Running with Endurance

path through the forestA few weeks ago I was frustrated by my lack of time to do some things. Things like exercise, serious Bible study, sleep…

My how things have changed and not in the way I imagined…I don’t know what I imagined but this wasn’t it.

So a few weeks ago, I decided to just do it…just get up an hour earlier and have a truly quiet Quiet Time. Novel concept, quiet. But can I tell you? After the first morning I was hooked. I’d missed it so much. Uninterrupted, focused time with God and His word.

The first morning, my study was wonderful. Unfortunately, the rest of the morning…not so much. I cannot sugarcoat it at all. I woke the girls up with kisses, hugs and “I love yous”. I made them pancakes and got them all set for school and then, I don’t know, but something happened from the front door to before-school care…all heck broke loose. The car ride was terrible. Fighting and yelling and grumpiness and on and on and on…and did I maintain my quiet and gentle spirit in the midst of the fray. Ohhhhh no! With no plan and no parachute, I jumped in and joined the chaos. When the battle began to die down, my eyes filled with tears and I thought, “God, really? We had such a lovely morning and this is where we are now?” I was so disappointed, so frustrated, and so angry. My image of how things “should be” just fell apart in less than a mile.

Thankfully, by the time we got to our respective morning places, all was a bit better. I wondered, “Is this warfare? Is this the enemy trying to destroy my joy?” Because boy oh boy, it was effective. My joy deflated like our front porch pumpkin in December. I decided while trudging up to my classroom that I was not going to give up my morning time with God…period. And I was going to add some time in the Word with my kids too. (So there!)

Here I am a few weeks later, not only has that 5am time with God become my most favorite time of the day, but God has blessed the rest of my days in lovely ways.

For example, I’ve had time to exercise! I’m up to 2.5 miles running…well, maybe trudging with great difficulty would be a better description. It’s not a marathon, nor is it particularly pretty, but it is a start.

And I’ve been able to go to bed at a reasonable hour almost every night. Work seems to be getting completed without me having to do the midnight bedtime. Girls are in bed earlier AND we’ve had time to read and snuggle. It’s like this one act of obedience, which doesn’t even feel like obedience, but rather blessing, has changed the whole tenor of my days.

And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you.” Deuteronomy 28:1-2

I don’t particularly feel the need to be set high above all the nations of the earth. I’d just like to handle my little household well. But being overtaken by blessings…that I’ll gladly take!

As I’ve thought about the little changes and the way God has blessed me, I’m overwhelmed. I think that is the overtaking God is talking about. Realizing that God does indeed bless. I don’t know that God is asking all of us to wake up early, I just know He was asking me. And I don’t know if time to exercise and sleep is everyone’s desired blessings, I just know it was mine.

There are other things that require my obedience that I’m struggling with daily. Things I know I need to do but don’t know how to and some I fear the results. I know the blessing will follow, but what will the process be like? Those are things I’m praying fervently about…seeking God’s help, direction, timing, etc.

These times in the Word, talking with God, have been eye-opening and convicting and comforting (but not always comfortable). He’s walking me through some growth that is a bit painful. Dealing with some things that are tricky.

My walk with God through these things resembles my running efforts. I want to do it. I know I need to do it. And I am willing to do it. BUT I don’t enjoy it. I feel awkward, lumbering, and I can’t catch my breath. It is difficult. It leaves me stiff and sore. I ache in places I forgot about. And sometimes I’d just rather not do it.

My Father and I are walking through my past and my present together. Finding the things that need to be dealt with so I can make healthy, God-honoring decisions and have a bright future. We are finding things that the Holy Spirit and I need to tackle together…needs that aren’t quite right, ideas that are a little off kilter, ways of relating that are leaning, expectations that just seem skewed.

It appears that I’m lopsided in many ways. Thankfully, my Father is allowing me to lean on Him as we figure these things out. He is strong and stable and able.

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Hebrews 12:11-14

Discipline has such a negative connotation, but it really isn’t. It’s the idea of learning, training, instructing, and even nurturing. Sometimes it involves things that aren’t all wonderful or enjoyable, but the results are good. Truly.

Running requires discipline. Almost everything does. Work. Parenting. Finances. Health. Everything. I’m finding that getting up for Bible study when the alarm goes off, requires a measure of discipline. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s horribly difficulty. Running…well, that’s still not at all easy, but hopefully, in time, it will be because I’ve disciplined myself to just do it. My legs will be stronger and my chest won’t ache and my breathing won’t be labored. I won’t want to sit down on the side of the road for “just a minute”. I will be ready, able, and strong enough to run forward.

This past week in my Bible study I read another verse in Hebrews:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2

I liked the running with endurance analogy. And the fact that Jesus understands the struggle of running this race. That He ran it. I also love that the saints are cheering us on.

At the end of my first 5K a few years ago, I was coming down the homestretch and was thinking I’d just really, really like to walk the final few feet, but there were all these people cheering and ugh I had to run it. I was so glad I did. And amazingly, I found that I could!

I want to finish this faith race well. Fortunately, I have a great Running Partner, a crowd to cheer me on, and the best prize at the end!

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.   1 Corinthians 9:25-26

Lovin’ Mommy and Apple Pie

You should like to obey your mommy as much as apple pie.”

As I begin writing I’m not sure whether I should focus on the fact that I say the dumbest things sometimes or the spiritual implications that sentence has on my life.

Although I’m thinking there will be ample opportunities for me to write about the ridiculous things that come out of my mouth so I should probably go with the spiritual application.

Let me set up the scene.  I had picked up my two youngest daughters and we were headed home.   It is an unfortunate fact that I have to drive past a McDonald’s in order to get home.  There simply is no other route.  My 6 year old LOVES McDonald’s apple pies.  And almost every day she requests one.  This particular day she requested one and I said, “Not today sweetie.”  She was obstinate and rude at that point.  I told her that was unkind and she shouldn’t talk to mommy that way.  We had the honor and obey talk.  She said she just loved apple pies soooo much she couldn’t help it.  To which I responded with the aforementioned statement.  As soon as the words left my mouth I wondered what I was thinking.  Seriously.

Once again I’m reminded of the state of my own heart.  I can’t honestly say that I like obeying God more than everything else out there that grabs my eye.  There are things that I perceive will give me more pleasure, comfort, or satisfaction that I definitely like better at times.

I wish that I liked to obey God best of all.  I like that obeying God is best for me, but sometimes I have a hard time convincing myself that that is indeed the case.

How much more difficult must it be for a child to grasp the concept that Mommy actually does know best and that obeying her will have greater benefits than the taste of a yummy, warm apple pie?

I’m always sharing the verses about obeying and honoring your parents…my children seem nonplussed by my attempts to get them to obey because God commands it.  Encouraging through consequences seems to work better.

I think I’m the same way sometimes.  I’m working towards obeying out of love, but often I find myself obeying out of hope of blessing or fear of consequences.  I want to do everything out of love and gratitude for God and His love for me.

And honestly, I’d really like it if my kids did that for me too.  What a blessing it would be to have my children obey purely because they loved God and loved me too!  I believe that prayer is the only way to get to anything resembling that idea.  Prayer for me to parent well, for my children to know they are loved, for my children to love God, for my children to love me, and for my children to understand what it means to honor and respect.

I started this blog 2 days ago, and it has been an exceedingly rough weekend with one of my children.  And I have to be honest that I have shed many tears over this child’s behavior and the condition of his heart.  It is breaking mine.  I read this and once again I am reminded that prayer is a powerful and effective tool I must use.  I have spent the weekend with wet eyes instead bent knees.  Good gravy!! How often do I need to tell myself this!?! 

Once again I’m reminding myself of this verse: 

“All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.”  (Isaiah 54:13)

God has got this!!