Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Schwimming and Berry Picking

Day Two summary of Camp Tilikum centered around swimming, or "schwimming" as Alli says. ( When she outgrows that pronunciation I just might cry.) Grant and Katie both chose to skip taking the swim test again to try for deep and instead chose to, as Grant said, "take advantage of the opportunity to swim while they had it." I nodded my head and agreed that was a good decision while I was inwardly giggling at his choice of ginormous words.

Alli monopolized the majority of the car ride home. As she matures, we've noticed a gentle tenderness to those who are hurting or suffering. As long as she didn't inflict the wound, she is all over ministering to those who are hurting. She said, "I tried again on the schwimming test to get a middle cause when I tried the fust time I only got a shallow. But I didn't pass again and I wasn't that disappointed. But my friend Bella tried to pass the schwimming test to the middle and she didn't pass and she was VERY (super emphatic here) disappointed. She was so mad she wouldn't even go schwimming in the shallow end. She just sat on the shore. So I sat with her and asked her if she was a Christian."

At this point I interrupted because I could not make the correlation from bringing comfort to grilling someone about their spiritual status. I asked Alli, "What does that mean to you, being a Christian and why did you ask Bella?"

She continued, "Well, I asked her if Jesus was in her howt - if she had told Him she was sorry for her skins, I mean sins, and asked Him to forgive her and be the leader of her life and live in her howt. Cause I wanted to suggest that we pray and ask Jesus to help her get a middle on the schwimming test tomorrow, but I wanted to make sure Jesus was in her howt first." Oh the beauty of child-like faith...

While the older kids were at camp, Paige and I made the best memories, well at least until I got my camera stolen. Berry farms are practically non-existent in the mid-west, but in Oregon there is an abundance. This was a fact that didn't go unnoticed by my mom when we first moved to Oregon the summer before my 5th grade year of school. Back in the day the farmers would hire anyone who wanted to work and pay them by the pound for the berries they picked. So can you guess what my brother and I did the first summer we lived here? Picked berries to earn money. Not that I don't appreciate the value of working hard that my parents instilled in me, but going berry picking is not my idea of a fun time after summers of doing it for a living.

Paige, on the other hand, as been badgering me to go berry picking. She brought it up several times last summer and then four times in 24 hours this week already, so I decided to do it. I scrapped my To Do list, including exercise, and off we went to find berry farms.

We went to a blueberry farm out past Champoeg called "Cora's Crop" named after their adorable 2-year-old daughter who was in the field. In less than 45 minutes, we picked 4 pounds and Paige picked over a pound by herself. She never even tried one berry until we'd paid for them and were in the car and then she ate almost a pint by herself. They are SOOOOO good!

Then we went to a different farm on the other side of Highway 219 to pick raspberries. The bushes were taller than me and Paige never complained about getting poked. She just picked, picked, picked. I kept asking her if she wanted to stop and she persistently said, "No. I'm picking raspberries." We picked for an hour, side by side, and mostly silently. It was a field on the honor system - weigh your own fruit, use their buckets and put your money in a plastic pencil box. We were the only people in the entire field. Paige would periodically break the silence and say, "This is so much fun Mommy. I love picking berries." We picked four pounds of raspberries and Paige picked an entire pound of it herself - of raspberries where you have to hunt to find the berries through the somewhat scratchy branches. I couldn't believe it. She said, "My back's all sweaty from being such a hard worker but isn't this fun Mommy?"

I told her she may have a future in farming and she smiled and said, "When I grow up I want to be a farm girl and grow berries to give to my animals. I know they'll like them cause I like berries. And I also want to be a cowgirl too." She chose her berry picking outfit and wore a brown t-shirt, very-short lime green shorts, and her hot pink cowboy boots. She looked so cute that I took three pictures - one of her smiling proudly at the berry field with the mountains in the background, one with the self-timer of Paige and I in the same spot, and one of her at the check-out table by the sign describing the honor system. I just LOVED every minute. It brought back great memories of my mom dragging us to the berry fields and brainwashing us with "Isn't this such fun family time?"

I'm sure you're wondering why those pictures aren't accompanying this post. Well thanks for asking. I set my camera down on the table to weigh our berries and put our cash in the plastic pencil box serving as the cash register and forgot to grab it before we headed home. When I went to upload those pictures two hours later, I realized my mistake and called the farmer but my camera was already gone. Our van got an unexpected cleaning while I turned it inside out looking, but it is nowhere to be found. In just a slight bit of exaggeration, I whined to Curt, "Me without a camera is like me without air to breathe." So I'm adding "buy a camera I don't have a budget for" to my list of things to do this week before our triathlon on Sunday and our family vacation next week. And that's all I have to say about that.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Day One of Camp Tilikum

Grant, Katie and Alli started a week of day camp at Camp Tilikum this morning. Alli was thrilled to be old enough to go this year and Paige and I were a bit dumbfounded to have the whole day to spend together, just the two of us. We've gotten used to having these school-aged hooligans around during the summer.

I probably won't write a summary every day but the car ride home this evening was just a riot. They each took turns sharing about their first day of camp and I took mental cliff notes to write them down. Here's a summary of what they said.

Alli (covered in dirt from head to toe)– “It was awesome!!!!!!! I loved it. I did the schwimming test and got a medium and a star for trying hard. And I made this craft. And we did trail time and watched skits and I ate my WHOLE lunch and my snack. I faked cried by the whining tree that I wanted to come home cause the day was getting long. I made two friends. One girl, named Aiden, was being mean to me. She was pushing me and punching me and throwing dirt on me and called me ‘stupid.’ So I said to her, ‘Aiden, may you please not push me and shove me and throw dirt on me?’ and then she stopped. And then I said, ‘Aiden, may you please tell me you’re sorry for calling me a bad word?’ And she said sorry and I forgave her and now we’re friends.” Coming from my Alli who usually returns a push with a punch, I was SUPER impressed with her peacemaking skills.

Grant’s favorite was canoeing and getting into splash wars with other canoes. He got a medium in the swim test and chose to kayak at swimming time because he couldn’t find a swimming buddy. He thought all the other activities were great and was happy to have Caleb (his friend) in his group. He kept remembering things he liked about his day after his sharing time was over and had a hard time containing himself and not interrupting the girls which I thought was really cute.

Kaitlin was thrilled to have Berrit (a friend from school) in her group. She passed into the medium part for the swim test and was super excited about that because last year she didn’t pass that part of the swim test. She got to go on the big swing today and apparently they had to scream like a girl, scream like a boy and scream out their favorite ice cream when they were on the swing. She enjoyed the skits and trail time and ate every last bite of the food she brought. She waited very patiently without interrupting almost the entire car ride home to get her chance to tell about her day. What a sweetie pie.

And that about covers Day One.

Immersed in the Living Water

Our church meets in two different locations over five services on Saturday and Sunday. Each gathering holds close to 1,000 adults plus a plethora of kids in the children’s programs. Yesterday we came together as one body of followers of Jesus in one ginormous gathering. We had to rent out the Hillsboro Stadium to fit us all in one place and the event was appropriately named ONE.

We gathered at 3:30 p.m. to play and play hard. There was a skate park, slip and slide, swimming pools, bouncy houses and relay games for the kids. At 4:30 p.m., we started to eat because no get-together is complete without food. There was a massive BBQ with all the fixings.

At 6 p.m. we gathered to worship together. Thousands of Jesus followers packed the stands that were blissfully shaded from the scorching sun. A beautiful breeze drifted back and forth across the field as we sang and worshipped God. 

Our pastor took the passage from John 7 where Jesus claims to be Living Water and broke it down explaining what Jesus meant when He made such a bold statement. He even used audience members to re-enact a part of the Festival of the Tabernacles. Once we knew the historical and cultural background, the passage came alive.

At the end of the gathering two swimming pools were opened for people who wanted to be baptized. Curt and I had the privilege of praying with people who wanted to follow Jesus’ example by proclaiming their faith in Him through baptism. 

It was such a blessing to see the passion these people had for Jesus. Urban, hip college-age boys crying crocodile tears of gratitude, cute teenage girls in their adorable outfits dripping wet, makeup smeared, older men breaking down over strongholds that have been broken as a result of following Jesus. My friend Britta was watching our kids so we could be a part of this and at one point they rushed the field. “We want to get baptized too. Can we get baptized?” We said no because we wanted to talk with them first to make sure they understood and to do it under less chaotic circumstances.

This morning I asked them what baptism meant to them and was so touched by the elements of truth and wonder woven through their answers. Grant (9 years) said, “Water is the only thing that makes you clean. When you get baptized, you immerse yourself in the Living Water to become clean.” Katie (8 years) said, “It’s a way to worship Jesus by telling Him you love Him.” Alli (6 years) said, “You get bathtized to tell everyone who’s watching that you love Jesus and He’s in your howt. And Miss Britta cried when Crosby and Lucy got bathtized. Will you cry too Mom? Paige (4 years) didn’t have any profound thoughts on baptism but made it clear that “when I’m old enough, I want to invite Oliver to come and watch.”

I clarified with them that baptism is not required for salvation, but is an outward expression of an internal decision they already made to have Jesus forgive their sins and be the leader of their lives. It tells the world that you love Jesus and you’re serious enough about it to get wet. We talked about how poetic Grant’s answer was, how beautiful Katie’s picture of worship was, and how cute and true Alli’s answer was.

They still want to get baptized, like tomorrow. As my friend pointed out, once you realize you want something it often bears more significance if you have to wait for awhile to obtain it, so we’re taking some time to pray about when they should do that and who they should invite to celebrate with them.

How about you? Have you “immersed yourself in the Living Water?”

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Early Release for Time Already Served

Last Wednesday I fell hard when I was running. One second I was laboring up a steep hill. The next I was sprawled on the side of the highway asking myself, "What the heck just happened?" I realized about an hour later that my wrist was sore and it continued to get stiffer and more sore as the evening progressed.

The following morning Curt examined my wrist again then called me when he got to work and said, "I think you may have broken your wrist and I'll splint it tonight." He brought home casting materials and created a very sturdy, removable cast/splint thingy and I wore it for an entire week. Given the fact that I'm right-handed and it was my right wrist, I began to really appreciate all the things I do with my dominant hand. Even mundane tasks (like typing, brushing teeth and preparing a meal) become difficult when encumbered with a big, hot cast.

Yesterday I went into the clinic to get my wrist x-rayed. Being able to observe how doctors and PA's decipher x-rays was a highlight for me. Curt pulled the x-rays up on the computer screen, the ortho doc who specializes in hand surgery stood behind him, and I stood behind them watching. They hemmed and hawed, grunted and talked to themselves, analyzed and re-analyzed. It was evident the x-rays weren't incredibly conclusive.

Their conversation went a little like this: "Yep, I think I see a hairline fracture in the exact spot I'd expect. But wait - on this view it looks fine. Hmmmm.... (insert multiple clicks of the x-rays as they switch views and zoom in and out, in and out). Am I seeing a fracture there or am I just looking really hard to try to see one? I could convince myself of a fracture but I think I'm trying pretty hard."

I kept praying, "Don't see a fracture. Don't see a fracture. I don't need a brace. We're golden." Eventually they all decided after examining x-rays and poking and prodding on my wrist, that the official diagnosis is a bad sprain and not a hairline fracture. I was given early release from the splint for time already served and left the cast in the garbage at the office.

I am officially cleared to start re-training for my tri and am completely thrilled about it! I really can't believe my wrist isn't broken and can hardly wait to get in the pool and on my bike again. WHOO HOO!!!!! Did I just say I can't wait to get in the pool? What is happening to me?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Kaitlin Turns Eight

This weekend our first-born daughter turned eight years old. I mean really - where does the time go? After five weeks of bed rest, my doctor sent Curt and I out of her office with a wink and instructions to go get an ice cream cone and meet her back at the hospital in a few hours to have a baby. An hour and a half after she broke my water, Kaitlin Joy was in our arms. Kaitlin means pure and Katie has lived up to her name of "pure joy" from day one.

She began her birthday celebration on Friday night by inviting seven friends over for a birthday party. The kids painted picture frames, dined on pizza, carrots, baked Cheetos, strawberry lemonade, root beer and mint dessert (Katie's menu choice), posed for pictures, painted their nails, and splashed around in our back yard pool. The sound of splashing and giggling girls filled our back yard and I was once again taken to a place of complete joy and awe that God would choose to make me a mommy not once or twice but four times over.

Kaitlin's party wasn't that different from Grant's dude party a few months ago - same basic agenda, same menu, same amount of kids, but completely different atmosphere. Curt and I silently giggled at how quiet and well-mannered the girls were compared to the boys. They sat at the table and talked among themselves, worked meticulously on their craft, used their napkins not their shirts, and asked politely for more pizza.

Some party highlights for me included:
  • Watching Taylor, who is normally rather reserved, cut loose and be a crazy woman in the pool. She took Grant on in a splash war and held her own with a huge smile on her dripping wet face.
  • Macy, who has two brothers, decided not to get wet and opted to paint nails instead. Grant, who was the only boy among 10 girls, dripped his way toward the nail painting station. Macy looked up and without missing a beat quipped in a gruff voice, "You want your nails painted Grant?" Grant took her up on her offer and painted a few of his nails much to the delight and squeals of the girls.
  • Makayla and Kaitlin have been friends for awhile but can never seem to coordinate their schedules to play together much outside of school. It was fun to get to know Makayla who laughs freely and has the most adorable and infectious giggle. She thought Grant's attempt to be funny were quite entertaining and at one point between giggles said, "You have your own built-in entertainment."
  • Maddy, who did not know that Katilin had wished for a "best friends necklace" for her birthday, gave Katie just that along with a really sweet homemade card serenading their friendship. She and I made a whispered bet while Katie was opening gifts about what side of the necklace Kaitlin would choose and we were right!
After Kaitlin's friends left, we let the kids stay up late and we piled on the couches, snuggled and watched a movie as a family.

Saturday was Katie's actual birthday. When all the kids were awake, she opened presents and I got the funniest picture of all the kids with major bed-head and sun-kissed skin. Her breakfast order was sausage, waffles and scrambled eggs with cheese and we had such a laid-back morning that it was close to 10:30 before breakfast was cleaned up and we we were moving on to greater and grander things.

My favorite part of Katie's birthday was our one-on-one time together. It was a blissfully beautiful day (but Katie always gets great weather on her birthday) and I was heading out for a run. At the last minute, she opted to ride her bike with me. While I ran, she rode next to me and chattered away about all the things important to eight-year-old girls. The miles flew by and I was disappointed that we had to come home.

After lunch we headed to Grandma Ru and Grandpa Terry's where the kids swam in the pool and showed off how much their swimming skills are improving. Those swim lessons have been worth their weight in gold! I sat on the side of the pool with my non-waterproof splint and watched them jump to Curt, swim the length of the pool, and generally have a blast. Katie and Alli finished their time with a "grand finale" where they jumped in together holding hands.

After swimming, we headed into downtown Portland for some play time before church. We toured "Sand in the City," a fundraiser where artist sculpt amazing images out of piles of sand. Katie had a blister that was bleeding so I asked one of the EMT's for a bandaid. He was clearly bored and the next thing I knew he had Katie in the back of the ambulance getting the royal treatment. He took so much time cleansing and bandaging her "wound" that Curt poked his head around the corner to make sure she wasn't getting CPR. We stumbled upon a Ben and Jerry's ice cream shop and ate dinner backwards by getting cones for everyone and filling the tiny shop with the "Happy Birthday" song. Customers kept stopping by our table wishing Katie happy birthday and her shy but proud smile was so cute.

We capped the day off with a wonderful evening worshipping Jesus at church and dining at the free BBQ afterward. The ride home was a mix of chatter re-living the day, tired pauses, and random singing. Bedtime was easy after such a full day and the upstairs fell silent very quickly.

It's hard to believe Katie is already eight years old or that she was the chubbiest of all our babies. Now tall and skinny, sweet and kind, reserved but outgoing, a friend to everyone and follower of Jesus, she is such a gift to us. Happy birthday sweet girl. We love you!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Our Eyes are Upon You

I went for a run this afternoon and from the first step it was LAME! It was hot and now that I've lived in Oregon for two summers, my tolerance for heat is wilting. The heat irritated me and slowed my pace. I was carrying a Propel to drink vs. my usual Gatorade. My stomach didn't like the Propel and it complained the majority of my run. I think I'm allergic to something that's blooming right now so my usual steady breathing was labored and bordering on wheezy. I thought my lunch from three hours earlier was sufficient fuel for a six mile run, but I was wrong. I had no energy and each step felt heavy and difficult.

I came out to Highway 99 and had about 2 miles and two big hills left to finish my run. I gave myself a mental pep talk, safely crossed all four lanes of traffic and started heading up Rex Hill. It's fairly steep and kind of long so I fixed my eyes on the "Corral Creek Road" sign and just started plugging away to reach the sign. My eyes were so fixed on the sign that I didn't see a metal ring on the side of the road. Somehow my running gait and shoe size matched perfectly with the ring and I managed to get both of my feet trapped in the ring. The second I knew I was tangled up was the second before I came crashing to the ground.

There was no grace in my fall. Propel bottle went flying. Hands and feet, arms and legs went flailing. Can you say humiliating? My embarrassment drove me off the ground and running again as fast as I could. I reached Corral Creek Road and only after passing the sign I was so fixated on did I start to examine my wounds. Scraped palms, elbow and leg. Blood dripped off my finger. Grease from the road adorned my leg. I was kind of a mess. As the adrenline left my body, I realized my wrist hurt too.

Later this evening when I was simultaneously coddling my sore wrist and putting some dishes away, a verse I wrote on a 3x5 card and taped to my cupboard earlier today caught my eye. It came from II Chronicles, not a book known for it's life changing verses, but the story I read today about King Jehoshaphat was really cool. King Jehoshaphat was one of the few kings of Judah who actually loved and served God for the majority of his life. He made mistakes but the legacy he left was one of seeking God for guidance, especially in difficult situations. Chapter 20 elaborates on one of those times. Men came to the king and told him, "A vast army is coming against you from Edom." I love the next verse (3) that says, "Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord." He called his entire country to gather for a time of fasting and corporate prayer. He prayed a beautiful prayer and ended it in verse 12 by saying, "We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You."

How simple and yet how beautiful. When I fix my eyes on Jesus, life's distractions fade away and all I see is Him, guiding me and being a land marker for what I need to do and where I need to go. Kind of like my run today. I was so focused on that dumb sign that I didn't know I was about to be tripped up. Even after I dusted myself off, the sign was still my focus. Isn't life like that too? We get tripped up. We fall. We encounter pain and irritation and suffering. But God offers His beautiful and simple solution. Inquire of Him and tell him, "We don't know what to do, but our eyes are upon You."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Better the Second Time

Last year we went camping for a weekend at Gone Creek Campground on Timothy Lake. Located in the heart of the Mt. Hood National Forest, Timothy Lake is an enormous, man-made lake in the center of intense beauty. Mt. Hood looms like a protective mother hen with foothills hemming in the lake on all sides. The campgrounds are primitive providing only outhouses and running water for drinking and dish washing. When we camped last year, we scoped out the campground and picked our favorite site. Sporting amazing views of the lake and the foothills, it's nestled in a clearing of thick woods on a bluff above the 13-mile hiking trail that circles the lake. We determined to reserve it for camping this year and Curt diligently checked the website every day starting January 1st until they opened sites for reservations. He booked site 39 and we all began to look forward to our mini-vacation.

Last year we took the back road adding about an hour to our trip and taking years off our life by driving the narrowest, curviest gravel road with sharp drop-offs on one side. This year we took the main highway and arrived anxiety-free, safe and sound in record time.

Last year we had to postpone our camping trip by a month because Paige, then the dog, then Katie got really sick within 24 hours of departure time. This year an hour before we left Paige started looking puny. When we took her temperature, it was 101.5 F and all the kids immediately panicked. "Oh no. Not again. We have to go camping. We can't stay home because Paige is sick." I felt a twinge more empathy for my poor, flushed baby curled in a heap on the kitchen table but after discussion we decided if she was going to be miserable anyway, she might as well be miserable in paradise instead of in our air-conditioned home and comfy bed. Not sure where the logic was in that, but everyone (including Paige) was relieved that the camping trip was still on. We thanked God for making us aware of her situation before we left and added Advil and Tylenol to our camping box. She was quite the little trooper - perking up with proper doses of medicine and playing hard until the fever came back when she'd curl up in her camp chair in the shade and wait for the medicine to kick in again.

Grant and Curt were our manly providers. They set up the camp site, gathered firewood in the forest and chopped away with their saw and hatchet. I've stopped being nervous that Grant loves his hatchet, except when he runs with it. Then I panic just a wee bit. The first night we accidentally burned some wet wood. It made such a display of smoke that it thoroughly stripped my hair of any hint of smelling clean and plunged me straight into grungy camping mode.

Paige got a new bag of hand-me-down clothes before we left for our trip. She packed a backpack full of "new"outfits but settled on one dress that she decided she needed to wear EVERY DAY we were gone. Since she was sick, it would cause no harm to her or others, and we were camping anyway, we let her. She wore the same outfit three days in a row and spared her other clothes from layers of grime and dirt. Wasn't that thoughtful of her?

We found our own private little beach in a nook on the lake and spent an afternoon chilling as family. The boys fished while the girls squealed and splashed in the frigid mountain lake. Is it shocking that they didn't catch any fish? We tried to get Dusty to swim but she is the only dog I've ever been around that is scared of the water. She wanted nothing to do with being in the water and after her initial swim sat on the beach acting insulted that we'd even suggest it.

When Paige was feeling well we hiked the trails around the lake and marveled at how tall the tress were and how beautiful the forest was when illuminated with sunlight filtering through the tall canopy. We saw the tiniest baby chipmunk on the hiking trail, chirping for his mother and looking so adorable that he almost didn't look real. A few feet later, Alli stepped on a snake and barely flinched. Had it been me everyone in a five-state radius would have heard my shriek.

We drove to nearby Trillium Lake and hiked the two miles around the lake. It boasts stunning views of Mt. Hood and some really cool boardwalks over the marshy areas. The last time we hiked Trillium Lake was the summer of 2007 and we were Chicago residents visiting family in Oregon. Now we live here. How crazy is that?

We sat around the camp fire, made smores and pudgy pies for dessert and talked. The kids played cards by lantern light and stayed up late. Paige and I watched the sun set over the lake from the window in the tent while she was falling asleep.

On our last night, Curt heard "footsteps," grabbed his flashlight and discovered the biggest and cutest toad I have ever seen. It was hopping slowly through our campsite. Since Dusty isn't exactly an outdoorsy dog, we got a kick out of showing her the toad. She was baffled and would slowly approach it then jump off the ground every time it hopped. She'd lean in for a sniff, then jump. Approach the toad, then jump. We were laughing so hard I thought I might wet my pants.

To get our entire family and all our camping gear to the mountain requires a bit of genius packing. Curt loads all the big stuff in the van, then we load the kids and the dog. Once they're buckled up we start piling stuff on and around them. The finished product is quite hilarious and we can almost see their heads over the mounds of pillows, camping mats and sleeping bags.

We finished our weekend by driving up to Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood. The expansive views from the lodge are difficult to capture on camera and even more difficult to describe. Mountain range upon mountain range upon vast expanse. It makes you realize just how small and insignificant you are. The kids thought it was super cool that in the middle of July, the mountain was still covered with snow and dotted with skiers and snowboarders and we got pictures of them standing in the snow in their tank tops, shorts and flip flops.

It was a wonderful trip from start to finish. Sometimes things are just better the second time.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Get Out There!

Our family just returned from a wonderful trip to Sun River, Oregon, where we combined a family reunion with a huge sporting event called Pacific Crest. Over the course of three days a plethora of races for every age and skill level are hosted and I think we had a family member participating in almost every race.

My Uncle Jeff has had MS for many years. At one point when he was so sick he could hardly get out of bed, he decided to conquer MS instead of letting it conquer him. He set out to train for and complete a triathlon and slowly but surely, he did just that. Six years ago he discovered Pacific Crest and had a vision of family coming together to play and exercise. He extended an invitation to all of us to join in the fun. This year our grouptopped 40 participants and we blended siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, parents, grandchildren, step-relatives and friends for three days of activity, encouragement, exercise, relationship building, sunshine and good food.

The weekend kicked off with the kids Splash, Pedal and Dash on Friday afternoon. Staged like a real triathlon with transition areas, timing chips, bib numbers, and an announcer calling out their name as they cross the finish line, there is no minimum age. If you can pedal a bike, you can race. This year the course was cut short due to construction, but it didn't dampen the spirits of our kids. Nerves and smiles were out in full force as we cheered our kids and their cousins on to the finish line.

Last year Paige was such a pipsqueak that she could hardly get her pedals to turn on her bike. I ended up pushing her the entire mile of the bike portion and even with my help she finished third from the bottom for her age group. This year, on race day, biking (with training wheels) clicked for her. She pedaled the entire bike course and only semi-crashed once. She was over-the-moon proud of herself for finally being a bike rider and she moved up the leader board significantly with a 12th place (out of 36) finish in her age group.

Alli waited in line to start the splash with my Aunt Jacque and was paired with a little boy named Luke. When the volunteer gave Alli and Luke the all clear to start, she cleared the wading pools in seconds flat and left poor Luke in the dust. She flew across the finish line in 9th (out of 75) place for her age group.

Kaitlin has always been our silent competitor and I'm hoping my running partner when she gets older. She has great stamina, determination, and stick-to-itiveness. She finished 17th out of 77 in her age group and as always, had a smile on her face the entire time. Grandma Marcy snapped an awesome photo of Katie flying by on the bike, a look of pure enjoyment on her face.
Grant was disappointed that the course was so short this year and finished the entire thing in four minutes and 38 seconds which gave him the 12th fastest overall time out of all 544 participants and made him the 9th fastest dude overall. He was very stoked to be in the top ten dudes and his placement made him glad he participated even though the course was short.

Cousins Nicole, Ryan and Sydney also competed as did several of the children of my Dad's employees. Our group of fans cheered and celebrated each kid and it was heart-warming to see them beaming for photos with their medals after the race.

Saturday was the half-iron triathlon. Team Zadok consisted of Uncle Jeff swimming 1.2 miles, tagging off to my brother Shane who biked 58 miles up and over the summit of Mt. Bachelor, and then tagging off to my Dad who ran a full half-marathon. Given the fact that my Dad had an organ removed less than two years ago, we were an emotional bunch of fans when he crossed the finish line. Cousin Nick normally does the entire half-iron tri by himself, but he took the year off this year. He was up at the lake for moral support and biked his way back down the mountain to the transition area.

I ran my half-marathon while they were relaying. Last year I tried to run this race with an undiagnosed torn meniscus in my knee and it didn’t go so well. I came up lame at the mile eight aid station and limped the entire rest of the way. This year was filled with surgery, recovery, therapy, and strength training to get back to race day. I had a time goal in mind for this race that I really wanted to hit, but I didn’t want to be so focused on achieving a goal that I missed the beauty of being able to run again or the stunning scenery that marks the course.
All glory to God, the race was perfect. I flew through the course, was able to hit my time goal (with ten seconds to spare) and enjoy every step of the run. It was a beautiful morning, there were great racers around me, I had some amazing praise music on my ipod, and I ran EVERY step without a twinge of pain. I got emotional shortly after I pass the mile 8 aid station. The enormity of God's healing and specific love for me washed over me like a tidal wave and I found myself choking back sobs of gratitude. I managed to get a grip though and finished in one hour, 45 minutes and 50 seconds. It was a personal best for me and 7th place in my age group. Since I will never be winning races, I was pumped to finish with a placement in single digits.

Sunday was an even busier day. My brother Shane and I were on kid duty at the finish line by 8 a.m. waiting for a hoard of 5K racers to cross the finish line. We cheered on Marcy’s 12-year-old nephew Caleb who killed the course in a record 21 minutes. My 11-year-old niece Maggie wanted to run the 5K in 36 minutes or less. She had a running strategy mapped out and while she was explaining it to Grant the night before, he decided he wanted to join in the fun. The race course isn’t closed so we let Grant bandit the race and run with Maggie as an “encouragement buddy” which means we were too cheap to pay for a bib number, t-shirt and medal for Grant. They finished in 35 minutes and 55 seconds. Kayla, my almost 13-year-old niece, didn’t want to run but she walked the 5K course with her mom, Katie (as another last minute encouragement buddy), and Aunt Jacque pushing her grandson Cade in the stroller.

While we were cheering on our 5K racers, Curt and Uncle Jeff were at Wickiup Reservoir, a frigid mountain lake in the heart of the Cascade Mountain Range, swimming 9/10th of a mile. They both rode the 28-mile bike course down to the transition area where we all hooped and hollered for them when they came running through. Uncle Jeff tagged off to Grandma Marcy (they called their team “A Baldy and A Blonde”) and she ran the 10K to the finish line. It was her first race and she rocked it. Curt did the entire triathlon by himself. He felt strong the entire way, improved his time from last year and finished in 3 hours, 26 minutes and 16 seconds. I am so proud of my super-studly husband and how diligently and methodically he has trained to finish so well.

The spirit of racing is so uplifting. I passed two marathoners, a husband and wife who must have been approaching 70 and in average (at best) shape, walking slowly down the course. The woman was carrying a cane and they were sweating and quietly talking. At the pace they were walking, it had to have taken them all day to walk 26.2 miles. I saw an Olympic triathlete, also pushing 70, come into the bike transition a bloody mess. He must have crashed on his bike and his legs and face were covered with blood, fresh blood dripping off his chin. He ignored all the gasps of horror and offers for help and ran right past all the spectators. I saw him cross the finish line blood caked to his body and that determined look still on his face. While we like to think we’re an athletic bunch, we’re just average people bringing our limitations and abilities to the table in the spirit of competition, good health, and family fun. So what’s stopping you? Get out there!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Growing Pains

When I as little kid, I remember random leg pain waking me in the middle of the night. I’d start crying and my mom would come in, comfort me, and diagnose “growing pains.” She’d say, “Oh honey, those are growing pains. Sometimes it just hurts when you grow.”

Now that I’m a grown up, I still experience growing pains, but I don’t usually feel them in my leg. Growing pains manifest through financial difficulties, job changes, relational discord, raising children and cultivating my marriage. Growth produces positive change, but I can’t think of any growth that has been easy or without some level of discomfort.

I was reading John chapter 15 yesterday when I realized that Jesus addressed growing pains with His disciples. He uses the analogy of a grape vine, one I have a fresh appreciation for now that I live in the heart of wine country, and labels God the Father as the gardener, Himself as the vine, His followers as the branches and grapes as “fruit” we produce in our lives as a result of following Jesus.

Jesus tells his followers that He prunes the vines that bear fruit for the purpose of growing more fruit. I don’t know about you, but the thought of Jesus entering my life with a pair of hedge trimmers and chopping out all the garbage that’s inhibiting me from being more like Him doesn’t sound incredibly fun. It sounds kind of painful.

Jesus explains in verse 8 that when I bear fruit (exhibit attributes in my life that reflect the character of Christ) it brings God glory because it identifies me as a follower of Jesus. Jesus continues in verse 9 by telling his followers to “remain in my love.” But how do I do that?

Verse 10 says it’s simple – “Obey.” Sounds so easy, but why is it so difficult to obey, especially when it hurts? Verses 11 and 12 provide incentive to obey. When I follow through with radical obedience, it produces complete joy in my life. Doesn’t that sound inviting? Obedience also enables me to love others as Jesus loves me. What a gift to be supernaturally empowered to love others in a way that I’m not capable of on my own outside of Jesus.

God has been taking this concept of following the way of love (I Corinthians 14:1) and driving it into my thick skull over and over in some very creative ways over the last several months. He’s given me opportunities to practice obeying Him and following the way of love, even when it hurts. While I wouldn’t choose growing pains on my own, I see the benefit of Jesus’ gentle pruning in my life on an individual level and how it extends outward to my family and friends. And so I press on, empowered by the Holy Spirit to follow the way of love, growing pains and all.