As believers in the risen Son of God, we have hope--great hope, “hope as our anchor, firm and secure.” We can trust all of the question marks in our minds to the One who pens the story Himself. We can fall back into His arms, letting go and letting Him hold all things together by His strong hands. We can rest knowing He sees, He hears and He acts on behalf of His children.

We are not left alone to fight these battles ourselves, because “the LORD is our warrior”. The Word promises He goes on ahead of us to prepare the way. We are told to stand firm, watch Him work and wait for our deliverance.

When we hear of these storms, these trials, these times of suffering in others' lives or we are experiencing them first-hand, we desperately need to hold on, clinging to the One who "even the winds and waves obey." We have to remember we are not alone. Repeatedly, His Word reminds us to "Fear not", because He is with us. His Word promises us we will not be consumed, even when it seems the waters and the rivers are rising around us, even when it seems we are walking straight through the fire. The waters will not sweep over us and we will not be burned (Isaiah 43).

Rest assured.  He is with us.  Always.  He will never leave us.  The "Father of compassion" and the "God of all comfort" is with us.  In the midst of the storm.  Especially, in the midst of the storm.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

Another Father's Day has come and gone. 

In our house, it's affectionately referred to as "Daddy's Day."  My husband gets the privilege of choosing the meal, selecting the activities and of course, receiving the gifts.  How blessed is he to have three females looking for all sorts of ways to spoil him throughout the day! 

And he deserves every bit of it.  He has modeled the love of Christ, the patience of Christ and the steadfastness of Christ from the moment he became a father.  

There is no doubt in my mind that my girls will have an accurate representation of who their Heavenly Father is because of their earthly daddy.  And I earnestly pray they marry someone just like him, too!
The two reasons he proudly wears the title, "Dad"

Showing Daddy some love!

After nearly thirteen years of marriage, I finally made his favorite dessert, banana pudding!
Quote of the day came from Grace, "I love banana pudding--well, except for all the bananas."
His opinion?  "You nailed it, honey."  Yay!

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!"  1 John 3:1

Having breakfast at IHOP with my dad on Saturday.
So grateful for a dad who has always been there and who loves me regardless.
 Happy Father's Day to my father, the father of my children and my Everlasting Father!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Thank You

"Thank you."  Two simple words.  So easy to say.  So refreshing to hear.  So why then, does this phrase seem so obsolete?

"thankful - aware and appreciative of a benefit; grateful"
In the midst of a hectic morning earlier this week, my normally ultra-sensitive eldest daughter invited a heart-to-heart lecture on this very subject by a statement she expressed to me.  When I asked her if she needed me to take care of something for her before we left the house, she replied, "Well, you should've done it already."  Needless to say, her words struck a chord with me, realizing a "talk" was essential at this very moment. 

I pulled one of my famous "Mom cards" from the deck and started naming the multitude of things I had, in fact, already done before the girls even got out of bed.  I also gently, yet firmly, explained that I am not their slave.  I choose to serve them because I love them and want to take care of the little details in their lives, not because someone mandates I do so. 

I further explained how nice it would be to hear, "thank you" once in a while.  Not because we, as their parents, force them, but because their heart is truly grateful for what they've been given.

At that moment, I sensed God in my spirit saying, "Me too.  I feel the same way about my children." 

Oh.  Right.  Got it.  Heard you, Father.  Loud and clear.

I wouldn't describe myself as ungrateful or unappreciative.  My heart is, in fact, filled to overflowing with gratitude to my God--for who He is and what He's done in my life.  The problem is that I just don't express it nearly enough.  Not like I should.  Not as much as He'd enjoy.

So, this morning I purposely entered "His gates with thanksgiving", expressing appreciation and gratitude for all the benefits I receive from Him.

Thank you, Lord, for Your presence in my life.
Thank you for Your constant provision; I never lack for a thing.
Thank you for filling my heart with Your everlasting, steadfast love.
Thank you for giving me a wonderful family to love and care for.
Thank you for being trustworthy and faithful.
Thank you for being my Strength when I have none.
Thank you for never leaving me alone.
Thank you for going ahead of me and fighting the battles for me.
Thank you for Your listening ear and for hearing my heart.
Thank you most of all, for eternal security through Your Son.

"Give thanks with a grateful heart. 
Give thanks to the Holy One. 
Give thanks because He's given Jesus Christ, His Son. 

And now, let the weak say I am strong. 
Let the poor say I am rich. 
Because of what the Lord has done for us.  Give thanks."

I know I will.  And I will be praying and teaching my girls to do the same. 

Friday, June 10, 2011


One of my most precious joys of summertime is simply watching my girls play.  Yes, play.  Without the constant rushing around and the expectation of being somewhere at a definite time, they have the opportunity to think, create, and imagine without time restraints.  They can become different people and their toys can take on new identities.   

Without a doubt, playing is what I remember most about being a little girl.  Not necessarily the costly vacations to the beach, the trips to swim in the community pool, or even the ways my parents may have tried to fill our days with entertainment, but the hours I spent just playing—independently and with friends.

“It is a happy talent to know how to play.”
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

I recall spending vast amounts of time playing in my own room with my most cherished toys, my Cabbage Patch dolls, pretending they were my own little babies. I fed them, changed their "soiled" diapers and even put them down for naps.  I remember driving Barbie and Ken around in their pink Corvette, pausing every once in a while for a quick dip in the Barbie pool or a shopping trip to the mall. 

I can call to mind the numerous hours I spent downstairs in our basement playing school, and of course, being the teacher.  An unused, forgotten ping pong table, turned on its side, functioned as my chalkboard.  An old brown desk, purchased at a neighborhood garage sale, provided a place for me to survey my students from the front of the "classroom".  And stacks of surplus worksheets given to me by my elementary school teachers served as the required work for the day.

“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning....They have to play with
what they know to be true in order to find out more, and then they can use what they
learn in new forms of play.”
--Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

I’ll probably never forget all the times I hauled my child-sized furniture from the basement, placed it under the giant Mimosa tree in my backyard, and imagined I had a home of my very own.  Each branch stretched downward, creating a wall, dividing the house into separate rooms.  I would spend hours at hand pretending to be a mother who took care of her family and the place they lived.

I can recall riding my pink Huffy bike, pedaling up and down our steep neighborhood hill all day long or racing my friends until the street light came on, reminding us all the day was done.  On other days I was a bus driver and my bicycle a bus.  I made frequent stops at each of my neighbor’s driveways waiting for passengers to board so I could transport them to school.

I recollect constant, impromptu games of kickball in my backyard, since we had the largest and flattest piece of property in the subdivision.  I also seem to remember countless victories in which the girls triumphed over the boys—at least that's how it's replayed in my mind now.  J

Each year, the summer was guaranteed to provide times of rest, times of relaxation, and times to just be a kid.  What do kids do best?  Play!  It’s what they’re notorious for, it’s how they acquire information, and it’s what they’ll remember well into adulthood.

“My childhood may be over, but that doesn't mean playtime is.”

So, as each long, blistering day of summer goes by, I am perfectly content not to have organized plans.  I want my girls to experience childhood at its fullest—playing, imagining, and creating pretend worlds and pretend situations which will reside within them long after the summertime has passed.  And who knows?  On any given day, you may find me asking them, “Can I play?”

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Holding Hands

“Mom, Dad, come quick!  Gloria fell!  She’s on the sidewalk and can’t get up!  She’s bleeding!”  Breathless from running, Grace provided us with the details of what had suddenly transpired with her sister.  We’d only just arrived at the pool and the girls wanted to go on ahead of us while my husband and I gathered our gear from the car.  Excitedly, both girls took off toward the gate, the younger one trying desperately to keep up with the older one.  Unfortunately, uneven concrete and new flip flops turned out to be a painful combination for my little one when she stumbled and fell face-first on the hard and unforgiving pavement.

“For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again…” Proverbs 24:16
From an outsider’s perspective, this might just seem like any ordinary childhood accident.  And honestly it was.  But my four year old seems to have had countless mishaps, numerous falls in her early life, more than I ever recall my seven year old having at this age.  Lots of bumps.  Lots of bruises.  Lots of scrapes.  Lots of scratches.  More than enough to cause this mama to worry.

In an effort to protect her and to prevent future accidents, I find myself constantly reiterating these words to her:  “Be careful.”  “Watch your step.”  “Too fast.”  “Slow down, please.”  “Look carefully at where you’re going.”

When she does fall down and if the injury is minor, Gloria tries to reassure me by jumping up, brushing herself off and saying in her sweet sing-song voice, “I’m oka-a-a-ay!”  If the injury is more major, tears are shed, kisses are given, and the “Boo-Boo Bunny” makes his recurrent appearance from the freezer.  Band-Aids are applied and some much-needed T. L. C. (tender loving care) is freely lavished upon the one in pain.

“I, the LORD,… will take hold of your hand…” Isaiah 42:6
But the best and most proactive thing I’ve discovered I can do with my little girl when we’re walking down the street, navigating through a parking lot, or making our way through a building is to reach down and take hold of her hand.  In that instant, when her small, delicate fingers are intertwined with mine, I don’t fear her falling.  I don’t worry about her getting hurt.  She’s secure in my grasp.  She is safe.  There still might be times when she’ll trip over something she doesn’t see in her path or even her own two feet, but she won’t fall down—not while my larger, stronger hand is holding onto hers.  Not when I’m guiding her.  Not when I’m there to catch her, steady her, and help her to stand firm on solid ground.

“If the LORD delights in a man’s way, He makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with His hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

In those precious moments, I sense God, kind and tender in all His ways, showing me that in this life, Gloria may stumble.  On her own, she may trip and she may fall down.  She may get hurt.  She may have wounds.  But if she will stay in the strong and secure grasp of her Heavenly Father, walking with Him all the days of her life and letting Him lead her, her stumbles will be fewer and her falls less painful.

Ultimately, I’m learning it’s not how many times we fall down, but how many times we get back up.  The good news is that we have a Father who picks us up, brushes us off, and places the healing salve of His love and forgiveness upon us.  Many times, if the wounds are too great, He carries us before we’re ready to stand firm again.  We should not be afraid.  Not for ourselves or our children.  He is always with us, giving us the strength we need for the moment.  And most importantly, holding our hand as we walk along the path He’s set before us.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
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