A Beautiful Picture

On the 4th of July, we were up at Lake Ann Baptist Camp near Traverse City visiting my parents for the weekend. My sister also came up for the holiday weekend. The 4th was on a Monday and started the second week of my new 8-week running schedule. This week I was to double my running time in each segment and cut my walking segments in half, going from running for one minute and walking for two to running for two minutes and walking for one minute ten times.

I was very nervous about this. I wasn’t sure I could double my running time after only a couple weeks of doing this (one week without the schedule and one week with it so far). And I was going to run with Vicki, who has been running for a long time now and was training for a half marathon at the time. She said she would just go at my pace though. She’s nice that way. :O)

So, I set up my segments on Run Keeper and we set out. I got through the first running segment – barely. Then the walking segment, at only a minute, went really fast. On the second running segment, I had to start walking toward the end of it. My lungs were about to give out on me and I just couldn’t take these longer segments. It was too much.

Vicki was great! She told me that if I can’t do two minute segements yet, don’t do it. She told me to find a different schedule that would be better for me. So , that day I ran when I could, and when I couldn’t we just walked fast. That day, I really understood that I need to go at my own pace, not the pace that someone else has set for me.

When I got home, I redid the schedule and made it into something that would be more gradual. Instead of two minute segments for the rest of the week, I did one minute and fifteen second segments and kept my two minutes of walking in between. I needed the recovery time. I learned that shouldn’t let other people tell me what pace I should be keeping, how fast I should be running, or how long. I realized that this was about me and God and no one else. This was going to be a discipline in setting the right pace, listening to my body, and listening to the Holy Spirit. That’s the most important thing – in running and in life. Not trying to please man or hurt myself trying to accomplish my own goals, but pleasing God and following his lead. Let him set the course, the pace (which can seem very slow in life at times), and the goals. Life is so much more rewarding and less stressful when we give it all to him.

As I worked on adding in more running time into my intervals over the next several weeks, my lungs got more and more accustomed to running. I started to come back from my run and not collapse in exhaustion. In fact, I was able to recovery faster and faster.

I’ve always experienced my asthmatic breathing when I exercise – my whole life. In fact, at times I would exercise with someone who had full-blown asthma and my body and lungs would react the same way theirs did. I started to get curious about this in these last few months. I don’t experience asthma when I’m not exercising, so Iwas confused as to why I would have these symptoms only when I exhert myself and not all the time. I’ve never been diagnosed with asthma, except when I was a baby and my parents were told I would outgrow it. So I did some research on the subject and found a lot of info on “exercise induced asthma.” I found a great article on it here: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/exercise-induced_asthma/page2_em.htm

It’s a good thing I didn’t know about this when I started. I might have used it as an excuse to not start running because in the article it clearly states that running is not recommended for people who have this. But, as I’m running this summer and fall, thinking about my lungs, thinking about the fact that I shouldn’t be able to do this, it overwhelms me that God asked me to take up this discipline. God wanted to show me that nothing is impossible with him. He wanted to show me that I can do anything he asks me to do because he will equip me, he will train me, and he will do it at his pace and in his way. As I am running through my beautiful neighborhood, dodging sprinklers and falling acorns (or thrown acorns from rascally squirrels), I am a moving picture of God’s strength in my weakness. It’s an almost daily object lesson for me that I can do so much more than I think I can. I’m out there in my weakness, and God is showing himself strong.

This seems to be God’s favorite way to work through people. He takes their weaknesses and uses them for his glory. God has given me the confidence that he can use any of my weaknesses for his glory. If he can turn me into a runner, he can turn me into anything. Whatever it is that God wants me to do, I know it will be him doing it. He has given me the confidence to say that I can do anything through Christ who strengthens me. Anything, that is, that God calls me to do.

The Gift of Trials

After a week of running, my sister told me about an app you can download on your phone to keep track of your running and to time your intervals for you. When I had started to time my running and walking intervals on my phone, I would have to reset it after each interval, and it was a little bit of a pain. So I downloaded RunKeeper onto my Droid – you can find it here: http://runkeeper.com/. It is fantastic! I didn’t even have to think about it or reset my times anymore. The nice little voice on RunKeeper told me when to run and when to walk to keep up my running schedule. Love it!

On another note, when I figured out that prayer was my key for taming my anxiety during running, I kind of devised a schedule during the run to pray about certain things during certain running segments. I always started out with worship – praising God for all that He is and all that He has done and is doing in my heart and life. Then on the next running segment, I would pray about what I had read in God’s Word that morning. In the next segment, I would give everything over to God – our future, our present, my feelings of wanting to control life. In the next segment, I would pray for my family. Then in the next, pray for friends and so on until I was on the last segment and my prayer was to finish strong.

During my prayer time of what I had read that morning, God gave me a new look at our life and what we had been going through. I had read Romans 9:1-29 before I took off on my run. Click here to read this passage: Romans 9:16-23. God is very clear about the fact that He is sovereign in everything that happens. He created Pharaoh to have a hard heart toward Him so the Israelites could see God’s power at work. In the trials of the plagues, God was making His glory and power known.

This brought me to the trial that Mike and I are going through, and helped me to see it in a whole new light. This trial is not something that has simply happened and God is helping us through it. This is something that God has brought about in our life to make His glory known to us. Everything God does, He does for a purpose, no matter if it seems good or bad to us. God has a perfect plan and He is accomplishing it in us. He helped me to realize that truth through His Word and the Holy Spirit in me. And later, I read in John Piper’s book, Desiring God, that in God’s sovereignty, He is pleased with everything He does to further His purpose. It may be difficult at the time, but in the long run, His good and perfect will is being done. And it is good.

So, what is His purpose in putting us in this trying time of life? He has shown me through this discipline of running that He is using it to change us into the people He needs us to be. He is training us in perseverance, discipline, the ability to rest in Him while our life is being tossed about. And most of all, showing me how much He cares about me and about my heart. If life were happy happy, joy joy, no trials or difficulties, how would we learn to depend on Him, grow closer to Him, and truly experience His transforming power? He has given us this trial because He loves us. He is asking me to develop this discipline of running so He can demonstrate that He cares about my heart so much that He would teach me about Himself and offer me His peace and joy.

So, yes, our trial still persists, but God’s glory is being displayed in it. And I know that it is because He loves me that He has given us the gift of this trial. When the sun does rise in our life someday and God moves us on to a new season, the sunrise will be more beautiful because of the clouds He has given us. They reflect His glory, just like clouds in the sky absorb the pink light of a breathtaking sunrise and make it bigger and more glorious. A blue sky is beautiful, but it doesn’t compare to a sky full of brilliant, glowing, pink clouds that start your morning out in awe of God.

Overcoming Anxiety

After a few days of running, I began to time my intervals on my cell phone instead of counting steps. Online, I had found  a schedule for beginner runners to eventually run for a half-hour straight. Here is what I found: The Runner’s World 8-Week Beginning Runner’s Training Program. I started this on June 27. When I started timing my running and walking segments, I realized that what I thought was about a minute of running when I was counting my steps, was really about 45 to 50 seconds! I had thought I was doing a whole lot more than I really was! So the first day of tackling this new running schedule (run 1 minute and walk 2 minutes 10 times) was a good challenge for me. It was way more running than I had been doing the previous week when I was merely counting steps, thinking I was running for a minute at a time.

But this new way of doing things – timing my running segments on my Droid instead of counting my steps – posed a new problem. When I was counting my steps, it was taking the edge off the anxiety I was experiencing during running because it took my mind off it and gave it something else to do. Now I didn’t have to count, so the anxiety was back full-force.

I did some research online about anxiety during running to see what I could do about it. I found a great article here: Anxiety and Running Solutions: Part III. Seems that this is pretty common. That made me feel better. And it gave great solutions for overcoming this anxiety based on how someone learns. For a kinetic (hands-on) learner, focus on the feel of your feet on the ground, the feel of your arms moving back and forth, etc… For an auditory (listening) learner, focus on the sound of your feet hitting the ground, the sound of the birds, the sound of traffic, etc… For an visual learner, focus on the colors of your surroundings, look at the texture of the ground you are running on, etc…

I discovered that I am an auditory learner, so the next time I went for a run, I tried to focus on the sounds that surrounded me. It helped, but not that much. It didn’t take the edge off like I wanted. This is when I started praying, and I discovered that praying is the key for me! So I prayed and prayed. I still had a tinge of anxiety when I got toward the end of a running segment, but nothing like what I had been experiencing.

So during all ten of my running segments, I praised God for being the Creator, being almighty, all-knowing, love. I thanked God for my family. I thanked God for specific things in them that I loved. I asked God to give them joy and encouragement. I asked God to help me to raise my daughter to love Him. I prayed about everything that came to mind.

And through this God showed me that this is not just the key for anxiety during running. It is the key for life. When that anxiety comes up and tries to take my breath away, praying to God, giving Him all my worries, giving Him all the uncertainty about our future, surrendering it all to Him is what brings peace. He brings peace and even joy in these crazy days. Yes, even joy.

God is love, and He’s got so much of it that it bubbles over into me. And it fills my heart so much that it bubbles over in joy. My life is uncertain right now. I have no idea where we will be in a month, six months, a year. No idea. But I know who does. I surrender it all to Him so that I can live in peace and joy. That is what you call a good trade!

God, here is my worry, here is my stress, here is my anxiety. I’ll give that all to you. And in exchange, I’ll gladly accept your peace and joy and love. What an awesome God we serve!

A Promise

On my fourth run, on a very cloudy June 22, about half-way through, my endometriosis pain crept up in my lower abdominal. For the last month or so, we hadn’t been able to afford to get the pills that I take to keep the symptoms and pain away, and it was back with a vengeance! At first it was just hurting a little, and I thought to myself, at least it’s not doubling-over pain. Then the pain went to the next level and became excruciating, doubling-over pain. But I decided that I was going to keep going. God asked me to take up this discipline and I wasn’t going to stop. After I made that decision, the pain got so bad that all I wanted to do was stop and sit down in the grass and recover, but I didn’t.

One thing I noticed was that I felt the  pain when I was walking, but not when I was running. During my last walking segment of the morning when I wasn’t sure I could run anymore, God spoke to my heart through the intense pain I was feeling. He said that this is like my life right now – hard, frustrating, and painful. But if I keep going, stay with God, and keep trusting, it will be so worth it! Our life has been very difficult over the last couple of years – losing a job, losing the home we built before we ever moved into it, losing another job because of the economy, losing the second home we built, not being paid by an employer, struggling emotionally and financially. It’s been tough, to say the least.

So I told God, “Okay, I’ll keep going,” and I started to run. The running was difficult, but the pain went away. After my minute of running, I went back to walking and the pain came back full-force. I felt God say to my heart, “When you slow down in life and start wallowing in your pain (which I had done the day before about our life circumstances), that’s when you really feel it.”

I was almost home now. I could see our condo. I wasn’t planning on it, but after hearing what God was saying to my heart, I gave it one more burst of running. I put the pain aside and went for it. And guess what happened then. The sun came out from behind the clouds for the first time that morning. It was so unexpected. It felt like God was using it to show me that the sun will come out again in our life, and it filled my heart with joy and hope.

It was so amazing to experience the Spirit in my heart, speaking to me, giving me hope for the future. I hadn’t experienced a personal message like that in years. I felt like God was giving me my very own promise from Him. A message from His heart to mine. Everything was going to be okay. God took my mantra for running and turned it into a promise from Him. Your life is hard and frustrating right now. But just keep trusting me, and it will be so worth it.

I went home and told Mike, and we were both extremely encouraged. From that day on, I have had full confidence that God will take care of us and that if we stick with Him, it is going to be worth it!

Thank you, God, for giving me such confidence in you.

A new mantra

That week I continued what I was doing each day, adding more steps in each time. I would count each time my right foot hit the ground as one step. I had tried a few different ways of keeping track of how far I ran during a given segment. I tried running from a certain tree to a certain mail box up ahead, but I experienced a lot of anxiety this way. Several yards before I got to my next landmark, my chest would fill with anxiety until I reached it and started walking again. Sometimes it was so bad that I didn’t even make it to the landmark I was shooting for – I just had to stop running short of my goal because this anxious feeling was too much.

But I figured out that when I counted, it made it a little better. I would still get anxious toward the end of each running segment, but it took the edge off.

During one of those first runs, my mind went back to a few days before I started my daily running/walking routine when I decided to reinstall Windows on our computer. There were several things that weren’t working – sound, some video, and a few other annoying things. We had lived with it this way for about a year, and it was time to do something about it! So I saved all of our documents to our laptop and started the process.

It didn’t go smoothly. After I reinstalled Windows, the sound still didn’t work, the video didn’t work, and now we had a new problem. I couldn’t get online! I was so frustrated and could not figure out how to fix any of it. I thought I had created a giant paperweight! I wished I hadn’t messed with it in first place. Even if we didn’t have sound and video, we still at least had a functioning computer before this.

Despite my frustration, I kept trying and finagling. After an extremely frustrating two days … I fixed it! I figured it out! Everything! I fixed the connection problem, the sound, the video, and even more! I got the wi-fi to work again, and I thought our router had died several months ago!

After the computer was up and running, I said to myself, “That was very hard and very frustrating, but it was so worth it!”

So in that first week of running, I took that up as my mantra. This is going to be very hard, this is going to be very frustrating, but in the end, it will be so worth it! This kept me going through the exhaustion and anxiety, and helped me to stick with my goals.

What I didn’t know at the time was that in the next few days, God was going to take that mantra to a whole ‘nother level!

Running – A new thing for me

In June of this year (2011), I was just insane enough to decide that I was going to try running. This blog will chronicle my journey and the incredible things God has been teaching me because of it.

First of all, I want you to know that I hate cardio. My body was not created for strenuous exercise. My lungs are not runner’s lungs. I practically hyperventilate after just one minute of aerobic exercise. I’ve done exercise to videos – Tae Bo, pilates, low-impact exercises – and walking, but that’s about as much as my body could take, and that was pushing it. I never envisioned myself as a runner!

So what made me, someone who hates cardio, decide to take up running? A couple years ago, my sister started running. It gave me that first inkling that I should think about running, but it didn’t last long. My sister is a natural athlete, so I just thought that wasn’t something I could do, but I was happy for her and proud of her.

Then a year or so later, I saw on facebook that a friend of mine started running, and like me, she didn’t seem to be naturally athletic. That really got me thinking! And the final straw was seeing another friend on facebook who started running. I watched their progress, saw them eventually post pictures of 5K’s they ran in, and I started to get the bug.

One weekend in June, amidst all of this, God placed on my heart to do a fast. The biggest reason for this three-day fast was that in the past year, I’d had no discipline in my eating and exercising. As most of you know, God has placed my husband and me in a time of unemployment, and it has been taking its toll on us mentally. I wanted to eat right, but I also wanted the comfort of food. I kept telling myself that I would get back to a healthy lifestyle when our life got happier. Finally, at the start of the summer, I decided that I couldn’t wait for happier times, I needed get some discipline back into my life. I needed to stop waiting for a better time, and just do it. I made the decision that the time is now, and I needed to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading and do this fast.

So I went on a three-day juice fast, and besides the headache on the first day from caffeine withdrawals, I was amazed at how easy it was. I devoted my time to my family and constant prayer. After the fast was over, I thought that I should do this once a week and maybe I could lose some weight in the process. I thought that maybe God was leading me into the discipline of fasting as a way of life. I tried it the next week, and it was awful! It was so hard, and I was miserable. I came away feeling that I had not been led into that second fast like I had been the first – that it came out of my own mind as a way to try to lose weight, and I did it for the wrong reasons.

After that, I began wondering if running was the discipline that God wanted me to take up, but I had so many excuses. I didn’t have good running shoes. I didn’t have the right clothing. My body can’t handle it. It took me a few weeks, but I finally decided that I just needed to go for it.

On June 18, I got up early. I put on my old, off-brand running shoes. I put on khaki shorts (that were SO not running shorts). I put on a cotton t-shirt (also, SO not meant for running). I said adios to my husband and daughter and got out there and did it.

Here’s what I did that day. I walked a few minutes to get warmed up. Then I ran for 60 steps. After the 60 steps, I was gasping for air, my lungs sounding asthmatic. It took several minutes of walking for my breathing to calm down. After I felt a little more back to normal, I ran for another 60 steps, and did the whole asthmatic breathing routine again. I did six running segments that day with walking in between, and I literally collapsed on the couch when I got back home. My husband tried asking me how it went, and I put my hand up and wheezed out the words “can’t talk!” I was so exhausted and out of breath. I was sweaty and hot and gasping for air.

After about an hour of recovery, it started to sink in … I DID IT! I could hardly believe that I had run! Even though it was six very short segments, I had done it! It was an incredible feeling! I had accomplished something that I had never even thought about trying before, something I thought I couldn’t do, and … I DID IT!