Wednesday, May 28, 2014

I Thought Regular Exercise Could be Exhausting - Then I Started to Run


I have been toying around with the idea for a while now to participate in a race:  i.e., running.  I have more and more friends running regularly and that really piqued my interest.  Their pics at the finish line show such accomplishment on their faces.  One of my sisters-in-law even introduced me to Couch to 5K (C25K) as a fitness program that she was using to get into shape.  Now, I'm not wanting to do it because "everybody else" is doing it; I need to exercise on a regular basis anyway.  My body is not in the shape it needs to be in due to lack of proper diet and exercise.  I have forgotten Who gave me this body to take care of.  "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." (1 Corinthians 6:19-20, NIV).  And in learning way more about the pancreatic cancer my Dad died from than I ever wanted to know, I learned about PurpleStride.  It raises money that goes toward funding research and other services for patients (in all stages) and their family members.  Anything I can do to support other families like ours, I'm in.  Last year I raised some money but wasn't present at the local event.  This year, I want to be in it - doing.

Anyone who knows me knows I don't run and might possibly question my sanity in thinking it's a good idea.  I can honestly say that I can be a queen of excuses and could have come up with several somewhat decent reasons for not starting:  my "blessed chest" (those who have one know exactly what I'm talking about); bronchial spasms that can cause me shortness of breath; the high heat and humidity.  I can also honestly say that I am an extremely lazy and unmotivated person and can easily talk myself out of something I need to be doing.   But I had to start somewhere.  Once I decided I was going to start doing this running thing, I chose to go with a C25K mobile app.  It tells me what I need to do when the timer is up so I don't even have to take my eyes off of the trail to know what I need to do next (any avoidance of tripping over my own shoe is welcomed).

So, the Lord granted me another day and I woke up this morning.  I remembered what I had planned to do.  A part of me wanted to stay home and not do it.  But, thankfully, some silent motivation, common sense, and some prodding from the Holy Spirit won over and my son and I headed to the park so I could walk and run the trails while he went along for the ride in his stroller.

Oh.My.Word.  What was I thinking?

The 30-minute exercise routine didn't seem all that bad when I read over it the night before:  a 5-minute warm-up with a brisk walk, then alternating a 60-second jog with a 90-second walk (for 20 minutes), finishing up with a 5-minute cool-down walk.  It didn't even seem all that bad when I started my first jog.  "This isn't so bad; I can do this."  Can I tell you that my body is a LIAR?  It seriously needs to repent for leading me on like that!  The warm-up walk itself left me catching my breath and less than 30 seconds into the first jog, I was very out of breath but plugged along and finished out the minute.  It wasn't as bad as I thought.  Until the next jog, then the next.  You would think the 90-second walks inbetween jogs would be enough to catch your breath - now my brain is lying to me.  I can tell you that it isn't for someone in my shape.  The build-up of not catching your breath catches up with you as you mosey along.  I'll admit that I did take a couple of short breaks but I did make it over halfway before doing so <patting myself on the back>.  I'll also admit I could have laid down in the middle of the trail on more than one occasion and called it quits.

But I didn't.

I tried not to look at the timer counting down on my phone and wonder why it was moving so slowly (seriously, why does it tell me I only ran for 6 seconds when it clearly felt like 20 seconds?).  I set short visual points to help me make it to the timed goal.  Deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth.  Just a little further; just 14 more seconds then it was time to walk again.  I did what I could to keep my mind set to short goals and not dwell on how much total time I had left.  And you know what?  I finished without managing to keel over. You know why?  Because "I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:13, NIV). And it was only just the first day of an 8-week training program and it's bound to get better, right?  The next local PurpleStride event isn't until November so I have plenty of time to get into the shape I need to be in.

I pushed past the excuses:  my "blessed chest - nothing two halfway decent sports bras couldn't handle; bronchial spasms that can cause me shortness of breath - I brought my inhaler and took a preventative puff before getting started; the high heat and humidity - I chose a park that had semi-shaded trails and went before the sun got too high in the sky.  The excuses were conquered, at least for today, and I was no worse for the wear.

We'll see what tomorrow brings.

**Please note that I am not being asked to endorse any of the above entities.  These are just my personal preferences and passions that I'm sharing with you.**

Friday, May 16, 2014

"When Words Won't Come, Just Say 'Jesus'"

Six months.  Six long months.  Or six short months.  It all depends on the day, the moment, the memory.  Losing my Dad has been, by far, one of the hardest trials of this life.  There isn't a day that goes by that a thought of him doesn't cross my mind.   I have even had dreams about him.  In one of them, he was still sick and he became upset about something I that I told him the nurse said.  It broke my heart to tell him and even more so to see this horribly scared look on his face.  It was just a dream but it still makes me sad to think about it.  It reminds me of a look I saw on his face the week before he died; I'm not sure if it was a sad, scared, or sick/tired look, but it's a look that is forever etched in my mind.  I had another dream a few nights ago where he was outside squatting down behind our son, helping him with something.  I remember thinking in my dream that he didn't even look sick; he looked like his normal self.

Normal.  What does that mean, anyway?  Life can be "normal" one minute then completely upside down the next, with the adjustment to it often referred to as a "new normal".  By no means am I having to adjust like my Mom is.  She comes home to see his truck parked in front of the house; she has to walk past his room; should she walk in his room, she sees the things on his dresser, almost exactly as he left them.  Just about everything in the house triggers a memory for her.  While I don't experience it that to the degree, I do experience something similar.  My husband and I bought my parents' house (the house I grew up in) about 8 years ago.  While we have made some changes and added our own touches, making it our own, there are things around this house that clearly remind me of him:  doors and walls that he painted, especially my old room (now our son's room); flooring that he laid down; the hooks he installed under the mantle that we continue to hang our Christmas stockings from; the picnic table he built; the trees he planted in the yard, especially the one he planted in the front many years ago that was barely more than a stick, now over 30 feet tall.  There are other things but you get the idea.  To you, they may seem like silly things to become sentimental over but seeing things he did with his hands bring back good memories of him.  One of the last projects he worked on was helping my husband to build a stand for our fish tank, only a few months before he passed away.  After some finishing touches (and a little help from our Little Man), it now sits handsomely in our dining area.

Every time I walk in my son's room in the morning or after his nap, I turn off the CD player playing his "Grandpa's songs", songs used in my Dad's memorial video.  Some days the songs strike me more than others but I know it's a part of how our son remembers him so I don't mind.  Tears are part of the healing process.  And with as many tears as I've shed, I still feel all the ones I've shoved down inside of me, just waiting to burst forth.  Sadness hits me the most at night when it's quiet and I have nothing but time to think.  Sometimes I want to yell and scream how angry I am about him becoming sick and dying and leaving us behind to deal with it and sometimes I cry just because I miss him or because he's not there to celebrate a special event with us.  I know he is with our Savior and that one day we will see him again.  Yes, I still cry and, yes, I'm still dealing with the anger.  It's been six months and I feel about the same as I did then.  But I have to heal in my own time; everybody does.  Grief shouldn't be dwelled upon but neither should it be rushed.  Memories can be healing and comforting but we should not let them consume us to the point of living in the past.  I know God will use this experience for good; it has already served as an experience I could relate to when my sister-in-law's mother died unexpectedly just about 3 months later.  If He has anything else in store, it remains to be seen; it could be months or even years before He further reveals His will in all of this.

I can't change the circumstances.  The loss of him still hurts tremendously.  The healing process for me is very slow.  Sometimes, it hurts too much to even utter words of prayer, especially when I'm praying for continued healing for our family and when I've had an especially emotional day.  Not being able to speak my prayer aloud isn't a cop-out to not express my feelings and emotions.  If you've ever experienced a loss, you know how this feels; God knows our hearts.  But I did hear a song on the radio not long ago that related to this feeling of not even having the words to pray; it's called "Just Say 'Jesus'" by 7eventh Time Down.  There are a lot of songs I can relate to in this season of life but with this one, I want to share some of the lyrics* with you that stood out to me and hit me where I'm at:

"Life gets tough and times get hard...
Your heart isn't healing...

When you don't know what to say, just say 'Jesus'
There is power in the name, the name of Jesus
If the words won't come...just say 'Jesus'.

Whisper it now or shout it out
However it comes out, He hears your cry.
...Just call out to the way, the truth, the light.

...There is just one name, strong enough to save...

If the words won't come and you don't know what to say,
Just say, 'Jesus'."


Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Not-so-Mother's Day

Today is a day set aside to celebrate moms and all they do and have done for us.  While we would like to be appreciated everyday like we are today, we'll gladly take what we can get.  We treasure the special attention like breakfast in bed, handwritten cards, homemade gifts, all creating happy memories.  But let's not take these moments for granted.  There are those who don't get those moments for one reason or another:  single moms; foster moms; birth moms; moms-to-be; moms that have lost children through miscarriage, stillbirth, medical issues, an accident, or someone else's hand; those that have lost their mom or someone who was like a mom or motherly figure to them; those that are moms at heart; those who are waiting to become moms; those that are trying to become moms; those who deal with infertility; and those who are waiting to adopt.  (I hope I didn't leave anyone out.)  They are all important.  They may not have a little one underfoot or a big one grown and married.  They may not be able to bear children or carry to term.  They may not be married but long to be a mom.  They may be missing their mom or child today.  They may feel overlooked and depressed.  Let them know that they are special to Someone.  Love on them without placating them; words and actions can seem meaningless to some unless Jesus is speaking through those words and actions.  Let them know that God knows the desires of their heart (Psalm 37:4, AMP).  Let them know that God sees their pain and hears their cries (Psalm 40:1, Psalm 55:17, Psalm 61:1, Psalm 86:6, NIV).  Let them know they are not forgotten (Psalm 13, NIV).  Let them know that they can place their trust in God and His timing (Psalm 37:3, 5-7, NIV).  Just be Jesus to them.

Thursday, October 17, 2013


My faith and my world have been shaken to their core. My current struggle with depression has skyrocketed. It was a journey that started long ago, though, we all hoped and prayed it would not be a journey we would have to take; personal choices and God's allowance of consequences determined otherwise. On May 20th of this year, our journey started with my Dad in the world of cancer. Only six letters long but such a heavy word that does not roll off of the tongue with ease. I have a hard time even saying it. If I don't speak it aloud, it's not real, right? As in, saying it out loud speaks it into existence. If only that was a realistic thought. The truth is, it is is already in existence and saying it or not does not change the fact that it already is. It has no knowledge of the phrase "comfort zone" and has no problem pushing us out of it. It is right in front of us, in our faces, invading our personal space. Barring a miracle, it isn't going away; we have to face it whether we want to or not.

I may sound gung-ho; I can tell you that I am not.

At least, not yet.

There are five identified stage of grief that are that people go through when someone they love is dying:  Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.  The denial stage has come and gone; it didn't last very long.  It is no longer deniable - each test and scan further solidifying the diagnosis of lung cancer, that it is in both lungs, and it is considered to be in Stage 4.  I learned later that it is treatable, but not curable.

I hit the anger stage simultaneously.  I.was.ANGRY.  I knew it would probably come to this in time.  Smoking for over 40 years was bound to catch up to him.  And he had two older brothers pass away of the same thing, for the same reason.  I will never understand how it wasn't a wake-up call for him to get the help he needed to stop smoking.  And here we are.  Did he know that it wouldn't be just him that it effected?  We would be right there going through it with him:  all of the doctor's appointments, testing, treatment, watching him experience pain and discomfort; all that comes along with cancer.  I hate to think of what is to come, what he will endure, but we suffer in a different way with him.  This hurts us, too; it puts us through pain and suffering, too.  I wonder why we have to go through this at all.  It was preventable but the outcome eventually became predictable.  I am slowly moving out of this stage; I am still angry but not as much as I was.  I have a right to be angry but it is not something I should dwell on.  I said my piece to my Dad the day the results came in.  I will not bring it up to him again; he knows.  But it is a daily battle; I have to forgive and try to get through it daily.

I am now in the Depression stage.  I already take medication for depression (hormonal imbalance that runs in my family).  To even ask my doctor to slightly increase my dosage to "feel happy" is tempting and it would be nice to not cry so much.  But it would not be healthy.  It is one thing to keep myself balanced from what my body does not do on its own; it's another completely to medicate my feelings and emotions instead of dealing with them.  There are a lot of emotions and it's natural to be going through them but they are hard to experience and they are heavy to carry.  I would rather not deal with them at all.  I feel "okay" with fleeting thoughts; I'm good at pushing down my emotions to keep from crying and completely losing it.  Dwelling on the situation and possible outcomes or talking about it with others opens up the floodgates of what I have dammed up inside of me.  My insomnia is occurring more frequently - I can keep my mind busy through out the day but, when all is quiet, I seem to do nothing but think about it and as tired as I may be, sleep eludes me for a while.  Exhaustion definitely weighs in on the severity of my emotions and how I react to day-to-day things.  I need to deal with them in a healthy way (Matthew 11:28).  I am sad to think of the physical pain that my Dad will endure, of the pain of watching him go through this; the thought of losing him is frightening and of memories that will not be made with his grandchildren breaks my heart (Deuteronomy 31:8).  I want my son to have solid memories of his Grandpa.  While, at 3 years old he has a great memory, he's not at the stage to solidly remember detail-for-detail accounts of special days and moments.  I feel like this time is being stolen from all of our family. I am good at "what-if"s and creating scenarios in my head of things that my or may not even happen (Philippians 4:6).  I think my sadness is valid and my fears are realistic but dwelling on them won't change anything.  I just recently had a sweet friend tell me that "tears are prayers, too" (Psalm 56:8).  I guess I have been praying a lot lately, then, though, I had never thought of it that way before.  God knows what I am feeling without even saying a word; when the words are too hard to express and tears flow out instead, He understands me just as clearly as if I had spoken words aloud (Jeremiah 29:12-13). God knows the number of our days (Job 14:5), regardless of a estimation given by a doctor ([though she said he does have age and otherwise good health (other than managed diabetes) in his favor].  I hate those numbers being in my head and it's hard not to fixate on them.

I am also somewhat in the Bargaining stage, as well.  Not so much in an "if You do this, then I will do this" capacity; more of just praying, albeit selfishly, that other test results be good news and the ultimate outcome of healing will be this side of heaven.  Our God is a God of miracles and could make the rest of his long days cancer-free.  I also know that He heals in other ways.  He is the Great Physician, Jehovah-Raffa - the God who heals.

I'm not in the Acceptance stage yet.  It is hard to accept what our family is experiencing and what we might be facing.  We have already faced so much in the past year, watching my Grandma deteriorate slowly from dementia, passing away this past January, and now this.  That is not to say that this year has not been without any positives but we have definitely been dealt with some very heavy situations.  God is there to help us handle our burdens (Matthew 11:29-30).  I am so very thankful for that because I can't imagine how heavy this would be without His help.  And we are so very blessed with friends, church family, and family in our lives to help share and carry the burden with us.

We now wait for test results from a pancreatic biopsy performed last week, which aggravated his pancreas to the point of hospitalization for the severity of the pain.  The results were supposed to be back today yet we still wait.  It may or may not be cancer and it may have spread from the lungs or be its own cancer (which his father had and lived another 30-plus years).  We diligently pray it is nothing serious and something else entirely but I don't know how likely that is.  I don't want our family to be going through this but we are beyond that now and this is where we are.  It is a daily struggle in different ways.  I pray that his pain is minimal and manageable.  I pray that the best course of action is decided upon for his treatment once the biopsy results come back.  I pray that it will be very effective in killing off the cancer(s).  I have seen the survival percentage of lung cancer patients, which is another number I have stuck in my head.  I know the odds are not in his favor.  But our God is bigger than any disease, number, or fear that we have.  He has the ultimate say and He is the ultimate Authority.  My God is big and I must pray big.  And trust big (Proverbs 3:5).  And have a big faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).  He is in control no matter how much any of us think that we have over the situation.  Nothing happens without His knowledge - nothing comes as a surprise to Him.  He is All, He knows All and asks that I place complete faith in Him, no matter the outcome (Psalm 46:10).  It will take some time but I will try.  My Daddy is a believer.  I love him so very much.  I pray he tries his hardest to fight this worldly battle and grows closer to his Savior in the midst of it all (James 4:8).

This leg of our journey is just beginning.  Only God knows when and where this path will end (Jeremiah 29:11).  I pray we can all soon get to a point where we don't see the outcome as quite so bleak.  I don't want to abandon the severe reality of the situation and what comes with it.  But I can count it all grace  (John 1:16).

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Be Loving Believers, Not Critical Christians

It seems are if when Christians take a Biblical stand, the world starts throwing darts from every which way possible. Making such statements are considered politically incorrect and socially unacceptable. The words "intolerance" and "narrow-minded" usually surface in response. I firmly believe that intolerance is a big part of the problem. We as Christians, myself included, are so worried about stepping on toes and would rather keep quiet rather than cause any dissension or confrontation. God warns us in His Word that it is not easy being a follower of Christ. Standing up and speaking out in the name of Christ will surely ruffle feathers and incite hateful comments. Unfortunately, a lot of Christians respond in kind. We get defensive, speaking out of emotion, becoming negative. We have to be careful when we defend in the name of Christ. We should be passionate about our Savior. But we need to make sure we do it in love. Instead of protesting, being hateful or telling them they are wrong, we should love, encourage and lead others in the right direction. Telling someone they are wrong just puts them on the defensive. We are not called to be hateful; there are enough people in the world that can be labeled as such without Christians becoming a part of it. We as Christians are supposed to be different and stand out in a positive way. As far as being narrow-minded, I think we should be when it comes what God's Word says is right and wrong; It speaks for itself. It is often misquoted, misinterpreted or taken out of context (whether intentionally or unintentionally) but the Word of God is true to the core. There is no gray area; there is black and there is white. It may not be a popular or well-received stance but it is not God's intention for us to be popular or well-liked. We are called to be "fishers of men," lead others to Christ. We should be careful to not become argumentative with those who do not agree with us. Defend, discuss but never argue. Arguments can get heated and get off-topic. The focus of the conversation gets lost in the pursuit to be right and convince the other person to think like you. This approach will more than likely push away instead of leading them in the direction of Christ. I applaud those who can state their Christian beliefs in the face of criticism, especially when done in a non-hateful manner. They are not making a popular decision and all sorts of negative labels will be attached to them. May I one day be as intolerant and narrow-minded as that.

Friday, May 4, 2012

(Lack of) Patience in Study

I've just recently started a new Bible study and this one is a little different for me as it is the first on I've done online.  My bestie stared a Facebook group for this study and we can buy and download the weekly videos at home and follow along in our study guide.  I'll have to say that it is nice to watch at home because I can rewind if I miss something or want to write down something that I want to remember but didn't catch all of the first time around.  It is easier for me to get distracted at home but if I pick a time when my toddler's napping and my husband's not playing video games, I know my chances are better.

That being said, I find myself getting extremely aggravated when my Bible study time is unduly interrupted and acting and reacting in the opposite manner that I should.  I am one to get distracted very easily and extremely aggravated very quickly (I'm slowly getter better in trying not to but I still have a long way to go).  The more involved I am in the video or daily homework in the study guide, the worse my reaction is in trying to remedy the distraction.  Here are a couple of recent examples:
  • Yesterday, I was watching the first video as my husband was out, my toddler was napping and the dogs were inside; the time for quiet seemed optimal.  About three-quarters of the way through the video, one of our dogs started to bark her head off.  Needless to say, I was more than a little irritated.  But I didn't just get distracted, irritated and fuss at the dog; I screamed at her to shut up, get in her bed while asking her if a little quiet was too much to ask of her.  [side note:  she just came and nuzzled me, asking for some love - so forgiving :)]  She complied fairly quickly.  I did apologize to her and love on her after I finished the video but what I did was unnecessary.
  • This evening, I was going to take the opportunity of our son napping and my husband being outside working on the pool and then his car.  Well, that plan got delayed from the get-go as our overtired toddler decided he would rather wail about being put down for a nap than actually take one.  Long story short, he did finally give into slumber but my husband kept coming in and out of the house, from the front to the back and back again, opening and shutting doors, which was extremely distracting to me.  I actually did okay and worked through it calmly but when he came in the room, I guess I had "a look" on my face and he asked me about it.  Carefully choosing my words so as not to come across as nagging, I simply stated (or so I thought) that it was very distractive to me to keep hearing the doors opening and shutting.  I wasn't blaming, just expressing my frustration, trying to communicate without pointing fingers and fussing but I apparently failed in my attempt since he rolled his eyes and shook his head in exasperation.  That is what set me off.  Needless to say, an argument ensued.

Considering how I am spending the quiet time:  in study, reading my Bible, taking in the Word, my reaction should be opposite of what it is.  Not that I'm not allowed frustration but yelling, fussing or being smart is not part of the solution.  There is no hidden Eleventh Commandment written in the Bible that states, "Thou shalt readeth and studieth my Word daily with peace and quiet and if thouest gets interrupted in any way, by all means necessary, loseth your temper to correcteth the situation in whatever manner Thou deemeth suitable."  When I I'm taking more of His word in, I should be exuding more of Christ out.  I seem to have a disconnect when it comes to this.  Satan is trying his darndest (and is usually fairly successful in his attempts with me) to use those distractions to his advantage, using anything he can to get my eyes off the Word of God.  However, my reactions are my own and can blame no one but myself for the outcome.  I CHOOSE if and how I let something bother me or not.  Satan throws the lure and I usually seem to take the bait.  My God is the only one who can remove it and it is only when I call out to Him and draw near to Him that He can take that hook out.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Giving up a Role and Receiving Grace

Today was a difficult day.  I woke up earlier than usual, as Walt got ready to go to church.  I laid in bed for a while contemplating the decision I had made in the middle of last week and how I was going to word this letter the teacher and friend that I have been helping for 3 or 4 years to let her know that, for now, this would be by last day helping her with the Sunday School class.  I started it off okay but as I got more personal and apologetic, I suppose conviction and guilt really set in and the tears started to flow.  It eventually became weeping.

I didn't wholly want to give up that role, but I know it is the right decision.  I am not where I need to be spritually, to the point of not even wanting to get up and go to church.  That lone decision affects me as a Christian, Pastor's wife, wife, mom, friend, coworker and overall person.  I have been negligent in my role of helping almost since day one and am very disappointed in myself for not holding to the commitment I made.  I am at the point where I'm not being filled (of my own doing) so I don't have anything to pour out.  The only things that poured out today were tears of remorse and sadness, and a lot of them.  I cried the whole class, more or less, even breaking down a few times.    I even wept in my vehicle before driving home.  Tears roll as I journal this day.

She is a very gracious woman who condemned me not and wanted assurance that I would stop by from time to time and not be a stranger.  I am blessed to receive the grace that I did today from my friend and even more blessed the grace that I receive from my Savior, no matter what my failures, time and time again.