Turkey Trot

I accidentally ran a 5k tonight.

For a little over a year, I’ve had a goal to run an entire 5k.  For the last 18 months I’ve run off and on.  I’ve started the Couch to 5k program at least 5 times and each time I’ve made it to week 4 of 10 weeks, and I poop out, take a few weeks or months off and start over.  In April, I participated in my first 5k, a Color Me Rad race.  I ran/mostly walked the race.  I did another Color Me Rad run in September that I mostly walked the entire race because it was so hilly.

The YWCA in Bristol has an annual turkey trot race that  is for women only.  For the last three years I’ve wanted to participate in their conditioning program, but I’ve never signed up because this time of year is ridiculously busy for me.  This year, I signed up.  My goal is to go 4 times a week and run 1 time on the weekend.  The first week, I made it to one class and ran twice on my own.  The second week I went 1 time and got sick and was out for two weeks getting over bronchitis.

I went back this week, and tonight was the first night I ran with the group.  When I got there someone said that we were doing the 5k course.  I’ve not ran any distance in over two months, I’m getting over bronchitis, and I have to run a 5k course. Seriously?

Everyone started out going their own pace.  I stayed with a couple of ladies who were running and walking at my turtles going through peanut butter pace.  I didn’t take my watch or phone so I couldn’t track how fast or slow I was going, my distance, or anything.  I just focused on keeping these ladies in my view so I would know where to go on the course.  I ran the first mile.  Ran walked the second mile, and mostly walked the last mile.  I mentioned I’m still getting over bronchitis, right?  Oh, and I found out I’m slightly anemic.  Which could explain why even though I feel like physically my body can 3.1 miles, but no matter how slow I run, I always feel like my lungs are burning out of my chest, and I’m gasping for air.

Tonight was still a victory though.

I didn’t hate it.

It’s the first time that I didn’t think about how much I hate running while I was out there.  18 months and I didn’t hate it or want to cuss one single time while I was running.  That’s progress, right?

Amanda Berry and Our Rescue

By now we’ve probably all seen this video of Charles Ramsey who made the 911 call that led to the rescue of Amanda Berry and the other two women who had been kidnapped for 10 years.

After I watched it I thought, here comes the next viral YouTube video and auto-tune.

As I was perusing the news today, I read this article in the The New Yorker today and was thankful no one was walking by my office at the time because I lost it.

Amy Davidson, the author of this article points out how significant Ramsey’s 911 call is because he said he thought it was a domestic dispute; however, he chose to make the call.  She applauds Ramsey for not ignoring something that so many people fail to report.

What got to me was this sentence:

For Berry and the others to be rescued, in other words, two things had to happen: she had to never forget who she was, and that who she was mattered; and Ramsey needed to not care who she might be at all—to think that all that mattered was that a woman was trapped behind a door that wouldn’t open, and to walk onto the porch.

Isn’t that the Gospel?  Isn’t that the heart of evangelism and discipleship?

Back at the very beginning, God created us in His image, but sin marred and twisted that.  We’ve been held captive so long by sin so long that we forget our true names and true identities.  We forget that we have worth and value because God created us to be his image-bearers.  I’m not sure how Amanda Berry was able to sustain a belief in her inherent worth as a person after 10 years of being kidnapped.  Because of sin or because I’m human I forget often who I really am.  We all we need someone to remind us of our true value and worth when we can’t remember for ourselves.   We all need a Charles Ramsey in our lives who doesn’t care  about who we might be and who will see that all that matters is that we’re trapped behind a door that won’t open without a Hero who will rescue us.

Collecting Hope

I’ve dubbed 2013 the year of “no fear.”  I’ve lived most of my life afraid:  afraid to push my limits, afraid to be truly known and seen, afraid to defy expectations of who people think I am or should be.  I take very calculated risks.

I’ve always thought tattoos were for bikers and druggies and people  with alternative lifestyles.  Over the last few years I’ve had different conversations with friends about what tattoo I would get if I got one.  I realized earlier this year that I finally knew what I wanted.  And a friend said she was going to get one.  And then I knew.  It was time even though I had a tiny bit of fear that it would hurt beyond what I could bear.

This past year has been a year of real change both inside my heart and in my daily life.  I haven’t written much about it because it’s been deeply personal.  However, God’s been renovating my heart and revealing a lot of brokenness that I didn’t know existed mostly related to how I grew up in a legalistic Christian environment and how God is constantly showing grace to me in people who love me and show grace to me in spite of my failures to love them back.

photo (15)I chose to get a feather with the word “hope” because I want to be marked by a big Hope.  The truest kind of Hope.  So often I place my hopes and dreams and expectations on things and people that can’t carry the weight of that burden.  That doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to have dreams and expectations or that I shouldn’t trust people in my life to be part of those dreams or expectations.  A line in one of my favorite David Wilcox songs says, “There’s a break in the cup that holds love inside us all.”  All of us are empty vessels with cracks and holes.  Cracks are important because that is how light and love get inside, but I can’t fill my own cracks or someone else’s cracks, and I can’t expect anyone else to fill mine.  I wanted to be reminded daily that my truest Hope is not in myself or another person, but in the Hope that God gives to restore and redeem my cracks.

Feathers are something I started noticing years ago.    I’ll be walking along thinking about some problem my mind going a hundred miles an hour, and I’ll see a feather on the ground.  It doesn’t happen often, but when they appear, it is usually around times of great stress or turmoil.  A few years ago, I was having a difficult, stressful conversation with a friend.  As we walked around the path, every single time I looked on the ground, I saw a feather.  I’ve been back to that same spot dozens of times and have never to this day, seen as many feathers as I did that day.  God protected my heart and that friendship.

Feathers also remind me of Psalm 91:4

He will cover you with his feathers,

And under his wings you will find refuge;

his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

I need a constant daily reminder that my identity and my security is bound up in Christ.  He is my living hope and refuge.

I love my tattoo more than I ever thought I would.  I knew I wanted it, but there was a little doubt and fear that I may regret it or about how I will tell my family (still working on that one).  When it was healing, the outline of the word “hope” was slightly raised.  I loved being able to trace my finger over the word and tangibly feel hope engraved in my body.  Right before I went to the appointment, I had a moment of hesitation where I got really afraid that it would hurt and I wouldn’t be able to withstand the pain.  Actually, it wasn’t so bad after all.  I told a friend of mine that I felt so bad ass with my new tattoo.  Mostly because I withstood the pain, and now I have a beautiful reminder.

Because of the hope and security that I have in Jesus, I can live unafraid to love, to take risks, to be who he has created me to be.   He covers me and in him I am finding rest.

Resurrection Stories

It’s a great thing when your birthday, Easter, and writing a Young Life talk all coincide in the same weekend.  Two, (well three weeks ago now because I didn’t get this written this post written earlier this week), I had planned to give a talk about John 11 where Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.  That talk got pushed to be the Monday after Easter which was also the Monday after my birthday weekend.

In my talk, I wanted to make two points.  One, that Jesus grieves with us whenever grief or brokenness is in our lives.  He hurts and he cries with us just like he cried with Mary and Martha when their brother died.  I talked about Jesus didn’t show up immediately when Mary and Martha sent for him when Lazarus was sick and dying.  At the time, Mary and Martha probably wondered and even asked Jesus why he didn’t get to their house earlier.  They knew what Jesus was capable of and that he could have healed Lazarus so he wouldn’t have died.  I wanted to show that even when we think Jesus doesn’t care or he isn’t showing up in our lives, that he does still grieve with us and he is still at work, just maybe not in the way we expect.

The other point I wanted to make was that Jesus has crazy, incredible power over death because he did bring Lazarus back from the dead after 4 days.  I love Martha because she’s so practical, and I love how she reminds Jesus that Lazarus will be stank -nasty stinking after 4 days.  Even though Jesus didn’t show up at first to heal Lazarus, he performs an impossible miracle and brings Lazarus back to life doing something so impossible and so unexpected that I’m certain the people who saw it were forever changed.

In this story, Jesus tells Martha that if she watches, she will see the glory of God.  To see something or someone in all its glory is to see that person doing what they do very best.  I ended by talking about how what God does best in our lives is to bring life from death and to restore abundance and life to what is broken.

As I’ve gotten older and remained single, I’ve started to dread birthdays.  I have this fear that I will be alone.  This year especially has been a difficult year where it’s seemed like I will probably be single forever and hope for any change in that circumstance has been slim to none.  I feel kind of like Mary and Martha a lot of the time.  I’m asking God to show up, but He is taking his time and delaying His journey and my “Lazarus” has been dead and buried for a while now.  The reality is that those circumstances could change tomorrow or maybe never.  Somehow in the middle of waiting on Jesus to resurrect some hope, I have to keep believing that Jesus is  showing up and will continue to show up to bring me new life.

But the cool thing about having your birthday, Easter, and Young Life talk about resurrection coincide is that I got a  glimpse of all the love that is already in my life.  I didn’t have any plans for my birthday at all until the day before my birthday.  Then unexpectedly, friends called to make plans at the last minute, and I ended up having an almost week-long celebration of seeing friends and family.  On Easter Sunday, I had a bunch of friends and family over for dinner that I had cooked.  Throughout the week, I got to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in months  ending  the week in running (i.e. with a lot of walking) my first 5K and a lunch with a dear group of friends today who make me laugh until my sides hurt.

It was a week full of being reminded that although I don’t have the relationship and the family yet that I had hoped to have at this point, that I am blessed beyond measure with a lot of love from people I am grateful to call friends and family.  In the middle of what has been a season of grieving disappointments and lost dreams, I’m reminded once again that there is hope in loss and that nothing is wasted.

Let’s Go Racing

I spend from about 7 a.m. this morning until 5 p.m. this afternoon slinging hash at a concession stand at the Bristol Motor Speedway for the Food City 500.  Actually, I didn’t start working until around 10:00, but I was at the track waiting with some other friends and leaders from Young Life working concessions to raise money for summer camp.  This was first in person Nascar experience.  I didn’t know mullets truly existed in real life, and I saw some mighty fine mullets today.  For realz.

When I got home and sat down, I realized my body was exhausted, but for the first time in months my brain didn’t feel tired.  That’s because the only thing I had to think about was putting fries and chicken fingers in baskets or wrapping a foot-long corn dog in foil.  Even though the work was busy at times, for the first time in months my brain rested for a whole 10 hours instead of thinking about the hundred different decisions I have to make or the myriad of questions that go through my mind during the course of a day.

My blog has been silent for a while now mostly because my brain is too tired to write about the things that I’m thinking about and wrestling with.  And also because some of the things I’m thinking about and wrestling with are not thoughts I’m ready to share just yet.  Most of my work in my professional life and in ministry has to deal with people and trying to influence people to do certain things.  I love what I do, but people are tiring.  My mind is constantly racing and thinking about some person or situation that I need to do something about.   People are tiring, and thinking about people makes me tired.  Today, when we were waiting to be assigned our jobs, I was hanging out with my Young Life friends just people watching and enjoying being my friends.  I wasn’t trying to have a meaningful conversation; I was just hanging out with my friends.  Sometimes I think I get so tired from thinking about people, is because I’ve forgotten (if I ever really knew), just how to be with people and enjoy them.

I’ve been asking a lot of hard questions of myself lately too…things like am I really doing what God is calling me to  do?  And how can I be most effective and make the most impact for eternity in the next 10-15 years?  Maybe it’s just my mid-life crisis calling, but lately I feel pressure to figure out how to make the most of the next almost-40 years.

Today it was nice to not think about anything else but chicken fingers and fries.

Wounded Hope

This story is a miracle.  If you need to believe in miracles, here is living breathing example of one.

What resonated with me was what Megan said at 4:26, “I was so wounded, I was afraid to go there.”  By “there” she meant afraid to hope.  So often I find myself in the same place: afraid to hope. When life hands you disappointments, sometimes hope becomes painful.  It’s difficult to believe circumstances can really change or that the past won’t repeat itself.

As I have expressed some of the fears and worries I have about seeing hopes and dreams fulfilled, I’ve had friends express great hope for me.  I don’t think they’re just saying words to make me feel better.  I think they really believe.  Every time it amazes me that they can have hope for me even when I can’t hold onto hope for myself.

That’s the other part of this video that I love.  The part where Megan’s friend says if hoping hurts too much, then let me hope for you.  As I continue being a Young Life leader, I hear so many stories where kids have been wounded by friends and family, and they’re afraid to hope and believe that Jesus can make a difference.  It’s a great privilege to be able  hope for my friends when they can’t hope for themselves because we all need someone to hope for us when it hurts too much to hope for ourselves.

Falling for Jesus

I don’t post a lot about dating or being single (part of my denial tactics), but I read these blog posts today that I’ve linked at the end of this post, and I wanted to share for anyone that may actually read this blog.

I grew up in the era of I Kissed Dating Goodbye and Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot.  I read Passion and Purity dozens of times through high school and college, but lately I’ve started to realize that some of the Christian ideas and advice I bought into about dating as a teen have not always served me well as an adult.  Things like never make your feelings known and wait on God to deliver the perfect guy to your doorstep.  Dating became this big scary thing, and I avoided it mostly because 1) I didn’t get asked out much probably because of being very shy and quiet and 2) I was scared of going out with the wrong person and therefore ending up married to the wrong person because one date automatically equaled the rest of my life.  I’ve spent most of my time trying to sublimate my desires for marriage and family and be content with my single status. If I denied that I cared about relationships maybe I would have a relationship.  Lame, right?

I’ve dated more the last year or so than I have in most of my adult life.  I’ve learned….alot.  One, is that dating doesn’t have to be a big, scary thing, but sometimes it is.  Two, your heart will get broken a time or two, but that’s ok because if Jesus holds your heart and opens it up in the first place, He can be trusted to put it back together or to guard it with his grace.  Three, honesty is hugely important.  I don’t have any of this figured out and am continuing to grow in all of this, sometimes painfully and at other’s expense.

The other big takeaway has been that whatever is broken in my life that I think dating and ultimately (hopefully) marriage will fix, probably won’t be fixed by dating or marriage.  Whatever I’m looking to to fix me, can’t.  Only Jesus can.  I’ve bought into that satisfaction in Jesus=finding the love of your life lie far too often and used God to get what I think I need or want.   But, I struggle often to live in the tension of desiring good things (i.e. marriage, family) for which I don’t have control to make happen and owning those desires in such a way that says God is in control of my life and is the only One that can heal and satisfy the deepest parts of my heart.  

These posts below probably contradict each other a little and give some conflicting advice.  Read them and let me know what you think.  There’s some good wisdom here.  There’s a lot of hoo-ha out there about dating in general, and we twist it up especially in Christian circles.  Myself included.  What I love about these posts is that they all point back to the need for Jesus to be the beginning and end point and not a means to an end.  He is what gives value, security, and significance; not my relationship status.  Maybe that’s the key for dating; not a list of manufactured dos and don’ts (and  btw I do think the Bible is very clear on some do’s and don’ts for dating).    So, maybe as a result of that and by God’s grace  with a lot of prayer, I can date, be myself, and pursue a godly relationship that may or may not result in marriage.  And that’s really ok.

5 Notes on Dating for Guys

5 Notes on Dating for the Gals

Top 10 Saddest/Craziest/Understandable Things I’ve Seen Christians Believe About Relationships

I Don’t Wait Anymore

Once Again…With Feeling

It’s been a while since I posted about running.  That’s because I haven’t been running.  After the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual exhaustion I felt after camp, I just couldn’t motivate myself to run.  Then I got busy.  Then it got hot.  Real hot. And then it had been so long, that I thought I would just give up.  Who really needs to run a 5K after all?


This week I found out a good friend is also starting to run, and so we’re going to do the Rhythm and Roots 5K together.  There I said it publicly.  No going back now.  I started out on this running journey solo.  Running with a friend is a 1000 million times better than running by myself.  We ‘re not training together because we live in different towns(that sounds so athletic to say…I’m not sure I can call what I do training.), but it is so much better knowing that we’re at the same place and holding each other accountable.

Unfortunately, the only time I can run now consistently is early morning because of my schedule and because it’s so dang hot outside.  That means I’m running around my hilly neighborhood.  And it means I have to get up early which everyone who knows me knows I am not a morning person.  I’m sticking to the flat parts as much as I can, but it’s hard.  In fact every time I quit the program and start over, it’s harder to start back.

All of that to say that running is such a mind game.  There are definitely aspects of eating well and strength training that enable me to run better, but my thoughts get me every single time.  I can overcome the other stuff, but my mind is one of the biggest naysayers.  One of the songs I listen to a lot  is “You’ll Come” by Hillsong United.  It’s become a theme song to my life lately, especially while running.  Running, among other things, has revealed that there is a constant undercurrent of lies that I listen to about myself (and the reason for Romans 12:2).  I was reading some posts on a running forum by a person who is currently out of shape and wants to run a 5k also.  One responder said that the hardest part is getting started because you don’t have the experience and confidence of having completed a race under your belt.  I can apply that to so many fears and places in life  right now where things are new, and I don’t have a past successful experience to give me confidence about the future.

I love the bridge and chorus of this song, and it has become a prayer of sorts while I run:

Chains be broken
Lives be healed
Eyes be opened
Christ is revealed

As surely as the sun will rise
You’ll come to us
As certain as the dawn appears

You’ll come let your glory fall
As you respond to us
Spirit reign flood our hearts
With holy fire again



Sharp Top Cove

I got to spend last week at Sharp Top Cove, a Young Life Camp.  I’ve gone there almost every summer for the last four years.  It’s a holy, sacred place that feels like home to me.  As Young Life leaders we talk about camp all year long and encourage, pray, hope, coerce, and beg our high school friends to go to camp.  It’s not that there is something special in and off the place itself, but there is something special about place that has 400 teenagers all in one place with adults who care deeply about those teenagers and their relationship with God.

When I think of Sharp Top Cove, the words healing and transformation come to mind.  My own experiences there have been healing and transformational for me, and I have seen it be the same for my high school friends.  The first time I went to camp was after I had experienced a deep disappointment in pursuing ministry opportunities.  I thought God was leading me down one road, but that road took a left turn to Sharp Top Cove.  My life has never been the same since.

This year during camp I kept thinking about pain and suffering and what it means to bear another person’s pain and suffering.  During our leader meetings, we would share stories about how cabin times were going.  I started camp already feeling drained in every way possible.  The last six months have been stretching and trying  with plenty of change, upheaval, and disappointments along the way.  The thought of giving myself away even more during camp was exhausting.  I wanted to quit and run far away.  I shared this during our meeting.  Other people talked about how hard it was to hear stories from kids about pain and loss in their families.

Bearing one another’s burdens is foundational to walking alongside teens and helping them see how Jesus is working in their lives.  It’s played out in a number of ways during camp.

One night during club, I got called to the front to be in a game with a girl from my cabin.  The game was to put a pair of pantyhose over my head.  As I held the pantyhose from the bottom, Anna, the girl would pull the pantyhose from the top of my head causing them to get tighter and tighter around my face.  We did this for a couple rounds, and the goal of the game is to see which leader has the funniest face (I won by the way). I made the decision to keep my eyes open, so by the end of the game, the pantyhose was touching my eyeball, and my eye was starting to water.  It was painful, and my eye was red and felt itchy for a day or two later.  A tiny sacrifice for what ended up being a hilarious game.

On another night kids had the opportunity to win tickets to “pie” their leader in the face with a plate of whipped cream or throw water balloons in their face.  A few of my girls took their best shot and got me good with a plate of whipped cream which I wore all night.  It’s a small sacrifice of looking silly in front of teenagers and putting up with tons of “hey you got something right here on your face” jokes that in small part resembles how Christ bore our sins and shame.

On the last day, my cabin completed the high ropes course.  I am terrified of heights, especially of falling or jumping off of high things.  I hate the feeling of falling and being out of control (there’s probably a spiritual lesson in there).  I white-knuckle and pray my way through the high ropes course every year.  All of my girls did it, and I needed to be brave and face my fears if I was going to encourage them to complete it.  At the end of the course, as I was getting ready to go down the zip line and be finished, I was talking with one of the summer staff about the course.  She asked if I was afraid of heights, and I quickly answered yes while holding onto the tree as she changed my harness.  I said, “The only reason to do this is because I love those girls a whole lot.”  That, and I didn’t want to disappoint my girls by not finishing.

All of these were small sacrifices in comparison to what Christ did for me.  As some wise friends have reminded me lately, when we share in another’s suffering, we are completing Christ’s suffering.  It’s painful, hard work in both the physical and spiritual realms.  I come home from camp physically exhausted with tired, sore muscles and bruises in places I didn’t know I could get bruises.  Even more so, I come home emotionally drained from hearing stories about brokenness in my friend’s lives and from the brokenness in my own life that is revealed through the pain.  There’s something beautiful about bearing another’s burdens, but at the same time it tears and rips at my soul in a way that I can’t explain.  The weight of it all is heavy indeed.

Sometimes I think camp is the labor and delivery room where we see new baby Christians get born after months and months of walking along side kids showing them Jesus with our words and lives.  We groan, and we cry out for our friends and, yes, ourselves sometimes because we’re all in need of a rescue from a Savior who gave his life away for ours.

That is what makes Sharp Top Cove a holy, sacred place.

We talked all week about how camp is a picture of how the Kingdom of God is.  It’s a place where your family is gathered around the dinner table and you can get all the refills on food you want.  It’s a place where you can sleep late because breakfast isn’t until 9:30 a.m.  It’s a place where you know you’re accepted as you are.  It’s a place where laughter is abundant because you can have crazy fun in club with glow sticks and pantyhose and hot sauce.  It’s a place where sin and shame can be laid down when you ask Jesus into your heart during 15 mintues of silence under the stars.  It’s a place where the old is made new and the past can be hurled far away as the east is from the west.  It’s a place where pain and suffering and groanings are turned into new life and hope.

A Running Story, Intermission

It was bound to happen sooner or later.  I unintentionally took two weeks off of my running program.

The last few weeks have been incredibly busy with end of the semester stuff at work, Young Life stuff, friend stuff, church stuff, and all other kinds of other stuff.  There were a few times where there just wasn’t time to fit a workout into the day unless I got up at 5 a.m. (and we all know that’s not going to happen).  After a week of not working out, I quickly dreaded the day that I did start back.  I knew it would hurt.  And I don’t like pain.

So, today, I did make it back to the gym to get a run in.  It was rather difficult just like I expected.  I repeated the last workout I did:  a 6 minute run, 1 minute walk, 4 minute run, 1 minute walk, and 6 minute run.  I pooped out on the last 3 minutes of running in the last interval.

A couple of observations from today:

Obstacles and setbacks are sometimes unavoidable or inevitable.

Whether it’s training or life,  side tracks happen.  It kind of all goes back to telling myself the truth and not giving into lies I might believe such as, ” It will be too hard to start over or start again” or “you’re never really going to be able to do this.”   I received an email the other day from someone who I don’t really know that said a lot of things, but one line stood out to me, “Don’t give up.  You’re not a failure.  You’re a child of God.”

When setbacks happen, I’m usually tempted to “alter” my plan.  I have goals, but I tend to be more laid back than tenacious about them.  I can get lost in analyzing whether or not a setback is a detour or a destination.  Before I know it, I’ve stopped pursuing my goal altogether.  Running is teaching me not to give up, to keep telling myself the truth, and to keep going.

I avoid pain.  

The first week I missed, I was just plain busy.  The second week I missed, I dragged my feet (no pun intended) going back to the gym because I knew it would be hard getting back into the routine and that because of the time off, it would take a few days just to get back to the level where I was when I stopped.  Halfway through the last run, my left leg started getting numb making it really difficult to continue.  I didn’t push myself as hard as I had been because it was painful.  When I  was getting into a regular routine, I would talk myself into pushing through the pain.  I knew  if I could get on the other side of it, I would feel good.  Today, it just wasn’t working.

Running is redemption.  If you read the linked post, that expresses for me, better than what I can put into words, why I’ve started trying to run.  I was and still am not athletic.  I wasn’t the kid that played piano and read books.  I was picked last for sports teams.  Setbacks are unavoidable.  So is pain and woundedness.

It’s sadly part of the world we live in, but thankfully, not the end of the story.  Over the last year, God has been showing me the depth of my brokenness and my need for Him in various ways.  It hurts.  And sometimes it even feels like God is the one opening my heart only to break it two seconds later.  It reminds of the scene  in Voyage of the Dawn Treader where Aslan removes the dragon skin from Eustace.  I’m slowly discovering that God is big enough to fill to fill in the broken spaces.   Running gives me hope that life can be redeemed.  The pain endured for now, will be worth it in the end.