Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Midnight Party

We arrived at our hotel in Ft. Lauderdale around 9 p.m. Eastern time.  Our team gathered in the lobby for a pizza party and team meeting.  I almost fell off my chair when Kay, our team lead, announced that we were to all meet back in the lobby at 4 a.m. today.  Ummm?  Really?

My roommate assignments were Ann, Orlena and Whitney.  We promised to try to be good and not cause trouble so we turned out the light at 10:30 p.m. and laid in the dark silently for almost an hour.  Orlena was my bed buddy and I was inwardly giggling as she tried to lay still and not squirm next to me.  Finally I whispered, “I’m not sleeping either.”  She giggled and then Ann, who we thought was sleeping soundly in the next bed got up.  Orlena whispered, “She’s not sleeping either.”  We started snickering and Whitney popped up.  Within seconds, we were having a party.

We giggled and laughed for way too long.  We watched videos on our phones.  We listened to music.  Talked about our families.  And laughed a lot.  Everything is funny when you’re supposed to be quiet.  We finally forced ourselves to turn out the lights and try to fall asleep, but to no avail.  We’d all start falling asleep and then the air conditioner would clunk off and wake us all up.  We tossed and turned and were just falling asleep when the alarm went off at 3:15 a.m.

Breakfast at 4 a.m.
We felt better when we met our team for breakfast and found most of the women’s stories to match our own.  Our team is at the Ft. Lauderdale airport, waiting to board the plane to Port au Prince.  We’re sleep deprived and swollen eyed, but the laughter is constant and the excitement is mounting.  Haiti – here we come!  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Getting Packed and On the Plane

Curt and I at the airport
I was pretty sure going into yesterday afternoon that I might be showing up at the airport with a pile of clothes in my hands begging for some sort of containing device.  My bedroom looked like my closet vomited all over the floor, but something about narrowing a week’s worth of clothes and toiletries down into one carry on bag paralyzed me.  As Curt would say, I had “paralysis by analysis.”  Each item packed needed to be intentional and serve a dual purpose.  Forgetting my passport (that I’m using for the first time) would be detrimental.  Oh the pressure…  

I spent the afternoon packing and managed to fit everything I need into a rolling carry-on and a second huge bag that holds the team camera and laptop.  I’m praying for grace from the flight attendants and maybe some bigger muscles by the time I get to Haiti.

Phil introducing our guy chaperones to our group
My Mom and Terry came over for dinner that Curt, Terry and Sarah all made together while I finished packing.  We ate as an extended family and then circled up around the kitchen counter, held hands, and prayed.  It was such a sweet, emotional and intimate time.  I cried silently as I listened to my precious kids come boldly to the throne of grace and petition God for safe travels, a “fun time holding orphan babies,” and protection over them as I leave.  Is there anything more beautiful than when a child talks to Jesus?

I put each of my precious lovelies to bed last night.  We prayed, talked, snuggled, hugged and cried.  I’ve never been gone longer than two days without seeing my babies.  Eight days feels like an eternity!  Alli, who doesn’t handle change well, was up twice in the middle of the night.  The second time she was an emotional wreck and plopped down on the stairs crying loud.  Curt told her they’d need to move since she was being so loud.  She interrupted her loud tears to tell him, “I’m trying to compose myself” before she started crying again.  Oh Alli…

This morning wake up was at 5 a.m.!  Curt and I ate breakfast together, I kissed all my sleeping kids one more time, squeezed Sarah who got up early to say goodbye, and we headed out the door.  We picked up Jenna, one of my teammates, along the way and got to the airport by 7 a.m.
Praying for the Lord to send us.

Our team is all wearing matching Forward Edge t-shirts.  Originally most of us grimaced inwardly over the dictated travel outfit, but it was really cool to be at the airport as a team, unified by our t-shirts that say “ordinary people – extraordinary purpose.”  We checked our huge red duffle bags and then our team, along with our family members made a huge circle.  We held hands - young and old, friends and family - and prayed.  We asked God to go before us.  We asked for protection over our families and over our team as we traveled.  We asked for moldable hearts and spirits ready to embrace the Haitian women anxiously awaiting our arrival.  It was beautiful.  After prayer, we said goodbye to our loved ones and headed off into the great unknown. 

Our first flight is about to land.  The closer we get to Haiti, the faster my heart beats.  I can not wait to see what God does in the next eight days.  Isaiah 6:8 says, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send?  And who will go for me?’  And I said, ‘Hear I am.  Send me.’”   After months of planning, dreaming and praying, we are finally going.  Thank you Jesus!

Our team
P.S.  Made it to Ft. Lauderdale and are checked in at the hotel.  Big pizza party in the lobby in twenty minutes and we head to Haiti first thing in the morning.  Got to talk to my people at home.  Katie’s team made the championship game of intramural kickball and she’s so excited.  The kids made packets of notes/cards/scrapbooks for me to open each day I’m gone.  It brought me to tears!  Thanks for your prayers for my sweet family!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Grant and Peter's Rap about Noah

Yet another reason why the kids ministry at Solid Rock is about the best there ever was...

Peter, one of our children's youth pastors, happens to be a good friend of Grant's.  Peter wrote a rap about Noah to sing at church one week.  Grant loved it but thought it needed more depth so the two of them worked on the rap and came up with this finished product.  The girls are very happy to beat box and dance every time Grant performs it.  Hope you enjoy it!

Hello.  My name is Noah and I'm building an ark.
I'm doing it cause I'm scared of sharks.
The clouds are coming and it's gonna get dark,
It's gonna rain.  It's gonna be insane.
The earth is gonna flood and it's gonna be lame,
but me and my family, we're gonna float.
Cause I built myself a really big boat.

And on my boat I got a goat, a hippo, some froggies, a rhino, a tiger, and some really cute doggies.  Porcupine, a rat, triceritops too.  
It's like I got my very own zoo.
On the boat, the boat that I built.  
I feel some guilt because everybody else is gonna drown.  
They're gonna go down, down.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

On the Flip Side


Sunday was the Portland Marathon.  I spent all day Saturday a ball of nervous energy, pacing around trying to keep my hands and mind busy.  Saturday night I laid out my clothes for the morning, thought through my breakfast and snack plans, set my alarm for o-dark thirty, and went to bed hoping I could turn my mind off and sleep.   Sunday morning I woke to my alarm and bounded out of bed instantly awake and excited.  It was marathon day!  But instead of donning my running clothes and grabbing my bib number, I donned warm clothes to stay dry in and grabbed an extra cup of coffee for the road.  This year I was running the Portland Marathon on the flip side – as a fan, not a runner.  It’s been a week and I still can’t tell which was more fun.

our spot on the bluff
My quiet, reserved best friend Kelly volunteered to come with me so I wouldn’t have to run around the race course chasing friends by myself.  Sarah’s sister-in-law Mandee was also running so Sarah joined us at the last minute and we all set out early, but not nearly as early as the runners.  (BONUS for being a fan).  We staked out a perfect cheering spot on the bluff above the Willamette River just past the twenty-mile mark then took a quick detour to Heavenly Donuts.  We picked up a dozen donuts to eat while we waited (talk about an oxymoron) and giggled when the old guys in front of us line didn’t laugh at my joke about the donuts being heavenly.

my cheesy sign
Some of the big marathons, Portland included, print your name in big bold letters on your marathon bib so spectators can cheer for you by name.  I abandoned my chair and my donut, stood right on the edge of the road, and cheered loudly for each runner by name.  Sarah joined me.  Kelly stood back clapping quietly and inwardly giggling and our running monologue.  “Go Ben!  You’re doing great!  Nice pace Travis!  Don’t quit Theo.  Hey a girl – you’re awesome Megan.  Look at you hanging with the boys!”  Some racers got huge smiles and gave thumbs up or high fives.  Others appeared to be in great pain and just grimaced in our direction.  Some runners didn’t indicate they heard us at all, but it didn’t stop our enthusiasm.  At one point Kelly said, “They should pay you guys to do this.  You’re awesome!” 

Six of my friends were running the marathon: 
My neighbor Jon who runs marathons so often he could probably run one in his sleep.   He was shooting for a personal best time and we knew if we saw him he’d be in the early pack of racers. 
Carissa, my running partner in crime, who committed to training for this race with the intention of trying to qualify for Boston.  She trained relentlessly – miles and miles and miles – and went into the race in tip-top shape and running faster than she ever has in her life.
Tanya, my other running partner in crime, who entered the race attempting to run her first marathon on a bum knee that kept her out of weeks of training.   Fast and determined, I had no doubt she’d make it across the finish line in spite of her injury. 
Sisters and friends of mine – Ally and Mandee – both running their first marathon and committed to running the entire race together from start to finish.  
Kathleen – a new friend that I’m going to Haiti with – also running her first marathon after months of committed training.  

Carissa looking great at mile 20

I hoped to see all my friends on the course but HAD to see Carissa finish this race.  It felt almost sinful to let her run a big race without me.  The closer Carissa’s pace group got to our cheering spot, the more nervous I got.  When she came into view I momentarily lost my ability to breathe.  It was so exciting and so emotional.  

Weeks and weeks of getting up before her husband left for work to run, logging miles on the weekends, adjusting her schedule to be a wife, mom, friend and marathon runner culminated on this day, in this race.  Not surprisingly, she was running strong with the 3:30 pace group - still running an eight-minute mile pace at mile 20.5!  

I took off down the street with her, clunking away in my rain boots and talking non-stop.  I don’t remember much of our conversation, but I do remember praying with her and swallowing a lot over the lump of tears in my throat.  Do all spectators feel this proud of their loved ones who run?  Sheez!

Carissa and Tass at the finish
After Carissa passed, Kelly and I packed up and headed to the finish line to cheer Carissa (and hopefully my other friends) in to the finish.  Sarah stayed behind at mile 20 to wait for Mandee and Ally and ended up having her own Swallow Back the Emotions moment with them.  We found Carissa’s husband about three tenths of a mile from the finish line.  Shortly after we arrived, the 3:30 pace group ran by.  Carissa wasn’t with them.  

My heart sank and I started pacing and praying.  I think I may have actually been muttering under my breath,  “C’mon Carissa.  C’mon Carissa.”  Time stood still as we waited and prayed.  Waited and prayed.  Finally, after what seemed like forever but was really only 60 seconds, she appeared.  Clearly tired but still running strong, she was seconds away from finishing her second marathon and potentially doing it in a Boston-qualifying time!  

We chased her around the corner to the reunion area and I re-loaded the “Track Your Runner” web page.  We held our breath while it loaded and I lost it when it showed her finish time as 3 hours 32 minutes 47 seconds - a Boston qualifying time and good enough for 25th place in her entire division!  I must have looked like a crazy fool jumping up and down in the reunion area shouting, “She did it!  She did it!” but it was too exciting to be mature.  

Carissa and I - Boston Qualifiers!
When Carissa emerged we hugged and celebrated and I cried for both of us.  It was really special and I know I wouldn’t have appreciated how fast and smooth her race was if I would have been running next to her struggling to keep up and berating myself for thinking it was a good idea to try to run 26.2 miles.

We saw Tanya finish her race – just over four hours for her first marathon and with an injury to boot – before we had to leave the race to rejoin our families.  I stalked my remaining friends through the website and caught up with them after the race.

Tanya, me and Carissa
The runner’s high lasted all afternoon.  My brain was spinning and excitement ran high.  I couldn’t sit still even though I was tired and had to upload pictures immediately.  Running the race as a spectator felt eerily similar to actually running.  The only difference was that my body wasn’t sore and exhausted.  Bonus.  I loved running the marathon on the flip side as a spectator so much that I just might actually literally run it next year.  Thanks a lot Carissa!  

Lion Walk 2011

apprehensive Paige
Three weeks ago my kids participated in the Lion Walk at their school.  Of course I intended to blog about the fun event hours after it happened, but the blog in my head kept morphing from “today” to “yesterday” to “a few days ago,” and then off my radar screen completely.  I had given up on writing about it, but then the kids came home from school yesterday with Part Two and I knew I needed to write this story.

The Lion Walk is a fundraiser hosted by the parent group at our school.  The kids raise money by asking for a dollar pledge per lap that they run/walk around the high school track in a specified amount of time on the day of the event.  I love this event because it forces all the kids, even the non-athletic ones, to get out on the track and get moving.  It whets their appetite for racing because they get to run on a real track in front of cheering fans.  They compete against each other but also against themselves to see just how far they can run in the allotted time.  What’s not to love?

Paigey and I running together
My kids ran back to back to back to back.  Paige and Alli’s classes ran for twenty minutes.  Grant and Katie’s classes ran for twenty-five minutes.  I ran along with each of them, slowly accumulating mileage and ended up logging just over 8 miles by the time all was said and done.

Paige was the first to run.  She and I have stood on the sidelines for the last two years watching her older sibling run in this event.  Neither one of us could believe she was actually old enough to be participating on her own!  When her teacher marched her adorable class of 5-year-old kindergartners out onto the track, Paige was visibly nervous.  She warmed up when she saw me though and happily posed for pictures.  Paigey might look angelic and fragile, but she is a quiet warrior. 

Paigey after she finished running
She ran and ran and ran.  Her little cheeks turned bright red like they always do when she gets hot.  At each checkpoint she stopped and stood proudly while the parent volunteer marked off another lap.  When she got tired, she walked but she always started running again quickly.  We counted backward to the finish – 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-0 and then high-fived each other and counted up her laps.  Sweet Paigey ran six laps around the high school track (1.5 miles) in 20 minutes and she did it all with a HUGE smile on her face.  I don’t know who was more proud – me or her – but she sure looked irresistible heading back to her classroom with her flushed face and huge smile.

Running with Alli
Next came Alli’s 2nd grade class.  I think Alli’s main goal was to do the opposite of what I wanted.  The more I encouraged her to run, the slower she ran and the more she walked.  I realized pushing her would be an exercise in frustration so we both adjusted our attitudes.  I let her set a very lazy pace and we lollygagged around the track – 7 times in 20 minutes.  It was hard to know what to say to her at the finish.  “Good job” and “great effort” weren’t true.  “That was fun” was a stretch in honesty.  I settled on, “I love you Schnookie.  It was great to see you,” and sent her off with a hug.

Love you Schnookie!
What Alli lacked in motivation, Katie more than made up for.  Her 4th grade class came next and it was obvious, even from a distance, that Katie was pumped for the Lion Walk.  Fully animated and excited, she lit up when she saw me.  Last year Katie ran ten laps in twenty-five minutes.  She really wanted to beat that this year and set a goal for herself of 11 laps.   To accomplish this goal, she needed to maintain close to a 9:30 minute per mile pace.  It seemed improbable with zero training, but Katie is one tough cookie mentally.  I had my Garmin on and we set out at an aggressive pace.  While we ran she talked through her strategy, and I made it my goal to help her achieve hers.  She kept up a 9:00 minute mile for the first few laps and then started to get tired.  Her pace began to slow.  She was hot.  Her feet hurt.  Her legs were tired.  She was thirsty.  She acted like she wanted to stop running and walk, but her heart told her to keep going.  I talked her through the physical pain into the place of mental clarity you get when you run for distance.

run Katie run!
We set small goals and threw little parties when we reached them.  I showed her how to change her mental thinking from, “I can’t run anymore,” to “I can do anything for one minute.”  Then say it again.  We quoted Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” and then repeated it over and over.  We took short walking breaks when she really didn’t want to run another step.  We prayed for strength and stamina.  She ran.  I encouraged.  When the horn buzzed, sweet Katie had run her way to 11 laps (2.75 miles)!  We hooped and hollered and took pictures.  I tried not to be the Mom Who Cries Over Everything Amazing Her Child Does, but I couldn’t help how proud I was of my girl.  She set a goal, gave it her all, and achieved it.  I couldn’t stop smiling. 
So proud of you Kaitlin!

Grant’s 5th grade class came on the heels of Katie’s class. Last year Grant and Katie tied on the distance run and Grant wasn’t happy about it.  His three goals for this year’s Lion Walk were:  beat Katie, run more than ten laps, and run the whole time without walking.  Grant, like Katie, had not trained at all for this event, but he has been playing football for two months and the conditioning showed.  He started out at an aggressive pace but realized his mistake and quickly slowed to a realistic pace. Little by little, he chipped away at those laps.  We circled and circled the track, getting sweatier and more tired with every lap. 

Running with Grant
He hit the wall around lap 9 and started complaining.  His feet hurt.  His legs were tired.  He was hot and thirsty.  It was déjà vu.  My Sweet Boy and I went through the same exercise that Katie and I went through.  I talked him through the pain and into that sweet mental spot where you think you can do anything you set your mind to.  He whined a lot, but he never stopped running.  When the horn buzzed to end the event, Grant had run TWELVE laps (3 miles), beat Katie and managed to run the entire time.  We high-fived, hooped, hollered, took pictures and I tried not to cry.  It was an epic day.

When the kids got off the bus that afternoon they were talking over each other at me, re-living the excitement of the day.  Alli stood back listening and watching and I didn’t even have to say, “Don’t you wish you would have tried?”  Grant and Katie’s pride in what they had accomplished spoke for itself.

What a great job Sweet Boy!
Fast forward to yesterday.  All three of the big kids came piling off the bus yelling excitedly and running for home.  It was hard to make out what they were saying but I finally deciphered Alli over the others.  She was yelling, “Katie won the Lion Walk!  Katie won the Lion Walk!”  Apparently there are prizes given to the kids in each grade who run the farthest distance and Katie’s eleven-lap performance tied her for first place with a few other 4th graders.  At the assembly her name was called and she got to walk in front of the entire school to claim her certificate making her PE Teacher for two hours.  She was beaming with pride! 

Even better, Alli was too.  I was so touched by how thrilled Alli was at Katie’s success.  Alli told me all about the assembly and how exciting it was to hear her sister’s name get called.  Alli concluded the story by saying, “If I would have known there was prizes and stuff, I totally would have tried hard instead of walked slow just to bug you.  Next year I’m going to run really hard and fast.”  If Alli says it, she’ll do it.  Be forewarned Mable Rush students and staff.  Alli is out to win next year. 

Grant’s reaction was opposite of Alli’s.  Two other boys in his grade edged him out for 1st place by one measly lap.  He had given it his all and it wasn’t enough for the prize. We hugged and wiped away tears and then I pointed out how outstanding his performance was.  Winning isn’t what matters most, although it sure is fun.  What matters most is giving everything you do 100%.  Grant had done that and I reminded him how proud I was of his effort.  His face brightened, we fist bumped his second place victory, and headed inside for a snack.

I am so grateful for the lessons my kids learned by participating in the Lion Walk.  I can hardly wait for next year.  Thanks Mabel Rush for a banner day and thanks Summer Neiss for the awesome pictures of me running with the kids.  That was a real treat!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Obedience - Captivity or Freedom?

My friend Ally Spotts threw caution to the wind and gave up her teaching job to pursue a career as a writer.  She writes a lot about dating and relationships and has a huge following of well-educated readers who engage in thought-provoking dialog initiated by Ally's writing.

She just started a six post series called What's The Big Deal About Saving Sex for Marriage.  As you can imagine, this series is getting tons of traffic and feedback.  One guy wrote this:  I definitely appreciate this discussion. One of the things I've been thinking about a lot is how Christianity has often been painting as a "God saved us to not do a lot of things" type of religion/faith. But I'm beginning to wonder what did God save us to? Is it just a list of things we can't do or does he love us enough to push us toward something higher/great/better?

For whatever reason, his post stirred me to write what God has been teaching and teaching (and teaching) me over the past two years about obedience and freedom and boundaries.  I felt a bit silly posting to a website with a target audience of anything under age 30, but here's what I wrote.  

"Hey Tyler. I’m a mom so forgive me for the parenting illustration, but think about a fence in a back yard. It has a dual function: to keep bad things out (neighbors -that's a joke, kidnappers, weeds) and good things in (kids, dogs, balls). When we didn’t have a fenced-in yard, I couldn’t let my kids play outside by themselves because it wasn’t safe. As a result, they often stood longingly looking out the window and badgering me to stop cooking and go out and play.
Now that we have a fenced-in yard, they are free to run and play outside whenever they want. When they stay in the boundaries of the fence, they have freedom. If they step outside the gate, they open themselves up to danger from the outside AND the wrath of their Momma who will inflict big consequences on them to teach them that obedience is for their own good, not because I'm mean.
The same is true in following Christ. The things God asks us to obey serve a dual function: to protect us from bad things and to allow us to live in freedom within those boundaries. When we obey, we live a life filled with freedom and joy – the kind of joy that comes from following Jesus even when it’s tough. When we step outside the boundaries, we open ourselves up to danger from the outside AND the wrath of our Father who, because He loves us, will discipline us.
I John 5:3 says it best: “This is love for God: to obey His commands. And his commands are not burdensome…” We show God our gratitude and our love for Him by OBEYING. And as we obey, we learn the freedom that life in Christ offers because his commands are not burdensome. Does that make sense?"
What do you think?

Friday, October 7, 2011

Start a Puzzle

if the world would just stop spinning...
This (see picture) is how I've been feeling lately.  Like the world is spinning and spinning and I just can't seem to find which way is up.  A tight, packed schedule has completely overwhelmed me.  I keep thinking, "If I can just get FILL IN THE BLANK done, then I'll be able to relax." But FILL IN THE BLANK leads to another pressing item and the world continues to spin.

Curt had to speak at a conference at the beach today.  It was just one more thing to sandwich between football games and lots of company, but since the kids had the day off school we decided to rent a beach house and tag along.

I woke up yesterday abnormally crabby.  The kids, who had two extra days off school, were also grouchy and spent the day bickering.  I responded terribly.  To put it nicely, we were not functioning as a cohesive team.  I packed food for our family and my personal bag in under ten minutes and managed to forget my deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, hair brush, comb and whip cream for my coffee. I'm actually surprised I remembered to pack all four kids.  Somehow we made it in the car and headed to the beach.

We pulled into the driveway of the small, quaint rental house and all the craziness of the day - of our lives - was forgotten.  It was just the six of us, getting cozy in tiny quarters with nothing to do but be together.  The kids played in the backyard while I cooked dinner.  We sat around the table and talked and giggled.  After dinner, we played a board game.  There was a true/false game at the beach house called (I kid you not) "Fact or Crap."  We played it for almost an hour and none of could stop giggling at the silliness of the title.  I mean really.  Who makes a game like that?  And what lunatics besides us play it?

The kids all slept in one bedroom and took forever to fall asleep.  They repeatedly made excuses to come back out to the main area to snoop on what we were doing and we repeatedly sent them back to their bedroom, false threats of impending doom trailing after them.  They giggled and talked.  Curt and I giggled and talked as we eaves-dropped on their conversation.

I got out a 500 piece puzzle and started putting it together.  Curt watched the football game.  The craziness melted away as we boiled life down to basics.  Family.  Games.  Puzzles.  Giggles.  Rest.  It was just what we needed.

I came home to 28 emails and the same overflowing list of things to do still sitting on my kitchen counter.  My kids are bickering again and the laundry needs to be switched.  But you know what?  I think I'll start a puzzle.