Friday, October 28, 2011

Running the Race -- Urbanathlon Chicago 2011


"Therefore … let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1).
I fanned open my bible to Hebrews 12 and read the verse.  It is a familiar one to me. I’ve read it, leaned on it and had often done so.  

Right before the race (Urbanathlon Chicago 2011) (click to see the course -- 10 miles and 7 urban obstacles through the city of Chicago) I tucked it away in my in my mind. The thing is, I knew that I needed it.
The race set before me that day was a physical one. I trained. I ran. I applied BioFreeze to my sore muscles and foam rolled tight muscles frequently.  I was ready, physically, but it was the negative self-talk that was weighing me down.

I have issues with this problem, not just when I run a race, but in life.  Like cockroaches in the dark, words of negativity about myself scurry around, creeping me out and keeping me back.
Words like …

You’ll never finish.
You’re not strong enough.

Who do you think you are?

Why do you even bother trying?
You’re just going to disappoint yourself – and worse, yet, others.

I don’t know where they come from or how they get in, but suddenly, there they are. Like I said, creepy.
So, as I worked up to and stepped up to the starting line a couple of weeks ago, I clung to this verse.

Throw off everything that hinders – all the NEGATIVE SELF TALK – and run the race marked out for you.
I’m still reliving some of the moments of the race, and still smiling.

My goal was to finish the race – finish the race with a smile on my face for my kids – and I did.
That's me in the middle, getting a boost from below, over the last obstacle -- the 8 foot wall.
I didn’t do it perfectly. I needed a boost over a few of the obstacles (the giant tractor tire and the eight foot wall at the end). I tripped once along the way (and felt sorry for the guy behind me. I think I almost gave him a heart attack as I flew forward, catching myself before the ground caught me). I had to take the “penalty push-ups” when I couldn’t get over the marine hurdles, but I made it across the monkey bars without falling (and did a little victory dance when I got through them).

Over a police barricade near the beginning of the race. I was still feeling fresh ...

That's me in the lime green, getting ready to crawl over the bus.
I'm making my way through the mud, and over a taxi ...
AND I had fun. I ran with courage and strength, determined to do my best. I persevered and stepped on a few cockroaches of negative self-talk along the way (can you hear the crunch? I know – gross!), as I climbed over police barricades, slopped through mud and made my way over a city bus and taxi cabs. I enjoyed the scenery and I enjoyed the people that I chatted with along the way.

It was good. God is good for continually teaching me, transforming me in all things.
I finished, and I’m proud of myself for taking on the challenge and conquering the race, but maybe even more so, overcoming the obstacle of my negative self-talk and  facing my fears.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Memories Know No Time

It’s the way the rainy mist hits the glass and is quickly swept away be the windshield wipers and the way that trees glow bold. The way the leaves smell and crinkle red and orange and yellow and brown.  It’s the temperature outside – a chilly, damp 38 degrees. 

It’s the gentle heat that blows out of the vent, across my feet as I do dishes.  It’s the look of the half dead impatiens in the window box outside of my kitchen window, yellowed, weak, but trying to look brave.  It’s the few leaves that cling to nearly empty branches, holding on for dear life.

It’s my feet in my clogs instead of my flip-flops. It’s my black fleece jacket I slip on soft because I am chilled.  The tender way a close friend says my name. The words to a song.

They all – together, not one on its own -- bring back memories for me this month, memories of difficult times, and I will admit -- it is hard.  I love fall, but it also carries along with it sorrow.
I heard it said recently that memories know no time.

I think it’s true.

In an unexpected moment we remember something from our past, not begrudgingly, but honestly, regardless of whether it has been days, weeks, months or years. 
Memories are enigmas to me.

They are so incredibly tangible and yet mysteriously untouchable. Present in the present, and yet from the past.
I try to reach out and grab hold of them, either to embrace them or push them away.

And I cannot do either.
They slip away, like the fine mist outside, and yet, they are all around me, touching my skin, striking my heart.

And although they can sometimes be difficult to face, I think in a very hope-filled, God graced way, they can be valuable.
At least that’s how I’m trying to look at them this month.

I’m trying to face them, lean in to them, and take them to the Lord.
And I’m asking Him to remind me of –

Who He is --
What He taught me --
How He provided for me --
The ways in which He loved me, loves me --

And where He has brought me -- today.

Hoping, trusting, that somehow – He is still bringing beauty.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

And God Reminded Me, "I'm Aware, and I Care"


A couple of days ago, if you were to ask me how I was doing, I would have responded DEPLETED.
Bone dry. Rung out. Deflated.  I felt like a mere shell of a woman. And I didn't see relief in sight.

But like most women, I kept on going. I asked the Lord, for help.  I just wasn’t expecting it in this way.
God is so creative and cool.

A friend of mine was in town from Dallas. We've been friends for a long time. We met for a couple of hours for coffee  and enjoyed catching up on life – hashing over the good, the bad and the ugly, but encouraging each other in the Truths.
I felt my cup fill up.

But it wasn’t just that.
Later that day, I was telling my kids about how this friend definitely has the spiritual gift of giving.  She’s given me some pretty interesting gifts over the years, including sending coconut ice cream to my house, wrapped in Styrofoam and dry ice, shortly after I gave birth to our 4th child.

Anyway, she stopped by the house a few hours later, carrying a red bag, wrapped around 2 packages of Ho-Ho’s and a card, with her handwritten words, “Here’s to finding the beautiful beneath the dirt, dust and sin.  Your friendship is such a blessing.  Take care of yourself – which means, of course, eating Ho-Ho’s! Keep praying. Keep writing. Keep going.  God will not let you fall.  I love you soul sister!”
My cup filled up some more.

The next morning, I went out to my car to get my sun glasses, opened the door and to my surprise,  on the front seat of my car rested a framed set of photographs. The day before, when we were together, we browsed through an art gallery and I admired it. It is three photographs of old fashioned typewriter keys. She bought it, I thought for her. 

She’s sneaky that way.

The thing is, I’m still smiling about it. It’s really not about the gifts.  I didn’t NEED the Ho-Ho’s or the picture, but God used her giving them to me to remind me of Him. It was about Him filling me up, through the truth that He was at work.

Beyond the fact that she was generous and kind, it’s that God cared enough about me to prompt her in her gifting. She was the willing vehicle of His grace to me.  It was as if He was saying to me, “I’m aware, and I care.”
Yes, I’m still smiling about the visit, the card, the Ho-Ho’s (and I’m happy to report that they only have 80 calories each – who would have known?) and the picture (which I hung in my kitchen, still adorned with the bow that it came with).

But I’m also touched by the truth that when we live out the spiritual gifting that God has given us (giving, teaching, encouraging, etc...), in His timing and in His way,  then we are giving God’s love.

We may never know who He may be reaching at any given moment. It’s not like I was wearing a neon sign that flashed DEPLETED. She didn’t know that. God did.
Lord, help me to be your willing servant, to bless others through the gifting that you’ve given me.  Help me to believe that you are at work. Remind me of this, so that I can in turn, bravely, generously, give to others, in whatever way you ask me to, for that day. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Africa Through the Eyes of Our Children -- The "Little Sister" Reports


(Today is the fifth and final post,  in the series sharing our children’s thoughts about our mission trip to Villages of Hope, Zambia.   The “Little Sister” reports today.  She is an outgoing child, confident in who she is and in the Lord. She loves people.  She ran and ran all day with the kids, holding hands, giving piggy-back rides, making sure that no one was left out, always available to do whatever the children were interested in doing.  It was very special to see how God, already, is making her in to His servant, bringing hope and delight to others around her.  For eight years old, she was amazing!)

It’s hard for me to say what I liked best – I liked it all! My favorite part was playing with the kids.  I jumped rope a lot, too, and they are really good at it. I even taught them a jump rope song.  I liked playing soccer.  They’re really good and that makes it fun for me.  I liked walking to school with the children and playing on the merry-go-round that helps pump water for the school. I liked working with the team, sorting shoes from the big container, to give to the kids.

I learned a lot about God, too.  He really helps these children.  I learned that these kids don't have anything, and they still believe in God.  I think I’m not going to ask for so much stuff anymore.  I don’t need things to be happy, I just need love and Jesus in my heart.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Africa Through the Eyes of Our Children -- The "Middle Daughter" Reports


(This is the fourth entry in the series sharing our children’s insight in to their mission trip to Africa. Our “middle daughter” is artistic and insightful. She taught the children how to make bracelets out of embroidery floss, knitted with them, enjoyed working on jigsaw puzzles and jumping rope. Her tender heart was always aware of their needs. She loved the children and they loved her. The children were fascinated with her glasses. Shortly after meeting her, some of the children asked one of our team members, “Was she born with this glasses or did she get them when she was older?” So sweet! J).

I had a lot of fun on my mission trip to Africa. My favorite part was playing with the kids at the Villages of Hope. God really showed me how powerful He is and how He brought these kids to this orphanage. I am glad God helps us to go on this mission trip. I hope to go back some day and see the kids and how they have grown. I think this is the best experience I have ever had.

While I was there, God showed me that:

· Before, I always wanted more. I don’t want so much anymore.

· I can make friends quickly.

· It’s okay to make mistakes and people will forgive you.

· God’s love is amazing and so HUGE!

· God made beautiful animals.

· Kids love making ankle bracelets.

· The kids at the orphanage really love God.

· The kids at the orphanage are good at cooking.

· Some kids just like having people around.

· Put others before yourself.

· No one is perfect.

· I really can get attached to people and it is always hard to say goodbye.

· God is always watching over us and taking care of us.



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Africa Through the Eyes of Our Children -- "Mr. Middle Child" Reports


(This is the third post in a series, sharing our children’s view point of the mission trip to the Villages of Hope in Zambia, in their own words.  Our middle child is full of life, a “people person” and MY hero for spotting a poisonous snake before it got too close to us!   He spent a lot of time playing soccer and roaming the grounds, telling stories. He loves to laugh. I could hear his joy filled voice bouncing around the village, mixed in with the laughter of the boys his age. They seemed to always be laughing about something.  The boys showed him how they make catapults (slingshots) to shoot birds. He taught the boys how to play baseball – something they had never learned before! It was very special to see God use his gifts of caring for people and making them feel special, in Africa).

I am so happy that God let me go on the mission trip to the Villages of Hope in Zambia.  He taught me so many things!

One of the things that I realized is that before I went to the VOH I was not content. The kids at the orphanage were happy with the few things they had and didn’t want more things. One of my new friends, Roman, created a car out of wire that he found.  He also added little toys to it that he found.  He wants to be a mechanic when he grows up. He also made a course for the car, around a tree, with a gas pump, a gate, a road with dirt and concrete edges.  He is very creative and content.  When I returned from Africa, I noticed that I was beginning to be more content with what God gave me, too.
Learning how to make a catapult out of rubber found lying around, a "Y shaped stick" and leather from an old shoe.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Africa Through the Eyes of Our Children -- The "Oldest Daughter" Reports

(This is the second entry in the series this week, showcasing each of our children and their view of Africa and the Lord, in their own words.  Today, the "Oldest Daughter” shares.  It was a delight to see her love the little children, enter in to their games, care for their needs, and realize more of how God provides and protects. Some of their favorite things to do were  playing with her hair and snuggling with her).

Their smiles.  Their singing.  Their eyes.  Their love for one another.  Their love for God.  These are some of the memories I will never forget.  Last year in school, when I was a freshman, I learned two songs in choir called “Bonse Aba” and “Siyahamba”.  These songs were written in a Zambian language and I remember thinking to myself, “How cool would it be if the children I will be meeting know these songs.” 
Well, sure enough, while sitting under some trees one day with some little girls I sang a little bit of the songs for them.  Right away, the girls faces lit up and they had huge smiles on their faces.

“Yes Auntie! We know those songs!” said the girls. 
They then went on to sing the songs also and then kept talking about it the rest of the day.  I then knew that this was God at work.  How amazing that I would learn these Zambian songs at school in America and then actually be able to go to Zambia knowing them.  I think God was planning a special bonding moment for me and the little girls when I was learning these songs.  Only a Great God could do that.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Africa Through the Eyes of Our Children -- The "Eldest's" Report

(This is the first entry, giving a glimpse of how our children viewed the mission trip to Africa, written in their own words.  It was a moving experience to watch our eldest, who has Cerebral Palsy,  spend time with the children at the village, but as so often happens, he was blessed in return.  He spent hours telling them stories, and listening to theirs. He loved the children and they loved him in return.  There were no barriers, despite his disability, in their eyes).

Being on the mission trip to the Villages of Hope and spending time with the kids really strengthened my faith in that these kids had to have a lot of faith to get through their day.  I realized that I need that kind of faith to get through my day even though my special needs are different.  They were willing to leave whatever came up, in God's hands.  When they found out that I couldn't walk, they asked if they could pray for me.  They asked God to help me with my legs and that they would get better.   This even strengthened my faith.  Also, they loved to serve.  They always wanted to help me, push me around, even when I ran out of things for them to do -- they still wanted to do something to help!

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