Life Is A Race

Life is a race. Not a competitive race. Everyone's life is just a different race.

Our race may change course, there may be obstacles we must overcome, but if we keep our eyes on the Lord, we will reach our finish line and receive our prize. It is not always about the finish line, though. The journey is just as important. We need to make sure we don't miss something along the way while keeping our eyes on the prize.

Because I am a Christian and an athlete, this analogy is easy for me to see. Why do I race? Not to win (otherwise I would have given up long ago), but because it is a personal challenge. I'm a woman wearing so many hats -- wife, mother, Sunday School teacher, school volunteer, soccer mom -- juggling life's joys and frustrations. Talk about personal challenges! I hope to use this blog as an outlet for my frustrations and a proclamation of my joys as I tackle all the challenges I face in life.

One of my favorite Bible verses that helps me get through the hard times and relates to racing is also imprinted on my Road ID:

But those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:31

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What is Your Noise?

As I walked outside this evening to go for a run, the first thing I noticed was how clear the sky was and how bright the moon was shining. The sky wasn't completely dark. It was a deep, dark blue straight up, lightening toward the horizon. There were quite a few stars out, but only a few were quite bright. The others seemed quite dim; dimmed by all the lights surrounding me. I had to strain to see them. Some nights they are brighter, but not tonight.

I did not wear my ipod tonight because it was dark when I began my run. So, I was alone with my thoughts and God for one hour. As I observed the stars and the moon and the sky, a memory came to me. We invited some friends to my in-law's ranch for the weekend last summer. Their ranch is located in Voca, TX, which I'm sure no one has heard of, but it is near Brady, TX, which some people have heard of. The point is that it is out in the middle of nowhere, in the hill country. After we had gotten the kids to bed, we were all so tired, but I told our friends they had to come outside to see the stars. There are no city lights to dim the stars, so you can see millions of stars. All of God's creation is right there in front of your eyes. You can even see the Milky Way! It is truly awesome! It is almost surreal. It was a clear night, and I remember my friend in awe over all the stars you could see. She then said she'd never seen a shooting star. So, we insisted they lie down on the flatbed trailer in the driveway and look for shooting stars with us. God delivered. She saw her first shooting star that night.

As I thought about this memory, I smiled. I smiled first because it was such a happy memory for me but also because I began to think about God's wonderful creation of the universe. Those stars are always there, but we cannot always see them because of our surrounding "noise". The city lights are the noise drowning out the beautiful night sky. Then, I thought about the noise surrounding me every day that can drown out God's voice.
What if God is trying to speak to me as he spoke to Elijah in a soft whisper? How will I hear him if I have too much noise surrounding me? "Noise" can come in so many forms. It can be literal "noise," such as the TV, the kids, the washing machine, etc... Sometimes, our "noise" is not literal noise, though.

What is my noise?

I thought about this for a while. I do have the literal noise, especially during the summer when I rarely have a quiet house. Why can't God speak more loudly in the summer? Then, there is just my brain noise. That's what gets me in trouble. It happens to all of us. I'll start praying, then when God is just about to speak, I'll start thinking of my to do list -- laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, house cleaning, errands, take kids to soccer, home improvement projects, finances, and on and on. My noise changes from day to day. It may be quiet in my house, but I sometimes still have noise keeping me from hearing God's voice. What is your noise? How do you turn it off?

I must learn to silence the noise in order to hear God. It is much more difficult at times, especially when there is literal noise. I find it a challenge in the summer when the kids are at home. We're sleeping in (there goes morning quiet time), and we're trying to keep ourselves occupied with any activity we can think of. The kids are always around, and it is rarely quiet except in the evenings when I'm tired. It is just noisy. Literally. When I do find quiet time, though, I need to turn off all the other noise and focus on God. God speaks to us, but we must be listening because He might speak to us in that soft whisper. I know I can turn off that noise and focus if I just ask God to help me do that, just as we were able to see so many stars on that clear night in Voca, TX. There was no noise. Only silence and God's creation in all its Glory.

I often find myself also asking God a question then answering it myself before I've listened for His answer. I just get impatient. I want answers, and I want them now. I'm type A and a planner. I don't like the unknown. I've had to learn to roll with the punches at times, though. I've gotten better about that, especially since having kids, but I still need help in that area.

Help me, O Lord, to silence the noise that keeps me from hearing your voice, to listen, and to be patient in waiting for the answer.

By the way, it was a great run!!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Finding the Right Path

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about what I want to do once Carter (my 4 year old) is in school full time. Not that I need to do anything, but I think I would like at least a part time job. My degree is in Music Education, but I've been away from it so long, I don't think I want to go back there. There are really not many options for a part time job in that area. It's full time and overtime! Not what I want. I could teach privately, but that would have to happen in the evenings, which cuts into family time. So, using my degree probably isn't going to happen. It has been hard for me to accept that, but I'm o.k. with it now.

So....what now? Well, I've thought about becoming a certified triathlon coach and/or a personal trainer. I've gone back and forth between these two. I had made up my mind that I wanted to go ahead with the USAT certification to become a triathlon coach, and I almost signed up for the clinic here in Austin last fall, but I stopped myself. I realized I still had 2 years before I could really use it, so I decided not to do the certification at that time. Since then, I've stepped back and really thought and prayed about it, and I'm leaning toward the personal trainer certification instead. I can start out at a gym then move on and do my own thing. I'm still not 100% sure, but I don't need to make the decision right now.

I've been having my quiet time every evening this week, which has made a huge difference. I've felt better (except for my mold allergies!), and I've been able to fit in my workouts. For a couple nights, I pulled out a couple daily devotional books I have and just read the devotional for that day. I don't know why I was surprised to read 2 days in a row about God directing my path.

He was speaking directly to me.

One of the passages was about a man riding his bike along a bike trail. This is really speaking to me, isn't it? The man was riding along and couldn't find the trail, then he looked in a direction he hadn't thought to look. God spoke to him "If you seek Me in all directions, you will find your way through the problems of the day." The verse was "I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." Psalm 34:4 The next day's verse was "The Lord shall guide thee continually..." Isaiah 58:11 Then, in another devotional book, on the same day, the verse was "Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness because of my enemies -- make straight your way before me." Psalm 5:8

I think it is pretty obvious what I need to be doing. I just need to pray for guidance and have faith that He will lead me down the right path. I'm so afraid of failure, but I just need to trust Him, not only in this decision, but in my daily life decisions.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

At His Feet For 8.3 Miles

It's amazing what can happen on a long run....besides running. I should really start at the beginning, though...

The past couple weeks have just been stressful and frustrating for me. I couldn't pinpoint a particular reason why, though. My kids were (and still are) at each other's throats, ready for school to start. They weren't listening and definitely weren't doing anything the first time I told them. Camille & Julia continue to aggravate Carter then pretend they don't know why he's upset. None of my kids seem to appreciate anything I do. Carter will cry when he doesn't get his way. I end up responding by yelling at them, and the girls just talk back. I'm about to pull my hair out after 2 weeks of this! How many more days until school starts? Then, to top it all off, Clark comes home on Monday and gripes me out for no reason because I told him I was having a mom's night out on Thursday with a friend that I've been planning for a while and that I desperately need. Then, he gives me a hard time again a few days later about something else stupid. He was not talking nicely to me at all and really hurt my feelings to the point I cried. Not a good week. But why?

I realized later that Clark is probably just stressed about starting his class this week on top of training for a marathon and meeting deadlines at work. It still didn't make me feel better.

Things were so great up until July. I was the Director of our VBS, and things went so well. I couldn't have asked for a better week. The weeks leading up to that were exhausting but well worth it. I received so many thank you notes, even some I never expected. I was seeing so many blessings!

What changed? I have more time to spend with my kids now. Why has it not been enjoyable?

Last weekend, I traveled to Waco for my first triathlon of the season. My friend, Tara, was coming with me to also race the Olympic distance triathlon. We were staying with my college roommate, Beverly, and her husband, John, who would be completing his first triathlon by doing the sprint. I didn't feel as prepared as I have in the past, but I knew I was ready. When we went out to dinner, though, I had a weird cramp in my diaphragm area when I sat down in the van. It was tight and painful. It went away when I got out. Then, it came back even worse when I got back in the van to go back to their house, and it took a while to go away. I didn't think much of it, but I was feeling a little anxious, which isn't like me before a race that I'm ready for. Why am I stressed about this race?

So, on Sunday I raced my triathlon, but I got a flat tire right out of transition. It was a bummer, and I realized I should have paid more attention when my tire was low a few days before. I should have changed that tube. The same thing happened to me last year at The Austin Tri. I should have learned the first time. The run ended up being crazy hilly, and the last 2 miles were really hot, so I doubt I would have had a record-breaking time anyway. I still had fun. Tara completed her first Olympic distance tri and John completed his first tri with an excellent time. Even with the flat, I came in 7th in my age group, which isn't too bad. It was a really fun time, but I was a bit disappointed.

What's going on? Just bad luck?

Then, I went for a run early Thursday morning. These are usually my best runs because it is cool and quiet and I can relax and have quiet time to myself. Sometimes I don't even take my ipod. On Thursday, my legs felt great, but my breathing was labored. I felt like I couldn't get enough air and my chest was tight. My heart rate was low, though. Weird. It took at least 3 miles before my chest relaxed a bit. It was similar to the feeling I had in the van on Saturday night, but not painful.

Why am I so stressed? It's summer. What is going on with me?

This all led up to today. Today is when I had an epiphany, if you want to call it that. It was more like a kick in the rear or a "Duh" moment.

I finally made it to church after a few weeks because of my race and vacation. Our Rector is on vacation, and we have a new curate, Christine Falstich. I hadn't heard her preach yet. I had only just met her during VBS, which were her first couple days at St. Matt's. Her sermon was short, but WOW.

I really like her.

So, it was Jesus's parable about the man who is rich and has many crops but finds himself with a surplus and wonders what to do with them. He decides to tear down his barn and build a bigger one so that he can store it all up and eat, drink, and be merry. Christine pointed out that it is not hard to see the parallels between the society of 2000 years ago and our society today in this story. The one thing she thought was different and kind of odd was the fact that the man would eat, drink, and be merry because he had saved enough. In our society, we never seem to have enough. Then, God asks what the man is going to do with all those crops if he is to die tomorrow. Instead of focusing on the obvious -- what God says we should do with our money -- she said it really focuses on what we are living for. We tend to focus our lives on certain accomplishments for our own society, but what are we really living for?

Why am I here? Why do I do what I do?

This hit me hard. I started thinking about that. I started to ask God for forgiveness for the past few weeks. I realized that I had not talked to God much at all over the past few weeks. Where have you been? I began asking Him to forgive me for not talking to him and for thinking too much about how we are going to pay for things. With our recent renovation, things have been tight. Why are you worrying? Trust in me. I have been thinking of what type of job I should get within the next year. I will take care of you. I realized how selfish I have been lately. Get yourself out of the way so I can work through you. I've focused on training and racing. Who are you doing this for and why are you trying to do it alone?

The tears started welling as the sermon was coming to an end. Later, I prayed more during Prayers of the People, and the tears came welling up again. It was coming out. Now I understand, Lord. I'm so sorry we haven't talked. I need you. Help me to do better. Help me be a better mother. Help me make time to talk to you. We'll talk more later. I promise.

I already felt better. We had a wonderful afternoon. We went to HEB and had a great lunch followed by quiet time reading and relaxing. I finished putting my clarinet back together so I can sell it. Later, we all played fooseball together after dinner and dessert. Then, I headed out for a long run while Clark watched a movie with the kids. It was 8:00, which is exactly when I had planned to leave.

My plan was to run 8 miles. I hadn't run that far since February, so I wasn't expecting much. I put Gatorade out on the porch and planned to run my 5 mile loop back to the house to get some Gatorade, then my 3.25 mile loop once it was dark. I could ditch the ipod at that point too since I don't run with it after dark.

I started out and felt a little sluggish, but it was hot -- 90 degrees. I knew I'd warm up and get in a rhythm. I had an easy pace in mind, but not too easy. I started talking to God while running, even with my ipod on. I talked to him about everything going on. I asked Him for help. I asked Him for forgiveness. I praised Him.

I was At His Feet for 8.3 miles.

I decided to keep the ipod once I got back to the house because some good music was on at the time, and I was inspired to talk to God. When I neared 7 miles, my legs were getting tired. I hadn't run that far since my marathon in February. At that point, my run of Christian songs came on my ipod. First, Natalie Grant's Anything: I may never be a star, but I close my eyes and there You are. You simply say to me that I can do, I can do anything! I may never walk the ocean blue, but I know that I can talk to You. I believe that with my trust in You, I can do anything! That one gets me going every time, then the one that really grabbed me was Everlasting God by Lincoln Brewster. The lyrics contain the Bible verse that I love and have quoted at the top of this blog. The child at the end of that song gets me every time. My pace had slowed down a bit, and I didn't think I'd be able to speed it back up. When I heard that song, I started running at a faster pace. The wind was in my face, and I just ran...and ran...and ran. When I reached the bottom of the biggest hill on my run, another inspiring song came on, so I just kept running all the way up that hill. I ran all the way home, running strong. He gave me strength and I was soaring on wings like eagles! My pace dropped 7 seconds per mile over that last mile. I felt great!

When I reached home, I grabbed my Gatorade and drank the rest as I did my cool down walk. While walking, I put my cool down music on, which was the song I Can Only Imagine. Again, tears. Tears of joy and praise! I looked up and saw the Big Dipper and a shooting star. God's wonderful creation.

Now I know why my summer has been stressful. I've been trying to tackle my jobs of mother and wife by myself. I've been trying to train for triathlons on top of that....alone. I cannot rely on anyone but Him to raise me up and give me strength. I know this, yet I have failed God. But He forgives.

At His feet is where I will be.