So, my last post inspired me to blog some more about being prepared. This time, it is going to be more run-focused. I have to start with the Advent wreath, though. We have an Advent wreath that sits in the middle of our dining room table (pictured above), and we light it every night for dinnertime. My kids made clay Advent wreaths in Sunday School last Sunday, and of course, they all ask why one candle is pink. So, as I do every year, I looked it up. In case you didn't know or have just forgotten, here is the meaning of each candle:
1st Candle (purple or blue): The Prophecy Candle or Candle of Hope -- We can have hope because God is faithful to us and will keep the promises made to us
2nd Candle (purple or blue): The Bethlehem Candle or Candle of Preparation -- God kept his promise of a Savior who would be born in Bethlehem. Preparation means to "get ready." "Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for Him." Luke 3:4
3rd Candle (pink): The Shepherd Candle or Candle of Joy -- The angels sang a message of Joy! "I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all
the people" Luke 2:11
4th Candle (purple or blue): The Angel Candle or Candle of Love -- God sent his own Son to earth to save us because He loves us!
5th candle (white): Christ Candle -- It reminds us that Jesus is the spotless lamb of God, sent to wash away our sins!
Whether you think of these things week by week during Advent or all together, it doesn't matter. These are the important things to remember. This is what the Christmas season is all about. I'm so glad my kids asked because it was a reminder to me as well as them what to focus on. We must not only focus on these things at Christmastime, though. I struggle with trusting that God knows what he is doing. So, that first candle reminds me that He keeps his promises. I have a reason to hope. Trying to make the decision about coaching was tough for me because I kept doubting. God was calling me to do it, but I still kept doubting. Now, I know I can have hope because He will keep His promise to support me in that calling. When I read Joshua, that was the theme over and over again -- Be courageous, God will fight for you, He will keep His promises.
Then comes the preparation. I think this is what we focus on most during the Christmas season and really all year round. We are always "getting ready" for something. I often get caught up in preparations, especially when someone is coming over. I have to make sure the house is just right. Why? I have to step back sometimes and remember that I am not here to please man. I am always preparing for something, though. Usually it is a race. More about that later.
Then comes the joy part. This is something I discovered recently about myself. I do not like cleaning the house. I do not like doing laundry. I do not like a lot of things that stay at home moms do, though that is my "job" that I chose. (Those things I already knew) I would get discouraged and frustrated because I would put those things off, then I'd get overwhelmed because the house was a mess and I'd take it out on my family, etc.... I discovered that I needed to find joy in doing those things to bless my family. I was looking at it all wrong. I am blessing my family by doing those things. I have recently recruited my daughters to fold laundry, and they actually like doing it (for now), which has been a HUGE help!
Last is Love. I know that God loves me just the way I am. Sometimes I have to remind myself when my clothes don't fit just right or my face is broken out, but lately I've been reminded by those around me who don't seem to know that. There are so many women concerned about their image. They must wear the right clothes, have their hair done, be the perfect weight, own the right purse and the right car. They must get their nails done and always have the perfect house. I used to just get frustrated and downright envious of those who appeared to have it all together. God has helped me to see what's really important. Unfortunately, because I'm seeing people in a different light, I've now started judging, so now I'm working on that. ;) I'm praying for those people, not that they are bad people, but I pray that they know that God loves them no matter what.
So, back to the preparation part since that just seems to be the focus. I'm currently training for my second marathon with my friend, Jen. The training is going quite well. We are doing more mileage than last time (we're up to 33 miles per week), and we're feeling really good about the race. We just ran 20 miles last week and will run 2 more really long runs of 22 and 24 over the next month. I know from experience and from coaching some people and talking to people that training to 20 miles isn't enough for your first few marathons, even though many plans stop at 20. It kind of depends on how much time you have as well. We would rather run more miles than more times per week. The plan we are using also stops at 20, but I revised it. I keep praying that we both stay healthy (no injuries!) and that we have good weather on race day. Those are the only two things that could prevent us from having a great race. When you prepare for so long for a race, you just really want it to be perfect. I have a really hard time handing it over to God, though. I'm a planner, so I will obsess about the weather for 10 days before the race (even though the weather in Texas changes every 5 minutes) as if I can change it. I will calculate and re-calculate our paces for the race and for training. I'll overanalyze what to wear. I think and over think everything! It is ridiculous! I'm sure Jen is glad I do all this planning and thinking so she doesn't have to. ;) The thing is, Jen always beats me. We do the same training, the same preparation, but she beats me, even if just by a few seconds (though the marathon was by a lot more). We are both competitive even though we are friends and training partners. We will never hold each other back in a race, though. We always start together, but we almost never finish together. It's o.k., but it would be nice to actually finish with her this year. If I don't, that's o.k. I'm pretty used to it now (she is 3 years younger than me, and therefore, faster). ;)
Jen and I after our first marathon
Training and preparing for a marathon or any event takes perseverance (pushing on the harder and longer runs), dedication (running even in the cold and rain), and faith. Faith that we can do this. Faith that God will help us succeed. I have decided to do an Ironman in May 2013. I have not yet laid out a year long plan yet, but it is rough in my head. I prayed about this race because a year ago I said there was no way I was doing one. That's because I was going to do an Ironman for the wrong reasons. I do think God is calling me to train for and complete an Ironman in a year and a half, and I have faith I can do it! It will definitely take LOTS of preparation. I need to make sure I allow God to make my plan for me, though. :)
Having hope, joy, and love are part of being a Christian. Those are the things God gives us, but we must remember to prepare our hearts to receive these things and give back to those around us. I must remember to find joy in the little things and not lose hope that can happen because God loves me no matter what!