Thursday, January 17, 2019

Story of Marriage

our wedding day in 2006.
I remember getting engaged to Zeke on Christmas day. It was one of the happiest moments we shared together at that time. I remember immediately getting on wedding planning mode. No, we didn’t have a date yet but I just wanted to plan.

I remember going to a popular wedding planning website and getting a profile completed. I still have my wedding planning book. I remember asking a late friend for help with the food and cake. The only problem was that Zeke and I were broke.

We didn’t have an immense amount of inheritance laying around. We planned, we had an idea of how much things were going to cost but we were in this relationship by ourselves. I’m glad God was on our side.

Our story is one that screams the question, “what do you do when material commodity has been stripped away?” Do you have a legitimate relationship without engagement photos, the expensive wedding, and exotic honeymoon?

One of my kids thought that every couple getting married had a limousine. I gently informed her that her parents didn’t have a limo because that’s not a requirement to have a Christian wedding.

Zeke and I had a strong belief that God wanted us together. Once we became engaged, we pretty much looked to God to bless our union and we just kept following His lead. No limo required.

Our beginning was really out of the ordinary. We attended a 6 a.m. prayer meeting on the morning of our wedding. We waited for the courthouse to open its doors and we got married on a Tuesday morning. We then went to our chaplain’s home and we got married in the living room. We couldn’t afford to rent the beautiful chapel available in the place I used to work and we were going to get married in my office. The chaplain kindly offered his home. He had given us marital counseling a few days before and wisely asked about our plans. We are forever thankful for his kindness, wisdom, and hospitality.

Six months after our wedding, we had a “blessing of our marriage” ceremony in Mississippi. The only family member who was at our wedding was one of my cousins, so the MS ceremony was a good way to gather more family and friends.

The ceremony happened at the church where Zeke used to play as a musician. The church kindly donated their space and resources and gave us a sweet, sweet ceremony and reception. Our family helped us with what they had and we were grateful to have more people close to us to celebrate our new family.

I think about the beginning of our family as God’s best for us. I certainly had an idea of how I wanted things to go. God had the final and best answer.

I know for a fact that an expensive wedding filled with exquisite details does not guarantee a happy marriage. The Christian marriage requires a commitment to God, His word and His ways. No wedding planning website can teach a couple such things.

The lure of keeping up with appearances distracts many people from the reality they will face when the guests are gone and two people begin their lives together. The cute engagement pictures are irrelevant when dealing with baggage from one’s past. The height of a wedding cake and the popularity of the DJ does not help heal the hurts two people experience in a marital relationship. It is important to prioritize the time spent on wedding planning versus life planning.

I don’t come from a place of perfection when it comes to wedding planning. I started out planning my dream wedding but our lack of resources changed all of that. By God’s mercy, I grabbed a hold of a premarital counseling book which I managed to read. We also saw two counselors before we got married. We were blessed to attend a financial planning class as newlyweds. Again, none of this was really my idea. God placed these resources our way and we took advantage of it.

You’d think that we would have no problems because of the amount of counseling we received. I believe that all the wisdom we received opened our eyes to see our need for even more help.

We learned to get help when we needed. I had to desensitize myself from the fear of asking for help.

The longer we are married, the more thankful I am to God for the beginning of our relationship. The most precious features of a successful marriage can’t be put in dollar signs.

Sure, I used to feel embarrassed when people looked at me up and down and my appearance as a wife didn’t measure up. I got over it and I know I stand in my confidence.

My confidence comes from knowing that God knows what He is doing. My confidence comes from the inner treasure Zeke and I enjoy as a married couple.

I know that there is nothing wrong with the expensive, dreamy weddings we often see and enjoy. I am actually happy for couples who had them. Those types of events were not part of my love story. I’ve been blessed with God’s best. I know that the blessing of God looks different for different people. In my case, the simplicity of reciting my vows in someone’s living room was enough to start a lifelong Christian marriage.

I have experienced virtue and joy through simple beginnings. I am thankful God chose us to be a family. I am thankful God continues to bless us as a Christian married couple.

Happy 13th anniversary to us!

“Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.” Proverbs 15:17 (ESV)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Result-oriented Routines

Routines are an important part of my day. I see my routines as the means to an end. I want good results, therefore, I submit to my routines.

Routines are not magical formulas to a great life. If it was that simple to be successful, we wouldn't be struggling to get it together, right?

If you don't have a routine, I encourage you to think about your results and work backward.

Results: Kids at school with homemade lunches, feeling well.
Mom at work with homemade lunch feeling well.

Wake up and actually get out of bed to make stuff happen (If you are not a morning person, you might have a problem here. Fixing this step will help you be more productive.);
Put exercise clothes and shoes on;
Drink coffee;
Read the Bible in Portuguese (the actual book, not an App);
Shower and get dressed;
Make sure kids lunches are in their backpacks;
Everyone is out the door.

*Notice that not one time, I was required to be on my phone. I added an extra lock that impedes me from looking at any apps before a certain time in the morning. Looking at my phone steals precious time I can use to reach my morning goals. I don't watch TV in the morning either. We might listen to music while eating breakfast.

Results: Wash dishes, Prep kids' lunch, work.
Wash dishes after dinner;
Pack kids' lunch;
Set aside exercise clothes and shoes;
Work for 40-45 minutes;
Marriage time;

Results: Rest, Prepare for the week ahead, have fun.
Laundry (start and finish the entire process);
Chores (the kids help with chores);
Wash and braid the girls' hair;
Grocery run;
Pre-pack kids lunch for 2-3 days;
Prepare the menu for the week;
Get at least one day ahead with meal prep;
Run long distance;
Do a fun outing with the kids;

My routines are result-oriented. They are means to an end. Most days are not the same but as I think about my results, I am able to create routines that will support them.

Questions: What are the results you want to see in 2019? How can your routines support your results? 

You can't change what you tolerate

January is a great month.
It starts with the promise of a brand new year.
A year filled with expectation and hope.
Then, my birthday hits.
I feel blessed to celebrate one more year of life.
God is the giver of life, so my aim is to thank God.

January is also the month when I achieve one of my biggest fitness goals.
I get to run a long distance race.
Because running long distance is such a big goal,
I decided my new year starts after I cross the finish line of the marathon.

Once that happens, I celebrate, rest and recover from the miles.
I quickly start conquering the goals I set for myself.

I enjoy listening to teachers who encourage me to be the best I can be.
One such person is the late Dr. Myles Munroe.
I ran into this quote of his:

"You can't change what you tolerate."

I wonder what I am tolerating. Instead of turning external with this tolerating thing, I decided to focus on my inner life.

It's easy to point externally when it comes to the things we are tolerating.
The challenge is to see the things we are tolerating in our inner world.

I made a mental list:


If I tolerate it, I can't change it.

What are you tolerating in your inner life? How can you change it this year?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

18 lessons of 2018

1. Good things come, I just don't know when. The previous winter made me wonder if good things would ever come. I honestly saw myself in a downward spiral mood for years to come but one day, everything changed. Good things do come, we just can't pinpoint when they show up.

2. Keeping good habits are worth my time. The older I get, the choosier I am about which habits I keep in my life. I see that keeping the good habit of running is a great idea.

3. I choose to honor, no matter how challenging the personality. I learned a lot about honor this season. I decided that getting calm and showing honor is a very good idea.

4. The finish line is one of my favorite places in the world. I saw my kids crossing a finish line (again) and it reminded me of why this is one of my happy places. The exuberance, the joy and the sense of accomplishment are contagious.

5. Baking = gathering. My job change caused the rhythm of my home to change a bit. Nothing bad, just different. I find that baking is a way of gathering everyone around the table. We take a deep breath and enjoy that fresh baked good. We share stories about our day and we just connect easily. Baking brings us back together and I love it.

6. In the middle of the uncertain, look for the eternal. We bought a house this spring. We didn't know if it was all going to work out. I remember looking at my daughters reading together. They were connected to the story and to one another. It was almost as if I could see their eternal bond of sisterhood.

7. Music can calm a world of agitation. My husband bought us a ticket to a concert, our first one together. We highly enjoyed the music. Our world was a little agitated and music was amazing in bringing it all down to a joyful time. Our hearts are still full.

8. I already have all I've ever needed. I applied to run a major marathon and I didn't get in. Things like this remind me that I am blessed beyond measure already.

9. Not giving up is a good idea. I made a wreath for my front door and it was hard work. I basically came up with the idea myself and I went for it. I swear I'm not crafty but I did not give up. In other areas of life, not giving up on a good idea paid off. It is often difficult but when I persist, good things happen.

10. Every day I can be a better wife. I know it is hard to be married to me. When I consider my role in my marriage, I know that every day I can improve.

11. Dare greatly - I ran into this quote recently and I really enjoyed it.

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” - Theodore Roosevelt

12. Cranky pants - I was pretty cranky on Thanksgiving but I learned "you can't be thankful and cranky at the same time." I quickly got a thankful attitude back by submitting myself to God and His word. That pretty much saved the holiday.

13. Determined - "My disposition, not my circumstances determine my joy or misery." I had many moments of frustration this Fall. Somehow, I ran into this quote and it reminded me that my disposition needed to be pristine.

14. Love is sacrificial 
My husband and I agreed this was the absolute top lesson this summer. We may use the word love a lot. Only when we are tested through it we learn that sacrifice is part of it. I’m glad we had a chance to learn such Godly lesson. We’re better for it. 

15. Having a de-stress routine is a necessity 
I have been managing stress naturally for years but it wasn’t until the summer that I realized I needed a routine. I know I need to rest more, I just didn’t have the need to be strict with it until the summer. I have several de-stress things I do and they are simple such as taking a hot bath, doing my own mani/pedi or cutting the day short by going to sleep. I learned that adding such strategies to my week was very wise and I was able to benefit from it. 

16. When I’m in despair, I need to look up 
Last summer was hard so this year, I thought a lot about the past year. We had no jobs and then Harvey hit. I learned then that when I'm in despair, I need to look up to where my help comes from. My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. 

17. Helping other people reach their goal is the best
I didn’t realize that when I invited my friends to join me during my runs would be so fulfilling. We started together in the beginning of the summer. Some people had not been running on a regular basis, others took some time off. I’ve been able to watch their consistency and dedication. I am seeing many reaching goals they didn’t think they could reach. That feels lovely. Here is the other side of the coin: it takes unselfishness to do that. It takes a total abandonment of one’s ego because it’s not about me, it’s about others. I love helping people reach their goals. I hope to continue to help others. 

18. Making a summer to-do list was a good idea 
I made an “18 for summer 18 list” and it was a good idea. I reached most of the goals I set there. I made sure they were not long-term, difficult goals because the summer was quite intense. It was lovely to do things such as sit down with a friend and swim.

More in this Lessons of... Series:
• 2016
• 2015
• 2014
• 2013

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Long Distance Running

running friends who are reaching their goals!
Long distance running deserves respect. Whether training for one of my 5 marathons or 4 half marathons (and let's not forget about countless races from 5K to 30K), I have learned to approach the process with respect.

This year, it will be my first time running the Aramco Houston Half-Marathon. I made this decision after a lot of soul (and finish time) searching. The reality was, I needed a break from the long miles. My body could use a break and especially my mind. I called it my race Sabbatical. Last winter I didn't race at all. I never abandoned running, I simply made the decision to cut down the miles and focus on my health.

It was tough at first. Seeing my friends sign up for Fall marathons and ultras almost convinced me I should put in the miles with them. I learned that the best I could do was to stick with what I knew was right for me. Less turned out to be more.

In the summer, I started a 6-week mid-week running group. It was the craziest experiment ever. First of all, most people are not going to sign up to get up at dark o’clock to run. It was hot and humid when we started. It was the Texas summer. Still, we had a great group who wanted to reach their goals. That 6-week experiment is now in week 31. I am grateful to the great folks who show up week after week to run. Seeing them reach their goal has been an incredible joy.

The half marathon is 11 days away. I'm grateful to God for this season of training. I'm looking forward to running a strong race and enjoying the course with thanksgiving in my heart. 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Small Step

Sometimes, the best thing one can do is to take one small step at a time.
There are many voices giving instructions on how to completely change your life forever.
I'm here to sympathize with those who are not there yet.
There's much to be done before you can take on some life-changing revolution. Your laundry for example. You do it yourself.
Laundry and dishes can be quite unforgiving: they will lash out if you leave them alone. The time I'd spend on those life-changing instructions I am putting on laundry and dishes right now.
One step is all I have.
I know that steps are powerful because they take us somewhere. My steps take me towards or away from my goal. I'm never stagnant.
So I don't get to work on the brilliant goal everyone is after. I will be content with the small step I can take today.
Small steps add up and I know that so well. I often forget about how discouraging they can be.
The only solution is to keep taking small steps anyway.
Whether it is dishes, laundry or drinking more water, take the small step with confidence.