Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Million Little Reasons

God is hammering home the "little things" lesson. Friday morning was not a good morning with the kids. I was fighting valiantly for my attitude and some semblance of order in my home and was still contemplating putting the kids up for adoption before lunch time. But in God's perfect timing, I only had to maintain my sanity until 3 p.m. because that was the magical hour when I dropped all four kids and our dog off at our friend's house to have 24 blissful hours with just my husband. (HUGE shout-out to Bucky and Britta for taking our crew). I was so discombobulated from the crazy morning that I forgot to bring several key items on my list of things to pack, primarily the reward certificate (thanks Dad and Marcy!) that we needed to check into our hotel. OOPS. Thankfully Curt was able to retrieve the certificate from his email and print it at the hotel. Little things.

We dined at a lovely little restaurant called Park Kitchen. Located on Park Avenue in the Pearl District of Portland, it is cozy, narrow and intimate with maybe seven tables and an open kitchen so the clients can watch the chefs work. The menu is also small with only four seasonal entree' choices. We felt the stress melt away as we munched chickpea fries with squash ketchup and savored our fall-themed, piping hot meals. I forgot how romantic it is to hold hands across a candle-lit table and pour out your soul to the person you love. Little things.

We pried ourselves away from our table and headed out for a walk in the Pearl District. It's been rainy, gray and cold all week, but God chose to give us the most beautiful fall night on record for our date. We walked and talked. Laughed and held hands. Little things.

We stumbled upon a fun consignment store, browsing the racks and shoppers for the biggest show of eccentricity. We walked through Anthropologie, my new favorite store even though I can't afford one thing in it. I loved that Curt didn't roll his eyes or drag his feet over window shopping, something we never do with the kids. Little things.

We stayed at the Embassy Suites on the corner of 4th and Park which is not the epicenter of everything hip and chic in Portland. But we loved the building, originally constructed in 1912 as the Multnomah Hotel, and the location. One block from Burnside, Voodoo Doughnuts, and a couple homeless shelters, it was also surrounded by ethnic restaurants, old stores and crazy beautiful buildings. We took the long way walking back to our hotel and soaked in the culture and diversity surroundings us in both the buildings and the people we passed on the street. Little things.

We slept in and rolled out of bed to go for a leisurely run on the riverfront "esplanade" (a fancy way of saying sidewalk). I can count on one hand the number of times Curt and I have been able to run together. Little things.

Our hotel hosted a complimentary happy hour and breakfast buffet. We expected cereal and some stale muffins for breakfast and were blown away with the delicious food that awaited. Made-to-order omelets with fresh ingredients, pancakes, bacon, sausage, juice, coffee, fruit, cereal, pastries, oatmeal.... I think we tried one of everything and it was all delicious. Little things.

We read our Bibles in blissful silence in our posh hotel suite. I'm not sure why I was surprised when my devotional reading for the day was about little things. I'm not kidding. The author talked about how raising kids who love Jesus and impact God's kingdom positively requires a bazillion little decisions every day to plant seeds of Godliness in their lives. The little things we do often don't have immediate results, but eventually those little seeds produce growth. I was so blessed by God's affirmation to me to keep pressing on in mothering, especially in the little things.

After we checked out of our hotel, we hit the Saturday Market. Row after row after row of vendors hawking hats, mittens, shawls, clothes, jewelry, pottery, incense, hand-carved bowls, bags and myriads of other items. We walked up and down the rows and glanced through every booth, because we could. One vendor we found made rings out of vintage buttons that were beautiful and unique. Another vendor made rings from discarded silverware and from keys of vintage typewriters. We couldn't resist and bought a J ring to remember our weekend. Little things.

The weather was gray and drizzly, but it seemed fitting for the Portland Saturday Market in late October. We bought lunch from two separate food carts and ate outside serenaded by a Mexican street band. We watched people dance in the street and enjoyed the sharp contrast between the cold drizzle and the piping hot food we were enjoying. Our last stop was at Pure Cafe' for "organic coffee." For the record, it didn't taste any different to me, but the cafe' was in a really cool old building and the ambiance added to the experience.

We were much more relaxed and laid back when we pulled into the Buchstaber's driveway to gather our brood. 24 hours of alone time left us both satisfied and deeply fulfilled. A crazy scent of incense and ethnic foods lingers on my sweatshirt, a fun reminder of an amazing day. I love my husband for a million little reasons and I thank God for a chance to spend the last 24 hours reflecting on a whole bunch of them.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Little Things Follow Up

Apparently my lesson on Little Things was so life-transformational that the kids forgot everything I said in less than 24 hours. The evidence was the tsunami-like condition of every room they visited in the first two hours this morning. I caught myself raising my voice and internal temperature about to explode, so I gave myself a time out to pray and practice deep breathing.

When I emerged, I called a family meeting. I stole from my childhood and defined obedience as "doing WHAT you're told, WHEN you're told, with a HAPPY HEART." I even taught the kids a little song about obedience my Mom made us sing when we were kids. Added bonus - it spells out obedience so they got a spelling lesson too.

I also stole from 1-2-3 Magic for Christian Parents and told the kids in a happy voice, "I'm happy to do your work for you. But I charge $1 per incident." And then I charged two Stilp children for cleaning up breakfast dishes that had been sitting there all morning. Little do they know I'm stashing all the money I'm making off them back in the "allowance" envelope to dole out later.

Then we made a poster. On one side we listed "Kids" and I spelled out everything that makes my blood boil. We wrote out "throw garbage away, don't drop your backpack and shoes by the front door, clean your room, clear, rinse and load your meal dishes, be kind and considerate, etc.etc." On the other side we listed out "Mom and Dad" little thing areas to work on. The kids were super happy to make suggestions for this list. We wrote down, "don't raise your voice, don't talk too much, be slow to get angry, slow to speak and quick to listen, show grace and mercy." Then I added "be consistent, be just," and a plethora of other parenting ideas that the kids weren't so keen on.

We nailed our poster to the wall in our hallway and I'm hopeful that having a daily reminder will enable all of us do better loving each other with the little things.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Little Things

The kids had the day off school today and the morning wasn't smooth. While I battled controlling my temper, I realized that it was the little things they do or don't do that make me alternate between wanting to jab a pen in my eye and nominating them for Child of the Year. I ran the mental list of all the little things they haven't been doing when God stopped me dead in my tracks and asked me, "What little things are you doing to show them you love them?" Ouch! I confessed my sin and asked God to redirect our day.

I sat down later this afternoon to spend time with God. Two days ago we finished reading the book of Jeremiah and I gotta say, I'm not a huge fan. The 52 chapters in the book of Jeremiah have felt long and arduous for me. Of course Grant, our nine year old son who is also reading the Bible cover to cover with us, thought Jeremiah was the bomb. He loved all the fury and wrath and God coming down to kick butt and take names. I mentioned to him that I was not finding any easy life-application points from my time in this book. He looked at me with surprise and said, "Well that's simple Mom. Don't do evil or God will (then he gets theatrical and turns on his evil voice and flails his arms really big) DESTROY you."

The book after Jeremiah is Lamentations, a five-chapter funeral dirge mourning the destruction of the nation of Israel. It was with a just-get-it-done attitude that I dug out my Bible today to plow through the required two chapters. And what do you know? In the midst of the funeral song and in spite of my bad attitude, a beautiful ray of sunshine that I didn't expect or deserve. Listen to Jeremiah's prayer to God from Lamentations 3:22-23, "Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."

All day God had been teaching me and the kids about the little things. Leave your Cheetos wrapper in the back yard and incur the wrath of Mamma Can't-Stand-Mess. Clear your plate and put it in the dishwasher without being asked and handfuls of M&M's and hugs of adoration abound. Moan and groan about how miserable your kids are making you and have the spotlight turned to your own ugliness. Choose to see how amazing your kids actually are and BAM! A beautiful verse in the center of sadness and grief.

God, your compassions are new every morning and sometimes need to be renewed every hour of every morning and throughout the day. Thank you for the little things You do in my life every day to remind me of your unfailing compassion. I agree with Jeremiah - "Great is Your faithfulness!"

Monday, October 25, 2010

Literally Laughing Out Loud!

I know I should stop plagiarizing this book (Out of the Spin Cycle by Jen Hatmaker) and I know that those moms who have passive children that always obey the first time, never raise their voice above a whisper, and wouldn't dream of being aggressive, will have no idea why I found this to be so hysterically funny. But for those of us who have been or are the mom chasing their diaperless child down the cereal aisle in Target, it makes us feel normal. Without further ado, here is an excerpt from the gut-wrenching, laugh out loud devotional that I started my day with.

".... Because sometimes, despite your careful strategizing and planning and reading and organizing, your two-year-old takes his diaper off in the middle of Target and runs up the cereal aisle while you scream at him like a mental patient. And sometimes, after you've planned the perfect playdate, your daughter bits your new friend's baby and flushes her phone down the toilet. And sometimes, when your precious firstborn son - the one you read all the baby books for and raised lovingly for ten years - opens a fresh, sassy mouth to you when you are already idling high, you accidentally tell him to get a shovel, go in the backyard, and dig his own grave. This, I don't have to tell you, is behavior Ted Tripp would frown upon in Shepherding a Child's Heart."

You should DEFINITELY buy this book!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Valentines Day - What a Piece of Garbage

My husband is traveling and so I decided to rent a chick flick to watch after the kids went to bed. I settled on Valentines Day because of its cast of big-name celebs and because it looked cute. Can I just say it was a HUGE wake-up call as a mom? I know this post will be controversial and I don't apologize for it one bit.

The producers of the movie are no idiots. They smartly edited it to receive a PG-13 rating to reach the broadest and most influential audience. The movie featured at least ten different couples living their lives in LA on Valentines Day. Of the featured relationships, ONE (count it - ONE) was a happily married couple and the focus was so much on this couple that they got maybe 20 seconds of screen time. The other unmarried couples all woke up beautiful with full faces of makeup and hot lingerie in bed with their "significant" others ready for another quick round before they left for work.

Parents, if you want your kids to think casual sex between people who've known each other all of two weeks is common, okay and everyone's doing it, do nothing. If you want your kids to believe that prostituting yourself to pay your college loans is okay, let them watch this movie. If you want your kids to believe that everyone has sex before marriage, do nothing. If you want your kids to believe the pinnacle of a successful high school relationship is to have sex in a bedroom and not in the backseat of car in the dark, let them watch this movie. If you want your kids to think that a fulfilling sex life is easy, everyone's good at it and it doesn't take any work, let them watch this movie. If you want your kids to believe that they can (wait for it...) choose their sexual partners whether they are same-sex or not and that it's okay, say nothing. If you want your kids to believe that cheating on your spouse is acceptable and doesn't hurt anybody, do nothing. If you want your kids to think that when a spouse cheats, the other spouse feels sad for all of two hours and then joyfully waltzes back to their spouses arms, say nothing. Cause guess what - that's the message they're being sent. In this movie. On magazine covers. In school. In the music they listen to. Through the garbage they watch on TV.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a huge lover a sex. I think it's amazingly, earth-shatteringly good. God thinks it's good too. After all, He created it and He said everything He created is good. He designed a man's body and a woman's body to fit together in the most intricately beautiful design. But He designed sex to be one MAN, one WOMAN in the protective and nurturing umbrella of marriage for life. In that context, sex is off-the-charts amazing. Outside of that context, it leaves deep wounds and scars. And if you don't believe me, I'd be happy to round up the hundreds of people that I personally know, myself included, who bear the scars from a society that promotes sexual promiscuity.

We live in a country that is supposedly founded on "In God We Trust' but I don't see a lot of that. Parents - be on guard. Protect your kids. Teach them the truth about sex. It's hot. It's wonderful. When you wait. UGH! Let the feedback roll in.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A (Fairly Lame) Ode to Mothers

I'm the "mentor mom" (can I just say I hate that title and it almost made me run in fear?) for my local MOPS group this year. Part of the bounty for the $90 yearly fee was a book called, Out of The Spin Cycle by Jen Hatmaker. While the cover was cute and enticing, I shoved it in my quiet time bag to read when I found time which I assumed would be never.

My husband has been gone for four days. We have four "spirited" children and this is day four of five that he has been gone. AND it's a Saturday so I had them to myself ALL day long with no school to break things up. I did however ship half of them out for play dates and brought in friends for the half that remained at home. Which took us until about 4 p.m. before I had a meltdown. I sent the kids to their rooms for "quiet time" and myself to my room for a much-needed time out. I read the Word and then dug out the aforementioned book. Can I just say I've been LAUGHING my head off?

I've been accused of being "real" and maybe a bit too honest at times, but I believe strongly that there is freedom in vulnerability and imperfection. I feel like I'm a walking mess and that's WITH a daily dose of the Holy Spirit's power to work through my imperfections. God used this book to help me gain perspective and engage with these four precious treasures that were hand-picked for me to love and train.

Here's a tantalizing nugget from the start of the book. I suggest you run out and get your own copy.

A (Fairly Lame) Ode to Mothers
by Jen Hatmaker

An ode to the marvelous woman called "Mother"
Though not one of us is exactly like another.
From the second we're born to the minute we die
Our preferences are as limitless as stars in the sky.

We might have been perfectly gracious before
But childbirth entered us in the Mommy War.
Rather than letting everyone else be
We criticize parenting that isn't exactly like... me.

So once and for all let me put this to rest
None of us owns the title of "best."
Natural childbirth does not make you a hippy
Epidurals are not just for women who want to feel trippy.
In a bathtub with a doula or in a hospital bed
We all got a baby with limbs and a head.

Nursing is great if nothing goes wrong
But some nipples turn inward and refuse to play along.
This is a choice for each mom - it's her route
So it's just A+B and everyone else can C their way out.

Schedules and timers do not make you cruel
Feeding on demand does not make you a fool.
In the nursery with a monitor or in the family bed
Every chick gets to pick where her baby lays his head.

If I see one more mom roll her eyes at "organic..."
"Partially hydrogenated" throws some of us into panic.
But neither judge Sonic burgers and fries
Some of us just want to enjoy food before we die.

Preschool, home school, public, or MOntessori
Listen, my friends, and I'll tell you a story;
Two moms differed on favorite school trends
their kids turned out pretty much the same. The end.

If a girl gets the title of "mom" accidentally
The worst thing we can do is treat her judgmentally.
How about some love, some help, some advice?
She needs our love and we shouldn't think twice.

Discipline through various methods will prevail
Look, we're all just trying to keep our kids out of jail.
These things are just preferences, not right or wrong
What matters more is teaching our kids to get along -
To love and to share, to speak gently and kind,
To obey so that mom won't go out of her mind.

Showing them Jesus is our common ground
Teaching them how he can always be found.
He's present in the public school and Waldorf (so trendy)
He's over at Whole Foods but also at Wendy's.
Jesus never cared about these sorts of things
It's our hearts that he wants and the worship we bring.

It's time for us moms to declare a truce
Regardless if we buy Capri Sun or 100 percent juice.
My way is not your way, and your way isn't mine
But both of our kids will turn out just fine.

Rather than judging and looking down our noses
Let's enjoy the common ground motherhood poses.
As believers, we all love the same Lord
We all have children who tell us "I'm bored."

We all need more sleep than these tiny five hours
Most of us struggle to find time for a shower.
We haven't been to the bathroom alone in an age
Our mothers have all told us, "Relax, this is just a stage."

We all love our babies so much we could die
We'd take a bullet for each one without batting an eye.
Though we are different, we're in the same tribe
Motherhood requires a similar vibe -
love and affection, sacrifice and grace
laughter, which keeps the whole mechanism in place.

Though different, by the grace of God, I suspect:
ALL our children will rise up and call us... collect.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

This and That

Kids are hilarious and make me laugh every day. Here are some recent funnies.

Katie (who is 8) got to spend the afternoon with a newer friend. They had a blast, ate a bunch of candy and spend the entire afternoon and evening together. On the way home from church, she said, "This was the best day of my life. I got to play with Jillian, I got to eat tons of candy, and I got to go to church. Can we do that every Sunday?"

Paige (who is 4 1/2 years old) was demonstrating her mastery of the sounds letters make. Only she can't say "rrrrr." It comes out "wha, wha, wha." So she said, "wha, wha, wha, wha. R. Like Wyder (Ryder) in my class and like Grandma Wu (Ru)." She also enjoyed a Sunday afternoon of fun with Jillian's younger sister Miriam and while playing, Miriam gave her a toy Master Card. Paige showed up to check into her Sunday school class carrying an address book in lieu of a Bible and a toy Master Card. When she showed her Sunday School teacher her treasures, the quick witted teacher quipped, "Oh, is that for your tithe?"

Paige's inability to pronounce certain sounds reminded me of one of my favorite kid stories of all time. Our friends, who I've been missing like crazy lately, have four kids and the oldest two are 17 months apart. When they were 2 and 3, neither of them could say the word "yellow." The younger one mispronounced it so the older one decided to correct her and said, "Rachel, it's not lellow. It's wellow."

Grant (9 1/2 years) is eating up studying Native Americans and early settlers in Oregon history. He has lived and breathed learning about Indians since school started. He spent his entire Saturday making a Chinook log house that he engineered planned and executed entirely on his own. I asked him what he wanted to be for Halloween and he said, "An Indian only I don't have the proper apparel."

Paige's friend, Oliver, goes by the nickname Seppie. Now that he's in pre-school, he's super offended that his teacher insists on calling him Oliver instead of Seppie. He told his mom about some prayer time he had with God and said, "Mom, God said to me, 'Seppie, you tell your not-so-nice friend that he's being mean.'" I can't stop giggling about the fact that God calls him "Seppie."

Alli is notorious for saying funny stuff, but hasn't said anything hilarious lately.

I talked to my sister-in-law and got some updates on my nieces who are 13, 12, and almost 10. Apparently they found out at the last minute that the local children's theatre was holding auditions for a production of Annie. All the girls wanted to audition and none of them had time to prep. They all sat in an auditorium and each kid had to sing a song of their choosing in front of the entire crowd. My 12-year-old niece sang "Amazing Grace" and sang one lyric, "that saved a wrench like me." My 13-year-old niece sang "The Star Spangled Banner," one of the hardest songs on earth to sing, and pitched it so high to start that she had to abandon the song midship when it got too high. And my 10-year-old niece sang Taylor Swift "You Belong with Me" and nailed it. I wish I could have been there to hear it and embarrass them by cheering really loudly.

And finally, on a non-kid note, I am not going to run the Boston marathon. I had already decided that it wouldn't work out because Curt is leading a team to Haiti that returns three days before the Boston marathon and I am hoping to join him on that trip. Yesterday registration for Boston opened and it filled up in a record eight hours. In 115 years of hosting this race, it has never filled up so quickly. Rumor has it that they may cut the times women need to qualify for next year's field to reduce the number of people who qualify. I'm grateful God closed that door and am still reveling in His goodness to me to run Portland and enjoy it so much.

Be blessed today!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Boys and Girls

Things found while cleaning Grant's bathroom today: the pre-requisite dried pee all over the toilet seat, lid and surrounding floor area. Mud chunks, mud caked to the floor and mud spatters on the back of the bathroom door. Dried blue spit in the sink. And a burnt out light bulb.

Things found while cleaning the girls' bathroom today: a plethora of hair parties in all shapes and sizes dumped on the bathroom floor. Dried pink toothpaste spit in both sinks. Girly toothbrushes strewn all over the counter. And gobs of already-been-chewed pink gum in the wastebasket.

Very distinct differences. All equally gross.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Portland Marathon 2010

On Sunday I ran the Portland Marathon. 26.2 miles of pure adrenaline, will power, mental and physical energy. It's been four days and as the runner's high starts to wane, the reality of the accomplishment is beginning to set in.

In a way, I'm glad I didn't get excited about this race until two weeks before the gun went off because those two weeks were filled with great anticipation and lots of nervous energy. Saturday was the worst. I spent Saturday morning packing my bag since I was spending the night at my running partner Carissa's house. I got more nervous with each item that I carefully laid out and by the time I crossed the last thing off my list, I was quite certain I might barf from nerves.

We left the kids with a babysitter and Curt and I headed into the city to meet my brother (via my mom's husband) Ben at the runner's expo downtown. We exited into the downtown area and all the street lights were clothed in official "Portland Marathon" garb. The closer we got to the starting area, the more signs we saw and the deeper the pit in my stomach got. We drove by the start area and saw the "Portland Marathon" fencing being installed in the finisher's shoot. The expo was packed with excited runners in all shapes and sizes. I'm always amazed at the variety of people who run. It's a sport that crosses all stereo-types and athletic ability. If you have will power, you can run.

We hooked up with Ben and took the pre-requisite pictures holding our bibs and smiling nervously. The three of us walked up and down the rows of vendors and were bummed by the lack of freebies that are usually standard fare at stuff like this. At the end of one row I found a vendor that was giving away a free plastic cup with a flyer for a Shamrock marathon. Excitedly I told Ben about my find. He came back smirking and holding a stack of three cups. I booked it back to the table and told the ladies, "My brother just got three cups and I only got one. Can I have some more?" To my great delight, they dug into their supply box and gave me an entire stack. You should have seen the look on Ben's face before he burst into the loudest laugh. Scoring those cups and watching him laugh may be my favorite marathon memory aside from crossing the finish line.

The last stop at the expo for me was at the pacer's table. Experienced runners volunteer to pace runners who are trying to attain a certain goal time. They take turns carrying a big red lizard sign with the goal finish time printed in huge white letters. They also offered little wrist bands that listed times for each individual mile and the collaborative time after each mile to stay on pace for that goal. To qualify for the Boston marathon I had to finish in three hours and 45 minutes, a feat I felt was basically impossible. I tried to pass myself off as confident when I nervously picked up a 3:45 pace band and shoved it in my goodie bag.

We shared a meal with Carissa, her husband Tass, and their three adorable sons. For good measure I took seconds of everything she served and then chowed an energy bar before going to bed. I said goodbye to Curt and we prayed that God would calm my nerves and allow me to sleep well in a strange bed the night before a big race. Miraculously, I slept like a rock. That NEVER happens before a race. I was so grateful for that answer to prayer.

I was up by 5 a.m. and even though it was pitch dark, I saw rain drops all over the windows. It was a stormy, rainy and dark morning, not exactly perfect weather to run for hours on end. Carissa and I ate breakfast, took a picture with her self-timer, and hit the road. We picked up her friend Michelle and headed into the city down dark, foggy, rainy roads. We parked a few blocks from the start and were drenched within seconds of getting out of the car. The skies opened, the wind picked up and I couldn't help but think, "This could be a long morning."

We wanted to start with the red lizard 3:45 pace group, but our bibs were pre-printed and color coded based on our estimated finish time from when we registered. We both guessed a 4 hour finish time and that forced us back one corral. Ben ended up in the wrong corral and we never even saw him on race day which was a big bummer. Before the gun went off, we prayed together and asked God to give us strength and power, a good attitude, and an awesome experience together. And then we were off. Running through the dimly lit morning and the pouring rain. Soaking our feet in the streets that were quickly puddling and dodging through openings in the sea of runners. It was glorious.

My wonderful husband got the kids out of bed at 5:45 a.m. and then met my equally amazing Mom and Terry at 6:30 a.m. so they could be in the city for the start of the race. Just like when I ran the Chicago marathon, Curt brought a huge American flag and gave me estimates of where they'd be setting up along the race course so we could find them through the crowd. We ran past our rain-coat clad fans at mile 2 and then back past them at mile 4. They were holding home-made signs and chanting cheers they made up while they were waiting for us. It made me feel so loved. Curt's prayer for me all along has been "that you have the run of your life." Knowing he was praying for me and that so many of my friends were praying too made it even more exciting to be out on the course.

We ran and ran. Periodically I could feel the rain that never let up the entire race pool at the bottom of my running dress and then pour down my legs. We were at the mile five marker when we saw our first red lizard. We were so surprised and we threw ourselves a little party when we caught up to and then passed the 3:50 pace group. Within minutes, the 3:45 group came into view. Carissa and I couldn't believe how much time we were making up. We even tried to slow down to conserve energy, but once we saw that red lizard, we stayed with it. We passed the pace group on a downhill stretch around mile 12 and ran steady and strong through the entire first 13 miles.

Shortly past the half-way mark, I had a little moment with God. The reality of what we were doing washed over me and I got very weepy. I was running a marathon. I was doing it pain free. I was doing it faster than I ever dreamed was possible. And I was doing it with a friend, compatible running partner, and sister in Christ. It was so humbling and exciting all at once and I just burst out, "We're doing it Carissa. We're really doing it. All Glory to God, we're having the race of our lives."

Around mile 15, the 3:45 pace group caught up with us. We were in a section of road where the width of running space was very narrow. The crowd enveloped us and when I looked back, I couldn't see Carissa. I knew she was getting tired and was thinking of slowing her pace just a tad, but I didn't want to run without her. I kept looking over my shoulder trying to find her in the crowd, but I never saw her again until the finish. I ran the rest of the race by myself, but prayed for Carissa the entire time.

The pace group passed me climbing the big hill up to St. John's bridge, but I passed them coming down the other side. I expected to fall apart around mile 20, but my strength remained. I saw my family again at mile 21. The kids were drenched, cheering loudly and appeared to be having a ton of fun. At one point shortly before mile 23, I prayed, "God, I thought this was going to be tough. I'm not sure what's going on or why I still feel good, but I'm grateful. I know I'll need your strength to finish."

It couldn't have been more prophetic. Within minutes, I felt my legs start tightening up and my body getting tired. I was determined to stay ahead of that red lizard so I dug deep, found some mental stamina that I didn't know I had left and pressed on. Those last three miles were T-O-U-G-H. The pace group caught up to me. Then passed me. And proceeded to run further and further ahead. I kept chanting to myself, "Catch that darn lizard. Do not lose sight of the lizard." But around mile 24.5, the lizard disappeared around a corner. I was tempted to quit chasing the dream of Boston qualifier and just finish slowly, but I had one remaining hope: the buffer we had from starting one corral back. I wasn't sure how much of a lead they had on me but I knew if I didn't slow down, I still had a chance to qualify for Boston.

Our bibs were printed with our names on them and the closer I got to the finish line, the more fans I encountered who were kind enough to read my name on my bib, see that I was struggling and cheer for my by name. They hooped and hollered, encouraged me to pass the boys, and told me the finish line was just around the corner even though I knew they were lying. I saw the big mile 25 marker and figured I'd need at least ten minutes to finish the race. The red lizard was long gone and it was with fear and trembling that I checked the time on my garmin. It said, "3 hours 33 minutes." I couldn't believe it. If I pulled out all the stops, there was still a chance. It felt a bit like Lloyd Christmas from Dumb and Dumber when the married woman he'd been chasing all the way to Vail said his chances of being with her were one in a million and he gleefully replied, "So you're saying I have a chance?"

I really am not sure how I finished the last one.point.two miles without crawling. I was completely and entirely spent on all levels, but by the grace of God, the blue Portland Marathon fencing appeared and I entered the finisher's chute. I heard someone scream my name and pressed up against the fence cheering wildly was my husband, my children, and our good friends, the Buchstaber's. I rounded the corner, spotted the finisher's mat and heard someone else scream my name: my mom and Terry. It makes me cry just typing this - I felt so loved and treasured that these people would give up their Sunday morning, get soaking wet, schlep kids and snacks and home-made signs through the city to watch me chase a dream.

I have never been so glad to see a finish mat. I stomped on the mat with my shoe and pushed stop on my Garmin. 3 hours. 43 minutes. 57 second. I squeaked into a Boston qualifying time with two minutes to spare. How is that possible?!?!!?

Apparently I looked as bad as I felt and within seconds of finishing had a volunteer ask me if I needed medical assistance. I assured her I was okay and pushed my way to the food tables. I claimed my finisher's shirt, got my picture taken and somehow ended up with two finisher's medals which made me laugh given the cup incident with Ben. Carissa finished just minutes behind me - her first marathon and she finished in 3 hours and 49 minutes. What a stud!

We all hooked up with our families and eventually headed home. By that time I was shivering uncontrollably, noticeably limping, and flushed and queasy for the next four hours. I was positive I would never run another marathon even if you paid me and was not at all interested in running Boston. But that was four days ago. I don't have a muscle that hurts any more, I'd like to go for a run tomorrow, and I've been on the Boston marathon website scoping dates and information. But that's the way runners are - slightly crazy and very driven.

I heard myself being a Braggy Braggerson's to someone last night and was disgusted by the ugliness of it. More than anything, I want to give God the glory He deserves for restoring strength and healing to my knee. For giving me the physical capability to run and the mental energy to enjoy it. For meeting me on my long runs and whispering His love to me through the rain, the trees, the beauty, the sweat and the tears. I am in awe of His goodness to me and can say with the Psalmist, "I run in the path of your command, for You have set my heart free." Thank you Jesus!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Turning a Day Around

This morning I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Apparently two of my four children did too which made for an interesting start to the day. They pushed my buttons and I let them. By the time we picked Alli up from her birthday party at lunch time, we all needed a giant time out.

We haven't been to Cannon Beach since we moved to Oregon in 2008 and since the kids had the day off school, we took off for the coast after the party. We pulled into Ecola State Park almost got blown over by the huge gusts of wind. Paige got sand in her eye and cried for at least 20 minutes until we got "medicine" (eye drops) from the car. After her miraculous healing, she never complained the entire day, and we hiked three miles of fairly steep terrain. Not only did she refrain from complaining, she decided she's too big to hold my hand or accept help expect in the steepest part. As I watched my baby keep up with the big kids, hike three miles in her hot pink cowgirl boots and not miss a beat or need me, a little piece of my heart died.

The plan was to have today be Middle Name day. I wish I could take credit for all the fun stuff our family does, but most of the goofiness is Curt's brain child. Before we could start calling each other by our middle names, a new plan emerged. Grant is studying Indians at school and they have become his most recent obsession. We heard about Indians ALL.DAY.LONG. Kaitlin fell in line with all his teaching and repurposed a rubber physical therapy band we found in the van as an "Indian bandana" and wore it ALL.DAY.LONG. With that, Curt gave us all Indian names. He was Walks With Stick, Grant was Strays From Trail, Kaitlin was Walks With Dog, Alli was Missing Teeth, Paige was Dirt in Eye, and Dusty was White Wool. I was hoping to not get Crab Master General, but I think Steps on Duck was equally bad. Hands down the best part of the day was those goofy nicknames. At one point late in the day, I asked Paige what her name was and after great thought she said, "Oh, I know. Dirt Eye." We both giggled.

We hiked from Ecola State Park down to Indian Beach. It was the perfect size hike - a mile and half each way with fairly steep ups and downs so it still felt like it required effort to get to the beach. Indian Beach is known for it's good surf and we enjoyed watching several surfers out catching waves. It's also littered with tons of huge rocks that we all explored. Strays From Path brought his whittling knife to perfect his home-made spear. When it met inspection, he took off sea gull hunting, Indian style, and spent the entire afternoon chasing birds in his bare feet.

We picnicked for lunch and dinner and killed the entire day at the very windy, sometimes sunny, mostly cloudy, but not rainy today, lovely Oregon coast. We headed into town for some salt water taffy, but the candy store was already closed, so we finished our day at Haystack Rock instead. The tide was as low as I've ever seen it so we explored the tide pools in the last waning light of day. We even tortured a few crabs that happened to be in the shallow water.

I'm so glad for this day as a family and for the healing power of laughter. There is nothing like a good laugh and a little goofiness to turn a day around!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Different Daughters

My oldest two daughters are like night and day. One is a sweet, kind, even-keeled with touches of over-the-top drama, people-pleasing peace maker. The other is a determined, strong, compassionate, fiercely loyal and feisty leader. Surprisingly they co-exist nicely with each other and are usually the best of friends, with the occasional worst of enemies moments.

They both made me proud to the point of tears this week. Both daughters had friends who were being bullied because of their size. The bullying upset both daughters. One daughter originally chose to walk away as her coping method. The other chose to initially be mean in return. Both daughters had heart-to-hearts at bedtime and then came home with similar stories.

When Determined Daughter witnessed more teasing, she got in the face of the other little girl and told her in no uncertain terms that she was not to make fun of her friend anymore. Her delivery was rough around the edges and bordered on returning insult for insult, but in the grand scheme of things, I was so proud of her for standing up for her friend. The confrontation resulted in a "meeting" between the girls and their end decision was to "stop being mean and stay friends."

Peacemaking Daughter stepped out of her comfort zone and today instead of walking away, sweetly confronted the girl who was being mean. In her kind, gentle way she said, "What you're doing is mean and wrong and I don't want you treating my friend that way. You need to stop it." The other girl paused, said, "Okay," and walked away.

I can't help but wonder about the ripple effect of my daughters' actions. Will those precious kids who were being teased have a better school experience now? Will the girls who were being mean think twice before they tease again? And will my two very different daughters stand a little taller and a little prouder for doing the right thing even when it was difficult? I think so.

You Have Set My Heart Free

I've read Psalm 119 many times before but since it's the longest chapter in the Bible, I've never really absorbed it. I get bogged down with the fact that it takes up five pages in my Bible and find myself skimming within the first handful of verses. It came up in my assigned Bible reading last week and I skipped over it for three days in a row because I didn't want to tackle it. When I finally took the time to read it, I was so blessed. I found myself surprised by the underlying theme of action. The author uses verbs like obey, meditate follow, seek, and memorize to describe his pursuit of God. I really loved my study of this chapter and would encourage you to take 30 minutes and absorb it for yourself.

I about fell off my chair when I read verse 32. It says, "I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free." I swear - the author had to be a runner because that's exactly how I feel when I run. Flying down the road or the trail, wind in my hair, momentarily free from the weight of day to day life. Following Jesus is so much like this too. When I am obeying, seeking, meditating, memorizing and following Jesus life feels so free and unencumbered, even in the face of suffering or trials. But when I try to do my own thing, fix things the way I think they need to be fixed and walk in my own sin, I feel so weighted down and heavy. I can barely walk through life, let alone run.

I got this vision of a little girl half-running half dancing down a sunlit, wooded trail, hair flying, arms flailing, huge smile on her face. So of course I had to bring to life the vision in my head. Paige was my willing model. I plan to print this photo, write the verse on a matte, and put it somewhere I can see it every day.

May your heart be set free to run today as you follow God's commands!