Take Courage, Friend

I did it!  I am doing it!  I will do it!

Yes, I bit the bullet.  I registered and paid the fee for the Hamilton Road to Hope FULL Marathon!  Wow!  I am a little overwhelmed.  I had made the decision that I wanted to do it, but then this social isolation thing came a long…  Could I?  Really?  Self-doubt was slowly descending and, with it, the depression that haunts me – teases and whispers from around the corner reminding me that is it always there whether I look it in the eye or not.

Confirmation!

It began to get a wee bit louder.  My schedule had changed. Oh, I wasn’t home from work as I have been blessed to have an office to go to each day.  My evenings, however, were drastically different.  I wasn’t out and about running to work out classes and keeping up my regular schedule.  The news and changes in our lives started to squeeze the oxygen out of my lungs and I would arrive home to a numbness that began to creep into the workday as well.

As all the work I had done in January and February slowly started to disappear, God whispered to my heart that this is not a time to give up.  This is the 18th kilometre of the race.  This is when the pain shoots through my foot and I have a choice to make.  Do I stop and exit the run?  Do I push through this towards a finish line and savour the taste of victory?

I choose victory.  I choose to look back to see where I’ve been, what I’ve gone through.  I choose to look forward in anticipation of what God is doing in my life.  I choose joy.  Depression settles back in his dark corner cowering like Gollum.  Stop calling me your precious and stop swallowing so loudly!  I don’t want to hear you…

So, I tune it out.  I put on my running shoes and meet Jesus at the catwalk for a prayer run.  Tuesday was a beautiful day.  I realized that I had written a letter to myself that I am to open at the end of the month.  Would the goals be met?  Would progress be made?  Not at this rate.  So, back we go – champions don’t cross the finish line the first day they decide to train.  My training had already begun.  Why am I letting it all go to waste?

I choose to breathe deeply then sit again with Jesus at the breakfast table.  I love that he is the God of the every day, and he cares about these details.  I love that he caught every prayer of my heart during that run.  He breathed new life into my weary mind and soul.  I am also so very thankful that he didn’t let me get into my pit too deeply before he shook me out of it.  I can’t say I’ll never go back there as that would be a lie.  I can say that THIS time was much shorter than other times.  I will take the sunshine when it comes!

My girl, Kim, told me to watch Brittany Runs a Marathon for inspiration.  I launched my free month of Amazon Prime to access it, and I watched it Wednesday night.  It reminded me of where I had been and where I wanted to be.  While watching, I grabbed my phone and registered for the Road to Hope.  I realize that isolation may still be in play in the fall, but I will run that 42 km on Sunday, November 1st even if it is through my own city.  This will happen – not in my strength alone but in that which Jesus supplies.

I look at my medals again.  I see there is a place for a few more.  I can’t get a Mudgirl one this year as that event is postponed.  This makes me sad.  Oh well.  November will bring me a medal even if I have to fashion it for myself!

Thursday found me excited to exit my warm bed and run out past the golf course to do some hill training.  The sunrise was stunning and reminded me why I actually enjoy seeing 5:00 a.m. on my alarm clock.  It will take a few days to get back into the early morning wake up calls again.  But I will get back into the swing of it.

In 2019 I had purchased Ryan Hall’s book Run the Mile You’re In.  One of his techniques was to find a theme for each of his official races and train with that theme in mind.  November’s half marathon was my Redemption Run.  As I was praying on that Thursday 10km, God reminded me of what he is teaching me in my everyday life: Courage vs. Cowardice.

You see, having courage doesn’t mean we can’t be afraid.  In fact, it means that we move forward in spite of our fears.  Being a coward means that I see what I must do, but I shrug my shoulders saying it’s too hard and I give up before I start.  (This is not in light of my Gollum.  Fighting depression and having days where I sit with him on the couch doesn’t mean I am a coward.)  A coward is someone who doesn’t try.

I look at biblical characters who have notoriously be called cowards and I revisit them.  Many showed more courage in their pinkie fingers than I will ever have.  My favourite right now is Gideon.  Puny, young, nothing going for him.  God turned his cowardice into courage.  He won a mighty battle with the Lord’s hand leading.  All of a sudden 42km doesn’t look so hard.

I am a large little woman.  I have health issues that demand but don’t like a lot of movement.  I have a body that loves sleeping in over waking early.  I have Gollum ever present.  I am not 24 any more. Is 42km at 42 reasonable? I have every reason to be a coward in this BUT GOD has shown me that I can do this in his strength.

“God will not have his work made manifest by cowards.  Always, always, always, always, always do what you are afraid to do.  Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

This will be my Courageous run.  No matter where the Lord takes me in this year of isolation and fear, I move forward holding his hand with courage.

What do you need to do today?  Oh, it might not be signing up for a race.  It might not be anything huge – perhaps it is simply getting out of bed…  Be courageous today, my friend.  You’ve got what it takes when you’ve got Jesus.

#redemptionrun

Well, it is complete.  God laid it on my heart in June 2019 to get back to running.  He has always spoken to me through the alone time that running gives me.  He has allowed me to worship him and connect intimately with the Spirit while pushing my body beyond its natural human abilities.

I was nervous.  Here I am 41, 200lbs.  How am I going to run again?  I am not 30 any longer.  I invested in Ryan Hall’s book Run the Mile You’re In.  God used Ryan’s book to show me that I don’t need to look at the finish line, just take one step at a time and he will do the rest.

Ryan told how he asked God for a spiritual theme for each race he entered.   As he trained, he asked God to grow that theme in him as he used running as a metaphor for everyday life.

I asked God to give me a theme for this half marathon experiment.  God gave me the theme of redemption.  Hence #redemptionrun…

God would lead me through this journey to be thankful for a body that was not shaped like a typical runner yet was strong enough to finish well.  I would not be breaking any personal records, but I would be closer to him and my spirit would be strengthened beyond anything I could imagine.  I’d truly be “closer to Jesus with every step.”

God showed me he wanted me to focus on finishing not timing.  This would be about him and me not about anything else.  He gave me a prayer focus for each kilometer and he ran the race beside me the whole way.

I am overwhelmed that God wanted to show up for little old me.  He reminded me of my value and just how much he treasures me and takes joy in watching me cross a finish line knowing it is only the beginning.

If you have the strength and longevity, please keep reading.  I will share with you how Jesus showed up in every kilometer.  If you’re done here, no problem.  Thank you for sharing this journey with me and stay tuned for more running adventures to come!  Remember:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside very weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us RUN WITH ENDURANCE the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…”

Hebrews 12:1-2
Done!

Pre-Race:

                In the press of the pre-race crowd, God allowed me to meet up with Steph and Devin.  We prayed for safety and Devin’s finish goal.  He missed it by 3 minutes, but he did such a great job!!  Praise God for families that play together!! (The two of them and their daughter had run Saturday too.)  Jesus wants to be included in our recreation and fun.

Each KM had a Prayer Focus

Kilometer 1: God’s Attributes and Praise

                What a beautiful morning it was!  The sky was blue, and the clouds were fluffy.  Saturday was damp and rainy.  Oh, it was cold and windy.  Yet, even as my eyes watered, I knew this was going to be an amazing day.  What do you have for me, Shepherd?

                Of course, I fell back onto my favourite name and attribute of God – Abba.  My father, dad, security.  I am so fortunate to have an earthly father that represents that security and love so well.  Abba, thank you for showing me and my children a human representation of your love in my Dad.

                Yet there’s more.  God reminded me of the name the children used for Amy Carmichael (my favourite missionary hero who ministered in Ireland, Japan, and India).  The orphans she rescued from temple slavery called her Amma – the word for mother.  God told me that he is ok with me calling him Amma.  After all, the word used for Holy Spirit is feminine.  God has mother attributes and I have been given an earthly representation of them in my own Mom.  I praise you, God, for being my heavenly Mother!

                My mind wandered through so many attributes of God – attributes I’d be praying for those coming in future kilometers: comforter, provider, healer, restorer, lover, friend, prince of peace, shepherd, partner…  The list could never truly be complete, but these are the ones on which I landed.  God is a GREAT and AWESOME God.

Kilometer 2: Repentance

                I asked God to show me places where I need to repent.  I have susceptible sins that I always use as a crutch when I am ashamed to sit on Amma’s lap and see her face of disappointment…  My downfalls are pride, self-promotion, self-pity, and independence.  All of these things get in the way of my relationship with God.  When I rely on these things my depression deepens, and I can only see darkness.  My depression is not sin, but when I surrender to it instead of consciously looking towards the light of Jesus, I need to repent and once again be free.

                Many of our pits of sin as a society and as a church are due to our own actions.  We have no one to blame but ourselves.  God showed me that the church has allowed some “reactions to cultural issues” to take our focus off ourselves as individual Jesus followers.

                For example, I love all people and I am terribly bothered by Christians that do not accept and love those in the LGTBQ+ community.  I HATE Facebook warrior posts that dehumanize their struggles and pain.  I believe in loving all and allowing God to make any changes that God feels are necessary.

                The church is quite divided over issues like this.  It is not a salvation issue.  However, in trying to convince our Jesus-siblings that our thoughts are more correct than theirs, our focus is slipping.  I need to be more concerned with MY sin than with that of others who I could classify as unloving pharisees.  Wow!  How pharisaical is that?  I’m going to classify those who respond differently than me as unloving pharisees?  Their viewpoints are often spoken because they want to protect people from sin and its consequences.  Hmmmm…..

                What happened to LOVE ALL AND ALLOW GOD ALONE TO MAKE THE NECESSARY CHANGES?

                Oh God, forgive my arrogance.  Forgive my ungodly anger.  Let me focus on loving my neighbour – even the one that sits beside me at church.

                Let me welcome all and help them find their place at YOUR table!  When it comes to inner church sides, let me always side with mercy remembering that you have forgiven me my innate depravity and you have atoned for me (regardless of my atonement theory!!).  Thank you for your REDEMPTION and love.  Let me always be willing to open my arms to those created in your image whether they rub the right way or not.

Kilometer 3: Karis and the CHTF Ministry

                Karis is a lovely friend from Cambridge Community Church that loves Jesus with her whole heart.  She has a ministry of care like no other.  God allowed our little family to go through some super crisis moments the week leading up to this run.  Pastor Dan said that he wanted me to be the CHTF pastor for when the “Crap Hits The Fan.”  That silly comment amidst the stress put things into perspective for me.  Karis’ deacon/helps gifts could fit well with my shepherding gifts.  This is family.  We can help our pastoral staff cope with everything going on by teaming up for a Caring, Healing, Thanksgiving and Faith ministry (CHTF – a much better meaning for these letters!!)

                Karis and I spent over an hour discussing and praying for our church’s spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical needs.  We were able to triage the needs and get some action plans in place.

                As I prayed for this, God showed me that this is not about me and Karis doing it all.  This is about him being the good SHEPHERD and us being sheep.  We need to use this ministry to put others in touch with those that can help them.  We need to help guide those hurting to those who have already walked the valley.  We need to help facilitate an openness in our congregation that creates a safe place for sharing the sin, the pain, the load.  God will grow Karis and me and the church through this and we will never be the same!

                As I was praying for Karis, a woman started running beside me.  She asked if this is my first half and I explained it was my first in a long time.  She told me it was her first ever.  God told me to tell her why I was running.  I told her it was my first half since my divorce, and it was to redeem running back for my spiritual and mental health.  Right away she told me that she started running after her separation for the sake of her mental health.

                I told her that running is a metaphor for life, and she needs to read Ryan Hall’s Run the Mile You’re In.  It would help her remember that each stage of life has its own lessons.  We chatted for a bit while I was asking God if I was to tell her more.

                God told me I could let her go now as it was not mine to carry.  My job was to point her in the right direction and let him do the rest.  Whether she reads the book or not, my job was done.  That is how he would shepherd Karis and me as we work together.  We cannot carry it all.  We need to point people to the others in our congregation and city who could help and then aid our pastoral staff by letting them know what was going on in the in’s and out’s of our family life.

                We are links, facilitators, and helpers – nothing more.  We cannot fix or heal anyone.  We will help them carry their stuff to Jesus and praise him when they connect with the help they need.

Anticipating the Outcome

Kilometer 4: Andrew & Kim

                Andrew is a cousin of mine who lives in BC with his wonderful wife Kim.  I love them so much.  They have been my strength and stability over the years and God has provided for my needs through their love and generosity. 

                I praised God for them and then prayed for their marriage and Andrew’s relationship with each of his kiddos.  He has gone through some dark times and God showed me that he feels like he’s treading water in the ocean sometimes.  What do you do with a smart, independent, talented wife that can swim circles around you?  What do you do with an amazing almost-15-year-old son that is so different than you, but oh so the same?  How do you connect with a 13-year-old treasure that overwhelms you with her abilities to succeed at EVERYTHING she chooses to do?  How do you cope with a growing toddler that captures the world in his smile?

                Oh God, protect Andrew from becoming overwhelmed…  What was that, God?  Am I willing to tell him WHAT?!  Uuuh…  Do I HAVE to?

                Sometimes God gives you words for people that you don’t understand.  This is not for public consumption, but God showed up and spoke!  He is moving and I look forward to seeing his hand at work in my precious family

Kilometer 5: Nathan

                Nathan had a tough week and he was going to be courageous enough to share at church.  As I was praying for him, I looked at the time.  It is 8:30. Wake-up call!  Satan won’t want Nathan to wake up, get ready and arrive at church.  God is doing something amazing through him today.  God will bring a wake-up call to our church as well.  Wake up!!

                God gave me some private things to text Nathan too.  I pray God’s words really did help and encourage him.  My job is to pass it along and pray for God’s power to be shown in the lives of my dearly loved Jesus-siblings!

Kilometer 6: Reneta & Jason

                God is on the move.  Reneta is a friend of mine that I met at Refit – an exercise class that meets at my church.  She didn’t know Jesus personally, but knew about him.  She started coming to church, and then she started to ask God to show himself to her.  He revealed himself and saved my friend who is now a Jesus-sister!

                God had me pray for Reneta and Jason’s marriage.  Hmmm… Marriage again.  I totally get it as they have a blended family, 4 kids – 3 of whom are teenagers, etc, etc.  Ok, God, take their marriage and let it bring you glory.  Protect them in the heaviness of everyday life right now.

                Show the three girls how valuable they are to YOU.  Let the son, see his future is worth the steps his folks are taking to guild him in the right way…

                Yes, God, protect this marriage.  Thank you that Reneta has such a supportive guy.  Save Jason and let him know that as good a person as he is, he still needs you…

                Nothing specific was revealed, but God was prompting me to something bigger.  He was going to do something in me while he focused me on the one word that I really didn’t want to focus on as this was my redemption run – the first half-marathon since my divorce.

Kilometer 7: Elizabeth & John

                Oh, here we go!  My sister.  She and my brother-in-law are going to Korea to celebrate their – oh – marriage…  They’ve been married for 25 years and it has not been easy.  With John an international engineer, Elizabeth has had to show a strength on the home front that cannot be matched.  She is my hero.  I am so thankful that God created her to be independent and strong.  Her hobbies are such that they show her beautiful artistry and ability.  Everything she puts her hand to turns out beautiful.

                In Korea, they will learn to connect with each other again.  They will have FUN!  Jesus wants to be invited into our fun.  God gave me a few more things for my sister and the family.  He showed me that sometimes we need to see the example of a steady, strong persistence in our faith.  We need people like Elizabeth!

Kilometer 8: CCC/Temple

                I am honoured to be loved by so many Jesus followers (and to love them in return). God is going to use our churches to impact our city and our world by impacting the individuals that come into contact with them.  There have been a few situations that have occurred, and they are wake up calls to our churches to help them see the need for the individual to see God in their everyday lives.

                God asked me if I would be willing to allow my darkness to bring others light.  He gave me a specific situation and asked me for an Abraham moment.  Would I be willing to go through more pain in order to help more people?  When I came face to face with this, I initially told God no.  He slowed me right down.  This is where I was feeling physically good and should have been overtaking others.  I told God as much and he let me know that if I wasn’t willing to go through more for the sake of others, I would never run to my full potential.

I tried to speed up, but the Spirit physically held me back.  I have never experienced such a battle.  It was downright weird.  Really, God?  I’m praying for marriages, I am running a, well, a half marathon for crying out loud…  I started to cry.  I wasn’t throwing a temper tantrum.  God was asking if I’m serious about following him completely.

                This isn’t some cosmic game where he endangers the lives of his children.  He isn’t playing chess with me.  He is just asking for my heart – for ALL of me – every day and every time.  I humbly whispered, “Yes, God, if it helps others…  If it can be redeemed for your goodness…  If you promise to hold me close every step of the way, I will go to hell and back for them…”

                I can’t give you more here except to say that as and Abraham moment, God will provide a way of escape should I ever need it.  Please don’t worry!

Kilometer 9: Mike & Kim

                Uhg!  Another marriage!  I love these guys.  Mike is your friendly neighbourhood “heretic” who constantly pushes others to think beyond tradition and truly understand what God is doing in this world.  In fact, he may have a problem with the theology of kilometer 8, but I won’t defend it😉

                I praised God that he has built a relationship with Mike and Kim and they’re raising their young women for his glory.  I focused on some mental health prayer and just some solid praise for this family.  They are willing to go the extra mile for anyone who is in need or hurting.  They are such an amazing example of new faith flourishing.

                God showed me that no family is complete without the questioners, the encouragers – the Mike’s and Kim’s.

Half Way

Kilometer 10: Jon & Anj

                What’s this now?  My Brother and his wife?  Another marriage…  Yup, I’m getting the point, God.  I MUST pray for marriages in my family but more specifically the marriages of my pastor friends.  My brother and his wife have been in ministry for many years and it is not an easy road.  They have been hurt and disrespected time and again.  They have gone through the refining fire and come out as gold.  Never have I seen such a beautiful prayer answered as my mother’s when my brother was young.  She constantly prayed for him to find peace with God.  Peace with his dealings with others.  He has come through the challenges gentle, kind, and humble.  He is my hero.

                God revealed something else here for me to deal with privately, but NEVER raise a hand (metaphor) against the Lord’s anointed – whether you agree with them or not.  God is sovereign and just and he will not let the ill treatment of his servants be neglected…

Kilometer 11: Missionaries ~ Christina, Lees, Brights, Nick

                My Christina!  Dear friend in the Czech.  She is spending her life sharing the good news of the kingdom of God with others.  She loves Jesus so much, yet her heart is lonely.  God assured me that he has her steps planned and she is not alone.

                My cousin Rachel!  Another marriage!  Ok, God, I hear you…  Also, their kids…  J~~, R~~, I~~, B~~…  What’s the other one’s name?  Oh my!  God, I pray for him all the time.  Why can’t I remember his name?  Lord, this is ridiculous.  I know this.  No WAY is this happening…  [Still Small Voice] “Marilyn, I can help him whether you know his name or not.  I just asked you to pray!”

                Of course, I don’t need to know all the details or remember everyone’s name.  God will bring to mind situations and he will ask me to pray.  Prayer is angel fuel.  They don’t care if I remember names in my old age.  They just care that their tank is full so they can keep on defending the Kingdom.  Ok, God, be with him and protect him and hold him close.  [SSV] “Will do, Kiddo.  His name is C~~ by the way.”  I KNEW it! (face palm)

                Erica and Byron.  So many in their ministry that I can pray for without knowing names.  Oh yah, and their MARRIAGE…  I get it, Lord. 

                Nick.  Yay, no marriage to pray for!  [SSV] “How do you know?”  What?  Really?!?  “Not, today, but don’t count that one out!  Today is about his strength both physical and spiritual.  Just remember not to assume anything when I am at work…”

                Wow!

Kilometer 12: Hannah

                My first baby girl.  Too personal to discuss here.  Main reminder as we struggle with meeting halfway with cell phone usage is directly from a Prayer Conference at Temple last week.  When H is bored with life (like ALL 14-year olds), it is a spiritual boredom and God is trying to break in and speak.  I need to help her be free from the chains of technology as she will temporarily satisfy a spiritual craving with it and not be ready to hear Jesus.

                What are you using to satiate a spiritual craving?  Is there something getting in the way of God’s still small voice?

Kilometer 13: Mom & Dad

                Awk!  Another marriage!  Yes, even at 50 years, marriages need prayer.  Marriages need hard work and intentionality.  So much to be thankful for here.  Basic prayer was happening and then I asked God to show me something specific about my folks.  I did NOT like his response.

                When their earthly assignment is up and they graduate into his presence will I be willing to let them go?  What?!  No, they can’t die.  No way.  This was a nice sunny day.  I think I’m done – right here…

                [Still Small Voice] “Not today and not very soon, but I know how much you lean on them.  I am preparing you for years down the road.  Run the Mile You’re In but remember there are more miles to come around the bend.  Will you be willing to release them to me?”

                I never grasped how brave my mom was as she sat beside Grandma’s bedside and told Grandma it was ok to go…  I pray that when the time comes – 20 years, right, God?! – he will make me brave like her.

Me and Mom – a lifetime ago

Kilometer 14: Jaelyn

                Oh, my precious bird of light.  So much here that is personal just like her sister’s kilometer.  The take-away: don’t let the little ones fall through the cracks because we’re focused on the big ones.  The season has been quite Hannah-focused as she entered grade 9, but don’t forget about Jae.

                As Karis and I head into a season of communication in our church family, don’t forget about the little ones as we focus on the big ones.

Kilometer 15: Bob & Joelene & Baby

                God?  God.  This is my #redemptionrun.  Why is he even on my list?  Ok, I’ll get started…  [SMV] “I am not done with him.  I am not done with her.  Baby will be key in what I do with their relationship and their lives.  Now, no more focus here, just enjoy the rest of the kilometer with me…”

                On it!

Kilometer 16: Becky & Tom & Ben & Olivia

                Becky and Tom are dear friends who hit some very troubled waters this year.  I was looking forward to this kilometer to commit their separate futures to the Lord and bring the kiddos to Jesus once again.  As I crossed over this kilometer marking, a lady in front of me slowed almost to a stop.  She had been walk/running the whole way, so that’s not an issue.  This time was different though.

                My fellow runner was almost in full panic attack as we came up to a bridge that would lead us into the park for the final 5km.  She told me she couldn’t run the bridge.  She thought she could but couldn’t.  Turns out she has a friend who committed suicide by jumping off a bridge.  She was in a panic remembering him.

                I slowed right down and walked and ran beside her.  I told her this was a redemption run and we could redeem her friends’ sacrifice understanding that his death has led to mental health being more acceptable to discuss.  Young people everywhere have more access to mental health support.   Her run was between her and her creator and it was up to her to allow this run to be redeemed.  I would run with her the entire way across the bridge.

                I tucked in behind her as the marathoners were running beside us.  I told her that in life it didn’t matter who seemed to be passing her.  What mattered was that she keeps on running.

                I asked her to focus on the clouds, the birds, and the colours of the trees.  I told her my name and she told me her name is Barb.  I cheered her on the whole way across the bridge.  It was so noisy as we crossed over the very busy road.  Barb was so excited as we crossed over onto solid ground.  She was so appreciative that I was willing to stay and run with her.  She got a burst of energy once it was over and she took off to finish the race.

                I ran slowly.  I was thrilled that God used me, but I was a bit grumpy.  This was supposed to be Becky’s kilometer.  God told me I’d better not be pouting!  He chose Barb to remind me that everyone around us has a story of trauma or pain.  He showed me that my role in their pain is to run behind them calling out encouragement amid the noise.

                It isn’t my job to fix Becky’s trauma or even push her situation forward.  My job is to let her and God set the pace and keep cheering her on and remind her to “set her mind on things above that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:2) It is up to Becky to run above the noise.  It is up to me to simply be a friend.

                Thank you, God, for Barb and her story helping me see how to be a better friend.

Kilometer 17: Lisa & Louis

                Oh my, what to say…  Lisa and Louis are a precious couple that need support as Lisa prepares to say goodbye to Louis.  God wanted me to pray for marriage once again.  In the depression that comes with long term, terminal illness, marriages can be ripped to shreds as people strive to stay strong for one another and their children.

                Financially drained and emotionally spent, this family simply needs a break.  I prayed for compassion, strength, and a gentle end.  In a run when God is beginning something in me, I was praying for God to bring an end.  What a sad thought.

                God reminded me that even in an earthly end he is powerful enough to bring a spiritual beginning.  Sometimes we must let things go and trust him with them.  We cannot have all the answers and we do not need them.  This is where faith truly comes into play.  God, please give Lisa and Louis the faith needed to endure this next phase of their journey.

Kilometer 18: Linda

                Pain!  Sharp pain!  In my left foot.  What is going on?  Just as I crossed the 18 km mark, God allowed me to feel a foot pain I have never felt before.  I was to pray for Linda.  God wanted me to have a physical understanding of her emotional pain.  Every day she wakes up to pain.  Her emotions manifest in her body as physical ailments.

                She carries doubt of her impact for God as he has never allowed her to experience being a wife and mother.  She feels like she is not enough.  God wanted me to understand how agonizing this pain is to her on a regular basis.

                God gave me a message to send to Linda and perhaps you need it too.  Sometimes God doesn’t tell you who you are impacting as it would cause you more stress.  God is not someone who wants to add stress to his children.  Sometimes things are unknown in order to save you from additional pressure.  You are valuable.  God loves it when you wake up and get ready for the day because he knows that with him you are an unstoppable force for his kingdom.

                Keep getting up.  Keep living life and doing just what you’re doing.  Keep going.  Whether you are running, walking, limping or crawling just keep going!

Almost there…

Kilometer 19: Me and my future & misc unspoken requests

                Again, God reminded me that I can pray for people I do not know.  I can beg God to take my pain away and he will redeem it to help others instead.  He will allow pain so that I do not get complacent in my remembrance of others.  Painful kilometers make me thankful for the easier ones!

Kilometer 20: Laura & Jesse

                Oh, my heart!  My precious friends.  What do we have here?  Another marriage to pray for.  In the loss of their little girl, I must keep encouraging and praying for their marriage.  I have an overwhelming sense that God is reminding me that he has their sweetie in the palm of his hand, and it is up to me and the CCC family to care for Laura and Jesse.

                How do you care for people who have endured such pain?  [SMV] “Oh, Marilyn.  Have you forgotten so soon?  Work together as a family to care for them.  Point them to others who have been through pain.  Wake up and realize that trauma is a turning point for people.  Help them turn to me.  Run the bridge behind them.  Release them to me.  Encourage them.  When you’re in pain, pray for their pain.  Just keep going…

Kilometer 21: Praise

                I am in awe, Jesus, that you’d want to run this race with me.  Thank you for showing up in each kilometer.  You are truly my friend and saviour.  For it all, I praise you.  Now, could we just finish this thing?!

Kilometer .1: Just run and breathe in Jesus

“I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 1:3-6

There you have it!  Do you feel like you just ran a half marathon?  Me too!  I was so sick from the spiritual battle the week leading up to the run that my boss even sent me home Friday to sleep as he was afraid of how ill I’d be if I didn’t get rest before the run.  I’m still sore, but the muscles that were stretched the most were spiritual ones.  I will never be the same and I hope in some way, my story shows you a small glimpse of Jesus and his redemptive power.  What does he want you to offer as a living sacrifice so that he can run your race with you?

Precious Cheerleaders
Overwhelmed at God’s greatness
Stay tuned for more to come

BE-ing Me

Whew! The past month has flown by. Launching H into high school and Jae into middle school. We wrapped up the summer house sitting a friends’ farm. So much fun crushed into such a small window of time.

What an amazing look back. I wonder how I could possibly have fit everything in. I was hitting a depressive low and wondering why I was tired. At church on Sunday, a friend hugged me but then didn’t let go of my hands. She simply looked me in the eye and stated, “You are a very busy lady…” Wow! God used that one statement to rock me a bit.

An overly busy schedule is not conducive to excellence. When I am pushing 28 hours of activity into 24 hours, there is zero way to accomplish it. This sets me up for failure and a deeper dive into depression. I have high functioning depression. The worse I am mentally and emotionally the busier I am. Even my cat was getting depressed by not having cuddle time!

I choose to sit down for breakfast the other day and I realized I hadn’t been taking my morning vitamins and medications. My daily container was empty. I reached for the bottles to fill up my weekly and it dawned on me that I hadn’t been taking any of it regularly for over a month. What?! No wonder I was crashing.

My running was still happening, but I wasn’t able to recover well. I must admit the food intake and hydration wasn’t up to helping my recovery either. Life is fragile. To live a healthy life sometimes feels like a tightrope balancing act.

I don’t want to “act” my way through life. I want authenticity and transparency. I want to be lead by still waters and made to lie down in green pastures. I want to run each mile as it comes not fretting about being late for the next mile.

So, I rest. I allow Becky to bring over supper and enjoy a visit with my friend. I choose not to fight with Jae about sleeping in her room. I shorten my runs to let her join me in the mornings. I choose to sit at my computer and take the time to blog again. I choose to acknowledge my depression and be vulnerable enough to release it to my Good Shepherd. I let him deal with it as it is far too much for me to deal with alone. Besides, that his job – not mine!

I choose to enjoy the sunrise again. I choose to not worry about cleaning and join my daughters at the fair tonight. I choose to block time off in my schedule as “busy” even though I have nothing specific to do. This way, I save time for me to simply BE.

Changing Direction

Tuesday’s run was rough. The air was so humid I could almost drink it. I had upped my water intake a great deal, but that with sweating meant I actually didn’t have enough salt in my system – an oddity for me for sure! I was heavy and plodding. I still ran but was aching for something different.

I decided that I would run the 5km route on Thursday by going the opposite direction. who knows what a simple change will make? I woke up this morning 15 minutes late, but set a goal to be home before my coffee was finished brewing and I set it to begin in 45 minutes…

I had a great run. The dog that barked at me made me jump, but I sneaked up on her instead of coming towards her. She wasn’t used to that. I met the same lady at the park because that was the half way mark and none of that changed. I saw the other side of certain trees and beautiful lawns. (The dog statues have sunglasses taped to their faces for the summer – fun!)

I knew I would miss the church bells that toll at 7 am, but that would keep me moving as I needed to just run my best and make it home for coffee. However, in the high traffic area when I would have been in a quieter spot hearing the chimes, a gentleman rolled down his window and called out “Keep going, Momma!” When I yelled back my thanks, he gave me a thumbs up and a “Right on!” His encouragement made me smile.

In another frame of mind, I would have been insulted at him calling me “momma”. However, I choose to change my perspective. He wasn’t trying to insult me. I AM a momma – and my body shape proves it! He was simply encouraging me. I choose that smile. My perspective changes everything.

I wondered what other things I needed to rethink. Two of my friends expressed and interest in having me start up a bible study with them. My church’s ladies group runs organized book studies throughout the year and I want to be available for them. Both of my friends are at different places with their understanding of the bible. I felt a pull to host and lead a study geared to them, but what was GOD telling me to do.

I began to pray and ask God what he wanted for me. Is there a better way? Is there a way I can help them without being out another night of the week – away from the teenagers that will need me to be very available as they launch into grades 7 and 9? Just what is GOD telling me?

As I prayed, I asked God to renew my perspective. I asked him to show me what was needed and whether I was actually a part of that or simply someone to point them into the right direction so they can find what they need somewhere else.

As I came out of the park and looked at the uphill climb that the 2nd half of my run contained, I asked God to help me make it up – and realized why I usually went the other direction…

With my mind mulling over the things before me and making room for fresh perspectives, I was soon at the top of the hill and hadn’t even felt it. I also had an idea. I would offer to “host” a study that we did individually while being connected through messenger. We can all move at our own pace and still have our evenings available for family responsibilities.

Wow! I never would have jumped out of the churchy box a few years ago. The Word is not limited to a time and place and schedule and study guide. This is going to be fun. God will meet each of us where we are as individuals. How else should my perspective change? What have I been clinging to that is simply “the way it’s always been” that needs to be turned on its head, rethought, transformed or discarded?

Let’s not leave things in their traditional boxes. Yet, let’s not throw things out simply for the sake of throwing things out. Let’s look anew and remember the instructions from old… These things should impact all of our lives, not just the scheduled blocks of time we plan for them.

I will keep my eyes open to new things as I launch into a longer distance next week. Yay, 8km! I look forward to seeing where my next steps will take me while I learn how to keep running and being open to changing my direction.

Jae being goofy at H’s grad
She’s certainly looking in a different direction!

Tale of Two Times

It was the best of times and it was the worst of times… I ran my first 5km route on Saturday morning since rebooting this running thing. I had been struggling with my mental and spiritual health, so I gave myself enough time to take it slow. I did not push for my stop watch to say anything specific. My goal was to run the entire thing and to finish with a smile.

The fact that I used to be able to run 5km in 30 minutes flitted through my brain and then I threw that thought away. That was then. This is now. My goals and purpose have changed.

I was successful! I ran and was able to recover well because I did not push. I ran the entire thing. I finished. I smiled!

Why in the world was I smiling? Even to a newbie this time is terrible. I was – and still am – smiling because I did it. I was very low and hadn’t kept up my running in week 7 and 8. I ran, but not well. Here I was on the date I was to run my 5km. My depression was yucky and I felt quite heavy. I decided before I went to bed Friday night that I would wake up to do this. I set out my clothes and shoes. I set the alarm. I went to bed early.

I had a choice. I could succumb to my mental health and allow it to be in charge OR I could be faithful to the goals and plans I have made – to take care of myself. I need to be a good steward of this body that God gave me. When I am low and my very real depression is coming at me, I have to give myself a fighting chance… I have to fight back. Friday night, I could not have run 5km. I could hardly move. My depression was causing pain throughout my body. So, my fight came in the form of a plan and preparing to execute it.

When I have friends call me struggling with their own mental health, I cannot counsel them as I am not trained for that. All I can do is share what works for me. Acknowledge this is real. I have to recognize it and remember that I am not weak because of it. I need to turn it over to God – reminding him that it is there and that I can’t handle it alone. Asking him for help is always best!

Then, I need to step back and remember the commitments I’ve made myself. My commitment was to take 8 weeks to get back into running and then launch a training program for a half marathon in November. Was I going to be faithful to that goal or not? So many things run through my mind. Was I valuable enough to commit to? Was I going to show my kids the value of accomplishment? Was this too big for me?

In my overwhelmed and exhausted mind, I knew that I was still worth the fight. I am a human being created in the image of God and worth the effort. I need to teach my precious daughters that they, too, are worth it.

This is why it was the very best of times. I was successful. It’s Monday and the weariness of depression is still hanging around, but it is not as oppressive as it was on Friday. The fog is lifting and I have a plan for recovery. I will be faithful to myself and the dreams God has given. This is the choice I make amidst the mental health struggle. This is what will ultimately lead to success.

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

Psalm 37:3
I did it!

Burned Out

Ryan Hall wrote a book called Run the Mile You’re In. God lead me to this book at just the right moment. I first heard Mr. Hall on the John Tesh/Gib Gerard podcast Intelligence for Your Life (Episode 88 “Run for Your Life”). In his book, Hall expands on the biblical metaphor of running and life.

Each chapter is a mile of life each person has to deal with eventually. Hall uses running anecdotes to illustrate each point. One of the miles that hit home with me was the mile of Comparison. Hall shows how comparison will harm our running and, therefore, life. We compare all the time – to friends, strangers, and even ourselves. Yes, we compare to ourselves.

I was comparing two things to my former self. The comparisons were leading me dangerously into depression. I am a high functioning depressive, so I get even more busy when I am depressed. I fill my to do list with so many things, so I can’t stop to think. Then I crash. My children think it is normal for moms to come home from whatever it was they were doing and have a 3 hour nap. I assure you it is not. (Naps are good, but all things in moderation!)

I wrote out an activities list for my parents to see if they wanted to join us at any of the items. It was late May and I was writing the list to November, so there was no way it was comprehensive. I laughingly spoke of how much there was to do, but it was all “fun” stuff, so we’re good. However, seeing it in print made me realize that I was headed down a not so good path if I were not careful.

June was the relaunch of my running efforts and my comparison to the 30 year old me was concerning. I was trying hard and my mind and heart were ready, but my body was adjusting too slowly for my liking!

Also, my 6 month online dating subscription was ending. I was not going back as very little good came from it. I started to compare myself to a younger me and friends for whom that tool had worked. I felt overlooked. I truly felt invisible. I even mentioned that to friends in passing – I really didn’t intend to put myself down – but they were furious with the lies that were still in my mind and heart.

It was time to take a good look at what I was doing spiritually and emotionally to myself. Oh yah, and maybe I should remember to take my meds… So, I kept running. I am in week 7! I am proud of 41 year old me. I ran for 27 minutes today with no breaks. Not exactly half marathon ready, but my 5km in August is going to be great. I will keep going “forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead…” (Phil 3:13)

Yesterday and this morning there was a breakthrough. After reading Mr. Hall’s mile on learning to be un-offended (Mile 14) by how God answers prayers, I realized I had once again allowed myself to be depressed by the fact that I was trying to tell God what to do and He wasn’t listening! [insert stomped foot here]

He was listening. He never stopped. He has something so good for me I will be overwhelmed by it. I needed to stop getting so offended by the fact that when God works on a need to know basis, He doesn’t always fill me in.

I had replaced my kitchen light bulb just a few days before and it blew – badly. It was completely black inside. It was not a simple filament breaking. There was something more serious going on. I was on a ladder changing the bulb when I saw just how badly it burst, I knew that I needed to get off that ladder and spend some time praying. The evil one wanted to attack.

The girlies and I met in the living room and prayed protection around our home. When I am in a spiritual battle, it manifests in the physical realm in burned out light bulbs and electrical appliances breaking down.

This morning, I headed out for my run and began to pray. I asked God what He wanted me to dwell on in my training and in my relationship – or lack there of… I heard Him say, “Right now, your posture.”

My posture? Oh yah, I was slouching. I adjusted my posture and heard in the back of my head my yogi’s comment “heart open to the sun.” My mental light bulb went on. Of course, my heart needs to be open to the Son… I needed to be a good steward of my body and spirit. This was the need. No comparison. No offense.

As I ran, I asked God, “Ok, so as I wait for you, how will I know it’s time?” The simple answer came, “When he shows up…” So, I run. I live. I stay close to God. I am no longer burned out. I got out of the shower and felt light and airy and at peace.

I will run the mile I’m in…

The Pruture

I am at the stage in my newly launched running where I am truly enjoying the present but looking forward to the future. I have mapped out my official 5km run. I am 2/3 of the way through my 5km training and almost a 1/4 of the way through my half marathon training. I feel good!

I look at my 5km route and want to run it tomorrow. I have challenged myself with some hilly bits and I do think I could do it. However, I choose to go slowly and calmly and wait for my body to catch up to my mind and heart. I am not sure if I will wait the entire 8 weeks – at least 1 more though!

Becky said we should walk it together, but she’s leaving for vacation for two weeks and I might have run it by the time she returns! I told Reneta that we could walk it without her:) She laughed and said she thinks that’s a great idea. I look forward to Becky’s return as her training will be close to resuming at that point. Hopefully, her injury will be behind her. The stories she can tell in her short running career are pretty cool – although and injury is never fun.

She told me that I should tell you about all the wonderful things I’ve experienced since mixing up my route to include a bit of the park. I have come across some amazing things. I particularly enjoy the song of the birds, the croak of the frogs, and the splashing of the ducks.

The human wild life has been an adventure as well. I love the subtle runners nod as we pass each other. The dog walkers’ smiles are pleasant to behold. I could do without the early morning couple and their public displays of their love, but hey, it’s all part of building up one’s story bank!

When I get antsy about the future wishing I were further down the road, I remember that the journey is what makes up the joy of the race. We don’t start at the finish line. I am proud of myself for coming this far. My memories of my abilities and adventures from long ago fuel my desire to get there again. If I waste my time wishing I were back there or pushing to get there before I am ready, I will hurt my journey. I will slow it down and not enjoy it any more.

So, I take a day off to move my kiddos bedrooms around. I take days of active rest and dance with Reneta. Running is PART of my life. If it doesn’t fit properly or becomes my entire focus, it will not last. I choose to run in this stage of the journey – loving every moment – knowing it will pave the way from my present to my future. Tomorrow will become today and I will be that many steps closer to the finish line – which is really just a fresh start line!

From YouVersion

Counting Telephone Poles

Tuesday dawned overcast and muggy. I was itching for something a little new. We’d had a long weekend and had been very busy celebrating Canada. The break between runs was too long for my liking, but plans change and fun times are had and I was warming up with no regrets about the weekend. I just wanted something different.

I headed out towards the park rather than the busy traffic area. I was asking God to help me figure it out along the way as running without planning your route can get you in trouble when the park is down hill.

I remember when I summered in Switzerland and they told me that if you go for a hike, start by going up so that the way home is down! Well my little hill certainly wasn’t the foothills of the Alps, but if I was not ready for hill training, running up it would hurt. I wanted to run not injure myself!

It was a lovely run. The creek is a far better companion than commuting cars. As it babbled along, I muttered prayers and thoughts and allowed the weekend to settle into memory storage as I looked forward to the week ahead. The little voice on my app chimed, “You are half way…” I gently turned towards home.

All thoughts of the uphill climb had taken a back seat to my meditations and then it was there, in front of me. It wasn’t actually all that much of an incline – simply a steep but short incline. Here we go!

As I crossed the street and began the run home, I touched the telephone pole beside me. One! Two! (huff puff) Three! (you can do it) Four to Seven were steep incline and Eight I’d level off a bit. Nine! Ten! Did I just finish the hill and not even be bothered by it? I ran all the way to Thirteen before my legs and mind registered that we had climbed the hill. Wow! Such a great trick remembered from long ago training. Nice work and into cool down.

I was proud of me. It was one of those moments that remind me that there are times in life where the obstacle seems so large, and I feel that I’m not ready to face it. A new job… A new church… A kid in high school… Paying off that car loan bill… Through that little hill, God reminded me that one step at a time is all he’s asking for. He doesn’t expect us to finish before we start. All he wants is one step at a time and he will provide the momentum.

My job is to get moving and follow the prompting of the Spirit. He will guide my steps.

The Not-so-Long Road Home

Wednesday dawned – beautiful and clear. I took the same route and ran to Sixteen telephone poles. We’ll see what tomorrow holds…

The Benefits of Little Bits

Do not abandon yourself to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.

Pope John Paul II

I have my alarm set for 10:45 a.m. It’s time to Take 5 with Adriene (youtube yogi extraordinaire). Five minutes of stretching mid morning boosts my energy and ability to concentrate on my numbers. Every Monday is “Yoga Day” in my training. I need a longer session to stay flexible for running. The little bits each day boost my ability to benefit from my hour long sessions on Monday. Sound familiar?

We meet at church on Sundays. We have a longer session of dwelling on God and all things spiritual. What do I do to boost that? I need the little bits. I need the personal one on one time with the One who made me, well, ME!

I admit, I need more than 5 minutes, but often in the business of life, I get 5 minutes here and 5 minutes there. As I meditate on my origin and identity, as I look at the world with poet’s eyes and see beyond the surface, I can take one of two roads. I can see the pain and darkness of the state of humankind (or human-unkind) OR I can choose to see the every day miracles around me.

The sun reflecting off the puddle left by night time rain. Walking past a lilac bush and smelling the glorious perfume of nature. Watching a 14 year old go for her morning run – towards the school bus about to pull away – hoping she grabbed her lunch! Receiving the phone message from 11 saying, “Hi! We’re home. Bye!” Click….

Such are the beautiful miracles surrounding me. In this moment, I choose to see the good of the present rather than the pain of the past or the momentous mountains of the future. This is not always easy. I admit that I cannot always say that. Some days I choose to stay in the shadows – pouting, filling with depression and anxiety. On those days, I must set a timer and give the pity party a time limit.

I then need to roll out the spiritual “mat” of gratitude and stretch my heart for a bit. Just as my physical muscles need the long stretch of a full yoga session and the little bits each day by my office desk, so my emotional and spiritual muscles need both a full session in the Word and prayer with my spiritual family and the little bits alone thanking the Miracle Maker.

As I work to move the mountains of depression and anxiety from my life, I start by moving the pebbles of discontentment, disillusionment, and ungratefulness. Soon, I see the mountain doesn’t need to be moved at all – simply scaled until I reach the summit with joy having conquered the climb one little bit at a time…

What are some ways you support the Big Bits of life with the Little Bits?

If you wish to move mountains tomorrow, you must start by lifting stones today.

African Proverb
Another Morning Miracle

Relinquished to Renewed

Who hindered whom?

Becky showed me this verse the other day when I was sharing a dream with her. I expressed regret about giving up this dream so many years ago. She simply said, “Read Galatians 5:7.” So, I did. (*see text above*)

Who hindered me? Who hinders me? What keeps me from running the race of a redeemed life? I can conjure up many an answer. I can place blame at others’ feet. Yet, I know the truth. When I choose to turn from God’s best for me and live for my own ends, it is always MY choice. I am the one who hinders myself.

Friend, YOU are the one who hinders yourself too – not your mental health, not the person who hurt you, not your finances or circumstances. You see, those are hurdles and the Coach stands ready to help you get up, keep running, and finish the race no matter how many hurdles you’ve tripped over. Tripping over hurdles isn’t sin. However, our response to them may become sin.

Did I give up? Did I have a pity party and stop trying? I did well in many areas of life and overcame much, but not in my health. In my health journey, I did give up. I relinquished it because it was too large a hurdle amidst everything else I was going through. Here I am far too heavy to have running be kind to my frame. I need to let go of the habits that keep this weight here. I need to be a good steward to the body God gave me for this earthly life.

I am human. Guilt is not permitted here. I cannot turn back the clock and make life turn out the way I had dreamed, but that does not mean I am not allowed to dream again! It is time. Time to dream. Time to act upon those dreams. Time to stop disobeying and begin running well again – in every area.

The entire theme of Galatians (particularly chapter 5) is that when I choose Jesus, I am set free to LIVE! If I wrap myself up in a world of perfectionism – I must be perfect or it’s not worth trying – I am enslaved once again. I need to cut myself some slack and give me the same grace God helps me give others.

This aging frame might not be a light as it used to be, but it can still move. I can still urge myself to run well again. I do not have to get trapped in thinking that because I cannot do what I used to do I might as well not try again.

Today, I choose Jesus. I choose to allow Him to renew me in mind, spirit, AND body! I choose to put one foot in front of the other “forgetting what lies behind and straining froward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:1-14)

What are you choosing today? I ask you to think about your journey because I’d hate for you to take as long getting here as I did! Learn from my race and let it impact yours. Are you choosing to run the race God has for you, jumping over the hurdles of depression and anxiety or are you allowing them to trip you up and give you and excuse to walk off the track?

There are times for rest stops along the way, but don’t give up! Don’t relinquish your race to or for anyone. Allow God to renew your mind and coach you along the way. You’ve got this!

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

Psalm 51:10