God Takes You Back

Today was my long run day.  I run with my iPod off the first half of the run so I can listen to what the Lord may be speaking to me.  About half way, I turn music on to break up the run.  I didn’t hear anything so I ran in silence.  I rounded a corner passing this beautiful statue; the face of which looked like look one remembering days gone by.sbstatuemar2014 - Copy

As I turned on my iPod, the words “Do you remember?” flooded my mind with a download of memories.  I knew it was the Lord.  One scene after another passed before my mind’s eye of a time in which I really hated my life about 20 years ago.

My marriage was all but shattered.  The only reason Brad and I didn’t divorce is we couldn’t agree to part with our little boy Jake even for shared custody.

We were in heavy debt financially, emotionally and relationally.  We had nothing to give one another.  Jake was our only joy.  We both knew that wasn’t healthy for each other or our son.

I had allowed my past to dominate my life.  It was my identity.  I wallowed in a dark and depressing pit seeing myself as neglected, forgotten, abused, rejected, worthless, useless, unintelligent, incapable, ashamed, guilty, and hopeless.  I was on antidepressants (but still depressed!) and told I would be for the rest of my life.  I was a pathetic mess.  Anything we tried didn’t help; it all just heaped up in a pile of tried this, tried that; NOTHING WORKS!  It was such a dark and painful time.

The scenes flashed in my mind as I ran.  Another song started; Jeremy Camp’s “Take You Back”.

You’ll take me back always
And even when my fight is over…
You’ll take me back always
And even when my pain is coming through

You’ll take me back always.

I had known who the Lord was.  I had “asked” Him into my heart years before.  But (a VERY BIG BUT) I had not walked with Him.

I was so angry at Him.  How could He let so many bad things happen?  Why hadn’t He intervened?  Where was He when I was rejected and left alone?  What kind of a God let’s His children suffer?

I hated Him.

One day I was so tired of fighting just to breathe the breath of life.  I resented seeing Jesus answer prayers for others around me.  He even answered some of our “courtesy” prayers as we dabbled in prayer with new “church” friends.  (We didn’t dare share what was really going on in our lives with the church people.  We were only going for our son’s sake after he started asking “God questions” following a recent death in the family.  A new neighbor invited us to church so we tried it for Jake.)

It was another miserable day.  I looked around me and saw no life except in Jake -and he was asking all these “God” questions.  How dare God answer our little prayers when we were suffocating, even hemorrhaging inside!

I didn’t get on my knees. I locked myself in the bedroom, flung my fists in the air and started yelling at God.  “Why don’t YOU just do something with my life, my marriage?  I don’t want it!!  I can’t leave it.   I’ve screwed it up so bad – just TAKE IT!!  But You know what?!  I don’t think You can, cause You haven’t done a &%^^% thing for it!!”  I fumed on.   I remember feeling like my blood was boiling.  I was so mad, so hating God and so ALONE.  But for the first time maybe ever, I was truly addressing Him stripped down to who I really was.  I wanted to punch Him and kick Him.  Why was He so invisible?!  “I can’t even see You!!”, I ranted and wept until I was absolutely empty.

In that moment, that silence, I felt His presence.  “I’m here.  Follow me.”  It wasn’t audible, not really even words, but it was REAL; as real as my raw emptiness.  He was present.  He spoke to me.  He didn’t offer anything but HIM and an invitation to follow.

You satisfy this cry
Of what I’m looking for
And I take all I can
And lay it down
Before the throne of endless grace, now
That radiates what’s true

I knew then my life would never be the same.  Nothing in my life changed.  But each day I sought to go about seeing life WITH Him; following His lead in every matter that previously perplexed me.

It was difficult.  He had me take steps I didn’t want to take.  He was there, always there.

I remember too, that at first, when I took steps I would turn to Him expecting to be done; finished and ready for a reward.  He only led me to take yet another step each day.

Over the course of about 2 years I learned to live following Jesus on a daily basis in the smallest tasks (that seemed really big).  It was difficult, but it was different than the past.  He WAS THERE WITH ME.  My marriage was restored.  My identity was no longer what I came from, but who I live for.  I am a follower of Christ.

The song continued:

I can only speak
With a grateful heart
As I’m pierced by this gift
Of your love
I will always bring an offering
I can never thank you enough.

Jesus rescued me from the pit of hopelessness. He walked me THROUGH.  He showed me compassion and taught me grace.  He showed me that it’s not enough to be free from the past or circumstances; rather, it is to be free to BE WITH Him.

When we are living with Him our focus becomes like His and our perspective changes from self to caring more for others.

When that happened, my life truly began to change.  What an immeasurable gift.

I still have so much to learn about caring for others above myself, but the every time I fall, Christ is there picking me up, showing me grace and teaching me to extend it to others.

There’s more to this story, and I can’t wait to share more as it all comes together in my book.  Most importantly, remember, God will always take you back!

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:6

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, for He will make your path straight.” Proverbs 3:5-7

Don’t Stop!

Sat. 10/26/13

To do a marathon, you need to spend time putting in mileage BEFORE your actual race.  Each week includes regular runs plus a progressively further long run.  Yesterday was my long run day.  I hadn’t even gotten to my halfway point when my legs began to feel sluggish.

I continued on a new path to pick up extra mileage.  The road seemed to go on forever with no sign of my planned turn around point.  After another hill, I seriously contemplated where I could access a phone to call my husband so he could come pick me up.

Then, the words of Ross Perot came to mind;

Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from a winning touchdown.”.

Ugh!  I trudged up the incline and mentally committed to one more wooded bend.  After the bend, I caught sight of Highway 380.  Finally, my turn around point!don't stop

I still had the trek home, and my legs felt like sand bags, but I had made it to the furthest point.  The rest would all be downhill… figuratively anyway.

Life really is like a marathon.  You can’t do a marathon without putting in some serious mileage. You gotta STAY THE COURSE.  There’s only ONE WAY to go and that is to “keep on, keeping on”.

Don’t stop just because you don’t feel like going on. You CAN do it.  Whatever the race, task, goal, relationship or dream you are called too; it will be worth all that you put into it.

At the end of all those miles, it feels great knowing I’m right on track, preparing for the race I’m called to.

What’s your “race”?  Is it a relationship that needs tending?  A dream that needs some “feet”?  A business endeavor?

Check your game plan, see where you are in it, and press on!

Who are you running with?

If life is a marathon and you consider yourself IN the race, then who are you running with?

The first time I entered a race with someone as a team, it was with my son Jake when he was only two.  He cried the whole 50 yards of the Diaper Dash.  Years later we called him Crazy Legs for his quick sprint speed, but that first race was not at all what I had planned it would be.colorrun4

Like life, every race turns out different than we envision from the training perspective.  Regardless of how a race turns out, the best part is who you are in the race with.

In the last couple years, we try to get in annual family race in.   For the first one, a group of friends joined us in the Muddy Buddy.   We slopped thru mud bogs, climbed rope walls and flung ourselves over slippery barrels.

Fortunately the mom who lost her shoes and pants in the mud bog wore a pair of shorts underneath.

These races are really important to me.  They shift my drive from getting my best time “ever” to taking time to be together having fun with people.  In these races it’s not about speed time, it’s about time spent together.   colorrun1

Last year, my daughters and I ran half mile of the Annual Allen Rudolph Run and walked the remainder as we walked and talked.  We laughed our way to the back of the race and ended better off for slowing down enough to really enjoy time together.

This year my husband and his buddy, James  were the last of our group to start in the  Fort Worth Graffiti Run.  Somehow they managed to find their way to the end of the race finishing well ahead of the rest of us.  They were cutting up the whole time and took pics of everyone in our crew who legitimately crossed the finish line.  They knew the best way to spend their time.

Be sure to take time to get in the race with the ones you love.

Smile

“Look people in the eyes, smile and say something nice.”  We used to tell our kids that all the time when they were little, teaching them to see PEOPLE, not just strangers as we went about daily business.  I was thinking about that on my run this morning.20130817_100950

Today I counted 21 people I made eye contact with, and exchanged a “good morning” with.  I lost count of those I only exchanged waves with.  That’s just one of the things that’s great about running outdoors.  People.

You don’t have to go running to find people.  Remember as you’re busy going place to place to look.  Really see people, give em a smile and say something nice.  No one wants to be invisible.  You never know how far that exchange will reach –or how much a reward you get by the return smiles!

Never too late!

Ever feel like you missed your big opportunities or lost dreams somewhere along the way?  Does it seem like everyone ELSE is in the race, on course, and you haven’t even made it to START?  I know how you feel!!

I ran a race several years back that changed my perspective on “late starts”.

Every Thanksgiving, the YMCA of Dallas puts on an annual Turkey Trot in the heart of downtown.  It’s 35,000 participants includes runners, walkers and dogs.

Turkey_Trot_logo

I trained to run the Turkey Trot with a best ever race pace.  For months, I worked harder than I had yet, preparing to take my minutes per mile to a new level.

Thanksgiving day came, and I was ready!  However, somehow both Brad and I had miscalculated by half an hour.  We arrived after everyone had started.  I mean everyone; 8 mile runners, 3 mile runners, 3 mile walkers and 3 mile walkers with short legged wienie dogs.

I couldn’t believe it.  This was MY RACE, and I missed the start.  Perplexed, I looked at my husband.  There was no way I was going home without a race.  I secured the timing chip on my shoe, kissed him and took off; the very last.  I weaved and sidestepped, careful not to step on any pooches (or their poop!).  The back of the race was so s – l – o – w.  It was such a picture of life and our dreams!

That day it didn’t matter that I was at the back.  In fact, it ended up being THE most inspiring race I ever ran.  There was no one faster than me that had not already started way ahead of me.  No one passed me, and I continously passed others the entire race.  I wouldn’t recommend running a race that way. But, despite the poop and side step delays, I kicked some serious asphalt that day (and ran my best race pace ever).  runningshoes

Likewise, when you are called to a specific dream, don’t let time or setbacks keep you from going for it.  The course and the obstacles you encounter may be different than you expect, but obstacles are there anyway, so just determine to run the race you are called to and don’t hold anything back!

I’m 46 and only beginning to recognize my unique calling.  It’s not easy, but I’m having an absolute blast!   Like my race, it’s not about when you start or what others are doing in their race.  Just get in yours!  Then, go full throttle, using all that life has trained you with, and go for it.

It’s never too late.  The truth is, your race starts long before you even get to the start line.  Sometimes, that which sets you back, may just be what gives you the edge you didn’t even expect you needed.

 

 

Why I Love to Run

I love to run. I fell in love with running in the 4th grade, at a time when my self esteem had shattered.

I was “slow” in school.  I was slow to read and comprehension was a challenge.  New math concepts perplexed me.  I had to go to summer school and was frustrated when everyone else “got it” and I didn’t.  But I was the apple of my daddy’s eye, and having a strong family compensated for my “slowness”.  Dad had a way of making me feel strong and smart.

Things changed the day mom told me she and dad were getting a divorce.

Divorce inflicts far more damage than most realize. It’s not only a separation of a man and woman, but the heart and identity of the children as well, maybe even more so.  My value as a worthwhile part of a bigger whole vanished.

When my self-esteem shrank, so did my handwriting. It was so small my teacher couldn’t read my work.  Dad wasn’t there to help me with school work, and I gave up trying.

I remember my teacher, Mr. Cusson, trying to convince me that I would be better off if I would “apply” myself. For what? For who?  And HOW?!

Mr. Cusson eventually resorted to restricting me from recess every day. For months, after lunch when all the other kids darted out the door to play, I was left to sit and stare at the chalkboard, pretending to be invisible.  I hated it when the other kids came back to see me still at my desk. I wanted to hide.

When Mr. Cusson had enough eye strain from my feeble attempts at schoolwork, he gave me a new seat assignment; a desk, wedged between a piano and the blackboard at the front of the class. Isolated and exposed as a failure, I wished I could disappear entirely.

Then, one spring day we had “Field Day”. There were potato sack races, egg tosses, and tug of war. The event that I remember best was the race around our little gravel field. I was outside and I was free!  I put all my loneliness and frustration into that race.

Mr. Cusson finally had something to praise me for. I can still hear him yell, “Go Shelly! Go!”.  Suddenly I felt alive. I pumped my awkward, skinny legs just as fast as I could.

Those simple words from Mr. Cusson changed my life.  I fumbled thru school work so I could go to recess and RUN. I worked hard to I could play kick ball just to RUN. I looked for reasons to run, because it made me feel alive!

I didn’t come to know Jesus personally until years later. When I embraced Him, it was with the same sense of freedom and life that I first got a taste for with running.

I know what it is to train long and hard (mentally and physically!). There’s a thrill that rushes thru your limbs when you cross a finish line.

But really, it’s not about speed or distance or even the finish line. It’s about the path you’re on and people you encounter. When I run, I feel Christ’s presence.  It’s life pumping through me, knowing I’m IN THE RACE.

And really, life is a marathon!