Friday, May 31, 2013

God's Masterpiece

"For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago."
Ephesians 2:10

I enjoyed a new experience on my jog last night: jogging with a friend! I typically jog alone because it's my quiet time with the Lord, but I think spending time encouraging and being encouraged by others is important as well.

We actually did quite well in our run. We ran 2.5 miles in 30:51, with an average pace of 12:19. We were both excited! The night was cool, our run was enjoyable, but most of all, we shared some great conversation.

(The fact that we could talk while we were running still amazes me!)

I think we as women often forget how important we are to the Lord. We get so caught up in our feelings of insecurity that we forget that we are "fearfully and wonderfully made." (Psalm 139:14) God created us just the way we are for a purpose. He wants to use us if we will just let Him!

I love reading Ephesians 2:10. I memorized it so that I can think on it daily. I am God's masterpiece! When I accepted Christ as my Savior, I was created anew. From the time I was conceived, God had good things planned for me. The only thing I have to do now is trust God and do them! 

I just want this friend to know that she, too, is God's masterpiece! She is beautiful, inside and out, and I haven't just read in Scripture that God has good things planned for her, I also feel it in my heart! 

"Hold firmly to the Word of Life; then, on the day of Christ's return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless." Philippians 2:16

So run, girl! You've got this! And God does, too! 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Commitment Vs. Competition

"Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people."
Colossians 3:23

The date of my first 5k is quickly approaching and I must admit, I'm getting a little nervous. To be honest, I'm most nervous about running in front of other people. I've said throughout this entire journey that I'm not exercising as a way to compete with other people. I so much enjoy that quiet time between God and I and I'm learning to see my value through God's eyes. 
While healthy competition can be good, I don't want to feel defeated when someone has a better time than me. People will have a better time than me. On the other hand, I don't want to become prideful if I run better than someone else.

 I want my running to be enjoyable and to improve my walk with the Lord. I don't want pride or feelings of defeat to drive a wedge in the relationship I've worked so hard to develop. When I begin to notice such feelings creep up, I pray Colossians 3:23.

"Lord, help me to work willingly at whatever I do, including jogging. Help me to make this journey about my relationship with You, not comparing myself to other people."

I truly believe that if I can let the Lord teach me this now, I can instill the same values in my own children. I want my kids to know that while it's commendable to be the best they can be and to excel at the things they do, they should never focus solely on being better than everyone else. They should always work willingly for the Lord, not just work to impress us as their parents, or anyone else for that matter. I want them to know that it's okay to be happy when they succeed, but being humble is even better. 

The Lord takes pride in His children when they work hard with the right motives. Even if I don't run a 10 minute mile, the Lord is still proud that I'm out there running and that I'm spending time with Him. I can rest assured that even if I come in last place, I'm not a failure. Failing would be never trying in the first place. I thank the Lord that He has showed me this while my children are still young so that I can hopefully never pressure them with unrealistic expectations. 

So I leave you with 1 Samuel 16:7 today, "But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Don't judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The LORD doesn't see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.'"

Even if my outside appearance or performance isn't the "best" according to the world, I can always rest assured that God sees my heart. And that's what really matters. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Submission

"Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God's Will. Then you will receive all that He has promised."
Hebrews 10:36

Still euphoric from running with such a good time Thursday evening, I decided to go for another jog Friday night. I had to jog for two eight-minute increments and I only made it halfway. I was tired when I left the house, so maybe my expectations were already too low to make it through. But, instead of beating myself up, I told myself this:

"There will be good runs and bad runs, but what matters is that you ran."

I have to remind myself of this in every day life as well. There are going to be good days and bad days, but what matters is that I continue to seek the Lord. Even if I fail, because I will. I should never take my eyes off of God. 

This morning, I had a chance to redeem myself because I was instructed to run two miles, or 20 minutes, with no walking! As I completed my warm-up walk, I prayed that God would give me the strength to push through. The longest I've ever run without walking is eight minutes! There is a huge difference between eight minutes and 20! I already knew my pace wasn't fast enough to run two miles in 20 minutes, but I was determined to run the entire 20 minutes without walking. But, in order to do that, I had to focus my attention on a conversation with God, a conversation in no way related to running. 

(I know that may seem strange, but the more I think about how hard it is to run, the harder it is for me to finish. So if I focus my mind on other things in prayer, I find jogging becomes much easier.)

This morning, God laid on my heart to pray for my role in my marriage. I'm a little surprised that I haven't felt this pull in prayer before now, but I know God knows the perfect time to lay something on someone's heart. To be honest, I think it was because I pray the hardest when I'm actually running, not walking, and this morning was my longest run yet.

(If you're wondering, yes! I did run the full 20 minutes without stopping! It wasn't easy and my pace was terrible, but I did it! Praise Jesus, hallelujah!) 

I read this recently in Romans 7:14-15, "So the trouble is not with the law, for it is spiritual and good. The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don't really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don't do it. Instead, I do what I hate."

The truth is, I know what my role should be in my marriage. I know I'm supposed to step back and let my husband be the leader. I know I'm supposed to be submissive in love and take care of my husband's physical needs. These are all things I know, but I still fail to do them regularly. 

I had a hard time with relationships in my younger years and allowed guys to walk all over me. I found my self-worth in the attention of the opposite sex and was so belittled and abused that now I'm afraid to not be stubborn and defensive. In no way, shape, or form has my husband ever treated me in such a way, but after years of believing I wasn't good enough and allowing myself to be treated with disrespect, it's my natural instinct to, in my mind, "protect" myself. My husband has had to pay for mistakes he never made and I convinced myself over the years that it was normal for me to feel this way. It's not.

So I begged the Lord in prayer this morning to give me the desire to change. The desire to break down my defenses, to release my grip on control, and to give my husband the wife he deserves. I pleaded with God to change my identity from victim to virtuous woman. I want to speak words of honor and respect to my husband and be his biggest supporter, not his biggest enemy. 

I haven't worked hard at changing because I haven't wanted to change. I haven't wanted to change because the natural reactions I have come easier than doing what's right. But luckily, God has an answer for that problem. 

Romans 7:24-25, "Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how is is: In my mind I really want to obey God's law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin."

Because of my nature, I can never change on my own. But the Lord can change my will, and as a result, my marriage. 

So I leave you with this verse of the day, Hebrews 10:36, "Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God's Will. Then you will receive all that He has promised."

If I have patient endurance in my marriage, I will receive the blessings God has in store for us.

If I have patient endurance in my running, I will receive the blessings God has in store for me.

That's some wonderful encouragement. And by the way, the sermon this morning was on the wife's role in her marriage. That's God speaking right there!


Friday, May 24, 2013

Personal Records

"Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous - how well I know it."
Psalm 139:14

I missed my morning jog yesterday morning because I couldn't keep my hands off of the sneaky snooze button. By the time I jolted awake, it was 6:15 a.m. and too late to run because the hubby had to leave for work. I had prayed the night before to be motivated, and although I didn't make it up in the morning, I managed to make it outside after a fairly long day.

I wasn't expecting much from my performance. It was considerably cooler, since it was 8:30 at night, dark, and there was a nice breeze blowing off of the water. But, I was tired and had stuffed myself with Cici's just a few hours before. My running plan had me running a total of 15 minutes and walking a total of 16 minutes, but I cut my warm-up walk short and actually extended my last jog by two minutes! 

When I reached my first mile, the voice on my phone informed me that my pace was 11:36. I couldn't believe I'd beat my 12:28 personal record! By the end of my run, my pace was actually 11:07 and I could have leaped for joy! Trust me, I seriously wanted to do a happy dance! 

For some reason last night, I couldn't think of anything too specific for my prayer time. Though I spent the majority of my walk/jog in conversation with the Lord, there wasn't a deep need in my heart to address. In all honesty, I was just so excited that God has helped me so much in my jogging journey. 

When I first began running, I couldn't jog a tenth of a mile without gasping for air. My pace has increased from around 14:45 to under 12 minutes! I don't mean this in a way to sound proud of myself, but I am proud of the change in my physical lifestyle, with the help of the Lord. 

My physical, spiritual, and emotional health have all improved immensely throughout this journey. So I want to take the time to praise God with the words of Psalm 139:14 and say, "Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous - how well I know it!" Not because I think that I personally am marvelous - but that the work the Lord has done in me is wonderful! 

I think it brings God pleasure to see his workmanship on display, even in something as small as a personal jogging record. 

"So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God."
1 Corinthians 10:31

Monday, May 20, 2013

Finding My Voice & Listening to God's

"Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly." 
Psalm 5:3

After a tough day of jogging on Friday, I was little hesitant to get up and go this morning. Add the ache in my head to the fear in my heart and it was really only by the nudging of the Lord that I got out of bed at 5:45 a.m. 

As I made my way down the street this morning, I decided to slow my pace down and really try to focus on what the Lord was saying to me, instead of focusing on surviving my run. I can't say it was easy, especially when my thoughts began to wander and my chest began to ache. 

Am I the only person who notices this habit? I feel the Lord convicting me about something I don't want to hear, change, or acknowledge, so I let my mind go elsewhere.

But, as the Lord usually does with His children, He kept bringing me back to what He wanted me to hear.

Do I really want to dive into everything the Lord had to say to me this morning? Not particularly. Sometimes our conversations with the Lord aren't meant to be shared. Especially when the Lord brings up those embarrassing character flaws you'd rather not admit having. 

But just last week, I was jogging and prayed Psalm 139:23, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts." God took that prayer and answered it, revealing anxious thoughts and areas of my heart that needed attention.

So today I feel like King David, realizing that the Lord listens to my voice each morning. Not only can I bring my requests to the Lord, but I can bring them expectantly. Although I may not hear his voice immediately, He will make Himself present at just the right moment. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Running With Endurance and Giving Up

"May the Lord lead your hearts into a full understanding and expression of the love of God and the patient endurance that comes from Christ."
2 Thessalonians 3:5

This week in my jogging journey, I had a day of triumph, followed by a day of failure. I started a new week in my 5k training program and my running time increased. So far, I've typically spent more time walking than running, building up my endurance and muscles, but for the first time ever, my walking and running times were going to be about equal. 

I'm going to take a moment to give myself a little credit for my first day running this week. My mile pace was 13:25. I walk/jogged for 30 minutes, and 16 of those minutes were jogging. I was so excited!   It was tough, but I made it! 

But, then came Day 2. 

I usually run right around sunrise, mostly because I need to go before my husband goes to work, but also because it's cooler in the day. On this particular day, I ran two hours later, when the sun was well in the sky and it was considerably warmer than what's normal for me. I didn't expect the heat to make such a difference, but it did. 

So much so, I had to quit my jog four minutes early.

I hadn't hydrated well enough and had to stop, go home, and get water. 

I usually walk/jog around 2.3 miles and had to quit at 1.6. I had actually increased my pace by over a minute, (12:28!) but all I could think about was that I quit.

It may not seem like that big of a deal, but it was so discouraging to me. I know everyone has their off days, and I know I was running in heat I wasn't used to, but I've always pushed through and made it to the end. 

So this is where the fear creeps in.

"Am I even going to be able to finish a 5k?"

"Am I just destined to not really be a runner?"

"Should I go ahead and quit completely now while I'm ahead?"

While thinking on all of this, I felt God lay on my heart a connection between my jogging journey and my present journey in life with friendships. 

It wasn't too long ago that I felt as if I failed at friendships and instead of following 2 Thessalonians 3:5 and letting the Lord lead my heart into an understanding of the love of God, I quit. I built a wall around myself and shut down the outgoing personality I used to have just eight years ago. I refused to reach out and kept to myself, because if I didn't have to truly open up to anyone, I wouldn't get hurt. 

But being alone gets lonely after awhile.

It wasn't long before my loneliness led me to reach out to the Lord and I began to practice the patient endurance that comes from Christ that 2 Thessalonians 3:5 speaks about. I prayed for God to improve me from the inside out, to seek His Will first and to show me my worth from His perspective, instead of the world's perspective. Through much Bible study and yes, patient endurance, I have made progress.

And I've also been blessed with beautiful friendships.

This is why I'll put my running shoes back on and go out again Monday. 

Quitting something God has called me to do is not an option. 

Even on the days when I feel like I can't do it, I have faith that the Lord will help me. He will remind me of the patient endurance that only comes from Him.

Not just in running, but in life.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Run Disney!

"Control your temper, for anger labels you as a fool."
Ecclesiastes 7:9

I experienced a first last week and saw a new side of Disney World. This part of Disney can only be experienced by a certain group of people and though it may not be a huge deal, it was exciting for me. On the first morning of our vacation, I rose early to go on a jog. The front desk gave me a small map, showing me the route along the resorts on our road. As I walked/jogged along, I saw something on the sidewalk I'd never seen at Disney World before. I've been to Disney six times and for the very first time, I saw this:


Now, I know this isn't exactly an extraordinary thing to see, but I realized something as I continued forward. These "Run Disney" symbols are only displayed on jogging paths at Disney World. If I hadn't been convicted to jog two months ago, I could have gone my entire life without seeing this neat little circle. 

As I've been on this journey, I have made an effort to not seek outside approval for my exercising endeavors. So seeing this was like an extra boost of encouragement for my soul. I know it might sound silly, but it's true. This "Run Disney" stamp on the sidewalk literally made my entire week.

As I prayed that morning, I thought about my tendency to micromanage everything about our Disney vacations, and in life in general. I can't seem to help it. I want us to be able to do anything and everything we want in the five short days we are there. But, I'll admit, I tend to get a little crazy with it. If a hitch arises, or someone disagrees with my plan, I don't cope well. In fact, I lose it a little. I so desperately did not want that during this trip, so during my jog, I prayed hard that the Lord would help me. I wanted to encourage my family to enjoy our vacation, not wish they hadn't even gone with me!

When I finished my run, I opened my email on my phone to read my daily devotion from Proverbs 31 Ministries. The devotion was literally God speaking right to me. It was called "The Micromanaging Mama" and you can read it here. I think the title alone explains how much this devotion was meant for me! I could not believe it.

But taking a look at that first verse really tore at my heart. 

"Control your temper, for anger labels you as a fool."

How true it is! Every time I lose my temper, or come unglued, I look like a fool. Especially when it's over something silly like missing a chance to take Jack to meet another character at Disney World. I know deep down that it's foolish to get angry, but I do it anyway and regret it later. Our vacation is over now, and while I did have my "unglued" moments, I have peace that I did better than years before. My goal now is to remember that verse in day-to-day life because I want to be regarded as a woman of wisdom, not a fool! 

Losing my temper, especially over things that don't really matter, is definitely foolish. I just pray that God gives me the wisdom and ability to control mine more often.

Friday, May 3, 2013

My First Run in (Some) Rain

"Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying."
Romans 12:12

I enjoyed two new experiences this morning. The first, running in a little bit of rain! It didn't rain much, just sprinkled throughout my jog, but it was so refreshing! It may be cooler at 5:45 a.m. than later in the day, but it still gets pretty warm out there. God knew just what I needed to make it through and the light rain was such a blessing!

I also increased my mile pace by a full minute. I felt near death and was sure I wasn't going to make it, but it was so worth it when my Endomondo Sports Tracker let me know that my average pace was 13:15, when it usually sits around 14:25! Needless to say, I WAS EXCITED!

I know a 13-minute mile is nowhere near anything grand to most of the world, but to me, it was amazing! It was most exciting because I realized I don't need other people to be impressed. God pushed me through that 13-minute mile and I know He's just as proud of me as I am!

To get through my jogging intervals, I usually pray about extremely personal things that are so hard to confess and ask for help, that they take my mind off of my physical struggle.

This morning was a kicker: patience with my kids.

All parents go through this, right? There's only so many days you can listen to whining and deal with attitude. I want so desperately to not lose my own temper and to react with grace and love, especially with my children, but it can be hard. 

I've had an especially hard week dealing with separation anxiety from my infant and attitude from my preschooler. And while I'd love to say that I always react in a Godly matter, that would be a lie. So, when I started my first 1.5 minute jog this morning, God immediately laid on my heart to pray for my reactions. 

When the whining starts, take a deep breath and give her the love and affection she needs.

When the attitude starts, take the time to explain that feelings of frustration are okay, but talking back and losing our temper is not. 

And even if she whines and he loses his temper, let them know God still loves them and so do I.

And it hit me then.

God is saying the same thing to me. 

Even when I whine, complain, and lose my temper, God still loves me too. 

So Romans 12:12 gives me hope, when I feel like I'm at the end of my rope at the end of my day. 

I can rejoice and be confident in hope.

I can teach them through these struggles and let God improve me in the process. 

I can be patient in this struggle because God has been patient with me.

And most of all, I can keep on praying.

When she whines as I leave the room? KEEP ON PRAYING.

When he loses his temper and talks back? KEEP ON PRAYING.

When I feel the urge to scream or cry? KEEP ON PRAYING.

Because children learn by example, and what better example than taking my struggles to the Lord?

In the future, they will learn to do the same.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Conviction

"Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him and He will help you."
Psalm 37:5

Just two months ago, I was in the middle of a Jennifer Rothschild Bible study, Walking by Faith. In the introduction to the week's homework, she asked a few questions, one being: Are you taking care of your body and health the way God expects you to?

Now, you would not want to get me started on this fitness thing. My husband is in the Air Force and it's part of his job to work out. 

But me?

 I'm a stay-at-home mom and I get my exercise from walking the kids down to the park. Or pushing them through the grocery store. Or chasing them around the house all day. Don't forget: I walk down the street to our mailbox every day, too! Isn't that enough exercise for me? I mean, lets get real here. I'm borderline underweight, so it's not like I need to work out. Even though I sometimes get out of breath making that short little trip to the mailbox ...

Hmm. 

I wrestled with these thoughts and the conviction in my heart for a couple of weeks. 

"I don't even like to exercise."

"When will I have time to exercise? I'm tired by the time Devin gets home from work. So I have to get up early?!" 

"Isn't it enough, God that I read my Bible every day? Now you want me to exercise, too?!"

It wasn't long before I couldn't fight the uneasiness in my spirit any longer. So, I found a Couch to 5k plan on Pinterest and decided I'd get up on Monday morning and go for a jog. 

I can only say one good thing about that morning.

I did a lot of praying!

I had to walk five minutes, jog two minutes, then walk five minutes. 

That's all. 

I thought I was going to die!

(Yes, I was really THAT out of shape!)

But, although it was miserable, I got up again on Wednesday and jogged.

It wasn't so bad that time. I made it through okay and I was feeling pretty proud of myself.

And then came Friday.

I was supposed to increase my jog by one minute and I couldn't do it.

I made it 30 extra seconds and had to sit down before I passed out, threw up, or both.

I felt so defeated and discouraged. I mean, I had pretty much chanted Philippians 4:13 throughout my entire jog.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me! I can do ALL ... well almost everything, but not this! Why isn't this working?"

As I walked home with my head down, I felt like just giving up. Who was I kidding? I hate jogging. I hate exercise in general. I'm not good at it and I hate to do things I'm not good at!

I decided God hadn't really convicted me about my health because he wouldn't convict me to do something I couldn't do! And it was obvious ... I could NOT run!

I had myself pretty much convinced until I got into my Bible reading that afternoon and stumbled across Psalm 37:5.

"Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him and He will help you."

Not some things.

Not most things.

EVERYTHING.

Even exercise.

Especially if I knew I was being convicted about it.

Devin had been telling me that I needed to sign up for a 5k and it would motivate me to finish training. So out of curiosity, I researched local 5k's for the weekend I would finish my training.

Guess what? There was a 5k in town ... and the day before that, a FREE 5k on base.

I guess that was the Lord's way of telling me to, "GET UP AND RUN."

So, here I am.

I'm at week 5 of my training and still moving along.

I've progressed from 12 minutes of exercise at a time to 30 minutes.

Walking/jogging 2 miles at least 3 times per week.

But even more exciting than my progress in jogging, is the way my relationship with the Lord has grown.

30 minutes of walking/jogging at 5:45 a.m. gives me 30 minutes of personal time with the Lord.

 I have prayed prayers I never thought to pray before.

 I have poured my heart out as I watch the sunrise over the Santa Rosa Sound, and I'm in complete awe of God's marvelous creation.

When I enter my 1 1/2 or 3 minutes of jogging, I confess sins in my heart that I normally would push under the rug. The burn in my chest and the aches in my legs seem to go numb as I let go of things and give them to God.

That bitterness in my heart? Take it Lord.

Unforgiveness? Take that too.

Selfishness? Jealousy? Insecurity? All of those things I don't even want to admit to myself?

Take it God.

I commit EVERYTHING to You and I TRUST that you will help me.

Not just with jogging, but with everything in my life.

Did God convict me to run so that I could better take care of my body?

I think that was part of the reason.

But most of all, I think the Lord convicted me to run so that I could run to HIM.