Thursday, April 25, 2013

Little Reminders of Heaven

Sometimes, I feel like I have faith to move mountains. At other times, I feel lucky to have faith that I will manage to keep walking for another day. One thing I've noticed though, is that, if I move forward in faith, if I speak openly with my Heavenly Father about my concerns, my frustrations, and my fears, leading first with my faith and telling Him what I do know and believe, He will always send little reminders. But, often, they don't come until I make some effort to look for them.

Tonight, as I read my scriptures, one such reminder crept out of the pages and into my heart. It was half a sentence in one verse. The rest of my study was important and had value. This statement was priceless. It was a special reminder just for me that the Lord is aware of me and my children, of our needs, of the challenges that we've faced, and of the future that He is building for us. It was a reminder that, though He has already blessed us so deeply, there are blessings more abundant to come. It was the reminder that I needed to continue to have faith that my life is in His hands, that He can see the big picture, and that He is far more capable of building a life of joy for me and my children than I will ever be able to do on my own.

I'm so thankful for the scriptures. I know that they are God's word, that in them, we can hear His voice, not just with the words on the page, but because He will speak more clearly to our hearts when He knows we are listening. I've felt Him speaking to me, and my life is brighter for it.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Stuff Running Has Taught Me

* I love running! My legs don't. It's not that my legs hurt. It's that they grumble constantly -- starting about thirty seconds into my run. 

"Are you sure you really want to do this? You don't have to, you know. Pretty sure you'd rather stop." "Aren't we there ye-eht? Why does it have to take so long?"
"I'm hah-aht."
"I'm bored. I'm bored. I'm bored. I'm bore-ored."
"I just want a nap. Can't we go home?"

Sometimes, my legs get sneaky. They start trying to remind me that I have asthma.

"You know, your lungs are going to complain."
"You might start coughing if you push yourself any harder."

I'm learning to tell my legs that they can't sit down, but they can certainly shut up. "You'll get used to it," I tell them. "After all, running used to hurt you ... a lot. Now it just makes you cranky and only while we're running."

* Running has taught me to push myself. 

This isn't a skill that comes naturally to me. I've been blessed to have a lot of things come pretty easily. Not that I'm gifted at lots of things, but I can do most things okay and a few things quite well. Aside from some actual life experiences, I haven't had to do a lot of hard things. (I figure, life experiences don't count as pushing myself to stretch. Those kind of things just are. They're something to walk through and opportunities to grow. They're also things that I don't have a lot of choice in. They just have to be done.)

Running isn't something I have to do. It's something I choose to do -- even though quitting would be easier. It's something I do when the weather's good and, often, when it's bad. I run in rain, and snow, and blistering heat. I run in public as people literally rubberneck to stare. (Those of you who know me well will know that I have always, ALWAYS hated being stared at by random people as they drive by. Wave, whistle, whatever, but don't stare ... Seriously, people! Didn't your moms teach you it's rude? But, I digress ... )

Running is hard. I have asthma. When I started running, I was not a healthy weight either. My legs just about fell off. (Fine. That might be a slight exaggeration, but ... ) I'm learning to push through it. Those challenges are just more negative voices telling me why I can't do it. I don't have to listen.

* I've learned to listen to my body.

I'm learning to recognize when there's really a problem and when body parts are just grumbling 'cause they can. I've learned tricks that help me overcome some problems. (Chewing gum while running will mask some of my asthma symptoms with a cooling sensation. On achy days, taking an ibuprofen or two before I run will ease my muscles and let me run and still be able to walk later, etc.)

I've learned how to recognize how far I can push myself while having a reasonable recovery time. (Asthma symptoms for no more than twenty minutes or so ... ) I've learned to recognize when that boundary increases and I can push harder.

* I've learned to plan ahead ... at least enough to go into running with a strategy.

I've had to learn how to trick my mind. I can't say, "Just run to that destination." Nope. When my legs are grumbling and my head is hurting, it works better if I answer them with, "I can run just a little bit more" or "Can you go a couple more steps?" As I do, I've found that -- when I reach whatever the small goal was -- I feel like I can go even farther. It just sort of happens, and I usually end up running much farther than I expected to. If I give myself a finite goal, my body will always choose to stop running. ("You said here. That's where I stay." Or, "That's too far. I'm done.")

* My kids are proud of me.

They love that I run. They love to ask about it. They love to tell people about it. They just plain think I'm cool for doing it. What a fun side benefit that's been!

* Just as importantly, I've learned that I don't have to be what people always thought I was ... or what I always thought.

I asked my brother once, "Did you ever see me being the girl that did this?"
His answer was immediate. "NOPE! I really didn't."

One of my best friends had a similar response. "I just never saw you as a runner."

The thing is, neither did I. I knew that I loved the feel of running. (You know, the initial takeoff where it feels like flying ... ) I knew that I used to love to sprint. But, I never thought I'd be able to run. Ever.

However, in spite of this, when I was about ten, I babysat a boy while his mom ran races. For the shorter races, like the 5ks, we'd go with her to the race and wait near the finish line. It was then that I decided that I wanted to run races too. I didn't really see myself ever doing it, but the dream was magical.

This month, I signed up to run my first 5k. I'm a turtle. I'll probably come in dead last, but my goal is to run the entire thing. It's a sort of promise to that younger version of me. She saw magic in this possibility. Perhaps, that magic will carry me through. It's a symbol that I can do hard things. By choice. I can pick something unexpected, maybe impossible even, and I can work for it. I can see crazy hopes become reality. I can stick with things that are difficult, not because I have to or because someone is making me, but because I have learned that there is power and strength and peace and hope and happiness in becoming more than I once was.

I have learned that running makes me a better person. Not specifically because of the running itself, but because of the challenges, and the lessons, and the life skills that it brings into my personality. I've learned that striving to reach for the stars, even when I don't have to and it's not convenient, is a key piece of becoming what I believe. I'm stronger in other areas of my life because of what I try to do here.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

How Big is Your Brave?

This morning a dear friend posted a video on Facebook. Because I like the artist, I clicked the link. I wasn't prepared for the impact this video would have on my day. I certainly wasn't prepared for the flood of thoughts that came rushing to mind. Moments in my own life, times I would say I've been brave or been forced to plow through with courage overwhelmed me. It's so easy to downplay the good we do, the successes that we have. What a blessing it was to watch this video and realize that perhaps, I've done more than I thought! Sometimes we all need a moment to see ourselves shine the way that God sees us shine.

As the video ended, my oldest daughter came into the room. "Mom!" she said,"What was that song? 'Cause I sure liked it!" I replayed the video. I watched as my sweet daughter's face lit up. She read the words as she heard them. When it was finished, M, in typical fashion, thought first to share it with her sister. She ran down the hall, calling to L, saying, "Hey, L! You have to come hear this!"

I hit play on the video once more. This time, both daughters watched with me. And this time, I saw my reserved, youngest daughter hearing the message. As she read the words and listened to the song, you could see her eyes glow. She began to stand a little taller. You could see her grasp the power that she has. Both my girls began to realize that words are power and that each daughter has her own brand of strength.

When the video finished, both girls asked me to play it again. While we listened to this song, there was a sweet spirit in our home. I felt God's love, not just for me, but for my children. I saw echoes of eternity in my daughters' eyes. As I listened and thought about it, I found myself thinking of my friends, my family, and the kids that I work with. I realized that I wished I could share this message with each one of them. While the video is very clearly about showing girls their own "Brave," this is a message that -- if I had them -- I'd teach just as readily to my sons.

We live in a world where people demand respect, but so often fail to give it in return. It is hard to stand up for what we believe, especially when it goes against the opinions or ideas of those who argue most loudly. At the same time, I think there has never been a time when honesty and integrity were more needed. If I could, I would teach my children that there is still power and peace in speaking bravely for what they know to be right, even when it's not the most popular thing to do. I would teach them that they're strong enough to do it and to do it well and to do it with kindness, respect, and power. I would teach them that they're enough to stand firm in the storms that rail against those who share their light and to hold fast against the dark. And, I would teach them that, someday those storms will end, and they will be able to look back and see their own brave, how it has changed them and those who will follow them. They will see someday just how brightly their own light has shone. They might not see it in the moment, but others around them will, and this world will change -- one small bit of brave at a time.

 The Video? Brave by Sara Bareilles

Monday, April 8, 2013

Learning to Stand Up For Myself One Tough Experience at a Time

On Friday night, a creeper followed me home from a date. No, my date wasn't the creeper. My date was a nice friend. The creeper was waiting in my parking lot when I walked up to my door. It's a long story, but if you go to Dear Creepy Man it'll give you the general idea. It's not necessary to say it, but I will; it was an unpleasant time ... Luckily, I believe in God and His angels, and I'm fairly certain they hovered near that night.

As I've thought about what to do, I decided last night to write a note to my landlord. I placed it in my envelope when I turned rent in this morning. In it, I let him know that there has been a man sitting in the parking lot, watching people for hours and hours for days on end. I explained that although he doesn't camp out in the parking lot as often now, it does occasionally still happen. I mentioned that he is staying with a family here. I told my landlord as dispassionately as possible about Friday evening's encounter. I explained that we've enjoyed living here and had planned on being here for some time to come, but that these recent experiences with this man have made me feel less safe for myself, my kids, my single neighbors, and the other kids in the complex. (That's not even mentioning the other adults that he's made uncomfortable.) I thanked my landlord and left it at that. I tried to be professional and calm and polite, but also let my landlord know that I felt he had a right to know what was happening that was making this complex an uncomfortable place for his good tenants to be. (I wasn't assuming that the creepy fellow made others uncomfortable. I already knew from things friends and neighbors have said.)

This morning, I got a call from my landlord saying, in essence, that he'd talked to the family the man's been staying with and that the man will be gone in the next day or two. He also mentioned that the man cannot stay here and that he certainly should not be harassing other tenants. He apologized and said that he could understand why I was upset and that he appreciated me letting him know.

There are a lot of things that I've learned from this experience:

1. It's a good thing to keep your door locked.

2. It's okay not to feel guilty for avoiding someone who gives you the heebie-jeebies.

3. It's okay to tell people -- especially people who can do something about it -- when something doesn't seem right.

4. I'm stronger than I thought.

5. I can keep my cool in frightening situations and during the solution process.

6. It's okay to stand up for myself and my kids. Keeping our home and neighborhood safe doesn't make me a bad person or mean that I'm out to get someone. It just means that I am putting my priorities in order.

7. There are lots of good people who love us and who would be willing to fight many of the tougher battles for me and my girls if needed.

8. I'm strong enough to battle my own dragons more often than I ever thought I could.

9. It's okay to lean on friends or family long enough to catch my breath (and my reason) so that I can think clearly enough to tackle my dragons with wisdom and planning.

10. God rejoices with me when I find peace in Him and set off to fight the day's fights.

As seems to be normal, I wouldn't have minded learning these things in a manner that was less testing to my fight or flight response, but I'm thankful for the joy that I've found in this batch of life's lessons. I'm thankful for the confidence that comes from seeing that some of the tough battles can be won, that while I might be expected to play a role that is difficult for me or out of my comfort zone, if I do it anyway, blessings will come. I'm thankful for the reminder that God loves me, that He hears and answers my prayers, and that most of the time, our lives are free from such difficulties. We're so blessed with a good home, good neighbors, kind friends, awesome family, and a happy life. There is much that is joyful and good to surround ourselves with, and -- in spite of the difficulties -- I'm truly thankful for the lessons I'm learning during this phase of my life!