Laying aside the weights…

So, I still feel like I need to pinch myself when I say this out loud… but I ran a half marathon a little over a month ago.  It doesn’t seem possible that first, it was over a month ago. (Who else feels like this year is just flying?)  But more importantly, that I ran that many miles.  13.1 to be exact.   You see, last summer I got this crazy idea to run Disney’s Princess half marathon the following February.  I’m not much of a runner and it’s always been kind of a bucket list thing to be able to say I’ve completed a half marathon – someday.  But when I saw that the upcoming Princess half was going to fall on the date of the 4th anniversary of B’s death, I knew I had to run it.   I had this vision of creating some beauty on what can seem from an earthly perspective to be a very hard day, and I wanted to defy my odds and bring God glory for helping me accomplish something I would never be able to do on my own.

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So I called my friend Desiree, because she’s amazing and someone I can share pretty much all my crazy ideas with and know she will listen.  And she decided to do it with me!  In the seven months to follow, we both set aside hours on end for training time, encouraging each other and – let’s be honest- whining some to each other too.  (That much running is tough!) At last it was race day, and after what felt like three hours of sleep, we were off to the start line.

Now to tell you this race was incredible doesn’t even seem to scratch the surface of all that this race meant for me.  The Lord taught me so many lessons both throughout my training and during the actual race.  Receiving that medal meant so much more to me than just completing the race, because it showed me yet again that I can do hard things, but only through His strength in me.  But the biggest lesson I took away that day was the reminder of weights.

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You see, we didn’t know how cold it would be at 5:00 a.m. when we would be standing around waiting for our corral to get the start signal.  So I went out beforehand and bought some cheap cold weather clothes on clearance that I could toss later in the race, which would all go to a homeless shelter.  (How cool is that?)  I was so glad I had that warm jacket as I began running, but as the sun began to rise and the weather got a little warmer, I started to struggle with what to do with my jacket.  Because apparently I had grown a little too attached to it.  It was a really cute running jacket, and I got it for quite the steal.  And right then, silly old me did not want to give up that jacket.

I know now how ridiculous that is, looking back on it.  It’s just a jacket.  But in the moment, I was conflicted until this one phrase from Scripture popped into my mind: “lay aside every weight…”  I couldn’t even remember the whole passage right then with my mind and body fixed on running, but I knew the context was a race and was written to tell believers to focus on finishing their race well.   And I knew then that I was being so silly.  If I was starting to sweat with this jacket on at mile 4, how was I going to feel at mile 8?  And even if I took off the jacket and tied it around me for half of the race, how much harder would it be for me to run as I got tired with “extras” strapped onto me?

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So I chose to throw it off, and as I ran past the place where I left that jacket on the side of the road, I thought of so much in life that weighs us down.   There are just plain hardships that we face that can’t  be helped, because we are living in a fallen world that groans for the Creator to restore its original beauty and sinlessness.  But there are also the “weights” that we needlessly put on ourselves – of worry, anxiety over the future, fear of unknowns, and the results of focusing too much on what we can’t control and yet so often try to.   They leave us living with an overall heaviness and the inability to breathe easily.  We aren’t able to remember that each day we have to live is a gift given to us by our Heavenly Father who loves us, and is writing a story more beautiful than we could ever comprehend.

I don’t know why it took a silly old jacket to remind me of how much easier life is when I let my Father carry me through it, instead of strapping unnecessary weights and burdens to myself that will only make life more difficult.  But I do know that my race that day was much easier when I continued running it without my cute, but bulky, cold weather accessories.

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And as I reached the finish line, I celebrated, knowing that I did my very best.  Which is what I want to be able to say about the way I ran this much lengthier race called life too.  Yes, there will always be obstacles and hardships.  There will be aches and pains and times when I can’t stop crying and when I don’t feel like taking another step.  But I will.  Because my eyes are on Jesus, and He’s shown through the Cross that there’s victory in the end.  And because, when the needless weights aren’t on me, I’m free to run as hard and as fast as I can for the finish line.  That, I learned firsthand last month, is a very exhilarating feeling.

“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith…” -Hebrews 12:1-2a

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Book Review – Redeeming Grace (Ruth’s Story)

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I recently had the opportunity to read and review the new book Redeeming Grace, by Jill Eileen Smith.  This is a biblical fiction book based on the life and story of Ruth.  I have read other books in this series based on other women in the Bible, and was excited to see another book out based on one of my favorite Bible characters.

Smith tells the story of Ruth’s marriage to Naomi’s son Mahlon, and the sad turn of events in which Mahlon dies.  The two women return back to Bethlehem, full of grief, wrestling with thoughts of God’s goodness and whether He still cares for them.  Then, Boaz enters the scene – who Smith portrays as struggling through his own grief over losing his wife not long before Ruth and Naomi arrived back in town.  All three characters have to wrestle with their own pasts and losses, and learn that God has not forgotten them, but is orchestrating their lives to carry out His plans of love and faithfulness to their families and the nation of Israel as a whole.

Though many of the experiences in this story are not details we know from the biblical account, Smith has a way of weaving them in so readers are able to put a personality and connection to what they know from the biblical account.  (For example, it was not common for well respected men of that day not to have ever married, so perhaps Boaz was a widow?)  I was really able to think about Ruth’s story in a more detailed way and what emotional struggles she might have gone through due to her loss.  Furthermore, Smith did a great job incorporating details on the true customs and traditions that really did occur during the time when Ruth and Naomi lived.  The details involving the barley harvest and Feast of Weeks were fascinating to me.  Also, all of the details and festivities put into the bridegroom’s arrival to get his bride were so beautiful, and reminded me of Christ and His Church.

I especially love the story of Ruth now that I have too have experienced loss, have had to figure out life on my own, and have wrestled with questions about God’s love and faithfulness.  Ruth’s story brings so much hope that God has not forgotten the widow, but has a special place in His heart for them.  He is weaving together a beautiful story only He could write through the hard times, and  He is always working on something even when we can’t see it.  That is portrayed so beautifully through the life and book of Ruth.  I really appreciated how this book helped me think about her life and possibly real experiences and emotions in new ways.

I received the book Redeeming Grace from the blogger Revell Reads program, in exchange for my honest opinion of these books.  

 

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Rediscovering my “why”…

If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I have a big place in my heart for Compassion International, and the work they are doing around the world to offer sponsorships for children in need.  I am happy to blog for Compassion and share its mission with others because I think it’s important.  It’s been awhile though, since I’ve mentioned anything about Compassion.  Lately, it’s been easy to go through the motions a little … {…Read More}

New Year, New Word… or Not.

We’ve all just turned the page on another calendar year, and the wave of opportunity and fresh starts has hit us once again.  No matter how bad or how good 2016 turned out, it’s over – and we each have been blessed with a blank slate of another year to write on.  I know that at least for me, the realization that it’s once again the time of the year to reevaluate my life and … {…Read More}

Thanksgiving blessings…

Just like that, another Thanksgiving is upon us.  (Does anyone else feel like this year flew by?) For those who have experienced loss, this can be such a bittersweet time of counting our blessings, yet feeling that ache of missing those no longer with us that churns in our hearts a little stronger around holidays.  We are definitely feeling it, but there is still so much to be grateful for, and I always want to try … {…Read More}

When the carving brings hope…

A few weeks ago, we sat down like so many other American families this time of year, to invest a night in the activity of carving pumpkins.  Now, you must understand that I make this incorrect assumption every year when we buy pumpkins and plan our carving night… that is, I tell myself that my kids are old enough to do the carving now.  I know.  Faulty.  But to justify my thoughts, my kids do … {…Read More}

The beauty of the slow brew…

I will never forget the way our house used to smell each morning after I brewed a pot of coffee. It wasn’t just any old brand of coffee, either. This was coffee made of rich Ethiopian beans that we would get through a company supporting fair trade and small business opportunities in developing countries. And, as an extra bonus, five dollars of every bag bought went to help fund our pending adoption. B never really enjoyed … {…Read More}

Why we should all keep walking…

I don’t know what it is about walking, but it’s really enjoyable for me. And I feel like I don’t do enough of it. Walking is an easy task in and of itself, but it can sometimes be laborious too. You can set out for a walk eager to get some exercise, and come back home exhausted due to the length of the walk you took. Of course, now that I’m trying to train for … {…Read More}

When birthdays become life lessons…

Calling all the mamas out there today… Yes, you, with the child you feel like you are constantly disciplining for the same old reason.  The one who wears you out with the way you have to stay on top of them with a balance of discipline and love, wishing you could just love without the discipline for just one day.  Isn’t disciplining so exhausting?  It wears me out and makes me long for a day … {…Read More}

Like a conquering hero…

  Last weekend, the kids and I got tickets to go watch our local orchestra perform for next to nothing.  We got great seats and sat back to listen to an amazing performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony… which, in case you didn’t realize, is actually more than the “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” part we all know well.  70 whole minutes, in fact.  While the kids started squirming a bit, I tried to follow the … {…Read More}