California Love

First I’d like to offer my apologies to anyone who typically reads my blog as it’s been a while since I’ve last posted… I must have started and gave up on ten different posts then decided maybe I needed a break. So here I am, back and freshy-fresh 🙂

Earlier this month my family and I took a vacation to Southern California. It’s where I lived when I met my husband, where his entire family still lives and my hands-down favorite place to visit.

Upon arrival I quickly found myself on the hotel’s treadmill. They have a nice little fitness center and I honestly can’t say enough about my satisfaction with Hilton-brand hotels’ workout rooms. I have consistently found their treadmills to be gym-quality and their assortment of weights and equipment to be more than adequate. However, the beautiful weather each morning was beckoning me… I so badly wanted to run outdoors.

So, one morning armed with my GPS and my iPhone I set off. I was about 1.5 miles into my run when *gasp* I saw her – another runner! She then turned off the road ahead of me through a hole in a fence marked “no trespassing” and started down a dirt trail. I did the only thing that seemed reasonable – I followed her. Careful to stay at least 30-50 yards behind her so as to not seem like a crazy stalker I followed her down the dirty desert trail. Towards the end of the trail, there was a quick blind hill and a turn followed by a fork in the road. I never did figure out which way she went. But I did find that either way took you to the Ronald Reagan Sports Park, which is a HUGE park filled with all things sports-related. Skate parks, baseball fields, a running track, a dek hockey court and children’s playsets were everywhere.

cool secret trail

With “The Gipper”

scary snake sign!

What I also found was a grassy knoll upon which about 30 runners were stretching – including the girl who had led me down the trail. They were all different ages and sizes. “A running club!” I joyfully exclaimed to myself. Part of me wanted to stop, to ask them what days and times they regularly met up. Part of me wanted to join them. I was excited about the prospects of learning about and running on even more new trails. And part of me was self-conscious. Afraid they’d think I was a crap runner or that I’d be too slow for the group. So I continued on…

The rest of my trip, from a running perspective, went just like that day. Same road, same trail, same sports park, pass the running group and back to the hotel. Some mornings I was mad at myself for being too nervous to join the group. And some days I had other places to be – like Disneyland – and didn’t have the time to wait around until their 8:30 start time.

If I was going to be in SoCal any longer I would have had to step up, overcome myself and inquire about the group, maybe even join them for a run or two. But since it was only a week-long trip I could get by with what I had figured out on my own without getting bored.

What I learned though is that sometimes it’s tough to ask for help, advice or to even join in when you feel intimidated by other’s knowledge and/or abilities. I know I certainly did, hence my never stopping to inquire about joining the group for a run or two. But it’s like my husband so eloquently said to me last night, “If you want to learn to dance you don’t go ask a soccer player* to teach you. You ask a ballerina.” When you’re serious about wanting to learn or try something new, you need to go to others who are experts in it, not people as clueless as you are. If you’re not willing to go to an expert then how serious are you really? Everyone was once a newbie and has been in your shoes.

The “good news” is that the Bible provides a pretty clear road map for how to be and live your life. And church is kind of like that running group – yes, the group I avoided because I felt intimidated by my perceived inadequacies. Remember, we are all sinners and each and every one of us falls short. And we have all walked a mile in one another’s moccasins in one way or another – don’t be afraid to go where you need to go or ask who you really need to ask when you need a hand. Theres nothing wrong with being new, slow or uninformed, as long as the desire and determination to learn and improve is present. Oftentimes the only thing holding us back is ourselves.

Run by faith,

Lindsay

*i can’t for the life of me remember the non-dancer example he used, but you get the point

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Feeling Strangely Fine

Two weeks ago I ran the Pittsburgh Marathon.  My first ever marathon.  Here is a pic of me pre-race:

pre-marathon

I may look like my normal silly self but truth be told I was really, really nervous.  I mean mega-nervous.  Perhaps more nervous than I have ever been before any physical challenge I’ve ever done.  This was my first marathon – the longest race I’d ever run before this was 13.1 miles, which was 2 years and 1 baby ago.  I did 100% of the training and preparation for this by myself.   I didn’t have a regular time of day or schedule for running, because when you’ve got 3 kids pre-K and under you don’t really have the luxury of having a schedule for your hobbies, let alone even have hobbies.  So I stuck with a plan as best I could, worked it around my girls’ dance, soccer, swim lessons and illnesses and showed up on race morning feeling completely overwhelmed and underprepared.  “If I’d only had more free time I’d have done way more cross-training,” I remember thinking.  “I just need to pick a reasonable pace per mile and stick with it.  I just need to cross the finish line.”  My goal was just to finish the race with some level of dignity.  So with the help of my trusty Garmin watch I picked a pace that seemed modest, tamped down my adrenalin and forced myself to stick with the planned pace even though I so badly wanted to tear off at a faster clip.

My distance runs during training started off strong.  But as I got further into training I found myself getting burned out, so I had to back off running a bit and try to find a better balance.  But in backing off I also ended up unexpectedly having to pack and move our family of 5.  Subsequent distance training runs suffered and rocked my confidence.  I would call my (non-runner) husband (who loves me but thinks distance runners are nuts) mid-run when I was struggling and he would encourage me to press on.  I would often come home, feeling dejected, shaking from running 18+ miles and wondering how in the heck I was ever going to run 8 miles further.  It was beyond demoralizing.

Race morning was a humbling experience.  Feeling like I had bit off WAY more than I could chew made me want to throw up.  I have always been an athlete, a competitor, and feeling like I can’t do something isn’t how I operate.  “What if I don’t make it to the finish line,”  I wondered, “What if I get injured and can’t finish?”  “What if all the time I spent preparing and training just wasn’t enough to press out those last few miles?”

I did what I always do – I took it to God and prayed for my safety during the race.  I prayed for both physical and mental strength and tenacity.  I prayed that I would just finish the race.  I thanked the Lord for giving me the opportunity to run.

And a funny thing happened – as I ran I started to think about my finish line in life when I go to the Lord.  Will my training and preparation be enough for me to cross into Heaven?  Much like the marathon with some easy, some difficult miles, we have easy days and hard days when it comes to our faith and our ability to avoid sin along our life’s course.  But at the end of it all we can blame our “life marathon” result on no one but ourselves. Only I am ultimately responsible or accountable for the choices I made during my time on Earth.

I know how scary it was feeling I was unprepared on race morning — I can’t even begin to imagine how petrified I will be going before the Lord knowing in my heart that I am not worthy.  All I can do is focus on the training.  To keep studying His word.  To continue fellowship with fellow Christian sisters.  To continually pray.

Crossing the finish line (I’m on the right)

I will never know while I’m here on Earth if my preparation truly is enough to cross the finish line into Heaven.  What I do know is that I will never stop preparing for that final mile, minute, breath.  Fortunately for me 2 weeks ago, my preparation was more than enough for the Pittsburgh Marathon and I finished easily in 4 hours 33 minutes.

super proud 🙂

“Keep running the race that is set before you with endurance.” -Hebrews 12:1

Run by faith,

Lindsay

How Bizarre

Getting caught with your pants down is a funny saying.  It’s hilarious to imagine.  In real life, however, it’s embarrassing and a public humiliation.

There’s nothing worse than toeing the start line of a race and feeling completely unprepared.  As I’ve been going through the rigors of training for my first marathon, I’ve spent A LOT of time worrying about whether or not my training and preparation has been adequate.  With the race literally less than 4 days away there’s really nothing more I can do to increase my strength or endurance.  I am praying that the miles I’ve put in have been enough.  I am praying that I don’t eat something over the next few days I regret once I’m 15+ miles in and that I remember to drink a ton of water between now and Sunday morning (I’m bringing back the 40-oz challenge!).  (I think) My success depends on a combination of training up till now and my diet and sleep between now and Sunday.  I really don’t want to go into Sunday and get caught with my pants down.

Me crossing the finish line for the 2010 Half Marathon in 2 hrs 4 mins

When I ran the Pittsburgh Half Marathon in May 2010 the day started off really humid and muggy.  I was SO THANKFUL when about 3-4 miles in it started raining, breaking the humidity and providing what I considered to be a ton of physical relief.  What I failed to think about was how I was going to finish the half marathon and not get caught with my pants down.

At some point a few months prior to race day I was wearing my favorite cotton Nike running shorts when my 3-year old pulled the draw string out.  I continued wearing them and they seemed to stay up no problem so I figured I didn’t need it and never went to the trouble to re-string it into my shorts.  What I failed to consider on race morning was that I hadn’t done much training in the rain in those shorts, if any.  And race day was rainy.  About 7 miles in I noticed my shorts were starting to sag.  Since they were cotton they were starting to get water-logged and heavy.  About 10 miles in and things were turning from mildly annoying to really irritating.  And at mile 12 I was seriously considering taking them off and finishing in my undies.  I’m not joking.  If you look in the picture above you can tell which one is me – I’m the one holding up my shorts while running towards the finish line.

A lot of runners and running friends have been chatting about how to prepare for the race – what to wear, what to eat, where to park.  All I can say is this:  don’t do anything you haven’t done before.  Eat foods you typically eat before a run – but don’t be dumb about it!  I would not recommend something really heavy or greasy even if it is what you chow down on before your at-home distance runs.  Pre-plan your parking strategy and get there really early.  And for the love of Pete, please make sure your clothes are equipped to handle whatever the weather forecast is for the day, because getting caught with your pants down really sucks.

“but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint” – Isaiah 40:31

Run by Faith,

Lindsay

Wrong Way

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what it means to try to be more like Jesus.  I mean, He was perfect … trying to stack my deck against His seems so ridiculous.  I’ve only been a Christian 5 years.  Wow was my life upside down prior to then!  And I have a confession to make — in the past 5 years since being baptized I was still sinning.  Sometimes *big* sins.  I still am a sinner.  I will always be a continual work in progress.

I’ve mentioned in at least one past post that my life has been kind of bananas lately.  And as a result I’m exponentially more stressed than usual.  Which means I’m more prone to occasional behavior that’s really not typical.  I’ve had times when I’ve been short with my husband, parents and my kids.  I’m having a harder time keeping commitments we’ve made to things that aren’t critical.  My sleep is suffering.  Running is suffering.  And the Lindsay I am is a shadow of herself… I’m quieter, less smiley and quicker to frustration.

Is it embarrassing to post to the world that I’ve not been myself?  No.  I’m completely okay with being a regular human being, and I don’t think being open and unapologetic about my faith means I have to be perfect and live a sinless life.  Too often I believe (and see) self-described Christians acting as though they must portray perfection, but meanwhile they’re stuck in grudges, being controlling, quick to anger, judging others, disrespecting their parents, committing adultery or idol worshiping – and sadly they seem to have forgotten they are the Christian in the situation.  As the Christian, I feel it is my responsibility to care more about how others feel than how I feel.  If I am truly living my life striving each day to be more like Jesus then I must be willing to put my hurts aside and try to find the good in others or in a bad situation.  And it is my responsibility to do whatever I have to do in order to get things back on track.  I know it sounds corny, but think about a situation perhaps you’ve been struggling with and ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?”  I have found more and more that asking myself that question when I’m in the midst of a difficult situation or dealing with a difficult person has helped me feel better about the way I react.  I want my karma to be more like Jesus.  He loved us even though we didn’t/don’t deserve it.

The good news is that I am cognizant of my indiscretions.  I know I’ve been off path and I am working to get things sorted out.  Identifying a shortcoming, accepting your fault(s), making amends and figuring out how or where to go to step into the right direction I think is the first step to healing and getting away from your sin.  It’s not always easy to get things corrected, but being strong and humble and again realizing I am *supposed to be* the Christian in the situation really helps.  People know I’ve been baptized.  If I’m a fair weather Christian then what does that say about Christianity to non-Christians in my life?

Never will I be perfect.  Never will I claim to be.  Never will every choice I make every day be free of error.  No one in any church is without sin or problems.

But never will I deny my love for Christ.  Never will I run from my sins or give up my Christian walk because I’m embarrassed over a sin I’ve committed or think I’ve messed up too badly to fix things.  To my Christian friends who are currently in the middle of a difficult situation I’d like to offer you this – work hard to make things right and focus your actions and heart on Jesus.  Stay humble and be willing to be the bigger person.  Show non-Christians in  your life what love and forgiveness really feels like.  I believe that kind of discipleship is what will open them up to the idea of getting to know Him.  We are His representatives.

Run by faith,

Lindsay

Going the Distance

I’m uber competitive about a lot of things.  Running actually isn’t one of them.  Since becoming a mom, running has become my “me” time.  I’ve been a runner over ten years now but running and being fit took on a whole new meaning after having our first child.  I soon realized that as long as I was out running I didn’t have to change anyone’s diapers, clean up throw up, or remind anyone for the ten thousandth time that brushing their teeth isn’t an optional daily task.   And, after just moving to a new neighborhood going to the gym gave me an opportunity to meet some other mommy’s and make some friends.  Double inspiration for getting fit!

I wouldn’t say I don’t care about my finishing time when I run races, I would just say I don’t care about your time.  Sorry.  I wasn’t born to run.  I’m not thin and wiry.  It takes me a zillion years to build endurance – I’m built for strength and breeding, not running.  When I sign up for a race I consider the course and my level of fitness and I make a mental goal for myself.  If I meet or surpass my personal goal, I’m happy.  If I don’t, that’s OK.  And if I have a PR or get a medal that’s just a bonus.  Honestly I don’t even know what my 5 or 10-K time would have to be in order for me to get a PR, that’s how much I don’t care about it.  I don’t walk around like I’m some great runner, mostly because I’m not.  I’m just a regular thirty-year old mom of three who enjoys the freedom, sanity and fitness running provides.  My goal is never to beat anyone specifically.  That takes the fun out of it for me.  My goal is first just to finish, and second to finish with a self-measured level of dignity.

Trust me friends I realize that signing up for races is hardly a private matter.  Anyone can look up any race and see the results.  One bad day means anyone with internet access can look you up and judge you, which stinks because so much outside of the actual race itself can go in to whether a race is a successful one – diet, sleep, or emotional state, how long it’s been since you last had a baby, how many weeks pregnant you currently are (OK those last two definitely apply to me! LOL)… just to name a few.  I’ve run so many races these past five years pregnant or with interrupted sleep it’s not even funny.  I feel for runners who put their everything into training and then have an outside source disrupt their preparation and it’s out of their control.  I’ve been there.  It’s my life.  And, once again, outside factors I have no control over are impacting my marathon training.  But I am pressing on.

It’s OK (and I think normal) to compare our results, but one thing I can promise is that when I’m toeing the starting line I’m not there thinking “I really want to beat her (or him)…” I’m thinking, “I really want to beat me.”  And (surprise) at the starting line I’m praying.  I’m praying that it’s in God’s plan for me to finish the race and for it to be with a time I can feel good about considering whatever amount of effort I’ve spent preparing and whatever obstacles have been placed in my way leading up to race day.  Because I know that simply showing up at the starting line doesn’t mean I’m going to make it to the finish line.  And I know that each step, each breath, each mile is on borrowed time and I owe nothing but praise to God for giving me the ability and opportunity to have that moment.  And that is something worth bragging about.

“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

Run by faith,

Lindsay

A Change Would Do You Good

If you know me, you know I am very much a creature of habit.  I deeply enjoy many, many things but each and every time I enjoy them I do so the exact same way.  It’s just an idiosyncrasy of mine.  One of many 🙂

My “professional job” which I went to college for is deeply rooted in the idea of change.  Teaching others to accept new methods, technology, ideas.  Coming from a control freak like me, that’s kind of laughable.  But in a business setting I actually find accepting and being a catalyst for change quite refreshing.  In real life, however, sudden and abrupt change causes the Lindsay row boat to capsize. Many, many years ago I once cried because I went to Eat ‘n Park specifically for clam chowder on a Friday and they were sold out.  My plan was thwarted and I couldn’t control it. Tears ensued.  I really was that extreme.

Having kids certainly has forced me to give up control in many ways.  I can’t follow the exact same routine anymore when I leave the house to go anywhere because each and every time is like an exercise in herding cats.  Getting in the car and Emily having on 2 matching shoes with clothes properly on is triumph enough.  All routine and rules have flown out the door when it comes to the kids.

But with me I find that the small things I can control I still very much do.  I realized today I’ve been running for eleven years, and for about eight of them I’ve been wearing the exact same style running shoe.  Don’t get me wrong – my shoe is fantastic and was even coincidentally voted this past winter by Runners World as the top  all-around running shoe.  I ran through 3 pregnancies in that model of shoe.  I ran from Pittsburgh to Southern California and back (not literally) with those shoes.  I ran a half marathon in that shoe.  And I had full-on intended to run a full marathon this May in them as well.

Then something happened.  As my distances crept up, pain started to come with it.  Sore hips.  Aching knees.  My body began to feel twice it’s age.  I’d been cross-training.  I’d slowly increased my  mileage.  People started to tell me that perhaps I simply wasn’t made to go such far distances.  If you don’t know me by now you must realize that telling me I’m not made to do something only makes me even more determined to accomplish it, hence my sticking with sports against all odds when I was a severe asthmatic as a kid.  Nobody puts Lindsay in a corner.

So today I went to a local running specialty store.  I took my trusty shoes with me.  I explained my dilemma to the associate.  And you know what she told me – the problem wasn’t my shoes per se, it was ME.  “Me?!!?”  I was stunned.  She reminded me that aches and pains are going to come with high mileage runs.  She implored me to continue cross-training.  And to pay attention to the wear on my shoes – mine were worn out and needed replacing even though they were only 3 months old!  Then she studied my gait and recommended a different shoe.  She said my old, trusty shoe model would be fine if it’s what I wanted but that I didn’t need the support that shoe offers so why not see if one of the other styles would be more comfortable to take me 26.2.

A different shoe.  A different shoe?  Was she nuts?!?  But of course I love shoes and had to try on a few for the fun of it.  And I decided.  Reluctantly.  Surprisingly.  It was time for a change.

I know in life things just aren’t predictable.  You can’t control the choices those around you make and you can’t change most of the things that come at you from day to day.  But you can control your choices.  Your actions and reactions.  And by doing so you are blazing your path, walking to your own beat, and being your own person.  Change is OK.  I know I can’t control everything and it’s absolutely insane for me to think or pretend that I can.  Like somehow a certain shoe is going to guarantee I can make it the entire marathon?  No.  Training, preparation, diet, etc., is what will ensure I make it on race day.  Only I determine my success or failure.

Will I go to Heaven someday?  God willing, I pray.  I so badly want to.  Is it a guarantee?  No.  Much like a marathon the preparation today determines my final outcome at the end of this race.  I know I will have good miles and bad ones.  Hard ones and easy ones.  But each step is taken out of love for my Savior. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to take each step regardless of it’s difficulty.  And that, friends, feels really good, even in the hardest of miles.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34.  Get yourself through this day, this moment, this mile, this step with pride, strength, integrity and love.  Slow and steady wins the race.  Don’t be afraid to take a chance, change your pace, put your trust in Jesus and change your life.  What awaits beyond the finish line is far better than any trophy.

Run by faith,

Lindsay

Losing My Religion

Maybe you’ve already seen this video. Maybe you think the guy is crazy or don’t understand what he means when he says that he loves God but hates religion. Maybe you’ve read my other blogs and have been giving church some additional consideration. If so please read on.

It’s no secret I love working out. I really enjoy running and lifting weights and if I could I would do it all day every day and I’d never get tired of it. So you can imagine my disdain when December rolls around and I begin preparing myself for all the New Year’s Resolutioners who will hop on the weight-loss bandwagon and start clogging up the equipment that was once readily available whenever I wanted it. January hits, the gym goes bananas. I try to keep my head down, do what I need to do and get out of there as fast as humanly possible. I see it every year and know by March the crowd will be gone. Most will revert to their old ways and when they feel bad about slacking they may pop in for an occasional workout or two then disappear again.

Why do so many people fail with their weight-loss / exercise resolution? Because being fit is a lifestyle – not a resolution. It’s a way of life, day in and day out. It’s something you think about at every meal and it’s something you want to do daily (maybe not as much as I do, but to some extent).

The same concept goes with Christianity.

Being a Christian isn’t something you become to feel good about yourself. Going to Church isn’t something you do every once in a while when you feel guilty because you haven’t been in a while and feel you need to put in an appearance. Being a Christian is a lifestyle. Day in and day out. Praising Him in good times and in bad. Studying the Bible in your free time. Praying with your friends and family or even alone on a continual basis. And admitting to God and those around you that you are a hopeless sinner but are dedicating your life to trying to improve and live more like Jesus, even though you know you will always fall short. You want to glorify God with everything you do. You want to go to Heaven and be with Him for eternity.

I met my husband around the same time I finished reading the Gospel. He encouraged me to attend church with him – I went one time and was turned off by the crowd – his church had thousands of members! At the end of the day I am a small town girl who was used to smaller, more traditional church services. I talked him into coming with me to my denominational church. He agreed and quietly sat by my side for several weeks. Slowly he started asking me questions about the services, such as what had I learned about the Bible from the service, what did my church believe in and what did I believe needed done in order to go to Heaven.

I couldn’t answer any of his questions. I had been reading the New Testament and realized it was good stuff. His questions made me start to think that if I was taking the time to go to church maybe I should be going to one that was actually enriching what I had been learning during my personal Bible studies. Call me crazy, but maybe I should actually know what my church believes in.

Up until that point in my life I had been going to church so that I could feel better about myself. It made me feel like a responsible adult. But I didn’t know God. I left those services no better, smarter or more spiritually capable or enlightened than I had arrived. I never felt my heart yearn to surround myself with Christian friends or to go to church to “refill my spiritual cup” each week. If I missed church, so be it. Maybe next week! I had no idea how far off track I was at living a life that was giving glory to God.

Acts 20:29-30 says, “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.”

The wolves are the devil and sinners and they want to pull you away from Christ. Look at how Tim Tebow has been savaged by non-Christians and the media just for being open and honest about his faith. For some reason non-Christians love to attack and put us down. I believe this does scare people away from Christianity – we don’t want to be seen as the “Jesus freaks.” And, unfortunately, the “men who have arisen and are distorting the truth” are running many of our denominational churches today. Not all, but many. They’re preaching their feel-good version of the Bible instead of what it actually contains. They’re letting their congregation believe their lives are saved simply because they show up on Sunday.

Maybe you have a church you already belong to. Search your heart and honestly answer if you firmly know what it is your church believes in (without looking on their website!). Search your heart and answer honestly if you go to church to glorify yourself or if you’re going to glorify your Savior. Answer honestly – is your church encouraging you to become a Christian and teaching Biblical doctrine or pushing “feel good” religious ideas? If your church isn’t meeting your needs let the Bible be your guide and seek a new home for Sunday mornings.

If you have read George Orwell’s 1984, which was written in 1949, and regard Orwell as a “genius,” “visionary” or a “man before his time,” you will truly believe in the power, strength and knowledge of our Almighty God when you read His book that is over two thousand years old yet is still relevant today!

Resolve to make Christ your lifestyle. Attend church because you know you are broken and can’t fix yourself alone. To me Church is like a rehab for sinners. Missing a meeting is just not an option.

Realize that the Bible is the only official word of God, no man or woman should give their own interpretation of the passages that make them uncomfortable. That again is where many of today’s church’s are failing us.

Jesus is greater, more powerful and will give you more love, joy and satisfaction than any religion.

Run by Faith,

Lindsay

Come Sail Away

Ten years ago (WOW that makes me feel old!) I took a spring break trip with my boyfriend to Cancun, Mexico. It was our first trip out of the country and we were pretty excited. Upon arrival to Cancun I remember being pleasantly surprised at how “Americanized” the resort area was and relieved because, regardless of my high school Spanish teacher’s efforts (and her magical bowl), I can speak pretty much zero Spanish. It was almost as if we had flown somewhere more tropical and warm in the United States (but couldn’t drink the water) rather than being in another country.

At some point in our trip we decided to take a cruise in which you climb aboard a teeny boat (think a ramshackle version of Gilligan’s Island) and they hand out cups of beer and play pop music on a dinky boom box while they sail you a few miles to Isla Mujeras. A few hundred yards from the island they drop their anchor and you snorkel in to shore and see the beautiful coral reef. This part of the trip was really a beautiful and fun experience.

I remember we hadn’t taken much money because snorkeling made it inconvenient to carry anything we didn’t want to get wet or potentially ruined, and I remember them telling us as we jumped in the water to snorkel to return to the boat dock area at a certain time and we’d head back to the mainland together.

Isla Mujeras was a beautiful little place but it definitely felt like another country. Not many of the locals on the island spoke English and the “housing” on the island was pretty much little huts and windowless run-down buildings. It was really hard to imagine people actually living in those conditions, in that kind of poverty. We rented a golf cart and drove around for hours marveling at both the poverty on the island and the breathtaking views of the ocean.

If you know me at all, you know that I absolutely HATE being late and/or unprepared. Which has kind of flown out the window since becoming a parent since kids always throw in the wild-card factor when trying to get out the door, but I digress. So when it seemed to be getting close to time to sail back to Cancun we headed to the boat area. We waited… and we waited. None of the boats on the dock looked like our boat. We recognized no one. I started to feel a sense of panic and tried to talk to a local who was working in the dock area but he spoke very broken English. Finally we were able to deduce from him that we had been off by an hour and our boat had left us behind.

I can still remember the fear I felt at that time, not knowing where or how I was going to get to the place I felt I was supposed to be – at my hotel, enjoying a frozen beverage, looking for Iguanas – but rather on this dilapidated island where I couldn’t speak the language and had little to no money on us to get off the island… and I was only 20 years old. It helped (somewhat) that I was with my boyfriend. Misery does love company, right? So we set out trying to find someone who was bilingual enough to understand our situation and help us remedy our mistake and get us back to Cancun.

I think about this experience and it still bothers me. Why hadn’t we listened carefully to the instructions for returning to the mainland? Were we so preoccupied with ourselves and our surroundings that we really couldn’t or didn’t want to be bothered to actually pay attention? Sometimes people are telling us exactly what we need to hear to get where we ultimately want to go and we are too preoccupied – too caught up in the “now” – to pay attention. Then we look back and wonder how things got so screwed up. At some point we have to take responsibility for ourselves, our choices, our lack of prioritizing or paying attention and own our lives and the decisions we’ve made, good and bad. And, in my opinion, that time certainly comes when we leave this Earth and are called to the Almighty for His judgment. At that point we do have to own up to the times we weren’t listening, to the times maybe someone tried to extend a hand to help us learn a little more about Him or to pull us out of a particular sin and we turned them down. We have to tell Him we weren’t listening. That we were too self-absorbed, too caught up in the world around us. That it was too fun, too titillating and we didn’t want to live a life that included moral expectations. When that life of sin on Earth is gone and the rest of our eternity is in His hands will we try to convince Him that we truly did love Him? You can’t fool God – He truly knows what was in our hearts. He knows what is in our hearts. “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” [Matthew 10:30]

I know when I was on that boat I was caught up in having fun. I was 20 and being somewhere exotic and free from it all felt amazing. I assumed I knew all I needed to and took a chance that was supremely and incredibly foolish. Luckily for us, after hours of asking for help and countless tears, we were able to find someone who could understand us and was willing to help us out. We caught the very last boat returning to the mainland that day. And I learned a lesson the hard way.

The good thing about experiences such as mine in Cancun is that I can now reflect upon it and be smarter going forward. But one day there will be no tomorrow and whether or not you make it “off the island” and into Heaven will be based wholly on your past.

I pray that today you find room in your life and your heart to get to know Jesus. If you have a friend who has been inviting you to church, call them and tell them to pick you up on the way next Sunday. If you own a Bible, open it to the book of John and read for half an hour. It can only help you firm up your reservation for a trip to the ultimate resting place once this life is over. Don’t miss the boat.

Run by faith,

Lindsay

What Love Really Means

Luke 15:11-32 says,

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

I look at my newly-turned 5-year old and wonder where the time has gone. I’m proud of who she’s become in 5 short years, yet realize all I can do is show her love unconditionally and pray that she grows up to make good, Christian decisions for herself.  You can raise two people exactly the same (well, obviously there’s some differences due to personalities, etc) – same rules, same morals and family values – and that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to make the same decisions as adults.  We don’t all digest life the same.  Some of us learn through reading.  Some learn through observation.  Some learn through personal experience.  And, unfortunately, some of us never learn.  Obviously the “bad” son in the passage above had to learn through experience.  Maybe the “good” son learned through observation and was able to steer clear of more sinful choices, to which I’m sure made his parents very proud.  The parents knew that the “good” son would continue to be on the right path and would eventually inherit all that they had, which he didn’t seem to realize or appreciate until his father pointed it out (in verse 31).  He was safe and would be taken care of.  The “bad” son… they didn’t know where he was, didn’t know what he was to become and I’m sure they worried about him daily.  When he returned, as a parent I can only imagine how overjoyed they were!  Their son had learned his lesson – yes he took a longer and harder path but he learned it – and was ready to permanently rejoin the family and make their unit whole again. And they welcomed him and praised his decision with open arms.

If you are toying around with the idea of becoming a Christian know that God is already looking for you.  You are the son who is lost.  He is the father trying to find your heart – you have to let Him in.  There is no cookie-cutter way to finding your way to Christ – you can come from a relatively normal Christian upbringing or you can come from a sinful past – He and the Christian family will celebrate your return to Him all the same!  And once you have joined His family, as it says in verse 31, you are always with Him, and everything He has is yours.

Run by faith,

Lindsay

cleanin’ out my closet

Whenever I’m cleaning my room, things tend to look a whole lot worse before they even remotely look any better. When I announce to my husband that I’m overhauling our closet it’s usually met with a groan because he knows – he’s seen it – the closet literally explodes all over the room for hours and then only much, much later is perfectly organized and picked up.

When you discover you’ve literally got 5 identical pairs of black leggings staring back at you, amidst piles and piles of other junk you probably didn’t need in the first place, you have no one to blame but yourself. Taking an honest look at things, an inventory of what you’re about and where, specifically, you’re going in life or trying to accomplish can be surprising and the true catalyst for making long-term life changes. I guess sometimes you have to put it all out there – lay every piece of dirty laundry out to be seen by all – in order to get things back in order for good.

Maybe your “closet” is full of abusing your body – be it with food, drugs or alcohol. Maybe it’s sexual immorality. Or perhaps it’s disrespect, backstabbing or being a really bad friend or partner. Everyone has something hiding in their closet. The only person to be completely sinless is (of course) Jesus.

I know that once I’ve got my closet emptied I need to figure out 3 things: what I am ultimately trying to accomplish, what I am going to do with my current situation and identifying how I got here in the first place. Once I know those 3 things I can figure out what I need to do to get things back in good order.

Knowing how you want life to turn out might sound pretty simple. But goals such as “clean and sober,” or “twenty pounds lighter,” are easier said than done. How can we make these improvements more permanent? Sustainability is a key component to making successful improvements. Thankfully, there is somewhere you can go and not only find support but actually be among others in similar struggles, who are open and honest about them and who won’t judge you for your “messy closet”:  church.  Christians know that only Jesus is sinless. We know that everyone has struggles. We know that we will all make mistakes. Not a single soul in that pew is without sin. We also realize that if you’re trying to live your life with Christ as your guide then you are a work in progress… and being in progress is what it’s all about. Continuing to strive, not giving up or losing your focus on Him, is the key to staying on the path to getting your closet cleaned up. Doing everything you do to the glory of the One who made you. You might have your moments where you want to keep all 5 pairs of black leggings, but with your heart and mind focused on the desired end-result you’ll ultimately make the right decision and know what to do with no regrets. And if you have a moment where you’re not sure, you can turn to your friends in Christ and get the reality check you may need to get back on track. Just be prepared to do the same for them. We all walk by faith together.

And in scripture…

James 5:16, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

1 Thess 5:11, “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

and finally, Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

You and I can get our closets clean and sustainable, so long as we keep our focus on and learn to surrender to Him – the ultimate end result.

Run by faith,

Lindsay

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