Sunday, April 17, 2011

UNABASHED JOY Today I wonder if envy is always wrong. What if you envy someone for their joy in the Lord? What if you see in them such freedom and love for Christ in what they're doing, that you just can't help but desire that for yourself? Today I witnessed a beautiful young woman worship the Lord with such joyful passion, such assured freedom that I almost wept. I would've wept if I wasn't playing my clarinet at the same time. And no words ever came out of her lips. She was using sign language to translate a song the choir was singing in worship this morning. Without saying a word you could see this woman's love for the Lord in the way she gave herself up to Him in worship. I am self-conscious; too much so. Her freedom and joy is something I desire. And not just in worship, but in all areas of my life. Self-consciousness is another form of pride. It is constantly looking at yourself when the Lord wants you to lift your eyes to Him. We are constantly reminded in the Bible to do all things as unto the Lord. At the end of our lives, we will not answer to others for what we've done. We'll answer to Him. We'll stand before Him only. How foolish of me to live my life as if I'll answer to what others think of me some day. Very foolish. One day David and Saul came back from a successful military campaign. David paraded down the street and danced before the Lord with all his might. His wife was embarrassed and thought him foolish, but the Lord called him a man after His own heart. Some may have thought this young woman this morning was improper in her worship; some may have thought her foolish. I didn't. I was inspired. And I desire to worship and live with just the same joy and freedom that she displayed this morning.

Friday, April 01, 2011

RUNNING IS CHEAPER THAN THERAPY A couple Saturdays ago I went out on a long run with my husband. We don't usually run together because he's a bit faster than I am. But I thought I'd take on the challenge. I like challenges and running has given me lots of opportunities to take on new ones. So we strike out on a hilly course as the temperature creeps near 70. I'm doing fine and am surprised to see the pace on my watch as we get to mile 2: it begins with an 8! I don't do long runs at a pace that begins with an 8. But I'm okay and can still talk, a little bit. At this point I have some confidence but I'm still a little nervous because I know there's this monster hill in the second half of the run. There's lots of self-talk that goes on in the mind of a runner and at this point my self-talk box is mostly positive. Halfway through and the hill is looming large. I haven't run this hill in a long time, maybe a year or more. I'm curious about how I'm going to do. I like this challenge. I pound up this hill and leave my husband behind. I know he'll catch up to me after the hill crests but it feels good to "beat him"! More positive self-talk. However, this hill will not stop! Now the whining starts and my box is turning a bit negative, "I hate this hill! It's too hot!" Then I start thinking about running last year's US 10K Classic and how I ran that monster hilly course in an average pace starting with an 8. More negative chatter, "Why is this feeling so hard when I've run a harder course even faster?" My husband has caught up and the hill has ended. Now I'm feeling depleted and trying to keep his pace. More whining, "Wait, I thought running was fun? Why do I feel so bad?" By now the heat, the hills, and the pace are taking their toll. My fuel gauge is on empty and I'm getting that light-headed feeling. I think I have all the excuses I need to stop even though we still have a mile to go before getting home. So I gasp out to my husband that I'm going to stop at the next turn and walk it home. Phew! I'm done. Maybe. My sweet husband passes me but then turns around and comes back encouraging me to finish. I do finish, albeit at a lot slower pace. I even knock out the last little hill just because I hate that hill and want to be done. There's a t-shirt that reads, "Running is cheaper than therapy," and it is so true. Running will break you down mentally and show you how you think about yourself. On this run I learned how often I talk down to myself and how little I celebrate my running accomplishments. It's another variation on the common theme of my inner world: Not Good Enough. Praise God though that He is showing me this and provides for the solution in Christ. God, my Father, is the One who has redeemed me and defines me as His. I am free to take on these challenges in running, and life, without fear and celebrate the victories with thanksgiving to Him who has given me this gift of running. P.S. Thanks to Mike Karch, a finisher of the 2003 Badwater Ultramarathon, for the idea of the self-talk box. It came to him during one of the hallucinations he had while doing the race. He writes about it in Scott Ludwig's book, A Few Degrees From Hell. Now I have a new mantra: "Keep the box positive!"

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Last weekend was quite the spiritual mountaintop. As I was reciting Scripture while running those last couple miles with Grace, I felt like I could talk to anyone about Christ. The power of the Holy Spirit was so near and palpable. After I came home and came down from that mountaintop I entered back into my normal life. Homeschooling, errand-running, homemaking. I ran out of printer ink so I headed out to Office Depot. A couple years ago I bought a bunch of evangelistic booklets from Desiring God and tried to figure out how to pass them out. I'm not a natural in the cold-turkey evangelism department. I don't know many who are. But God has gently encouraged me to get out of my comfortable suburban bubble and see the opportunities to share Him. One idea has been to hand out these booklets to the store cashiers where I do my errands. Just a booklet and a simple message - "This is for you in case you don't know Christ." I've always been nervous to do this. Almost every single time I make excuses not to do it. I battle feelings of not wanting to do it. And many times I've copped out. But every single time I've followed through God has blessed me in some way. You'd think that after the weekend I had and the experience I'd just had with the power of God's word it would be a cinch to hand this booklet out at Office Depot. It wasn't. I was still nervous. I still made excuses. I still battled feelings of not wanting to do it. And I left the store with booklet still sitting in my purse.

I could've gone home and wallowed in a pit of failure. I'm very familiar with that pit. That pit is where I like to examine all my fears and failures. Many a pity party has occurred in that pit. But God calls me out of that pit and I am learning not to go there as much anymore. He lifts my head up to Him and looks with eyes of grace. He reminds me to stop looking inward for the power and the motivation. The source is in Him, in His Spirit. The power that overwhelmed my weak frame when I was struggling through the end of the marathon didn't come from me. That was obvious. It came when I called out to Him with His Word. The same power is promised in my everyday life. While I'm homeschooling, errand-running, homemaking. When I'm standing in line at the checkout next time.

Monday, March 07, 2011


I'm finding that the buildup to a marathon and then the actual race is like a mountain top experience. Afterward there is this question of what to do now? Your life can get so focused on the training that when it's not there you're left with an empty space. It's tempting to fill it up quickly with more plans for more races. But that empty space is okay. It's okay to just let it be there. Look at it. Maybe the empty space is reminding me that running cannot be the defining element of my life. It's not enough to satisfy the really big things in my heart and soul. And someday I will no longer run or race.

God knows this. This is why He continually calls us to worship Him and give thanks. He is big enough and worthy enough to satisfy completely and infinitely.

So today I am asking, "What now?" I am getting back to a "normal" routine. I'm continuing to rest and recover. But I will not panic, grasping blindly for things to put in that empty space. I will look to Him and wait full of thanksgiving and worship.

1,000 Thanks
my dog was perfectly behaved while we were gone
my wonderful in-laws and their good humor and generous spirit
CR friends who embody the love of Christ
routines that give order to a wayward heart

Sunday, March 06, 2011


I remember being in my freshman year at Northwestern University as a music major and the most important thing for me to figure out was where I ranked with the other clarinet players. Over the course of four years we had to play 12 auditions and we were placed in various ensembles based on our success in those auditions. For the majority of my life I've viewed success through the lens of a professional musician. Success meant hitting all the notes, not making any mistakes. After all, that's what got you the top spot in college and what would get you the job after college.

Fast forward from that freshman year almost 21 years (yikes!). I am not a professional musician any longer. I am a mom and a homeschooler who plays and teaches a little on the side and has taken up running in a serious way in the last 3 years. A lot has changed, most importantly, the addition of my faith in Jesus Christ in the middle of my college years. But some mindsets hang on and I've found that even though I'm no longer auditioning as a professional musician, that definition of success has followed me into other areas of my life. I guess it's one of those sins that the author of Hebrews says so easily entangles us. I am entangled often by the need to quantify my performance by a number or another identifiable standard. In parenting it's the obedience of my children when they were toddlers or their performance on a test as teenagers.

In running the obvious standard is the clock and for the most part I've continued to have success after success where the clock is concerned. I've improved in race after race and it's been so fulfilling. But then comes the marathon. The marathon is unlike any race. Anything can happen and does happen no matter what you do in your training. It happens to any level of runner too. Deena Kastor broke her foot at mile 5 in the 2008 Olympic Marathon after winning a medal in 2004. Haile Gebresallasie, the world record holder, injured his knee at mile 16 in the 2010 NYC Marathon and had to drop out.

Yesterday was my second marathon. I told myself that my goals were just to finish and try to figure out how best to fuel and pace myself. But come on now! You know a time goal is always in the back of my mind. I went through about 20 miles feeling amazing. My pace was conservative but strong and after a couple people I was running with had to stop and walk I gradually started getting faster. Everything was going great. I thought I had this fueling thing down considering I was past the point of breakdown from my first marathon. Then I tried to take some fuel. I had choked down a GU energy gel at mile 15 and even though it was hard to swallow it made me feel better in the miles right after taking it. After 20 I decided to switch to Sportbeans. I thought these would be easier to do since they would make my mouth water. I was wrong. My gag reflex was coming on strong and any thought of putting something in my mouth made me think of throwing up. I couldn't even look at the Hammer gels the race volunteers were giving out without getting nauseous. Soon enough I started getting light headed and weaker. Around mile 21 or 22 I started taking walk breaks. I stopped smiling and thanking race volunteers. I started promising myself I'd never do a marathon again. It was getting bad and my pace was really suffering. Around mile 23 someone named Grace caught up with me. I had met her in the 4:30 pace group at the start of the race but we had gotten separated and now both of us were several minutes behind the pace group. She came up to me and started encouraging me to run. "You'll feel bad whether you run or walk so why not run?" It made sense to me so I willed myself to run with her. She started talking and I soon discovered she was a believer. She talked about reading the Bible in a year and about the Old Testament so I decided to tell her about all the memorizing I've been doing lately. I said I've been memorizing a bunch of Scripture and I've gotten through the first five chapters of Hebrews so far. That led me to quote a verse and somehow this verse from Hebrews 4 came out of my mouth - "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses but one who in ever respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." As soon as I quoted that verse a tingling surge of energy went through my entire body and I immediately felt better. I continued to quote Hebrews 4 into Hebrews 5. I paused and Grace said, "Keep going!" I switched to Colossians 3 and quoted half of that. Then I went back and started at the beginning of Hebrews. It was amazing and unlike anything I've ever experienced. Here we were running the last few miles of this marathon. We were both struggling. My physical tank was past depletion and yet I was running and getting faster. I continued to quote Scripture in a clear and strong voice while we passed other race volunteers and runners. I didn't care who heard me. At about mile 25 1/2 I saw someone from our running group who had driven down with a group to surprise us and support us during the race. That was quite a present. Stephen ran me towards the finish line and once I saw that I burst into a sprint and Grace and I crossed together having finished strong. We gave each other a hug and both said how great it was to have met each other.

My time? 4:36:30. My first marathon was 4:36:58. So where is the success in this? How do I quantify it? Not by a time on the clock for sure. Late in the race before I ran into distress I passed a church and on its sign was this message - "Perseverance will teach you more than success ever will." For me, running the marathon has taught me so much about perseverance and finishing something really hard and really out of your comfort zone. But God has used the marathon to loosen ever more slightly the grip that quantifiable success has had on me. In 2009 I was trying hard to break 1 hour in the 10K and I thought I was going to do it at this race on Memorial Day. I had barely missed the mark by 30 seconds in a previous 10K a couple months back so I was pretty confident I could do this. I was so disappointed when I came across the finish line in a time a minute slower than my previous attempt. I went home from that race utterly crestfallen and I let it bother me for many days later. It's funny how those sins that so easily entangle us follow us into different areas of our lives. Praise God that He's used running to help me see that it's not a time on the clock that defines me anymore than a perfectly played piece of music. It's what He's done not what I've done. All honor to Him.

Many, many thanks go out to the group from CR who drove 3+ hours to surpise us, run with us, support us, cheer us and just love us like the body of Christ should. They were awesome!

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Since I've started running in 2008 I've tried to get faster and stronger. For the most part I've hit my goals and my times have gone down in the 5K through the half marathon. When I took on the challenge of training for a marathon I knew it would be hard but as the training schedule wore on, I got stronger and faster still. I humbly admit that my head got a little big dreaming about what I could do in my first marathon. My training was going great and if you just looked at the numbers, I was on my way to making my time goal.

What I didn't realize was there's a whole other aspect to this marathon thing. I guess you could call it the intangibles. These are the things that don't usually factor into shorter races, even a half marathon. Intangibles like fueling, the "wall", and making double dog-gone sure of your pace.

One of my friends calls the marathon a "fickle beast" and that is only too true. A beast in that you can be over halfway through but still have over ten miles to go. Ugh! Fickle because no matter how hard you train and no matter how well that training goes......anything......yes, anything can happen. Unfortunately, that anything is usually a bad thing. I learned a lot from my marathon experience but one of the most important lessons was learning to keep a loose grasp on PRs. It's great to get a personal record and improve each time you go out. But a finish time should not be the defining element of your race, especially a marathon.

As the last 6 miles of my marathon wore on, I realized how difficult it was just to finish one of these beasts. And as I came closer and closer to the finish line I didn't really care about my time. All I could think of was finishing and the joy of that accomplishment. I have utmost amounts of respect for anyone who finishes a marathon, no matter what their time.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Today, as I continued to recover from yesterday's first marathon I thought of those last two tenths of a mile, the most precious two tenths of running I've ever done. One guy in the crowd yelled out, "Hey number 12, you're a marathoner!!!" All the emotion that was bubbling just beneath the surface started to explode into choked back sobs. The gal who had stayed with me the whole race, chatting with me, giving me advice, staying silent, listening to me quote Scripture, pointed to me and yelled out to the crowd that I was a first time marathoner. The crowd erupted into renewed cheers as I came into the finish. Two friends from our running club who had driven up just to cheer us on hugged me and took care of me as I struggled to get some water down and recover.

Thinking about this now I can't help but recall Hebrews 12 and the cloud of witnesses. What an amazing picture of how it will be when we finish our spiritual race in heaven. No thought about the time it took you to finish. You finished and everyone witnessing your race is cheering you on and encouraging you. Wow. I never realized how accurate the Bible was when it used the race analogy for the journey of faith. Doing a marathon really brings that home.

"Therefore, since we have so great a could of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith..."