Thursday, August 28, 2008

Running With the Girls

I went for a run at 5:30 in the morning the other day. Suffice it to say that this was not my idea. My brain doesn't even turn on until 8:30, and even then it remains on idle until about 10 o'clock.

I have rather evil friends who talked me into it. Okay, not totally evil, just rather sadistic.

We started our run on a dark path on a forested hillside. I was sent to the front of the pack to lead the way up toward the park at the top.

Why, you ask? That would b e because I'm the tallest and the best equipped to clear out the cobwebs that spun between bushes across the trail.

Did I know this was my mission? No, my three friends informed me between evil snorts of laughter as I spluttered and blindly tried to wipe off the sticky web and keep from falling off the trail.

I recovered and continued along the dim path when a short, hairy beast leapt out in front of me and started bounding up the gravel trail. I screamed and managed a few wild arm movements while insanely continuing to run.

As my heart resumed its less humming bird like beating, the beast transformed from a frightening creature into a raccoon which took a right turn into the brush.

That's when the hills came alive . . .and NOT with the sound of music. Every rustle and snap of twig became a predator planning his attack. Amazingly enough, we made it to the top.

Lesson learned. Things aren't always as they seem. Too often we jump to conclusions. Think the worst of someone's motives. Don't stop to ask questions.

Just don't stop. Don't give ourselves that moment to regroup. Think things through.

One thing I do know . . . tomorrow I'm sleeping in.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

In God's Care

God is amazing. There are always challenges on this journey—childrearing issues, marital hiccups and the mudslides and avalanches that life always seems to send careening toward us.

But God is there, immovable, available, always wanting to help.

And I’ve been wading through a couple of those mud slides, but making a choice to be intentional about spending time with God through out it. In all honesty, it’s probably those things that drove me to the foot of the cross.

As I told God how much I appreciate him—the joy he gives me despite the glare I’m receiving from a sullen child (that is a miracle, don’t ya think?), and the stress of “re-entry” after a business trip with my husband (okay, it was Naples, FL so I can’t complain too much)—I got a picture in my mind.

It was a picture of dad resting his hand on the top of his young daughter’s head. At first, I thought, “Oh, that’s a lovely picture of God always being with me.” But the picture remained, so I moved in closer.

The purpose of the picture wasn’t so I’d see that God’s presence always with me, but rather to feel what was in the girl’s heart.

She felt completely protected and relaxed because Someone with all the authority in the world was in control and would guide her every step.

He’s a God who answers our dreams, meets our desires and provides beyond our needs.

He is a God of plenty.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wow Moments

Last fall I was working on my publisher's macro edits for my novel Leave it to Chance. It was pretty overwhelming. There I sat at my desk with a stack of red marked pages and a list of things to overhaul.

Too big a job, too little time.

Then I reached a particularly tough section. I had no idea what to do. It was after midnight with my deadline looming, so I emailed an SOS to my prayer group and went to bed. Woke up early, completely exhausted after eight grueling weeks of these edits. I had difficulty formulating even a simple thought, but the novel was due the next day.

Sat down at the computer with my bowl of oatmeal and had a niggling idea. Started to work it in, and to my amazement it fit like a piece of a puzzle that had gone missing. In several spots the dialogue I had in place worked far better with this addition.

And in my fogged brain state of the night before I had added one line to a scene, not even sure why I was typing it in as it didn't really fit. But with the new plot dynamic, that line was the PERFECT finish to the scene.

I truly saw God going before me and setting things in place.

But sadly, just an hour later, I was back to fretting and worrying that I wouldn't be able to finish the edit well. I glanced out the window and saw a humming bird. Into my mind popped the verse about how God provides for the birds of the air.

It was one of those moments where God deposits an entire insight into your brain in a nanosecond. He showed me how often I had judged the Israelites for not trusting God in the wilderness when he so obviously provided for them. (Too many times I've wanted to rap them upside the head for thinking they were going to die of thirst in the desert when just the page before God had showered them with miracle after miracle to deliver them from slavery.)

And yet, just after he so obviously paved the way in my editing, I was right back to stewing and worrying about it. AND my issues were way smaller than survival (the Israelites lives were on the line).

God can do exceedingly, abundantly beyond what we can imagine. He's been showing me that he's faithful even when I'm not. He loves me when I'm unlovable.

He's always reaching for my hand. I'm determined to hold onto his.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pain & Healing

I recently started going to a physical therapist for a hamstring issue that turned out to be a back issue. He helped me get everything operational again and then wanted to look at my running form.

He said my stride wasn't too bad and had me make a few minor adjustments. Minor sounds simple enough, right? Not like major or complete overhaul.

Just a few adjustments that had me leaning forward, bending my elbows more and pushing off with each step. But it was awkward. Didn't feel normal—though it did feel more effortless at first.

But who wants to think about their form with each and every step of a three or four mile run?

After a week or so it became more comfortable, felt like I was gliding. My speed even increased. But as soon as I started getting tired, old habits rushed in to tempt me.

So badly did I want to straighten up, to go back to my familiar running posture.

Isn't that the way it goes when we try to walk away from habits or people that aren't the best for us? In moments of clarity, we make a resolution to break free—to get healthier. But as soon as it gets tough—and it always does when we plow new ground—we want to go running back to the old and familiar.

We minimize the damage those habits or people cause to our lives. Egypt was a place of bondage to the Israelites until they thought they would die of thirst in the desert, and then begged Moses to take them back.

To make a significant change we need to focus on the goal and the benefits it'll bring. Because when we hit the pain of change, our resolution becomes foggy and distorted. But if we remember the goal and have someone who can help keep us accountable, we CAN get free.

As I was out for a run today, a thought smacked me out of the blue. I realized that without my original hamstring injury, I never would have sought help and discovered some of the damaging habits I had in my daily living and in my running.

As much as I had prayed for my leg to get better, I'm so glad it didn't. It put me on a path toward a physical health I didn't realize I was lacking.

So sometimes, those difficult things in our lives are used to bring the greatest blessing. Never give up!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Time Outs and Attitudes

Each moment of every day we're either walking toward God or walking farther away. Sometimes it's not so much that we're not praying unceasingly as the Bible calls us to do, it's more the infinitesimal steps away from him and toward self.

This crops up in attitudes and the words we use with others, which leads me to the short people in our family.

Sometimes I find myself becoming an armchair parent. Refereeing from the sidelines. Directing children like I'm directing traffic. Issuing time outs like speeding tickets.

It didn't occur to me until God had tapped me on the shoulder a few times that consequences don't change hearts. Time outs don't change attitudes.

It may create external compliance, but it doesn't touch their character.

I need to get down to their eye level, speak to their hearts about connection with others. Teach them how words can build up or tear down. In essence love them closer to Jesus.

But those days when I've let go of God's hand and am forging ahead on my own, where am I leading my kids? I'm leaning on my own understanding, trying to make my own straight path (not good for this directionally challenged mother).

Empty reservoirs lead to short-circuited moms. You know how it is. The kid just stepped on your very last nerve and you stand there screeching at him looking like something out of a horror movie.

To be the kind of moms our kids need, we have to be filled up.

For me, this starts in the bedroom. Specifically in my closet. My own quiet place where I can sit and talk to God uninterrupted (except for the occasional banging on the closet door when the short people need something).

If I'm not sharing all of me with my King—the good, bad and ugly—the ick stays inside and inevitably effects how I interact with my kids.

Even if it's only a few minutes that I have to sneak into my closet and close the door, I'll take it because it's only in his presence that I become complete.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Wild Animals . . . er, Pets...

Okay, you may be thinking I'm referring to my children, and while on some days that may be true (such as this very moment where my son has knocked into me about five times in the last ten seconds). But I am actually referring to creatures of the animal kingdom.

There are a few messies in our family (AKA the short people) which can drive a neat, orderly person nearly batty at times.

But as I passed by my daughter's room a few days ago it dawned on me that she has kept her room IMMACULATE for MONTHS! Nearly on the miraculous scale for this ten-year-old girl.

Then this morning she said, "Mom, remember you said I could get a pet if I kept my room clean?"

Horror swept over me. Had I really said that? Obviously I had, and more obvious was the fact that I thought there wouldn't be a snowball's chance in summer of that happening.

But I swallowed and attempted a smile and we piled in the car for a trek to the pet store with me praying the whole way. Please let her fall in love with a frog.

Frogs seemed more do-able than say a rabbit, which is what she really wanted. To my thinking, anything with fur and a small cage adds up to smelly.

Fortunately, when I explained what rabbit plus Milo (our small, hyper dog) would mean to the pet population in our home (fine dining for the dog), she quickly acquiesced to the thought of a more reptilian type pet.

So she is spending untold hours on the internet researching turtles and other creepy crawlies.

So be careful what you promise, it may come slithering back to bite you.