I dropped my kids at my grandma's house a little after lunch. This has been a rhythm of mine for the last year or so to have the better part of one day a week to myself. My grandma is great-grandma to my babies. She's amazing. On this day, one day a week, I almost always have an appointment or two lined up and some reading or cleaning in my house to catch up on. But, today I didn't have anything that needed to happen.
My perception on time and living in a hurried way has been shifting. I can feel it happening. Maybe, it's the season I'm in or the book I've been reading. I can't put my finger on how exactly my thinking is changing but one thing I know for sure. God loves me and He'll use everything in my day to keep teaching me to rest, trust, rely on Him and desire Him in well, everything...
Today, on my one day a week, I could've tried to 'get ahead' on something important. I'm good at that! I've done it lots of times before. But, nothing actually felt that important and God knows I long to follow His Spirit. I want to walk WITH Him not on my own ahead of Him! This is a prayer for me lately.
I packed my bag with a book, a snack, a towel, my Bible, and water bottle, and sun glasses (because it's Summer still) and headed outdoors. After, I ate my cucumber sandwich, hummus, and corn chips sitting in stillness. I spread out my towel, a pillow, and fell asleep on my dock that rests on top of our little body of water. I dozed off until my sister called. As I listened to her special voice I heard her heart filled with words of updates of new baby and packing and moving soon to a different part of the country. After a little while she had to go and help her older baby toddler so I decided to open up my book and read a little. Soon, I'm highlighting and breathing prayers of thankfulness... peace, grace. presence, rest, love.
I took a deep, slow breath in. Probably, the first one I've taken in days and smelled the change in the air and felt God's peace touch me. I rolled myself over and sat up to check and see what the clouds were doing. They were big and dark and full and beautiful, haunting in a good way! A hawk, I don't know what kind, was using the soon-to-be-summer-storm wind to glide and soar high over me. I don't believe God put this hawk just here right now just for me but He surely does use all His creatures and the powers of nature to say something.
I felt His presence hovering. As if He wanted to say, "Life is here Amy for the taking. I give it freely for you, for your good, for my glory..." I sat still looking up all around me, little me, learning about all the freedom I have with God. It began to rain. I placed my things back into my bag and protected it with the towel I had just moments before used to lay in the sun. I headed for shelter. It's amazing how quickly things change.
When I stop to rest I really see.
I've been outdoors a lot in nature lately with friends and family and it's all good and it's moments and memories and experiences together and I love it! But, it's different when I'm all by myself with God. I feel His Spirit that lives in me smiling saying, 'Well done, my girl'. I love this time with you! "I'm so happy you're getting my point. I've been following you around teaching you, that a big part of serving Me, loving Me, bringing Me glory can only be done in rest, in waiting, in being still and finding out that I am God."
God loves us. He's abundantly kind to let me know when I've chosen well. It feels a lot like peace for my soul. I became aware of a grace, undeserved, while I was busy not accomplishing anything. This is what I'm learning and it's good and it's life giving!
Today, on my one day a week God gave a gift to me.
He reminded me that I don't have to do as much as I think.
He made it clear that taking my time in His presence just being and letting Him love me however He would like to, is worth putting aside my desire to accomplish another thing on my to-do list.
Resting with Him is worth every second.
"Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere." - Psalm 84:10a NIV
Inspiration becomes distraction when it's not executed at the right time.
I jumped out of bed at 6am and was out the door running within 15 minutes. For 3 miles I ran while listening to one of my favorite podcasts. The latest episode was on the benefits of blogging. I was inspired by reason 1 and completely sold by reason 10!
I came straight home determined I knew exactly what I needed to do but something didn't feel quite right. Normally, a morning run focuses my heart, mind, and body for the day ahead. I tend to feel calmer, clearer and ready to go! But today was different. I didn't know what I should write about or see how I was even going to fit whatever these words were supposed to be into my day. I felt tense and cloudy.
Instead of being led by the Spirit I was being led by a good idea.
The truth is, with all the great thinkers throughout time and information constantly right at my fingertips, it can be easy to get distracted and start things I'm simply not meant to do right now.
If you're anything like me, your mind runs with 100 different possibilities! My enthusiasm can easily turn into stress when I don't have my attention on where God has me right now. Passionate achievers who want to see movement and make a difference have to learn to stop. Stop everything for a few minutes to intentionally pray about what's next. "God, Where do you want my attention to be today? How can I agree with what you want to accomplish in me?"
We need continual clarity about where God has us in our story so we can learn what we need from the page we're on. This alone can bring peace and contentment. This alone can be all the reason we need to not jump ahead before this chapter's finished.
One of the most important things to remember today is, everything is not the next thing.
After coming home, settling in, I realized I needed direction! I paused and prayed. I felt freed up to wait and words came. I DID have a blog post in me today.
I stay home on Mondays.
I don't remember the day I made this decision but it was a while ago and it's become one of my sweetest rhythms. It's a rhythm that has proven so good, so right, so what I need - that it's stuck.
I can count on one finger the times I've left my house on a Monday in the last year. I stay away from appointments, shopping, and anything that resembles needing my immediate attention. I remain with my kids just doing homey things because I need it. I need a reset.
On this Monday morning, I reflected on the week ahead and realized all I wanted was to go down on the back part of our 14 acres where the stream runs free and sit outside for as long as I could. Just me and God alone with the birds and the trees. My goal was to pick a place to plop down, enjoy quiet solitude, take in beautiful words, and just breathe in the sounds and sights of whatever nature brought up beside me.
I had an opportunity and took it. I looked, I listened, I felt, I rested. I read for thirty minutes. That's how it happened. Thirty glorious minutes doing what my body and soul needed.
A mother duck led her fifteen babies right in front of me gliding gracefully through the water leaving quiet ripples behind them. The ducklings followed her. They were learning her ways as she left her mark on the water. And when she dipped down, they instinctively followed her. Awestruck at the sight of them, I sat with my mouth open completely drawn in. It's beautiful how they learn what to do. After several seconds she came up as each small head bobbed up behind her, one right after the other. They repeated this exercise three times without a flicker of hesitation.
She was teaching them how to find food - what they need to thrive. The spiritual story swam in motion around me reminding me, helping me see. "Learn from Me," echoed like a whisper across the water. My heart connected and wanted to swim in after following Jesus just like these babies followed their mother. No hesitation. Just pure instinct knowing this is what they were made for. What I'm made for.
I stay home on Monday's and sometimes watch ducks and meet Jesus again.
Last year in October, I completed my first half-marathon. After finishing those beautiful 13.1 miles alongside of some of the best Rhode Island coastline, I knew I had run as far as I was able that day! Happily I stood sipping a Gatorade behind the finish line, now a spectator among hundreds of other onlookers. And as I peered around shoulders and heads, squeezing through to get a better look, the announcer spotted the first full-marathon racer heading right toward us! I couldn't see this person yet but that didn't stop any of us from cheering. Goosebumps came through my now dry salt-laced skin as I realized I was a part of something greater than myself. Watching that person cross over that finish line brought surprising tears to my eyes. This stranger, I had never seen before inspired something in me. I couldn't help but wonder if I was meant to run more than I had today.
After that race, I started thinking about what my big goal for the new year might be. As I got ready to hang up my 2015 calendar, I thought it over some more and wrote it down. I knew I wasn’t ready to run 26.2 miles yet - the butterflies in my stomach assured me of that - but I was ready to commit and begin.
The thing I love about setting a goal is how it gives me something specific to live toward.
A goal helps me keep my eyes open, aware, and moving toward Jesus with passion and growing endurance! It gives me a tangible focal point.
The marathon I chose was set for June 21, 2015 and the entire experience felt nothing short of miraculous to me. The race was set to start at 7:30am. on Sunday morning. As of 2am. I was sicker than I’ve been in years! Even as optimistic as I am, I began wondering if I’d be able to go. After months of hard work all my reserves had left me in minutes. Sometime after 2am. I was in the shower while Josh cleaned up my sick mess. Sometime after 3am. I was able to lay back down to rest. Sometime after that, I fell asleep to the beat of my heart praying to make this run!
At 5:10am. our alarm sang out and I woke to the sound of another potential obstacle. Feeling physically strengthless, I slowly sat up in bed, cautious of how my body might still react and heard the sounds of heavy raindrops. I sat at the edge of the bed wondering about what the blister on my right big toe would think of me running in these conditions. Unsure of what would happen, I slowly forced myself to eat a pb & j and the banana Josh had brought me and felt a little strength returning. I put on my race clothes. I walked through the rain to the car and closed the door with Josh inside beside me, still unsure of myself but sure of God. I had no guarantees except that He would guide me.
I showed up.
We picked up our friend Jason, and once we were all there I knew I was still in it! I started stretching on an indoor track and met Tracy. She wasn't sure how the weather would affect her but wanted to run anyway just to "feel God's pleasure". Me too, Tracy.
Josh and I started side by side. He was in it for the half-marathon and so was Jason, who was already ahead of us. About two and a half miles in Josh told me to go ahead because his knee was acting up. I stayed near him a little while longer and then knew I had to pull away and run my own race. Trusting God would provide for him, I took off.
It’s a funny thing to be reminded that when it comes down to it our race is our own. It’s personal and it's different from anyone else's.
At every station, I accepted a Dixie cup of Gatorade and thanked the people waiting for me in the pouring rain! When the miles really started adding up and racers were thinning out I ran along side a few other women, exchanging names and stories between breaths. We talked of where we were from and why we were here. Sometimes I ran alone - just Jesus and me. I knew I was more than lucky to be in attendance.
As I approached MILE 20, I broke into a huge relieved smile! Waiting in the rain with others at the water station was my personal volunteer. Our friend Brian had promised to join me to help me finish. Borrowing a line from another experienced 60-something year old runner I had tracked with through half the race, I shouted to Brian, “We’re doing this!” He jumped in with fresh, excited feet asking me right away how I was doing. It was a perfectly logical but loaded question; like asking a woman in the transitional stage of labor how she’s feeling. I hung in there with him by my side. With every next step Brian reminded me to just put one foot in front of the other, “pitter-patter, pitter-patter”... So, I just kept breathing and doing that.
During MILE 22, I got my first stomach cramp of the race. I told Brian and we slowed down a little until it dissipated. At MILE 23, we were entering the last leg of the journey, passing a few funny signs like; “Chafe now, brag forever," Ridiculously hilarious! We entered into the quiet part of the route, through the woods away from cars with only a few other almost-finishers in sight at this point. Branches, weighed down by the rain, dangled over our heads. Brian jumped up slapping a few leafy "high fives" and we ran on.
Brian told me that sometimes when he runs in the rain he feels like he’s being baptized again. It described exactly how I felt... Like wanting to follow, choosing to plunge into the water in front of witnesses to share God's story of you more than anything!
Besides being really cold, I was now appreciating the fresh perspective of the rain. There were a few more silly signs sprayed on with paint on the paved path. I remember laughing quietly through my pain. At MILE 24, Brian told me the last mile would be more a victory lap because at that point I would have already succeeded. I hoped it would be true because I was hurting! At MILE 25, I felt it happen. It was like a gear inside me shifted. I wouldn’t have believed anyone who told me previously that I would have something left to give to that FINAL MILE but I did; it was true! I started sprinting and passed 3 people, Brian and I calling out encouraging things as we passed by each of them. It was cammaradorie at its best knowing we had all experienced the same terrain. I said things out loud to myself too like, "Come on, Amy!" and, "If I can give birth to four babies I can do this!" Brian affirmed everything I said.
My kind volunteer bowed out and left my side right before I ran under the huge UMO Black Bear blowup back onto the track field where we'd all started. I could hardly believe I was so close! The first people I saw were my children, then my husband, our friend Dean (who had chased me throughout the whole race in his car to check on how I was!), my nephews and sister in-law, my mom, my dad, my Grandma, and my friend Shannon. They all looked exactly the same. They all looked astonishingly beautiful to me!!! They were running all around cheering me over the finish line! I was finally here!
I showed up and I made it! It's truly a miracle I was able to ATTEND AND FINISH, under 5 hours in the cold rain, with a blister after being so sick! By the way, I found out later Tracy was the first woman to cross the finish line. Yay, Tracy! Yay, God!
I see my marathon the same way I see life.
What I’m learning is there’s always going to be variables at play. Things working for me and against me. It doesn't change the truth that who I sense I'm meant to become takes work!
It takes me establishing a routine...
It takes paying attention to how I'm doing along the way...
It takes commitment and endurance without knowing the exact outcome...
It takes God... It takes his people!
We're here to SHOW UP and do our very best with what we're given. It’s not as much about the "big" goals but about the "Full Life" Jesus offers. That my friend, is something that is guaranteed always and starts right NOW wherever you are.
I ran for God and me, and any of you out here; the onlookers, the witnesses to my story, and hoped you'd be encouraged in some way. Like the marathoner who unknowingly inspired me last October, if I've inspired you, I ran for you too.
My prayer was that my training and the marathon experience would become a part of who I am. And the more I’ve let it simply sink in over the past week and a half, I feel it has become a personal marathon miracle. That years from now I'll look back on this little piece of my story and be able to give God full glory! Arriving at this appointed destination and celebrating it through sweet reflection has become "the icing on the cake" for me. The journey, the months of training was just as important if not actually more than what happened on race day.
Whatever "race" you need to enter in your life right now, may you too run toward Jesus and become stronger for it! May you point your body and soul in one direction and don't stop until you get to the finish line.