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Lessons on the Run

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.”
-Les Brown

My running lately has been very up and down. Sometimes I run. Sometimes I don’t. Ironic thing is, I love it. Not every single moment. But love the feeling, especially when I’m done. It just feels good. Sweat dripping off my face, heart rate going through the roof, God downloading to me messages through the music.

Today was no different just a quick 20-minute run. I even caught myself tearing up through Black Eyed Peas “I got a Feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good good night” (Hey, don’t judge, it gets me running! And I once heard Shelia Walsh came out on a Harley to that song!). Needless to say, I can’t write out everything God showed me on that run, because some was personal, but He gave me some lessons through the run I wanted to share.

I had already planned on it being a short run, with all I have on my plate today. And I allowed myself to have an easy run, because after all, I haven’t been running a lot lately. The Lord asked me if I could run fast and hard even if just past one house. Would I allow myself a little discomfort instead of always letting myself off the hook? Okay Lord- but just one house. I ran hard, through the grunting and discomfort, I actually ran myself hard past several houses.

Lesson #1- Spend time with the Lord, even if it’s been a while. Just like our work out routine can sometimes feel like a roller coaster, our time with the Lord can too. But don’t let that stop you from pressing in and pressing on! I’ve heard people say, “Why start working out now, it’s been years?” One day is better than no days! You have to start somewhere. Take a few minuets today to read His Word and hang out with Him. Don’t listen to that voice that says it’s been too long, what’s the point? You will be so glad you did!

Lesson #2- God wants to use you. He wants you to be able to push yourself sometimes to see what you can really do. I knew the Lord was with me. I knew it was something He was telling me to do. That’s key. Don’t step out unless you feel like it’s him pushing you out of the boat.

I then was telling myself I was just going to do a quick run, so I saw my house ahead and was mentally preparing to stop. The Lord asked me if I could just do one more block. I knew I had not run to my full potential, but I was okay with that, because, after all, I had much to do. The Lord said again, “Will you do just one more block?” “Okay, but I’m really okay with being done.” So I did one more block, which turned in to one more, which turned in to… you guessed it, one more.

Lesson #3- Don’t take easy street. Sometimes we get so use to letting our self off the hook and taking the easy, comfortable road that we never really see God’s full potential in us. He showed me this morning that the things He has for me are far greater than anything I could ever imagine, but I’ve got to stop letting myself be okay with all of my many excuses. “I’m too tired. It’s too hard. It’s too uncomfortable. There are so many people already doing what I feel called to do, am I really even needed? Maybe I’m just making these things up in my head and I should just be happy with where I am at and stay here.” He never calls us to easy and comfortable- but He has promised that He will fulfill the desires of our hearts. Psalms 37:4- Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. And will this journey be pain free? John 16:33- I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

What is it that the Lord’s been asking you to do that might be uncomfortable? Are there steps that He is asking you to take that will require a dying to self and a sacrifice? Are there dreams in your heart that you have specifically asked, “Lord, if this is not from you, please take this cup from me” but still find those dreams burning with in you? The Lord is asking you today, “Will you run the extra mile?” “Will you go the distance?” “Will you keep going even when you’re a little bit uncomfortable?” “Will you trust me and run this race just a little bit more and see what I can do though you?” And ultimately, “Will you trust me?”

 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us- Hebrew 12:1

Painful Life Lessons

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“The smallest deed is better than the greatest intention.”

Intentions: noun. A thing intended; an aim or plan.

I used to think all my good intentions should count for something, right? I mean, I really will at some point have that couple over for dinner. At least, I hope so. And I really will call that girl that’s been on my heart and see if we can meet up for coffee just as soon as things slow down.

What? Things don’t really slow down?

How do we change good intentions from a noun to a verb–an action? How do we allow our thoughts to move from a good thought to the actual doing? Hate to over-simplify, but if it’s important to us (which people should be), we’re going to have to fit them in. We need to make a conscious decision to stop ‘thinking’ about it and actually take the steps necessary to make it happen.

Have you ever said to someone, “We need to have y’all over for dinner.” But days come and go, and it never happens. Or then there are times when you do actually have someone over and you’re stressed out, running around like a mad person. And they come and you really enjoy the company, and when they leave, you look at your spouse and say, “That was so nice; we really need to do this more.”

When I moved here just over a year ago, I was looking forward to the new possibilities of getting to spend time with all my family here. We’ll hang out, go out to eat, watch movies, etc. etc. It will just be one big party. Okay, not exactly, but I knew having family close would really be nice.

Someone in particular I really felt like I needed to connect with was my cousin Laura. But as you know, life gets busy. Between working Monday through Friday, three kids, football and many church commitments, I didn’t get to see her very much. I always loved seeing her during the holidays or at baby showers. She recently moved to a beach condo and we talked of bringing the kids by to swim at her pool. We would talk (good intentions) about getting together for a run or something, but it just never happened.

Last Thursday night we received a phone call from my husband’s mom. It is a phone call I will never forget. We learned that night that my beautiful sweet cousin had passed. I’m not going to lie; even as I write this, I’m still in shock. She was 22, with her whole life in front of her. And the record that continues to play in my head sounds like this: I just thought I had more time. I just thought we had more time.

As I look back, I’ve had to learn some painful lessons. It hurts. To come to grips with the reality that I could have, would have, or should have.

Painful Lesson# 1: Jesus loved people. He has called us to love His people. NEVER ever take a person for granted and just ‘expect’ that they will be there forever. Do the people that God has placed in your life know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you love them unconditionally and that they matter to you? In James we are reminded of how short this life really is.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:14 (NIV)

This week has been a painful reminder that we truly never know how long our time is here on this earth.

Painful Lesson #2: All my good intentions are the same as not having any intentions. We need to live our lives on purpose. I’m starting to take notes. I’m going back to all my intentions, almost like an intention bucket list. Who did we say we are going to invite over recently? I’m writing it down, and going to make it happen. I’m taking notes the next time I say, “We really need to meet up.” Even with my kids. I can’t tell you how many times I say, “I really want to start …” Write it down. If it’s important, make it happen. Show people and your family that they are a priority to you.  Sometimes we get caught up on the temporary–and we miss out on the eternal.

Painful Lesson #3: The best present you could ever give someone is to be present. Live in the moment. As you learn not to take people for granted and to live your life on purpose, be present. The best friend someone could be is the friend who will turn off the TV (unless of course you’re watching a movie together), put down the cell phone (I promise Twitter and Facebook will still be there later), and just be present. Have you ever heard those sweepstakes commercials that say, “Must be present to win”? Well, it’s true in life also.  

We are given no promises for tomorrow. What will you do with today?

Lord, as we come before You today, would You forgive us for not treating others as sacred human beings that are made in Your image? We get lazy; we get comfortable. Help us to truly see the frailty of life and the gift in today. Help us to not take each other for granted but to love extravagantly, as You love us. Help us to turn our good intentions into actions. You, Lord, are ever so present with us–help us to live that way with others. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Lessons From a Bus Stop

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I had much to do today on my to-do list. I knew I needed to go to Wal-Mart, although for me, Wal-Mart is anything but enjoyable. I made it there just in time with the rest of what seemed to be the entire town. (Do people call each other and say, “Let’s all go to Wal-Mart?”) It was crowded in the parking lot. I got a less than ideal spot. I tried to keep the positive mantras going in my head while shopping.  “I’m almost done”, or “you can do this”. Funny, you would think I was running a marathon or something. Finally, finished my shopping workout, and headed to the shortest line. (Which was not short, might I add.)  I often think the Lord puts me in lines where people need a price check on some random item that no one can find just to work out my patience a little.

Checked out and walking my shopping cart to the car. It was a sweltering, hot day. I was dripping from sweat before I even made it to the car. Mantras- keem ‘em coming. “You’re almost done, and you will be home soon”. “You’ve got this, finish line is ahead”. I loaded up my mini van and proceeded to maneuver my way around the busy parking lot. Caught myself complaining about how hot it was and how it takes forever for my van to cool down.

As I was leaving the parking lot, I looked over to the right. Saw a bus stop. Saw a woman- dripping with sweat. She had three children. One looked to be asleep on her lap, while she rubbed her forehead to cool her down. Her other two small children were trying to stay cool while sitting under a small shade tree. Each of them were holding a few grocery bags for their mom. And I drove by in my air-conditioned mini-van, driving to my new home, while the kids were home with daddy. Her deep brown eyes spoke more to me than any sermon  I had heard that month.

Humbled- seems to be a theme in my life right now. Whenever you think you have it rough, I promise you, there is always someone who has it harder. I said a prayer for that woman and her children as I drove home that day. Then I quickly repented for being so spoiled. I repented for complaining- or even fighting the desire to complain because my perfect little world wasn’t as comfortable as I had wanted it to be.

Lord, thank you that I am still teachable. Remind me when I feel the need or urge to complain, of my many blessings and help me not to take them for granted. Thank you for a car (with air), my home, my husband who helps with our children, and for the money to go to Wal-Mart to buy the groceries for my family. And remind me daily, there will always be someone who has it harder. I know that one hard day with you is better than a million days without You. For I am blessed- don’t let me forget it! Amen