Sunday, December 11, 2011

How did Mary Feel?

Tonight I sat in my office and took in one of my favorite sights: the glow of a Christmas tree in a dark room. This year instead of cutting one down, we got our Christmas tree out of a box from Target. I have to admit it was pretty nice to stand it up without needles getting everywhere, and have the lights already on the tree. I put some pine-tree scented wax into my Scentsy warmer to trick my brain into thinking the tree was real.

I couldn't help but wonder tonight, as I sat in my empty office, where my sense of wonder had gone. I remember as a little girl loving the glowing tree so much that I would sleep on the hard ground in the living room just to be near it. Now, as I looked at the tree I thought about how much work it would be to put it away later.

I find myself, with a growing little child inside of me, wondering how Mary must have felt as she carried Jesus inside of her. I have felt completely debilitated over the last week. Between constant nausea and fatigue, even the most mundane tasks have been daunting. On top of the usual pregnancy symptoms, Mary was a young girl claiming she was pregnant, but a virgin - I can't imagine that being easy. I wonder how she felt when news came that they would have to travel to Bethlehem - by donkey - we're not talking first class, cozy airline seats here.

In all my wondering it occurs to me that life back then may not have been all that different from the way it is now. Mary still felt pain. She still dealt with inconvenience and discomfort. She faced rejection, possible death, shame and her life being turned upside-down. And this is how she responds:

And Mary said,

   I'm bursting with God-news;
      I'm dancing the song of my Savior God.
      God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
      I'm the most fortunate woman on earth!
   What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
      the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
   His mercy flows in wave after wave
      on those who are in awe before him.
   He bared his arm and showed his strength,
      scattered the bluffing braggarts.
   He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
      pulled victims out of the mud.
   The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
      the callous rich were left out in the cold.
   He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
      he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
   It's exactly what he promised,
      beginning with Abraham and right up to now.
Luke 1:46-55 The Message

Hmmm. I'm reading this thinking I could use a little attitude re-focus. I pray for a childlike sense of wonder this Christmas - to remember that Jesus came to the world for imperfect people, like me. We celebrate His birth as the best gift we ever received. That should be enough good news to get through any tough day.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Night of Endless Vomit (Oh no, she didn't!)

I witnessed a dad tonight who deserved a medal. I was sitting in Starbucks with my laptop when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw his 3 or 4 year old daughter start to throw up all over the floor. He calmly came to her side, tried to comfort her and then walked up to the counter and asked for a mop.

The girls that work at this particular Starbucks happen to think that anyone who walks in to their store is seriously interrupting their opportunities to catch up on "so-and-so did such-and-such with what's-his-face the other night - OMG" - and this scenario was no exception. They were right in the middle of a juicy story when the barfing went down. They didn't even attempt to help him clean up, or offer any shred of sympathy.

On my way home, I was reflecting on how much parenting requires of us. I opened the garage door, walked into my house and was greeted by an awful stench. Vomit appearance #2 of the night.

Our dog was in his kennel surrounded by barf. All over his bed. All over the floor. All over his blanket. I cleaned up the bed, cleaned up the kennel, only to discover that it was all over his fur too. I hauled him upstairs to throw him in the tub. I finally had everything cleaned, dinner started, and the laundry going when I heard him start to gag again. I yelled. He ran. Vomit followed.

I called Adam for help, and to make him feel bad that he was at work missing out on all this excitement. As I was cleaning up vomit appearance #3, I heard Joren down the hallway say "Mom, I accidentally pooped a little". The timing was incredible.

I spent the rest of the evening scrubbing floors, children's butts, doing laundry, dishes, and trying not to yell at the dog anymore. I could see him cower every time I got close.

As I was covering every surface with bleach spray or Resolve, a Steven Curtis Chapman popped into my head that is based on Colossians 3:23 "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." Can it be possible? Can cleaning up vomit be an act of worship? I realized in that moment that I could CHOOSE to be joyful, find some humor in the situation, and open my heart to what God was teaching me. Could I use a little more patience? Yep. Point taken.

This is a great video and a fantastic way to start the week. "Do everything you do to the glory of the one who made you!'

Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Bible's Next Top Model...?

Last week I was at the gym when a woman looked at me and said:

"You always look cute. I hate you."

I was slightly offended. Call me crazy, but I actually don't like it when people hate me. Now, I realize she may not actually hate me, but the feeling also wasn't warm and kind. What is it with us women that we think everything is a contest and we want to trip all the other girls running alongside us?

This week I've been working on a Bible study on Esther by Beth Moore. It's not your typical Bible study. Let's just say this book of the Bible could be set in modern-day America and make an excellent soap opera. There are wild parties, banished queens, a beauty contest, harems, plots to assassinate the king - and that's only in the first two chapters! I was having so much fun working on my homework that I sat for two hours and did all five days of work in one sitting. I imagine that part of that motivation was due to the fact that the topic really hits home with me: this week all centered around beauty treatments.

Did you know that Esther was basically picked by the king in an ancient version of "The Bachelor". Yep, king Xerxes sent scouts looking all over Persia for the prettiest girls. They were then brought to the palace for a year's worth of beauty treatments. A WHOLE YEAR! Maybe that sounds fun to you, but I also learned that the girls who weren't chosen to be queen joined the king's harem where they would sit their whole lives unless the king called for them by name. Talk about some pressure! Either look good, or spend your life competing with a group of other women for one man's attention! No thanks.

I spent some time thinking about how I would handle a situation like the one Esther was in. The Bible says that all these "Bachelor candidates" had anything they wanted at their disposal. I'm talking spray tans, gel nails, the most expensive make-up, jewelry from Tiffany's, anything you wanted off the rack at Nordstrom's...whatever that ancient equivalent was, of course. The odd thing is, Esther asked for nothing. Here is an excerpt from my study:

"The girls could request any extravagance to make themselves more appealing, but Esther asked for nothing. Esther does not reject all beauty aids, but only avoids asking for more than she is offered. Her virtue is not abstinence from heathen luxuries but self-effacing receptivity and passivity. Somehow I'm relieved. Please tell me I can still be a godly woman who can walk acceptably before her exalted King without abstaining from some well-earned beauty aids! The point is not that Esther abstained, but rather was restrained."

Just in case you got lost in that paragraph, what it says it that Esther didn't make herself plain - but she didn't look like Snookie either.

I'm not sure if I had to stand before a king that I would have the confidence to restrain myself from doing everything possible to look better. Esther really makes herself stand out by doing so. The Bible says she "won the favor of everyone who saw her" (Est. 2:15). Beth Moore says "Brace yourself for a shock: that included the other women! You and I both know that a rare woman indeed is beautiful from a male perspective and favored by other women."

I've really been trying to think of what makes a woman attractive to men, yet liked by other women. I can think of a few women I know that are certainly beautiful, but never make me feel like I'm not. It all comes from the inside: they are kind, warm, friendly, and secure. Not perfect, but healthy. Attractive, but not showy. Eye-catching, but not attention-stealing. That's the kind of woman I want to be.

Obviously, the woman I saw at the gym wasn't a friend of mine. Most of my friends know I'd give them a good jab-cross combo to the boob if they told me they hated me. Plus, my friends also know that I wake up with scary hair, breakouts, and wish I didn't have love handles and jock thighs on some days. I'm thankful we have make-up, and I'm even more thankful to know that having inner beauty can be a force capable of  capturing even the attention of a king. I don't need to attract myself a king, but I love finding ancient stories that have principles for modern-day life. Where can I exercise restraint in my life, and how can I work on being a woman that is favored by other women? I'm inspired to find out...

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Work Minus Motivation = Monday?

I really don't feel like writing tonight.What I feel like doing is grabbing a key lime pie martini & sitting in a bubble bath.

Don't you love doing things when you lack motivation? How many times have you been to the gym where you were far more interested in making conversation with people than getting on the treadmill? How about preparing dinner after a long day - "Yep. Taco Bell it is." Maybe you've had to sit at work late and miss out on being somewhere you really wanted to be. Regardless of the reason, mustering up motivation when it's AWOL isn't an easy task!

I found an article in Women's Health magazine that provided some fantastic points for time-management - which doesn't magically provide motivation - but it was just what I needed as Monday rolls around and I have a stack of things on my desk a mile high. Even when you lack motivation, I think it's easier to tackle something with a plan.

1. LOG OFF FACEBOOK - Women's Health says that "people average seven hours a month on the social site." Seven hours a month? That has to be accounting for people like my grandpa and brother who get on once every two months - I'm willing to bet it's even higher than that for many people. I made it a new goal not to dink around on Facebook unless I had already had some quiet time & gotten in a workout for the day.

2. SAY NO! - I am terrible at this. As soon as the word "yes" has escaped my mouth, I wonder why I have agreed to something I know I don't have time for! Exercise your "no muscle"!

3. PLAN YOUR DAY - "Schedule your biggest task of the day for when you're most focused and productive. You'll get it done more quickly than if you try to tackle it during a natural low point."(For example, two in the afternoon - I can do nothing productive at 2pm unless someone gives me a red bull and some candy!)

4. PUT IT IN INK - "You find time for everything on your calendar because it's there in black & white." Block out time for things like workouts & quiet time like you would for any other appointments.

5. SET A TIMER - Set a kitchen timer for tasks that tend to eat up more time than they need to - like surfing the internet or sorting through old pictures - and when the timer goes off, stop!

6. TOUCH IT ONCE - "When a paper comes across your desk or an email hits your inbox, deal with it right away. Piled-up paper and messages create distracting clutter, and you waste time revisiting each issue again (and again)."

7. GET UP 15 MINUTES EARLIER - Ugh. Seriously? "The most nocturnal of night owls can roll out of the sack just 15 minutes earlier. Even if you don't use that extra time for your workout (or quiet time) you'll get to the office sooner than usual, so you'll be more likely to take that 15 minutes for yourself later in the day."

Those were just a few of my favorite points, but I'm glad to have some tools headed into the workweek that will help me be more productive, balanced and focused. Maybe I'll even make it through a few days with only ONE latte!

Now, for that bubble bath...

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A loss for words....

Okay, first of all, I have to say that I am really getting sick of talking about workout clothes. I mean, seriously, where's the creativity? Trust me when I say that I am sick of thinking about it! I had a little pep-talk with myself to hurry up & figure out what God was trying to teach me, so we could all move on...

I started this post a week ago, but found myself struggling to finish it. As anxious as I was to move past this, I was trying to resist slapping some frequently-quoted-Bible-verse-bandaid to the end and really wrestle with what was going on. Hang with me here for a minute, and we'll pick up at the end where I left off: 


Have you ever been on a crash diet?

I have. In our society, we want easy results, and we want them fast. Crash diets typically go something like this: drink 2 shakes a day, and then have one of our amazingly tiny bars that really don't fill you up at all, and you will lose 5 pounds in 7 days! What?! You mean if I drastically cut my calorie intake, I will lose weight? You're kidding...

It doesn't take a brain surgeon to find the flaw here: as soon as you go back to eating in your pre-crash diet fashion, you will gain all the weight back. Why? Because you haven't fixed the problem - poor eating habits - you've just temporarily changed your behavior.

I had an epiphany today.

It seemed like a fantastic idea to make a commitment to quit shopping for a couple of months. My hope was that if I just forced myself to have a little self-control, the satisfied heart would follow. In the same way that a crash diet might help you lose weight, but not affect lasting change, I realized that temporarily changing my behavior in regards to shopping wouldn't fix the root problem - having a unsatisfied heart.

Paul lays the smack-down on the Colossians:

“Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

 Paul is saying, in effect, "Why are you making all these rules about things that don't last? You think it makes you look good, but  it really isn't working to restrain you from indulging."

So what does restrain me from indulging?

And that's where I left off - with a question - rolling around in my brain for 2 weeks. What does restrain me from indulging, and also, why do I want to?

Like most moms, my life is jam-packed with lots of good things: work, playdates, coffee with friends, Bible studies, church commitments, life group, exercising, spending time with my husband, etc. You know the drill. Sometimes I just hit the wall, and get completely worn out - know what I mean? I was having a particularly challenging day when the words of a song came to my mind.

"You, oh Lord, You are my hiding place."

Doesn't a hiding place sound amazing? Somewhere no one can find you, no one needs anything and you can find peace and quiet?

If you're wondering how this relates to workout clothes, that's good. I was too.

It finally occurred to me this week that I was trying to use online retail-therapy to hide. I knew there was nothing wrong with shopping, but I also knew I was spending too much time and energy there.

Have you ever felt like pond scum? I mean, like, want-to-crawl-into-a-hole-foolish? That's how I felt after watching this video on You Tube. What a waste of energy to hide in something so frivolous! I'm thankful the message of this song brings me back to what I need to hear when I feel like hiding: HE LOVES US! OH HOW HE LOVES US!

Do you know what Jesus did to give us a hiding place, safe in God's presence? Maybe you're like me and just need to be reminded:

Life does get hard sometimes. It really does. But Jesus paid the price, so that we don't have to do it alone. And on those days we feel like hiding, he's waiting, because he loves us - oh how he loves us!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Spirit is Willing - The Flesh is Pitifully WEAK!

It happened already. I almost caved.

It is SO much easier to make commitments than it is to keep them! This morning, I got an email listing items for sale at the aforementioned store I seem to want everything from (my husband says I should quit giving them free advertising, hence the generic reference). I was trying to think of EVERY SINGLE POSSIBLE excuse for why I should get to buy something, such as: "I could buy it for my birthday and just leave it in the bag until then" or "My business had a great month - it could be like a self-issued bonus!". I even tried to get my best friend and my husband to give me an excuse to be off the hook. I'm so thankful for friends and a husband that are here to remind me why I made the commitment in the first place.

Recently, a woman who is a mentor in my life, sent me this email in regards to the choices I make:

"We can't change anything about the past, but the daily choices we make and habits we form greatly influence our future and that's what we have the ability to control. Pressing heavenward in Christ is where our focus should lie, and any time you start to feel distracted from that goal, try to stop at the soonest chance to get alone with the Lord and the Bible and ask Him to help you listen to what He is telling you."

Those words have been echoing in my mind all week - try to stop at the soonest chance to get alone with the Lord & ask for HELP!

I came running home from my morning meetings to sit alone at my desk and listen to this song:

It's still a process. I'm learning. :-)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The battle to find contentment continues...

This week I signed myself up for the all-women's Diva Day 5k. Participants are encouraged to put teams together and dress up for fun. Our team decided to go with an 80s theme and call ourselves the "Fast Fondas". I purchased a hideous purple leotard with geometric print, leg warmers and a cropped t-shirt that hangs off one shoulder.

In true 80s fashion, the leg openings of my leotard come all the way up to my bellybutton. I laughed at myself in the mirror and wondered who EVER thought this was sexy.

Speaking of workout clothes, as I shared last week, I have been absolutely obsessed with lululemon athletic wear. I really felt like I HAD to have a new outfit from their store. After hours of scouring ebay, and selling two pairs of my old shorts to my next door neighbor, the money was burning a hole in my pocket, so I bought myself a pair of leggings and a new tank top. I checked the mail every day until my new outfit came. When it did, I put it on immediately and wore it around the house all day. Later, when I actually went to the gym, I beamed with pride as a woman recognized the brand of top I was wearing and complimented me on how cute it looked. Not even an hour later, I saw a friend of mine on the way out of the gym. She had a really cute outfit on. It was lulu. I completely felt like a spoiled toddler mentally stomping my feet and thinking "I want it! I want that one too!"

All week as I struggled through wanting something I knew I didn't really NEED, I kept waiting for God to intervene and magically change my heart. It never happened. Instead, he let me have what I wanted - after all, I was pretty bound and determined to get it. It wasn't until I had what I wanted that I realized I wasn't even satisfied. It didn't make me any happier. It didn't really change anything. I felt foolish as I looked at my purple 80s leotard. 30 years ago, someone probably really wanted that leotard. She probably wore it proudly to the gym - butt cheeks hanging out everywhere - and felt really cool. Now, its value is pretty insignificant.

The problem is definitely not the workout clothes - it's my heart. There's certainly nothing wrong with wanting new clothes. The problem comes when you think that some thing - a new outfit, a new job, better pay, a different spouse, different circumstances - will make you happier; it might for a little while, but there are always more outfits, better jobs with higher pay, and people that seem to have it made. Paul says in 1 Timothy that if we have shoes on our feet and bread on the table, that's enough. I looked at those verses in 20 different versions, and I couldn't find any of them that said that you needed cute workout clothes too. Shoot.

I'm really kind of embarrassed that I'm even having this struggle. A year ago, I gave up lattes to support a little boy in Uganda, who needs help just to keep food on the table. I learned so much from that small amount of sacrifice. I think it's time to make another commitment, and do it publicly so I have some accountability. For the next two months - until my birthday in November - I am not going to buy any new clothes, shoes or accessories. I'm having a small heart attack thinking about how hard this will be for me (which may seem ridiculous to some people - except my husband who will probably get up and dance when he reads this). I just want to have a heart that is content, and I know it needs a little work. I'll keep you posted on how it goes...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Absurdly, Ridiculously Over-Priced Workout Clothes

In the past, I've posted to my blog after I felt like I had learned a lesson, or had some neatly-wrapped story to tell that ended in inspiration and warm, fuzzy, good feelings. Someone recently pointed out to me that good blogs are posted to frequently. It occurred to me that if I only posted when I had the time to sit down and thoroughly mull over some topic & wait until I learned what God wanted me to, we might all be waiting a loooong time. It also occurs to me that if I do said frequent posting, that you all will see me in the middle of learning lessons. Uh-oh, this could get ugly.

In all seriousness though, I don't think we've ever done each other any favors when we pretend we've got it all together. I certainly don't have it all together, and as I've mentioned in the past, I often stubbornly learn things the hard way. I can be so childish sometimes that something as simple as clothing can be enough to steer me off-course, and completely distract me from what's really important.

This week, I was completely distracted by lululemon athletica.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with this absurdly-ridiculously-expensive work out clothing, I would encourage you to stay oblivious to it's magical powers. When I was training for the marathon, I went through about 15 million pairs of shorts trying to find a pair that would let me keep the skin between my thighs. (Okay, it was like 5 pairs of shorts, but that's still annoying) Well, one of the girls in my running class suggested lululemon shorts. I was willing to check them out. I drove over to the store, and had some serious sticker-shock when I got there. Fifty-four dollars for a pair of shorts?! Fifty-eight dollars for a tank top?! No thank you. Fortunately, I found a pair in the sale bin for $35, and decided to give them a shot. Sure enough, no chaffing! See? Magic.

I have to add here that I looooove clothes. It's really pretty silly. Growing up, I wore a lot of hand-me-downs, which I never minded, but as soon as I was old enough to have a job, the majority of my income went to various stores in the mall. Now, before you judge me, I must add that I am one of the best bargain shoppers ever. The only thing I have ever bought full-price is a pair of jeans.

Since getting married, my clothing purchases have been a little bit reigned-in. My husband, whom I love very dearly, does not view purchasing new clothes as a need. He will wear something until it falls apart, and even then he'll wear it to the gym. I am thankful for this trait, because it is his frugal nature that has enabled us to purchase a nice house and be somewhat financially secure even when we weren't bringing in much income. It doesn't make it any easier not to want to buy clothes though!

A couple of months ago, I started a financial profile on (the link is at the top of my page - it's a free & fantastic website!). I set a budget for myself, and have been determined not to go beyond that spending limit. I've also been trying to work on the root of the issue - to have a heart that is content with what I have. Just a few weeks ago, I had a clothing-swap party at my house, which enabled me to get several new outfits - for free! I decided since I got free clothes, I would forgo spending any money on clothing the following month.

This is like a totally predictable movie where you know exactly what is going to happen before it does, right? Of course if I commit to not spending any money on clothes, EVERY SINGLE store I go into will have something I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT. Plus, I cleaned out my workout clothes drawer, I decided I toooootally needed some new workout clothes. The old ones were so dingy and sweaty. Ewww.

I 'stumbled' upon the lululemon website the other day, and picked out an outfit I decided I needed. I heard a quiet "no" in my spirit.

"BUT...." I started.


"adefhawefadjfh asdkrawieru. Commitments are lame. Fine."

Except then I kept checking the website every day, for waaaay too long. And E-bay. And the store in town.

So, I decided to let it go, somewhat publicly. One of my favorite things about blogging is to be able to look back and see how God changes me. I love that God cares about everything - even absurdly, ridiculously over-priced work out clothes. But more importantly, he cares about my character, and even more than I want some really cool shorts with built-in pockets for gel packs, I want to change. I want to have a heart that is content.

Stay tuned to see what God the meantime, I'll be happily working out in dingy, sweaty workout clothes ;-)

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Master Plan

No one is in the house, and I am watching Monday night football. I am sort of wondering what is wrong with me. How many other women do I know that would watch Monday night football alone and enjoy it? Not many.

I've shared this before, but the reason I love football is because my dad coached a high school team throughout most of my childhood. The sounds of the whistles, helmets crashing against each other, players yelling - they all remind me of being little and looking up at my daddy who was my hero. I got excited when my dad did, and I was disappointed when he was. I loved being on the sidelines and feeling like I was part of the team. Because of those experiences in my past, I enjoy the sport today.

Whether good or bad, our past experiences influence how we perceive our present situation. As a former single mom, my experience of having to do everything solo at times, makes me appreciate even the little things, like now having a second pair of hands to unload groceries. More recently, I discovered that my past experience of getting pregnant twice, unexpectedly, while trying to prevent it, led me to believe that if I actually tried to conceive, surely it would happen immediately. Past experiences can be powerful influences.

Yesterday, we honored the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I was literally glued to the TV for three days watching specials, listening to stories of those who sacrificed their lives to save others, stories of miraculous survival, and stories of bitterness and anger. Surely all who were involved were significantly affected in some manner, and would never be the same because of what happened. As I watched, I found myself wondering how some of them would ever be able to move on, to live without thinking of their past every single day.

In my own life, as I try to navigate around my own past, I've found myself asking God: "What are you trying to teach me?" I was overwhelmed at the verse that came to my mind this evening. I've read it a thousand times, but tonight it suddenly had new meaning. Proverbs 3:5-6 says:

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding [or past experiences]. Seek HIS will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take."

Yesterday, as I helped in children's church, I was reminded that God has a plan for all of us. We each have our own, unique set of influences, past experiences and circumstances, but God has a unique and perfect plan, that takes into account every event that shapes us into who we are. Trust that God has a good plan for your life, and that

"ALL things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." Romans 8:28

He is big enough to carry our hurt and our disappointments, and He is not deterred by our mistakes. He only asks for our hearts ['those who love God'] and our trust.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The big, ugly MARATHON

I may have mentioned before that I can be very ambitious, which really translates into me trying to tackle things that are, in reality, over my head. Take for example when I first started this blog and decided that I was going to write every single day. It sure didn't take me long to figure out that blogging daily was a lot more of a time commitment than I had really thought through. Or, how about the time I watched HGTV too much and decided that tiling a back splash would be a piece of cake. 14 hours and many tears later, I decided to stop watching HGTV for a while. The back splash is still not finished. The point is, I love the IDEA of things, but many times, when the rubber meets the road, I wonder "what was I thinking?!"

Recently, I decided that I was going to train for a marathon. I didn't really see this as something overly ambitious. After all, I had run 2 half-marathons, and ran track in high school and cross country in college (sort of. I ran one race, but mostly just worked out with the team.). I was pretty happy with my half-marathon time last year, so I figured, why not run the full?

I signed up for the training class, and things were going pretty well. On our longer 20+ mile runs, I found myself tired, but finishing strong and enjoying myself. I wasn't even sore much. I figured I could run the marathon in about 4 hours, or a 9:08 minute mile average pace. I had run a 8:30 pace for the half, so it seemed do-able. My only setback came about 2 1/2 weeks before the race when I got sick. I was sick for several days before going to the doctor to get some antibiotics. I cut back on my training and tried to rest. It didn't really work.

I was only 6 miles into my marathon on race day when I wanted to stop running and walk. I kept pushing, watching my watch & keeping my pace steady. At the half-way point, I was right on track at 2 hours, but then came "the hill". After that stretch of the race, it was a battle just to keep going. I have never been so tired in my entire life.

Around mile 19 or 20, my husband joined me and ran the last several miles of the race with me. Without him, I doubt I would have finished. He encouraged me to keep going every step of the way, and helped me keep my mind off the pain I was in. I kept looking at my watch, and watched as my mile times slowed down more, and more, and more. I was so disappointed. I finally crossed the finish line, in tears, with a time of 4 hours 28 minutes - almost half an hour slower than my goal time.

Following the race, every time someone asked me how it went, I wanted to change the subject. People kept telling me that it was an accomplishment just to finish, but I didn't feel consoled. I knew I could do better. I had expectations.

I've been thinking a lot about expectations lately. I think it's wonderful to set goals, but expectations can be a little more tricky. Adam & I had a goal to enjoy our first year of marriage before trying to expand our family. I expected to get pregnant instantly. After all, I have gotten pregnant twice without trying, so surely if I tried, I figured it would happen right away. Not the case. And, that's when the disappointment sets in.

So, I find myself wondering how to deal with the disappointment I've been facing lately, and I've learned a few things along the way.

1. Sometimes you have to adjust your expectations.

Runner's World Magazine says to always have multiple goals when running a race: a lofty one, a realistic one, and a goal for when nothing seems to go right. The fact of the matter is that there are things in life that we have no control over. On one hand, we don't want to set our expectations so high that they are unattainable, while on the other hand, we don't want to settle for mediocrity. Finding a balance is challenging.

2. Learn from your disappointments.

Pain always teaches us something - if we let it. Whenever I'm wrestling with something challenging, my mom always encourages me to ask God what He wants me to learn from it.
"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character . . . "

3. Immerse yourself in community

One of the greatest lessons I took away from running the marathon is that we were not meant to do life alone. From the friends that trained with me for months: Alan, Scott, Rod, Ross, Thurston, Carol, Kara (when I could keep up with her for a couple minutes), to the friends who showed up to encourage me along the way: Randy & Darci,(that little poster board meant the world to me), and Nick & Denise who stayed almost 3 hours to watch me finish - all of you helped me get through my race. Finally,I couldn't have made it without my husband. As miserable as I was, I don't think I've ever felt closer to someone in my whole life. Every step of the last 6 miles confirmed that I had married an incredible man. When I told him I couldn't have finished without him, he told me he was just living out his vows to me: "I promise to stand by you when you are feeling strong and to stand by you when you need someone to lean on. I promise to comfort you and encourage you at all times."

I'm so thankful that God gave us other people to walk through the tough times of life with.

4. Remember: this isn't it!

Often, Adam will remind the boys that disappointment helps us remember that we have more to look forward to than life on earth! No matter what disappoints us, we have hope of one day never being disappointed. Paul says "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" ( 2 Corinthians 4:16-18). God's plans are nearly always bigger than we think. The sting of our relatively short-term disappointments in no way compares to the ultimate hope we have in Him.

I love how Rusty Wright sums this all up: "Wonderful things will come our way once Jesus returns to this troubled planet. But even now, God offers compassion, forgiveness, and strength to those who trust in Him. Relationship with Him gives us the great hope that empowers us to face any disappointment.

I'm absolutely sure that I'll have plenty more opportunities to face disappointment. I'm also absolutely sure that no matter what I face, God's grace is enough to carry me through it. Tis so sweet trust in Jesus.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Another lesson learned...

Without fail, it seems that the best writing I produce stems from some event that has caused me pain. I guess you could call me a girl that learns the hard way. My Native American name would probably be: Shannan One Who Has Thick Skull. I know my dad has told my sisters at times "don't make the same mistake Shannan did!"

Recently, the lesson I learned was particularly painful. You see, life has gotten busy. Unbearably busy. It seems like each day I have an insurmountable to-do list that I never quite get through. With the kids out of school for the summer, I now have the added challenge of trying to get work done while the kids race through the house with laser guns that make the dog go crazy, barking and attacking the walls. Growler actually took a chunk out of the bathroom wall today trying to bite the light coming from the toy gun.(sigh) Anyway...last week I was having a particularly rough day. I had planned a trip up to my great-grandfather's house to pay the 101 year-old a visit, and greet my great-grandmother who had just come home from open heart surgery. I just didn't make it. I was exhausted. I didn't want to wrestle the boys. I had all sorts of reasons. So, I stayed home.

The next morning I was back at my frantic pace, only stopping briefly, on my way out the door to check my voice mail. Great-granddad had passed away.

I was consoled by friends and family that he went peacefully, that he wouldn't have known I was there yesterday anyway. After all, he had started to be less aware of his surroundings. Still, I had been too busy.

Later that week I went through a file that had been uncovered sorting through his things. He had kept every letter I had ever written him, starting with 3 letter words I knew how to spell in my sloppy 4-year old handwriting. I was amazed at the length and detail my mother went to to keep in contact with him over the years, and I was grateful for all the times she sat me down and made me write thank you notes, because they were now priceless as I re-read them years later.

One of the greatest challenges as a mother is maintaining our priorities. It's so easy to get caught up in everything we have to do: the laundry, the homework, work-work, running errands, exercising, feeding the dog...(sigh again!)This week I am reminded that life is short, and I have to weigh the cost of accomplishing tasks. For example, I might get a lot of work done, but will it come at the cost of my boys feeling neglected? The yard could look fantastic, but is it more important to visit with the neighbor who might be lonely? It's hard to keep a balance. Life is demanding, but at the end of the day, I don't want to have any regrets. I would trade all the work I got done that day, and do it 3 extra times just to squeeze my granddad's hand one more time and see him smile at me. I guess I'll just have to wait.

In order to have fewer moments of regret, my goal this week is to be more like Mary:

38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

Sit at His feet today. Slow down and listen to Him tell you how much He loves you. Listen to Him tell you that you are ENOUGH. You are valuable. You are precious. Then, you will have what you need to face the day. :-)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Just another Manic Monday...

I am discouraged - I mean, pummelled bloody, kicked-while-I'm-down, tears run dry & can't get off the floor - discouraged. My kids have been sick. My husband is sick. I haven't slept, and I can't concentrate on work because I'm exhausted and emotionally drained.

Today we were supposed to go to court. I thought there was going to be justice, or at least some progress. Instead, we are still waiting. I'm so tired of waiting.

I keep trying to tell myself that life is not that bad - look at all I have! I'm not finding any comfort there. There are always people that you can find that have it worse, but it doesn't seem to take away from what's going on inside. I still feel angry, ripped off, cheated, played for a fool. I still want God to intervene!

He calms my heart and lets me pour out my anger and frustration. He knows. He sees. He reminds me of His promises. And, even though I don't know if the circumstances will get any better, I have His peace. It doesn't make sense, really, nothing has changed - I will still wait. But, I have crawled into my Papa's lap - the best place to be - and I have traded my burden for comfort, purchased with a little faith.

"Trust in the Lord with all of your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take." Proverbs 3:5-6

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Remember the Titans

Yesterday, we had something of a celebrity at the mall signing autographs. Marc Mariani, a small-town guy from Havre, Montana and former Griz wide receiver was recently selected to play in the Pro Bowl for special teams after his rookie season with the Tennessee Titans. Naturally, in a small town that loves its college football team, and has no professional teams to cheer for, this was a big deal. My 7-year-old wanted to go. I drug my feet, and took him at the last minute, not wanting to deal with the crowds. When we arrived, there was already a very long line. Some friends a few rows in front of us informed me that they had already been in line for 2 hours, and were still quite far from getting an autograph. Apparently, people had lined up hours before the autograph signing even began. We had only been there for about 15 minutes when it was time for the NFL player to head out to another commitment. My son started to cry when he realized that he was not going to get anything signed. I'll have to admit that I can get kind of star-struck at times; I certainly was when I first met my husband - I mean, he's on TV! But, with Marc Mariani, it was different. I had gone to school with a lot of former-Griz football players; I saw them on a daily basis. I even worked with Marc's girlfriend for a few years, so I had met him once or twice. I looked down at Tyler and said "Buddy, it's okay - he's just a guy. He's really good at football, but he's just a man." My son wasn't really buying it, so I distracted him with some ice cream, and eventually we survived the day.

Later that night, I was laughing to myself thinking of how we can get so excited over famous people - just to say we saw them or touched them or knew them - as if it enhanced our lives in some way. Like I said, I've been guilty of it. I love telling people the story of how I poured Jeff Fisher, Marc Mariani's coach, a beer one time. I see him on TV & say "I met him once." Neat huh?

This morning we were sitting in church listening to the pastor talking about prayer. I've also been reading a book on prayer called "The Papa Prayer" by Larry Crabb, and I feel like I'm re-learning everything I ever thought I knew on the subject. One thing in particular is being aware of who I'm talking to. If God is who we believe Him to be - the King of the Universe, the Creator of all things, the One who knows our every thought - we have some privilege being able to walk right up to Him. No lines. No security guards. No need to be anyone special. Even more mind-blowing is that he wants to be with us. It's a claim-to-fame that actually makes a difference. Today, I'm reminded that Jesus' death on the cross provided me with something that I take for granted - access to God. Now that's neat huh? :-)