Archive | June, 2010

Just Do Something

28 Jun

The sermon at church yesterday was a very good one – we are starting to go through the book of Colossians and Glynn (our pastor) emphasized the importance of truth in the Christian life. Without truth, our faith and hope are unfounded. We need the truth of Christ to ground us.

Some of the notes I took were:

“We can’t walk in the newness of life without being rooted and grounded in Christ.”

“We’re called to grow and bear fruit. Fruit comes from knowing Christ.”

“All we have in Christ is all we need to grow and bear fruit.”

While I wholeheartedly agree with those statements, I find myself struggling with them. I have returned yet again to my struggle of feeling like I live my life for myself and that the daily activities I engage in are pointless and futile. If God is the one who does the growing, then why am I stuck in this indecision about what I should be doing with my life?

I hate to say it but I feel like the statements I wrote down above are elementary and surface-deep. They don’t explain HOW. They state these truths of the Christian faith like it were easy to figure out how the work of the Spirit actually happens.

We had a “family meeting” at the church last night about who we are and where we’re going. A guy stood up and told a story about a co-worker who had been in need and his care group stepped up to help him out. The first thing he said after the congregation got done clapping (our church claps for everything) was “It wasn’t me. It was all God.”

Statements like that also puzzle me. I think, “Really? All God? But you’re the one who told your care group about this guy’s need and your care group provided for the guy.”

It is obvious that I am hung up on the practical side of God’s grace working in a believer’s life.

Then tonight, as I was sitting at the kitchen table reviewing my notes from the sermon, something hit me. The Christian life is lived from the heart – God is in the business of change from the inside out. It would go to reason, then, that the way God inspires action in a person’s life is by changing their heart. What they once valued no longer holds appeal and what they once would have never even thought of doing is now captivating. We are called to be faithful to the convictions and notions God puts into our hearts.

In my case, I have long been convicted, as I mentioned above, that I live for myself and should be more giving of my time. So I think I should volunteer somewhere. But there are so many good causes I could get involved with, I have a hard time deciding which one to do – which is God’s will for me? I could get involved with Habitat for Humanity or the Denver Rescue Mission or tutoring underprivileged kids or collecting shoes for kids in Africa or stuffing envelopes for Blood Water Mission. I have sat at this crossroads of indecision for almost a whole year. My convictions haven’t gone away.

I realize now that I just need to choose. God’s will isn’t about circumstances – it’s about heart attitude and about being obedient and faithful to the convictions that God lays on my heart.

Two different opportunities were brought to my attention in the past month or so – one just last night. One is volunteering with Life Choices Pregnancy Center. I had wanted to volunteer there when I still worked at D2S but couldn’t because they were only open during business hours, when I had to be at work. But now that I work fro m home and can create my own hours, I think it would work out. The other opportunity is volunteering in the church office. I have already contacted the office administrator about this because it would be a great way to serve in the church again (I had to quit children’s ministry when I got my new job), I would meet more people at the church, and I would be donating my time to a worthy cause.

There’s a book I’m really excited to read – I just ordered it today – called Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will OR How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc. I have so long been looking for a Christian book that would at least slightly validate what I’ve been going through and bring some more clarity to this situation (though I do feel like I just got some today) – I hope this book helps.

Life on the road

27 Jun

I just got back last night from yet another trip to SLC (what is that, 6 times in the past 2 months?) Megan (the intern traveling with me) and I have been lamenting the difficulty of eating healthy on the road. Not only do we have a packed car on each road trip (making the addition of a cooler with healthy snacks a total impossibility), you’re stuck with having to eat that food that first day because often, our hotel rooms don’t have refrigerators. At one of the early races, I tried to bring hummus with me – bad idea. Who knew hummus actually turns into liquid when it gets warm?

Lately, I’ve just been packing dried fruit (usually mango – my fave), 3-4 Luna bars, and some trail mix. On past trips, I have bought popcorn (a food that has low calories for the volume) but fruit is usually hard to find, unless you make a separate stop at a grocery store – which aren’t always available either, especially when you’re driving through the middle of Wyoming. And you can only eat snack foods for so many meals before you want a meal of something substantial.

It’s not being away from home that’s the problem. When we actually reach our destination, we usually go out for dinner at a sit-down restaurant. We have gone out for sushi more than once (one of my favorite things), which is fairly healthy but also fairly expensive. When we go to a different restaurant, I try to order something on the lighter side – like a salad with chicken or a personal pizza loaded with veggies.

After a race, we are ravenous and thirsty. It’s usually at least 12:00 noon and we have been up since 4 am. All we’ve had to eat and drink are usually a protein bar or 2 and a giant Red Bull. I would think about eating more at the races but honestly, sometimes we’re running around and so busy that it’s just not possible. So when we’re done packing up the car and are heading out of town for home, we stop at Arby’s, Chick-Fil-A, or Culver’s and get a burger and fries – for some reason, greasy food is SO appealing when we’re starving. Good for the tastebuds. Bad for the heart… and waistline (although I haven’t gained any weight yet, no doubt due to burning 2,500 calories per week through running and probably another 800 at each race).

Fast food isn’t a great way to start another long 7-13 hour drive home though, since greasy food is notorious for causing fatigue. But honestly, you can only eat at Subway so many times before the idea of another sub makes you want to gag.

So I’ve done a little research (and gathered some of my own ideas from personal experience). Here are some ways to eat healthy on the road:

1. Bring emergency snacks with you. Things like nuts, dried fruit, apples, oranges, and protein bars are easy to transport, don’t require refrigeration, and are healthy stand-ins when you’re hungry and can’t find anything better.

2. Drink plenty of water. Who cares if you have to stop every hour? If you’re traveling a lot, dehydrating yourself on a regular basis in the interest of saving time isn’t really helping you out at all. Try to avoid pop and flavored waters – caffeine is a diuretic and flavored waters can leave a film on your teeth that gets nasty after so many hours in the car.

3. If you must eat at a fast food restaurant, order off the kid’s or value menus. These sandwiches and sides are smaller than the regular versions, which means fewer calories.

4. Skip the french fries. These are fine as treats once in a while, but if you are frequenting fast food restaurants often, you might find yourself eating these “treats” too often. Marketing has so penetrated our minds that we think a burger must be accompanied by fries – or else the meal is not complete. (I find myself thinking this). Instead of ordering fries, get a side salad, baked potato (naked), or a bottle of milk.

5. A CNN article says that at convenience stores, food stamped with an expiration date (one that hasn’t passed!) is usually healthier than anything that can sit around for a decade or two, because shelf-stable foods are often loaded with preservatives and artery-clogging trans fats. Often, gas stations have string cheese, small bottles of milk, and sometimes even fruit.

Next Best: If the fridge section disappoints, head back to the shelves and grab some individual-size bags of snacks, but look for ones that your greatgrandmother would recognize as actual food, such as dried fruit, nuts, and whole-wheat crackers, advises Steven G. Aldana, Ph.D., author of “The Stop & Go Fast Food Nutrition Guide.”

If you’re craving pretzels, nuggets are better than skinny ones because they take longer to eat, says Bonci, who adds that animal crackers and Teddy Grahams are good bets to satisfy a sweet tooth since they’re lower in calories than other cookies.

And there you have it. Now only if I could find a way to keep my willpower in check…

Disillusioned by productivity

21 Jun

I have loved these past 2 weeks. I have had some relaxation time but I’ve also been very productive. And strangely, it is the productive part that makes me feel the best. I have gotten back into the habit of cooking actual dinners, which has been good. I even made banana bread one day! I cleaned the whole house, including the refrigerator and microwave. Travis and I (finally!) cleaned out the drain to my bathroom sink (it has been clogged since we moved in!!!) so my sink stays clean now – before, it had soap buildup again the first time you used it after cleaning it. I went grocery shopping, fixed a couple of necklaces that had been broken for about 6 months, gave Katy a bath, watered the lawn, got my hair cut, read a whole book and started another, went on a 9 and a 1o mile run, redid my nails, bought new bras and running clothes, and did laundry 3 times.

I love being productive!

I wish I could add “spent time with the Lord every morning” to that list – I’m getting there. I need to remind myself that productivity, in the end, amounts to nothing. I mean, let’s be honest. In just a few days, there will be dirty dishes and a pile of laundry to be washed. In a week, the house will need cleaning again and the refrigerator will be pathetically empty. In a month, my nails will be chipped and in 2 months, my hair will start getting split ends. All of these things are temporary. The feeling of accomplishment they bring is short and fleeting.

Productivity isn’t a bad thing – but for me, it can be dangerous. The feeling of being productive, of going to bed with the great feeling I get from crossing off most things on my to-do list, allows me to forget – just for a little bit – how helpless, incapable, and needy I really am. I feel good about myself when I’m productive. I don’t feel sinful, weak, and pitiful.

I don’t think that is God’s goal for me – to feel good about myself (for then why would I think I have a need for a Savior?). But I also don’t think His goal is for me to feel weak and pitiful. Rather, I like what Oswald Chambers said in today’s devotional:

“The continual inner-searching we do in an effort to see if we are what we ought to be generates a self-centered, sickly type of Christianity, not the vigorous and simple life of a child of God. Until we get into this right and proper relationship with God, it is simply a case of our ‘hanging on by the skin of our teeth,’ although we say, ‘What a wonderful victory I have!’ Yet there is nothing in all of that which indicates the miracle of redemption… You are perfect only in Christ, not on the basis of this argument: ‘Oh Lord, I have done my best…’

“How long is it going to take God to free us from this unhealthy habit of thinking only about ourselves? We must get to the point of being sick to death of ourselves, until there is no longer any surprise at anything God might tell us about ourselves. We cannot reach and understand the depths of our own meagerness. There is only one place where we are right with God, and that is in Christ Jesus.”

Like Tim Keller said in his sermon Blessed Self-Forgetfulness, humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less. I am so guilty of being self-centered. SO guilty. Guilty to the nth degree. As Chambers puts it, I cannot reach and understand the depths of my own meagerness. I cannot comprehend how little I bring to the table. I can’t get my mind around how insufficient I am even on the days when it feels like I accomplished the world. But there are still those days when I constantly dwell on my meagerness, as if that were the way to make me less meager.

Productivity has the power to distract me from the fact that Christ is sufficient so I don’t have to be. And I can be content in knowing I am not. Paul was content with his weaknesses – “…so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Nevertheless, I cling to productivity like a safety blanket. My sinful flesh will use anything it can to escape the reminder of my own insufficiency. I don’t want to be dependent – I want to have it all together. The issue with being insufficient is not that I am not living up to God’s expectations of me – “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14). It is that I don’t live up to my own expectations of me. I’m not all that I would imagine myself to be. Productivity gives me the illusion of being that person – but who am I after the dust settles (quite literally), the clothes are stained and the dog is dirty? Who am I then? I am lost.

A good friend sent me this quote when I was feeling quite down on myself and I return to it often, as a reminder of God’s love for me: “There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worse about me, so that no discovery can now disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me.”

It is a tough thing – to be okay with not being everything you’d like to be. To accept being disappointed by yourself often. To be disillusioned, as the quote put it, about your own behavior and character and still think there might be hope for you.

Yes, everyday is a new day, full of new opportunities to make right what you made wrong the previous day. But I’m sure that I am not done disillusioning myself, not done with failing to live up to my own expectations. Which is why I’m glad God will continue to disillusion me with my illusions, reminding me that it’s a good thing to be a sinner, poor and needy, saved by grace alone.

It means I can rest.

The love of family

17 Jun

Tonight, I finished the book I was reading called The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond. It was a very good novel about a little girl who goes missing and the ensuing panicked search for her. The book was a little slow moving in the drama at times but it was nonetheless very insight and interesting. It said a lot about the nature of memories and human desire to preserve moments that are, by definition, passing by.

Which led me to look through old picture albums – first, the one with pictures of Travis’ and my engagement, wedding and honeymoon. Then, my study abroad trip in Venezuela. And finally, pictures of my childhood.

And it was in looking at pictures of my childhood that I realized what a blessed childhood I had. I was surrounded by loving adults – my parents, of course but also aunts, uncles, grandparents. I didn’t realize how good I had it – of course, children never do.

My mom’s mom is who I get my middle name from – Ruth. Grandma Ruth. She lived in Hendrum with my Grandpa Ralph, in a small house on the corner. I can remember exactly what the house looked like inside – you entered into a small mud room, where you could either go down into the cellar (which I never did) or into the main part of the house. Through that door, you came into the kitchen. Straight across the kitchen, there was a cold, mysterious room. The door was always shut because that the kids were not allowed in. Once, we went in and discovered the entrance to the attic but were so nervous about getting caught that we ventured no further.

To the left of the kitchen was the dining room. The right hand wall was lined with windows and the wall to the right of that was lined with cabinets. In the middle of the floor stood a giant table – so big that it took up most of the room. On the left wall, there was first the door to a small bathroom. Then there was an armoire that took up what little wall space there was. Then, the door leading out to a landing that led to the next floor.

Straight ahead through the dining room was the living room. In my memories, the furniture was never quite arranged the same when I came over. But I do remember a TV, a couch, some lamps, a bed perhaps (for when my cousins slept over) and a card sorting machine that my Grandpa liked to use when playing cards.

On the way to the upstairs, you passed by another room, one step down from the stair landing. That was the den – I’m not sure I ever went in that room. It was Grandpa’s room.

There were two flights of stairs – halfway up the second, there was this opening in the wall. It had a door and a single bulb hanging from the ceiling. I think we called it the Fort. It was big enough for 3 of us kids to fit in there at the same time, 4 if you really squeezed. Whenever we went over to Grandma Ruth and Grandpa Ralph’s house, we would race each other to that little room. There was a latch on the inside, so you could allow others to enter (or not allow) at your own discretion.

At the top of the stairs, there were 2 bedrooms – 1 had several beds in it and the other just 1. The room with just 1 bed was Grandpa’s room. We hardly ever went in there either. The other room was fun because there was a hole in the floor that looked down into the living room below. It was entertaining to listen to the adults down there, talking, when all the kids were upstairs.

But I digress. All these memories came flooding back into my head as I looked through my photo album tonight. My Grandma Ruth died when I was only 12 or 13 – I was old enough to understand what had happened but not old enough to really understand. Growing up, I had thought of her as a little bit weird – she had a back condition that made her slightly hunched over. The pictures in my album don’t disclose any animosity toward her but I can’t help but think… how did I act toward her? Did I love her? Did I thank her for the gifts she gave me, as they were sacrifices on her behalf? Or did I act like a stupid child, ungrateful, only focused on superficial details?

These thoughts so overwhelmed me as I looked at those pictures tonight that I started crying. I wish I had known her. I wish I could have told her that her love and generosity mean the world. I wish I could’ve gotten past the outward appearance and seen her for the amazing person I hear she was. Even if I had been older, if I had known her better and been more mature, I don’t know if I could have put into words that kind of emotion.

The same kind of emotion that I feel for my mom. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by how much I love her that I can’t bear the thought of this world existing without her in it. How does one go on without your beloved parent? And I know that I fail to express how much I love her, that I fail to show her how much she means to me. I don’t call her all that often, I don’t say in words how much she means. And I realize that I’m losing precious moments – they’re floating away on the winds of time – but I get too engrossed in the minute details of life to remember these truths. WHY?!?!?

The same goes for when I’m looking at pictures of my dad and me growing up – all the memories we created together. That man has a heart of gold. I know that I am precious to him and that he loves me more than words. Knowing that makes me love him even more. How do I communicate that kind of love back to him? How are words adequate for that kind of love?  The truth is, they just aren’t. And they never will be.

But that doesn’t mean we don’t try to communicate those feelings and that is where, I fear, I fall very short. I have found myself looking at gifts lately and wondering, “Did I thank that person for this?” Remembering that Travis’ parents paid for the groom’s dinner, I wondered “Did I ever tell them what a huge blessing that was?” I think I did, but I can’t remember. And what if I didn’t? I can barely stand that thought!

Every time I feel like this, so overwhelmed at how much I love my parents, I wonder why I live so far away from them. Why did I choose to move, so that I only see them 2-3 times a year? But I have to remind myself that Travis and I chose to follow the Lord and no matter how much human love consumes one’s heart, devotion to and love for the Lord always have to come first. He is ultimately the one Person who matters. And I have to entrust my heart, and all the love therein, to Him.

But I do pray that it is in the Lord’s will to let Travis and I move back to Minnesota to be near our parents when we start having kids (in a couple of years). I want my kids to know their grandparents, because they are the coolest people ever.

I love you Mom and Dad!

Renewed

17 Jun

Physically, I had a splitting headache yesterday afternoon and evening. I had a hard time falling asleep, it hurt so bad. I tried drinking lots of fluids and taking aspirin but to no avail. Luckily, I woke up this morning feeling much better. I definitely need to drink more water, to prevent it from happening again.

Spiritually, this week I have been lethargic and indifferent. Getting in the Word has been on my “To-Do List” since Monday – yet, I just “checked it off” today (it’s not really something to be checked off but lately. I’ve had so much stuff running through my head that I want to get done, that I had to create a list. Getting in the Word was one of the things I wanted to do, but just hadn’t done. No excuses.)

This morning, I woke up with a desire to spend time with God. A devotion by Oswald Chambers led me into thinking about my life before I was a Christian and I was reminded of how different my life is from then, even when I don’t pursue the Lord. God continues to bless me, seemingly regardless of my commitment and devotion to Him. Even when I am faithless, He remains faithful. In church on Sunday, we sang “Jesus Paid It All.” The one lyric of that song that really gets to me is “Jesus died my soul to save.” Thinking about standing in front of God after my life here on earth and having that be my only claim, my only boast, humbles me in a very profound way. Despite anything I may accomplish here on earth (or in spite of the things I don’t accomplish here), despite anything I may boast in now, that will still be the only reason why I should be allowed into heaven. “Jesus died my soul to save.”

One of the huge blessings in my life lately has been my marriage. Back in April, Travis had 2 levee inspections lasting 10 days each, with a 5 day break in between. I was going to leave for Las Vegas for a race before he got back from the first and not return until he had left for the second. So we weren’t going to see each other for about 3 weeks straight. To Travis, that was unacceptable. To me, it was just part of my job. Travis was really bothered by my lack of concern and God used that to show me how I hadn’t been paying attention to or appreciating Travis – I was so consumed by my own issues and concerns that I was no longer caring for him.

Since then, our marriage has been amazing. My affection for Travis has increased something like 400% and our arguments have all but stopped. We still get on each other’s nerves at times but on the whole, we have a lot of fun together and are very much in love. The fourth year of marriage, so far, has been better than either of the first 3!

That has been unexpected one perk of my job – when we have days off together, we are intentional about spending time with each other. Memorial Day, we planted flowers and went biking. We go on walks together, play Scrabble, go shopping, and talk. It has been great!

I do miss the summer weekends with Travis – we have yet to go camping or hiking together and won’t get a chance until the end of July. But last summer, we had plenty of opportunities to go and didn’t take them – because our weekends together weren’t as precious as they are now.There’s definitely something to be said for spending some time apart (but not too much time!)

I have gone through such a range of emotions in 3 years of marriage that I know anything good that happens with Travis and me is from the Lord. He is the One who gives me love for my husband; who allows me to respect him, appreciate him, and enjoy him; who shows me when I am in the wrong and need to repent. I fail so miserably on my own that I can truly say I owe my marriage to God and Him alone. Despite my sinfulness and seeming determination to destroy a good thing, God continues to renew it and change it into something that glorifies Him.

I especially like the verse from “Jesus, My Only Hope” that goes:

Though I am poor and naked

Your prodigal come home

You place your robe upon me

Your holiness alone

Though I be dry and barren,

By grace this love springs forth

Love for you and your kingdom,

Joy in your glory Lord

Before I knew Christ, I was heartless and empty – and can still be that way when left to myself. But God, ever faithful and ever blessing, renews my heart and gives me affections, emotions – love for Himself, love for my husband, and joy in knowing Him.

What an amazing God!

The eye of the storm.

15 Jun

The past few weeks have been pretty relaxed with my job, compared to the first 3 months of chaos. We don’t have another one of our events until July 17th, so we have a little lull here in the crap-ton of planning and prepping that goes into putting on our own race. Which means I am left with just having to prep for, travel to, and work timing events every weekend. Still a lot of travel for me (every weekend until the last weekend in July – I’ll have been traveling for 11 weekends straight) but less stuff during the week, which means I get to take advantage of a little downtime.

This is definitely one of the major perks of this job – getting to structure my day how I see fit, going on a run at 11 am, grocery shopping after lunch, taking a nap if I need it. I don’t have to sit at a desk pretending to do work when I don’t have any work to do. Instead, I can go sit outside and read a book. Or I can watch 4 episodes of Desperate Housewives in a row. It’s absolutely wonderful.

This coming weekend I’m off to Rapid City, SD. Then it’s SLC, UT. Then Colorado Springs. Then Helena, MT. Then Price, UT. Then back to SLC, UT. Then a weekend off!!! But Travis and I will probably go camping somewhere so I still won’t be home.

But I actually don’t mind not getting to spend the weekends at home. I’m usually back Saturday night so I have the whole day Sunday here and then I’m working from home during the week so it doesn’t feel like I’m gone all that much. Like this past weekend, I left Friday morning and came back Saturday night. It was a whirlwind of a trip but definitely worth having the extra time at home to see Travis.

So I’m really enjoying my job lately, despite the hectic pace and stress of actually being at the timing events. The event this past weekend went pretty well – some technical difficulties while we were at the race but everything ended up working out in the end, so I feel like the race is one of the best ones I’ve done yet. Definitely the best a race has gone when it has just been me timing with an intern. So there’s that.

And when things do go well, I am left feeling incredibly blessed by the Lord, knowing that He is behind all the tiny little details, orchestrating everything.

But I know that this peacefulness is just temporary – come mid-July, we will be putting on one of our own races every 2 weeks until the end of October. This is really just the eye of the storm. It’s going to get worse – in fact, worse than it has been the first 3 months of this job. So I’m really trying to soak up and enjoy this lull, this break because soon, it’ll be go time.

But it’s not go time right now. 🙂

Defined by God

1 Jun

I had a rough weekend. I was at a timing event on Saturday and the whole morning of setup went really well. When the race started, I felt really good about how things were going. Then athletes started crossing the finish line and I realized we were missing quite a few of their chips. But there was no time to fix it. We were also having problems with the PA system and the announcer function (which we almost always have problems with).

Amazingly, though, Megan and I made it through and I recovered most of the athletes’ finish times using our manual backup system. We packed up the car and got on the road back to Denver.

I got my computer out in the car to work on posting the results. When I opened the results file, though, I was shocked. The results were absolutely horrible. We were missing splits left and right. Something had happened with the timing equipment at the transition area. What was I going to do?

After talking to my boss, Brent, I spent the rest of the 8-hour car ride home fixing the splits that I could. Then I spent another 3.5 hours on Sunday morning. After finally getting the results posted, I braced myself for all of the scathing emails I would receive from athletes.

I still got those but I also got one from the race director (he had actually sent it to Brent, who forwarded it to me with no comment). The race director was very unhappy – with how the PA system had worked, how the announcer function had worked (or more, had NOT worked), and most of all, with the lack of splits. He told Brent that he felt like he was paying for second stringers and that the timing team at his race seemed very inexperienced. But the email wasn’t in a mean tone and I really can’t blame Greg for being frustrated at the situation. All of the stuff he mentioned happened and I could only do my best with the situation.

But I’d be lying if I said that his comments didn’t bother me. No one likes to hear that someone is disappointed and dissatisfied with their performance. I have definitely looked at, thought out, and analyzed this past race from every possible angle. In hindsight (which is always 20/20), there are a few things I should have done differently. And as I’ve learned over the past 3 months, in this business, little mistakes can cost you big. They did for me on Saturday.

As I got in the word this morning, I was reminded of Bethlehem Baptist Church’s mantra: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. In the midst of this tough work situation, where my reputation and work performance have clearly been questioned, I can be most satisfied in God by remembering that I am valuable and precious because God says I am. I don’t have to look to this world for validation and I am not defined by what I do wrong – or right. I am defined by Who died for me and what He says about me.

Because of God’s grace, I feel very blessed right now to have the Christian community and loving husband I do. I will make it through this and I will have learned and grown as a result. Trial by fire.