"The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things,
and the God of peace will be with you."
-Philippians 4:9

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Intimate Relationship

I've been struggling with how to word this post for over a week now. Do I present the conversation and just leave you to draw your own conclusions? Do I elaborate on all of the ponderings of my heart that have occurred since this conversation? Is this even as mind-blowing to anyone else?

Because it is mind-blowing to me. In an utterly simple, natural, deeply intimate moment, I was gripped to the core of my being. By the faith of a child. Could it be so truly simple? Yes. It is. And in our adulthood and desire for knowledge and rightness we cloud and complicate the clear simplicity. And we lose so much because of it. We gain prestige, propriety, position... and we lose intimacy.

Let me share the short, sweet conversation with you. It happened as our family was sitting down to eat dinner together. Long ago, we gave up the standard "join hands 'round the table to give thanks before we partake;" not because we aren't thankful, but because it had been reduced to a religious act with little real meaning. Nobody really wanted to be the one called out to come up with the right words to say and sound all spiritual. Our gratitude didn't necessitate a formalized expression at a given moment and, in fact, that formalization is really difficult when you're wrestling four kids, two adults, a dog that's tall enough to try to eat off your plate as you bow your heads and close your eyes... so we lost the ritual that didn't work for us. Every now and then, one of the kids will ask to pray at that moment and we readily agree. Because we encourage them to talk to God anytime and anywhere they so choose; it is a relationship, after all, not a ritual. It doesn't require well-planned words or eloquent phrases voiced or written at designated points in time. That's what I believe. But it's hard to remember sometimes when you're afraid of seeming foolish (or unspiritual among those who do practice this ritual) or when you are asked to voice someone else's prayer and don't want to mess it up. See what I mean? We complicate simple communication.

This time was so simple, though, that it took my breath away. Nobody asked for a moment of prayer together. One of my kids just prayed. Without everyone having to stop and participate. Just like he was having a conversation with someone who was *right there* and who was intimately involved in our dinner service. I generally fix portioned plates at the kitchen counter and then place them on the table as there is little room for large dishes of food once all of us gather around to eat. As I placed the plate in front of Michael (my 7 year old), he looked up at me and said, "Thanks, Mom." Then, as he dug in his fork to gather his first bite, he very naturally said, "And thanks, God. It looks good."

Simple. Natural. Intimate.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Generation/Vocabulary Gap

Nicole (my 5 year old daughter) came into my room today and mumbled something unintelligible.

Me: What you talkin' about, Willis?

Nicole: Who is Willis?

Me: It's just a quote from an old show, sweetie. What did you need?

Nicole: I am NOT a quote! ... whatever that is...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Milestones and AHA! Moments

This morning was huge for me. It was time, according to my training schedule, for me to run a 5K. No biggie, you say? You've been running up to 6 miles, you say? Well, you'd be right. Sort of.

Until now, my training schedule has called for ever longer distances, but has not pushed a required pace. I have personally imposed a 15-min mile minimum to be sure I can handle the requirement for my race, but have given myself plenty of slack to walk rather than run the mileage. Which is fine, as my trainer calls for a run/walk system to increase endurance. But today was different. Today was the day to test the limits of that endurance.

The result? The **first time** I have run an entire 5k with only (3) 30-second walking breaks. Woohoo!!! And my pace? A 13-minute mile! Double woohoo!!! I'm so excited to see what God is building into my body and praying to see Him use this for His glory.

So...what's the AHA? It was so striking that I literally started laughing in the weight room. Sure am glad nobody was there; I would've had to explain myself. I was thinking, at about the 2k mark that this was surprisingly easy. That the verse in Isaiah held some truth..."they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint." How God Himself was carrying me through this running thing and increasing my endurance. How funny it was that on the other side of the wall from me, the community worship service was happening and that there, in the weight room, on my little treadmill, a worship service was happening, too... And then it hit me. The context of that verse.

"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who WAIT ON 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 40:28-31

Have I ever mentioned that I'm one of His kids that seem to need object lessons to get it? Hm. Hilarious laughter. Okay, Dad. I get it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I'm Listening. Oh, How You Speak...

The race registration fee will *not* be waived? ... Well...Then... Um... *That* didn't work out like I figured it would. And it was such a great idea, too! And other people have done it for their charities! What gives, God? Now this thing of racing to bring Daniel home has gone from weight on my heart to seriously burning fire in my spirit. I'm not going to have to watch this fall apart, am I? You wouldn't DO that! Your handprints are all over the whole thing up 'til now... oh. um. yeah. except for that little frantic emailing thing.

Okay. I'm listening. What's YOUR plan, Lord? ...


Oh. I get it. Wait. Sigh. Okay. I'll wait. I'll keep training, but I'll wait for You to provide. You know I stink at that, right? Just makin' sure.

Y'know, I don't recall ever being able to make the statement that a huge corporate entity was undeniably used to fulfill God's plan. He sure uses some crazy places to bring His plans about. Maybe so that there is no human explanation for what He does because #1: we'd never come up with the idea in the first place, and #2: none of us could coordinate the insane number of details that He does to come together seamlessly. He gets all the glory when we back off of our plans and let Him run with HIS! That's exactly what happened. God, in concert with the Walt Disney Corporation and Cigna Health Insurance provided the funds that have allowed me to run for Daniel. Go figure.

Each year, around the end of the year, capitalizing on the whole New Year's resolution trend, Disney and Cigna get together to organize a healthy living expo for Cast Members. The companies have a vested interest in the Cast choosing healthy lifestyles as it costs the company far less money to insure healthy individuals. This year, however, they added a big incentive. For each of 3 activities that any Cast Member ***AND THEIR SPOUSE*** completed, the company would offer a cash bonus. Really? Cash in hand? Just for filling out a health survey, completing a biometric screening, and meeting a range of body mass index? Seriously? Dan completed his activities... AND SO DID I!! God used my husband's employer and the health standing of my own body that had been working out in preparation for the race to provide the funds to enter the race. Tell me that anyone else could've arranged that? I didn't think so.

And that is how, on December 18, 2010, I was able to register for the Disney Princess Half Marathon on behalf of Daniel, thereby getting this 38-year-old body of mine involved in more intense training than it has ever undergone. God has used the internet, friends hundreds of miles apart, corporate entities that have no personal knowledge of this situation at all, and who knows how many other prayer warriors with a burden for the defenseless, to bring about another step toward the rescue of a sweet little boy. If you'll hop on over to Jessica Carlin's site, you can follow up on the continuing story of Daniel...and now, of the two others that God has led the Carlins to adopt: Parker and Josslyn.

I continue to train. Friends and family continue to pray. God has opened doors for me to place donation canisters in several businesses here in my area to contribute to the financial need involved in rescuing these precious little ones from an institution and showing them the love of God through the love of a family. That Reece's Rainbow link up at the top right of this site is a direct link to the Carlin's grant account if you'd like to contribute. This story is far from over. When I run on February 27, it will still stretch out ahead of all involved. When the Carlin family is whole and together, the story will continue to unfold. Because it is not just my story, not just the Carlin's story, not just Daniel's or any of the ones who have become involved. This is God's story of His love and redemption for *every* life He has created. And it's bigger than we ever imagined.

W.A.I.T. Get It? Good.

As you can imagine, after launching that email on its way to the race organizers, believing that I had seen and grasped God's answer to my money problem in entering the race and thereby raising money for Daniel, I fully expected to recieve an affirmative answer within short order. This was, after all, God's doing, right? Well...kinda.

He *did* lead me to put 2 and 2 together and miraculously come up with 4. He took my desire to become more fully myself and my desire to be his hands and feet to Daniel and gave me a flash of insight into how those two things could entwine to accomplish His purposes. But HE didn't really do the providing the funds through the waiver; that was MY idea. I researched. I planned. I saw. I was wrong. Not only did I discover this, but He made me WAIT to discover it. I suppose He knows that this hard-headed daughter of His needs some very visual lessons to get it sometimes.

I didn't hear back from the race committee the next day. Or the next. I don't know what these people were doing, but it sure wasn't answering email. Like anything was more important than giving me the tangible go-ahead to pursue my plan! Sheesh! While I waited for their reply, I continued to watch the race enrollment climb. It was unexpected to me. The race isn't until the end of February, so I figured that registration would not really get going until a month out. Wrong again. By mid-November, it was at 55% full. The next week, it was at 65% full. And still I had heard nothing. Time was running out and I had NO idea how to pay for registration except by the waiver.

Yes, I imagine God was having himself a healthy laugh at my expense about then. Not in a nasty way, but you know how you watch your kiddos walk right into a mess of their own making and you shake your head and chuckle before you go rescue them? Yeah. Like that. Because on November 24, I got my answer. Sorry, but the race entry fees themselves are being donated to the Children's Lymphoma Society. We're not waiving them for anyone.

But wait!! What about MY PLAN??!!

Yes, Ma'am.

I am writing this post in obedience and respect to my mother. I have been properly rebuked for leaving the last post "too short and with too much left unsaid." So... here ya go, Mom! A few more of those middle pieces now that we have the puzzle's outline finished! :D

I've already mentioned that I hate waiting. Usually, the way I get myself through it is by doing something: research, thought, making potential plans for what to do when the waiting ends, figuring out ways around the waiting... anything to occupy the time and make myself feel like there's maybe a *little* something I can do. I rarely wait quietly. Not proud of it, and I've actually grown some here, but it is what it is. This time was no different. I bought running shoes and researched training techniques. I selected a training schedule and set out on it. I researched fundraising options. I analyzed my area of influence and thought of how I could leverage it to help provide for Daniel. None of it came to anything.

One day as Daniel and the Princess Half Marathon were doing their little tango in my brain, I stopped by a blog that I frequent. It's over there in my sidebar: the Livesay [Haiti] one. The Livesay family are missionaries in Haiti, adoptive parents, and all-around neato people. Oh, and Tara runs. Like, marathons. Like, to raise money for stuff like feeding/clothing/providing medical care for mothers and children and building homes in post-earthquake Haiti. Her daughter even recently completed a half marathon for that purpose (and, I gather, has no desire to attempt that again. Encouraging.)I've seen their ChipIn's multiple times. But this time I really noticed it and suddenly Daniel and the Half Marathon stopped dancing and turned to stare me in the face right alongside that little ChipIn meter. What? Could TWO of the desires of my heart be met in one fell swoop?

You know what I did next, right? Well, after I quit jumping up and down because I finally saw what it was that I could do. And after praising God for putting it all together and blessing my waiting (oops, thought that was over at that point. WRONG!). Well, I did paragraph two of this post all over again. Research, contact, research some more. I wrote to Tara Livesay for advice on how to fundraise, I read all about running for charity, I shared my excitement with a friend who has been praying for Daniel and who I knew would lift me up in this. And then, in my research, I FOUND IT! The answer to the big money question for the race entry fee:

Many race organizers will waive the fee for those runners who are running for charity! Woohoo!! I fired off an email request to the organizers at Disney and anxiously awaited their confirmation reply!

***Sorry, Mom, I'm about to do it to you again. But y'all know this isn't the end, right? You see what just happened there? I got *part* of an answer and then, quite literally, ran with it. I quit waiting. Hm. Wonder how that worked out for me?

Friday, January 7, 2011

More Pieces of the Puzzle

Time for part two of the ongoing "how'd I get my 38-year-old body involved in a half-marathon, anyway" saga!

So, there I was. The weight of wanting to do something for sweet Daniel heavy on my heart. Every now and then I'd sit and try to figure out what I could do, how I could cut our slim budget to give, what talents I had that could be used to raise money. Consistently, I drew a blank. The answer always seemed to be "Wait. I'll show you. Later." This is where you need to know that I HATE WAITING! I do many things well. Waiting is not one of them. I am ungracious about it. Even when I know WHO it is that's telling me to do it. I *so* relate to the persistent widow in Scripture! I'd bet that more than once, He's answered me just to get me to shut up. ;-D

While I wracked my brain for solutions, God quietly worked His plan in His time. During this waiting time I was also experiencing some personal growth in other areas. You've heard me tell my story of burying who I am for years and rediscovering myself bit by bit as I have been freed from others' expectations. Another layer of that was happening. I began to awaken to the desire to rediscover the part of me that has always loved being active and athletic. The part that enjoys a physical challenge; sweat, aching muscles, and all. I enjoy achieving a really difficult goal. It was at this juncture that I became aware of the Disney Princess Half Marathon. It's run right here in my town; at the place where my husband works. It would be a bigger physical challenge than I've ever tackled. I was drawn to it immediately.

Being me, though, I was hesitant to just jump in with both feet. I needed to hear from someone else that this was actually an achievable goal. Not for someone else, but for ME. My husband was enthusiastic (even kept the kids one night so I could get running shoes), my coworkers were encouraging, my Facebook friends told me to go for it... my eyes glowed every time I thought about it. I *really* wanted to do this. So I began to train as if I was going to. But...

As with sponsoring Daniel, there was the little matter of lack of funds. The entry fee to the race was significantly more than I could spare. *sigh* Yet another thing to which I was consistently and repeatedly drawn and which it seemed there was no way I could do anything about. Daniel and the Princess Half Marathon shared space in my heart, my brain, and my prayers. Did I mention that I *hate waiting*?...