Sunday, August 2, 2020

Camp Listenbee 2020

Camp Listenbee is often an adventure. A new city and a global health emergency required us to get creative and adapt. Adapting we did. 

We spent time with family. This summer, my nephew is officially taller than I am. We love spending time with our sweet family. The kids had a great time together exploring our town. The public swimming pool is open with restrictions so they all splashed quite a bit. 

We spent quite some time in the public library getting books and returning books. I signed up for the summer reading challenge (which we more than completed) I just haven't logged in their books. I guess I should before school returns. I read quite a bit myself. The library is new to us but a familiar place at the same time. The kids and I love books. It's amazing to scape to the world of a book. 
We swam quite a bit. There were restrictions everywhere but the kids had a solid swim team season. They enjoyed it and I was happy to see their progress. I've always said that swimming is a gift. I'm glad to share it with my littles. For the record, I've never been in a swim team. My parents put me in lessons and I learned three styles. I'm not a competitive person so I swim for the joy of it. I like to swim because it gives something different than running. I am thankful to God for the ability to swim as a sport. 

I learned that there are millions of berry farms in our area. My sweet friend invited us to visit one and we had an amazing time. The kids enjoyed the ice cream and the hot dog at the end. Ha ha! We will be back again and again for sure!
We did a little bit of traveling in our area. It was fun to get away for a bit. We visited an indoor waterpark. The kids absolutely loved it!
We also had a chance to get to know Canyon Lake. It was so incredibly beautiful! Our family loved that area of Texas and we will return for sure. 

This summer the kids wrote quite a bit as far as letters. They were faithful to keep in touch with friends. It was fun to see their smiles when they got letters in the mail. I'm glad we share the same appreciation for letter writing. 

We stretched our musical abilities quite a bit. One of my littles gave us a concert featuring a song she wrote. It was so precious and encouraging. 
Summer is my favorite season. I enjoy the warmth. I enjoy celebrating the kids' birthdays. I enjoy seeing family and friends. I enjoy swimming and eating fresh fruits and veggies. I thank God for summers. They remind me of how good God is to us. He gave us new life and we get to enjoy it to the fullest. 
It took a village but we had an amazing Camp Listenbee. I can't believe this is our first in East Texas. The only thing we didn't do was Cow Appreciation Day. We did give Chick-fil-A quite a bit of our money tough. Lol! 

I think that when I look back at the summer of 2020, I will remember the smiles of my kids. I will remember their incredible faith and trust. I will remember our adventures together and I will remember the goodness of God. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Marathon training: from friendliness to deep friendships

Marathon training season starts in a few weeks. This will be officially the first season I won't train with my old running group. 

Although I moved after last year's training season started, I went back for a few key runs. I also became a virtual head coach instead of an in-person coach. I guess I was ahead of my time, considering all of this COVID-19 stuff.

I finished what I started (thank God) and marathon number 6 was a wrap.

I decided to sign up for another marathon this Winter because I thought it would be a good goal to pursue. Before the official training starts, I am working on eliminating extra body weight.

I have run enough to know that the extra weight only impedes my progress. I don't want to be on weight loss mode all my life. I want to reach my goal and proceed to maintenance. I have a great chance to reach my weight loss goal and I will reach it before the end of the year.

Back to running. I'm glad I learned a lot about myself these past 6 marathons. I know how to run with a group and I know how to run alone. 

Both skills are very important. My thing is, I don't want to be stuck. I need to be able to adapt to my surroundings so I can reach my running goals. 

One time, the weather was awful and I ran 17 miles on a treadmill. I don't recommend it but that experience taught me to press on and accomplish my goal.

Running with a group is an acquired skill. The running community is generally friendly. The problem some people run into is turning that friendliness into deep friendships. Some runners remain acquaintances after decades of running together. Others develop deep friendships that last a lifetime. 

I don't think there is a secret to developing deep friendships with people. It all depends on the individual and where they are in life. I will write more about this in a later post. 

As a newcomer to a group, you will notice small groups in existence. Most groups are friendly and they do not mind you running with them. Some groups say they are friendly but they are really closed groups running in public. 

It doesn't take long for me to figure out these dynamics. I often ask myself, "should I try to belong to this group who clearly does not want me to be part of them or do I find another way?" 

That's when my skill of running solo or with a group comes in handy. I've had to do both and I'm okay with both. What I try not to do is to be hurt because a group or a person does not want me to run with them. 

Running doesn't discriminate but runners sometimes do. Reaching my running goals while cultivating a forgiving heart is better than getting frustrated with trying to belong to a closed running group.

I've learned to pray about everything, running included. My prayer is that God will lead me to the right people and vice-versa. When I focus on the vice-versa part of the equation, I feel better.

For example, I noticed a lot of people around me were trying to belong to the running community. I thought about my experiences as a runner and as a minority runner. I decided to be a safe space, an encouraging force to anyone who will receive me. I decided to act on this belief.

I verbalize the following: "I am glad you are here. You belong. You don't have to jump any hoops or do anything special to be part of us. You belong just as you are and we want you to feel you are part of us.  Here is my number if you ever need it."

This statement makes my heart's intentions crystal clear. I also find that instead of waiting for someone to do this for me, I can freely offer it to others.

Focusing on the positive is the best way to live and run.

This training season will be different. I dearly miss the familiarity of my old running group. Still, I will learn more about myself. I will bring all that I am to my upcoming training season.

Most runners I met in the past are great people. I met a lot of welcoming, genuine people. My share of bad experiences does not represent the overwhelming good I receive from the running community.

I am thankful for what was. I look forward to what will be. I am committed to being a force for God's goodness in my local running community. I want to be welcoming, encouraging and I want to see my friends reach their running goals.

Here's to a brand new long-distance running season. My heart is free, my whole being is ready to accomplish another marathon. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Writing our History

"I always wanted to be a hero--to sacrifice my life in a big way one time--and yet, God has required my sacrifice to be thousands of days, over many years, with one more kiss, one more story, one more meal." 
- Sally Clarkson

Family history is written in ordinary moments. COVID-19 is a chapter in our family's story. I never gave a lot of thought on how we were writing it. I did think about how to make a positive investment with the time we had. 

We counted our blessings daily. We spoke to the kids about other people in different places of the world. We remembered our relatives and friends who live outside of the US. We prayed for them. We remembered people everywhere going through hardships. We prayed for them, knowing that God cares and God can help. 

We wrote our history through the prayers we prayed this season. We prayed together because we believe God called us as a family to pray for others. 

We wrote our history as we adapted our goals and desires. The kids have a habit of setting goals for the academic year. I can guarantee that those goals did not include changing schools after the year started and not returning to the new school at all after Spring Break. We changed our approach to our goals. The kids worked hard. They were really blessed in their doing. 

We wrote our history each time we sat at the dinner table and shared a meal. We shared a lot of meals together. We prayed, laughed, ate and enjoying being with each other. The dinner table is place where we continually learn we belong: we belong to God and each other. We know that because we invite God's presence at our table. We feel we belong because of the acceptance and love for one another we share with each bite. 

We wrote our story through the struggles we overcame. There were many struggles. There were multiple difficult times. There was also a lot of victories. I can't glorify my struggle because it minimizes the strength the Lord gave me as I leaned on Him. 

God helped me. He lifted me high. He taught me to keep showing up, keep loving. He taught me not to be overcome by fear but to rely on His perfect love. 

My friend Sarah Rolland said of this season, "Live the dream even in the toughest times. Keep hope alive!" 

We write our family's history when we choose to live our dream. My dream is simple. I want to be the best person Zeke will ever meet. He is mine and I am his. I want to be better for him each day. I want to be a Godly mother. God gave us our children and we are responsible to be good stewards of their souls. I want to do a great job. 

It won't be perfect but it will be great if I rely on God's wisdom and grace. I could tell you about other dreams I want to live. I know that if I don't get these two right (wife and mother), everything else will not matter. 

Family history is a great thing. It is just written so slowly. We write it with each kiss, each hug, each recipe we complete. We write it in sunny and rainy days. We right it during birthdays and funerals.

I encourage you to pay attention to the story you are writing with your family. 

Monday, July 27, 2020

Acts of Trust in the age of Anxiety

Are there circumstances in our present age distracting you and causing you anxiety? I'm guessing yes. Today I want to tell you how to find a Godly alternative to those anxious feelings. 

We all know how to be anxious. What most people do not know is how to maintain a sense of Godly positivity during difficult times. 

I hope this post will inspire you to be more positive about the life God so graciously gave you. As I write this, I am assuming you are safe, well, and that your family is also enjoying mostly positive circumstances.

My story if one of a person who had to get to a breaking point so she could learn what it means to find and maintain God's peace.

I was 26 years old and loving my busy life. I was happy, I was loved and still, there were issues that multiplied my stress level. Once I got the medical help I needed for my high blood pressure, I decided to dig deep and find the root of my problem. 

Stress is a pest that comes back. You can't completely eliminate it while you are alive. What you can do is learn how to manage it. 

Instead of meticulously examining my outward circumstances, I became very particular about knowing what God thinks. This has been my key approach to fighting and winning my battle with stress and anxiety.

Some say that anxiety is inevitable nowadays. I agree. All you need to do is turn on the news.

I'm a journalist and I know the value of a news story. I also know the weight of pain and anguish that comes when you expose yourself to so much information.

It is as if that buzz in your head won't stop. Your mind wants to react. Your body certainly does by releasing a great amount of stress hormone. Reading the news is valuable, having high blood pressure because of it, not so much.

What did I do?

I learned to become very particular about knowing what God thinks. I learned to spend more time doing that than I spent time reading the news. I decided to limit my news intake so my intake of good news could grow and produce fruit.

Before making this decision, I experienced what Jesus called "the cares of this world" invading my being (see Mark 4:19). The word "cares" is translated as "a distraction, anxieties" of this world. "World" comes from the Greek word aion, which is translated as "present age."

Friend, I would read the Bible but my cares really choked the word of God. What I was reading was unfruitful.

Are there circumstances in our present age distracting you and causing you anxiety? The good news is that we can take our every care to Jesus and He can help us.

Once I discovered my problem, I went to God for the solution. I prayed and I admitted that I was anxious and concerned. I asked Him to help me surrender everything to Him. 

Surrendering came in layers. First, came holy conviction. Second, came a prayer admitting my lack. Third came layers of daily acts of trust. 

These acts of trust include:

• Seeking God first, no questions asked, no excuses given. God came first in my schedule no matter what. I woke up, prayed, and read my Bible. 

• Surrendering my problems to God often. I did this several times a day. I didn't want those cares to choke the word of God. I wanted to surrender so that my heart could continue to be good ground for the Word.

• Limiting my intake of news and digital media. I didn't announce I was leaving social media. I just decreased the amount of time I was consuming it. I found a small number of news outlets I would read and listen to. I measured the time I was doing that. It could not supersede my time in the presence of God through prayer and Bible reading. 

• I took God at His word. If He says He will do something, I believe it. While many become experts in doubting God and His Word, I decided to believe Him with all I am and all I have. I found Him to be faithful. I found those other people to be discouraged, to say the least. 

• I found something productive to do. Here is how this works. In the past, my whole being would be consumed by my stress and anxiety. Once I decided to follow God's plan of peace, I found I had time to do other things. There was time to enjoy the life God gave me. I decided to do productive things such as becoming more creative as a wife and mother. Our menu selection improved. I found time for reading. It's amazing how much time you have when you are not worrying yourself to death.

I am not denying the existence of stress and anxiety. I know too well how real these feelings are. I am denying its place of influence in my life by taking these daily acts of trust in God. 

I wonder if you are being consumed by anxiety and stress. I know for a fact that God has the answer for you. I encourage you to offer daily acts of trust. Surrendering comes in layers but the fruit it bears brings freedom.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Sunday Seven

I looked at my life and asked: who will I become? Today I want to answer this question with seven simple words.

1. Faithful. I want to be faithful to God. I want to faithfully obey His word. I want to be a faithful wife and mother. The only way to do all of this well is to get all I need from my faithful God and the Bible. 

2. Joyful. Walking in the joy of the Lord is walking in complete strength. It means standing up to a world that is displaying despair and drives us to do the same. It means resisting the urge to be hopeless like the world and having an eternal source of hope in a God who laughs more than He frowns. He sings over us. He is pleased in seeing our joy derive from His very Spirit. 

3. Peaceful. I want to have God's perfect peace in my life. He promises to give it to those whose minds are fixed on Him because they trust in Him. I want this to my very definition. 

4. Forgiving. I want to forgive from the heart. God commands me to do it. Forgiveness is not an option for Christians. I want to choose to do it and I want to release it quickly. The weight of unforgiveness is crushing. I need the freedom forgiveness brings. 

5. Healthy. I want to be healthy from the inside out. God has given me a second chance to invest in my health. It is not easy nor convenient. I want to choose to be healthy because it helps every area of my life. My optimal health also benefits the people I love the most. 

6. Wise. I read the book of Proverbs quite a bit this week. I want to seek wisdom. I also want to be wise. True wisdom comes from God. I want to seek it more than any other temporary possession. 

7. Friendly. Being friendly is a choice I want to make on a daily basis. No matter how other people treat me or what types of lies they say about me, I want to be friendly. This attitude allows me to be authentic. It allows me to follow God's call for my life. It allows others to feel at ease and hopefully, enjoy a friendly environment. Being friendly disarms nervousness and fear. I believe that's powerful and much needed.