My Keys to Success

I’ve been on a mission during the last several weeks/months, and it’s been an exciting one for me. God has been teaching me so much . . . not just in running . . . but in life itself.

The first thing God is teaching me is to set goals for myself. My goal with running is to run at least one 5K outside in less than 40 minutes by the end of this year. So far, my average has been around 42 minutes. A few weeks ago, I started setting a weekly goal of getting below 42 minutes. I’m still running three times per week and strength training at the gym twice a week. The first week after I set that goal of 42 minutes, I ran a 5K in 41:59! I met my goal by ONE SECOND!! I’m sure you can tell that I was beyond elated. The second week, I ran the same distance . . . outside . . . in 40:47. I’ve still got some work to do, but I am so close. With God’s help, I know I can do it. I’m also learning to set attainable goals for myself in other areas. In order to do that, I make lists of things I want to accomplish each day. When those things are done, I check them off of my list. Making lists helps me to avoid procrastination.

The second thing I am learning is the importance of sharing my story with other people. I recently met a couple whose baby was born with severe clubbed feet just like mine. I shared with the young father some of the things I experienced while growing up. I encouraged him by saying that even though my experiences were not a walk in the park, I am living proof that his child will be okay. I also told him I started training to run 5Ks, and the look on his face was priceless!! You may not have clubbed feet, but whatever you have faced in life, think of all you have learned from it, and thank God every day for the things He has taught you. Don’t be afraid to share your story with others. All of us are survivors of something. There is someone in this world who needs to hear what we have to say. We may not know who that person is; only God knows that. All we can do is to share what we’ve learned each time the opportunity presents itself. We never know how we may be able to help someone else.

The last thing I am learning as a Christian is the importance of sharing God’s Story. If God thought His Story was important enough to share with us in a Book that has been in existence for over 2,000 years in multiple languages worldwide . . . and not just any Book . . . but His Word . . . the Bible, how can we not share His love and compassion with everyone we meet? Sharing God’s Story does not mean shouting it from a pulpit or yelling it from a street corner. It doesn’t mean just wearing a cross around your neck. It means reaching out to neighbors or friends in need. It means being faithful and dedicated in your job. It means encouraging your coworkers in any way you can. It means not getting involved in gossip or anything else that tears others down. It means asking God and others to forgive you when you know you’ve done wrong. It means doing what you can to live out your faith before your family, friends, neighbors and coworkers so that they can see God’s love in and through you. We don’t have to announce our faith in God over a loudspeaker. Others will see it if we remain faithful to His Word.

The keys for success I’ve mentioned are not a magical “cure-all” formula that will automatically make life easier. We will all face hardships of some kind until the day we die. It’s what we do with those hardships that makes all the difference.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!! Until next time . . . let’s keep on running!!

DON’T GIVE UP!!

We have all been tempted to give up at something whether it be fitness, weight loss, education, job, or . . . you fill in the blank. If we are going to get anywhere in life, we cannot give up . . . no matter what it takes.

I came so close to giving up many times when I was in college. One of the most discouraging feelings is to reach your final semester of student teaching, and to finally wake up and realize that you don’t belong in a classroom after all! As disoriented as I felt during that entire semester, I made it through with the help of my amazing dormitory supervisor, my parents, a very close family friend who lived in the same town where I attended college, and . . . most importantly . . . God Himself. Not long after I completed my undergraduate degree, I started to see that my abilities don’t have to be limited to one area in life. I may not be teaching in a classroom, but God has given me so many opportunities to “teach” in ways I never imagined were possible. How incredible is that??!!

There are days when I get frustrated with running as well. My overall time may not be as fast as I want it to be, or I may get tired too quickly. No matter what the situation is, I keep reminding myself that everything in life is a learning experience. Life is a “classroom” of sorts. I fully believe that God uses everything in our lives to draw us to Himself and to make us more like Him.

In Genesis chapter 37 through the end of the book, we see how God had a few things He wanted to teach Joseph. Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him. They knew that their father loved Joseph most, so they sold him as a slave to the Midianites. The Midianites then sold him as a slave to Potiphar who was one of Pharoah’s officers in Egypt. Joseph could have said something like “this is not fair”. He could have chosen to fight it . . . or, as some would say, “protest” . . . but he knew he was right where God wanted him at the time. Therefore, he did his very best at everything. He proved his worth to Potiphar, so Potiphar made Joseph head of everything in his house. Potiphar’s wife constantly tried to seduce Joseph, but Joseph refused her every single time. One day when Potiphar was out of the house, his wife tried to seduce Joseph again. In Genesis 39:9, Joseph said, “There is none greater in this house than I, neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife; how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Potiphar’s wife tried the same thing day after day, but Joseph still refused. Eventually, we read that she framed Joseph saying he tried to seduce her, so Potiphar threw him in prison. The Bible doesn’t say this, but I’m sure Joseph felt like giving up. He probably had times when he felt the weight of everyone . . . including his family . . . being against him. Let’s face it . . . he wasn’t perfect. I’m sure I would probably roll my eyes if someone in my family told me they had a dream that I was going to bow down to them! What Joseph did not know at the time was that God was using every circumstance in his journey to prepare him for something greater. In order for Joseph to ultimately be a leader in Egypt . . . he became second in command under Pharaoh . . . he had to learn to be a servant. God had to bring Joseph to the lowest place possible . . . a prison . . . to prepare him for his Divine Calling.

Whatever your current circumstance is, whether it be a fatal illness, a difficult job situation, a broken relationship that needs healing and restoration, claim the hope that whatever it is, God is using it to prepare you for what He has planned next for your life. No matter how difficult your current situation is, there is an overwhelming sense of peace and contentment that comes in knowing that you are right where God wants you for the time being. God will reveal His plans for you when and how He chooses to do so. When you look back at the end of your journey, you will stand in awe and thankfulness for everything He taught you along the way. Whatever happens, DON’T. GIVE. UP!! Keep moving onward and upward, always keeping your eyes on God.

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

A Life Well-Spent

James 4:13&14 says, “Go to now, ye that say, To day or tomorrow we will go unto such a city, and continue there a year, and buy, and sell, and get gain:

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on my blog. I put it off for good reason. I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. I had to back off on my running schedule due to a respiratory infection. I just started running again last week, and it feels incredible to be back.

There’s so much more that has been on my mind as well. The recent sudden death of a close college friend has sent my mind reeling. I read in her obituary about the many children and young people that she was able to reach for God whether it was through substitute teaching, tutoring, or through her music and drama ministry at her church.

Exercise is a wonderful and necessary thing, because it helps us to stay healthy so that we can live longer. I am currently in my fifties. My dad passed away when he was seventy-six. My grandpa passed away when he was in his eighties. At the most, I may have another twenty to thirty years left. We tend to think that thirty years is a long time, but it’s not. The older I get, the faster the years go by. Exercising and eating right in order to stay healthy is great, but why do we want to live longer? Is it just so that we can enjoy our retirement, cruise around the world, or relax and enjoy the view at the beach or in the mountains? Please don’t misunderstand; all of those are wonderful things, and we should be able to enjoy things like that from time to time. However, if the purpose of our lives is only for self-service, what’s the real point?

My heart’s desire is not to do what I do for myself; my desire is to keep running, strength training, and eating healthy so that I can be a better servant to my family, coworkers, friends, neighbors, and to God. When I exercise, I like to do it with family and friends so that I can use that time to be a witness and an encouragement to them.

My aunt passed away this week. She never had any children of her own, but she loved all of her nieces and nephews like we were her own children. She lived every day of her life loving and serving other people. That’s what this journey of life is all about. When I reach the end of my journey, I don’t want to look back on my life with disappointment. I want to look back and know that I did the best I could to love others and to point them to Christ. Life here on earth is short compared to eternity. What are you doing with the time God has given you? Are you only using it for yourself, or are you doing what you can to make a difference in someone else’s life?

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

The Hardest Necessary Ingredient

The word endurance has been on my mind quite a bit lately. I have never been one who is satisfied with staying at the same level with anything in life, and that includes running. I’m always thinking of ways to keep learning, growing, and expanding my horizons so that I can be as useful and as versatile as possible, regardless of what the task is. To be honest, the journey to expand is not always so pleasant. The average person doesn’t like doing homework or taking notes in class . . . much less taking a class PERIOD! If we want to keep improving ourselves in any area of life, let’s face it . . . we are going to have to work for it.

I’m still keeping up with 5K training, but I’m now only doing it twice a week. I’ve also added 10K training to my running schedule once a week. I’ve gone back to using my Zen Labs app when I do 10K training, and I’m now on week 14. I love the way the app works, because it builds endurance by gradually increasing the running time each week. Today, I walked for 5 minutes, and then I ran for 30 minutes before taking a 1-minute walking break, and then I ran again. By following the 10K running plan, I completed a 5K in less than 44 minutes . . . one of my best outside running times so far!

This whole journey has taught me so much about life in general. Do I always want to run? No! Hey . . . there are some days when I don’t even feel like leaving my house, but do you know what? There’s this thing called a treadmill located in my garage that I get to use on rainy days, so I have no reason why I can’t go for a run. I’ve also learned the hard way that if I don’t put in the work to keep my body in shape that I will pay for it later in life. Lack of exercise and eating everything in sight was part of what got me to 225 pounds a few years ago.

Building endurance is hard work. You endure a lot of sweat, tired and sore muscles, all kinds of weather issues, and a plethora of other things. There have been so many times when I didn’t think I could go for one more second, but I forced myself to push beyond the temptation. When the run was over, every inch of my body was dripping with perspiration. However, each drop of perspiration had a cleansing affect on me. I was able to thank God for allowing me to enjoy His magnificent creation while getting physically fit. I was able to thank Him for giving me the ability to run . . . even with severe clubbed feet! It builds my confidence every time I look at my running time on MapMyRun. It is a constant reminder to me that God can and WILL do amazing things in and through me. I just have to be willing to submit to the journey He chooses for me. I also have to understand that not everything God chooses for my life will be easy, but everything He has chosen will make me into the kind of woman He wants me to be.

Endurance is a large part of the Christian life as well. Before I go for my runs, I don’t like the idea of what I have to go through during those runs, but I do it because I know what it feels like to me when the run is over. It has a freeing affect that is a positive source for me. I also know the long-term advantages it has on my health. There are many things that happen in our Christian lives that we would never choose for ourselves, but God has chosen them for us because He already knows what the end result is . . . each circumstance makes us more like Christ, and He gets all of the glory!

Webster’s New World Dictionary defines endurance in this way: “The act, quality, or power of withstanding hardship or stress”. In II Timothy, the Apostle Paul advises Timothy in various areas of ministry. II Timothy 2:3 says, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” In the subsequent verses, Paul proceeds to list the areas with which Timothy may struggle. There’s no denying that our journey here on earth is difficult. We all face trials of many sorts . . . loss of jobs, loss of loved ones, terminal illnesses . . . but as long as we have breath in our bodies, we cannot give up no matter what! The end result for the Christian is in II Timothy 4:7&8:

“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them that love his appearing.”

Endurance is one of the hardest ingredients in running, but just when I don’t think I can go one more step, God gives me the strength to go all the way to the end of my training. Endurance is also one of the hardest parts of life, but it is necessary to become more like Christ. As difficult as the process is, it’s such an amazing and humbling feeling when we reach the end of our trial, and we look back to see all that God did, and continues to do, in and through us . . . every single day.

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

What Can I Do?

Writing this post was particularly difficult for me, because the lesson is one that constantly hits me right between the eyes in more ways than one. When we trip and fall, our immediate response is to do what we can to get back up on our feet so we can keep going to reach our destination. When we “fall” in life, doing what we can to fix our messes is much easier said than done especially if we have hurt other people, but making things right is necessary in order to succeed.

Part of having a healthy body includes having the right kind of thoughts and heart attitude. Having a right heart attitude includes having a right relationship with other people.

Going back to my theme in previous posts of “can/cannot”, the third Bible verse in my study is in Genesis 31. In the story of Jacob, we see how he was deceived multiple times by his father-in-law Laban. The first time was when Jacob had served Laban for seven years so he could marry Laban’s daughter Rachel. However, Jacob was disappointed on his wedding day when Laban gave Leah to him instead. Jacob worked another seven years for Rachel since she was the one he loved. He then worked an additional six years for Laban’s cattle. During that 20-year period, Laban changed Jacob’s wages ten times. Jacob was understandably angry. When he confronted Laban in Genesis 31, Laban did not deny what he did. I love what Laban said in verse 43:

” . . . These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and these cattle are my cattle, and all that thou seest is mine, and what can I do this day unto these my daughters, or unto their children which they have born?”

Laban knew what he had done, and he knew Jacob was angry. When we know we have messed up . . . whether it’s with our diet, exercise, or with anything in life, the first thing we have to ask ourselves is, “What can I do”. Sometimes the answer to the question is obvious; sometimes it’s not. As a Christian, I believe we must also pray and ask God to forgive us when we’ve done wrong. If we have wronged another person, we must go to that person and ask for their forgiveness, regardless of how difficult it may be.

Having right relationships with other people is not only essential to good health (mental and physical), but it is essential to a right relationship with God. Notice in Genesis 31:51-52 how Laban carried out his intent to make things right with Jacob:

“And Laban said to Jacob, ‘Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee;

“This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to thee, and that thou shalt not pass over this heap and this pillar unto me, for harm.”

We won’t always see eye-to-eye with others even after we have restored our relationships with them, but a restored relationship proves that we can put aside our differences for a much greater good. Remember, when we make mistakes, we have to ask ourselves what we can do to fix them, and then take necessary steps to correct the mistakes. If we have wronged other people, we must take responsibility for our actions. We must do what we can to make things right with those who we have sinned against. Only then will our relationship with God be restored.

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

Strategies, Successes, and Skinny Jeans

My weight loss journey has taught me so much over the last year and a half. One of the main things I have learned is that I have to strategize and plan ahead . . . with everything. As an extreme Type B personality with a massive bent toward procrastination, learning how to strategize and plan ahead has been an enormous challenge, especially when it comes to food choices. I found that if I don’t pre-plan my meals and snacks for the day, I’m prone to snack on junk. That’s what caused my weight problem in the first place, and there’s no way on earth that I’m going back to what I was when I started this journey! Being a Weight Watchers member has helped me immensely, but I occasionally still have struggles.

The same thing goes for my running/exercise plan. I have to be honest . . . I have to get creative with my exercise plan since I work three 12-hour shifts. It’s really hard to get in any strength training on the days that I work, so I’ve had to incorporate little things like planks and pushups on the days that I run.

Strategizing and planning ahead are two of the many keys to success in anything, but as Christians, we have to keep everything in the right perspective. 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.”

If my body is God’s Temple, I owe it to myself . . . and, more importantly, to God . . . to daily take time to plan out my meals and snacks. Just as a house will start to deteriorate if it is not properly cared for, so our human bodies won’t function properly if we don’t daily take care of them.

I’m learning to get creative with my running strategy as well. For a while now, I’ve been doing 5Ks at just over 45 minutes. I am pleased with my progress, but I really wanted to do an entire 5K at under 45 minutes at least once. During my running time, I alternate one minute slow/one minute fast. During my slow run, I count to 60 in my head. Even if I haven’t reached a full minute when I get to 60, I will still start my fast run. I keep track of my exact time on MapMyRun. By “fast running” until the timer hits zero, I’ve been adding about 10-15 seconds. By doing it that way I was able to complete a 5K in about 44 and a half minutes! By having a strategy and staying faithful to the plan, successes like that will start to happen along the way.

The same thing goes with my eating plan. By pre-planning all of my food choices every day, I reduce my chances of snacking on junk food. Don’t misunderstand . . . I still enjoy an occasional small bag of chips, but again . . . all of that is figured into my pre-planning.

By strategizing my running and eating plans, I am seeing small successes. In running, my endurance is gradually increasing. I am able to run for slightly longer periods of time without running out of steam. By making a few slight changes to my eating plan, I saw a small loss this week after maintaining the exact same weight for about a month. Even though I am currently in my normal range, there is a certain number that I want to see that is still in my normal range before I start maintaining my weight on a permanent basis. I also did something last week that I never thought I’d be able to do . . . I bought my very first pair of skinny jeans! I even thought I might have to go up a size from my regular pants size since denim seems to fit tighter, and I wasn’t sure what to expect with skinny jeans. I decided to risk it and see if my regular size would fit. When I slid into them in the dressing room, I was so excited about the perfect fit that I started doing my own version of a happy dance! 😉 Those skinny jeans are a small reward for my hard work.

Readers, if you don’t have a strategy, get one. If you do have a strategy, stay faithful at it. Learn to celebrate your successes along the way, and maybe you’ll feel like doing a happy dance too.

Until next time, let’s keep on running!

Onward and Forward

Taking another break from my normal topic just to share something that has been on my heart for the past several weeks. I am not going to lie to you . . . last Christmas was a tough one for my family. It was the first Christmas in fifty years that we all had to spend it without my dad. We all put on our “game faces” since we were determined not to be sad. This year, I even started listening to Christmas music the day after Halloween . . . which is WAY early for me . . . to help myself to get into the Christmas spirit.

I have heard people who have lost close loved ones say that they just did not feel like celebrating Christmas. I understand, because I was at that point last year. Different people grieve over lost loved ones in different ways, and we all have to let them grieve in the only way they know how. No one can put a timetable on grief either. Two weeks after Dad passed away, a former coworker of mine told me that I needed to “just get over it”. What he said shocked me so much that I didn’t know what to say! My initial response was to slap him into the next century, but I knew if I had done that, I’d have probably ended up in jail! One of the many things I learned through Dad’s death is that people can have the best intentions, but sometimes they can say some of the dumbest things. It’s because they have never experienced the things we have; therefore, they don’t know what to say, and what they do say comes out in ways that they did not intend. No matter how dumb those things sound, as a Christian, I must never respond in such a way that could possibly ruin my opportunity to be a blessing to others in the future. Let’s face it . . . if Christ tarries His Coming, other friends will face the death of a loved one as well. I must be able to be an encouragement to them, and I cannot do that if I respond unkindly to them.

As a single woman, one of the other things I occasionally struggle with is . . . well . . . being single. I go through times when I wonder why life isn’t different, but don’t all of us do that, regardless of our marital status? Too much of our society has been snowed by the fairytale that we will live “happily ever after” if we find a spouse. Facebook and Twitter are filled with dating sites urging us to find our “perfect match” (for the record, I DETEST dating sites and avoid them like the plague . . . more on that in a later blog post . . . maybe). Marriage is a wonderful calling . . . only for those who are called to it. However, even in the best marriages, there are still always going to be problems . . . because, guess what? The husband and wife are HUMAN!!

As a Christian, my true peace and joy is not in the relationship and love that I felt with my dad. It is not in the safety I felt when he was around. My peace and security does not come from any human relationship. Humans will always fail each other. It may not be on purpose, but it happens because we’re human. We are not perfect. My true Peace, Joy, and Contentment all come from God alone! If I spend all of my time searching for a “perfect mate”, I’m going to be in for a big disappointment. The only Perfect Person is God. If God is my only Source of Peace, I have every reason to celebrate Christmas no matter what my circumstances are. I Thessalonians 4:13-18 says:

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

My hope, joy, and peace is in God Almighty Who came to this earth as a baby for the sole purpose of sacrificing Himself so that I and the whole world can spend eternity with Him. No other human being could ever come close to offering that same peace and security. That reason alone is the only reason any of us need to celebrate Christmas. It is the only reason any of us need to go on in life . . . period.

Until next time . . . let’s keep on running . . . onward and forward!