health

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How to Fall From Grace

Published July 9, 2018 by Dawn

It turns out a sense of humor is something of the Divine. God’s got jokes. Don’t believe me? Listen to this …

Keep in mind that what I am about to tell you happened in a matter of nanoseconds. All of it. It was rather instantaneous, which makes it even more comical. It’d use the word “impactful” but that’s a pun that hurts a little. You’ll see why …

I was less than two minutes into my run this morning when it happened. I looked up to read the sermon sign at this church along my route: “How to Fall from Grace.” My sense of comical irony kicked in as I thought to myself, “Who would want to know how to fall from grace?”

BAM! The sidewalk took me for a kiss out of nowhere. I fell hard … right in front of the church sign. Stupid comical irony … wasn’t dead yet. I looked up after feeling the hurt and laughed out loud. God had put the smack-down on my sense of humor to remind me that falling from grace is no laughing matter. Lesson learned?

No one in their right mind plans a fall. Falling hurts. It also tears you up a little (or a lot, depending on how far you fall). The aftermath of falling is open wounds, constant pain and a desperate need to heal a bit. Thankfully, I am just a little scuffed up. My hands, wrists and right knee took the fall and I’ll be better in no time.

Sometimes, we just get tripped up in life. Little did I know there was an uneven bit of sidewalk that I’ve never had a problem with until today. I didn’t even know it was there! Likewise, there are pitfalls in life we don’t see coming because we aren’t paying attention, or we aren’t expecting them. We get tripped up because Satan sets a snare and we step into it just the right way to cause a fall. I have stepped over that part of the sidewalk and avoided that fall for several years but today was the day it took me down. It’s like that when Satan sets us up. That’s why we have to be vigilant while running this race. Because he’s set snares everywhere.

The fall might hurt, but Satan isn’t victorious because we fall. He’s only victorious if we turn away or stop pursuing God after the fall. In spite of the pain, we have to get up and keep going. I did that this morning, which is so abnormal for me. I like my couch and a hot tea, and since I was two-tenths of a mile into a two-and-a-half mile run, turning around would have made perfect sense. I could have nursed my wounds, taken it easy, and excused myself from working out. But it was just a fall! I poured a little water over my palms to clean the dirt and blood off, put my earbud back in and kept going. I had to keep pressing on toward the mark, and so do you, friend. Take time to rest and heal, but get back up and keep moving forward in your walk with God. Satan is only victorious if you quit!

 

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Accidentally Running My Best

Published April 26, 2017 by Dawn

I just accidentally ran 3.75 miles.

You think I’m joking, but no … I am serious. And seriously terrified of how this is going to feel tomorrow. I don’t even know how this happened! Well, wait, yes I do. Here’s what happened:

My average run is a typical 5k. Slightly over three if I push myself, but no more than three most times. I run every other day, but mostly only three times a week. Never two days in a row. I need my heal-time.

Today, I went to my running guru, Stone. He’s the track coach at school and he works just a Stone’s throw away … see what I did there … Ha! Okay, I’ll quit.

Anyway, I asked him what his best advice was for me to transition to running every day. I told him my routine, and he suggested scaling my runs back to two miles and running every day until I can build back up to three miles on a daily. So that was my original plan when I started out today. I checked the weather on my five-minute warm-up walk and noticed it was going to rain tomorrow, and I don’t run in thunderstorms … rain ruins shoes. A light drizzle is okay, but storms are a NO. Do you see how anal I am? Now you must believe that this was all an accident!

I wavered, trying to decide whether to do two, or go ahead and do three since tomorrow was an off day. Since I’m goal oriented, I had to make a decision. I can’t just play it by ear because I’m a quitter if I don’t have a definite goal. Two or three it was, depending on how I felt at the end of two … do you see what I did there? This was the beginning of my losing control.

I ran one mile. My first is on that notorious hill that’s uphill both ways. I hate it, but it adds time and keeps me close to home. My first mile also includes “Quitter’s Hill.” This is the hill I walk almost every time I come up on it. If I can run this hill (I’ve only done it a handful of times), I can run the rest of three miles no problem. I lowered my head on Quitter’s Hill and pushed myself. I couldn’t look up because I did not want to see what was left of it, I just wanted to be over it. Halfway up it, I hear a loud, booming voice say, “You’re doing great! Keep going!” I looked up, fully expecting God to be wearing my favorite colors and waving a fan flag, but it was just a guy standing on his back porch. He said, “That hills a killer!” I laughed and replied, “Yeah it it. I hate it!” He hollered back, “You’re almost there, keep going!”

With encouragement like that, how could I quit? I waved, pushed my head back down and pressed harder into my foot falls. Finally, I crested the hill and began a slow descent. Not too long afterward, I heard my first mile on the app. Twelve minutes, eight seconds. I just kept going. My legs weren’t hurting yet, so I hit my second mile with a relish. I was really surprised when I heard my second mile time: ten minutes, twenty-nine seconds.

Guys! That’s a minutes, thirty-nine less! That’s a full minutes less than my usual second mile. This is where it happened. This is where I lost all control. I could have run forever on that high, so I pushed into my third mile with such gusto and not long afterward heard it: my third mile time. It was nine, fifty-six. At this point, I knew I had to get home but I couldn’t stop. I kept running. I ran three and three-fourths miles this evening. I didn’t mean to, but isn’t it amazing what a little bit of Christ-like encouragement and seeing victories can do to a person! It makes one lose control! In a good way!

Keep running the race, friend. Notice and acknowledge the little victories. Don’t give up, press on! And if you’re not running at the moment, be Jesus. Be an encourager. We’re all in this together. Let’s do this thing, and let’s do it well!

 

I Know I Can, I Know I Can!

Published March 27, 2017 by Dawn

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

Last Wednesday was the culmination of two months of faithful training. I started out to complete my first uninterrupted 5k run. I had two months to scout out the various routes around town and pick my favorite. I didn’t pick the easiest; I picked the one that kept me closest to home. The trade-off was a hill that tripped me up every time. I always have to walk this hill; I never make it up at a jog, even. But having started out, I was headed in that direction and there was no turning back. I’m stubborn like that.

I walked for five to warm up, then hit my usual stride. I didn’t start out fast, but hit the stride I was going to have to endure for the next thirty minutes. The initial part of this run is uphill, leveling out near a school, then dipping down one street, up to another and looping around to a consistent hill before beginning a descent that would last long enough to prepare my muscles for the next incline. This is the part that kicked my butt every time I attempted it. I made it up the first hill, ran the level part, and began the dip.

The incline coming out of the dip always makes my muscles scream in agony and makes a stop inevitable. Wednesday, though, I lowered my head and started to pray: “Lord, I can’t do this without you. I will never accept this hill as surmountable unless you give me strength right now and help me to endure the pain.” My legs continued at the same pace without faltering, even though the pain was intense. I pushed hard and kept my head low. I was tempted to look up and see how much further I had to the crest of the hill, but that was what always made me stop – looking at the distance and telling myself I can’t possibly make it that far. I decided to keep my head down and started telling myself, “One more step!” It became my mantra, out with every breath. “One more step.” I didn’t look up at all to gauge my progress. I just focused on that next step and before long, I was up and over the hill and beginning to feel the strain on my muscles ease as the road descended back to level ground.

By the time I checked the clock, I was fifteen minutes in and feeling like I just started running. My legs felt alive with strength and I knew then that I was going to make it the whole way. It wasn’t just because of my muscles, though, it was mostly because of my mindset. My muscles would strain again when I hit the bottom of the big hill and had to start running up another. My muscles would scream  and ache and resist the forward motion, but I was determined in my heart and mind that I could overcome that pain and finish what I started. I determined not to measure my ability by the distance left to travel but to consider my past performances and persevere in the next goal. The one thing that made all of this possible: keeping my head down, focusing on my God and the next step in front of me.

This is us in life. We face so many uphill battles, sooner or later, weariness and fatigue sets in and if you’re anything like me, you look at the fight left to go and measure it against your strength and throw your hands up in hopelessness. The secret to victory: focus. Don’t focus on the uphill battle. Don’t focus on the seeming endlessness. Narrow your focus to one thing: the face of God. Train yourself to focus on God in these times. Pray. Speak to Him. Ask for strength to endure. Trust in His providence. Trust that He will get you through it as you are faithful to do all that you know to do. Take the next step, and the next, and the next until you are over it and moving along into something else. This too shall pass, they say. Let it. Be strengthened in it. Grow. Press through. Because on the other side of that hill is most likely a brief reprieve and then another. But with the strength you gain from one, you will be less tried the next. You and I both can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

 

Pressing On

Published March 25, 2016 by Dawn

Heart pounding in my chest, I pushed myself to keep running even though every muscle in my body was screaming at me to stop. “I can do this.”

I spoke it out loud, trying to convince myself that I could, in fact, do this. My goal was just ahead. I had told myself, “Get to the other end of that church parking lot, or make it to the end of your timer.” Both were farther off than I thought I could endure, but I kept telling myself, “I can do this.”

I lowered my eyes and kept moving, trying to keep my focus off the distance between me and the finish. It was my third set of nine minutes. I had never done nine minutes in a row before, and there I was on my last set. Three in one night. I was hurting. Straining. Refusing to give up.

“I can do this.” Unwilling to accept defeat so close to finishing it, I pushed myself harder. My throat was so dry from panting. When I started, breathing was easy. By this time, it was essential, but almost impossible. My lips were cracked from the air moving over them so quickly and I was parched. “I can do this.”

I kept saying it to myself, willing myself to do what I knew at this point I could not. I wanted to quit so badly, but something in me kept reaching for the mark. There it was. I was so close to the end of the parking lot, and my alarm still had not gone off. It had to be close to done too. Would I stop when I got there and miss out on a few seconds, or could I push myself past the brink and make the time? “I can do this!”

I was going for it. I was passing the end of the parking lot if it came to it, because I was determined to not let myself down. What’s a few more seconds when your body has already been defeated by your will? I leaned forward in determination and sped up to counteract the command my mind had already sent to my legs to stop. “I can do this!” I told myself. Just a little more!

Beep! Beep! Beep! The timer went off right as my foot hit the very end of the church parking lot asphalt. I was done. I stopped and leaned over, gulping the air and smiling in satisfaction. I had finished it! My last set of nine. My three miles. It was done. I had achieved what I thought was impossible. I had pressed on despite the pain of it. I had forced myself to defy flesh and pursue the end mark. I was victorious!!

******

There’s a compelling doctrine circulating that tells us that God wants us happy. Healthy, wealthy and pain-free. Enough goodness and enough faith will bring about His abundant blessings. And it’s all a bunch of hogwash.

Paul urges us to press on toward the mark for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). He didn’t pen this letter from a lofty Caribbean escape, or from the backseat of his Lincoln. He wrote to the Philippians while in prison. And he wasn’t there because his life was a failure. He was there because he was doing the will of God and the forces of hell had come against him. Yet he was pressing on!

So many of us are wondering what we’ve done wrong because God isn’t blessing us. Or isn’t hardly speaking at the moment. Our lives don’t look anything like what the mega-preacher said it would, and we wonder how we can be of so little faith and yet feel like we believe wholeheartedly. There’s a missing link. Why are we sick? Feeling abandoned? Why are we not hearing His voice? We wonder what is so wrong in us that God is sitting in silence watching our worthless efforts instead of saving us.

Can I offer you this? How about nothing. Nothing is wrong with us. The missing link is this: the truth. The truth is God is not nearly as obsessed with our happiness as we are. He is obsessed with holiness. Without it none shall see God (Hebrews 12:14). And our trials are not evidence of our failure to have faith, they are meant to purify us (Isaiah 48:10, Daniel 12:10).

Unrequited Love

Published September 21, 2014 by Dawn

I’m in love with him. I’m not admitting anything he doesn’t already know. He knows. I don’t know what it means to him, but for now, it’s not been reciprocated. My Father is holding my heart well in this. But yesterday, something shattered my peace and fortitude: he told me he’d been diagnosed with cancer. Oh dear God, help me.

I’m not afraid for his life. I believe God has plans for him. Cancer can’t have him. I know he’ll make it through. But I am in anguish over the battle to come. Cancer is an unforgiving foe, relentless and cruel. I’ve watched the enemy beat him up for years in many different ways, but I feel like the battle just intensified quite drastically, and all the sudden, I wish I could do something besides pray!

Don’t get me wrong, I know prayer is the most powerful thing we can do for each other. But I’m thinking of things more practical. After all, who will be with him in the season ahead? Who will comfort him with good food and reasons to laugh when he needs it most? Who will encourage him when he feels weak? Who will hold his hand and cry with him? Who will kiss his tears and hold him when he’s feeling fragile? Who will be strong for him? Who will take care of him, take care of his house and his needs? I’m sure there are others who can and will, but something is awakening in me that so desperately desires to be that person in this season of his life.

I took all this to the foot of the cross yesterday. I poured out my anguish before the Lord, trying to be released from the burden of these questions and I said, “Lord, help me! I’m in love with someone who needs me, but doesn’t want me.” And Jesus came, wrapped His arms around me and said, “Me too.”