Thanksgiving!

I don’t blog nearly as much as I used to.  When my child care business grew two years ago, I knew my time to write would be limited. I also have been limiting my time on social networking sites. I don’t read as many blogs as I used to.

As my kids have grown older, their need for privacy has increased.  I am not one of these moms who wants to share on Facebook about every single activity my kids are doing or what emotions they are experiencing or our daily schedule.  In the past couple months I have felt this need for living life outside of Facebook posts.  Sometimes I feel like we might over post because we are looking for attention and/or validation we are not getting elsewhere.  I have to embrace the relationships and real live friendships in front of me to find the joy of living life’s moments.

With that being said, the holidays is a time I like to blog.  I have done the December photo project the last three years (one year I did not complete it) because it helps me focus on the day to day joys of Advent and Christmas.

This Christmas is unique as we will be seeing the husband’s parents here in Oregon a week before Christmas.  Then we will be spending a good part of the holiday break on the Atlantic coast in Virginia with my family. There have been many Christmases since we moved to Oregon when we have seen no extended family.  So this is a real treat for all of us. There will be plenty of Christmas programs, holiday parties, gift wrapping, baking and Christmas crafting sessions.

For now I want to focus on Thanksgiving weekend.

For the past three years I have run in the Keizer Turkey Dash 5K on Thanksgiving morning.  This year my eight year old and I ran it together.  We began training shortly after school started.  Due to my full schedule I could only run with him about one to two times a week. I figured with PE at school and the fact he is active when he plays in the backyard–that would be enough.  I was impressed when he could run two miles without stopping and then three!

His final time was 35:56 which is about ten minutes fast than last year.  Although last year he was sick and insisted on running it anyway.  And he had not trained as much.  Still ten whole minutes!  I wish I could shave ten minutes off my marathon time–I might be able to qualify for Boston.

We had perfect weather.  No rain in sight.  It was a little colder than normal, but we bundled up.

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He says he is going to miss our weekly runs and wants to do another race soon.  We’re looking at a Christmas or MLK King Day run. The problem with Oregon is we can get very nasty rain that time of year.  I ran a 1/2 marathon last year in December and nasty, windy, pouring rain.  It took hours for my body temperature to get back to normal.

IMG_4178.JPGEvery Thanksgiving since we moved to Oregon, we have celebrated with friends.  This year we celebrated with the same friends we celebrated with last year.  It was fun to have an established tradition of a big meal, game, and dessert.  It was a nice relaxing day spent with people we enjoy.

IMG_4174The kids even got to play outside for a bit in my friend’s big front yard.

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They can see the best sunsets from their front porch as well as the coastal range mountains.

IMG_4180 In the early evening we noticed black smoke in the distance and heard fire trucks.  My husband has an app on his phone that has all the police and fire calls for our city.  There was a house on fire only a few streets over that quickly escalated into a three alarm fire.  The smoke got thick and black and we could start to see the orange glow of flames.  As we left to go home there were fire trucks lining up and down the road and we saw how bad the fire was.  It made our news and the house was a total loss.  Thankfully no one was killed or hurt.

It was only a few weeks ago I lead a devotional for our seniors group.  I shared about storing up treasures in heaven and not on earth.  Our true treasure is the hope of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior who paid the price for our sins.  This treasure brings us peace in times of trial like house fires, floods, terrorist attacks, ill health, depression, family dysfunction, etc.  Nothing or no one can take away that treasure from us.  I was reminded again as we saw this family’s dream home dissipate into flames.

When I was seven years old we had a small fire in our house that only destroyed a lamp, part of the couch, and part of the wall.  By God’s grace, my parents discovered it the moment the lamp sparked and put it out before the fire department arrived.  When I was a sophomore in college, my floor in my dormitory caught on fire from a cigarette thrown in the trash can.  When I exited my room flames were shooting up to the ceiling in the hallway.  In both those situations you don’t think about grabbing everything you own.  You just go and get out of there.  You remember what is most important in your life.

So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my faith in Jesus Christ and how God has led me on this incredible journey with its own twists and turns.  I am thankful for my family, my extended family, my church family, my friends, my jobs, and this beautiful part of the country we call home.  I pray that throughout this conclusion of Thanksgiving as we move into Advent, I will continue to focus on that true treasure of Christ’s coming into the world.

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Why running is dangerous

Becoming a runner is dangerous.  I am not referring to barking unleashed dogs or dark streets without streetlights at 5 AM.  I am not referring to running your first marathon in Kmart shoes…which I in fact did and do not recommend.  I am not even referring to injured knees or plantar fasciitis.

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Check out those Kmart shoes

Running changes you.  It is easy to get caught up in the inner transformation and make running or triathlon (or whatever sport that drives you) your religion.

You might be like me and discovered once upon a time that running gave you the confidence you never believed you truly had.  When you could hardly run a mile without huffing and puffing and your muscles were screaming, “Mercy!” you never dreamed you would be training for marathons let alone run a 5K.  And when you completed a race, you felt like you could do anything.  That it’s up to you and your willpower.  It’s up to YOUR ability to fight.

Another triathlon mom says:  “I challenge you to fight…face your issues head on. Look your challenges in the eye and put up your dukes.  Your life isn’t going to make itself.  No one is going to come to your rescue.”

What is dangerous?  It is easy to believe it is all about YOU.

But it can’t be.

It is about God.  God orchestrates your life.  And you cannot rescue yourself as much as you think you can.  But God can.

We run and we begin to feel better.  It helps with our anxiety and depression.  It helps us crave carrots and apples instead of Oreos.  We feel more motivated at work.  Tackling laundry does not seem as daunting of a task.  We long for the outside air.  We feel better about our bodies.  We find meaning in life and our joy returns.

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Better. Better.  Better.  It is a word I hear constantly.  Each year we want to become a better wife.  Or a better mom.  Or a better house cleaner.  Or a better (insert your own ambition here).

Although running makes us feel better…it doesn’t make us better.

Because you are like the rest of us.  You’ve screwed up and you will continue to do so.

Christ is better.

Not only is he better, but he is the BEST. As long as you try to make yourself better, you will keep making things like running your religion.  What happens when you can’t run anymore?

And even if you truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior you will be tempted many times in your running journey to believe it is about you.  You may need to remind yourself (or someone may gently remind you) that it is not.

The Bible verse that is painted on the wall plaque where my and my children’s medals hang from has the verse John 11:25 written on it.  It is also embroidered on my gym bag.  It says:

I am the resurrection and the life.  The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.

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Not a verse that makes you picture running.  However it was the text read at my Grandpa’s funeral back in 1989.  I have run a few races in memory of my Grandpa raising money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. My grandpa went to his heavenly home after a seven year battle with cancer that started in his prostate and spread to his spine and then his brain.  My dad is now a prostate cancer survivor.

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This text reminds me that the one who believes in me [Jesus] will LIVE.  It is through Christ we have life.  Not through running.  Not through swimming.  Not through biking.  Not through whatever it is that drives you.

But running is a gift.  And I don’t want to forget that it is a gift from God.  Because every good and perfect gift comes from Him.

14 years ago I ran my first ever 5K on the campus of Calvin College.  I thought it would be a one time thing. I never believed that it was the beginning of an amazing spiritual/mental/physical journey.  And now in only 33 days I will run my fourth marathon and this time I get to share the experience with my sister.  I am forever grateful for this journey.

What is wrong about being crazy busy

I have noticed that we as moms tend to be “all-or-nothing” about many things.  Take eating for instance.  We are either a slave to My Fitness Pal obsessing over what to eat for lunch hence not using up all our precious calories.  Or we enter into what I once heard a speaker call “Screw-itsville.”  Just love yourself.  Accept your body for what it is.  Eat that doughnut.  You probably deserve it anyway.

Or take keeping the house as another example.  Daily chore charts, cleaning schedules, and to-do lists cover the refrigerator.  The laundry must be all caught up and the floors swept daily.  Or throw the charts out the window, clean whatever you can in the short time you allot, and as long as the kids have socks and underwear–who cares about the laundry.

I have noticed we are the same way when it comes to “being busy.”  We feel like we need to be the “busy martyr” running kids from one activity to the next, cooking a meals that hit all areas of the Food Pyramid, buying snacks for the basketball team, leading Bible Study, and planning our friend’s baby shower until we crash into bed and wake up at 3 AM with our mind racing about all we need to do the following day.  Or we feel like we need to be “zen like moms” with time to breathe, relax, and visit the day spa.  Pamper yourself.

There needs to be some sort of balance.

Life is a rhythm of “busy” and “inactivity.”  Finding that balance means “working hard” and “resting hard.”  Sometimes I feel like I am too far on one side and not the other.

I have been a runner for many years, but it was two years ago I discovered track runs.  I used to think running laps around the track was boring and monotonous.  Until I learned of actual track workouts such as running fast 800 meters and then running slow 400 meters or sprinting a 200 and then walking/running slow another 200.  Put in fast paced techno music on your iPod or run with a couple buddies and you got yourself a great workout with more variety than running laps which might give you bad flashbacks to 4th grade PE.  It is that slower lap known as the recovery lap that is equally important as the fast lap.

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Kevin De Young describes it in his book Crazy Busy explains it like this:

People like to say life is a marathon, not a sprint, but it’s actually more like a track workout.  We run hard and then rest hard.  We charge a hill and then chug some Gatorade.  We do some stairs, then some 200s, and then a few 400s.  In between, we rest.  Without it, we’d never finish the workout.  If we want to keep going, we have to learn how to stop.”  (93)

The problem is some of us who struggle with “chronic busyness” and we skip that recovery lap.  We think we don’t need it nor we do we have time for it anyway.  The problem is we are not completing the workout.  We are drowning in a bunch of unfinished projects and clutter.  Those of us living in the land of “Screw-its-ville” are only doing recovery laps or we’re just hanging out on the bleacher watching everyone else run by.  We are living are our days with no plan, no goals, and no structure.  You know the old saying, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it.”

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God may call us into big careers, daunting projects, or to be moms to thirteen children.  Busy lives?  You bet.  We cannot live the kind of life God called us to live if we are not resting in His Word and abiding by Him.  God gave us the gift of the Sabbath to worship Him.  For how many of us has Sunday become another day of run around chaos?

De Young also says:

“It’s not wrong to be tired.  It’s not even wrong to feel overwhelmed.  It’s not wrong to go through seasons of complete chaos.  What is wrong—and heartbreakingly foolish and wonderfully avoidable—is to live a life with more craziness than we want because we have less Jesus than we need.”  (118)

My friends it is not trying to do everything perfect by the book with lists and schedules and systems even if they look beautiful displayed on your refrigerator. When we try and try to be Super Mom, often times we feel much worse.

But it’s not saying “Screw it either.” Which feels great in the moment, but not so much when we’re feeling directionless.

It is abiding with Him. It is making him the center of your day and the Lord of your life.  The daily rhythm will change, but you will not be walking it alone.   You will find direction and you will find peace.

Ten years ago…

I think it happens to me late May/early June every year.  I get a little sad.

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Ten years ago,  2004 we were loaded up a U Haul barely fitting everything in (we joked it was like playing Tetris) and left our home in Fruitport, Michigan.  I had a job as a youth director there from May of 2000 until June of 2004.  My husband and I lived in a house next door to the church from May 2001 until we left.  In some ways this move was harder than our move to Oregon in August of 2006. (We lived in Gary, Indiana from June of 2004 until June of 2005, Muskegon, Michigan the summer of 2005, and Grand Rapids, Michigan September 2005 until August of 2006.)

I felt like God was calling me into youth ministry when I was in my teens–“a kid in youth ministry myself.”  Although I went through some difficult years as a pastor’s kid that made me question actually working for a church, God blessed me that first year with an amazing group of kids I loved.  As I went through my first year of ministry, I kept feeling God’s peace.  I expected chaos and conflict, but I was blessed with the opposite.  I am not saying everything that first year or the next three were easy.  There were difficult times, heartbreaking moments, times I made mistakes, and days I questioned my calling.  There were times I was exhausted and felt inadequate.  Yet I cried almost every single night our last week in Fruitport and it was like mourning the death of a friend.

I did not talk it very much until later…it seems like it came out at all the wrong times…but I was not just mourning our church, but youth ministry in general.  I knew it was very unlikely I would do youth ministry as a job for a very long time…if ever…and I would do some new thing for work.  So I searched for that thing.

When we left in 2004 and the years that followed, I quickly tried to fill that hole of missing youth ministry with something else.  I thought I would go into early childhood education. After a brief stint of working in a day care, I felt like a door was closing.  I thought about becoming a veterinary technician because I love animals.  After a couple classes, it just wasn’t me.  I had to move on.  When a friend of mine asked me a couple weeks ago, “If you could do anything for a job, what would you want you to do?”  I honestly don’t know.  I don’t have an answer right now.  In some ways not much has changed in ten years.

Don’t get me wrong–I’ve had some good jobs.  Jobs I love.  I love my news writing job.  I love interviewing people.  I love writing.  My world has opened as I see God working in places like inner city Seattle, rural Minnesota and the suburbs in between.  I do enjoy child care.  It has worked absolutely perfect with our schedule, the kids are sweet, I can stay home with my own kids, and I think I need a house with more chaos than serene.  There are always kids here, art projects on the table, toys in the backyard, and laughter–I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I have done youth ministry as a volunteer for many years.  I do enjoy it.  I love the kids as much as I loved my Fruitport kids.  But it’s different.  And it was an adjustment to be on staff versus a volunteer.  For one youth ministry is a small compartment of my life and I cannot give it the attention to the degree I wish I could.  I have very little time to read youth ministry books, go to conferences, meet with other youth leaders, visit schools, go to sports games, and take kids out for ice cream.  Those are some of the things I enjoyed  in Fruitport and I can’t do those things here because of my demands as a stay-at-home mom, my kid’s schedules, child care, writing, and other responsibilities.

When the kids are in school all day and a few years has passed–I have a feeling our lives will be different.  I may be doing “that new thing”  even though I have no clue right now what it is.  Maybe it’s paid youth ministry.  Maybe it isn’t  Maybe it’s not much different than what I am doing now.  Maybe it’s something I never dreamed of doing.

But whatever it is, I am grateful for the four years of youth ministry I had.  And I am grateful for the ten years of doing odd jobs, writing, child care and being a stay-at-home mom.  I don’t know tomorrow will bring, but I can know God has a plan for me.

Triathlon Journey: Swimming in the Open Water

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Last May I did my first sprint triathlon and was hooked.  I wanted to do a mid summer triathlon that required swimming in the open water (my first tri took place in a pool).  I had grown up playing in lakes, rivers, and ponds so I had little fear of not seeing my feet on the bottom.  I had never swam laps in the open water.  I had only learned to swim about eight months before this and had only been swimming laps regularly for about three months.

So when my friends invited me to swim in their lake last June, I was excited.  Here was my chance to swim across it because I knew I had the endurance.  But it went terrible.  I could not stay in a straight line.  I veered so off to the left so I was completely off course from my friends who were swimming.  Coming back I felt so panicky my husband rode next to me in a kayak.  I kept wanting to grab the kayak.  He kept telling me my stroke was off.  How come I can swim in a pool but not in a lake?  I was on the verge of tears and threw my goal of an open water triathlon out the window that day.

When we were in Michigan last summer, I was thrilled we were staying on a lake.  Lots of open water practice right outside my window.  But I was incredibly nervous and anxious.  The times I did try I felt exhausted after two minutes.  How come I can swim for an hour in a pool but only two minutes in a lake.  My brother-in-law said, “Your stroke is off.”  Then my sister-in-law watched me, “Yeah you know your stroke is off?”  Again I was constantly veering off to the shore and almost hit a dock “head on.”

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So my husband said to put the goal off for a year and focus on swimming at the pool.  Why should I focus swimming in the pool when I am trying to learn to swim in a lake?  But I took his advice to heart.  I became a regular at the pool early Wednesday mornings.  I worked on my stroke (which used to be really off), my speed, my kick–everything.

I asked some triathletes this spring when it would be warm enough to get in the open water.  I asked some of them if they could give me lessons.  One of them said, “You can totally do it.  Just have confidence in your swimming.”  Um…I was confident last summer and then I had to hold on to a kayak and almost hit a dock.

 

DSC09185So last week I went to my friend’s lake and took my eight year old with me…mostly for moral support.  I jumped in the water (which surprisingly with a wet suit was quite comfortable). I started swimming and then I looked up–I was going pretty straight!  And I had the endurance–I felt like I could swim for a long time!  I yelled to my daughter, “I can do it!”

My goal on this triathlon journey is to do an open water tri in July.  The moral of this story is 1) sometimes you have to wait for things…at times it takes a little more hard work and postponing your goals  2) sometimes your husband gives the right advice and you should follow it

 

I Gave Up Complaining for Lent

6:45 AM is not early for me.  On many mornings my alarm goes off at 4:45 AM and I get a workout in before a day of homemaking/child care giving/everything else I do begins.  But 6:45 IS early when your kids do not have school, your husband has the day off, and YOU do not.  Crankiness done. Over.

And actually complaining especially about my schedule and responsibilities is something I gave up for Lent.  My husband often said how we should not give something up during Lent (such as chocolate, pop, Facebook etc.) but rather focus and tackle something we struggle with.  The year he gave up worrying he was hit with particular issues that caused tremendous “worry.”  Like he had to walk through a valley to make it back to the hillside.

That is exactly how I felt this week.  I thought it was going to be a light easy going week.  Especially with the kids being home extra days and the weather absolutely perfect.  But that instant need to complain is always on the tip of my tongue.  The things I want to complain about about are constantly in my sight–and no I don’t mean my children.

I mean the little cluttery pieces of toys spread everywhere.  I mean half colored pieces of paper all over the floor.  Shoes (including mine!) spread all over the eating area.  Toothpaste spots all over the sink.  Laundry where it should not be thrown–socks all over the family room store get to me even if they are mine.

And it’s not just clutter.  It’s the little jobs on the “to do list” that get carried over week to week because they never seem to get done.  It’s the desire to not want to do anything but bum around on Facebook (or write blog entries). It’s the fact the kids broke the space bar on my keyboard and typing has become a slow tedious task.  Or they ripped their Sunday pants.

Yet I ask myself, “Amy is it really that bad?”  Is it so bad you need to broadcast it to everyone?  The toys get picked up.  The paper gets recycled.  The shoes get put away.  The laundry gets done.  The kids are old enough that they actually help with this.  A lot.  The little jobs get done…sometimes on the brink of a deadline…but they do. Goodwill sells keyboards…and pants.

And isn’t God good ALL the time?  He know what we need, what valleys we need to walk through, and what hillsides we can rest on.062-DSC09008

Love those Kids Quotes

Before we read our Bible Story as part of our preschool homeschool routine:

Youngest Child:  “Mom, my favorite Bible Story is John the Baptized.”

Me:  “Oh yay because that’s the one I was going to read to you this morning.”

Youngest Child:  “I love John the Baptized because he baptized Jesus.”

Middle Son Holding an 8 1/2 x 11 dry erase board:

Mom this is my ipad.  I am going to go in the family room and play Diner Dash.”

Middle Son in the Library…

Little kid in the library to my son:  “My name is Collin.  I am six years old.  How many are you?”

My son:  “99 dollars.”

As I was cleaning up…

Middle Son:  Mom, you aren’t supposed to hold scissors that way.  You would not get a scissors safety certificate.

After my son colored in my oldest’s notebook…

8 year old:  “Don’t color in my book!  I don’t want all scratches in it when I send it to the publisher.”

Doing Saturday chores with my oldest

8 year old:  How do I get the bucket ready to mop the floor?

Me:  Put a little bit of Pine Sol in the bucket and add water.  You know how to do that, right?

8 year old:  I’m too afraid to add the Pine Sol.

Me:  Why?

8 year old:  What if I drink it?

Me:  Well then don’t drink it.