Things I Have Learned

I ran my third race last Saturday night. I was so excited when I found out about the race the day before, because it was one of the few races that fit into my crazy work schedule. Keep in mind, this one was at night. It was the first one I had ever run at night, and I had to work until 7:15 Saturday morning (I work the night shift). I registered online for the race the night before. When I arrived at the park for the race, no tents were set up anywhere. I kept hearing music, so I followed the sound thinking that was where everything would be set up. When I arrived, I still saw no tents. They were having a jazz festival (which was VERY cool), but no one knew anything about a race. I thought about getting back in my car and driving further, but I was unfamiliar with the park, plus I had walked so far that I kept thinking I had to be close to our starting point. I finally found a guy on a bicycle who said he saw the tent . . . on the other side of the park!!! By the time I arrived, I had already walked about 30 to 45 minutes. I was on time for the race, but my finish time was HORRIBLE . . . 53:15!!! My goal was to beat my last race time of 48:55. The lesson I learned from that is to make sure I find out ahead of time where the tent will be located so that I don’t walk around the park for 30-45 minutes looking and feeling like a complete nincompoop!!

I have also learned not to let setbacks keep me from achieving my goals. I remember when I was in school for Medical Billing & Coding, one of my most difficult classes was Anatomy & Physiology. Any subject having to do with Science was never my forte’. I was just a little apprehensive at first. I kept up with the reading (there was a LOT) and assignments, and I got an A in both the beginning and advanced courses, but there were a few setbacks along the way. I remember one section we covered that was especially difficult was the section on bones. The teacher gave us a diagram of the different sections of a skeleton, and we had to name each bone. So many of them were so similar to each other that I got confused and missed a good portion on the test. My grade was lower than a C. I looked at my teacher and told him that I was determined to get an A in the class no matter what it took. I was angry when I got home. I was not angry in a negative sense, but angry in a good way. I started on the next chapter with a new determination. I maintained an A for the rest of the quarter. The same thing happened with my running. I was frustrated with my finish time on Saturday night. Did I give up? Not on your life!! I went running again this morning and completed a 5K in 47:46! Sometimes when we have setbacks, we have to get creative and rethink our strategies in order to reach our goals.

Christians can never give up either. We may get discouraged if it seems like no one listens when we try to witness, but we have to remember that it is not our job to win people to Christ. God does that through His Holy Spirit. It is our job to be faithful at consistently planting the seed of the Gospel, and living it out so that others can see Christ in us. We must also remember that God never gave up on us. He gave His Son Jesus as the Sacrifice for our sin, and He daily leads us in the direction He wants us to go. When I stop and think of all that God is, my heart is filled with so much gratitude that I want to serve Him every day in the best way that I can. Yes, there will still be times when I will fail, but God knows that. He is the One Who gives me the strength to get back up and keep going every day!!

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

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!!!