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!!

We Are Capable . . . Of ANYTHING!!

The other day, I shared on my Facebook page how excited I was to increase the level of my strength training. For the first time, I attempted some of the equipment in the back of the gym with the help of Chelsea, another AMAZING trainer at my gym. I had been using the machines in the front for a long time, and I just stayed with those machines since they felt “safe”. However, I knew I would have to beef up my strength training if I ever planned to increase my running speed, so last week I decided to bite the bullet and just do it. Guess what? I sweated my guts out, felt the burn, and I loved every second of it! Not only did I survive, I conquered!! The TRX single leg squats, triceps fallouts, inverted row, and the 300 ft. rope pull down were BEASTS, but after using them only twice so far, I can already tell a difference.

I mentioned on Facebook how I never knew how much I was capable of doing with running and exercise until I just got out there and DID IT!! The same goes for the Christian life. None of us ever know what we are truly capable of. If we let the seemingly “small” things slip . . . such as the essentials like daily Bible reading and prayer . . . after a while, we start to look at our lives and wonder how we ever got to wherever we are. Have you wondered how a high-profile minister (or any other Christian) can commit adultery or any other sin? It’s because he has allowed himself to neglect the basic necessities of the Christian life . . . the very same things that are preached to his congregation!! When we hear of a minister who commits sin, many times our natural response is anger. However, at the same time, it makes me realize even more how important it is for me to stay focused and not to allow any known sin to remain unconfessed in my life.

My heart is broken every time I hear of a minister who falls into sin. It not only affects his life, but it affects the lives of his parishioners as well.

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

Also, here is Proverbs 4:23: “Keep thy heart with all diligence: for out of it are the issues of life.”

When I was at my heaviest weight a year and a half ago, I knew I had made a lot of wrong choices to get there. I knew what I had to do to get the weight off. I also knew it would not happen overnight. When I started training myself to run, I knew it would be a long, arduous task. In just the last seven months of training, I can see how my hard work has paid off.

Just as we must make necessary changes to restore our bodies to optimum health, we as Christians must also be determined to make necessary changes to restore fellowship with God if our fellowship has been broken. We must never give up, no matter what. As long as we have breath in our bodies, we have hope for a change in Christ! God does not give up on us. We must remember that His love for us never depends on anything we do. God’s love is because of everything that God is!! It is the most perfect example of unconditional love that ever existed. No matter what we have done, God stands ready and waiting to wrap His arms of love and forgiveness around us. Yes, we must face consequences for our actions, but God gives us what we need to handle those consequences. He yearns for us to run to Him with open arms, empty of self, and say, “Here I am, God. Here I am with all of my imperfections. Fill me with Yourself, and use me as You see fit!”

When we seek forgiveness, make necessary restitutions, and humbly submit ourselves to God, we may never know the full extent of what God is capable of doing in us and through us, but we will certainly enjoy sitting back and watching Him work in the little things . . . EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!!

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

I Can, Because God Can!

As I mentioned in my post a few weeks ago, I have started my own personal word study of the words “can” and “cannot” in the Bible. I am still in the beginning stages (I’m up to verse number 85 out of the 285 listings of the word “can”). There is so much that God has already shown me, but it’s still going to take me a while to get all of my thoughts organized so that I can clearly share everything with all of you.

One thing about Bible reading, I have found that I learn more when I read the Bible straight through from Genesis to Revelation . . . no “Bible studies” or Bible reading plans that make me skip from one passage to another . . . just a straight, pure reading from God’s Word to see what God says about Himself. I have nothing against Bible studies, but I personally use those resources as the “salt and pepper” to the real “meat” of the Bible itself. I am now on my third reading of the Bible for the year. A few days ago, I started reading in the book of Exodus about Moses and the children of Israel. The thing that stood out to me was that God chose Moses to lead the children of Israel out of bondage, but Moses was the one who kept saying he was not physically capable. During the entire burning bush encounter, God never implied that Moses could not do the job even after all of the excuses Moses gave! If God calls us to do a task, He gives us everything we need physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually to complete that task.

I always like to use my running as a parallel to the life lessons God teaches me in His Word. Training myself to run has taught me that we don’t have to be in competition with each other. I do want to continue to improve my time and stamina. I know what to do to make that happen. The thing is, I never feel pressured by anyone else even when I’m in an official race. When I’m focused on what everyone else is doing, I’m not concentrating on my own goals. There’s nothing wrong with a healthy competition, but if competition is the only reason why I do anything in life, I’m doing it for the wrong reason. The real satisfaction comes in the completion of the race and the lessons learned along the way.

The same goes with Christian ministry. If God has called me to a task, He has chosen that task specifically for me. That does not mean that I am better at it than anyone else, or that anyone else is better than me. It means that that God wants to use the task He has given me to draw me and others closer to Himself. I may not win any contests or medals, but as in racing, the ultimate joy comes with the lessons learned along the journey, and with the satisfaction of knowing that the task was completed the way in which God intended.

Before we criticize Moses about his lack of confidence in himself and God, as Christians we must ask ourselves how many times we have made excuses why we can’t do something we know God has called us to do. God has already promised us that He will give us whatever we need to do what He wants. Again, I use my running as a parallel, because as I mentioned in a previous post, running is something I never thought I could do because of my clubbed feet. Doctors told me that I should not do any physical activity that involved running, so I avoided it as much as I could. However, as my dad used to say all of the time, none of us will ever really know whether or not we can do something until we at least try. Out of curiosity, I tried in January. So far, I have run TWO races, and I’m looking for a THIRD! God has given me the physical stamina, focus, and determination to keep going. I am finally learning that no matter what the task, I CAN do it . . . because GOD can do it!

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

Memories of Dad

I am so thankful for the years God allowed my dad to spend with my mother (they were married for 53 years), sister and her family, and me. The wisdom and leadership he gave to us are gifts I will cherish for as long as I live.

Dad was a go-getter. He never met a stranger. We used to laugh when we would go on vacation, because we could be hundreds of miles away from home in an out-of-the-way place, and within 10-15 minutes, Dad would meet someone who grew up in the next town from where he was born! Dad was also a good salesman. He was an insurance salesman for almost as long as I can remember. His positive outlook and love for people were beneficial in his chosen career.

I think I’m a lot like Dad in more ways than I ever realized when I was younger. As a child, I had to spend a lot of time inside our house while recovering from surgery instead of playing outside with other kids. As a result, I retreated within myself. It was difficult at times to relate to other kids at school since I had to spend most of my time alone or with adults. I was in my mid thirties when I finally began to learn what true confidence in God and in myself really meant. My similarities to Dad began to blossom at that time.

Dad loved all of his family dearly. He was the youngest of nine children. All but two of his siblings have now passed away (Dad included). All of his siblings have children and grandchildren. Our family reunions are HUGE!! My grandpa also had several brothers and sisters, but Dad’s immediate family always has the largest representation at our annual gatherings.

One of Dad’s weaknesses was food. He used to joke that he liked “see” food . . . if he saw it, he ate it! The spicier it was, the better he liked it. I used to laugh when we went out to eat, because Dad had a sweat gland in the back of his neck that worked overtime if he was enjoying a spicy food. However, Dad enjoyed too much of the wrong kinds of foods, and it caught up with him. He was diagnosed with Type II Diabetes when he was not much older than I am now. He tried to control it with diet and exercise, but Dad was never one to use discretion when it came to controlling food portions. Therefore, he had to go on insulin. I’m not a medical expert, but in my opinion, the diabetes was the catalyst to Dad’s other physical problems that eventually took his life a year ago last February.

One of the reasons I am training to run races (besides proving to myself that I CAN) is to get my body back in shape. At the time of Dad’s death, I was at my heaviest weight . . . 226.5. My BMI showed me as obese. I was physically heading in the same direction my dad went, and I knew I had to do something immediately. I joined Weight Watchers . . . again . . . in April of 2017. I am happy to say that I am over 50 pounds down! I am not one of those people who says everyone should join Weight Watchers, but I just know that it works for me. You can’t beat eating right and exercising, especially when you’re part of a plan that keeps you accountable.

Over the last year and a half, I have had a few memories of Dad that have caused tears to flow. I believe God understands that. Training myself to run has not only built my confidence, but it has also been an emotional release. Maybe that’s another reason why God has given me the desire to run at this stage in life. Each time I run, I can feel my dad cheering me on as he’s looking down from Heaven.

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

I Am Me

I am the kind of person who has to figure out on my own where my current abilities lie and what I have to do to improve. I’ve always been told that I “march to the beat of my own drummer”, and that is just fine with me! My methods for improvement may not work for everyone else, but they work for me. I admire people who know how to think outside of the box in order to get things done. I may not always agree with them in certain areas, but people like that tend to be trendsetters and leaders. As far as my running goes, I still want to keep improving, and I know what I have to do to make it happen. I went running in one of our local parks again yesterday. I knew I was going to be pushing it, but I also knew if I didn’t start pushing even harder that my speed would stay the same as it was. I wanted to see how close to 40 minutes I could get. I got my Pandora going in my ears . . . I’m a Southern Gospel girl . . . gotta have good thoughts going through my head while I run . . . and I also pulled up my running app. I’ve been using ZenLabs Fitness, and it’s AWESOME!! One of the nice things is that you can repeat previous weeks that you’ve already finished if you want to. Even though I’ve graduated up to their 10K app, I decided to go back several weeks and just run their equivalent of a 5K which is a total of 40 minutes. I ran it in 35:44!!! I had to look at my timer at least two or three times to make sure I read it correctly, and I DID!!

I said all of that to say that I don’t always do things like everyone else, but I know what works for me, and I do it. I am not everyone else anyway . . . I am ME!! God made me in His image. Sure, I have weaknesses . . . all of us do. God knows that. He created me exactly the way He wants me to be. I love what the psalmist David said in Psalm 139:14:

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.”

WE are “marvellous” because GOD’s WORKS are “marvellous”!! How exciting is that???!!! If we are “marvellous” as David said, we are most certainly physically capable of doing EVERYTHING God chooses for us to do in the way He chooses for us to do it, no matter of what anyone else says, thinks, or does. Readers, take comfort in that thought!!

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