Saturday, November 26, 2016

All The Pretty Things (Books to Read)

You know I love books and I love to pass them on to others.  Here's a jewel I took my time reading through.  That I might absorb the story fully.

All the Pretty Things is Edie Wadsworth's memoir.  After confessing it took years to finally write this former Tennessee doctor spills out the story of her life across the pages.  I found myself nodding in agreement with so many thoughts she shared.  Feeling as if she formed the very words I felt too despite our very different life experiences.
Sometimes I felt like I was revisiting moments in my extended family's stories.  Coming from a family deep in the Appalachian mountains entrenched in scandals and jail time and alcoholism I've heard and known similar stories in my own uncles, aunts, and grandparents.
This is a story of abject poverty, extreme family dysfunction, and a little girl turned woman who refused to give up on the love of her alcoholic daddy.  Who always needed her daddy.
This is a story about a young girl trying to take care of a charismatic drunken daddy, spending her Friday nights in a truck parked outside the local bar waiting on daddy.  A story of a girl who never stopped loving her daddy.  If you read the book you love him too, despite all of his inadequacies.
This story introduces you to teachers that care and open children's eyes to something better and more.  This story is about a mom who works tirelessly to give her kids some kind of life.
This story is about sisters melded together in the face of trauma.
This story is about people with out hope, clueless that life could really be different.
This story shows the reality of children scarfing down school lunches as their primary food source.
This story is about the power of strong role models like coaches, teachers, and youth pastors.
This is a story about a woman from dirty trailer parks and no dinner who determined to be a doctor and put herself through med school.
This is also a story about a woman whose perfectionistic drive and deep gaping soul wounds drove her to destroying parts of her life as an adult.
This a story that covers honestly topics of divorce, alcoholism, adultery, shame, and rebuilding.
Finally this is a story of a woman who is given grace anyways.  A woman who burns down her life by her own choices and sees God's redemption full circle.  A woman who is finally healed on the inside.
Edie Wadsworth's memoir is powerful showing the good and dark parts of her.  She is honest about her flaws and yet you love her heart.
This story is about a woman who God loves.  So much.  A woman God doesn't give up on.  A woman God wants to father, to hold close to his heart and heal her fatherlessness. A woman whose life doesn't end when she thinks it will, a woman who God takes His time with.  A woman who wades through deep waters and sees God's full healing and remaking after time.
This is a story of not giving up, because God doesn't give up on us.

I pushed so many of the edges of the pages down in creases to remember pages to revisit.  And I have hung on to this book too long accruing quite a fee at my local library.
There is so much wisdom and goodness in this book, but here are two thoughts I want to hang onto.
"the heart doesn't settle easily for blame-it longs to be redeemed." (pg. 243). Thoughts after untangling the wounds and mess of her life.

I want to always remember these words:
" The only thing worse than the fire was the lingering whisper that this was the punishment I deserved. The accusation came when I was at my lowest, but I had learned not to argue with the Accuser, only to confess and cling to the forgiveness of Christ, which was the only defense I had.  I was learning to live in the open.  I had to refuse to hide or to harden my heart just to keep my secrets safe.  The fire stripped me of the need to protect myself- leaving everything raw and exposed.  The only thing left standing in my life was love.  I had to trust that was enough. " (pg. 278).

In closing this book that I'm sure was very difficult to write shows the complexity of persons. Many times it's easy to categorize people based on things they have done or not done.  Places they have been or accomplishments they rose to. Yet all people are filled with so many experiences and indelibly marked by many moments of the past. All of us need grace and indeed every life is a precious gift that can always be salvaged, healed, and resurrected.  We need not count anyone out.  Not even ourselves.

I hope you enjoy this book!
Edie blogs about her life here : http://www.lifeingraceblog.com/2016/08/pretty-things-broken-hallelujah/



Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Better Birthdays


The last half of the year running through January is the birthday season in our house.
Starting in late August all the way through January.
The last week in October means it's time to celebrate our Third Girl.  Fast forward three weeks and it's Second Girl's birthday.
That means combined birthday parties.
Last year that month of birthdays was very difficult and I wasn't able to really put together a meaningful birthday party. I was barely functioning and really just trying to keep my ahead above water. My kids could tell. I felt a lot of mom guilt over it.
We scrambled to make a makeshift crafting birthday party for the girls in the front lawn of their grandparents. The kids had fun, but it wasn't our usual birthday celebrations.
The cake was humorous. I was supposed to have made a Pete the Cat Cake, but when we arrived at the party I realized that Pete the Cat was ripped from the icing and smeared all over the cake cover.
There was no repairing it.  My Madelyn still talks about her cake.  Her funny cake.
I also forgot her candles.  My mother-in-law rummaged through her junk drawer and produced a '60' candle used a few years ago for their grandfather.
The sixty candle was plopped down on the hole in the middle of the haphazard cake.

The 'sad cake' 

Madelyn still jokes about this cake.  Whenever people asked her this year her age she would laugh and say, "I'm sixty."  As if those birthday candles made her sixty.  She thought this was wildly funny. 

This year I wanted to treat the girls to a much better birthday party.  It had been several years since we had made a big deal out of the kids birthdays. 
As the summer closed the girls and I started brainstorming about the party they wished for. 
A harvest party at their Aunt Jane's house.  
As the idea hatched and Aunt Jane was contacted more people decided to join in. 
There are six birthdays in the span of about four weeks in the family. 
Everyone was in.  
All birthdays would be celebrated together and that also meant extra moms to plan, assist, and help.
Really we just thought of the idea, Aunt Jane and Aunt Jeanette took off with it and made that hot October Saturday very memorable. 
They had so many ideas. 
There was a pumpkin patch, lots of games, hayrides to the barn,  a photo booth, so much food, and well over sixty people at the party. 
It was a beautiful Saturday celebrating six beloved children.  All cousins.
I don't think they will forget that day.
We won't forget all of the planning.
And my girls especially loved it.  Their lack luster birthdays redeemed from the preceding year. 
Are you in a down season? Where you just have seemed to let things go or not be able to give your best? 
It will come around again. 
You will have a next time. 
I knew in the specter of that awful autumn last year we needed to right it with a beautiful beginning this year to birthday season. 
The day meant a lot to everyone.  
To my girls.
It meant so much to me .
God is so compassionate and merciful to give us another chance, good and beautiful memories to hold close and replace the bad.  
To give us new.  A new year, new moments, and new life. 
God gives new seasons.  A season that one year meant the death of some things and sorrow replaced with grace and new beginnings.
This was a lovely Autumn.  
I'm so thankful.  

Aunt Chica 

2nd Girl turns 7 



Third Girl turns 4 



This game got the most giggles.  How long does it take to eat a doughnut with no hands? :)



2nd Girl doesn't like her pumpkin. Clearly 








A Better Birthday :) 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Saturday Spending

Saturday reminds me of that crips $100 dollar bill in your wallet.  It's the best offering of the week.  Usually.
It affords us with the promise of perhaps the most unfettered time with people we love, friends, our kids, or time to spend catching up on everything that has been left off during the week.
I say that is usually the case.  I realize lots of people work on Saturdays.  I know for years I felt like my husband never actually had Saturday off.  We would get a few moments squeezed out of a Saturday, but never a full Saturday at our disposal.
If Saturday means you are off from work and present for your kids, your spouse, and your life then seriously ponder how you will spend it wisely.
Many years ago I heard how many Saturdays we have during the span of childhood.  I had forgotten.  Harley A. Rotbart M.D. tells us the facts in No Regrets Parenting:  There are 940 Saturdays from birth to college.  If you have a five year old you have already spent 260 Saturdays.
Before reading this book I had been thinking a lot about the importance of Saturdays, but it felt confirmed to me in a big way. After reading these numbers it further confirmed to me how intentional I need to be about crafting moments that add up to something meaningful in the Saturdays of our lives.
Time is precious and also fleeting.  So now what to do about it? We can't hold onto time.  It's fast flying by.
We have to try to consciously spend our time in ways that it matters.  Almost like making a wise investment.  Will the way we spend a Saturday actually produce dividends in our lives and the lives of our children later?  Or will it sink into the oblivion of white noise time.  Are the minutes mostly  activity and lots of distraction without content and connection?  That's an easy way to spend the moments.
I think we have to think of time in terms of spending because if we aren't careful to budget time we start spending it in ways that we can't afford.  Ways that rob us because we assume we have  much more time than we actually possess.  We waste and squander time believing it is endless.


One thing I've decided about parenting is that there is no right way or style to parent.
I know many times I haven't been confident in my parenting because I feel like I'm not doing it the right way or I'm an incompetent mother.  That insecurity can hold me back and rob me of joy.
Recently I honestly said, "You know you may not find much to be confident about, but if you are honest you try to give your kids your best and they know it. You are a good mom."  I spoke the words out loud and they sounded foreign.  Weird.  Kind of like something I wanted to be true, but never was sure of. I said the words aloud again.  I let them settle over me.
The next few days I found myself telling a down trodden friend the same words.  "Well, you may not have everything together.  No one does.  But you are a great mother.  You can be confident of that.  You truly are.  You need to be confident of that. Your kids love you. " She smiled and nodded a halting agreement with those words.  Like she too was a bit timid to claim them.
Now that I established that fact it leaves me feeling like I can add to that foundation. I've given myself permission to be confident in that.  That's helpful.
I am a mother that tries hard to create a beautiful life for her kids and yet perhaps making the most of Saturdays will only help me more. I love to be a mom and want to do the best for my kids.  How can making the most of time aide me in that goal?

How do you spend your Saturdays?
What is the niche where your come alive to your children and are all in and all there?
What is your way, avenue, and path to reach their hearts and love them?
My ways look different than your ways.
I struggle with certain forms, but I really like drawing time, parks and picnics, and reading time. Or simply undivided conversations. I like to give a back rub or brush my girls hair.  I like to take them for a treat or simply wander the aisles of Target and let them come up with all of the ways they could use this toy, this product, these art supplies.
I remember my mom always connected with cooking or shopping time with my sister and I.
Some people enjoy making things with their hands, gardening perhaps.
Recently, my oldest girl sat clipping construction paper into different shapes.  I saw her and asked her what she was doing.
"Oh you remember that guy?  The guy we studied?  I am making shapes like him?"
Recollection flickered in my eyes, "Yes. Matisse." I nodded thinking back to the story books filled with brilliant colors and interesting shapes.
"I'm making these like him.  I'm going to take them to art class.  You reading us those stories  mattered."
I was gently happy.  I hadn't expected a story from two summers to come back to my oldest, but I realized in that small moment that invested time matters and molds us.  Time shapes us, just like it shapes mountains, canyons, and the very earth.  Wisely spent time creates new wrinkles in our minds, sparkles in our eyes, and sparks love in our hearts.
I close with this passage of scripture.  It's always seemed very sobering to me.  Psalm 90:12 describes the weighty importance of contemplating the time, our time,
"Teach us to number out days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom."  
Snapshot of Saturday Afternoon:
What my Saturday looked like this week 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Noticing November : Bowls of rich soup


Last time I posted some thoughts on November it had to do with food.  It does this time too. 
I think it's because cooler weather and holidays bring people in and places them around tables, kitchen counters, and ovens.  Knowing each other over shared food.  
I think more about food when weather forces all of us inside.  What about you?
A few years ago my mom started having a soup party in the Autumn. 
She hollowed out a large pumpkin and ladled warm, bubbling soup into the seasonal container. 
It was beautiful.  
The kitchen greeted you with a stove filled with large pots of different kinds of soup.  A few crock pots simmered on the counters. 
Ever since that party my mom has been pulling those same recipes out and making them again.  They show up at parties, baby showers, and sometimes family dinners. 
I don't like to eat soup during the summer, but it fits Autumn just right. 
Soup soothes.  And something about it feels not as complicated.  Some recipes require oh so many steps, but somehow one container housing all of the ingredients seems to simplify. 
Another appeal of soup is that you can modify everything to your tastes.  I follow a recipe, but definitely alter it, majoring on flavors we like and leaving off what we may not.  I usually always add extra garlic, pepper, onions, and butter.  Most always.  
This is my all time favorite soup: 

Lemon, Orzo, Chicken Meatball Soup
(I actually put 1/2 cup of parmesan and minced garlic  into the meatball mixture.  I also buy fresh rosemary to chop and stir into the broth.  Great woodsy flavors).  

I know the recipe sounds a bit strange.  Perhaps lemon and rosemary don't make their way into your normal Autumnal soup, but this is wonderful.  If the lemon seems too much, omit.  It isn't necessary.  
These chicken meatballs are so flavorful.  I usually don't like chicken or turkey meatballs, but the fragrant herbs and the salty and sharp parmesan give it a punch of flavor.  
The first time my mom made this I couldn't believe how good it was. 
I attempted it despite my lack of experience making meatballs. 
A few winters ago I made it for my friend Sarah.  After she slurped down a bowl she affectionally named it the, "Bowl of Amazingness" and I enjoyed making it for her .
Really, you should try it :) 
The broth is excellent for dipping crusty bread.  

Here is the Broccoli Soup Recipe my mom uses for these parties.  It's very cheesy.  




One of my closest life long friends Jenna always fills her kitchen with 'bowls of amazingness' or plates, platters, frying pans, muffin tins and cookie sheets of amazingness.  When I want a good recipe I ask her. 
I asked her the other day for a new soup recipe and here was the answer.
Lasagna Soup : 

Here is one other tip Jenna gave me many years ago.  She told me to always add a can of enchilada sauce to any Taco Soup I made.  She's right.  It can be red or green enchilada sauce.  Either works.  I prefer green enchilada sauce.  The sauce really adds a rich depth of flavor.  If I leave it off, I know.  It's not the same.  

What soup do you most often serve? What tips do you have? 
What recipe reminds your family of home? 


Friday, November 11, 2016

Five Minute Friday #Common

http://katemotaung.com

Common

"Don't you say that! " My mom snapped, "That's common!" When I saw this word prompt that is what instinctively came to my head.  It always does when I hear the word 'common'.
This was my mom's quick-better-get-your-act-together command to "talk like you  have some sense."
This was generally said in response to bathroom humor or anything that lacked manners.
It set a precedence and sometimes to this day I can hear her say that in the recesses of my mind.  I think its why that kind of humor still makes my skin crawl and I try to drown it out if I hear my girls engaging in it.
My mom's tone of voice changed and her very North Carolinian accent was instantly modified to one of some other unknown locale.  There was no accent, but rather a slight sense of superiority when those words came out. As if to say the phrase, "That's common!" denoted a parting with my mom's common every day voice.
Jesus commands us to depart from some common earth ways.
Jesus describes another commonality in Luke chapter 6.  "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners do that." ( Luke 6:32-33).
It's easy to love the lovable or the ones that love you. It's common.  Nothing remarkable there.
It's uncommon to love those who have deeply hurt you and continue to do so.
God has really shown me this truth this year.
I always knew it, but I have been asked to internalize it.
Sometimes you are most ready and able to show love to an enemy when you are an enemy.  Many times your own great need of forgiveness puts you within the right perspective to forgive others.
Here is an uncommon response Jesus gives us in response to our enemies.
"bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." (Luke 6: 28)
Matthew 5: 43-48 summarizes the uncommon response we are supposed to have.
"You have heard it said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in Heaven.  He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect. 

This is a response that doesn't come easily or naturally, yet asking God to bless your enemies with abundance, health, love, peace, joy, and most of all Jesus Himself is what counteracts the darkness.  It is us saying "No" to normal human love and yes to this "perfect standard of love that God gives us.
A few weeks ago I was deeply hurt unexpectedly by a couple.  I felt like God had brought me through much this year and I was rejoicing.  When I found out the things said and actions taken I immediately coiled up in anger and felt my blood boiling over.
I admit to telling myself that night, "I will not forgive them tonight. I will tomorrow." And I went to bed angry and hurt.
The sun rose and the new day dawned and as I cleaned my kitchen I unexpectedly heard this song.
Let Love Win. 



The words in this song convicted me and immediately confronted my spirit. 
I found myself saying even if I didn't feel it, "God please bless them.  In every way. "  It was hard to say at first, but I continued to play the lyrics of this song as I washed dishes and felt something dislodge within me.  I was reminded of my own wickedness and desperate need for forgiveness and how could I ever withhold it from them? 


Letting love win is not common, its otherworldly and mirrors the perfection of God.   
Maybe you can listen to this song or let the words in Matthew curl up deep within the recesses of your heart in all of this after election muck.  So that we can have an otherworldly response to all of the word wars going on.


Saturday, November 5, 2016

Noticing November : Cranberries

November is the month of yellowing leaves fast falling over yards.
November is the month that all of the jack-o-lanterns start to droop and their cut out teeth curl up.
November means decidedly shorter days, time changes, and not-so-bright sunshine.
November is that in-between month.
It hovers between that brilliant jewel of October where Autumn blossoms full and the holiday spirit and incoming of Winter.
It comes in softly after Halloween festivities and closes out the Fall season with Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is my favorite.
I've always loved it.
I remember how hallowed that time was for me as a child and teenager.  It seemed like such a wonderful pause to reflect and be thankful and hold people close and still be outside.
I like it better than Christmas.
I think because it's not covered up in consumerism and glitz.  It's like a humble holiday.  At least until Black Friday hits.
The month that precedes up to November finds people posting things they are grateful for, thankful for.  I've seen theses lists.  Practiced them, and way past November.
But in this month I want to write once a week about something I am thankful for in the month of November.  Something specific to this season.
Something that is a part of November.
So...as silly as this sounds the first on my list is a cluster of scarlet jewel toned berries.
Cranberries.
Do you like them?
I do...
Every October when I notice them sitting in bags in the produce section I smile.  It means Thanksgiving is coming.
I like buying bags and popping one in my mouth just because they are so fresh and tart.
I like making homemade cranberry sauce. Not canned.
I like the sparkling cranberry punch and even the cranberry flavored sodas.  My friend Kristen and I used to find Sierra Mist Cranberry Splash holiday soda and be sure to drink at least one bottle together.  Buying extra bottles to enjoy at other times in the year.
I love sweetened dried cranberries tossed into salads with pecans, spinach and drizzled with honey.
One of my favorite salads has cranberries, warmed brie cheese, and walnuts tucked into field greens.
Here is a healthy salad that includes cranberries as it's main ingredient and tastes wonderful.
https://danettemay.com/crunchy-apple-cranberry-walnut-salad/

Dannette May's Crunch Apple, Cranberry, & Walnut Salad  


I love the sharp, vivid color of cranberry that is splashed all over the landscape in fall and in the colors we wear. The cranberry stained bushes that fringe the yard at my parents'.  A burst of color at the end of the fall.
I like to wear the color.  Especially a cranberry threaded sweater with jeans and boots.  I'm a blonde who used to never wear red until I decided to be brave and break up with that rule and wear a completely red prom dress in high school *probably not the best pick.
Nevertheless I like to wear reds and especially cranberry. However,  I think it looks best when paired with rich dark chocolate brunette hair.  I think of my sister and my friend Elizabeth who have deep chocolate hair that would create a dramatic color contrast to cranberry.

Cranberries remind me of my first Christmas with my husband.
Our Christmas tree was a bit shabby as we were given lots of ornaments and we purchased one matching box of various glass cranberry colored bulbs.
In the hodge podge box of random passed on Christmas ornaments I found clusters of faux cranberries.  That year our tree was filled with handmade pin ornaments from my in-laws and cranberries peeking out of every empty corner of woodsy pine needles.  I remember that was one of my favorite Christmases.
I still really prefer Christmas decorations that include cranberries.  I've always wanted a cranberry wreathe.  Maybe this year.


 http://www.bhg.com/christmas/indoor-decorating/decorating-with-cranberries/#page=5


Cranberries remind me of my old neighbor Mason.  One Christmas a few years ago before he passed he had his friend bring our family a tray of bakery cookies and some scarves and gloves for my then little girls.
I remember scanning the tray and seeing so many thick, soft Christmas cookies.
The last to go were the cranberry orange cookies.  Perhaps we were skeptical.  Well they were some of the best cookies I've ever eaten.  I have no clue at what bakery they were purchased, but those cranberry orange flavored cookies are still in my mind.  Never tasted anything like them since.

Lastly, my husband and I are on a smoothie or juicing adventure together.  For several weeks we have been drinking our salads twice or three times a day.  It works for us and I actually am starting to crave it.  Last week I popped some cranberries into our red drink of beets, apples, strawberries, and spinach.  I loved the tart punch they added.  My husband? Not so much.  I guess that will just be my addition.
Cranberries are great nutritionally speaking.  We have all heard that they aide in helping prevent urinary tract infections.  They also help in stroke prevention and aide in blood cholesterol levels.
https://danettemay.com/top-12-disease-fighting-foods/

Do you like cranberries?
What is your favorite cranberry recipe?
What is something you notice in November?

Cranberry sauce:
(This is the only item my husband's grandmother has me bring to Thanksgiving/ Christmas dinner).  I guess she likes it like me.
It's very simple. Kind of like cranberry stove top jam.
I just empty a bag of fresh washed cranberries into a saucepan.  A generous splash of orange juice.  Or maybe three.  I don't have an estimate on how big my splashes are.  That's just how I cook. ;)
I add sugar to taste.  At least 1/2 a cup.  Zest of one orange and all of it's juice.  Let all of this cook down as you would jam, bubbling and gloriously red.  Taste and adjust to sweetness level.
Or use an actual professional recipe that is sure to please such as this recipe...
http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/homemade-cranberry-sauce/






Friday, November 4, 2016

Journey


When I saw this word for Friday I felt weary.  Like I had been on a journey for so long and felt like giving up so often.  Journey. It's the word of life. Really. It's what we are doing every day in and out as we spin daily around the sun, as all the seasons blur together, and we grow up and old.
I'd like to say the word journey makes me think of a caravan of backpackers participating in a monumental expedition.  People breathing thin air and breaking the barriers of normal human limits scaling Mt. Everest or Kilimanjaro.  Or Perhaps being like the young woman I met this summer who was eagerly awaiting her two week camping and rafting journey through the Grand Canyon by river.
But that's not what comes to mind.
When I think journey I think of running laps around a track.
It's kind of how I think of life. A track. We seem often times to be plodding around a track, running our laps daily, and it's not that exciting yet it is strenuous.  Different weather conditions arise.  Hurdles.  Thirst. Sweat. Exhaustion. Lagging behind.  Pushing on.  Monotonous jogging going through motions.  Feelings of joy and accomplishment too as milestones happen and laps flash by.
Maybe I think of life like a track because I used to spend much time there.  I remember going to the neigbhorhood track with my sister and our foreign exchange student friend and doing sprints in the spring getting ready for track season.  Running laps.  One after the other.  Not blazing down a new trail or covering scenic distance, just continuing the same course trying to lengthen strides and increase endurance.
I think of my first 800 race.  Which was horrible.
I was never a great runner.  I ran for a few reasons: friends, boys, to be in shape, and to prove to myself that I could. I never ran because I was naturally fast or a promising runner.  Not in the least.
One balmy May Friday night the track team spilled out across different blankets eating trail mix downing gatorade and energy bars. Track meets have a family feel to them. Girls braiding each others hair.  Boys laughing and pranking each other. Track meets stretch on for hours and every one mills around and cheers each other on after completing their races.  Suspense laced anxiety mounts as the hours pass and you wait for your one or two events that are completed in a matter of seconds at most a few minutes.
That particular Friday night my coach came up to me and told me I would be running an 800.  My stomach dropped.  I had never trained for any such race.  I only did sprints.
I agreed and pretended to be happy about it.  Someone had dropped out of the race and gifted me with this place.
I will never forget that race.  I can't remember most races or sporting events I competed in, but I remember that one because it was so awful.  I kept up with the pack no problem the first lap.  I remember thinking, "I can do this.  It's not too bad." Despite feelings of desperation as I realized that I was running at a fast pace to just stay with the front pack for the first lap around the track.  I never had ran anything past a 400.  I continued to stay with the group but as we cleared 600 meters I choked.  None of my training had prepared me for running a double distance and anyone I was ahead of pushed past me.
My face was already brightly flushed as it always does in any kind of physical activity, but my heart was burning with more embarrassment.
As I got to the seventy-five meter point every one was going to finish ahead of me.  At least by fifty meters as far as I could tell.  Suddenly I heard a man's voice call out, "Come on girl!"  It was strong and I glanced and saw an elderly man standing beside the track cheering me home.  He started clapping as hard as he could and I knew I had to finish it.  If even just for this man.  The race ended and the man was gone, but he did cheer me home just by his refusal to see me give up knowing I was dead last.  And last by quite a lot.
I remember the sheepish way I looked at my coach and the sinking feeling I had in my heart that I was a complete failure.  In every way.  I guess except for one.  I finished the race, last place embarrassed or not.
In our real life journeys we aren't racing against people.  We think we are so many times, but we aren't.  I don't think we finish dead last in our own journey.  That's not the journey.  It's about running our one life well. Finishing it despite how rough it was or how many times we stumbled.  Getting back up with renewed resolved. To finish. And of course to help others running to win their victory home too.

A few thoughts about running our journeys...

1. Sometimes we are like that hyper active athlete that decides to compete in every possible event and over extends themselves and never really shines at anything. We check in to way to many races and never do our best.  We are a part of too many things trying to be a superstar or claim perfection, make everyone happy or be someone else.

2. Other times we run our race, but it's so very hard. Perhaps we are running with so much baggage and hurt pressing us down into the very rubber track we are trying to fly across.  All our strides seem hard and laborious.  We aren't free to fly across the track easily. We are encumbered. Heavy on our feet.  We all have those things that feel like extra weight weighing us down.  We give up sometimes because of them.

3.  Sometimes we decide to run someone else's race and we step out of our lane disqualifying ourselves from God's blessings and landing us back at square one and with a significant blow to our pride. Stay in your lane, run within your boundaries for your protection.  No matter how hard your race seems.

4.  Some times we fall nastily.
We trip and end up with our chins face down and our knees red and splayed open.  People in the stands see us.  They see us laid open and bare and we are humiliated to the core.  We can't believe we have fallen in such an ugly fashion and can we even get up? Or will we just get up and walk off to the side.  Silent, quiet and disengaged, forsaking our race forever? Deciding because we failed this one time our whole life equals failure.  It's a tempting thought.  Especially if other people decide with you it's true.
These verses came to my mind, "For a righteous man falls seven times and rises again. " (Proverbs 24:16).
If you fall you must get up.
Even if you are limping and seemingly marked now forever.
Even if it is in baby steps.
Even if your are bleeding and bruised.
Even if your are embarrassed and your face and heart are a deeply blazingly bright flush.
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5. Do not be happy when enemies fall.  The verses that follow the preceding verse in Proverbs tell us this. "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls.  And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles." (Proverbs 24:17).  I've thought about that often.  Our inward quiet joy at the stumble of someone who opposes us is really an invitation to our own` calamity.

6. Make sure to respond when someone decides to cheer you home.  Be thankful for those unlikely people who have decided you are worth the cheering and aren't ready to see you finished and done.

7. Help cheer someone else through the end of a tough lap or season.  No matter how far behind they are.  Sometimes you're about the only person to bring someone home. Maybe you are the only person in the stands for them, hoping they'll make it. Begging them to get up and finish this one lap, this one life well.
8. Just think about one day, one step, one leg at time.
When life is hopeful and bright and going well and right we tend to think about our days like they lay out endlessly before us.  However, when hardship, falls, heart ache, death, disease, dissatisfaction, or times of testing come we think of  simply'one day at a time'.  We can't manage the thoughts of getting through all of this race, all of this hard lap.  We just have to focus on the day that is and run that little piece of our journey.  It's the way to keep running in a hard time.  It's also an invitation to practice James admonitions in James 4:13-15.  We can get wrapped up in the making of our own plans, dreams, castles in the sky when times are good and golden.  We can easily stand to lose it all.  Sometimes that hard-I-can-only-do-one-day-at-a-time perspective of a hard season can hammer this reality deep into our person.  It's all we know for those days.
It slows us down to hold Jesus' hand and let Him hold us close.  We know we cannot do anything in these times save His power and presence alone.
 Strangely enough it is the one step, stride at a time that propels us ultimately across the finish line or to self sabotage.  When we give up and relinquish a day here and there that accumulates to a fall or a detour or a disqualification.  All the days add up for good or bad.

9.  Keep running.  Even if you are short like me and have to overcome a small stride.  Some people seem to have a long stride when it comes to life.  Life seems to flow better.  Whatever they do seems to yield a longer distance.  Each step seems to take them farther.  That's ok.  Even if your stride seems to make you work double.  Self comparison keeps you from running the way you should.  Like me trying to keep up with those girls the first lap yet expending every ounce of energy I had and having nothing at the end.

10. One final thought.  If you have fallen and broken your reputation remember this truth.  That reputation is about the views other people have of you.  Sometimes we can completely ruin that by our own choices.  That fear alone will keep you sidelined or laying on a track down and out.  Character isn't your reputation. Character can actually be worked in you through the loss of your reputation.  A loss of reputation can reveal to you that your character needs work.  But don't let that stop you.  God can always transform and build your character no matter the views of others.  We do really run our race ultimately just for Him and eventually life whittles down to a place where we come to know this.  Where we are lagging behind everyone and God alone is standing there cheering us home not ashamed to stand beside us and claim us as His own.