Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Isaiah 43:1-7, 18-19

Need a little encouragement today? Listen to what God says about you. (bold and parens are my emphasis)

"But now, this is what the LORD says -
He who created you, O Jacob,
He who formed you, O Israel:
'Fear not, for I have redeemed (bought back) you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine. (Did you know God knows your name and claims you?)
When (not IF - an easy life is not a promise Jesus makes to His followers) you pass through the waters,
I will be with you; (you are not alone.)
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD, your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; (do you need rescuing?)
I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious (God calls you precious!) and honored in my sight,
and because I love you.
I will give men in exchange for you,
and people in exchange for your life.
Do not be afraid, for I am with you. (Are you ever scared and feel alone? )
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.
I will say to the north, 'Give them up!'
and to the south, 'Do not hold them back.'
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth -
everyone who is called by my name, (God offers to give you His name)
whom I created for my glory, (He created you for His glory)
whom I formed and made." (He formed you. Made you. Took His time on the details.)

Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past. (Are you held captive by your past?)
See, I am doing a new thing! (Do you see the work God is doing? Are you letting Him transform you?)
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the desert
and streams in the wasteland.
-Isaiah 43:1-7, 18-19

Now aren't you standing up a bit taller, chest puffed up and feeling pretty special?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Update on Those Farris' from Paige

Apparently the Farris' (Pharisees) with tiny hearts made a big impression on Paige (4 1/2 years). She thoughtfully updated me on their status this morning.

P: Does Jesus love bad people?
Me: Yes. He loves everyone, but he doesn't love when we do bad things.
P: Well, I love the Farris' in our neighborhood because they have big hearts. But I don't love the Farris' in the Bible (they have the same last name but they're different Mom) because the Farris' in the Bible have tiny hearts.
Me: You're right. And I think it's Pharisees (stressing the C sound), not Farris', but they sound the same.
P: (very confidently) Like "C" in cinnamon.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Setting Intent

The Portland marathon is two weeks from today and I just got excited about it two days ago. Better late than never, right? I realized as I was slogging away at mile number four-hundred-and-who-knows-how-many that I have spent the last three months chipping away at required training miles with no set intent and a bad attitude. What a waste.

When I force myself to go to yoga class, we "set our intent" at the start of each class. We choose what we want to get from the class and theoretically, train our mind and our body to follow the intent during the class. God talks about setting intent in the Bible too. He tells us that He created us for His pleasure and with a specific purpose for each of our lives (Ephesians 2:10). He expects us to be purposeful in the way we live our lives and in how we use our time, our talents, our resources and our energy.

Today as I was running and talking with God, I decided to set my intent for the marathon. Goal number one is to enjoy the race. Sounds basic but it's hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea that running 26.2 miles could fall into the "fun" category. I've wasted time being grouchy about "having" to run 18 and 20 mile training runs and in the process, forgot about all the gifts God has given me. Restored health to run on a knee that a year ago was still in an immobilizer post-surgery. A running partner for the first time ever. Iron Woman Carissa, who's youngest just turned one today, is a silent-warrior who never complains and blasts away miles like it's nobody's business. She is such an inspiration and I'm so thankful for her determination, positive attitude and her willingness to run with Negative Nellie. Now that I've set my intent to have fun, she may not recognize me on race day which will be a celebration of all God's many gifts to me.

Goal number two is to finish in under four hours. That would cut 55 minutes off my only other marathon time and would be a huge improvement and victory for me.

Goal number three is to qualify for Boston. Goal number three does not make sense and I hesitate to say it out loud because it's ridiculous for many reasons.
One: I do NOT want to run another marathon. Really. I don't.
Two: It would take a perfect race with no potty breaks or body crashes for me to finish in 3 hours and 45 minutes. It's almost in the unrealistic category.
Three: See reason number one. I keep trying to quell the competitive edge in me and the little voice in the deep recesses of my mind whispering softly, "If everything goes exactly perfectly and you run the race of a life time, you COULD qualify for Boston. Since you don't want to ever do this again, why not go out with a bang and see if you can do it?"

So there you have it. I've set my intent for race day and in the process, re-evaluated how intentional my life is. Am I being purposeful in living a life that has eternal significance? I'll be mulling that over while I continue to chip away at the number of miles to run before race day.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hiding Place

Every so often Curt and I get bored with our music and decide to venture out and buy some new stuff. Our church is loaded with professional musicians who are wickedly talented. They volunteer their time and talents on the weekends to lead worship and while it is very LOUD, it is an amazingly powerful experience to be led in worship by the bands at Solid Rock.

We decided to google the songs from church that we liked and discovered that many of them were written and produced by a band called Starfield. Upon further evaluation, we realized that a couple of the dudes in the band (or were in the band) lead worship at our church, hence our exposure to their work via Solid Rock. At any rate, Curt hit the local Christian bookstore, came home with a Starfield album, and just like that I had new running music on my ipod.

The lyrics to Starfield's songs are profound and deep. Intimate and true. Life-giving and focused on the attributes of God. They often take verses from the Bible and write beautiful music around those verses. When I listen to Starfield's music, the deepest recesses of my soul are moved to a place of adoration and amazement that I have the privilege of following Jesus. That He accepts me. That He loves me. That He is willing to use me, in spite of myself.

One song in particular has ministered to me. I can rarely listen to it without being moved to the point of tears. It's called Hiding Place and it's taken from Psalm 32:7 which says, "You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance." Protection. A safe place to hide when life gets overwhelming. A Savior who sings songs to calm my fears. Deliverance from bondage. Who doesn't want that?

I've been looking for an excuse to use all the nature pictures I've taken since we moved West, so I chose to use my kid-free time this morning to make a slideshow with Hiding Place as the background music. I hope this song ministers to you, wherever you are today.

Here's a link to the video ( I also attached the video to this post.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Kind of Like Being a Mom

Paige started pre-school this week. It was a huge milestone in our house and anticipating it threw me into an emotional tailspin. All I’ve known for the past nine years is babies and diapers, potty training and play dates, trips to the park and story time at the library, chaos and toys to trip over, high volumes of noise and a constant companion.

Without a doubt there have been meltdown moments where I would have given anything to leave the uncertainty of mommyhood behind and escape to the familiarity of the office. But as a whole, I have embraced motherhood and find myself in awe on a daily basis that God chose to entrust these four precious souls to Curt and I to protect and nurture, discipline and train, love and treasure. The enormity of this responsibility is overshadowed by the bliss of the blessing.

When I held Grant for the first time, my identity and purpose was redefined. My children’s needs became the compass that dictates what I do, when I do it, and where I spend my time and emotional energy. Facing nine hours of alone time each week after nine years of scraping for any spare second to call my own has wreaked havoc in my mind and played games with my identity. My mind is spinning with how to spend this alone time. I don’t want to squander it, but how do I use it? Why am I dreading being alone in a quiet, empty house?

The night before school started, Paige laid out her school outfit on the floor of her bedroom. Tiny skinny jeans, hand-me-down Converse tennis shoes repurposed as “new” by buying hot pink laces, a smocked T-shirt and her new sweatshirt mocked me and the lump in my throat began to grow. Paige excitedly dug out her matching monkey backpack and lunch box and chose her snack while I choked back tears. During bedtime prayers, I stroked her hair while Paige thanked God that she was FINALLY old enough to go to school. We went through our hug, kiss, Eskimo kiss, pat pat (it’s my favorite), giggles, and more kisses and I felt like a little piece of my heart was being ripped out. How could my baby be old enough to go to school?

The morning of the big day dawned and Paige chattered incessantly while she ate breakfast. She brought me two “hair parties” (what we call anything that goes in your hair) and requested two braids, “but not French braids.” We took her picture by her “Paige bush,” a little rose bush we were given as a gift to celebrate her birth. We uprooted it when we moved from Illinois and replanted it in Newberg. She beamed at me, backpack overpowering her tiny frame and I hid behind the camera and blinked away the threatening tears. On the way to school, we prayed together. I choked back more tears as I thanked God for my precious daughter, her growth over the years, and the privilege of going to school. We asked for God’s guidance on her time at school and I secretly asked for the ability to let her go without creating a scene.

Paige posed for more pictures by the “Wee Care Christian Preschool” sign, by her hook for her backpack, and with her friend Sophia who happened to be in her class. She found the laminated paper doll with “Paige” written on it and signed in for the day by depositing the doll in a plastic school bus. We greeted her teacher and there she stood in the doorway…. one step away from leaving toddlerhood behind and entering her life as a student. At the last second she hesitated, paused and turned back to me for reassurance. I gave her one more hug, told her how excited I was for her, and watched her confidently shed her babyhood and walk into school.

I keep waiting for the moment where I sit down in my empty, quiet house and ask myself, “What do I do now?” So far it hasn’t happened. My To Do list is still ever growing, my scrapbooking undone. My life hasn’t made a colossal shift like I thought it would and if I’m honest, I’m so glad. I kind of like being a mom.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Those Farris'

Paige (4 years) has started re-telling her Bible story after church. Last night she told Curt the story at bedtime and this morning, she told me in the car. It was the story about the Pharisees shunning the former prostitute and how disgusted they were when she wet Jesus' feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. Here's how Paige told the story.

"Well Jesus, he was in the story, has a BIG (stretch arms out super wide here) heart. And he has a nice smile too. And there were some people in the story called the Farris' who had tiny (scrunch up hands really small here) hearts. And they had lots of rules. And if you broke the rules, the Farris' called you a sinner. There was a girl who did sin. She broke the Farris' rules. And she did bad sin and didn't like that they had small hearts and were mean. But Jesus has a big heart and she was crying on his feet. And the Farris' didn't like it."

I finally asked timidly, "Are you sure it's not 'Pharisees'?"

To which she emphatically replied, "No Mom. It's Farris'. Like Mrs. Farris, baby Sammy's mom. They're in the Bible you know."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Humbly Grateful

The Portland Marathon is four weeks from today. And I'm registered to run it. Is it too late to back out now?

When I started running almost four years ago, I was convinced I was going to be a marathoner. Maybe even a Boston qualifying marathoner if I worked REALLY, really hard. I was thrilled with the fact that I was exercising consistently for the first time in years and tackled each of my marathon training runs with more determination than I knew I possessed. When I got tired, I told myself, "You're going to run a marathon. Who does that? You do. You go girl," and I kept running. My 18 mile training run was a disaster and when I crossed the imaginary finish line where Curt and my four precious kiddos were waiting, I burst into tears. If it was that hard to run 18 miles, how on earth could I run 26.2?

Fast forward to race day and you couldn't have gotten a worse race. The dreaded Chicago marathon of 2007 was a train-wreck. Temps in the mid-90's with equal humidity caused runners to start dropping like flies within the first few miles of the course. The sirens started early into the race and never quit the entire 4 hours and 55 minutes I was running. It was eerie. Medical tents were overflowing. Runners were collapsing and retching on the course. One guy close to my age and much more prepared than I was, dropped dead on the course. Race officials ended up canceling the race at the half-way point but how do you get the news through the one-million plus fans to the 32,000 runners on the course that the race they trained for months for was being cancelled due to extreme weather conditions?

I was at mile 22 when a lady with a bullhorn at an aid station hollered, "The race has been cancelled. You will get no official time. Buses are on the course picking up runners. You must get on a bus and it will take you to the finish." I thought she might be crazy. There was NO WAY I was putting my tired butt on a bus and quitting with four.point.two miles left. I shoved off from the aid station and was shocked to see the next clock on the course turned off. Despair set in. My mind started racing as my tired legs slowly pushed me down the course, "They can't take away this dream from me. It's on my bucket list. I HAVE to cross it off. I will NOT quit."

All around me, exhausted runners were in a state of confusion. Normally known for making friends and conversation on the course, we all trudged along too weary to even talk. It had to be a mistake. This could not be happening. But each digital clock was eerily blank. At the mile 24 aid station, a police helicopter hovered with a bull horn toting police man hanging out and shouting, "The race has been cancelled. You must stop running and walk. I repeat, stop running and walk. The race has been cancelled."

I obeyed. Slowed my jog to a walk and let the disappointment set in. Every step rubbed another spot on the blisters on my toes and the raw interior of my thighs. My muscles cooled and started tightening up. I tried to call my fan club to share the news, but all the cell lines were jammed. I waited for those dreaded buses and decided I would NOT get on one. No matter what. If it took me all day. I would cross that finish line.

And then at mile 26, a mere point two miles from the finish, the clock was on. Glowing flourescent green, it mocked all of us who heeded advice and walked the last two miles. And there waiting patiently, my husband, my mom, my aunt and uncle who no doubt wondered what had happened for me to fall so far off my goal pace. I tried to run the last .2 miles but ended up hobbling across the finish line in disgust instead. My dream of dashing across the finish line, fists pumped in celebration of my bucket list accomplishment was shattered. It took me weeks to appreciate the fact that I finished one of the most talked about marathons of all time.

Over the past three years I have set out to run more marathons than I can count. Inevitably, I get hurt before I can even register for the race. Running a marathon, a "normal" one (if there is such a thing) has continued to elude me. Until now. My step brothers shanghaied me into registering for the Portland marathon in spite of my apprehension. I wasn't sure I wanted to put the time and effort into training for such a huge race nor did I think I wanted to tackle 26.2 miles again, but I couldn't let those boys get the best of me. I had to show them that girls can run too.

So here I am. Four weeks before race day. Slogging the mandated miles and waiting to get excited about it. My 18 mile training run was great for the first 15 miles, and then I tanked hard and fast for the last 3 miles. I felt sorry for my well-trained and ridiculously prepared running buddy Carissa who watched me self-destruct and had to wait for me to drag myself across our invisible finish line. I had to laugh at the irony of how bad both my 18 mile training runs were.

I realized this weekend that I've been focusing my mind on the negatives of this race: the time away from my family on the long runs, the difficulty of slogging so many miles, and the mental drain of keeping my mind occupied when my body wants to quit. Instead of embracing the challenges, I've resisted them. And maybe whined a bit along the way.

But God reminded me of a song I sang as a kid. The lyrics go, "Are you humbly grateful? Or grumbly hateful? What's your attitude? Do you grumble and groan? Or let it be known you're grateful for all God's done for you?" Talk about a much-needed attitude adjustment. For crying out loud, one year ago I was in a full-leg immobilizer and walking even a few steps was incredibly painful. How on earth can I complain about running 18 miles? Big fizz that it was hard. I wouldn't expect it to be easy.

Next week we're scheduled to run 20 miles together. Who does that? When I think about it, my stomach starts flip flopping and my palms get all sweaty. But I know with God's help, I'll be able to cross that invisible finish line and hopefully have some fun along the way. My prayer is that when I cross the real finish line in four weeks, I will embrace all that God has done for me with a humbly grateful heart.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Not Ready

Where did the summer go? It seems like yesterday that the kids were getting off the bus toting overflowing backpacks filled with mostly-used school supplies and lists of books they were supposed to read over the summer.

We have maximized our summer and done some really fun things as a family. We've slept in, gone camping, backpacking and hiking, completed milestone races, spent time in Sun River, road tripped to Montana, played with both sets of my parents, taken swimming lessons, sent the kids to camp, hit the state fair and a couple of parades, played with friends and who knows what else.

It seemed like every day held something fun and inviting and with a few rare exceptions, we never really got sick of each other. We negotiated some sibling rivalry and dealt with small bouts of boredom, but overall this has been the best summer (for me as a mom) since our kids were school-aged. It was just fun. Plain and simple. I have grown accustomed to being surrounded by my four precious treasures and I'm not ready for them to don their new skinny jeans, grab their backpacks and head back to school.

I can't stop the clock though and the past week has been filled with school prep and finishing projects. I took all four kids to our favorite hair stylist for back-to-school haircuts. Three hours later, all five of us emerged from the salon with freshly trimmed locks and miraculously, sanity in tact. We dropped off school supplies and met their teachers. Two of the three teachers are ones that Grant or Katie have had in the past which made a potentially nerve-inducing evening one to look forward to. We laughed when we walked into Kaitlin's classroom and ran into one of our house church girls as Katie's student teacher.

Yesterday Kaitlin and I spent a good two hours in her room purging old papers and filled notebooks, sorting through clothes she's outgrown or styles she no longer prefers, throwing away broken Dollar Tree toys and organizing what was left into a system she could understand and one I could tolerate. I repeated this process with Grant today, only his man cave was such a disaster that it took us four concentrated hours to dig through the mess. They each hauled out an entire garbage bag from their rooms! Alli and Paige's room was less torturous because Alli is more organized and less messy than her other siblings. Time in their room was focused on bringing in a dresser from the play room and redistributing their clothes.

I enlisted the kids' help to purge and reorganize the play room. We systematically dumped out every dresser drawer, every toy bucket, every basket and containing device and sorted through it all. Broken toys or toys with pieces missing got chucked, toys that don't get played with went in the donations pile. What was left got sorted into new bins and stacked nicely on the bookshelf with younger kids toys on the lower bottom shelves and older kid toys way up top. It took FOREVER but was worth the effort now that I can walk by the play room and not cringe.

We repurposed furniture, switched furniture pieces from room to room, spray painted picture frames and re-hung pictures. We even rearranged our entire master bedroom. If I never tackle another organizational project again, I won't be sad. But as I tucked my 4th grade son into his freshly made bed and his man cave that has never (and will probably never be again) so clean and tidy, it seemed worth it. He starts school tomorrow with a room that is calm and not chaotic and I know he feels proud of how hard he worked to get whip it into shape.

Grant is a bit bummed that none of his close buddies are in his class this year, so we spent bedtime praying for the new friends he's going to make. He's ready to get back to learning. Kaitlin is excited to be with her friends again and find out who is in her class. Always a social butterfly, school for her is more about relationships than learning. I can't believe she'll be in 3rd grade. And then there's Alli. All she's ever wanted is to be old enough to stay in school all day long. To get hot lunch, have PE and qualify for multiple recesses are what she's most looking forward to. She is beside herself with excitement and while I have zero concerns for her entering this phase of life, I wonder about me. Alli's been my buddy for six years. We hang in the afternoon while Paige is sleeping and before the "big kids" get home from school. But tomorrow she'll be a "big kid." I'm not ready for that.

Since I'm getting all emotional, I won't even start on sweet Paige. When my baby starts pre-school next week, I may be calling in the specialists for some emotional support. I am one blessed mama and am grateful to have had these long summer days to fall in love all over again with each of my precious kidlets. They start school again tomorrow, and I'm just not ready.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Tight End It Is

I have really enjoyed watching Grant embrace everything about being a football player. He's never played organized sports before and while he likes watching football with Curt during the fall, he has never been the little boy running around tossing a ball all day. I don't care if he's the best player on the team, but I didn't want him to be the worst either.

His team practices three times a week from 5:30 to 7 p.m. After driving like a crazy woman two practices in a row, I made it Grant's responsibility to get us to practice on time. He watches the clock, tells me and his sisters when it's 5 p.m., grabs a snack, and starts getting his gear and water bottle ready. Passing the buck to him has been great because now if he's late it's his fault not mine.

The first two weeks of practice were giant group practices with the entire mass of 3rd and 4th graders practicing in front of the plethora of coaches. Then came the draft. I'm not kidding. I knew one of the coaches from nodding and saying "Hi" at the gym, so I was pleased when Grant showed up for practice the next day and was drafted to Coach Paul's team. Curt told Coach Paul, in front of Grant, how happy we were that Grant ended up on Coach Paul's team. Coach Paul said, "Hey I wanted Grant on my team. He's naturally athletic, a hard worker and is going to be a big part of our team this year." Now I'm not sure what the ratio of truth/flattery was in that statement, but you can be sure that Grant heard every word (he told me verbatim with a HUGE smile what his coach said) and you can also be sure that Grant will be loyal to Coach Paul every single day. It was also a relief to me that Grant was falling somewhere in the middle of the pack skill-wise and not at the bottom.

I love to pick Grant up from practice. He's sweaty, exhausted, and high on adrenaline. He jabbers the entire way home about all that he's learned, what he did right, what he feels he needs to work on, and anything memorable the coach told him. Last week he spewed his well-thought-out logic on positions. It went something like this:

Grant: "I REALLY want to be QB (quarterback), but all the players wants to be QB. There's a lot of competition for that spot. I'd hate to put everything I have into trying for QB and not get the position cause then all the other good spots will be taken and I'll be left with positions I don't want."

Me: "Well how do you think you do at QB? Can you throw the ball?"

Grant (somewhat insulted): "YES! But there is another kid on the team who can also throw the ball and he might be better than me. The next position I would want is tight end because you get to block and catch and run the ball. I know I'd be good at that position. Or I'd love to be runningback, but that's another position that lots of kids are going for."

Me: "I think you should just work hard at every practice and listen to what your coach says. It's his job to notice your skills and place you in a position that will best help your team."

Fast forward to this week. When I dropped Grant off at practice, Coach Paul made a big point of welcoming Grant back since he'd missed two practices while we were camping at Crater Lake. He again made pointed comments to me that Grant could hear about the value Grant brought to the team and how glad he was to have Grant back. I was so touched by his intentionality and kindness.

When I picked Grant up, his team was trying to finish their last drill. They were practicing going on the second "Hut" off the snap and if anyone jumped early, they had to do up-downs. A handful of kids on his team kept jumping early and it appeared the drill would never end. Up-downs. Try again. Up-downs. Try again. FINALLY, they finished the drill. I was expecting Grant to be exhausted and grouchy, but he took his helmet off and had a huge smile on his face. He came rushing over to me and said, "Guess what Mom? I get to be Tight End!" He proceeded to explain the plays they ran that involved his position and showed me his play book that he needed to memorize. He didn't care at all that he wasn't QB and was already thinking strategy for how to best play his position.

I still am trying to wrap my head around having a kid old enough to be playing sports. I love how organized, disciplined , and encouragement-focused this program is. I love Grant's hard-working attitude and his ridiculously logical thought process. Tight end it is - can't wait to watch him play!