My Story . . . Continued

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Balance Is the Key

I mentioned in an earlier post that I never learned how to crawl when I was a baby. That may not seem like a significant thing to many adults, but what most people don’t realize is that crawling affects so many other areas in a child’s physical development. The main areas that were affected in my development were coordination and balance.

Since I’ve started training myself as a long-distance runner, my trainers Megan and Chelsea have been teaching me various stretches and strength training exercises to help protect my joints, and to ultimately increase my running speed. When I first started out, I had to hold on to a table or chair to balance myself when doing the step lunges. I’ve now done the TRX single leg squats during my last four visits to the gym. When I did my lunges before my run this morning, I hardly wobbled at all. What’s more, I only had to reach out once to balance myself!!

There are certain things all of us have to do to make sure we have the right balance so that our health is maintained . . . a balanced diet according to our individual needs, or musculoskeletal balance to protect our physical framework. If developmental stages are missed early on, we must learn to compensate for whatever is missing. If something gets out of line later in life, we must do whatever is necessary to get back on track so that we can continue to live healthy lives for as long as God chooses to leave us here on earth.

We have to have balance in our spiritual lives as well. We must make time for Bible study and prayer.

Psalm 63:1&2 says, “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is;

“To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.”

Proverbs 8:17 says, “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.”

Jeremiah 29:13 says, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”

God also expects us to take care of the things He has entrusted us with. We must make time for housecleaning so that things don’t get piled up. I’ve never been a “neat freak”, but I am gradually improving in my organization skills. Every person operates differently when it comes to organization. Some people have to work a little harder at it than others. Imagine what would’ve happened if Adam had not properly named or cared for the animals in the Garden of Eden or if Noah had not prepared his family and tended to the animals on the ark??!!

I hear so many people say that they don’t have time for so-and-so. We make time for things that are important to us. If we daily make time for God, our families, our job responsibilities, and ourselves, we will find that our lives will be much more balanced than if we just let things go. If we have let things go, we need to take steps to get back on track so that we can live happier lives.

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

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!!

Keep on Pressing!

In my last post, I mentioned that the words “can” and “cannot” only appear one or two times in the Bible. That information was based on what I found in the concordance in the back of my Bible. However, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance shows that the words “can/canst” appear approximately 285 times in the Bible; the word “cannot” appears approximately 185 times. Sometime in the future, I plan to break down each Scripture reference further, but for now, back to the task at hand.

I ran my second 5K race today . . . the second one I have ever run in my life. I started working with a trainer (Megan . . . she’s AWESOME) after my first race last month. She gave me some tips on exercises that I can do to help increase my speed. I completed my first race in 49:35. My goal for today’s race was to get below 49 minutes. When I looked at the results, I was ecstatic: chip time was 48:55, and gun time was about 49:15. By regularly doing my exercises, I was able to knock off about 20-30 seconds from my last race time!

One thing that I am constantly learning is that anything worth striving for requires focus, dedication, consistency, and faithfulness. I don’t always feel like running or going to the gym, but I do it because I know that my body will ultimately be better off for it.

The same goes for the Christian life. If we truly strive to know everything that we can about God like I mentioned in my last post, we must be focused, dedicated, and faithful at spending time in His Word every day. We must be open to the things He wants to teach us. We must not get discouraged and give up because of past failures. The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:13-14: “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

I have learned in racing . . . and in life . . . that I cannot compare myself to others. If I do, I am wasting time focusing on the business of others instead of completing my own tasks. When racing, participation and completion are most important, no matter what it takes. The Apostle Paul also saw the same importance. He did not let what others were doing distract him from his goal, which was accomplishing, the “high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

If there’s one thing that I can encourage my readers to do, don’t let anyone or anything discourage you from your goals. Stay focused, dedicated, and keep pressing toward your “mark”.

Until next time . . . let’s keep on running! IMG_0531