Lessons Learned

I did something last week that I’ve never done before. I took a “staycation”. I’ve been on vacation before, but I’ve always traveled out of town or out of state for my vacations. I’ve lived in Wilmington, NC since the mid ‘70s, and there are so many places around here that I’ve never visited or haven’t been to in about 40 years. I started my “staycation” by wanting to check those places off of my bucket list. What I came away with was soooo much more than that!!

The first place I visited was The Bellamy Mansion. I had heard so much about it through the years, but I had never been there. I learned a LOT about the history of my hometown that I never knew about, and some of it was not pleasant. The Bellamys were extremely well-to-do, but they were slave owners. One of the interesting things I noticed was the intricate detail of all of the crown molding in the ceilings of every room in the mansion . . . and it was all made by a slave!!

The second place I visited was Moore’s Creek Battlefield about 25-30 miles outside of Wilmington. The Battle of Moore’s Creek only lasted a total of three MINUTES!! The victory allowed North Carolina to establish itself as one of the first independent colonies right before the Revolutionary War began. There’s so much that I can say about what I learned when visiting this battlefield. The interesting thing to me was when I came to the section with all of the monuments, they had the Patriot Monument which was in honor of all who lost their lives so that North Carolina could be an independent colony, but they also had the Loyalist Monument that paid homage to those who also lost their lives for what they believed in, even though they wanted to keep North Carolina and the rest of the country under the control of King George of Scotland.

The lesson I came away with from both places I visited was this: grace!! When I thought about all that the slaves endured during the 1800s, and yet the man who created all of that incredible amount of detail in the mansion chose to return the abuse he endured with an incredible amount of undeserved grace, amazing artisanship and skill . . . it brings tears to my eyes!! In my opinion, grace was also extended to the Loyalists at Moore’s Creek Battlefield by the monument in their honor. Do I agree with what the Loyalists were fighting for? Do I agree with slavery of any form? Absolutely not!! In both cases, grace was extended. In the first case, undeserved grace was extended by a slave to a slave owner. In the second case, grace was extended to a group of people who were fighting for ideas that were contrary to our country’s freedom. In other words, neither returned hatred with more hatred.

In this day and age, I wish more people could learn that hateful words, violence, and rioting does nothing for unity. It only tears us apart. How can we expect to be an encouragement to someone or have a positive impact if we are constantly criticizing, pointing our fingers, or name-calling?? I always go back to Proverbs 25:21-22. It says, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (NASB).

The only true way to make a difference in this world is to get out of our comfort zones, love people, pray for them, and most importantly, extend grace when we’ve been wronged. Remember . . . we will need that same grace extended to us one day!!

Looking Back

It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed since my last blog post, but a lot of changes have occurred since then as well. Covid, job change (or, I guess it’s more of a job shift since I am still at our hospital even though I’m in a different department), and so many other things God is using in my life to challenge me every day.

This weekend is Father’s Day weekend. It’s been four years since my Dad entered the presence of Jesus. I still grieve, but it’s in a different way than I grieved during the first year. I miss him, but I’m no longer sad since I know he’s in Heaven with God. There are so many things God has taught me along the way. In one of my earlier posts, I said I felt like I was trudging through a fog during that first year. I went through the motions of the day simply because I knew I had to, but I had no idea about what the purpose was or where I was going to end up mentally and emotionally.

One thing about it, there are certain songs and hymns that have meant more to me after Dad passed away than they did before. It’s interesting how things hit me in new ways. About a month after Dad’s death, I picked up an old hymnal and started reading through some of the songs. I could quote several of them in my sleep since I had sung them almost all of my life, but one song in particular struck me in a way that it never did before. I’m including the title and the words below.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

by Thomas Chisolm

“Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me! 

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.”

That phrase “strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow” kept playing over and over in my mind. I looked back a few months after Dad passed, and I kept thinking, “How did I ever do that?” The thought came right afterwards that I didn’t do it. God did!! Whatever I did in the months following Dad’s death, God is the One Who did it in me and through me, and He did it every single day!! He gives us just enough strength, wisdom, power, and whatever we need to accomplish the tasks we have to accomplish . . . just for that day. He does the same thing every. single. day!! My mind then went to the book of Exodus and the story of the children of Israel. They wandered in the wilderness for 40 years . . . that’s about 75% of my entire lifetime . . . 40 YEARS!! Every day during that entire time, God provided just enough manna to get them through just one day, and He did it the next day, and the next, and the next . . . for 40 years. Their shoes never wore out, and He always provided light for them to travel. The Bible describes the light as a “pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night”. I read somewhere that the pillar in Exodus is a symbol of God’s faithfulness. It is a token of God’s promise to us that He will never leave us nor forsake us. He knows that we will struggle with heartache, pain, and suffering, and He is right there with us guiding us every step of the way. He offers His hand to us every day. All we have to do is reach out and grab it, and allow Him to do the rest of it, no matter what “it” is . . . every day. To all of my friends reading this, whatever you are facing, rest in the knowledge that God completely understands. He experienced everything on the Cross of Calvary, and He is with you every step of the way. He extends His hand to you every day. All you have to do is take it . . . one day at a time!!

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!

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!

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!!

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!!!