Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day

As a kid, Mother’s Day was a fun day to celebrate my beautiful mom with homemade cards and a special meal or gift.  She taught us how to be creative, serve others, care for one another and love God.  Moments of baking in my EZ Bake oven beside my mom and watching her sew clothes for my dolls sparked a desire inside me of having children of my own one-day.

As an adult, my dream of having children died with my first marriage.  I mourned the children that would never grow in my womb, the baby snuggles, toddler steps, first day of school, the play dates and birthday parties, baking with my own daughter or watching their t-ball and soccer games.  For several years my heart hurt on Mother’s Day as I watched other women with their children and those awkward moments where people debated whether or not to say Happy Mother’s Day.

Slowly, God healed my heart and allowed me to enjoy Mother’s Day celebrating my mom and my friends who had entered a new phase in life.  My heart and life were whole.  “See I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland”  Isaiah 43:19

My mom frequently used shoe boxes or something like that to disguise the actual gift we were opening.  She loves to see the expression on someone’s face as they open the gift she thoughtfully picked out for them.  I wonder if God does the same thing with our hopes and dreams. 

God allowed me to become a mother.  The package didn’t look like anything I had dreamed or imagined, but it is good!  He allowed my picture of my dreams to die so He could paint the blessing on a different canvas and fulfill the desires of my heart.  My beautiful girls came into my life at ages 14 and 18 after I met their dad and now husband through online dating. 

As I sat in the nail salon and the technician asked if I had plans for Mother’s Day, my heart was happy to be able to say yes, I was getting my nails done with my oldest daughter who surprised us with a visit.  My youngest daughter was getting ready for her Senior Prom and would be taking pictures at our house.  My husband had sent me flowers with a card that touched my heart.  I had to stop thinking about God’s goodness.  Tears of joy threatened to stream down my face uncontrollably (which they did once I left the salon).

Motherhood comes in so many different packages.  Each one comes with it’s own blessings and challenges.  Trusting God to heal my broken dreams, allowing Him to paint a new picture, allowed me to love my girls like my own.  

Today, my mind and prayers continue to live with those who dread this day because it rips open the scars of pain … a child gone too soon, a mom who didn’t provide a safe home, a dream of being a mom that seems like it will never be fulfilled, a heart that aches to hug their mom one more time …

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Connecting with Christmas

One of my favorite traditions for the last several years is joining our church choir for Christmas.  Today was our dress rehearsal.  I love the point where the notes are so familiar that studying the pages intently in hopes of singing the right tune is no longer required.  Instead, the words start to permeate my heart and connect my soul with the real meaning of Christmas. 

As much as I tried to give 100% of my attention to rehearsal, my thoughts were weaving through the words in the songs.

“This is a season of hope, a season of season of expectation.  This is a season of joy, a season of celebration. This is a season of faith, a season of love and light.  This is a season of hope as we look to the birth of Christ”

My heart is heavy with the thought of so many families in Connecticut waking up living their worst nightmare.  Children killed.  Innocence shattered.  Families ripped apart.  Will they experience expectation, joy, hope?

“O Come, Emmanuel!  There is a promise soon to come, peace for everyone.  Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn king.”

Is that the promise of peace in the midst of pain Lord? Perhaps the key is to come and worship.  Worship filled with joy or worship filled with pain.  Either way, He wants us to pause.  STOP.  Take the time to focus on the real reason for this season and then worship.

 “I have a Father, He calls me His own.  He’ll never leave me, no matter where I go.  He knows my name.  He knows my every thought.  He sees each tear that falls and hears me when I call.”

My mind once again flashed back to Connecticut and the ocean of tears flowing through that community.  Are they comforted at the thought that there is a God that sees every tear and hears us when we call?  I found myself praying for the friends and family mourning with the families who lost loved ones.  May they know when to speak and when to just be there in the silence. 

“They came with their hears full of sorrow, no light could pierce their gloom, ‘til they met a living Savior and they found an empty tomb.  So tell the orphans and widows, shout it out to the sick and lame, there is victory instead of sorrow and triumph over the grave!  The Word is alive, the God of the ages, opened up the pages of time.  The Word is alive, scattered the darkness, giving out His light to all mankind.”

This song has played on the strings of my heart for several weeks.  Oh the sweet peace and joy from believing that there is triumph over the grave.  I’ve found myself praying that God’s word would become alive to those near me this season. That in their darkness they might find light and sorrow would be turned to joy.

“In all things, I worship and adore.  In all things, Emmanuel my Lord.  I bow before you Jesus and I worship in all things.”

The past five years have brought many opportunities to worship God in all things.  It’s definitely easier to worship through joyous times rather than painful times, but that’s part of the beauty of God – He doesn’t expect us to wrap our lives in pretty paper and a shiny bow before we come to Him.  He says to come as we are: joy, laughter, cheers, hopes, dreams, fears, sadness, tears, questions, and pain.  Just come and worship.  He will fill us with a peace beyond all comprehension. 

My prayer this season is that you will find the freedom, joy and peace that came through a tiny baby so many years ago. Will you go beyond the presents, lights and tinsel?  Will you pause and reflect on the season?  Will you chose to believe?

“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.”  Isaiah 9:6-7


Last Christmas was what I liked to call "Christmas Un-Plugged".  I wasn't interested in ornaments or tinsel.  

Simplicity beckoned my attention.  
Stillness and listening.  
Seeking answers.  
Searching for hope.  

Hope takes many forms.  Some hope for that special gift under the tree.  Others hope for a new job, money to pay the bills each month, or that the car makes it a little longer.  I've talked to people who hope for companionship and a feeling of being worthy of love.  Yet some just hope for clean drinking water and lack of disease in their villages.

Hope.  Christ provided the ultimate hope by coming to the earth as a tiny baby.  It didn't end at Christmas.  That means nothing if we don't look toward Easter.  He died and rose again for us.  We are worthy.  We do have hope of eternity with God.  Eternity.  

Who knew that last the theme of most of my thoughts last Christmas would carry over for the next 12 months?  Hope.  I saw hope in the eyes of children in Thailand who are getting a chance at an education.  They have hope because of faithful people serving their villages.  I experienced trivial times of hope as I prepared for and dreamed about races.  With each new milestone, another layer of hope bubbled up with dreams that were never possible before.  Hope became the cry of my heart and filled my prayers and I journeyed through life with friends.  Some still seek hope.  Others are seeing glimmers of hope and new beginnings.  

This year Christmas isn't un-plugged.  The music is playing, ornaments are out, and there is new joy in celebrating the ultimate gift God gave us.  There is hope.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Journey or Destination?

Focus.  Encouragement.  Accountability.  Journey.

Four of the Vineman teammates
Those four words sum up the last nine months of my life.  In November, registration opened for the Vineman 70.3.  Registration sold out within 3 ½ hours and somehow I was one of the lucky participants who clicked my way into the race quickly that morning.  It was followed by a mixture of excitement and panic as I shook my head thinking “what have I just done?!?!”  A big sigh of relief followed as my teammates started posting that they had made it into the race as well.  Good or bad, we were in this together!  1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride and a 13.1 mile run … 70.3 miles.  July 15.  Let the journey begin.
The following two months were spent starting to form a base with the promise that “training” didn’t really start until January 1.  One friend agreed to be my coach while another friend offered to proctor some workouts to keep me accountable.  They quickly became two of my best accountability partners and encouragers.  At their suggestion, the countdown calendar went up in my kitchen as a way to visually see just how many days were left until race day and to see how much I had done that week to prepare.  It had been a long time since I set a goal for myself that scared me. 

Merry Christmas -- my new ride!
Focus quickly set in as my daily schedule crafted time for the assigned workout.  The workout goals for the week were fluid to account for work travel and a mission trip to Thailand.  While most people don’t take three weeks off at the beginning of their training, it provided a much needed break from my everyday life.  The prior blogs account for lessons learned, including becoming more disciplined in carving out a quiet time to start my day.  That continued to play a major role in my journey.

As I sit back now and watch the Olympics, I marvel at the ability to focus and train for four years to have a chance at your goal.  There were times during the nine months that I grew weary.  I never wanted to quit or give up, but there were moments where I missed hanging out with the girls in the evening and sleeping in the next morning.  At those moments, my friends became a huge source of support as they reminded me of the goal.  July 15.  70.3 miles.  Encouragement.

Shane, me and Dave after one
of our "epic" training rides
There were other moments where I LOVED the training.  My teammate Dave quickly became my main training partner for long rides on Saturdays.  Other teammates would almost always join the fun, but we were the two constant.  For whatever reason, Dave decided to let me pick most of the routes.  We had some nice flat rides, but we also tackled a few confidence boosting “epic” hill climbing rides just to say we had done them.   One of my sub-goals for the season was to be able to ride with some of the guys.  It worked for a while, but somehow they became really fast.  Thankfully they always waited at the turnaround point.  We had fun recounting our experiences on the rides and encouraging each other when we had a rough day.  There were many days that the only reason I got out of bed was because my teammates were counting on me to show up.  Accountability.

Sunday morning long runs became a great time to pray and just seek God in nature.  Many people choose to run with headphones or a running partner.  I like running alone with no music.  It forced me to focus and enjoy the journey.  I had to learn how to distract myself when my legs wanted to walk and my mind wanted to find excuses for why I couldn’t keep going.  I saw beauty in the black birds with brilliant red marks on their wings that you could only see when they chose to fly.  It made me wonder if they realized how beautiful they were; but more than that, how many times we fail to see the beauty in ourselves and those around us.  Do we encourage others to spread their wings and shine?  Do we take time to say with the Psalmist “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well”?  Moments along the journey, forever etched in my mind.

Dave & I checking gear
into the transition area
My journey also included a few shorter races to test my fitness and see how far I had come.  My coach and I mapped out goals for the races and each one boosted my confidence a little more as I met and exceeded my goals.  The focus was paying off.    It also helps to have a great team to race with.  The camaraderie helps calm nerves as we laugh about things we see in the transition area (don’t ask), play little jokes on each other, and cheer everyone in at the finish line.  We train together, have pre-race meals together, travel together and rejoice together. 

July 15 finally arrived.  My parents + friends Jill and Michael made up part of the cheer squad for the day.  They were joined by the wives of two of my teammates.  We were quite the bunch – a ball of nervous energy at dinner the night before, a bigger ball of nervous energy that morning before the start line, and most of all we were elated when we all met and exceeded our goals for the day. 

Our Cheer Squad
Pre-race Dinner
Some triathlons have a wave start, which means you start with 100 – 200 of your new found friends instead of a mass start of 2,000 people.  Your “time” for the day starts when your wave begins the swim.   It helps keep the congestion in the water and on the course down a bit.  I was the first of our group to start which gave me a 30 minute head start on my teammates.  I used the swim to “warm up” for the day and tried to remind myself to focus on technique.  Calm.  Glide.  High elbows.  Finish your stroke.  Don’t hit the bottom (the river was very shallow at parts).  Before I knew it, I was at the turn around point and it was smooth sailing, er swimming going with the mild current the way back.  As I approached the end of the swim, I started thinking about transition.  Where was my bike, what did I need to do, etc.  I was very pleased to look at my watch in transition and realize that my swim was well ahead of my predicted pace.  First part done.  Time for a little bike ride.

Rolling along
The bike course rolls through vineyards and small communities north-ish of Santa Rosa.  At one point the view of the fog lifting to reveal the green hillsides with a valley of vineyards was majestic.  It brought to mind Psalm 8 “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth.”  I went back and forth between entertaining myself with songs in my head, focusing on my nutrition and form, and enjoying seeing the lime green shirts of my cheer squad pop up when least expected.  I celebrated milestones along the way and smiled.  My race plan was unfolding perfectly and it was FUN!  Thankfully I was coming to the end of the bike course about the time my body was ready to get off the bike. My bike split was also well ahead of my predicted pace, which bought me even more time to make it to the finish line and meet my goals.  Last up … the wild card of the day.

Pre-race Laughter as Matt
Taunted me ...
My run training had been derailed a few times over the past nine months with injuries.  Our goal during training shifted from pace and distance to getting to the start line injury free.  Between my coach, physical therapist, and chiropractor, we made it.  I hadn’t logged as many long runs as desired, but I was injury free and ready to go.  My legs decided to play a game of “how much can we cramp before she starts to walk” with me.  Mind over matter only goes so far in that situation.  Thankfully I had salt packets and this lovely thing we call gu.  It’s like eating flavored Vaseline, but it provides a great energy boost and much needed electrolytes along the way.  I settled into a rhythm of running until I cramped and then walking until it calmed down.  That basically equaled walking through aid stations (every mile) and up every hill, which had been my plan all along.  The run provided the first opportunity to see my teammates.  Matt had taunted me before the race that he would catch me before the run.  We saw each other around mile 8.5 for me.  He was about 1.5 miles behind me.  MUST KEEP RUNNING.  Focus.  

Michael surprised me and met me out at mile 9-ish of the run.  At that point, I was concentrating on maintaining a steady forward motion and apparently wasn’t my normal bubbly self.  He helped encourage and entertain me for a few miles as we saw Dave, Ron, and Johanna.  There’s something comforting about seeing your teammates in the middle of a race when you are pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone.  The last 1.5 miles were on my own.  This was it.  I started to see a few spectators generously yelling words of encouragement.  The finish line must be near when people are lining the streets.  Left hand turn into the school.  The sidelines are now reaching crowd status.  I can hear the announcer.  FINISH STRONG.  Shut up legs, just go.  Faster.  Go.  I could see the finishing line, they are calling my name.  I had done it!  My family and friends were there with huge smiles on their faces and I propped myself up on my knees, gasping for breath.  6 hours, 49 minutes and 4 seconds.  70.3 miles.  11 minutes under my goal time. 

Matt & I at the finish line
Matt finished shortly after me (which means his time was less than 6 hours because of the wave starts).  We watched and cheered as our other teammates came in.  We had done it.  All of us! 

As with many things in life, it was more about the journey than the destination.  We each put in the training hours, dug deep to find motivation, had our own Iron Sherpa’s cheering us on, and finished well.  Our stories are all different, but we had one goal.  July 15.  70.3.  We helped each other focus, held each other accountable, encouraged one another, and most of all, enjoyed the journey.


Random facts:
From January 1 – July 14, I logged:
1180 miles on my bicycle
26 hours of spin class or trainer rides
140.4 miles of running
84,100 yards of swimming
1 mission trip to Thailand
Work trips to Seattle (x2), San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, Tucson (x2), Phoenix, and Hartford
Race director for a kid’s triathlon
3 smaller races in Millerton, Morgan Hill and Silicon Valley (complete with 3 personal records and podium finishes)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Thailand Final Thoughts

I'm sitting on the longest of the three plane rides home and thinking back over the past almost three weeks.  There were a few apprehensions going into the trip, such as, would I feel part of the group or like and outsider, would I enjoy the food, would we ever see a western toilette .... Important things :) I'm thrilled that from the minute we met in the Oklahoma city airport, I felt like part of the group.  And I loved the food and the majority of the time we had western toilettes, which made me happy. 

I really tried to go without too many expectations.  Our hosts Bob And Chris Davis were fantastic.  Their love for the Kamu people shines through in what they do and how they organized our time.  They wanted to make sure that all of the villages benefited from work projects and kids clubs.  They were also concerned with giving us enough time off that we wouldn't go home burned out and utterly exhausted.  I think they were surprised when a couple of guys pushed until 11:30 one night to finish a tile project, then the group pushed to work through an afternoon flagged for shopping time so we could pour concrete in the courtyard.  And then a few others pushed to work the next afternoon to get all of the new plants in the ground. 

How do you wrap up almost three weeks of a unique experience?  I appreciate Bob sending us out with questions to help us process, such as what are three things that surprised me, how has God used this trip to change me, and what things did I learn about myself?  If you want to know the answers, ask me personally.  I would be happy to talk for hours about how we saw God work in the lives of the the Kamu and Americans during this trip.

So I'll leave you with a few top ten lists compiled with my travel buddy Lena since we couldn't sleep on the flight.  There are so many more things we could add to any one of these lists, but 10 seemed like a nice round number.

You know you've adjusted to life in Thailand when:
10.  The smell of fish sauce doesn't cause an automatic gag reflex
9. You begin to enjoy Thai time and 7-11
8.  You feel odd flushing toilet paper again
7.  You abandon the thought of wearing anything other than flip flops
6.  You walk to the back of the pick up to crawl in the bed instead of the cab and don't have a heart attack when the car is driving on the "wrong" side of the road or passing a motorcycle when another vehicle is coming at you in your lane.
5.  You speak in short, broken sentences (and if you're around Bob, you add a British accent)
4.  You look forward to a cold shower in the middle of the day
3.  You stop cringing at the thought that your dishes are washed with cold water and left outside to dry
2.  Bugs on your dishes in the morning become added protein
1.  It doesn't surprise you to see a goat poking its head into the chapel during worship.

Top 10 things that made us laugh:
10.  the way we all started talking in broken English
9.  Stories from the first night of "sleep" in the dorms
8. The Thai kids an our teens laughing together.
7.  The Thai guys laughing as we screemed at the rat they watched run into the laundry room we were painting
6. Micah pulling the goat around the center
5.  Tim having to wear Amy's shoes with his overalls because she took his shoes
4.  Bob getting the kids to repeat English phrases and mimic his tones
3.  The Thai and Kamu leaders laughing at us when we couldn't figure out how to do things the thai way
2. Mark getting the Thai guys to bring pastor Tim rat on a stick
1. Playing "how many farangs (white people) does it take to open a bucket of paint?"

Top 10 things that tugged at our hearts and challenged us to deeper faith:
10.  Seeing the poverty
9.  Hearing stories of young girls being sold into sex trades, abusive or absent fathers, alcoholism, and drug abuse
8.  The hopelessness that the people have in their spirit worship and how it breeds a lifetime of debt
7.  Singing "How Great Thou Art" and the Doxology in both Thai and English at the same time
6.  Hearing the stories of pastors being imprisoned for their faith and still boldly sharing
5.  The fervency of the prayers of God's people
4.  Hearing the heart of a mom for her kids
3.  Leaving the Changed Life Center
2. Standing on a mountain overlooking the Mekong and hearing a vision for the people and the land
1.  Hearing and sharing testimonies of how God is working in Thailand, the bordering countries, and America.