Friday, April 29, 2016

Run for Your Life!

Do you remember threatening to run away from home when you were young? What child hasn't? My daughter once informed me that she was running away, so I pulled down her little pink Barbie suitcase from the top shelf in her closet, placed it on the bed, and very kindly asked her if she'd like me to help her pack. She cried, and quickly changed her mind.

I ran away when I was 18. Having always tended toward the dramatic, I didn't just go across town to my friend's house. No, I had to go clear across the country to California. I wanted to get as far away as I could. But I only ran, as the saying goes, "from the frying pan into the fire." My problems didn't go away. They followed me.

My mother and I were reminiscing recently about how I ran track in ninth grade. I wasn't great or fast but I tried my best, and I had fun. She recalled a meet where she was sitting in the stands watching me sprint around the track and said to the person next to her, "That's my daughter." Typical of parents, right? The proud mama pointing out the girl who is not quite in the lead, but not at the end either. But I was a child of divorce and it was still fresh and raw for all of us. 

She continued. "Yes, that's my daughter, and she's running for her life." Then she cried. We seem to do a lot of that in our family. 

Forty plus years later after she told me this story, I pondered that statement. Had I been running for my life? Did I run track to get away from something? Did I go across the country to escape? Sure I did. That's why we run away. To escape the prison we feel trapped in. 

But in the heat of the moment, we don't stop to think rationally. We don't realize that while we are running from something, we are always running to something. Always.

If we don't have clear direction on what we are running to, we will most likely end up trotting in circles, back to what we were running from. It may look and feel different, but if we don't deal with what we're running from, we'll only keep returning to it--just like a dog returns to its vomit. Gross, I know, but hey, it's in the Bible. (And have you ever watched a dog? Really, they do that.)

As a dog returns to its vomit, so fools repeat their folly 
Proverbs 26:11

It is only when we stop running that we can face the demons of our past, the fears that chase us, and the lies that tell us that no one loves us, accepts us, understands us, or appreciates us. When we stop running for our lives, we realize how exhausted we have become. 

And if we ask, the Holy Spirit helps us catch our breath and gives us the strength to run to God. And the best part is--we don't even have to physically exert ourselves to get there. All we need to do is turn around and there He is. We find the love, acceptance, understanding, and appreciation we so desperately craved. All those years we wasted running. He gives us all of this and more.

Forty something years later, I'm running for my life again. This time, I'm doing it for all the right reasons. I'm running away from apathetic attitudes and ignorant habits and running toward better overall health. There is no metaphor associated with my physical running. But before I tie my sneakers, I always look up and run to God. I can't get through life without Him.

Blessings, as you run your race,

Running to You-Bethany Worship

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Permission to Walk

I'm baaack!

Lately, I've been irritable, cranky, and somewhat sad for no apparent reason. I complain and find fault with everyone. I avoid tasks, and prefer instead to hide in my office at my computer or behind a book. I feel like I've slipped back into the old me, and I wonder what happened to the me who lived life along the humerus--the funny bone. I feel like I'm just plugging along through life, like every other poor slob.

(Aren't you glad I decided to come back? What an uplifting post!)

Today, I asked myself, "What happened to my joy?" 

Myself didn't answer. No surprise there.

I think I just let it slip away. I have chosen to live in the negative instead of the positive. It's really not all that difficult to figure out. Nor is it that tough to change. It's all about choices. We have a lot more power over our moods than we think.

Since I avoided my lunchtime run today by doing errands instead (see...choices!), I decided to end my work day with an invigorating jog. Except that I felt tired and overwhelmed. 

"I can't do it all," I said. The dog looked at me. She didn't care. She just wanted her dinner. 

"I can't work full time and write a novel and exercise and cook a healthy dinner, and garden and stay connected with people and pray and...I just can't do it all, God."

He was quiet too. It's not like He doesn't already know. And besides, who asked me to do all those things (except work)?

I dragged my sorry butt out the door and started my run, expecting it to perk me up. Except it didn't. My feet hurt for some reason, and I felt like I was dragging myself along. 

I kept waiting for the endorphins to kick in, to make me feel happy, to give me that spark of energy, and it just never happened. I kept pushing, but when I got to a hill, I did something very important.

I gave myself permission to walk.

I time my runs, so I'm always trying to beat my own time. Why? Because I'm competitive. But why can't I just enjoy the exercise? Why do I always have to be in such fierce competition with myself? Does being this way invite burn-out?

It's okay to slow down and walk sometimes. It's okay to give ourselves permission not to run the race to the point of exhaustion. It's okay to proclaim an end to the race, and even to withdraw from the competition. When we do that we rediscover joy. 

While I was walking, I realized that there are things that I love doing that when I'm not doing them, I'm sad or cranky or irritable (or all three!). One of those things is blogging. 

I've been thinking of putting a compilation of stories together in the form of an e-book for about a year. As much as the idea appeals to me, and as much as I have a desire to do this, and as much as I have a lot of the material already written, I simply don't have the extra time. I mean, how many books can I write at once? Really!

While I was walking up that hill, I wondered why I was saving these little stories for something down the road, when I could be sharing them on my blog? Isn't that what a blog is all about? And don't my readers enjoy my self-deprecating humor? And don't I enjoy sharing those stories?

As I neared the crest of the hill, I began my run again. Suddenly, I couldn't wait to get home and blog. Yes, I'm still immersed in writing this novel--in fact, I'm taking a writing class on top of everything else. It would seem that by blogging, I'm adding more to what I said I already can't do. 

But I find joy in blogging. I always have. A friend told me that by writing and publishing a post, I've invited you, the reader into my prayer closet. I find life lessons in writing, and I publish them because I want to share them with you. So I guess she's right.

For now, I'm giving myself permission to walk. I'm just going to share my little stories with my readers as God leads. I'm not going to go crazy creating graphics. I don't need to prove anything or compete with the big-name bloggers. I can't anyway. I may or may not join a "link-up" party. If I feel an urge to run with a post, I will. But for now, I'm just gonna be me and walk this bloggy road for awhile.

I think that joy often eludes us when we try to do too much and our life becomes out of control. Or when our routines become so boring that we think, like Solomon, "It's all meaningless--chasing after the wind."

But when we give ourselves permission to walk, when we slow down enough to enjoy life, and when we allow ourselves to be continually redefined and refined by God---that's when a little glimmer of joy appears. 

And it only takes a spark of joy to get the fire going.

Blessings along the path as we chase our joy together,

Monday, April 11, 2016

Bloggy Break

When I first started blogging I had so much to say! I wrote every day. I found lessons in everyday situations. God spoke to me through these lessons and I passed them on to you.

That was two and a half years ago! I can't believe I've been blogging that long!

My first post was September 23, 2013. It was all about being on the trail with God. Hubbles didn't even have the name Hubbles yet, and we still had Psycho Dog. 

If you're a regular reader, you know that I only post once a week now. I don't seem to have as much to say as I did in the beginning. It reminds me of how we start our Christian walk--or any new and exciting thing--with zeal and fervor, and eventually--over time--that fire wanes to a slow sizzle. 

I've often heard this scripture quoted:

Do not despise small beginnings...
(for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel's hand). 
Zechariah 4:10

I know there is more to that verse than what meets the eye. It's not really about us in today's world...but it is. There is something wonderful and innocent and pure about the beginning.

Of course, I'm by no means a big name out in the blogging world--or any world for that matter (except in God's world. He thinks I'm great). And I'm glad I'm not. But after almost 450 posts, I need a break.

I started writing a novel in January, and I'm currently at a little over 50,000 words. If that sounds like a lot, allow me to inform you that the average novel has between 80,000 and 100,000 words, and it takes me a solid hour to write two or three pages, which is about 1000-1500 words. So I'm about halfway through. Right now, this is where my focus is, so I desperately need this blogging break in order to concentrate on finishing by my targeted June date (a goal I've set for myself).

If you remember my last post, I discussed being a starter or a finisher. I'm a starter. I tend to get to the middle of something and when I feel stuck, I quit. I'm determined not to do that to my characters. Quite frankly, I've fallen in love with them, and I can't leave them suspended!

The working title of my book is The Color of God. I never set out to write a book on racism or alcoholism, but that's where it's going. I'm not a social issues kind of person; in fact, I'm sort of ignorant when it comes to things like that. I'd rather not discuss it or read about it, much less write about it! But these feisty little characters tend to write the story, not me.

The opening sentence was something that a young woman in my church told me at Christmas this year:

The first time I snuck out of the house I was eight years old. I wanted to go to church.

I thought that was fascinating and wondered what I could do with it in a story. I never dreamed it would turn into a novel. Then, one night, the title came to me. That's all I had. 

Here's a quick synopsis:

Charlie Sullivan is six years old when she almost drowns and wonders if she saw God (true story-mine). Three years later, during the summer of 1970, she determines to discover the colors of God--not skin color, but the full color spectrum. Her parents are not church going people, and she finds a mentor in a wonderful older African-American woman through her bi-racial best friend, Marcus. When Charlie stumbles on some pictures from her alcoholic mother's past, she believes there may be secrets that no one is telling her--secrets that could change her life, but she's not even sure what those secrets are.

As she grows up and her mother's alcoholism worsens, Charlie distances herself from her family, until a tragedy brings her home, where she discovers that the true color of God is unseen, but found in forgiveness.

That's all I can tell you right now. I'll keep you posted along the way--maybe. At the very least, I'll post a "Yay, I'm finally done!" blog.

I re-read my first post before adding the link to this post (if you missed it above, here it is again). It's all about walking closely and in tune with God. Delighting in Him. 

When it's time to write, I just show up. I trust that God will be there every time. And He always is. I'm not so naive as to believe that "God is writing my book." It's not that good. If it were, it would become the 67th book in the (Protestant) Bible. But I will say that He is definitely guiding my hand.

Is there something that you committed to and quit? Are you stuck right now and considering quitting? What would happen if you just showed up and asked Him to guide you? What would happen if you dusted off your dream and allowed God to resurrect it, just as He did His own Son from the grave? Come on, walk with me. As tough as it may be, as scary as it is--that unknown--do it anyway!

I can't say when I'll be back, but I hope that in the meantime, you'll be deep in the midst of pursuing your dream. Stay close to Him.

Please don't forget me. I won't forget you. Feel free to contact me and let me know what's going on in your life. 

I especially welcome stories from anyone who lived with an alcoholic mother (since mine is not and never was one). Of course, all stories would be considered confidential, but I might include your name in the acknowledgements page, if you're agreeable to that.

I love you, dear one.

Blessings Along the Path,

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Monday, April 4, 2016

Are You a Starter or a Finisher?

Are you a starter or a finisher? 

Do you tend to begin a project with enthusiasm then fizzle out somewhere in the middle? Do you have more unfinished books then completed ones? Does your excitement about a project wane after a few days, weeks or months?

Maybe you are the one who procrastinates, driving others crazy with excuses as to why you haven't started. Does that procrastination turn into a last minute frenzy to get the project done a week before the deadline? Do you tie up all your lose ends, finish the project and take some time off before tackling the next one?

I am a starter. Hubbles is a finisher. I think I amuse him with all the things I excitedly begin and never finish. He drives me crazy with his procrastination. Several years ago, we had an opportunity to relocate. His company promised the same job with the same pay in an area with a lower cost of living. The thought of buying a house with cash (and most definitely a pool!) in a warmer climate appealed to me. I kept asking him if he'd talked to his boss yet, and he always had a reason why he hadn't. Eventually, the opportunity closed and I was just a tad resentful, but forgot about it. A few years later, he told me that a good number of the people who relocated had lost their jobs. That was when I realized that his procrastination wasn't such a bad thing, and my impulsiveness wasn't such a great thing.

Luckily, we balance each other. Yes, I have to "remind" him at times, but once he begins the project, he patiently sees it to its completion. Always.

Me...not so much. I love trying new things and I get bored of the old. I've moved so many times, that my mother once told me I'm "shanty Irish." (which is like Irish white trash I suppose). Instead of cleaning my house, I just moved into another, cleaner one. She was kidding, of course (I think).

I make spontaneous decisions and excited commitments that turn out to be tedious and time-consuming, then I feel resentful. As I age, I'm's a slow process to be someone you're not wired to be.

Which brings me back to the first question: 

Are you a starter or a finisher?

Everyone has certain aspects of their personalities that they don't like and wish they could change. Sometimes we can, but often, we discover that we're just hard-wired that way. 

In her book, Wired That Way, Marita Littauer explains the four basic personalities:

  • Powerful Choleric
  • Popular Sanguine
  • Peaceful Phlegmatic and 
  • Perfect Melancholy

An introverted Phlegmatic's basic desire is to have peace, and that person controls others (and situations) by procrastinating. 

A Sanguine's extroverted personality just wants to have fun and controls by charm (Since I didn't go into the other two, can you guess which two Hubbles and I are?)

I find personality profiles to be fascinating. When you take these tests (and answer honestly, not with the answer of the traits you'd like to have!), it is truly amazing and eye-opening how right on they are. 

If we have been hard-wired with certain traits, then why do we berate ourselves when we fall short of our own expectations--expectations that we often truly can't meet?

Because we see in others what we wish we had in ourselves. And try as we might, we just can't be that way. I can't relax in a recliner for hours watching Youtube videos and old movies like my spouse can. I find that to be a waste of time.There are too many other fun things to do. 

Conversely, he watches me and tells me that I don't know how to relax. He's right. For a Sanguine, there is no relaxing. Not if there's a party going on, and if there is, I need to know why I wasn't invited. If there's not, I'll make one. 

Dear reader, don't you know that God knew what He was doing when he fashioned us? If he made us all to be Phlegmatics, nothing would get done. If we were all Cholerics (their basic desire is control and uses threats of anger to control others), no one would ever stop working. And if the world was made up of moody Melancholies, no one would be allowed to make a mistake, because their driving force is perfection. 

None of these traits are bad or wrong. They're all part of our internal design--God's design.

So go ahead and celebrate the fact that you procrastinate. Recognize it and determine to control it, not letting it control you. if you're a finisher, congratulate yourself for a job well done.

And if you're a starter, go ahead and have a little fun. Enjoy yourself. But don't forget to set goals and be accountable if you need to finish something. Instead of berating yourself for "never finishing anything," (what I tend to say), look at all the things you actually did finish, and congratulate yourself for a job well done.

If you're interested in learning more about personality profiles, I highly recommend Wired That Way, by Marita Littauer, or any books by Florence Littauer (Marita's mother), the guru of personality profiles.

You just may discover that you're worth celebrating.

Blessings Along the Path,

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