Featured Blog: What Happens When You Stop Running

Don Miller's been one of my favorite writers since my sophomore year of college when I first read Blue Like Jazz at the prodding of a close friend. I've read every one of his books since, and I follow his blog. Last year Nate and I drove to Colorado Springs one afternoon after school to hear him speak. This summer we road tripped to Portland (where he lives) and visited the pub he writes about in his book (The Horse Brass Pub) and attended a church service at the church he helped plant--Imago Dei in downtown Portland. Some might say I'm obsessed. But I can't help it. He's earnest, witty, pragmatic, and not super preachy. So, I'm featuring his blog tonight--in particular, the post he put up today called What Happens When You Stop Running.

A lot of his stuff sticks with me, but this one really hit home with me today. I don't like confrontation (who does?!). When hard times come, I tend to act like I don't care and then fill my life with a million things in order to keep my mind busy so I don't have to deal with the difficult things. Eventually though---I crash. The crashing isn't the worst part. Actually what's worse is surveying the damage (like Don mentions in his post) after the crash. The end of a year tends to make a person reflective, and lately I can't help but reflect on the damage I've caused to my relationships with friends, family, and my husband. I feel like I've been sitting on broken glass staring at mangled steel for the last few weeks. Honestly, I don't even know how to begin to clean this mess. I just know I have to get up off the glass shards because they hurt too much.



As usual, it's been a busy Christmas season for us. So far we've celebrated with my mom's side (including my grandpa who made the long trek to Nebraska from Texas), my dad's side, and my husband's immediate family. We live far away from our families, and we don't always get to see them as much as we'd like; I'm grateful for the time we've had to spend with all of them. In past years, I've struggled immensely with holidays and have seen them as a reminder of what I don't have. This year has been different. During some of our traveling, Nate and I took time to talk about how blessed we are. It's easy to dwell on what we don't have, and sometimes I tend to do this. But as I drove down highway 30 with my hand in my husband's, listening to Christmas music, I was overwhelmed with all God has given us (in no particular order):
  • Salvation. I am overwhelmed by the gospel message and am thankful for those in my life who have aided in deepening my faith.
  • Stable finances. We've been blessed with a sense of frugality and have in turn been able to give to our church and missions, save money, pay for graduate school for both of us without taking out loans, and take a few trips here and there.
  • A healthy marriage. Our relationship is certainly not perfect, but over the past five years we've grown as a couple and have learned more about what it means to have an Agape kind of love.
  • Fulfilling jobs. Working with kids every day is maddening but is the most rewarding experience I've ever had.
  • Supportive and loving family and friends. We can count on our families for just about anything, and we consider some of our friends to be family. I can't imagine going through life without these people.
If you're not able to celebrate with those you love, if you're experiencing an emptiness, or if life has brought about unexpected changes that leave you feeling alone and restless--I hope you can find peace in recognizing and thinking about all you have.


26.2 Miles = Daunting

A few days ago I started reading Hal Higdon's Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide (4th ed.). I needed to read something to give my mind a break from thesis work and to prep me for the marathon. To be honest, I've been pretty nervous about it lately. For the past week questions have been flying through my mind: Can my body even handle the impending beating it's sure to receive during training? How will I manage teaching, writing my thesis, and training for a marathon? Am I disciplined enough in my eating habits to prepare my body for averaging 30-40 miles a week?

It may seem shallow, but my biggest apprehension this week is swapping the speed I've gained over the past 6 months for stronger endurance. This weekend I logged ten miles--6 on Saturday and 4 today. And though my run Saturday sucked (a dizzy spell forced me to stop for a few minutes at mile 4 to gather my wits), my run today felt good, but I couldn't help being a bit disappointed at the 8:07/mile pace that showed up on my Garmin at the end of the run. Up until Thanksgiving I ran my 4-4.5 milers at 7:45/mile and earned a PR during the Turkey Trot 5k: 23:21. So, to see an 8:07 pace hurt the 'ole ego just a hair.

The more I read, the more I learn that a first-time marathoner's goal should be simply to finish. I think this will be difficult for me because I like running fast, and my ego likes seeing low times. But if I want to accomplish my goal of running 26.2 miles, my training will need to slow down due to the massive amount of miles I'll be logging. My ego will simply have to be set aside until after May 6th....

For now, I guess I'll focus more on miles than on speed. My training officially starts on December 27th...scary! Until then, I'll continue to run simply to enjoy myself. On another note...I am in the market for new running shoes to swap in with my winter training shoe (my current racing flat already has seen between 540-600 miles). Any suggestions for a durable marathon shoe?


2 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself

A colleague of mine tweeted a link to this blog featuring a post titled: 30 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself. Typically I avoid anything that appears to be a self-help column; I just don't enjoy reading about how to live a better life unless it's coming from the Bible. But because I respect this colleague, and she generally tweets about quality articles; I took a few minutes in between grading quizzes to skim through it. I don't agree with everything on this post, but there were two tips in particular that stuck out to me:

I am so guilty of this. Perfection runs deep in my blood. For as long as I can remember I've worked to be the best in whatever I do. In elementary school I devoted my free time to becoming the best gymnast; a few years down the line in high school, I spent hours at the track hurdling. This devotion eventually led to major injuries and burnout. By middle school, I was done being a gymnast. I had enough. My senior year of high school I tore a muscle in my hip and decided against surgery (because a large part of me was simply exhausted and wanted a break), ending my dreams of running collegiate track. Now my perfectionism has seeped into teaching. I've overwhelmed myself with trying to be the best in my career. And though I believe it's healthy to have personal drive, I fear that my anal mentality will be what drives me out of the teaching profession.

That last sentence segues nicely into this next tip. It's so hard not to desire to be everything to all 90 of my students. I want to reach EVERY kid. I know it's not realistic, but somehow I can't bring myself to come to grips with that fact. I also want to be regarded highly by my colleagues and peers; I want people to be able to come to me when they need help. But just between you and me, I'm tired of trying to be everything to everyone. My husband often gets what's left of me at the end of a week (which isn't much!). That's not fair to him.

Despite the self-help nature of the post, these two tips give me something to chew on as I wind down one semester and begin to gear up for another....


Counting it all as garbage

This year I've started helping with the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) program at school. We meet Mondays at lunch to read and discuss the Bible and pray. Every other week I give the lesson--tomorrow is my day to lead. This FCA thing is a huge step out of my comfort zone; I still don't feel qualified or comfortable leading kids in a study of the Bible...especially in front of Shane (our head FCA guy) who I consider to be a great spiritual leader. So I've been spending some time this weekend praying about what God would have me talk about. Last week Shane talked about the difference in being a believer and a follower and what our lives must look like in order to be a Christ-follower. The lesson stuck with me throughout the week, so I wanted to follow up with his lesson tomorrow. Here's what God's laid on my heart: Philippians 3:3-11.

In this section of Philippians, Paul writes about all the good stuff he's done:

"I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel [God's chosen nation] and a member of the tribe of Benjamin [Israel's first king, Saul, came from this tribe AND this tribe and the tribe of Judah were the first to return to Israel after the exile demonstrating great faith]--a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. As for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault" (Phil. 3:5-6).

Paul certainly has a reason to boast and think pretty highly of himself. Like Paul, I feel like believers--especially longtime believers--slip into this mentality. We think about all the good stuff we've done whether it's mission's work; being raised in a Christian home; being a moral person who makes good decisions and is involved in all the right activities; our regular attendance at youth group, church, Sunday school, or FCA...etc. When we think about all of the good stuff we've done, we tend to think all these things make us righteous and better in God's eyes. But immediately after Paul lists his credentials that really are incredible and would impress the socks of both his spiritual and non-spiritual friends--he writes:

"I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law, rather I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God's way of making us right with himself depends on faith" (Philippians 3:7-9).

We will not gain right standing with God based on what we do. Our salvation rests only in faith in Christ. So Paul considers everything he has done as garbage. But Paul doesn't stop there; he continues with:

"I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead" (Philippians 3:10-11).

And this is the tough part that begs a response from us as Christ followers. Are we willing to suffer and share in Christ's death so that we can experience the same renewing power that raised Christ from the dead? My life is pretty cushy right now. I've got a good job, a loving family, believing friends, stable finances. I'm not suffering right now. And lets face it, nobody wants to suffer. But if I'm going to take my belief in God one step further and call myself a Christ follower, then my life should look radically different than the world. Paul writes that he WANTS to suffer and share in Christs bloody death on the cross. This makes me stop and think: What am I willing to give up and count as garbage (even if it causes painful suffering) in order to gain Christ?


Featured Blog: The Journey To India

We're blessed here in Ogallala to have incredible friends. It took awhile...something like two years! Nonetheless, each friendship is unique. Our new found friends Jim and Kristin are good natured and sweet and seem to always think of others before themselves. Drew and Amy are a solid Christian couple who have (despite our young friendship) already shared with us in joys and hardships, prayed with us when times were tough, and are always ready to lounge around in sweatpants with us. Ryan and Tracy are who we call when we want to unwind and have a good laugh. Ryan is one of the most unintentionally funny guys I know. His wife Tracy is down to earth, sweet, and not afraid to work hard--something I really admire. We don't have to go out and do something fancy to have fun. We're happy sitting around a kitchen table swapping stories, laughing. We met Ryan and Tracy through Bob and Shannon who have quickly grown to be our best friends here in town. I have a hard time even explaining our friendship as it's unlike one I've ever had before. Not only are they fellow bookies, music lovers, and NPR nerds, they're just all around good people. They're honest, unpretentious believers. Shannon is as straightforward as they come! She's a ton of fun; she's not girly (girly is a quality that tends to freak me out just a bit) and has experienced a lot of life. She's someone I've come to respect. Bob has opened me up to a world of new music, challenged me to think deeper, and has been a good confidant. He's also a helluva cook! Together they make an amazing couple: genuine, hospitable, and a host of other adjectives that slip me right now.

That's why I'm happy to share the link to Bob's blog: The Journey To India. In February, Bob will travel to rural parts of India where his team will help provide free medical services, work to strengthen the local church, and share the gospel with non-believers. Check out his blog if you're interested in learning more about God's work in India through Bob. And if you're the praying kind, send up a few for him. I know he and his wife both have apprehensions about this trip. Pray that they would abandon worry, pray about everything, and offer thanks to the work God is already doing (Philippians 4:6). Pray they'd both experience the kind of peace Paul talks about in Philippians 4:7. And don't forget to check out Bob's blog!


Adoption Update: Rising Hopes

In the middle of teaching about dependent clauses yesterday afternoon, my cell phone rang, vibrating my entire desk. Whenever my phone rings or vibrates during the day my throat tightens and my hands shake with anticipation hoping it's the adoption agency with good news. Usually it's a telemarketer, so I don't get too worked up anymore. Casually, I sauntered to my desk and checked the caller ID. "Unavailable" read the screen. Without skipping a beat, I kept teaching. Soon, my phone buzzed once indicating a voice mail. While students were doing board drills, I asked my para if she minded if I checked my voice mail in the hall. "This is Kim with the Nebraska Children's Home..." began the voice mail. Immediately tears filled my eyes. I hung up the phone, ran into my room, begged my para to cover for me, and I fled to Nate's room. I grabbed him so we could listen to the voice mail together. "Your profile..a couple...medical condition with the baby...give us a call back"---the adrenaline in my body wouldn't stop pumping, my limbs tight, my heart racing. We couldn't call the agency back right away since we both had classes to attend to, so we agreed to call during the last period of the day (our free periods).

I think it's some cruel, unwritten rule that caseworkers not answer the phone whenever prospective adoptive parents call. I left a message and tried to go about the last period of the day, working haphazardly, my mind wondering to all the possibilities that lay ahead.

The bell rang at 3:05 and students filed into my room for Extended School Day...I meandered around the room, explaining problems, giving make-up quizzes, answering questions, settling students in. At 3:15 my phone buzzed. The caller ID read "Unavailable." I answered--despite the fact seven students were watching me. The caseworker began to spell out the details, and I tried to tune out the seven rowdy kids and focus instead on her words. Using flailing arm movements, I tried hushing the kids...and failed. I asked the case worker if she would please hang on, ran into my co-worker's classroom next door, and blurted out (in front of another teacher and a student), "It's the agency...please cover my class!" Within a matter of seconds I was scribbling down two pages of medical history, trying to get every detail down.

From there, everything's a blur.

The caseworker called to ask if she could share our profile with a couple whose baby was due December 24th. The couple seemed like a great fit for us, but the baby had major medical issues. Originally we marked we were alright with these issues, but it's protocol (and a good one at that) for the agency to inform prospective adoptive parents of these situations prior to handing out profiles to birth parents. It was decision time. We had the chance to take a risk and share our profile with this couple or not. Saying yes meant the possibility of having a child by Christmas...allowing me to fulfill my dream of being a mom and of giving kitschy Grandma and Grandpa coffee mugs to my parents as Christmas gifts. But it also meant parenting a child (our first child) with major medical issues that we knew only a little about. Saying no meant we go back to waiting...something I'm terrible at.

Last night Nate and I prayed, cried, prayed more, read Bible passages, cried, talked, prayed, and cried...until 12 AM when we made our decision. We prayed after we made our decision and held each other tightly until sleep came.

This morning I showered and readied for work in a daze. During my quiet time this morning, I cried and prayed that God would make me strong in my weakness (Paul's prayer in 2 Corinthians 12), that our decision would bring Him glory.

It's back to waiting for us. Another Christmas spent childless.

I started my first period class this morning while choking back tears, the insides of my cheeks raw from biting them in order to keep from crying. Recognizing my somber, unstable demeanor, my students settled in quickly and focused the entire period. I'm glad I stuck out the day at school--no matter how maddening my job can be, I love my students. The day was easier to get through because of them. When I got home from work, there was a package in the mailbox from my mom containing a card and a book of encouraging Bible verses (though we did not share yesterday's events until now), and an early Christmas package of goodies from Trader Joe's from our good friends, Micah and Amee. It's funny how God works...He used the people we love in our lives to bring us joy and comfort at just the right time.

While the past 24 hours have been frustrating, confusing, exhausting, etc---I feel a strange sense of peace tonight. Maybe it's because I have no more tears left to shed, but I suspect this peace has more to do with God and less to do with me.


Sharing the Road

Nate and I started our running journey about four-five years ago in Kearney. We were tired of being sedentary slugs, so we downloaded a 5k training guide and ran/walked our way to our first 5k. We ran several 5k's until the spring of 2010 when we walked/ran our first half-marathon. Since then we've ran 10k's, a 10 mile race, another half-marathon, trail runs, and several more 5k's. I don't post this because I think I've earned bragging rights; rather, I'm proud of the hard work we've put in to our journey. I'm especially proud of my husband who doesn't even really enjoy running all that much. He runs to stay in shape and because it's an activity I enjoy. He's a trooper---I mean it, because I haven't always been the best running companion. My competitive nature has really taken a firm grip on me this year.

Today we ran in the cold, snowy, and extremely slick Jingle Bell Run in North Platte...
I had all intentions of keeping today's run relaxed, so I left my Garmin in the car and told Nate I'd run with him. About one mile in to the race I spotted two women 400 yards ahead of me in ridiculous looking tutus. I can't let those tutus beat me, I thought. I told Nate and Kristin (another Ogallalan running with us today) that I had to beat the tutus. So I gradually picked up the pace, slowly gaining ground on the tulle-adorned women. I thought my competitive drive would stop when I passed the tutus, but it didn't. Soon, two runners, who had reached the turn-around point and were on their last mile and a half, passed me going the opposite direction towards the finish line while I still hadn't reached the turn-around. It drove me crazy, so I kept running, picking up the pace with every step, trying not to slip on the icy roads. All I could think about was passing the person in front of me. I'd pass one person and focus my eyes on the next. When I crossed the finish line I was winded and expected to feel satisfied. I had, after all, ran a decent race despite the elements and had done a nice job of pacing myself without my Garmin. But I didn't feel that satisfaction. I came out of the chute and walked back towards the road, looking for my running partners I started the race with: Nate and Kristin. When I saw them coming around the last corner, I felt terrible for letting my competitive streak win out over my original commitment to run with my husband.

This isn't the first time I've done this to Nate--I've left him behind on long runs in town and during several road races. I think what I struggle with the most is the conflict I have between wanting to run competitively and desiring the same companionship we had when we began our running journey. It's hard for me to accept that we're at two different levels. I need to learn to curb my competitive nature once in a while and simply run with my husband, not ahead of him. I'm hoping marathon training will teach me this because I know I will not be able to run more than 6 miles at my usual pace, and I will need a running companion to keep me accountable for squeezing in long runs. As a great man (my husband) once said, Running isn't always about PR's--sometimes it's about sharing the road with the others.