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Friday, April 27, 2012

Passing the bar

I am a runner. It's as much a part of me as my blue eyes and the freckles that still line my nose. Even during the years that I didn't run due to injury, family stress, and plain lack of motivation, I was still a runner. And, even if the day comes when I can no longer move faster than a shuffle, I will still be a runner. Once you run, it becomes a part of you, helping to define you, mostly to yourself, but sometimes to others. I'm not fast, certainly not talented, and not very athletic; yet, still, I'm a runner.

Over the years, most of my family, and not a few of my friends, have alternately thought me crazy, obsessed, or a health freak. They thought I had been drinking the Kool-aid, and, if not stupid, then somehow not quite right. And, truth be told, they have probably all been right, at least to some degree. But, in the last year, there's been a change, a shift of attitude, a dawning of understanding. Because, you see, some of the doubters have become runners. I've watched with delight and amazement as some of my family have taken up the torch and started their running journeys. My daughter, Kaitlyn, who was very athletic in high school, but never a runner, ran her first race the other day (a 6k) and actually won her age group. Yes, proud mama here. My sister, whose health habits and history are a blog post all on their own, has begun to run/walk and is feeling the pull. One of my closest friends began a couch to 5k program in February, after never running a step and vowing that she never would, and is running her first 5k in the morning. Amazing.

My excitement for them is boundless. I remember my first real race - a 5k in Fort Gaines, Alabama. It was so long ago that I can't even remember the year or the name of the race. What I do remember was the feeling. The excitement and nervousness at the start, the Confederate drum corp that kept time to my pounding footfalls and heartbeat, the rush of adrenaline when I knew the finish line was near. Gary and I ran that race together (although he outdistanced me easily), then went on to run the Crescent City Classic the next year in New Orleans. I was a runner. Many years and hundreds of miles later, I still feel that nervous excitement at the start of a race. The wondering if I had trained enough, if I would be able to achieve the goal I set for myself; the elation when I do, the crushing disappointment when I don't. I actually envy my new running friends a little - they have so much to look forward to, new PR's, exciting new goals to set. The great thing about running, though, is that every run is a new one. Every day is a new day and brings its own set of challenges. Some runs are diamonds, some runs are stones, but you learn and grow from every single one.

As new runners, I want them to treasure every moment. To remember how it felt when they could barely walk a mile, then the satisfaction they felt when they were finally able to run it. I want them to remember the sense of accomplishment they feel at their first finish line and carry that into their lives. Running is such a metaphor for life that you can't help applying the lessons you learn in training and racing to your personal and professional life.

Most of all, I wish them joy. Joyous runs that take them around new cities and down new trails, literally and figuratively. Runs that lead them to places in their lives they never thought they would go. I'm so excited to be passing the bar, watching you run with it, then taking it back for my own race. Happy trails, my friends!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

A call to boldness

I just finished reading "The Hunger Games" trilogy, and I must confess, a more depressing trio of books I can't imagine. Yes, they were well written, and the storyline was compelling, but I found myself wishing for the end when I was only about halfway through the second book. There is an encompassing sense of melancholy that hangs over the entire series. It's not that I don't recommend it, the series is thought provoking and imaginative. It's just not escapism reading. Not for me, anyway. However, I think it speaks volumes about the mood of the next generation. Indeed, I would say the mood of my generation, as well. I think we are at a critical point in history, and our next steps will determine the direction of our nation, even the world. We have an entire generation of young people (and older people) who don't know Christ, who think the truth is relative, who think love can't last forever, and who seem to be mired in hopelessness.

So, where do we go from here? As Christians, I think our directives are clear. We have been given a commission to go tell, and we are failing miserably. I know that I am. I'm not by nature a bold person. I don't like to stand out in a crowd, am too much of a people pleaser to enjoy conflict, and have no desire for my voice to be the one that is heard. There is all too often a disconnect between my thought process and the act of speaking that leads me to stutter incoherently or not convey my message clearly. I'm not a theologian or an academic, and my thoughts and opinions don't really make compelling listening. And, yet, I have a ministry. As our pastor reminded us this morning in church, if you've been called to Christ, you are a minister. Not that you will ever have to stand in a pulpit, but you have ministering opportunies all around you every single day.

A couple of years ago, I felt God calling me to deepen my walk with Him. To increase my knowledge of Him, and to learn to listen to His voice. I've called myself listening, but all too often, I've gotten His voice confused with mine and run full steam ahead toward something that was clearly my desire for me and not His. He doesn't stop us when we do that, but he certainly doesn't bless those efforts. So, I've slowed my life down. Don't laugh if you know me well - I really have. I still have more misses than hits, but I am slowly reprioritizing my life to include more time spent alone with Him. Listening. Seeking. Worshiping.

We have a world around us that is hurting. We have to strap on our armour and set out in boldness to bring that world hope. What does that look like in practical terms? I can only speak for myself, but maybe you'll see something in my struggle that will help you with yours.

It starts with love. We have to learn to be beacons of love and light in a dark world. That means learning to love everyone. This is a hard one for me. I've gotten to a place in my life that I want solitude more than social encounters, even with those that I already love. Times of solitude are fine, deeply needed even, but we can't go there and stay. God wants us out in the world, among those hopeless people. People that He already loves. People who are difficult to love. People who don't look like you or sound like you or believe the same things that you do. People who need to hear or be reminded of His love, His hope, His future completely entwined with ours.

We can't be afraid to label sin what it is. But, in doing so, we have to remember that there are no degrees of sin. One sin is no better or worse than any other. Which makes us all sinners. Romans 3: 9-18 speaks to that very clearly. (Also Romans 3:23) I know I've had enough self righteous church people in my life to last a lifetime. So, as we love people, we learn to listen to them. We learn to meet them where they are and gently encourage them. Show them how God loves them by loving them that way yourself. This is not ever easy, for me it seems particularly hard sometimes. There is a very thin line between righteousness and self righteousness, and it's vitally important to learn where it is. That's where the learning to love comes in. We don't have to know how our sinful friends will come into the kingdom. God knows how. The same way you'll be allowed into the kingdom in spite of your sin. What we have to do is show them hope, love, the future God has planned for them. And we have to accomplish this while being very aware of those planks in our own eyes.

We can't allow our own shortcomings to prevent us from being bold. God has a very long history of using people who were neither talented, beautiful, wealthy, or even particularly smart. He will give you what you need, and bring people to your life who need exactly what you have to offer. He has brought so many mentors into my life, people who provided exactly what I needed during each season of my life. It's time to pay that forward.

This is a post that has been on my heart for weeks. When I started this blog, a little over a year ago, it was to share my journey throughout the upcoming years as I seek some physical goals. But, the more important purpose here is to open up my spiritual walk to any one who may be even remotely inspired to begin their own journey. Not by me, my walk is tremulous and stumbling at best. But, perhaps as I chronicle my journey, you'll see that your journey, too, is of Kingdom importance.

There's work to be done. That's why we're still here. Be bold.

 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline. 2 Timothy 1:17

Sunday, April 8, 2012


I'm sitting on my deck this beautiful Easter evening reflecting on the perfection of this High holy day. I love Easter. Much more than Christmas, because the message of this day is what leads to eternal life.

It's been such a peaceful weekend for our family. It started Friday evening with a wonderful worship experience at our church. I have to admit, it's a little hard for this good Baptist girl to get used to untraditional meeting times, but it was well worth it. We had an amazing service in a standing room only crowd, and I know that same experience was repeated four more times throughout this Holy weekend to the everlasting Glory of God. Saturday morning, we slept in, then I went on a long run with my favorite running buddy, my man. We won't have the luxury of sleeping in on Saturdays before long runs much longer, so we took advantage of it. We went to the Longleaf Trace, a local rails to trails project, and ran a less traveled part of it, so there weren't tons of people. It's a beautiful section, alive with the sights and smells of springtime: the smell of honeysuckle, a lazy beaver pond, green as far as the eye can see, and flowers blooming in the most unexpected places. This morning, we left early and went on our first kayaking trip of the season with our youngest daughter, Kaitlyn. We were the only ones on the water; the birds, frogs, and river creatures didn't seem too disturbed by our presence, and we had church right there on the creek. Then, a grill, a grillmaster (Gary), a good book, and a hammock finished off our day.

As I lay in the hammock, I thought about how it seems like forever since I've been this relaxed. I think I've been running full steam ahead for the last twenty years, and it feels really good to slow down a little. Over the past months, I've made a concentrated effort to stop and smell the roses more often, and I had forgotten how good they smell! The last few weeks I've rediscovered that I actually enjoy cooking, and it's whole lot cheaper than all the eating out we usually do. Not to mention how much better for us it is.

Where did we lose the art of simplicity in our lives? When did it become all about working unitl we dropped, then digging deep to find leftover scraps of ourselves to feed our families? The untraditional worship time we participated in this week really helped me to rediscover that we've allowed others to guilt us into saying "yes" to too many things. I have been so guilty of that in my life. Saying "no" is really hard when it is a worthwhile project, but I've too often said yes, and my family paid the price. They never complained, but I feel it now, more than ever.

So, along with the other goals I'm trying to achieve this year, I've added a new one. One that was inspired by the events (or lack of them) this weekend. Truly simplify my life. I don't just want to pay lip service to it, I want to weed out all those things that keep me from being the most effective, influential, and powerful woman I can be. Don't misunderstand those adjectives. I don't mean that I want to be rich and famous. I can say, without reservation or pretense, that I don't. But, I want to have time to enjoy with my family, restful, re-energizing time that fills me up and prepares me for the world. Time to really listen to God, to dig deep in His word and find out exactly why it is that I'm here, then the energy to act on that. God has placed some deep desires in my heart that I'm not sure I'm ready or able to accomplish. I know, then, that there are some things in me that He is trying to refine out of me in order to make me ready. One of those things I feel sure is pridefulness. The message of this weekend has shown me that another one is "busyness". I've been entirely too busy and have gotten too little accomplished over the last years. My only hope is in Him. So thankful this day for the gift of the cross.

Psalm 39:5-7
New Living Translation (NLT)
5 You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
    My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
    at best, each of us is but a breath.”
6 We are merely moving shadows,
    and all our busy rushing ends in nothing.
We heap up wealth,
    not knowing who will spend it.
7 And so, Lord, where do I put my hope?
    My only hope is in you.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A rant

I haven't run in a couple of weeks, so you'll have to excuse my testiness. After this post, you'll probably feel a lot more empathy for my man. He has to put up with it all the time.

Yesterday, we here in South Mississippi who use a certain cell carrier were treated to a rare day of silence when someone cut a fiber optic cable which apparently is the cable that runs the world. Now, you may think my rant will be directed at the cell phone company who dared to take away our service for an afternoon. You would be wrong.

As I traveled around doing my afternoon errands, everywhere I went, people were raving and baring their collective teeth that we have no cell service. A lot of these people were working at jobs where I know they have a land line, so any cell phone usage was strictly personal. When I dared to make the comment that all would eventually right itself, I was practically booed out of line. I stood my ground, though. One man informed me that he uses his phone for business. I calmly told him that I do, as well, and that I knew my clients would be understanding of their inability to contact me for a few hours. Everyone seemed to believe we were going to be out of service indefinitely with no way to communicate, and even more dire, no way to post about it on Facebook! I did not observe it myself, but I'm told that the cell phone office was filled to overflowing with irate and loud customers, yelling at the sales people who have no ability whatsoever to fix the problem and were probably just as put out as their customers were.

When did we become so dependent on technology that we can't survive an afternoon without it? Now, I realize many of us (including my family) have gone to cell service entirely and don't have a land line at all, which certainly leaves us susceptible in emergencies. But, if I'm not mistaken, I made it all the way to adulthood without the convenience of a cell phone, and I certainly had my share of emergencies. "Back in the day" we used common sense to figure out what to do when we needed something. I fear common sense has left the building. Or, it has shriveled and died from lack of use.

In all fairness, I saw some pretty ingenious use of technology yesterday as folks overcame minor emergencies and business issues. One guy I know was able to access his Facebook page and asked any of his friends who could call his wife to tell her to check her email and messages because he was locked out of his house and was late for a business appointment. The message trickled down the line, and soon she was on her way. Now, that was the way to handle a crisis. Rather than blowing up and screaming in frustration, he calmly assessed and figured out the best way to remedy his dilemma.

I guess my rant can be boiled down to this. There are real emergencies in the world. Real crises. Not just outside our little neighborhood, but right here where we live. People who are in need for basics, like food and rent money. An afternoon without cell service is not a crisis. Inconvenient and frustrating, yes. Not an occasion to ruin someone's day who is just trying to make a living.
My advice to everyone who lost their minds yesterday is this: Get a land line or learn to appreciate the occasional lapses of silence that cell service will inevitably have.

I don't often rant in the blogosphere. I do, unfortunately, rant to my family on occasion. Now you know how they feel, and I know you'll join them in celebrating that Dr.. Rouse just cleared me to run!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Warrior updates

Race results have posted and I thought I would share the updates with you.  I knew it was certainly the slowest 5k+ that I had ever done, and sure enough, it was.  My pace was a little over 21 minutes which was actually a little better than I expected after all the ado.  The girls rocked 17 minute paces and Gary's time doesn't count, because he was babysitting me.  I'll share some of those highlights in a minute.  When we were checking the age group results last night, we saw that in the 80-90 year old women's age group, an 86 year old rocked a 17 minute pace.  May I just say wow!  And, may I also say, I'm really tired of getting my butt kicked by octogenarians.  I have got to work on that.  

One of my favorite moments in the race occurred on the slanted rope wall.  Gary scaled it first, with the agility of a mountain goat, then he turned at the top to see if I needed help.  I scaled the wall pretty quickly, but I soon discovered that was the easy part.  The knots in the rope end about a foot shy of the top and there really isn't a place to put your hand to give yourself a boost over the top.  Plus, you're a little reluctant to let go of the rope long enough to grab the top, cause it's a long drop back to the ground.   Gary grabbed both my wrists and held on tight while I tried to figure out how to propel myself to the top.  As I scrambled for purchase, Gary held fast, at one point pretty much holding up my entire body weight by my wrists. He finally said, "You're going to have to do something."  Yeah, he has a knack for stating the obvious.  Finally, I heard a shout from below telling me to use the knot.  I put my foot on the knot and gained enough momentum to push myself over.  Gary scampered down, and I methodically climbed down after him.  

The race itself is fun. Muddy and slippery.  After the fire pole incident, I was limping pretty badly, but was grimly determined to finish.  I was gingerly picking my way through a mud bog, and this really cool young man said, "Here, take my arm to balance."  I did and was able to get through the last bog with his help.  I loved that.  He didn't know me at all, but he saw I was limping and he slowed down his race to help me with mine.  How cool is that?  Chivalry isn't dead, after all.  Gary was there to pull me through most everything, but he's pretty heavily invested in me.  This young stranger's name was Hank, and I told him I hope his wife knows he's a keeper.  He assured me she did.  Don't give up hope, girls!  There are really good guys out there.  You may have to look in a mud hole to find one. though.  

The not so great result of the race is the ankle injury.  It is still very swollen and bruised.  I can walk without limping today, but I decided to go see my bone and joint guy just to make sure nothing was broken.  He's almost on retainer anyway.  The good news is that nothing is broken.  The bad news is that it's a fairly serious sprain.  He wants me to stay off it for 10 days, then he'll look at it again.  I think I'll be running again in two weeks.  I'm kind of counting on it, so send healing thoughts my way.  By the way, explaining how I got the injury to my doctor was kind of fun.  His only comment was that it had been a long time since he had seen a fire pole injury.  I would bet good money that the last time he saw one, it wasn't on a 50 year old woman.  He's awesome though.  He's been my ortho guy for many years, and the thing I like the most about him is that he knows the importance of getting his patients back to their sports.  He would NEVER tell me not to run again, and I have heard that from doctors before.  

Can't say enough how fun this race was.  Yes, it's hard, but it's a good kind of hard.  There were a lot of glitches with the organization of it that I would like to see fixed, but the race itself was pretty well organized.  I probably won't be doing another one this year, but will absolutely do another one, maybe next spring.  But, I'm kind of hoping they don't have a fire pole.   And, that 86 year old woman better watch her back.  She'll be 87 by then.  Maybe there's hope for me yet.  

If you need a little inspiration, click on the link below to see what a true warrior looks like.  I didn't get to see or meet this guy (would have really liked to), but he puts my humble efforts to shame.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Getting our Warrior on

I think that normal families get together with their grown children a little differently than we do.  They probably go to Disneyworld, ride Buzz Lightyear and Space Mountain, take a safari through Animal Kingdom and walk in Downtown Disney.  Or, they go to the beach, rent beach chairs, dig their toes in the sand and read a good book.  Get in the water a little, maybe pick up a game of beach volleyball.

Well, normal doesn't really apply to us.  When we get together with our grown girls, we usually strap on scuba gear and jump off a perfectly good boat to see what lurks below.  Or, we go whitewater rafting, kayaking, or hiking through tropical rain forests.  And, I don't think any of us would have it any other way.  Well, the girls and I might enjoy digging our toes in the sand a little and reading a good book, but we usually get a dose of that sometime during the year.

This weekend, we drove to Houston, Texas, where our oldest daughter lives and the four of us participated in a Warrior Dash in nearby Splendora.  May I add, this was Gary's idea.  If you're not familiar with a Warrior Dash, it's a race with obstacles sprinkled throughout.  It's only a little more than a 5k, but, as their website proudly proclaims, it's the most hellish 3.2 miles you'll ever run.  True that.

I was a little nervous going in, not for the run, but some of the obstacles looked a little out of my league.  Scaling walls with ropes, crawling through barbed wire, net bridges, and mud, mud, and more mud. I'm an old broad, for pete's sake.  But,  I have to say for the most part, the obstacles were a pleasant surprise.  Lots of mud and water, lots of slipping down, but the first wall climb went okay.  I'll admit I wimped on the vertical wall, I was having trouble with my sugar & I was a little afraid I would get to the top and pass out, so I went around.  I think that's the only one I missed, though.  The girls were lightening fast, but my man stayed to babysit me, so he and I were not so fast.  I did okay until I got to the fireman's pole, went down a little faster than I thought and landed wrong & twisted my ankle pretty badly.  I limped the rest of the way, but fortunately, all the obstacles after that were mud or swimming under barbed wire, so I was able to finish with my dignity more or less intact.  And, let's remember, this isn't the first race that I've limped across the finish line.

Things to remember if you plan to run a Warrior Dash:
1) Make sure your tetanus shot is current.
2) Make sure your shoes are tied on tightly.  You'll probably lose them at some point anyway, but at least they'll stay on most of the time.
3) Don't get cocky.  I don't care if your playhouse did have a fireman's pole in it when you were growing up and you slid down it a million times, things are a little different 40 years later.
4) If you're trying to set a record, get a grip.  It's a fun run.

If I do another one (and the chances are good), I'll need a volunteer to babysit/run with me, so Gary can actually race.  I'm thinking Hollye McInnis, Debi Cox, or Debbie Flynt are good candidates.  Get ready, girls.

I have to say, this was more fun than I thought it would be.  That said, I'm icing my ankle and hoping for the best.  But, I think this is a great race to do to awaken your inner child.  You remember her, don't you?  The one who ran like her feet had wings, jumped into mud puddles, slid down geronimo poles, and leaped over buildings in a single bound.  Oh, wait, that last one was a super hero, I think.  Anyway, very fun way to spend the afternoon with your family.  Sign up for one soon.  You won't regret it.  

Preparing for battle
The Warrior Richards clan
Warrior Kait
Warrior Misty
The clan after the battle
Warrior princesses

Another after the battle shot

The muddy warriors

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Stone Bruises

It's been a long, dark winter.  Or, at least it seemed so to me.  Not particularly cold, thank heaven, just dark and endless.  I've never been a huge fan of January and February, but this year I'm more thankful than usual that they're done.

We all go through seasons of life that range from mountaintop highs to deep valley lows.  This winter certainly hasn't been a deep valley for me, but it has been dark and gloomy.   It reminded me that we all have events in our lives that leave stone bruises on our hearts.  You remember stone bruises.  You used to get them when you walked barefoot as a kid.  You stepped on a rock or stone and it hurt in the moment, but really didn't leave a mark.  Then, later, you moved your foot or stepped on that certain spot, and there it was, the pain you thought was gone.  

I woke one morning this week to the sight of dogwoods blooming outside my bedroom window, and I can't express how thankful that made me.  I love spring.  It is, hands down, my favorite time of year.  I sneeze my way through it, but what a small price to pay for spring!  Spring is a reminder of the faithfulness of God.  How, every year,  no matter how cold or dark the winter was, He'll bring spring to us again.  We just have to soldier through those months of cold and darkness and trust Him.  He's ever faithful.  This week has been a much needed reminder of that.

Life is tough.  Sometimes, too tough.  As I've gotten older, I've realized the fragility of life and how whimsical tragedy is.  Darkness touches us all.  Many that I love are going through very dark seasons, death of a loved one, divorce, loneliness, financial crises, serious illness, chronic pain, watching beloved parents decline.   It makes my dark path seem bright in comparison.

So, I pray.  I search for reminders that God is faithful, and when you're looking for them, you're sure to find them. Gary & I went for a hike today at Black Creek.  He has taken on my training (I'm sure you'll hear more about that in upcoming weeks) and today was a five mile easy hike.  Here are some signs of God's faithfulness that we saw on the trail.

If you are going through a dark time in your life, start looking for signs of His faithfulness.  I promise, they are all around you.  We'll always have those stone bruises on our hearts, but there are wonderful, life affirming ways to ease them.  Look for them.  Reach out and take them.  

3 he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4 Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.  You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
                                                                             Psalm 23: 3-5