Not only so, but rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us. Romans 5:3-5
I dove headfirst into the pool of running over 20 years ago. My start was nothing stellar. I used the lines in the sidewalk to mark my run/walk intervals. I would run a few squares then walk a couple of squares. I kept at it one slow run at a time. Eventually, nudged by a friend, I signed up for my first race and was hooked. I found something that was both enjoyable and fulfilling. Running brought balance to my life. If I had quit during the early, difficult, painful part of running I never would have discovered the powerful personal returns running brings to my life.
The hardest times come in the fledgling moments of training when I can’t go very far or very fast. I want to quit. I wonder why I started. I look for any excuse not to run. But, deep down I know I won’t make it to the finish line of a race if I don’t log the necessary training miles. Therefore, I persevere. I get my clothes ready the night before, set my alarm for the early morning, get up, and run. I have come to know that if I can hang in there through the first mile, I can make it to three, or five, or eventually thirteen miles.
Webster defines perseverance as insistence, urgency, firmness, resolve, or determination. I can’t think of a better word to describe the mindset needed for beginning and keeping with a running program. Running takes perseverance. Running consistently requires resolve and needs determination. Without a predetermined commitment, a runner will give up because not every day is a good day. Not every run is a good run and starting is the hardest part. If you give up too soon, you will never fully experience the richness of running.
Faith is like running in that it takes perseverance. We have to hang in there for the long haul in order to see our faith grow and mature. We can’t reap the benefits of walking with God unless we stick with Him. Just like running, getting started is sometimes the hardest. Taking that first step of trusting God can cause us to wonder, “Why did I sign up for this? I can’t do this! I can’t do what God is asking me to do. It’s too hard.” God calls us to keep going no matter what. To persevere through the hard times to get to the blessings on the other side. To trust Him.
Romans 5:3-5 states “Not only so, but rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us.”
Tough days make it hard to keep going both in faith and in exercise. In distance running, sometimes our feet, sides and knees hurt and all we want to do is quit. But, we keep going one step, one mile at a time believing it will pay off in the end when it counts. Perseverance is want keeps us at the task at hand in order to receive the reward at the end. Perseverance, in spite of everything, keeps us from giving up before we achieve our goal. It keeps us moving forward no matter how slow, hard or difficult it may be to keep going. In the same way, let’s keep going no matter what in our faith-walk with God.
Things to Ponder: What do you need to start that you have shied away from beginning?
In what area of your life do you need to persevere? What commitment do you need to make?
For I am about to do something. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? Isaiah 34:19
Leaving my youngest son off at college is hard. It's hard for different reasons than when I left my first born at college. It is hard because school is not easy for this one. Directions are not easy for this one. Change is not easy for this one. He is going to have to do all the things he doesn't naturally like to do on his own. It is going to be hard for him. And his hard is my hard. My momma heart aches knowing the struggles he is going to have to face in this new difficult place.
As the tears run down my face, I think of someone else who left a son in place where it would be hard for him. A place that was foreign to his nature. A place that did not know him. A place the father knew he had to leave him and not intervene for him. Because in leaving him there, the world would be made a better place.
You see, God sent his one and only son to earth as a baby. A place that didn't know him. A place that was unfamiliar to him. A place that wasn't going to be easy for him. And God left him there. For us. He could have removed him. Helped him. Puts guards around him. Forced people to like and accept him. But he didn't. He didn't because he knew it was best for us.
Jesus didn't need earth. We needed him.
I am reminded that God is about doing a great work in my life and in the lives of those I love. And God work is hard work. God-sized changes only occur when we surrender and yield to his touch. His touch is best felt when we have nothing else in our grasp and there is a void in the world around us. Isaiah 34:19 states" For I am about to do something. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?"
I ache to run back and help my baby. I want to make the transition easy for him, but I can't. My son needs this time of transition. He needs the hard in his life so God can do great things in him and for him.
If I constantly protect the ones I love from doing difficult things, they will come to me and not God for their provision, comfort, strength and support. I want them to seek God and find Him during every season of their lives. I want them to know Him intimately and that type of relationship is only forged through fire. Ultimately, I want God’s best for them.
So, I leave him alone to make his own way. Supported from afar. Prayed for fervently.
Deep down I know it's the right thing to do.
But for now, this momma's heart is breaking from this season of a hard transition probably like my Heavenly Father’s heart broke when He left his son here on earth those many seasons ago.
Things to Ponder:
What new thing does God want to do in your life? In the life of your children? Spouse? Friends?
Where do you need to stop intervening and let God do the work he desires?
Words to Read:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV)
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (ESV)
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Psalm 34:8 ESV
Amongst a sea of pink clad running divas adorned with sparkly headbands, tutus, and paisley running skirts, I ran my 25th half marathon. If you had told me 15 years ago that I would run 25 half marathons, one full marathon, and countless 5 and 10k races, I wouldn't have believed you.
I reluctantly started running in college in order to meet the aerobic point requirement of my physical fitness concepts class. In the decades following my college graduation, I ran on and off in order to lose the extra pounds holidays and pregnancies put on my body. It wasn't until we moved to Sarasota that I began my long term love affair with running. My first race was a 5 miler from the Van Wetzel to the Lido beach Pavilion over the old Ringling drawbridge. From that morning on, I was hooked. Running became my outlet, my therapy, my equalizer, my time alone with God, and my source of adventure.
I wouldn't have some of my closest friends if it wasn't for running.
If I had never tried it, I would never have known how good running could be.
I was reminded this weekend of what a blessing running has been in my life. If I had never taken a risk and signed up for that first race, I would missed out on some of God's greatest gifts for my life. Running 25 half marathon didn’t happen overnight. It has been a journey built one mile, one race at a time, but I had to start somewhere.
God asks us to take risks. To try things for him. Zacchaeus took a risk when he let Jesus into his home for dinner. Peter, Andrew, James and John tried something new when they left their fishing boats and followed Jesus. The disciples never would have known the power and blessing of God if they didn’t try to put their nets on the other side of the boat when the stranger told them to do so.
What things might God be calling you to try this month and into this next year? Some risks are small and safe. Others are big and scary. Some require sacrifice while others are relatively inexpensive.
So take a risk and try something new this month. Maybe you need to start a running/walking program. Maybe you need to change up your routine by adding weight lifting or walk breaks into your running, or even some speed work or distance. Are you needing some girl time? Try running with a friend instead of going it alone. Are you feeling burden and overwhelmed? Try converting your exercise time into time talking with God. Do you want something different to do besides listening to the same playlist every time you run? Try an audio-book or podcast. Do you need some motivation to stick with it once you start? Sign up for a race and make a commitment to train for it.
The same principles that apply to running can apply to other areas of our lives as well. Maybe trying something new involves your church, family, work, or lifestyle. No matter what you sense God is asking you to do, step out in faith and try it. Take a risk, lean into the challenge, and wait for the reward. God never disappoints.
“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” I Peter 4:10 (ESV)
I grabbed my clear plastic drawstring bag filled with what I thought I would need: a banana, Gatorade, safety pins, a small towel, socks, Tylenol, and Body Glide. I quietly tiptoed across the hotel room where my family slumbered and slid out the door. The inky black sky enveloped me as I headed to the bus stop. The eerie early morning silence was soon broken by the casual conversation of the two young women strolling my way. As the three of us huddled together waiting for the bus, their chattered turned my direction and I was quickly carried into their conversation. The girl with the pigtails was from Denver and the one sporting a visor was from Chicago.
“Have you run Disney before?” I asked.
“This is our second time. We have made it a destination girls’ running trip. How about you?”
“This is my second time running at Disney, but it’s my first marathon.”
“Oh wow, that’s exciting! You are going to love it. Stick with us and we will get you to the start.”
I never saw Denver and Chicago again after that morning at the start of the Disney marathon, but I considered them a surprise gift from God especially chosen for me in that moment of my nervous need.
Denver and Chicago will never know what a difference they made in my life that day, but I will. You see I was scared and nervous. I was in an unknown situation, alone with a daunting task in front of me. It was hard enough thinking about completing the 26.2 mile course that awaited me, much less navigating bus rides, porta-potty lines, bag check stations, starting corrals, and 20,000 strangers, without a friend to help carry the load. I felt very small and alone in that moment.
You see gift giving doesn’t have to be elaborate and expensive. Sometimes the best gift to give is simply a smile or a word of encouragement that helps someone else make it through her day. Every act of giving, big or small, has both a giver and a receiver. You may never know how much your simple gift of kindness, friendship or encouragement, means to the one who receives it. The Bible challenges us to give out of our abundance to meet someone else’s need.
I Peter 4:10 states “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (ESV)
We need to give more than just tangible monetary gifts. People need gifts our time, words, and deeds as well.
I didn’t need anything that marathon morning other than a friend to walk beside me to the starting line. God knew that and strategically placed the gift of two kind friends by my side at the Disney bus stop.
So, let’s not be stingy with our words of kindness and our offerings of help to both the strangers and friends who are all around us. Someone facing an unknown daunting challenge may need you to be her Denver and Chicago to help her get to the starting line.
Ephesians 3:20, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (NIV)
“Your abundance in the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply you need, that there may be fairness.” 2 Corinthians 8:14 (ESV)
Things to Ponder:
Who needs my gift of encouragement today?
Give the gift of kindness to someone today.
Between a husband, 2 sons, and teaching high school my sanity is found in running and Starbucks. I have a circle of running friends who inspire me to be authentic and real as I live a life of faith before them.