Staying Fierce, Focused, and Moving Forward

If you read my post “Things I Have Learned” from a few weeks ago, you know the frustration I felt after my third race. I was not focused at all, and I was aimlessly trying to improve my speed without having a plan. My head was everywhere except for where it should have been . . . in the race!!

Going back to my idea of proving to myself that I am physically able to do anything with God’s help (see my earlier posts), I proved it to myself at least twice last week. Since my cousin and I have gotten into a routine with Map My Run, I wanted to test my strategy in another official race. I went online to see if there were any local upcoming races, and I found one that was held last Saturday morning at 8:30. I work a night shift on Fridays each week, so I wasn’t sure I could handle running a 5K that morning. After talking with one of my coworkers who also runs lots of races, I decided to go for it.

On race day, I was determined to remain focused unlike the last time. I also had a plan. The first item on my agenda was to make sure I found the tent where we were starting (see my last post). I was given directions the day before when I picked up my registration packet, and I found it with no problems. The next item on my agenda was to remember to pull up Map My Run to keep track of my progress during the race. When the race started, I just followed the same routine I did during my workouts. I kept checking my app from time to time, and I had a really good feeling. My goal was to knock off a few seconds from my best race time which was 48:55. When I looked at the clock while crossing the finish line, it said 46:55!! Not only did I run a 5K after finishing a 12-hour night shift, but I also turned in my best race time to date, and I did it with two severe clubbed feet . . . talk about fierce!!

As Christians, we cannot wander aimlessly through life and expect to accomplish anything. We’ve got to know what we’re after (stay fierce), have a plan (stay focused), and daily work toward our goal (move forward). I love what Paul said in I Corinthians 9:24-27:

“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air; But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

When God has clearly given us a calling, we must stay fierce and be determined to do whatever it takes to accomplish that calling. We must stay focused on the plan, and keep moving forward no matter what happens along the way.

Until next time . . . let’s keep on running!!

Switching It Up

Now that I’ve been using Zen Labs Fitness since January for my 5K training and endurance, I’ve also started using a few other apps to kick up my training to another level. I downloaded the Map My Run app to help with timing accuracy. I ran a 5K in 46:02 this morning with an average pace of 14:45. I’ve also learned a few tricks to help me increase my speed. For instance, I’ve been power-walking the first 5 minutes, and then I run until I reach a mile, alternating 60 seconds fast/60 seconds slow. Once I reach a mile, I power-walk the next 5 minutes, and then start running again using the same routine. I’ve found that incorporating the 5-minute power-walk between each mile helps get my heart rate back to normal. It also prevents me from running out of energy so quickly. Due to my work schedule, I cannot run in very many races since most of them are held on weekends, so I downloaded the Yes.Fit app and ran my first virtual race. It was a lot of fun . . . I even got a medal for just completing it!

Switching up my training from time to time keeps it from getting monotonous. When things start getting mundane, that’s when I know something needs to change. My body starts getting used to the same old thing, so it starts taking longer for it to respond to the same workouts. Our bodies need a “revival” from time to time.

My spirit needs a daily “revival” also. When I start getting satisfied with the status quo in my Christian life, it is time to switch things up. I have to start evaluating why I do what I do. Am I reading my Bible every day just so that I can check it off of my spiritual to-do list, or am I doing it because I truly desire to learn more about God so that I can show His love to everyone I meet? Have I found someone who I can mentor so that they can experience the same love of God that I do now? Is there something in my own life that is keeping me from having a pure relationship with God?

The Psalmist David was heartbroken when his eyes were opened to the sin he committed with Bathsheba. He experienced a revival in his own heart:

“Create in me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me. . . . Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free spirit.” Psalm 51:10, 12

We should never be afraid to switch up our routines from time to time. If our bodies are remaining the same each week, we must be willing to do an honest evaluation to see what needs to change. I am daily learning how to switch things up in my Christian life as well. God is working with me every day by very patiently showing me what needs to change, and He is helping me to learn ways to make those changes . . . one day at a time.

Until next time . . . let’s keep on running!!

Just Wait

For a few weeks now, my weight has started to plateau. I know it happens. When we lose weight, our bodies change, so we have to learn how to change with them. The process can be frustrating though! When we don’t have as much weight to lose, it becomes harder to get that last stubborn twenty pounds to come off. Part of my problem over the last few weeks has been my mindset. When I did not see the weight coming off, I got frustrated. I started to fret every time I stepped on the scale. I decided to change that last week. I chose to focus on the total amount of weight I had lost up to that point. I also chose to celebrate and be thankful for the things I have learned on this journey instead of browbeating myself if things weren’t going the way I thought they should. When I stepped on the scale last week, I lost weight! I lost more this week too! Both losses were small, but that’s okay. I learned that stressing over my weight can actually add to it instead of helping to take it off. I just have to stay dedicated to my healthy lifestyle and let my body do the rest.

As Christians, it can be so easy to get discouraged when we face hard times. I and all of my former coworkers got laid off from work a few years ago due to our company downsizing. I sent resumes’ and had interviews all over town for over six months before anything started to happen. I remember crying my eyes out one day. My bills were steadily coming in, and I had no income to pay them. I had reached a point where I was having a hard time trusting in God’s guidance. I would read my Bible, but my Bible reading became more of a duty than a desire to learn about God. What’s funny is that I was afraid to admit to God that I was having a hard time trusting . . . as if He didn’t already know!! That afternoon while I was sobbing, I begged God to give me the strength He knew I needed to trust Him. I told Him that I felt like I had done all I could do to find work, but I couldn’t understand why no one was calling. At that moment, it was as if I could hear Him whisper in my ear, “Just wait”. Isaiah 40:28-31 says:

“Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

As soon as I finished praying, an overwhelming sense of peace came over me. In my heart, I said, “Okay, Lord”. A few weeks later, I was employed! Looking back on that time, I can see how God was already working. He just wanted me to let go and submit everything to Him!

One thing I have learned with weight loss is that if we do our part, our bodies will eventually do theirs. We just have to relax, give it time, and trust our bodies to do their work. The same idea goes with the Christian life. Yes, God wants us to do our part to take care of our finances and our health (among other things), but we also have to remember that God is ultimately in control of every part of our lives. He will guide us in the direction He wants us to go. All we have to do is trust Him, and just wait for His Perfect Time.

Until next time . . . let’s keep on running!!

Things I Have Learned

I ran my third race last Saturday night. I was so excited when I found out about the race the day before, because it was one of the few races that fit into my crazy work schedule. Keep in mind, this one was at night. It was the first one I had ever run at night, and I had to work until 7:15 Saturday morning (I work the night shift). I registered online for the race the night before. When I arrived at the park for the race, no tents were set up anywhere. I kept hearing music, so I followed the sound thinking that was where everything would be set up. When I arrived, I still saw no tents. They were having a jazz festival (which was VERY cool), but no one knew anything about a race. I thought about getting back in my car and driving further, but I was unfamiliar with the park, plus I had walked so far that I kept thinking I had to be close to our starting point. I finally found a guy on a bicycle who said he saw the tent . . . on the other side of the park!!! By the time I arrived, I had already walked about 30 to 45 minutes. I was on time for the race, but my finish time was HORRIBLE . . . 53:15!!! My goal was to beat my last race time of 48:55. The lesson I learned from that is to make sure I find out ahead of time where the tent will be located so that I don’t walk around the park for 30-45 minutes looking and feeling like a complete nincompoop!!

I have also learned not to let setbacks keep me from achieving my goals. I remember when I was in school for Medical Billing & Coding, one of my most difficult classes was Anatomy & Physiology. Any subject having to do with Science was never my forte’. I was just a little apprehensive at first. I kept up with the reading (there was a LOT) and assignments, and I got an A in both the beginning and advanced courses, but there were a few setbacks along the way. I remember one section we covered that was especially difficult was the section on bones. The teacher gave us a diagram of the different sections of a skeleton, and we had to name each bone. So many of them were so similar to each other that I got confused and missed a good portion on the test. My grade was lower than a C. I looked at my teacher and told him that I was determined to get an A in the class no matter what it took. I was angry when I got home. I was not angry in a negative sense, but angry in a good way. I started on the next chapter with a new determination. I maintained an A for the rest of the quarter. The same thing happened with my running. I was frustrated with my finish time on Saturday night. Did I give up? Not on your life!! I went running again this morning and completed a 5K in 47:46! Sometimes when we have setbacks, we have to get creative and rethink our strategies in order to reach our goals.

Christians can never give up either. We may get discouraged if it seems like no one listens when we try to witness, but we have to remember that it is not our job to win people to Christ. God does that through His Holy Spirit. It is our job to be faithful at consistently planting the seed of the Gospel, and living it out so that others can see Christ in us. We must also remember that God never gave up on us. He gave His Son Jesus as the Sacrifice for our sin, and He daily leads us in the direction He wants us to go. When I stop and think of all that God is, my heart is filled with so much gratitude that I want to serve Him every day in the best way that I can. Yes, there will still be times when I will fail, but God knows that. He is the One Who gives me the strength to get back up and keep going every day!!

Until next time . . . let’s keep on running!!

My Story . . . Continued

Something I have not shared on any of my posts until now is that I am a HUGE lover of quality family-friendly theater. You never would have guessed that if you knew me as a child!

It all started when I was about five years old. My family and I lived in Goldsboro, NC at the time. We attended a church where the pastor supported quality fine arts. He invited a Christian drama team to come to our church one summer. I was so excited when my parents decided to keep two of the female team members in our home. The thought of two college girls spending time with my family (and especially playing with my sister and me) was so thrilling to me as a five-year-old. I can remember going into their bedroom, sitting on the bed with my feet dangling on the side, and quietly watching them unpack. I was so excited, but scared at the same time. I was so shy that I didn’t know what to say, so I just sat there.

When we got to church the next morning, I saw something that I had never seen before: a stage with a backdrop and complete set . . . right there on my church’s platform! They were performing an excerpt from the play that was being performed later that night. The one thing I remember about the morning’s performance was that the two girls who stayed in our house were the two main characters. The evening performance played a pivotal role in my life in more ways than one. The performance was held in the fellowship hall. The church we attended also had a large Christian school (I believe over 1,000 students attended at the time). The school’s drama class met downstairs in the fellowship hall, and there was a stage set up on one end, so it was only natural for us to have the performance there. When we arrived for the performance that night, they had several rows of metal chairs set up for the audience. There was a sound and light board set up which I had never seen before. As a five-year-old, I was intrigued with all of the buttons, wires, and other contraptions that were connected. My family and I sat in the center on the end. When the play started, I was too small to see over the head of the person in front of me, so I stood up in my chair. The play they performed was a Biblical one. The main thing I remember is that there was a guy playing the part of either Satan or an evil spirit, and he ran through the audience right past me at one point!! It scared me so much that I screamed the rest of the night!! However, God used that ministry in my life in an incredible way. When I went home that night, something sparked deep inside my soul. I obviously didn’t know how it was going to happen at the time, but God used that ministry to put the desire in my heart to get involved in Christian drama. That was three years before I became a Christian!

My family and I moved out of town a few years later, and we started attending another church that offered something else I had never experienced: children’s church. One of my favorite parts of children’s church was story time. Our storyteller was also the high school Speech and Drama teacher at the new Christian school where my sister and I attended. I used to sit on the edge of my seat and soak up every character, facial expression, gesture, and everything about her narration that I could possibly grasp. I wanted so badly to be able to tell stories like that, but there was one problem: I was so shy at that time in my life that I turned inside out when anyone spoke to me! It wasn’t until I started middle school when I finally got serious about my performing arts desires. I was one of two 6th graders who represented my school in a statewide fine arts competition in poetry recitation. I came in second place behind my classmate! The very next year, I took my first Speech class . . . taught by none other than our children’s church storyteller. At that time, the Speech class was so small that the school could not justify splitting it into middle school and high school, so I was one of two 7th graders in a class with 9th through 12th graders. In all, we had about 15 students in the class. Our first assigned speech was a memorized paragraph taken from a famous speech. I think mine came from one of Abraham Lincoln’s speeches. I was so nervous that I was shaking uncontrollably. My skin turned a ghostly shade of white, and I had red splotches all along my arms and neck! One thing I learned from that experience is that it is much more difficult to perform in front of a class of 15 to 20 people than it is for a crowd of 1,000. In a smaller group, you can actually see each individual staring right at you! My teacher encouraged me to relax. She knew that I was not as experienced as most of the others in the class, but she saw something in me that she knew how to draw out in order to help me improve.

God used so many other circumstances and individuals in my life to help me continue to develop my gifts. It wasn’t always easy, but nothing in life ever is. I attended a Christian college in South Carolina where I studied Performing Arts. There were times when I got discouraged and came close to giving up and changing my major, but God did not allow that to happen. My Senior year of college, I won the Commencement Contest in Performance of Dramatic and Narrative Literature. God gave me numerous opportunities to perform on the university’s main stage in front of 3,000-4,000 people.

My ministry today involves the children in my church. I adapt Christian children’s novels for weekly stories. I want the children in my church today to enjoy the same things I enjoyed as a child. I want them to learn life lessons at the same time. Some of the best lessons I learned were during story time in children’s church with my Speech teacher. I even use some of the same stories with my children that she used when I was a child.

My point with all of this is that God’s work in our lives is amazing! From the beginning of time, He has shown that He will use anyone and anything, no matter how seemingly insignificant, to accomplish His purpose. Joseph was a shepherd boy who later became second in command under Pharoah. God used him to protect an entire nation from starvation. Ruth was a simple Moabite, but God chose her to be part of the Kingly line of Christ. Just as I have said over and over in my posts about running, my strength and confidence in performing comes from God alone. God has a specific message that He wants me to give to my children, and He has a specific method in which He wants me to do it: storytelling. Who would have thought that a shy young girl who almost fainted during one of her early speeches would perform years later in front of a crowd of thousands of people?! I am reminded of Philippians 1:6: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ”. My desires in performing and in running started with a spark that God placed in my heart. Every circumstance He has planted along the way has taught me that no matter how difficult the circumstance may be, I can be confident in my abilities because they were divinely placed by God Himself to accomplish His purposes in my life and in the lives of those who He wants me to reach!

Until next time . . . let’s keep on running!