The Right Equipment

I had an epiphany this week. It was what I call another “yes I can” moment. I’ve been trying to find alternatives to running outside during drastically inclement weather. I found when I tried to use MapMyRun while using the indoor track at my gym that my GPS did not work properly; therefore, my time and distance was always off. The last time I tried to run on a treadmill, the only kind of exercise shoes I had were Skechers. They were great for walking (although not for long periods like my current job requires), but HORRIBLE for running! I was also still having a lot more trouble with balance at the time. I was afraid that I had broken an ankle since I felt like a joint was out of place. As much money as my parents spent to have my clubbed feet corrected, there was no way on earth that I was going to intentionally do anything to reverse that. Therefore, I stuck to either walking on a treadmill or using an elliptical . . . until I really got serious about training myself to run.

I want you to pay attention to the photo at the top of this post . . . not so much the time or distance, but what it says at the top . . . “Treadmill, Run”! Once I switched to Hoka One shoes with orthotic inserts and stayed faithful at my strength training and core exercises, I found that I can run on a treadmill without damaging my body or falling off of the machine. It’s all in using the right equipment that is suited for us. If our exercise clothing/equipment doesn’t fit right, we could seriously injure ourselves. That’s why it’s so important to be fitted for shoes and to work with a trainer who knows what he/she is doing.

As Christians, we also need the right armor to be effective witnesses for God. When King David was just a boy attempting to fight the giant Goliath, King Saul tried to allow David to use his armor. I Samuel 17:38-39 says, “And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail. And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him.” When David tried to use Saul’s armour, he knew the pieces did not fit him. There was no way he could conquer Goliath with the wrong equipment.

Before I started training to run, I felt so inadequate and unsure of myself. One of the things I learned is that I just needed the right shoes. Once I went with my Hokas and really got serious about training, I felt free . . . free in the knowledge that I can do this; free in knowing that I am not in competition with anyone else; free in knowing that it does not matter how fast or how slow I run, but what matters is that I run, and that I complete my race.

Instead of choosing Saul’s armour, all David needed was a small sling and five smooth stones to complete his task. Once he had the right tools, he was able to approach Goliath with the assurance that God would protect him.

As Christians, we sometimes may feel inadequate or not intelligent enough to share the love of God with others. We may feel like we do not have the right to share Christ’s love with others if we don’t have a PhD in theology or if we are not making a six-figure salary. If there is one thing I want my readers to get from this post, it’s that the only two things any of us need to share the love of God are these: 1) experiencing God’s love, and 2) God’s Word itself. If you have never experienced God’s love to begin with, how can you expect to share it with others? I urge you to read the books of Isaiah and John. Allow the words to saturate your heart and mind so that when you feel like temptation is squeezing the life out of you, the only thing that oozes out of you is the radiance of God Himself! Readers, we can complete this race called life . . . successfully! All we need is the right equipment.

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

My Finite Mind; God’s Infinite Wisdom

So many changes have occurred in my life during the past few weeks. Necessary changes to my work schedule have affected my daily eating schedule as well as my sleep pattern in a good way. It’s taken me this long to update my blog as a result!

When changes occur, sometimes it’s easy for us to lose focus and wonder if we will ever accomplish what we set out to do. God continues to show me every day that He is the One Who accomplishes in me what He chooses to do, and He does it in His Way and His Time. For instance, my running and gym schedules have changed as a result of the change in my work schedule. I wasn’t sure how my running was going to be affected (see the photo above . . . one of my best running times yet), and my weight leveled off for a while as well. As Christians, we are to remain faithful to what God has for us. The same goes for fitness and weight loss. I am determined to do whatever is necessary to get all of my workouts in each week. I have knocked off over a minute and a half of running time, and I finally lost another pound this week.

I love it when God whispers in my ear, “Just sit back and watch Me work.” As Christians, we have to remember that our understanding about life is finite; it is limited to only what we have seen and experienced. It is very easy for us to make judgments based only on what we see in front of us. However, God’s understanding and wisdom is infinite!! His wisdom covers everything!

Going back to my theme in previous posts of “can” and “cannot”, the next Bible verse which includes the word “can” falls under the category of God’s infinite power.

The story of Abraham has always been interesting to me. In Genesis 12, God commanded Abraham to leave his current dwelling and to follow wherever God said to go. God had promised Abraham that He would make a great nation out of him, and “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee, and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” With a promise like that from God, one would think Abraham would have known to trust God at His Word. However, the subsequent verses tell us otherwise. Abraham decided to take matters into his own hands. Instead of trusting in God’s infinite wisdom, Abraham followed his own finite thinking. He decided to tell Pharaoh that Sarai . . . who was Abraham’s wife . . . was his sister! Abraham was so fearful of what Pharaoh would do if he knew Sarai was his wife that he chose to lie about it. He hadn’t considered the fact that his lie could have caused his own wife and Pharaoh to sin against God . . . not to mention the curse it would have brought to the Egyptian people! When Pharaoh forced Abraham and his entire family out from Egypt, they returned to their homeland of Bethel. Lot, who was Abraham’s nephew, went one way. Abraham went the other. The interesting thing is that the direction Abraham chose was less pleasing to the eye. Most people, only trusting in their finite thinking, would not choose the direction that Abraham did. However, God in His infinite wisdom had other plans. Genesis 13:15-16 says, “For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy seed also be numbered.” Notice how God did not give all of the details regarding how He was going to give the land to Abraham. He simply said that a great nation would come from him, and that the land would also be given.

God tells me every day that He will help me . . . whether it be in my running, my job, or whatever situation I am facing. He doesn’t provide the details right away . . . not because He’s trying to keep me in the dark about everything . . . but because He wants me to trust Him for everything. If I am running races for myself and trusting only in myself for protection, everything I am doing is in vain because it is done for the wrong reason. However, if I am running races to help me become a better and healthier servant for God, and if I am truly trusting in His infinite wisdom instead of my limited understanding, only then will I fully understand the joy of “sitting back and watching [God] work”!

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

Can I/Should I

I stated in one of my earlier blog posts that I was going to start a word study to see how many times the words “can” and “cannot” appear in the Bible. From everything I’ve been able to gather so far, the word “can” appears 213 times. I have taken the time to write down each verse, and I have just started to separate each one into various categories. This has been an ongoing project for quite a while, and I have a long way to go before it will be completed.

The first category is called “can/should”. Every one of us has the ability to consciously make choices. We must weigh the consequences before we make those choices. For instance, with running, I no longer question whether or not I have the ability to run. God has helped me prove that one to myself over and over during the last few months. However, I am now learning to listen to my body. If my heart starts to beat too fast or if I can’t catch my breath, it’s not that hard for me to figure out that I may have a heart attack if I do not choose to slow down. I like to train myself to go faster as much as possible, but occasionally I have to ask myself if I am physically ready to run faster or if I should back off just a little.

People in the Bible also made choices all of the time, just like we do in our lives. Like us, they did not always make the right ones. The first time the word “can” appears in the King James Version of the Bible is in Genesis 4:13. It says, “And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear.” The New American Standard Bible translates the verse this way: “Cain said to the Lord, ‘My punishment is too great to bear!'”

If you are familiar with the story of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden, you will remember that both of them chose to disobey God. Their son Cain followed suit. He and his brother Abel brought offerings to God. Both men had the ability to give time and careful thought to their offerings, but only one of them truly obeyed by giving his absolute best (verse 4 says Abel gave of the “firstlings of his flock”). As a result, God gave favor to Abel. Cain made the choice not to give his best. Instead of facing his consequences, he got jealous and killed his own brother . . . another choice. Cain had the ability to choose to do right, but he chose to do wrong instead. God then punished Cain by making the ground he tilled unfruitful and by banishing him and making him a wanderer in his own land. Again, instead of choosing to accept God’s punishment, Cain chose self-pity. The beauty of all of that is that God chose to protect Cain. Verse 15 says, “And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him”.

In running, I make choices all of the time. I make choices about how far I want to run, my running pace, the location, etc. I have to weigh the consequences each time. What are the risks if I choose to go alone? What are the benefits of running in the morning instead of the afternoon . . . or vice versa? The choices I make are based on what I feel is best for myself at the time, and sometimes I fail even when I may have had the best intentions. No matter what, I have to learn to deal with the consequences every single time.

Cain could have chosen to obey God with his offering, but he consciously made the choice to disobey. There has been some debate about whether or not God specifically commanded that the sacrifices brought by Cain and Abel must be blood sacrifices. I have heard arguments on that subject from all sides. The Bible does not seem to be clear about that. Regardless of the specifics of the sacrifices, what is clear is that Cain chose to offer his sacrifice as a last-minute duty, whereas Abel viewed God worthy enough to take the time to offer his very best. Cain’s choices spiraled downward. His choice to murder his own brother is not only a result of not asking himself ahead of time whether or not he should do it or what the results would be; it is a result of his bitter and angry heart. He did not consider his consequences ahead of time.

My choice to constantly overeat was a result of a lack of self-control and anxiety. Even now, I have to consider the consequences of much of what I put in my mouth. I am daily improving with my portion control. Being a member of Weight Watchers has helped me to remain accountable to my health.

I may be wrong, but it seems to me that accountability is God’s way of keeping us from making wrong choices. It is also His way of drawing us back to Himself when we slip up. God could have chosen not to protect Cain in verse 15, but He showed mercy instead.

As much as I ask myself whether or not I should do something before I do it (notice I did not say whether or not I can do it), there have been times when I make mistakes. I am so thankful for the mercy that God extends to me every single time and for the things He teaches me along the way.

Before we participate in anything, we should not ask ourselves whether or not we can do it; we should ask ourselves if we should do it, and consider the consequences ahead of time. As Christians, we should also ask ourselves what God wants us to do. It might save us a lot of headaches . . . and heartaches later on!

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

Goals, Gamuts, and Getting It All Together

I did something today that was a little different and exciting for me: I tried on two pairs of pants. You may wonder about the significance, but when you’re on a weight loss journey like I’ve been on for a year and a half, trying on clothes is a significant event every time! These pants are also not the kind I’m used to either. I’ve been in the mood for a few changes, and I was excited to try on those pants. Even though they didn’t quite fit (they are very close), I’m still keeping them. One day in the very near future, I will be able to fit comfortably into them. The reason is because I have learned to set goals for myself with fitness and weight loss. I have an ultimate goal for both areas, but I have also learned to set small attainable goals along the way. It gives me such a sense of accomplishment and freedom to look back and see all of the things God has accomplished in and through me during the last year and a half. Fitting into those pants is one of the many ways I can celebrate my weight loss victories.

My running is also slowly improving. Again, I have an ultimate goal, and I am gradually chiseling off my running time by a few seconds at a time. I am learning the importance of strength, balance, and core training to keep every area of my body in sync.

When I look back at the whole gamut of things, I see how fitness and weight loss go hand in hand with my overall health. I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that my dad’s death was a huge wake up call for me. That was one of the hardest times I have ever faced. Watching someone you love go through what he did and knowing there is nothing you can do to make it better is absolutely gut-wrenching. During that time, I responded to my anxiety by shedding lots of tears, not exercising, and eating everything in sight. I was trying to trust in God to take care of Dad especially during his last few days, but I was having a hard time. During a particularly difficult night, God gave me a sense of peace that He was taking care of everything. I didn’t know how it was going to happen, but I knew at that moment that everything was going to be okay. I was still neglecting my own health though, and it was quickly catching up with me. Even though none of us would have ever asked for Dad’s death, I know now that it was God’s best for him. Dad is in no more pain, and he is sitting at the feet of Jesus at this very moment! As a Christian, it is such an encouragement to remember that nothing is EVER a surprise to God, even when we feel like the circumstances are insurmountable curveballs. Everything that happens to us is custom-made by God Almighty specifically for us . . . from the plans He has for us here on earth as He said in Jeremiah 29:11:

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.”

. . . to the details of the mansions He describes in John 14:1-3:

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you [emphasis mine]. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

Did you get that? Every single mansion in Heaven has been pre-planned and custom-made by God Himself specifically for the person He has reserved it for! How incredibly AWESOME is that!! We must all remember that everything that happens to us has been chosen by God especially for us to draw us to Himself and to make us more like Him. When we look at the entire gamut of our lives, we have to realize that every aspect . . . whether it be health, fitness, occupation, creative talents . . . everything works together to bring honor to God. The beauty is that even if I fail, I can learn from the failure, get back up, and keep going.

That’s one of the things I have learned with running . . . I must keep on going no matter what! Even when I feel like I’m not having a good run (and I do have those times), I just keep reminding myself that every run is better than no run at all. I focus on all of the calories burned each day, and I don’t give up. When I see that weight loss at the end of the week . . . even if it’s only 1/2 pound . . . I finally begin to see how all of the pieces . . . good food choices, portion control, cardio and strength training . . . fit together for optimum health.

The same goes for the Christian. We may feel like we are beating our heads against a wall, but we can’t give up no matter what the circumstances may be. We must daily stay faithful to God even though it seems our efforts are in vain. Jude 23 & 24 says:

“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,

“To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.”

When I can’t, God can! Nothing is too big for Him. He can help me with the small things . . . like doing what it takes to fit into my new pants or running a race . . . and He can help with the big things . . . like dealing with the death of a loved one. He just wants me to trust Him to guide me every single day . . . one step at a time.

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

Back in the Groove . . . With a New Perspective

This week has been all about slowly getting back to a new sense of normal. It feels great to return to my running routine. I didn’t pack any exercise clothes when Mother and I evacuated from Hurricane Florence since we only thought we would be gone for a few days. I was also unfamiliar with the terrain where we were staying, and there was a lot of mental and emotional unsettlement going in inside me regardless of what I did to try to ease my mind.

One thing I have learned to do as a Christian is to ask God what He wants to teach me every day. I ask Him daily to show me areas in my life that need to change, and to do whatever is necessary to make those changes. One of the areas God has shown me that I need to change is in the area of self-centeredness. When Mother and I returned home a few weeks ago, I began to notice all of the devastation from people whose houses flooded just five minutes down the road from my house. It made me start to think outside of my box. I started to ask myself what I could do to try to help others. As a single woman in my fifties with no children, I’ve always enjoyed the freedom of doing whatever I choose without having to consider anyone else. As enjoyable as that sounds, that’s not how God intended for us to live our lives. As Christians, we are to live in such a way that will point others to Christ and encourage them in their walk with God. That does not mean that we have to stand over them and beat them on the head with a Bible. It means that everything we do should be others-focused in order to influence our communities and our world for God. We must find ways to reach out to others, and make an effort to do what we can to help them. If we never step outside of our comfort zone, we will never experience the joy of making a real difference in someone else’s life!

I am definitely staying on my running/health/weight loss journey, but it’s with a new perspective. I’m not just doing it for myself. I have reached out to friends and family in my community to join me on a run or workout. So far, I have one partner, and I’m working on a few others who have expressed interest. My running partner even dubbed me as her “coach” a few days ago. I never really considered myself as a coach before since I’m not a fitness expert. I have many fond memories of my high school coach though. He always did little things to encourage all of his students and coworkers. He would walk up behind us in the hallway and say he was “behind” us 100%!! We used to laugh at that, but deep down, I always knew what he meant. That was his way of saying he was praying for, encouraging, and supporting all of us. I guess I am a “coach” to some degree too, because I know what has been working for me with health and fitness, and I am trying to encourage others to do whatever is necessary to reach their optimum health as well. That’s what coaches do . . . they instruct, encourage, and inspire!! My running partner and I use our time not only to run, but we encourage and pray for each other. The way I see it, the better the health I’m in and the more I take care of the body God gave to me, the more chance I will have to be a productive servant to God, my family, friends, and my community.

I Corinthians 6:19 & 20 says, “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s”. I believe those verses not only apply to godly living, but to a healthy lifestyle as well. If we truly see our bodies as God’s temples, we will be a lot more conscientious about what goes inside our bodies as well as how we use our bodies to serve and encourage others in our communities.

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

Hurricanes, Helping Hands, and Hearts of Love

I decided to take a slight detour this week from my usual theme of running, workouts, etc. A lot has happened since my last post. I think I speak for many (if not all) in my community when I say my emotions have been all over the map during the last two weeks. Just a few days before Hurricane Florence hit Wilmington, NC, she was still a category 5 storm. My mother and I had already made the decision to evacuate about 300 miles away to the western part of the state to be with other family members. When Florence finally arrived, she had downgraded to a category 1 which was a relief in many ways. However, what no one expected was the drudgingly slow speed at which Hurricane Florence travelled, the six or seven tornadoes that hit, nor one of the worst tropical storms that came afterward. The majority of our entire community was flooded like none of us had ever seen. Due to the huge amount of rain, the road structures on the interstates and highways crumbled in many places so that those of us who evacuated could not get back in. The state department of transportation could not update its website fast enough since road conditions changed daily. Flooding in my neighborhood occurred right around the corner from my street to the point where people had to be rescued by boat. Even though Mother and I were safe in the mountains 300+ miles away, my stomach was in knots. I was so concerned about what was happening to my house, but I had no way to get to it.

As harrowing as that experience has been, I still have so many things to praise God for. I praise God for family members who agreed to take us in, and for incredible new friends who helped us return. The day of the hurricane, a tree fell in our front yard that missed our house by about a foot! We had our roof repaired a few months ago, so we lost no shingles, and the gutter is still intact. When the flooding came in my neighborhood, not one house on my street was affected.

I praise God for His protection and provision for my family, but my heart aches for those in my church, my coworkers, and other close friends and neighbors who have lost everything. Before Mother and I returned home, I determined in my heart to do what I could to reach out and help others. People all over my community have been doing the same thing in so many ways. I have seen women carrying hot meals across the street to linemen who have worked tirelessly to restore electricity. Other friends of mine have loaded up trucks with supplies and delivered them to people who cannot get out of their neighborhoods. Churches and other organizations have given out tons of food and supplies to those in need. The most incredible thing I’ve seen is that ALL of us . . . regardless of social status, religious affiliation, or political preference . . . have come together to help each other. It’s people helping people! That’s what I call “living out the love of God”.

The truth is that it should not take a hurricane or any other tragedy for us to show compassion. Every single one of us should be reaching out to our friends and neighbors every day. I Peter 3:8 & 9 says:

“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:

“Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing”.

One thing I have learned . . . I should not be saying “let me know if I can help you”. I should be asking “what can I do to help”. There is a huge difference between those two phrases. All of us can do something to help each other. Like I told one of my friends, I may not know how to chop down a tree, but I can certainly walk around a yard and pick up sticks or other debris!

None of us asked for this hurricane, but my heart has been warmed by the spirit that has emerged in so much of my community as a result. My prayer is that our spirit will continue in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead. Let’s all make it a reality right where we are.

Until next time . . . let’s keep on running . . . right along with each other . . . encouraging and constantly lifting each other in prayer!!