Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Real or Fake

When I was a little girl, our Christmas tree was my mom’s pride and joy.  She wasn’t big on interior decorating, but oh, when it came to Christmas, she loved our tree.  Now keep this in mind that in the 1950s and 1960s, EVERYBODY had real trees, you know, the kind that you cut down on a farm or carefully chose from the selection of pre-cut trees offered by the Boy Scouts in the A & P parking lot. Picture the happy families singing Jingle Bells as they merrily drove home with the tree tied to the top of the station wagon, laughing all the way.  And at the end of the season, our neighborhood had an enormous bonfire when all the neighbors gathered and burned the trees.  Our family was not able to participate in any of these festive traditions.

You see, our tree was fake – or as my mom would proudly say, “artificial.”  It wasn’t even “life-like.”  It was a silver aluminum tree on a stand that revolved.  Mom, in spite of the fact that the two of us were the only girls in our family of six, decorated the tree with pink balls, all identical.  No hand-made ornaments profaned it.  The tree was not illuminated with strands of lights, but with two enormous pink spotlights on each side of the tree.  The tree was strategically placed in front of the living room window so that all the world would see it.  It looked like the window at Macy’s.  There were no brightly wrapped presents under the tree.  First, because my mother was TERRIFIED of someone breaking into the house and stealing them, and secondly, because until the day before Christmas, there were no presents yet.  I can remember my parents going out before church on Christmas Eve to what eventually evolved into Toys R Us and frantically purchasing whatever might keep four children occupied on Christmas morning that did not have to be assembled.  Santa did not wrap in our house.  And one Christmas, I remember my brothers and I receiving plastic skis with roller skates on the bottom of them, which were probably the only toys left in the store that late.

I always wanted a REAL tree.  There was something Christmas-y about the tree being real.

There is also something REALLY Christmas-y about what IS real about Christmas.  When we talk about the Christmas Story with our children, it is vital that we distinguish for them that the story of Jesus is REAL.  I have a basket of Christmas-themed books, some of which are beloved tales, but the story about baby Jesus is TRUE.  A good friend of mine talks often with her boys about what is TRUE and what is PRETEND, so that they learn to distinguish the two.  Young children are not readily able to do that – that is why little children like cartoons— talking animals are real to them.  The story of Jesus is truth – not made-up, or make-believe, or even life-like.  HE IS LIFE.    HE IS TRUE.  And that makes all the difference.  He really lived, He really came, because God loved us that much. 

Please make sure that your kids KNOW that.

For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given,
and the government shall be upon His shoulder,
and His name will be called
Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God,
Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9.6

Sunday, December 19, 2010

18 Degrees and Other Such Fears

The first bitterly cold run of the winter arrives each year on tiny frosty feet.  I know that it is coming.  I try to ease into it, adding yet another fuzzier layer as the temperature dips, the gloves, the hat, all fashion sense discarded.  Oh, it would be a lot more comfortable running inside on the treadmill, wearing just shorts and a tank top, watching the meteorologist guess at the forecast and broadcast pictures of bad weather wherever it may be.  (Have you ever met an optimistic weatherman?)  But then again, running on a treadmill is exactly that – running on a treadmill, heading nowhere, the little digital numbers increasing oh, so slowly (surely I have gone longer than THAT!?!)

I dread that first COLD run.  It is a fear of mine.  I don’t like to be cold.  And well, I live in Chicago, so be it, time to figuratively “put on your big girl panties” and get out there, except in these temps, it is more like “big girl long underwear.” :) 

It was 10 lonely degrees this morning.  I waited until it “warmed up” to 18 degrees, bundled up in fleece and a soft shell jacket, and headed out.  The air was crisp, the sun created enormous shadows through the lacework of tree branches, and well….it wasn’t too bad at all.  I actually had a very nice run.  By the time I returned home, the temperature had dipped to 15 degrees.  As it usually plays out, my fear was just so much bigger than reality.  “I was afraid of THAT?”

We all have fears that hold us back.  What a shame.  In so many things we encounter, we search for the avenue of convenience and comfort…….and oh, how much we miss of the life God wants us to experience --that which runs out in the snow and laughs out loud for sheer joy.

Do not fear, O Zion,

          let not your hands grow weak.

The LORD, your God, is in your midst,

a warrior who gives victory.

He will rejoice over you with gladness,

He will renew you in His love,

He will exult over you with loud singing

             as on a day of festival.

                                  Zephaniah 3. 16-17

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Those Crazy Christmas Lights

I woke early this morning and as usual, it was still dark.  The room was cold.  My legs were reluctant.  My brain creaked slowly into action, reaching for my slippers and sweatshirt at the side of the bed before running (again) into the bedpost.  Shuffling my way down the stairs to brew my morning boost of caffeine, I hesitated on the bottom step.  Whoa, what is that?  There was a strange GLOW coming through the front windows of the house.   I had scurried outside before bed last night to unplug the Christmas lights on the right side of the front porch, the one-year-old timer no longer working, but the left side was on a different timer, scheduled to turn off sometime after 11 p.m.  Well, here it was 6 a.m., and they were still blazing like an all-night diner.

Why can’t a timer work the way it is supposed to?  As it began to dawn outside, I realized that a timer is only designed to replicate what God has already created.

     …to Him who made the great lights,

             for His steadfast love endures for ever;

        the sun to rule over the day,

             for His steadfast love endures for ever;

        the moon and stars to rule over the night,

              for His steadfast love endures for ever.

                                          Psalm 136. 7-9

We depend on God’s design that the sun will appear each day and the moon and stars at night.  We take it for granted.  God’s design is so precise that the very minute of sunrise and sunset anywhere in the world can be calculated to the second, never early and never late, thousands of years in the past and thousands of years in the future.  For even to those who do not believe in God, sunrise and sunset are expected and depended on every day like clockwork.  It is just one of the ways that God reveals Himself.  And  through that faithfulness, He reveals hope.  Hope in a Biblical sense is not wishful thinking, but that on which you can stake your life. 

Tonight there will be sunset, tomorrow the sunrise.  No surprises there.  And no surprise either “that His steadfast love endures for ever.”

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Last Six Miles -- Again

After eighteen weeks of training and 26.2 grueling miles of the race last Saturday, the marathon was over.  The next morning worshiping at Fellowship Memphis church, I could feel my phone buzzing in my pocket.  There were missed calls from two of my brothers.  Not even twenty-four hours after the race, I found myself in yet another marathon, faced with a situation beyond my strength.  My vulnerable 89-year-old father in Florida was in a crisis situation. “Get down here now,” one of my brothers said with desperation in his voice.  I was on a plane the next morning.  “Please pray,” I texted several friends.  “I am headed into a storm.”  I  did not know how to handle the emergency, nor did I want to.  There was a confrontation coming closer by the minute, my strength had made a fast exit, and I was sorely lacking in wisdom.  “Help me,” I prayed out loud.

Down in Florida on my brother’s pullout couch, I lay awake all night, tossing and turning, going over and over in my mind what had happened, what I was going to say, and what I needed to do, as if I was writing the dialog of a screenplay on steroids.  Finally just before 4 am, I turned on the light and read my Bible, grasping in both hands the verses that God revealed to me.  Now almost dawn and needing to get up in just over an hour, I turned off the light, prepared to remain awake and meditate on what I had just read.  Immediately, I sunk into sleep – equipped, assured and covered.

“It is I who answer and look after you.  I am like an evergreen cypress, from Me comes your fruit.”  Hosea 14.8

The next few days were tough, no question about it.  I was scared to death.  God led me right up to the edge and back again.  But it seemed strangely familiar.  And I recognized that I was running the last six miles again when my strength was not my own, so far beyond what I could do on my own steam.  That was right where God wanted me to be, so that I would rely on Him.  It was exactly what I faced in the race, and I was thankful that reliance was still so fresh in my heart.  I had no idea what God would do.   I just needed to follow Him into it.

Looks like the training wasn’t just about the race after all.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day 126 - Runners, Take Your Mark

Yesterday, I ran. I ran until I had nothing left. And then I ran another eight miles. My calves tightened up. My feet cramped. The course turned the corner into the final passage down North Parkway. The wind blew strong against the weary. I could feel every rise in the pavement. I was aware of every crack and every pothole. The road arched down to the curb. Stay in the middle, I repeated to myself like a mantra, once or twice outloud. The only sound I could hear was the rhythmic shuffling of the man behind me so tired that his shoes were dragging on the pavement. Occasional spectators shouted out, "You can do it. You're almost there." I could hear them. I no longer saw their faces. An old woman stood on the edge of the curb absurdly holding out a box of kleenix. And suddenly in this bizarre arena appeared my beloved husband who then ran with me the last five miles, anchoring me to reality. His presence alone was a strength to me. No words were necessary. This was no longer a run, no longer a race, there was a desperation in my breathing. A band was playing at mile 22. "They're pretty good," Bill said. I didn't even hear them. We ran past people stumbling along like refugees. Volunteers held out paper cups of water at the 25 mile mark, I knocked two cups out of their hands before I was able to grasp one, the liquid sloshing down my shirt as I tried to swallow a few drops. We stumbled up the ramp from Danny Thomas onto Union Avenue. And then in the last two-tenths of the 26.2 mile race, Bill whispered to me with urgency in his voice, "You need to go, and you need to go now." We both knew how close it was going to be. Go, go, go. I entered the arena, a roar of sound. I willed my feet to go faster. I could feel the crunch of the gravel. Go, go, go. After four hours and fifteen minutes of running nonstop, I crossed the finish line, almost falling into one of the volunteers who embraced me with a mylar sheet to warm me up. I glanced down at my watch. I requalified for the Boston Marathon with a mere 23 SECONDS to spare. As one of the verses I read that morning said, "Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy." Indeed, He did.
I always learn a lot spiritually in training for a marathon. But the actual marathon itself presses me to the point of realizing and recognizing the strength and mercy of God. I wonder why it takes coming to the end of ourselves before we realize what is a reality every day. It is not a matter of conquering but of His deliverance. It is KNOWING that there is nothing more that I can do. It is not what I am or have or can do, but comprehending what I am not, and who He is.
And realizing that "my utmost for His highest" is not what I can do for God but my weakness -- that which I cannot do on my own.
Run toward Him, run with Him, run in Him.
He is preparing you for the course set before you.
"...and let us run with preseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus..." Hebrews 12. 1-2

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Day 124 It’s all over but the shoutin’

Tomorrow morning, I leave for Memphis.  I am packing now, carefully selecting what I take, considering that most of my suitcase will be filled up with running clothes.  What to take, what not to take?   Well, there is the obvious, all of which is well worn in.  (I made the HUGE mistake in my first marathon to wear a pair of NEW socks.  Bad move.  Within the first six miles, I knew that I was in trouble.  I could feel one of my toes rubbing against the seam of the sock.  By the end of the marathon, whoa, not something I would want to repeat.)  So, I will put in well-worn socks, shoes that have gone on several long runs, a trusty tank top, a long sleeve dry weave shirt, a favorite running bra, and my trademark running knickers which are good in warm and cool weather.  I am also throwing in a hat, gloves, a heavier running shirt, and a jacket, just in case.  Ready to go?

Well, there are a few more necessary things besides a couple of snickers in my pocket.  I need a few extra verses in my heart.  I need to bank on God’s Word.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.

From whence does my help come?

My help comes from the LORD,

Who made heaven and earth.”

                    Psalm 121.1-2

I need to leave fear and anxiety behind.  No room for those. No need to carry the unneeded weight.

And as my son-in-law reminds our granddaughter Maggie, “Do you have a happy heart?”  I can trudge through this race.  Or I can let it have a deeper purpose.  It is not a matter of attitude or positive thoughts, but viewing this experience from a different worldview.  As I wondered this morning what I have gotten myself into, God impressed on me, “Would you do it for Me?” 

Of course.  And suddenly the long lonely miles took on a different light.  He has used this marathon for things I cannot fathom.  And He will use it even more.  As it said in the devotional My Utmost for His Highest, two days ago on November 30:

“There is only one relationship that matters, and that is your personal relationship to a personal Redeemer and Lord.  God will fulfill His purpose through your life.”

And so, I claim this Saturday morning, “my utmost for His highest.”  Every step, every mile.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Day 123 Three Days to Go!

I tied on my running shoes this morning and ran a short circuit through the cold, windy, gray morning.  First of all, I am thankful that the marathon is in Memphis, because anything HAS to be warmer than it was in Chicago today.  Secondly, it was the last time that I will run before the marathon.  All that is left now of training is eating and sleeping and getting to the starting line.  Sounds like an easy few days, but the physical game is yet to come.  The next few days are an exercise in “what not to wear.”  While I have learned from painful experience NEVER to wear anything new in a marathon, I have also learned in life not to carry along those things which drag you down.  Do not carry anxiety.  Do not let fear grip your heart.  Do not “freak out,” as my good friend Beth says.  This is nothing new.  The Bible is FULL of “fear not.”  And indeed, when she was five, one of our daughters recited the Ten Commandments and added:  “Do not… be afraid.” 

I confess that last night, I was a bit anxious.  My phone rang in the middle of the evening.  It was my daughter Kat who is also running the race (albeit WAY faster than me).  “Mom,” she said, “you are going to have SO much fun.”  I needed to hear that.  And I remembered in my first two marathons at mile 16 when I was dragging my feet and losing heart rapidly, my daughter Beth came alongside to cheer me on, something I will always cherish.  And my husband Bill who has supported me every step through this craziness.  Snickers, anyone?  In rain and shine, literally.

This is kind of like three days before taking the SAT’s.  There is not anything you can do at this point.  But trust.


Our help is in the name of the LORD,

Who made heaven and earth.

                         Psalm 124.8

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Day 117 The Race is Not Always to the Swift

I woke this morning to 37 degrees and and a light drizzle outside.  But a mile away from our house, a crowd of about 250 runners was drawing together for the annual Turkey Predicto Race in my town.  Just about every race I know costs money, supports a cause, and rewards the fastest runners.  This race costs absolutely nothing.   It is just an opportunity to get together and run.  The twist is that the winners are not necessarily those who are first across the line.  Before this race begins, runners sign in their names and their predicted finish time, down to the second.  The two runners who most accurately predict their finish times win a turkey and a pumpkin pie.  No watches are allowed.  We gathered in the local boat house on this shivery morning.  A park employee directed us outside, and before most people had even reached the street, she calmly said, “go.”  Five miles of people chatting, kids riding bikes, and even two runners decked out in aprons and chef hats.  Laughter prevailed as the group made its way through the streets of Glen Ellyn.  At the finish line, I heard one girl shrieking that she missed her time by two seconds, and a gentleman boasting that he was only six seconds off his.

This morning proved that running does not have to be so serious or so competitive.  Just fun.  Sometimes we forget that.

Nine days until the marathon, down to the single digits and counting. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Day 114 Glorious Taper

You would think that the last few weeks of marathon training would be the hardest, the longest, and the most grueling.  But as you move your way through the training schedule and get closer to the race, the mileage and workouts actually taper off for the final three weeks.  Indeed, the last week before the marathon, one is barely breaking a sweat.  This phase of training is great -- “the taper” as it is called in the running world.  The whole idea is to build up one’s strength by giving the body the time to rest, repair and rejuvenate itself.   It is a good idea for all of us.  (God called it the Sabbath).  Hardcore obsessive runners have a hard time with this idea, often pushing the mileage even when they are not supposed to.  Me?  Well, I am enjoying every last non-running minute.

Today, I ran in a pair of shorts and a tank top.  Yes, in Chicago on November 22.  And I didn’t get frostbite.  It was 60 degrees.  Above zero.  Even the pessimistic natives around here were astonished by the unusually mild air this fall, but ALWAYS seemed to follow up with “the cold weather is coming.”    And indeed, the rest of the week is supposed to have a high in the 30s.  But I delighted in every warm day while it lasted.

Monday, November 15, 2010

God in Every Detail

Just read this excerpt this morning from one of my favorite books My Utmost for His Highest.  It is a book of great spiritual wisdom, compiled by the widow of Oswald Chambers who transcribed his lessons and talks into a daily devotional.  Hope that it is an encouragement to you., a reminder of what Biblical worldview is all about.

From yesterday's entry (November 14):

We can all see God in exceptional things,
but it requires the culture of spiritual discipline to see God in every detail.
Never allow that the haphazard is anything less than God's appointed order,
and be ready to discover the Divine designs everywhere.

Day 107 What’s in YOUR forecast?

Over the weekend, I fulfilled my last LONG training run.  I awoke to cloudy skies and checked the hourly forecast.  At the time, there was a 55 percent chance of rain, but not a drop to be seen.  I waited until the chance of rain had dropped to 35 percent (still no rain) with the chance of precipitation dropping sharply in the next hour to only 10 percent.  It was 52 degrees, and for most of my run, the forecast was 60 degrees, partly sunny with only a 10 percent chance of rain.  I started my run wearing a tank top and long-sleeve dry-weave shirt, a little overkill for the temperature, but I could always take off the outer layer, if necessary.

Within the first mile, there were a few raindrops here and there, but nothing threatening.  By the time I reached the main part of the trail where there were stretches of marshland on both sides, I was far enough away from home that I was committed to putting this long run to rest.  About that time, the zero hour when rain was virtually out of the forecast, it began to rain.  Bill was with me, patiently riding his bike alongside, providing me with water, snickers, and laughter about the forecast.  Bless his heart.  I may be crazy to run in the rain, but it is a faithful man who rides along and encourages me.

Needless to say, those few raindrops turned into a steady rain for the duration of my three and a half hour run.  The weatherman missed this one for sure.  The temperature plummeted into the 40s, winds increased to 20 miles per hour, and puddles formed on the trail. 

There are times in life like that when we are quite simply caught in the rain, nothing in the forecast, and certainly not in our plans for sure.  But we can be assured that even in the rainy times God is working in ways that we cannot see and sometimes, I think, especially in ways we cannot see.  We can always be assured of His love, mercy and righteousness.  No matter the forecast, no matter the “weather” around us.

For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD,

plans for welfare and not for evil,

to give you a future and a hope.

                     Jeremiah 29.11

Monday, November 8, 2010

Day 100 What does that look like?

When the girls were in early elementary school, their classrooms often had “day 100” celebrations.  The girls would have to bring in “one hundred” of something to school, just to give them a visual picture of what a hundred was.   And they would make creative pieces of artwork (to bring home) that usually displayed one hundred Cheerios glued to a piece of construction paper, usually rumpled, a few Cheerios short of a hundred, by the time they got off the bus.  But it would be proudly exhibited on the door of the fridge for days, until the magnets would slip and the artwork was in reach of our dog to grab a quick snack. (“You’re throwing it away?!?” the girls would cry out).

Needless to say, one hundred is a lot of anything – except for maybe Facebook “friends” who don’t really count.  How many pieces of your children’s Halloween candy did you eat?  How many socks without mates are in your collective drawers?  How many chores are waiting to be noticed?  One hundred can be overwhelming.

But one hundred can also be a good thing.  You don’t start at a hundred.  You count up one day at a time, each day building on the day before.  And suddenly, Day 100.  You can’t do something for 100 days and it not make a difference in your life…and in the lives of those around you. 

So teach us to number our days

   that we may get a heart of wisdom.

                              Psalm 90.12

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Day 99 How far did you turn back the clock?

The “time change” is never a welcome event in our household, because suddenly it is DARK way too early.  It always takes me by surprise, like my afternoon ran out of daylight.

But this morning as I awoke, realizing that the time on my watch was not the “real” time, I thought about turning back the clock.  How far back do you want to turn it?  Back to high school?  College?  Five years ago?   Even ten years ago, I would never have even thought about running a marathon.  “I could never do that,” I remember telling people.  Indeed, at the time, I could barely make it to the end of my block without having to walk.  Sometimes we are surprised by looking back. 

And sometimes it fills us with regret for how we would have done things differently.  But this I do know, we cannot dwell there.  We can’t turn back the clock in life, but we can live the days ahead with a different heart.

…but one thing I do,

forgetting what lies behind

and straining forward to what lies ahead.

I press on toward the goal for the prize

of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

                     Philippians 3. 13-14

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Day 98 Four Weeks From Today

Four weeks from today is the St. Jude’s Memphis marathon.  I ran through brisk air this morning, knowing this journey is almost over.  The trees today stood stark against the deep blue sky.  When I started training for this marathon, it was summer.  I ran under the sweaty summer sun, and then falling golden leaves, and training in Chicago, it is likely that I will see snow before I stand at the starting line in Memphis.  Four weeks.  And I wonder, even now, what is on the other side of the finish line.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Day 97 Deflated Fear

I have been amused this week in the aftermath of Halloween.  On my daily trek, I am running past the rather tattered and pathetic remains of Halloween decorations, polyester spider webs still clinging to bushes and an occasional plastic skeleton half-buried in the lawn.  One of our neighbors down the street last week displayed a rather large inflatable ghost menacing in their front yard which moved spookily in the breeze.  Be afraid, it seemed to whisper.  But this week, it remains slumped and deflated on the ground, a thin piece of material gathering leaves, frightening no one at all.

Oh, those gigantic fears we harbor that loom so frightfully when the light is dim and we are easily spooked.

And then to see them in the daylight, we realize them for what they are, deflated and ridiculous.

I sought the LORD, and He answered me,

    and delivered me from all my fears.

                                              Psalm 34.4

(both real and imagined)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Day 96 Just being done is not the point

When you are working toward something, as I am pursuing this marathon, as a good friend is struggling through cancer, as many friends with their children, as some are in their work or their schooling or looking for a job, just being done is not the main point.   We live in a society that wants to finish, check it off, and have it neatly wrapped up in sixty minutes or less.  But I find that I need to keep my eyes on more than the finish line.  I need not strive for the end so fast.  Because I know that there is a lot more at stake here.  I don’t want to miss the story that gets me there, the people I will meet on the way, the grace that I will learn, and that which may hold the most significance.

I read a newsletter today from friends of ours who are missionaries in Bogota, Colombia.   On many days, God puts people on their path that they didn’t expect.  The other day, it happened again.  “It wasn’t what we had planned for the afternoon, but it was what God had planned for us,”  they wrote.

Every morning, it is not a matter of  laying our days before the LORD to see how He can fit in.  But being sensitive to God laying His day before us to follow Him into it. 

I am ready to finish this marathon.  But I don’t want to miss what God has in store on the way there.  It might not even be about the race.  Actually, it probably isn’t.


For My thoughts are not your thoughts,

    neither are your ways My ways, says the LORD.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

   so are My ways higher than your ways

   and My thoughts than your thoughts.

                              Isaiah 55. 8-9

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 93 Yea, I’m still running

So much for a daily blog on running the marathon.  I am still training, but I have not been faithful in blogging.  And quite frankly, there have been many days when I have wondered about my sanity.  And thinking about what my daughter Laura recommends, “Time for a new hobby.”  I thought a lot about that last weekend when I had to run 20 miles by myself and all but one water fountain on the path had been turned off for the season.  “Keep going,” I told myself at several points.  “You can finish this.”  It made me think about so many times in life when God has stretched me beyond what I thought I was capable.  When the girls were so little, there were so many cries in the night when I didn’t think that I had the energy to get out of bed one more time.  But I did.  Somehow God provides the strength to get through.  We’ve ALL been there.

And I realize that the hard part about the marathon is not the marathon itself, but the long and lonely miles of training when you are by yourself and the road seems endless.  You will make it.  And so will I. 

The miles may be long and hard, but there is blue sky and golden arches of trees and a hot shower waiting for me at the end.  God is good.  May I never forget that.

But this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,

His mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

            great is Your faithfulness.

                 Lamentations 3. 21-23

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day 86 A Balmy 36 Degrees

We have been enjoying quite a bit of unseasonably warm weather here in Chicago for September and October -- what we used to call “Indian summer” when I was a little girl.  So one morning last week when it was 36 degrees as I headed out to run, it took me by surprise.  I tried to wiggle my schedule around to avoid running in the cold morning air, but it was a packed day.  I dreaded going out.  I donned two shirts, my capri running pants, pulled my cuffs over my hands, and ….ooohhh, it wasn’t so bad.  The sun was shining, the sky was blue as the sea, I saw a little girl with fuzzy tights walking with her mom, the sidewalks covered in gold leaves… what exactly was I dreading?  It was a glorious morning.  And I almost missed it.

And it made me wonder how many other things I miss because it MIGHT be uncomfortable or inconvenient or something I have never done before. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 74 Into The Miry Bog

Bill and I were hiking yesterday on a trail that basically led nowhere, at least that is how it appeared on the map. As we hiked, I realized that the path was fairly free of rocks and roots, and so, we began to run the trail. Now, many of you may recall that last time I ran on a trail, I nearly fell off the side of a mountain. (Different story for a different time). But this trail was fairly flat...and kind of boring actually, so a run was in order. Soon we came to a place where we had to skirt around some mud. Then a hundred yards further, a larger accumulation of mud. And then, a half dozen streams and more mud. "It is," I cried out, "the MIRY BOG!"
We had three choices: stop and turn around, stand on the edge of the mud and complain, or run through it.
We all have miry bogs in our lives. All of us. We have all been there, we will all be there again.
Run through it, my friend. It will get you to the other side a lot faster. And leave it behind. Run before it can suck you into a chorus of "woe is me." Bogs are known to do that.
And even if the trail appears to lead nowhere as ours did, remember that your experience is "not for nought," as my grandmother would say. Sometimes it is just part of His training program. And you can never really know how He will use it in your life ... or for someone else.
I waited patiently for the LORD;
He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD.
Psalm 40. 1-3

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Day 73 Fringe Benefits

Last night I thought that the marathon for me was over. My beloved husband of thirty years and I went out to dinner to celebrate our anniversary. It was a small restaurant, off the beaten path. We hadn't been there before and didn't know what to expect. There were just a few tables scattered around a fireplace. The room was quiet and warm. Our server, Pete, also labored part-time as a woodworker apprentice, making furniture. The menu only had a few selections, based on regional southern dishes. Bill ordered a salad that boasted fried green tomatoes and bacon vinagrette. Mine had chunks of sharp cheddar and smoky morsels of thick sliced bacon. We both ordered trout, dusted, grilled and laid on a bed of shrimp and coursely ground grits that had been simmered and bathed in butter and cream. At one point, I turned to Bill and asked him if it would be impolite to lick the plate. The flavors were at addiction level. For dessert, Bill had a new spin on southern bread pudding, one made of rich chocolate cake and pecan bread, accompanied by coffee ice cream drizzled with a bitter chocolate sauce. I had a bowl of honey-based ice cream mixed with sunflower seeds, Marcona almonds, and dried cranberries, decorated on top with freshly candied pecans. When the meal came to a reluctant end, I first questioned how in the world I could ever run again as stuffed as I was. And then I questioned how I was going to even walk to the parking lot. Wheelchair, anyone?
In high school, our daughter Kate used to say, "Run seven miles a day and eat whatever you want."
Well, yesterday I did.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Day 10957 The Best Run Ever

Today I celebrate the best run ever with my best friend, my beloved, my husband.  We have been married for 10,957 days, and today commemorate our 30th anniversary.  God led us together and continues to lead us on the wild adventures of life.  Nobody I would rather be running through life with.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Day 67 Wonders

There was a tree today when I was running on College Avenue that blazed so brilliantly it looked like it was on fire.  Set against a crystal blue sky, I felt like I was breathing in beauty beyond words.  And the trees have only just begun to change.  I am thankful that not only did God create beauty, He also gave us the ability to appreciate it.  Man is the only creature who stands amazed at natural beauty.  Not once did I ever catch our dog Jack gazing at the beauty of a sunset.

I was a bit amused this week with the news that scientists are celebrating their discovery of 200 new species in a remote mountainous region in Papua New Guinea, things that they didn’t know existed.  If science indeed alone has the answers, there is an awful lot that they don’t know.  And it is important to note that these are “discoveries,” a deeper revealing of the Creation, not the invention of human hands or produced by the philosophies of man.    I celebrate too, because nature is one of the ways that God has revealed Himself and His handiwork, constantly unveiling evidence that He is real.  Is there any wonder why we stand in awe of what only He can do?

So, with every handpainted tree, wonder away, stand amazed at the beauty of creation, and praise God from Whom all blessings flow.

Out of the perfection of beauty,

God shines forth.  Psalm 50.1

The heavens are telling the glory of God,

and the firmament proclaims His handiwork.

                              Psalm 19.1

Monday, October 4, 2010

Day 65 Heading back home

Saturday was a momentous day.  It marked the halfway point on the marathon training schedule.  Sixty-three days done, sixty-three days to go.  Or in bigger bites, nine weeks down, nine to go.  Ok, your reaction probably indicates whether you are a half-full or a half-empty kind of person.  “ONLY half done??!?  Seems like it has already been forever.”  I tend to view it from a runner’s pair of shoes.  In an out-and-back course, halfway means that you have turned around and are heading back home.  Yay!

There are a lot of things in life where we have no idea how far we are from the finish line.  But we can all know that in the long run of life, we are always headed back Home.  It just takes some of us longer to get there.  So run strong, my friends, in what ever you do with all excellence, living in grace, truth, and the joy of the LORD.

…but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 3.13

Friday, October 1, 2010

Day 62 Perfect Timing

I had a hard time getting out of the house for my run this morning.  You know how it goes.  One more email to read.  Put away the laundry (so I can find my favorite running shirt).  I really should finish the dishes before I head out.  I forgot my key and then had to come back inside.  And when I did, the phone rang and it was Hannah who was on her way to class.  Finally, I locked the door, set my watch, walked to the end of the driveway, and decided on my route.  There were points when I had to wait for cars to pass when crossing the road.  And of course, there was a long freight train where I needed to cross the tracks.  I went on to the next intersection to scoot across.  I planned to take a big loop around and stop at Beth’s for a drink and a Maggie hug on my way back.  As I approached a major road crossing, I missed the light by about two seconds.  I looked down to stop my watch, and when I looked up, there was Beth driving by.  We both had looks of surprise on our faces.  We could not have planned it with such precision. 

The timing was beyond our own.  And that is how I want to live my life, not by my watch but by His.

My times are in Your hands.  Psalm 31.15

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 61 Endless

I ran long yesterday, too long to think too much about it before I began, measuring it out not in terms of miles but in landmarks, in sections, by snickers, and by where to get water.  Sometimes you just have to tie your shoes, start your watch, and plunge forward.  The road seemed endless, but it wove through the wonders of God’s handiwork.  I stand awestruck, continually amazed by the beauty, even on a foggy morning, even in the perfectly symmetrical  spider webs clinging to the barbed wire fences glistening with dew in the early morning light.  Beams of sunlight like spotlights penetrated the canopy of trees and reminded me that even in the darkest, densest turmoil of your life, God’s light will search you out.  There is nothing too deep.

I was breathing heavy up one of the steepest slopes on the road, gravity unrelenting, my energy flagging, my doubts about this running quest were rising, when I glanced into the dense brush surrounding me, and there quietly, silently gazing at me was a deer, just watching with its enormous eyes, as if he had been there all along, his invisible presence surprising me and prompting me to keep going.  The deer reminded me that God is here.  He has been here all along, silently waiting for me to look up from my drudgery and recognize Him.  I just wasn’t looking.  How much have I missed?  How often do I think that I am all alone in this?  His Presence makes all the difference.  His Presence changes everything.

I finished with tired legs and a deep thirst.  It was not just a run.  It is hardly ever just a run.

(written in my journal September 5)

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 60 Back Off!

Last Saturday, I tucked two baby snickers in my pocket and headed out on a long, long run.  My beloved husband was going to follow along later on his bike for conversation and passing me an occasional water bottle.  As I headed down our street, barely two blocks from home, I first felt a twinge in my knee and then a block or two more, a sharper pain.  At this point, I knew that I was toast.  I pushed it for a couple more blocks and then realized there was no way I was even going to reach the next intersection.  Game over.  I began walking back, thinking that my running career was over.  I stopped and stretched a couple of times, and before I could reach home, my knee loosened up.  I turned around and began running again.  Just a fluke, I thought.

It is amazing how God has designed the human body.  When something is wrong, a warning system kicks into gear.  That warning system is called “pain.”  And the prescription for most athletes is to “back off.”  That evening and the next day, my knee hurt, and my hamstring was tight and tender.  I began Vitamin I therapy (Ibruprophen), iced my leg, added a couple of rest days, and then just jogged a short distance the past couple of days.  I didn’t have to quit completely, I just needed to back off a bit. 

And sometimes I just need to be aware that I am not running in life on my own energy either.  I need to back off and acknowledge Who keeps me going.

Blessed be the LORD

Who daily bears us up.

             Psalm 68.19

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 53 Cross the tracks now!

One of the best places to run around here is the Prairie Path, the very first rails-to-trails network in the nation, established in the mid-1960s, way before its time.  The path runs alongside the tracks of a commuter and freight train line out from the city to the west.  I have learned in our short while here, that when you have the opportunity to cross the tracks to get to the side you want to end up on, cross the tracks now.  The commuter trains are not so bad, but the freight trains last longer than a day at a swim meet (forever!).   And when encountering two freight trains going in opposite directions, one after another, you could finish reading (or writing) a short novel, waiting for them to clear the tracks.

This morning, the tracks were clear and I almost went on to the next intersection, but I crossed the tracks anyway.  Just as I passed over, the bells began to ring and the gates came down.  I was so glad I crossed when I did.  There was a freight train, long and slow.

It made me think of the countless times when I have put things off…oh, I can do that in a minute (or tomorrow).  And in that blink of time, the opportunity passes.  And I am stuck literally on the wrong side of the tracks.  I used to tell the girls, “There are many times that I have regretted not doing something ahead of time, but I’ve never regretted going ahead and doing it.” 

Pray for guidance.  Let God lay His day before you.  And follow Him into it.

He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry, when He hears it, He will answer you…And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.   Isaiah 30. 19, 21

Day 52 Last First Day

Twenty-three years ago this month, our first daughter began kindergarten.  Today, Tuesday, September 21, commences the last quarter of college for our youngest.  In keeping with family tradition, Hannah surprised me with a picture text this morning “Last first day of school.”  Whoa.  There may be additional schooling down the road, indeed, Laura begins graduate school this Friday, but the kindergarten to college marathon for our family is almost history.

It was the best marathon ever.  There were long stretches of hard pavement, hills, unpredicted turns, blisters and a few rest stops on the way.  There were a lot of brown bag school lunches, late homework nights, getting up ridiculously early (what school administrator thought up calculus at 7.15 in the morning?), and just missing the bus.  And throw in eight major moves, including three while the girls were in high school.  But it also meant cross country spaghetti dinners, Young Life in the basement, last minute sleepovers, prom hair headquarters in the master bathroom, camping with the family, and all the happy craziness of raising four daughters.  Yes, and as in marathon training there were many times that I asked, “What in the world am I doing?”  But I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

Today was the last first day. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 51 Didn’t see it comin’

On Saturday, I was scheduled to run 16 miles, which was my longest yet.  The training program is designed to push you just a little bit further each week.  I marked out the distance on the computer, noting that there were several drinking fountains on the way.  I shoved two baby snickers into the teeny tiny pocket of my running shorts, kissed my husband as he left for his office, and headed out.  It was a down and out course, meaning that I ran eight miles out and then turned around.  There were not as many runners on the path as I would have expected since the Chicago Marathon is coming up in just a few weeks.

And then when I reached the turnaround point, I realized why there were so few people enjoying the morning.  I felt a few raindrops, and then I looked up into the sky.  There was a thick black line moving towards me, and I was headed right into it.  Just maybe they are only heavy clouds, I tried to delude myself.  The wind picked up.  It started raining harder.  I gulped down my last snickers and jammed my ipod into that teeny tiny pocket with the hope that it wouldn’t fry by getting wet.  And the deluge began.  I had no choice.  I was seven and a half miles from home, and it was pouring.  I ran.  And yes, I thought, what in the world was I thinking when I signed up for this?  It rained hard for six miles.  I was soaked.  And now, two days later, my shoes are still damp.  But I ran.  And maybe next week, it won’t be so hard.

Throughout Scripture, God reveals His deliverance.  But He also reveals His strength.  Sometimes He will deliver you by pulling you right out of a situation, often just in the nick of time.  But sometimes it is in His plan for us to learn of His strength.  It is when we are in the deepest places that we realize the difference that God makes in our lives.  It is His strength that brings me through, not mine.   And as Stephen Curtis Chapman says in his song, “He is God, and I am not.”  Fear blinds us to the reality of God.  And where my dependence on God ends, the beginning of my fear begins.  He is there, even in midst of the storm.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea.  Psalm 46. 1-2

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Day 45 I Can Do Today

One day last week I was totally overwhelmed by the ENORMITY of training for this marathon.  Yes, I know that I can run it, because I have run it before.  But I also know what has yet to come and what must be done before it comes.  It is going to get worse before it gets better.  I am right on the edge of some really steep increases in mileage.  I can feel anxiety breathing down my neck and whispering fear into my ears.  But God reminds me of His words repeated over and over and over again in Scripture, “Do not be afraid.”  Just do what I need to do today.  Look at the schedule and don’t fret about what comes tomorrow or at the end of the week.  Do what you need to do today.

I can do that.  Sometimes I have to reach down deep to find the courage to even step outside the door or talk myself into going “one more block” until I get the long run done.  But I can do today.  Sometimes even tomorrow is too heavy to think about.  It will have to wait.  And instead, I focus on my daily bread.  That is what is on my plate today.  God gives the strength to do it even when, whoa, that road is a long one.  And I realize once again that the marathon is not about the race, but what leads up to it.

Take courage, sweet friends, because I know that some of you are going through things in life that would make a marathon look like a walk in the park.  

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3. 21-23

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Cast in a Different Light

When God is the Light by which we see,

           how do we view the world differently?




             Or divine appointment?

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

95 days to go and counting

I ran my furthest yet last Saturday for my long run.  I charted out the distance on  I ate breakfast, stretched, and took off while it was still early and I was still too drowsy to think about what was ahead.  The first half went well.  And about when I reached the halfway point, my throat parched and my legs beginning to drag, my beloved husband showed up on his bicycle with water and Snickers.  Just in the nick of time.  And while the water and Snickers revived my body, his presence and encouragement fueled my heart.

On the same run, on the way back, I passed through a park, the trail was lined with stately trees, providing welcoming shade and making me feel like I was running through a painting by Monet.  The sky shouted blue, and the trees seemed to shout for joy.  As I passed through this segment, now for the second time, I realized that someone a very long time ago planted these trees in this park, leaving behind a legacy that he or she would never see.  I could enjoy this beauty because someone was intentional about what they would leave to the generations to come.

Some days when you run, you think.  Some days you just go the distance.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Day 26 Just 99 days left!

On my training schedule, today is listed as a “rest day.”

Actually, my “rest days” would be more appropriately called “catch up days,” because I end up packing in everything, an effort that I should call “no task left behind.”  By the end of a “rest day,” I am ready to go back to marathon training.  It is a lot easier.

Today I am “comforted” that there are ONLY 99 days of training left until the marathon.  It is kind of like the Christmas decorations that I began to see in the stores this August.  In some ways, it makes me think, “oh, you have plenty of time to train.”  And in another urgent way, “oh, I have a lot of miles yet to cover.”  The paths near our house right now are stampeded each weekend with runners training for the Chicago marathon, now just about 6 weeks away.  They are in the midst of their hardest part of training.  I saw TRUE LOVE spelled out in capital letters last weekend when I met on the path a man named Mario who was running SIXTEEN miles that day with his wife Paula who was training for Chicago, her very first marathon.  I am sure that there were a lot of things that Mario would rather be doing, but there he was at his wife’s side, running at a pace that was not his own, and sweating it out for his beloved.  It still makes me smile.

Doesn’t matter? Think Again

I received yesterday what I call “a whoppin’ from the LORD.”  I was about to send a friend an encouragement by email and let her know that I am praying for her.  And I hesitated.  One part of me said, “Send.”   But another part (where did it come from?) said, “Don’t be annoying.”  And I hesitated.  I really absolutely don’t want to be an annoyance in someone’s life.  And so I hesitated again.  But after a few minutes of tug-of-war, I sent the email anyway.

Later in the day, I received an email from that very friend.   She thanked me because as it turned out, she was right in the midst of a precarious and delicate situation.  No details, just pray, please.  And she had even forwarded my verse of encouragement to others who were involved.

I am so ashamed to have thought that it didn’t matter.  Think again.

When Bill’s grandmother passed away suddenly quite a few years ago, we helped Bill’s folks clear out her apartment.  In the process, I found a dresser drawer FULL of cards, some Hallmark greetings for literally decades of birthdays, Easter, Thanksgiving, and a hand-drawn Valentine that the month before she died our almost-two year old daughter had made for her.  As I cleared out the drawer, I was reminded how many times I didn’t think it mattered whether we sent a card or not.  But it did.  She had kept every one of them.

So if the Spirit prompts you…KNOW that it matters.  It matters a lot.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.  Proverbs 3.27

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Day 19 Breathless

I seek things of comfort and order

        no change to disrupt what I want,

and God reminds me,

                             Where is the story in that?

It is He who girds and guides.

I cannot be silent

   for the amazement He brings


things that make me hold my breath,

things I would never even think to do

              and yet live to tell about it.


On the running front, it is my midweek day of rest, time to enjoy the still waters and green pastures, and go hard after the weeds in the flowerbeds.

Day 18 She Went Fast

Today while getting in line at the library, I came in on a conversation already in progress between a gentleman and the librarian at the circulation desk.  “She went really fast,” the man said.

I’ve been reading about speedwork in the Marathon book, and so, my first thought was running.  And then he said, “I hope that I go that way too.”  Oops.

I need to get out more.

Today I ran a slow warmup, then a fast spurt on a shaded trail, and followed it up with a slow cooldown on the way home.

I liked the last segment the best of all.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Day 17 The need for speed

There was never in my life the need for speed.  Because growing up, sports were not offered for young ladies.  The state of Illinois prohibited in those days any intramural sports for girls.  And if a girl wanted to participate in sports, well, there was water ballet.  The Dark Ages?  Just remember that the women’s Olympic marathon did not even exist until the summer our second daughter was born in 1984.

So to be a fast runner, well, there wasn’t any need.  And actually there wasn’t any ability either when it came down to it.  Speed was left out when it came to my DNA.  I can go forever, but there is no swoosh.  It just isn’t there.  As I made my way to the Wheaton College track today to run a few laps, I thought about the first time I ever ran a race.  Ever.  It was 1980.  A business colleague of Bill’s had invited us to run a 10k road race and have brunch afterwards with a few friends.  Sounds like fun, said my newly married husband.  I am not sure that I responded at all.  I was, quite frankly, terrified.  There were no 5k (3.1 mile) races back then.  So we are talking 6.2 miles.  I was afraid that I would be going so slow that before I could finish they would have put away the orange cones that mark the course and I would be totally lost and miss the celebratory brunch.  Needless to say, I thought I was doing ok for myself until I was passed by both a six year old boy and a man who appeared to be about 80. 

And I believe that as they passed, they swooshed.

At the track this morning, two girls were lounging on the in-field.  An older man was running up and down the bleachers.  A young man wearing a tennis t-shirt ran incredibly fast and didn’t even break a sweat.  And there was a youngish woman casually jogging along in front of me….whom I never caught up to.

And no one cared at all that I did not swoosh.  Just dancin’ to my own beat.  And that’s ok too.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Day 16 Just Because

Last night, cool breezes pushed back the heat and humidity, and we awoke to a beautiful blue day.  I took advantage of a trip again to Evanston and ran along the lake.  Last week, there was a day on that trail that the greyness of the sky and lake so blended together that there was no distinction between the two.   It appeared that a boat was cutting across the sky.  Today, the sky was the bluest of blues, and the lake was iced in silver.  “This is the day that the LORD has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  (Psalm 118.24)  It was THAT good.

Even if I wasn’t training, I would have run today.  Just because days like this should NEVER be wasted. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Day 15 Did you win?

I am currently reading a birthday present from Kate and Justin who sent me an autographed copy of Hal Higdon’s book Marathon.  After having run 111 marathons and training a countless number of people to cross the finish line, Higdon has some great advice and amusing anecdotes about running.  In one of his stories, he tells about a young dad so excited about finishing his first marathon.  The first thing his son wanted to know, “Well, Dad, did you win?”  The Dad said something about finishing the race, but his son kept asking if he won.  Eventually, the Dad nodded and said, “You know, son, I did.”

This morning, I read these verses:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, be we an imperishable.   1 Corinthians 9. 24-25

Run strong, my friends.

Day 14 A sweet gift

Today, the 14th day of training, was a long run.  But it was a fun one this week, because my daughter Laura  gave up her Saturday morning to sweat through the miles with me, battle the ambush of mosquitoes on the trail, and share a snickers.  It was a sweet gift.  And one very appreciated.  You know you rock those babies and tie little shoes and pray your way through the years.  And this morning was frosting on the cake, just spending time with an amazing daughter.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Day 13 The Soundtrack of Your Life

Today I ran with friends:  Michael, Ken, Chris, and Bebo among others. I hadn’t run with my ipod in a very long time, and it was a treat to bring the music along.   I like to shuffle the playlist, so I never know who is around the next corner.  Old “friends” or…well, skip that one. 

I grew up surrounded by music, thanks to my mother and grandmother.   I woke up in the mornings to the sound of my mom practicing or one of her violin students screeching out their exercises.  Mom had music playing constantly, mostly classical in the background, but particularly around Christmastime when our church performed Handel’s Messiah.  I can remember my baby brother when he was six or seven years old, sitting on the first row of the church balcony with the score of the Messiah in his lap and instructions not to move during the rehearsals. 

How powerful is music?  All those notes and lyrics are written in indelible Magic Marker in your brain.  No joke.  I haven’t heard California Dreamin’ in probably 45 years, but I could probably sing every word if it came on the radio.  “Be careful little ears what you hear,” because it is there forever.  (Ever get a really stupid song stuck in your head?)

So, I listen to a lot of praise music when I run.  It focuses my mind on Whose day it is and Who is in charge and on Whose grace I depend.  And that in itself is a great soundtrack to start the day.  “Sing to Him a new song…” (Psalm 33.3)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Day 12 And on the Seventh Day

Last week, I was annoyed by the scheduled rest day.

This week, it couldn’t come fast enough.

Day 11 Terms of Endurance

A couple of days ago, I broke in a pair of new running shoes.   I am always surprised at the difference it makes.  And always shocked by how dead the old shoes now feel.

I learned the hard way about needing to replace running shoes.  A few years ago, I ran all winter and spring in a pair of already old shoes.  I didn’t feel the need to buy any new ones.  But quite suddenly, my heel began to hurt, tolerable at first, but then consistently, particularly when I got out of bed in the morning, and then more and more throughout the day as the weeks wore on.  My stubbornness pushed me into trouble again.  I ended up with Plantar Fasciitis – which sounds a bit like the bubonic plague – but is actually more like a bone spur.  It was the result of wearing old shoes which had the life pounded out of them.  I could not run at all that summer.  When it comes down to it, running shoes are only one of two necessary expenses you have in order to run.  And while the average American woman has about 25 pairs of shoes (no joke), when she starts running, she digs out a pair of athletic shoes she bought a hundred years ago when her first child was born and now uses for mowing the lawn.  So, if you are running at all, invest in a pair of good shoes.  It will keep you from becoming roadkill.  And it will cost you less than a trip to the doctor for an injury. 

The other necessary expense?  Well, Target had the little Snickers on sale this week :)

Needless to say, I am ready to run.

That summer I missed running, by the way, I exercised by riding my bike alongside Laura while she ran.  We had a nice shady path that we liked near the Chik Fil A restaurant, one of the places of worship in Memphis.  The trail ran alongside the Wolf River in a nature preserve.  Crossing over a small wooden bridge, we noticed day after day, turtles sunning themselves below on a log in a small pond.  One day I got a little bit ahead of Laura and rode my bike down to the edge of the pond to view the turtles from a closer perspective.  WHAT??? I shouted.  Laura came running.  “What’s the matter, Mom?”  Those turtles which we had admired ALL summer were fake.  And even the log was painted concrete.   We still laugh about it.  So much for wildlife in Memphis!  Laughter too is a term of endurance in long distance runnng.  Test after test has proven that laughter either shrinks the miles or makes it seem like you run faster.  Guaranteed.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Day 10 Oh, The People You’ll Meet

I love watching people when I run.  The other day at a trailside park, I saw two women, one white and one black, sitting at a little table for two, each with a bottle of Coca Cola and a bagel in front of them.  They gave the appearance of two old friends meeting casually for a meal.  Until I realized that they looked homeless.

This afternoon, I observed a young mom in a park, feeding her twin babies who were sitting in a double stroller.  She gave one child a spoonful of something from a jar, and then when she turned to give the other child a bite, her slobbering bear of a dog licked the face of the first twin.  The baby let out a childish shriek of delight, although I don’t think the mom was amused.

I ran today on a familiar stretch of roadway near where Bill and I lived when we were first married and our oldest daughter Beth was born.  When we first moved there, we noticed a man running on a regular basis, holding high in the air, a transistor radio with its little antenna sticking up.   We saw the man running in the heat, in the rain, in sub-zero temperatures.   We were amazed.  We were amused.  And we began looking for him when we drove down that road.  We named him “radio man.”  And yes, my children, that was before there was such a thing as an ipod or a cd player or even a cassette walkman.  That was twenty-eight years ago, and I wonder if he is still out there, protecting his turf.  We never “met” radio man, but we knew him well.

I have had total strangers tell me the most intimate details of their marathon disasters and delights in the same way women I don’t even know tell me about the birthing of their children.  I have shouted out encouragements to others just as I have received the same.  

So tread carefully as you run with eyes open wide.  It is part of the training too, the people that God puts on your path every day.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Day 9 The Pirate’s Code

Both yesterday and today, I veered off the course of my training plan.  Both days called for three mile runs.  And both days, well, I couldn’t help myself.  Sunday afternoon was hot and muggy, and I felt more like a nap than a run.  But since it was a three-miler, I felt like that much I could do.  I just didn’t plan on getting caught on the wrong side of the tracks by a stalled freight train.  It was a long one, and it wasn’t going anywhere.  By the time I found a crossing where the train wasn’t and back home again, well, my run became more like four and a half miles. 

Today, I traveled to Evanston to pick up Hannah at her apartment and bring her back home for a family supper and three loads of her laundry.  One of my delights of the two-and-a-half hour round-trip is having the opportunity to run in Evanston along Lake Michigan.  As the weatherman always says, “it’s cooler by the lake,”  in more ways than one.  There is always a breeze along the lakeside path, and thereby the temperature is moderated, but it is, quite frankly, a much cooler place to run anyway you look at it.    It is a different world to me.  This afternoon, the early morning rain had cleared.  The sky was blue, boats sailed across the surface of the lake, and the waterfront park looked like a Seurat painting with people relaxing on benches and blankets and playing frisbee.  I ran through Northwestern’s campus, past old houses on Sheridan Road, and….well, time ran away with me.  Um, and as a result, I stretched my three mile run into five.  Oops.

Yes, I am following a Hal Higdon training plan, but as Captain Barbossa explained in Pirates of the Caribbean, the code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules.  

A pirate’s life for me!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Day 8 What is my gospel?

What do I talk about with people?  What am I passionate about?  What has changed my life?  Not running.

Running is not my gospel.  It is only a vehicle which God uses in my life.  A vehicle for His highest.  And may I never confuse the two.

A week ago on a long run, another runner came alongside.  I asked him a few questions like “how far are you going today?”  (13 miles) and “what are you training for?’ (the ‘Lakefront’ in October.  “Oh, is that a half-marathon?” I asked him.  “No, fifty miles.”  WHAT?!?!?!)   I asked him about the running group listed on his shirt.  He mentioned running with them last May in South Africa.  South Africa in the springtime?  “The Comrades?  You ran the Comrades marathon?”  The Comrades is a 56 mile race which goes uphill one year, and down the next.  Whoa.  He told me about his training for that one.  I mean, like how do you train hills where there are none?  When he said that he had been training 85 miles a week, I asked him if he worked.  Yes, he chuckled.  “Oh, what do you do?”  I asked him boldly.  He MUMBLED that he was a pastor.  “Oh, what church?”  He acted like he didn’t hear me.  I repeated it again.  Twice.  He finally told me.  I was literally pulling it out of him, asking him about his church.

It is easy to be critical.  I mean, he is a pastor, he should have been PREACHING the gospel to me.  And then, humble pie, God reminded me of how many times I have spoken so freely of running and not of Him.  These are divine encounters, strategically on the running paths of life.  Oh, “that my soul may praise You and not be silent.”(Psalm 30.12)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Day 7 If yesterday was a piece of cake, today was burnt toast

For all of the energy that I possessed during my long run yesterday, I felt drained this morning.  I was literally running on empty this morning.  I didn’t run;  I slugged.  More than that, I felt like a slug.  I was moving along so slow, that when I passed a young mom and her three-year-old son sitting on their porch, he asked her, “what is she doing?”  I guess he couldn’t tell. 

But something reminded me today of what all the training was about.  For on the road next to me flowed the peloton, a group of cyclists racing, a blur of bright colors, a swoosh as they passed me at lightning speed.  And in that group was my husband Bill.  He was racing bikes for the first time in fifteen years.  And having a very nice time, thank you. 

As I told my friend Aimee last year at the marathon starting line in Memphis, “This is the fun part.  The hard part is over.”  The hard part is the training, the long lonely miles in rain and heat when you can’t find a water fountain and the Snickers in your pocket has melted into syrup.  The hard part is when your feet hurt and your legs ache and you still have twelve miles left in your workout…and another workout scheduled for tomorrow.  The hard part is getting out there when it is dark and cold and you rather be in bed asleep.  The Memphis Marathon has bands playing and crowds cheering and water and Gatorade every mile and even an occasional Elvis.  And little St. Jude’s patients in their wheelchairs shouting and hollering for you as you pass the Target House because you are doing something they wished they could do.

And that kept me going today.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Day 6 Run Forrest Run

This morning was glorious.  It was cool and sunny and very Friday.  I was just supposed to do a mid-length segment today in dread of tomorrow’s weekly LONG grueling run, when I usually contemplate “what was I thinking?”   But today was different.  I had fresh legs from my running sabbath yesterday, the light breeze made it feel like I was running in air conditioning, and it appeared that all of creation – flowers, trees and sky – were competing for beauty.   I ran past the retention pond,  past the high school, and past the commuters at the train station.  I ran.  And I enjoyed it.  When I reached the spot on the trail alongside the railroad tracks where I was supposed to turn around, I pulled a Forrest Gump and kept on running.  I ran past the College Avenue train station, past Wheaton College, through downtown Wheaton, past the Wheaton train station, the apartment buildings, parking garage, and THEN I turned around.

When I got home, I marked down my long run for today.  Sometimes you just gotta run.

Day 5 A day of rest

Today I felt a bit like my ten-month old grandbaby when she really really doesn’t want to take a nap.  Today, on my training program, I was scheduled for a day of rest.  I feel like I just started training.  How can I rest?  I didn’t FEEL like resting.  It was the first day this week that 1) wasn’t raining, 2) the humidity was actually lower than 87 percent, and 3)I actually wanted to run.  But being the compliant child, I rested.

Now I am not under any kind of contract with the free online Hal Higdon training program, and I know that in the course of a week, I can be flexible with the schedule, but today I did not run.  And instead I unpacked boxes in the furnace closet in the basement, got nostalgic about the girls growing up so fast, and then wished that I had run instead. 

Day 4 Things I learned about running from my Mom who never ran

First of all let it be known that my mom was a little appalled that I took up running late in life.  Actually, she was very appalled that I took up at all.   At first, she kind of ignored it, like maybe I would see her wisdom and come around.  She was always afraid that women who did things like ride bikes got big leg calves….and then how could you wear cute boots in the winter.   Then, when it looked like I was sticking with running, she sent me encouraging articles from the newspaper that told about athletes especially runners who dropped dead in the middle of a race or even in practice.

I ran my first marathon when I turned fifty.  I called her afterwards.  “Mom, I just ran a marathon.”  She responded with something like, “Thank Goodness, you are still alive.  I am so glad that you didn’t get hurt.” 

If she were to see me today, seven years later, she would shake her head, and then remind me to at least “wear a hat to save your face from the sun.”  And she would tell me that if I wanted to get better, every day counts.  Mom was a professional violinist, and even as an adult, she practiced every day.  Consistency is the key.

Today, day 4, I ran a bit on the Wheaton College track.  The only people there were two men, an older gentleman who kept up a pretty good pace, and a middle-aged man who looked like he was going to die any minute.  But we were there.  And glad that it wasn’t still raining.  And it made me think that even when it feels like I am only going in circles, God may be equipping me for something else entirely.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Day 3 Running between the Rain Drops

I woke this morning to a huge clap of thunder and pounding rain.    It was not what I planned for today.  But I shifted to “plan B,” put on my running clothes and surged ahead with chores inside.  Within the hour, the rain had subsided.  And out I went, down the wet sidewalks, and around Lake Ellyn which was, of course, flooded again, the trees and park benches standing in the overflowing water like stubborn children.  As in life, every day of training is not going to be sunny and bright.  When it is raining, there are several options:  1) claim it as a “rest day,” 2) find a friend with a treadmill, 3) run in the rain, or 4) get ready and wait it out.   Quite frankly, with the 97 percent humidity this morning, it might as well have been raining.  My clothes were soaked anyway.

We live in a real world and even the best made schedule is not always going to work out.  Know your options for when you have sick kids, or it is outrageous weather, or you are called out of town on business.   Have your running clothes set out and ready, even in your car, if necessary.  (I had a friend who used to run around the field while her kids had soccer practice).  Make it work for you.  From now on, “flexibility” is your middle name.  Be ready to run when the opportunity presents itself.

And sometimes, you just run in the rain.  You are not the Wicked Witch of the West from the Wizard of Oz.  You will not melt.  Running in the rain just makes the good days even better.  And sometimes it is even fun. 

One year, the weekend before the marathon, I was scheduled for eight miles.  It was literally 36 degrees and pouring down rain, my worst fear for marathon day.  I was ready to pass on that one, but Bill encouraged me to get out there, “If you can run in this, you won’t be afraid of anything the marathon throws at you.”  I went.  It wasn’t my favorite run of all time, but he was right.  I was no longer afraid that it would rain on marathon day.  I knew now I could run anyway. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

Day 2 Second Day of School

The first day of training is like the first day  of school-- exciting as if the sky is blue and banners are waving in the breeze.

The second day is like getting hit by your first pop quiz in math class.  I woke up to the dawn today and realized that this morning was a hill workout.  Did I really already sign up for this race?  Or can I still get out of it?  Too late.  Take out your number 2 pencil.

I  scooted out the back door and down the driveway.  Within the first 1/4 block, the back of my right knee felt stiff.  “Oh, well, I guess I shouldn’t run today” was my first thought.  I stopped and stretched, ran slowly down the block, and the tightness was gone.  Bummer.  My excuse evaporated into the muggy air. 

There is a good hill down near Lake Ellyn, a glorified retention pond in town which floods every time it rains.  I ran up and down the hill three times, imagining the homeowners laughing behind the windows in their air-conditioned houses.   But I did it.  Humiliation is not a viable excuse.

I read about a runner once who said that when she first started running, she was so embarrassed for anyone to see her that when cars drove by, she would stop and pretend that she was looking at the flowers at the side of the road.  That woman was, by the way, Joan Benoit Samuelson, who eventually won the gold medal at the first women’s Olympic marathon in 1984 in Los Angeles.

“…let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us…”  Hebrews 12.1

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Day 1, just 125 to go

This morning in the early morning fog and humidity, the adventure began.

This morning I began 125 days of training for the St. Jude’s Marathon in Memphis on Saturday, December 4.  Eighteen weeks of hard pavement, sweat, blisters, and :) snickers.

A couple of years ago while training for my third marathon, in the throes of WHAT WAS I THINKING????, I told my friend Becky, “Don’t ever let me do this again.”  I finished that race, and well, sorry, Becky, pray for me ‘cause I signed up again.  Needless to say, this will be my fifth. 

I am old enough that I don’t run for the glory or bragging rights or medals.  I run because of health, pure and simple.  Running a marathon pushes my envelope physically and spiritually.  I love what I learn spiritually from running a marathon.  I love it physically because, well, it makes an ordinary day a piece of cake.  Running is not who I am.  Running is just something I do.

So join me as I chronicle my training, the things that I am learning, what I’m struggling with,  and when I fall (which I always do).  If you have no idea what is involved in training for a marathon, please feel free to read my real-life-stinky-shoe non-airbrushed account of what it is like.  Or feel free to join me running and share what YOU are learning too.  My friends Beth, Aimee  and Anna are training in Memphis.  My daughter Kat who is a medical resident at Vanderbilt University hospital also is training with a group of other Vanderbilt doctors in Nashville.  I will be running in Chicago with… my ipod.

“I could never do that,” I have heard A LOT of people say.  Well, it doesn’t start with 26.2 miles.  It starts with stepping out the front door, running a few blocks, adding a few more, and building up one mile at a time.

It started at 7.30 this morning.

Stay tuned.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Act your age!

I come from a long line of women who refused to act their age.  I have looked at pictures of my grandmother Mammy and realized that she did not have grey hair until she was in her 70s…..and she never dyed it.  Indeed, she envied women who, at that time, had blue hair from a bottle.  She was told at the age of 35 that she had rheumatoid arthritis and that she would soon be in a wheelchair.  I think that she might have spit on the doctor who told her that.  She hobbled around until the age of 81, working hard until just hours before her death.   I know how hard she worked.  She lived with us from before I was born.  I used to wake up in the middle of the night to the smell of brownies.  When she hurt bad enough not to sleep, she just got up and baked or sewed or sent out get-well cards to people who were sick.  “No sense just lying there,” she would say.  “I could be doing something.”  My mother said that when the paramedics came to take her to the hospital after her heart attack, she fought them off.  It was her 81st birthday, and she never did see the likes of a wheelchair.

My mother married late and did not have her first child until a couple days after she turned 32.  At that time, there were women at that age who were pretty close to becoming grandmothers.  She was always conscious of her age and kept it hidden under lock and key.  She decided in her late 30s that she would be better off being blond than grey, and so, she bleached her jet-black hair.  She was an ash-blond until just a year before she died at the age of 83.  She never used her senior-citizen card even in her late 70s, foregoing eligible discounts, because she didn’t want anyone to know how old she was.  She kept my grandmother’s old coats in her closet, you know the curly wool ones with the fur collars, for when she got old.  Needless to say, she gave them away to someone who needed them more. 

I took heart when I turned 40 and met my Kansas City neighbor’s mom, who at that time was, I guess, late 50s or early 60s.  She was a grandmother.  And she still wore blue jeans and Birkenstocks.  That encouraged me.  Old doesn’t have to be old.

So, here I am today, turning 57 years old.  At one point, a 57 year old grandmother sounded really really old.  But I read the other day that the oldest woman in the world right now is 114.  I am just to the halfway point.  My to-do list just keeps getting longer.  Family sweeter.  Friendships deeper.  And God even more amazing.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

When in the cellar, walk towards the light

When we lived in Cincinnati, we had a basement that was REALLY dark and, to complicate matters, the main light switch was at the top of the stairs.  All too often, someone on the first floor would switch off the basement lights, thinking that they had just been left on, when indeed, there was someone actually down there.   And then the person below would be PLUNGED into deep darkness. 


I told the girls that when that happened, don’t just stand there yelling for someone to turn on the lights.   Look for what light there is and “walk towards the light.”  That little teeny bit of light coming from the stairwell was where they could find their way out.


Most likely, someone today reading this blog has found themselves PLUNGED in a dark place.  There are deep shadows and scary places and you just know that you are no more than three inches from a large hairy spider.  Panic seeps into your pores.  Your first impulse is to let fear paralyze you and pull you under.  Don’t fool yourselves and be deceived into thinking that you are the only one who struggles with that “overwhelmy” feeling.  We have ALL been there, baby.  It is no coincidence that God’s Word is filled to the brim with references to light.  Because this darkness stuff is nothing new.   Indeed, I recently heard a pastor say that “fear not” appears 365 times in God’s Word, one for every day of the year.  You can sit there cross-legged in the gloom… or grab hold of God’s promises and walk towards the light.


How do you see differently by His light?  It is based not on circumstances, but on the reality of Who He is.  It is not just a temporary way out, but a way to live.  “Yea, You light my lamp; the LORD my God lightens my darkness.” (Psalm 18.28)   God will use it to guide you.  “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119.105)  Keep your eyes on Him.  Recite His Word.  Not to remind God of His promises and presence, but to remind us.  Sing Scripture verses, if necessary, OUTLOUD  in the face of the darkness and in the face of your worst enemies of fear and despair. 

“For we are powerless against this great multitude that is coming against us.  We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”  (2 Chronicles 20.12) 

Walk towards the light. 

Friday, July 23, 2010

What I learned about temptation from a Costco coupon

Last month, I received some Costco coupons in the mail.  I always glance through them to check out discounts on products that I buy there on a regular basis.  But this time, I hit the jackpot.  My eyes were drawn to a coupon for $2.50 off a bag of peanut M & Ms.  Now, of course, realize that this is the Costco-size bag of M & Ms which can feed several high school cross country teams and still have leftovers.  I read somewhere once that peanut M & Ms are the worst possible candy for you.  And of course, they are my favorite.


It was tempting, and I knew it.  Temptation?  I am not sure that there were peanut M & Ms in ancient Corinth, but the apostle Paul nailed it in no uncertain terms:  “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10.13)


Needless to say, I wasn’t looking for a way of escape.  It surprised me how quickly, from the very first moment, I was looking for a way to justify purchasing a bag.  “Justifying” is our way of concocting something to make it look right, especially when it isn’t.  When your brain goes into the justification search mode, you know that you are messin' with a bad dog.   What a great deal, I told myself, maybe even out loud.  I could buy them for Bill.   Did I really even think that?  I knew instantly that bird had no wings.  I could make my friend Becky’s Monster Cookies with them, which I have made maybe twice in the past six years.  They would be great for taking on hikes.  Everybody loves them.  Well, more specifically, I love them.  And since the bag is so enormous, who would know when a few here and there would disappear?  It is also always interesting to see when you are tempted, how many people cheer you on – mostly in an effort to justify their own indulgences.  A temptation always looks so good and always promises more than it can possibly deliver.  


I was not looking for a pass through the mountains.  I was ready to scale Everest.  Barefoot, if necessary.


So whether you are tempted by M & Ms, a movie that might not be good for you to watch, a pair of awesome shoes that you don’t need and can’t afford, a relationship that isn’t in your best interest,  we ALL have our soft spots and Satan knows exactly what they are.  Indeed, there are actually studies being done by researchers to identify exactly where in a store a consumer is most likely to buy chocolate.  I am not making this up.  You can probably find -- make that always find -- the means to justify your actions.  But that doesn’t make it right.  LOOK for the closest exit near you, as they say every time you board a plane.  Flee and don’t look back.  The way of escape is there – we just all too often look the other way.  “But my eyes are toward You, O LORD God, in You I seek refuge, leave me not defenseless!  Keep me from the trap which they have laid for me, and from the snares of evildoers!”  Psalm 141. 8-9


Eve didn’t have a Costco coupon for that apple.  It won’t matter, she said.  No one will know.  But oh, what a mess she left behind.  A temptation always does.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Not on the Map

There are times when the path is straight and obvious and paved with gold.  We witnessed that about a year ago when Bill’s job out of the blue was transferred – out of all the places on earth –to seven miles from where our first grandbaby Maggie would be born.  People who heard our story, even people we did not know, marveled and said, “Look at God’s hand in this.”  We rejoiced daily for the opportunity to live so close to three of our girls and our latest little sweetie pie.  Grandparenting has exceeded our expectations, and we looked forward to baking cookies, spontaneous visits to the zoo, and our time-honored family ritual of Saturday morning pancakes.  The puzzle piece fit perfectly into our desire to be an active part of our grandchildren’s lives.  We were ready to tack on this story, “And they lived happily ever after.”


There are times when the path is sweet and evident.  But there also are times when you just have to trust the LORD, hold onto Him with both hands, and KNOW that His hand is still upon you.  This is one of them.  Last week Beth and Gary’s house went on the market.  It’s official.  The sign is in the yard.  They are moving to Cleveland.  Gary has been blessed with a new position which will, so to speak, enlarge his tent.  We will go from seeing Maggie sometimes several times a day to now several times a year.  She will not live so close that I can stop by on a run or errands.  She will be six hours away on the interstate highway headed due East.


And still, God is in control.  When Beth and Gary first told us of their impending move, the thought crossed my mind, “I have seen too much to question God in this.”  There have been a lot of twists and turns on our path when we could not see what was coming.  This is another.  A couple of weeks ago, Bill and I were hiking a trail in the Smokies which turned out to be not what we expected.  According to the trailbook, it was a pleasant walk in the National Park, not too long, not too steep, with scenic stream crossings and groves of trees.  We forgot to bring our hiking poles, but that was ok, because about halfway into the hike, we realized that we needed a chainsaw instead.  It had been a hard winter, and there were trees and branches down across the trail, making it difficult to pass through, and in a few places, difficult to even see the trail at all.  It was not what we anticipated.  And yet, it was still a trail.   Sometimes you just have to hang in there.


And so, the adventure continues, not as we would have chosen from where we stand now, not as we expected, another path branching off from this one.  We rejoice in the seven months that we have lived close to Maggie, Beth and Gary.  We rejoice that Laura and Hannah are nearby.  And we rejoice because we know that God knows what He is doing…and we don’t.  We can’t see clearly the path that we are on…not any one of us.    And so, this posting is not a “Woe is me,” but “Whoa, God is God.”  He just has to remind us of that ever so often.  And that the story is not over yet.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On This Day

On this day, forty-one years ago, I was sitting in our linoleum-tiled basement watching television with my grandmother.  As we watched Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, she remarked, “And to think in my lifetime I went from covered wagon to seeing a man walking on the moon.”


I know that I have written about my grandmother before and this incident which still stands so fresh in my mind.  But this year, I viewed it for the first time from a different perspective.  Because this year, I am a grandmother.  And I wonder what Maggie will remember when she is my age, what Maggie will think outlandish (already she looks at the little corded toy telephone and wonders what the receiver is). and  I wonder what stories Maggie will tell to her grandchildren.


What stories are we leaving for those who come after us?  Funny incidents, family adventures, and, I hope, the stories of God’s faithfulness which we all experience.  Because, as our daughter Hannah said when she was nine, “every day is a story of God’s faithfulness.”  And those things are worth repeating.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

What Are You Training For?

This winter, I took it easy.  I had just finished a marathon in December, and I was not training for anything in particular, just running.  If it was cold, well, that was a good day to take off.  If it was raining, the same.  If I was busy, well, there just wasn’t time.  I ran, but not with any purpose in mind.


And then suddenly in early April, a running event arrived unexpectedly on my radar.  There was a scheduled last minute  race through Cades Cove, a loop that weaves its way through God’s splendor in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The road was being repaved for the first time in thirty years and not scheduled to open until the end of May.  When the contractors found that they were going to finish a month early, the National Park was allowing a one-time running race to be held on the loop, never again.  Now or never.  Cades Cove is my favorite running route ever.  And suddenly, I had the opportunity to race there in its sanctuary of trees.  I basically had less than three weeks to prepare.  I now regretted that I had lost my focus over the winter.  I really didn’t feel ready.


Too often, opportunity is thrust unexpectedly into our hands, and we are still in our pajamas, so to speak.


There are other times when we work hard at a task before us, and find out that we have been preparing for something entirely unintended.  But because we have done our homework, even without a specific goal in mind, we are ready and equipped.


Stay in God’s Word, pray without ceasing, work out your faith daily.  We don’t think of those things as training, per se.  But through those daily encounters, God will build your strength in Him for a time when you need it most, perhaps for a tough time that you just didn’t see coming down the pike… or an opportunity of a lifetime.   And you will already have your running shoes on, ready and waiting.