Friday, November 14, 2014

A Reason to Run (Part 5)




A Place where I learn the dimensions of worship




On May 29th my church’s devotional website published another devotion written by yours truly. I haven’t written much since then. A of a combination of procrastination and deep insecurities continue to keep my creative juices from flowing and sharing freely.
But on November 8th I ran a half marathon, and for the past several days I have been re-reading my running posts; these have inspired me to begin writing again, maybe.


Sadly, this is the only picture taken on that day. Mile three. My bib isn't even showing!


The picture that should have been taken at the finish line...



I thought about my devotional during my race because it was about running, racing and corporate worship. I'd like to share it with you today. It's a good start.



Revelation 7: 9-12

I am a runner, and I love to run alone. I run, among many other reasons, to disengage, escape and unwind. When I run I write great novels, I dream, I pray and I worship. I am not accountable to anyone but myself; no one judges me, demands anything from me, nor depends on me. When I run, I just am.
But when race day arrives, I experience a different dimension of the runner’s life. No matter how fast or slow I go or what brand of shoes I sport or how much money I make, no matter what I look like or what language I speak, I (and all racers) understand that on this day we all had to get up early to put on our running shoes. On race day, we are all in this together.
As complete strangers, we take off at the sound of the gun, pounding our shoes to the ground, yet we now know each other from a common love. We each have a tale that recounts the aches and pains we have all endured: it chronicles discipline, frustration and exhaustion. On that day we breathe in together in unison, and as we breathe out, our stories and souls unite in such a way that would have otherwise been impossible. We run as one in the same direction to the promised finish line.

In the same way, I believe there is a time for personal worship, when we want to be alone in the presence of God. But we wouldn’t want to miss out on the amazing dimension that corporate worship ushers to believers. That’s when we come to understand that no matter where we came from, what we wear or what language we speak, we are all in this together. We all understand that the stories we bring can be painful, frustrating and exhausting. But as we come together, we breathe in the grace of Christ and we breathe out worship. United, and as one, we are all headed in the same direction and toward the same divine throne.







Thank you for stopping by.

Feel free to peek around and read the rest of my A Reason to Run series. Stay tuned, I may have yet another reason brewing in my mind. 






 









Friday, March 28, 2014

What I learned in March

 
 
Please come join me and other fun bloggers at Chatting at the sky as we share What we learned in March. Last time I posted on this linky was way back in September and I'm so happy to finally be back! This is fun.
 
But first I have a confession to make. Numbers 2, 3, and 4, I think actually happened in February. Number 1 is just a fun fact, nothing I actually learned. And 5 has just been roaming around in my mind this month, 'cause that's just the kind of thing this idle mind thinks about. I couldn’t resist adding it for my own amusement. If you know my father-in-law you will laugh. If you don't, you will wish you did!
 
 
 

1.     It may be time to learn the cryptic language of my 13 year old son. I am not well versed in the art of reading between the lines, much less so of reading between the lines in Elijah’s mind. Every time he tries to communicate with me I cock my head like a curious puppy, wishing I looked as cute as one, and say: “I have no idea what you are talking about. Speak to me in English and pretend I’m 2.” He then proceeds to add hand motions. As if that would help. I often wonder which one of us is more amused by the other.
 
 
2.      When your 15 year old son gets his motorcycle license you are rewarded supersonic ears. I can now hear, at any given time, every motorcycle within at least a ½ mile radius of me. Even when he’s home. What a consolation. NOT!
 
 
 
 
 

3.      Dry white wine is divine! I’m a red wine snob. But when I read a fantastic looking recipe that called for dry white wine (and the recipe specifically warned that sweet wine would simply not do!) I ran to the store and reluctantly bought some Sauvignon Blanc. So there I was cooking in my kitchen with a bottle of dry white wine, minus 1 cup. What is a girl to do with an open bottle of wine while waiting for a delicious meal to come together? Hmmm. Oh My Gosh!! This is when you decide that EVERYTHING is worth trying at least once in your life. Or twice. I once tried some Pinot Grigio and hated it. From that day forward I swore I hated all dry white wine. Never do that. There are actually Pinot Noir wines that have not liked either. What if I would have dismissed Pinot Noir based on that experience? I just can’t go there.

 
 
4.      Just when you think you have heard every crazy childhood story from your husband’s childhood that there was to be told… Another one turns up.
 
     
      Evidently Mike's dad took him and his brother on a trip to Costa Rica. While there, they decided to go to a bull fight. As it turns out, the bullfighter was staying in the same hotel as they were, and as they were leaving to go to the bullfight they ran into him and he told them he didn’t have a ride to the fight. Whaaa? So they gave the bullfighter a ride. All four of them, in a Taxi, to the bullfight. True story, this time I have the corroboration of two witnesses. And after reading #5 you will understand why things like this were not that uncommon.
 
 
 
           
 5.      XX (Dos Equis) clearly did not do its homework.
My father-in-law is the most interesting man in the world.
 
And here is why.
 
 
 
 

o   His ten gallon hat holds twenty gallons
o   No less than 25 Mexican folk songs have been written about his beard mustache
o   He once taught a german shepherd how to bark in spanish
o   His beard mustache alone has experienced more than a lesser man’s entire body
o   He lives vicariously through himself
o   If he were to mail a letter without postage, it would still get there
o   He’s never lost a game of chance
o   He is the life of parties that he has never attended
o   His wallet is woven out of chupacabra leather
o   His organ donation card also lists his beard  mustache
o   People hang on his every word, even the prepositions
o   His guacamole inspired the term ‘holy guacamole’
o   Only he knows why the mariachi band never stops smiling
o   His pronunciation is impeccable, even under water
o   Even his nod sounds like a plan
o       He has amassed and incredibly large DVD  library, and it is said that he never once alphabetized it.
o      And, he doesn’t always drink beer, but when he does, he prefers Dos Equis.
 
 
I'm telling ya'.
 
 
Their loss.
 
 
Stay thirsty my friends.


     

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Reason to Run (Part 4)



A place where I learn that his mercies are new every morning

 

 
 
We took off as usual, Lizzy enthusiastically and impatiently pulling me as if there was something pressing and oh so urgent that just couldn't wait another minute. Only this time she tugged with the extra power generated by a two week pause that stored more energy than I could keep up with. It was a beautiful Saturday morning, 55 degrees, sunny and inviting. I was so glad I had made myself prioritize my running again; happy to get those neglected shoes back on the pavement. I breathed in and I breathed out. I inhaled peace and I exhaled burden. I inhaled wisdom, exhaled defeat. And even though I was out of shape, my rhythm was soothing and life giving. It felt like I was embracing a long lost friend.

It’s good for the soul to start over again, to never give up even when it’s hard. Getting in a good run and feeling good about myself always motivates me to productivity, harmony and love. I spent the rest of my day making pies, cookies, and chocolate covered strawberries in preparation for Mike’s impending birthday.

Life that day was good and all was well with the world even if it had been 2 weeks since my last run. Days like that make me glad that I didn’t quit or give up.

Unfortunately, most days don’t feel like that to me, you know?

2013 was a hard year, and it has been a long, cold winter in North Texas. I sit here with 15 added pounds dragging my body as I stare at the familiar computer screen for the millionth time, adding up to billions hours, I'm sure of it, feeling like a complete failure and wondering when on earth am I going to stop rewriting this post; I'm also wondering how I will make it through another day.

This January I ran nine times and logged a total of 26 miles, I wrote one blog post. In February I ran three times and logged a whopping eight miles, I wrote this one post. At least it was better than December, the month I did NOTHING but work my butt off in retail so I could pay off a credit card dept I had acquired compliments of my year long attempt to not be depressed.

Depression is hard on the body and hard on the soul. It promotes defeat that spends its energies searching for life. And for me, that means adding up dept, and adding up pounds.

Most days getting out of bed in the morning is not a given but a choice.

 





Yesterday I managed to get out of bed. And tomorrow I will choose to get out of bed. And the day after that I will get out of bed again. Because it’s good for the soul to start over again, to know that I have another chance to exhale what overwhelms me and inhale hope, to breathe out resentment and breathe in joy, to let go of disappointments and embrace love.
There is a chance it will be a good day. And I’m willing to take it.

I will get up, and no matter what, I will be glad I did.
 





Monday, January 20, 2014

A Reason to Run (Part 3)




Because it is the one place I learn to
 hold on to hope







Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12



When my boys were extra small and my excess baby weight was tenaciously sticking to my bones, my belly, and my thighs, my face, pretty much everywhere, I decided to be a little more proactive in this battle and try reclaim some of my dignity.  An old pair of tennis shoes and I spent many hours pushing my boys around in a double stroller. Walking turned into running, and running turned into leaving the boys home with dad and enjoying my new found outlet.

After several months, when my feet and knees began to bother me, I realized it was time to get some real running shoes. And when I began to understand the meaning of the “runner’s high” I decided it was time to sign up for a real race. The moment I crossed that first finish line was one of the most exciting experiences of my life. When I finished that race, and as I have completed every race since then, I feel something that I rarely get to feel: the end. It may not be the journey I was expecting or the ending that I was hoping for, but the beauty about running and racing is that my effort, my tears, and my sweat has a beginning, a life that it lives, and a final culminating finish line. Once that end is reached, a check is marked, an evaluation is greeted, cheers and “you go girl!” are gladly heard, and shiny metals are hung around my neck. The finish line is a moment of triumph, reward, and completeness.  It is he moment in which hope is sealed. In racing I set a goal, I work for it, I run the race, I get a reward.

In real life I don’t have the luxury of a finish line where I’m given a banana and yogurt as I chat with fellow runners about a race that I ran well (or  not so well). In real life, especially in the one I live now of wife and mother, I don’t get to take off my running shoes and set a new goal before I put them back on. I don’t get a certificate of completion or a shiny metal because I have successfully completed training and educating my children, or because my marriage has finally reached perfection. This seemingly eternal race is exhausting and the finish line is never within sight, I guess it never will be this side of heaven. Sometimes I just need to see the end.

As human beings we crave completion and closure. We long to see a final product, the token of our hard work. We want to know that what we do maters.

But so much of our life is lived in hope deferred, and hope differed is hard and it hurts. In the race of life our hearts grow sick. I believe that this is why the Old Testament was packed with reminders of the promise of the coming of Christ, their hope. And the New Testament continually cheers us on with the promise of Christ’s return, our hope. Don’t lose hope; we are told over and over again.

So, in the meantime, I live my life and hang on tightly to those things that renew my hope. These peeks into heaven: a sunset that takes my breath away, forgiveness from someone I hurt, being the recipient of love that I don’t think I deserve, cooking a delicious meal that everyone loves, a pay check, a thank you for a job well done, or the finish line at the end of a tough race, are all reminders that hope is worth holding onto.

We were created complete, but sin messed that up, and now our beings long for completion, but our hope tends to falter. Running and finishing the race helps me hold onto the promise that true hope, the real finish line, is on its way; it reminds me that this race is worth training for and worth running. Thank you Lord that until that promised day we have these gifts that won’t allow our hearts to stay sick.

What gifts in your life help you hold onto hope?

In case you missed it, please join me in A Reason to Run (Part 1), and A Reason to (Run Part 2)










Friday, November 1, 2013

A Reason to Run (Part 2)


 
  
 

The one place where I learn to show up

 
 
 photo 0ad16f77-f220-4174-aa64-4f7eda9ddd3e_zps9e7315ff.jpg





 
 
She was waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs with her white paws dancing and her black tail enthusiastically wagging because she knew what was about to happen. A few minutes earlier I had heard the excited whimper that she couldn’t contain because her well trained ears recognized the sound of the drawer opening. When I opened it I wondered, as I usually do, Shall I wear the black or the white running skorts today? Do I pair it with the gray or coral shirt? All other drawers, when opened, fall on deaf ears, but this one, this one she knows. She awaits the faint sound of the intimate embrace of my shoe-laces, and of my wrist taken captive by its watchful judge. She can’t contain her excitement. She knows. She always knows.
It was that spring day on which we all heard the sound of the collective Texan sigh; it was the first day that the devil woke up before the rest of us and began to spread the sweltering, oppressive stench of deadly steam that he exhales when he proudly yawns. It was the day we each had to decide: Do I face the hot demon and learn to live along side him for the next few months, or do I lock myself up in my cave and turn down the A/C as low as my pocket book allows me?
My selfish wimpy self wanted to go to the gym, but Lizzy’s hopeful eyes and excited leaps convinced me otherwise. I just didn’t have the heart to let her down.  I smiled, gave her an excited “Let’s go!”- And we headed out the door, into the sweltering heat.
 
I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I wanted to stay under my covers reading my favorite book instead of giving into my youngest son’s pleas to read him a chapter from his favorite book. It’s hard to pick up the car keys and drive my oldest to soccer when what I really want to do is send my exhausted husband instead. How many slow motion bicycle rides have I endured in order to spend some quality time with my small ones in the great outdoors?  How many last pieces of pie have I let go of? How many times did I have to give up the last sip of ice cold water on a sizzling hot day?
Not enough. 
Sometimes we just need to head out the door. In the end, I may be hot, sweating, and nurturing a headache the size of hell itself. But as soon as I’m done, close the door behind me, and feel the relief of the welcoming cool air to relieve my salty, sweat-laden skin, not only am I thankful that I had a good run, but so is my excited, and perhaps (I’d like to think) even thankful, dog.              
It is so hard sometimes to let go of my selfish agenda in order to give joy to others. But most of the time I realize, just as I did on that hot day as I delighted in Lizzy’s elation, that reading to my boy till my throat is parched, watching my other improve his soccer skills, riding my bike alongside the snail and giving up the last piece of pie are totally worth it. There is no joy greater and more satisfying than enjoying the pleasure of others.
Heading out the door is worth it.
It is time to get hot and delight in the happiness of those I love.







Friday, September 27, 2013

What I learned in September



One of my favorite blogs, Chatting at the Sky, authored by Emily Freeman, who is not only an amazing and inspiring blogger, but also an amazing and inspiring author, hosts a monthly link party in which she shares some random, sometimes funny, sometimes insightful, and sometimes useful things that she has learned during the month. She invites her readers do link up and do the same. Since I live in a perpetual state of writers block, writers insecurity and writers procrastination, and I need to be inspired and pushed to make an appearance on my always neglected space, I decided it was time to come back. This pushed me and inspired me enough to dedicate myself to a little comeback, random as it is.

With no further ado, here is what I learned in September.


1.       I don’t think I want to have short hair after all. Brown, yes. This short, no. Fortunately, I got the itch out of my system without shedding any tears.
 
       Whatever you do, NEVER make a drastic change to your hairstyle with a new stylist. Yes, I learned that too.


 
2.       Komodo Dragon Dark Coffee from Starbucks is the best coffee EVER. Where have you been all my life, oh dragon? If you love coffee and you have never had this blend, you are seriously missing out in life. Go now and buy some. I'll go ahead and say it now. You are welcome.
 
3.       I get mad at my children when they get sick, because, you know, they aren’t allowed to get sick. Yes, mad. As in what??!!!?? You are what??!!! How many times have I told you to NEVER get sick? ugh... Bad mommy, bad.

4.       The word hysterical comes from the Greek word for uterus. Yet to be ballsy means that you are brave?

   So. Not. Cool.

5.       I crave solitude desperately. I learn this every month.

6.       Homeschooling one child and sending the other to Public School seems and feels totally weird. We have our reasons, good ones, but I always feel like I have to explain myself as if I was doing something wrong. I need to work harder on dismissing other people’s opinions. They probably don’t have one anyway, they don’t care, Susan. Get over it. I will be learning this every month too.

First Day of school


7.       I’m in denial. I don’t want to come to terms with the fact that I am very disappointed in the last season of Fringe. I waited and waited for it to come out on Netflix. Seriously?

      And speaking of Fringe. Did you know that Anna Torv (Olivia) is Australian and she has to fake her American accent? Who knew?


8. Funniest video I watched in September:

     If you are married and you need a good laugh (who doesn't?) You must watch this. MUST!

 

 
 
So if you will excuse me, I have some business to do.






Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Waiting for the Ripe Time








My church is going through a message series on love, marriage and sex. I was asked again to contribute to our church’s devotions website and assigned some pretty challenging verses in Song of Solomon. Since I don’t have to be a scholar in order to write this, I did exactly what I was told to do, which is write whatever God had laid on my heart. Unfortunately, I am given a 300 word parameter on the subject. Keeping my devotional to 300 words is more than half of my challenge. I thought and prayed quite a bit about the matter. I began to write.

When I wrote it I was at the heels of finishing up (for the second time) one of my favorite novels: The Shadow of the Wind. In this book there is no such thing as describing anything with a single word.

Carlos Ruiz Zafon, its author, describes an unused pen as “the best pair of gloves ever given to someone with no hands”, he depicts a rain cloud as a bruise in the sky, and a storm as a reef of clods and lightning racing across the sky from the sea. When I read, “A stream of black water converged in the center of the narrow street and made its way, like a funeral procession, toward the heart of the Raval quarter” to simply state that I had a peach tree in my backyard was impossible.

Fortunately, this here is my space and I get to be the boss of my words and write as many as I please. And you, my dear reader, get to read the entire 525 word devotional that, after 3 more tries, got condensed to its final polished and edited version that you can read here.

 

*****

 

The peach tree was the largest fruit tree in our bountiful back yard. For my best friend Marcela and me, it was a jungle gym with monkey bars as well as a sanctuary and a castle whose boughs were our thrones. It was the bearer of our preteen giggles and the keeper of our cherished secrets. On its branches lay the sweet fruit that would soon become a banquet for our lazy summer afternoons. On one early summer afternoon, when our brows were seating and our stomachs were growling and we could no longer wait for summertime to take its course, we decided it was time to reach toward the closest peach our friendly tree we could offer us. We knew good and well that perhaps our choice would not be the wisest (or the tastiest). Somewhere deep within our beings we understood that we were deceiving ourselves into thinking that it would actually taste as good as what we thought we deserved on this hot, enticing summer day. We were, after all, hot and we were hungry. We wanted it NOW. So we took it.

My dear friend Marcela didn’t even make it down our tree before our green prize found its way back up her esophagus. I, on the other hand, was doomed to hours of intestinal discomfort. Both of us were left with the sour taste in our mouths. Even to this day, if I think about it, I can still savor its bitterness. If only we had waited for our tree to unlock its mouth-watering sweetness in its due time.

Fortunately, I can recall a considerably more satisfying peach from another time and another place. This peach was so sweet and juicy, I had to eat it outside and bent over. I managed to get it all over my hands, my face and all the way down my chin. I had never tasted something so good and succulent in my entire life.

As we explore together the topic of love and sex in the next few weeks and recall its lessons in the years to come, remember this story. Remember that sex, when experienced before its due time (outside of marriage), will leave a lingering bitter taste in your soul and an ache in your heart that will be impossible to forget. Remember that waiting will yield the purest and sweetest joy that you will continue to enjoy for years to come.

Please know, however, that if your mouth is already bitter and your heart is full of ache and regret, there is another story that should be remembered, the story of the father and mother of the man that pinned these verses: David and Bathsheba. Know that you can move forward, let Christ release any bitterness and ache that may have been left behind. Don’t forget that grace sweeps in and frees us all. He blots out our transgressions, washes away our iniquity and cleanses us from sin (Psalm 51 1-2); he restores in us the joy of our salvation (v. 12). The beautiful sweetness of redemption leaves no room for shame; the aftertaste is that of pure succulent joy.