The Trial-Athlete

th_AthleteEverydayYes, it’s been a while since I’ve posted, but life certainly hasn’t been without adventure!  For the athlete friends out there, I’ll give a quick injury update.  Since my hamstring tear last October, I’ve slowly been moving back into running, swimming and biking.  Slow progress is still progress, but there have been a couple more setbacks along the way.   It truly has been two steps forward, one step back ever since the long string of injuries started.  So many pieces and parts of this gosh darn kinetic chain have been affected, it’s all starting to become a blur now. I was allowed to start doing some easy walking and biking in December.  I was able to start swimming with a pull buoy and add Santa Barbara Racewalk/run intervals about the middle of January.  I made gradual progress to the point that my coach was able to schedule my workouts in miles of running instead of minutes of running at the beginning of May.  Even though my longest straight run had only been 3 miles at that point, I was able to do The Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon, which was May 10th, using run/walk intervals.  Even at turtle speed, it felt awesome!  I have to say, Santa Barbara was the hilliest 13.1 mile course this flatlander has ever done, but it was the most beautiful ever!  Add in perfect weather and the wine at the finish line, do I really need to say more?  No, but I will.  It was awesome! Cabo marinaThe Santa Barbara race was the start of our vacation, a great start!  We flew from there to Cabo San Lucas.  Did I mention the race was the hilliest ever?  The combination of hills from the race, walking the hills of Cabo into town and at least two beach walks in the sand each day, plus a few training runs around the marina…  I suppose I overdid it.  My calves were toast.  So there you have it, one step back. Cabo beach I was just getting back out on the road again last week, more so with cross training still, but my calves were recovering.  Last Tuesday I was enjoying a wonderful ride on my bike.  I’ve been happy that I was finally getting my average speed back up to where it was before the hamstring thing.  I like riding where there isn’t a lot of traffic.  The problem with that though is, there isn’t a lot of traffic.  If you run into an issue, you’re pretty much on your own.  The more desolate roads around the desert aren’t always the quality of the busier roads, either.  I was drinking from my water bottle, hit a bump, and swerved off the road into sand deep enough to bring my tire to an abrupt stop, thus throwing me into the road.  Isn’t is bruised legfunny how even in the middle of nowhere, you still look around to see if anyone saw you fall?  Yes, I did that first, before I got myself off the road.  After a few minutes catching my breath and examining my wounds, I decided I had to be tough and ride home, blood and all.  After all, isn’t that what athletes do, suck it up, ignore the pain and move on?  The problem was, my chain had come off and I wasn’t able to get it back on Josiah Racingwith my injured hand, so I had to humble myself and call my husband to come rescue me.  Thankfully, nothing was broken, no stitches required, just a very bruised, swollen hip, sprained hand and a bruised, road rash covered elbow.  Apparently, there was a benefit from the crash.  According to my son, a racing team cyclist, I now have something called “street cred”.   That’s respect among the cycling community, so I guess that makes up for the pain, right! My Doctor said it could take four weeks for the swelling to go down and the bruising to disappear.  The Physical Therapist said I can swim with the pull buoy still, aqua jog lightly for now, but NO running or even walk/run intervals until the swelling goes down.  And in my mind I’m saying, “But don’t you understand, I’m already signed up for another half in August and September?!?!”  You runners that have dealt with injuries are tracking with me, right?  You’ve been there too! And there you have it, one step back yet again! It appears that I will always have something to deal with, as most of my issues have been stirred up by problems with my spine and impinged sciatic nerves.  The doctor’s encourage me to continue, as it’s important to stay active and healthy and my activity is not going to cause my condition to get worse.  I will have pain regardless, but if I stop moving, I’ll stop moving, period and that isn’t healthy.  I do get injections and see a Physical Therapist weekly, however, as long as I can avoid medication or surgery, I will keep doing what I love. I’ve titled this post, “The Trial-Athlete”, but not because of me and my silly injuries.  I’m thinking way beyond what I’ve dealt with.  I’m not a minimizing my “adventures” here.  I’m just looking at them from a different perspective in this post. My mind is drawn to some unsung heroes in my life.  Let me just tell you a little bit about them.  I won’t name names today, so to those who know me, no reason to be nervous. lonelinessThere is the friend who has spent years, almost a lifetime dealing with her disease.  It’s very difficult to manage, as her body doesn’t want to cooperate as it should.  It’s not only challenging, it’s risky, even life threateningly dangerous at times.  Her husband died several years ago and she remains home alone most days, missing him terribly.  She doesn’t remain home alone by choice.  You see, she’s had a series of falls, eleven of them!  Each has resulted in bad breaks of her arms, legs, hips and pelvis, each requiring surgery and rehab.  It’s now very difficult for her to get around.  Yes, she has times she gets discouraged, very discouraged, yet each time I see her rally her will and her mind to stay positive and move forward, even if it’s through tears that she does it. There is the friend who found herself a single parent with more children than most of us have.   Any of you who have been single tear fallingparents can relate to the difficult challenges that this role presents to an already wounded mom or dad.  That wasn’t her plan when she married him.  Life wasn’t supposed to happen this way.  This wasn’t her dream for herself or her kids.  And if that isn’t enough, imagine if it were you as the parent and one of your children were handicapped and now a teenager that you have to do everything for.  This has been the case for 15 years already and will be the case for a lifetime.  Somehow she does it.  She’s not just trying to survive.  She is putting herself through school at the same time.  She does it well!  Even if it’s through tears. There is the friend whose career dreams were brought abruptly to a halt by a serious accident before she could even finish college.  Severe spinal injuries have caused her a lifetime of pain and suffering as a result.  Years after the first accident, a doctor was finally able to do a surgery that enabled her to walk again.  Her dreams had a chance to be reawakened, as it appeared she had been gifted a moment of hope that life could return to normal again.  Within weeks, those dreams were violently torn from her grasp when she became the victim in another serious accident.  Not only would she not be able to walk normally, she returned to a life of constant pain with many other complications to numerous and graphic to describe here.  While she has every reason to be angry and bitter, she is one of the sweetest, kindest, and most loving people I’ve had the privilege to share life with.  She just wants to love people, even in pain, even through tears. There are others who have had their lives drastically and tragically changed in an instant.  The friend who lost her son…  I just can’t imagine how devastating that would be.  The friends who have lost spouses… parents… other loved ones…  Those are life altering events.  You live with the aftermath for the rest of your breathing days. That’s the type of unsung hero I’m talking about.  Talk about an ability to endure!  When the accidents and surgeries are past, when the diagnosis has been given and the torturous treatments are ongoing, when there is never going to be any relief for the pain, when the funeral is over, the obituary archived and everyone has gone home, these heroes are left to live with their lifelong “new normal”. Runners work hard to train for the Marathon, really hard.  Triathletes work hard to train for the triathlon or the Iron Man, really hard!  They spend agonizing hours alone out there on the road or in the water, keeping those tired, heavy arms and legs moving forward.  Training is often in the dark, before or after work or through inclement weather that we don’t even like to leave home to drive our cars in.  Yes, they certainly have endured when they cross that finish line and they deserve that medal!  They’ve built up an pats run finish lineincredible ability to endure and that strength and endurance carries over into other areas of life.  It leaves them with a sense of achievement.  They’ve accomplished something beyond what they thought months before they would never be able to do.  It’s an incredible feeling!  And yes, you get addicted to it, so most of us do it to ourselves over and over again.  The thing is, we do it by choice.   Our race has a date and a finish line. The unsung heroes I’m talking about never would have chosen the circumstances that brought their pain.  Yet they do it day after day, month after month and year after year and they survive.  There aren’t crowds cheering for them along the course or people handing them water and nourishment every few miles.  Some are lucky enough to have a good network of support around them, but unfortunately, most do not.  Their race involves more than just a few hours of their time.  There is no medal to display in their home.  There is no finish line for them, at least not as long as they are breathing the air of this world. grace quoteTalk about an ability to endure!  These unsung heroes have it!  That’s a special gift.  I call it a gift of grace.  That’s how they survive.  They live day by day, one day at a time.  They live on the grace or the strength they have for that day.  Most days they don’t “feel” strong.  They might not even want to be strong anymore, yet they make it, one more breath, one more step, one more day.  And while it may appear that they do it alone most of the time, the friends I’m talking about, know they aren’t alone.  They know where their help comes from.  Their help comes from the maker of heaven and the creator of this world.  Yes, they have unanswered questions as to why, yet they trust their God for the strength to make it.  They trust in a God that enabled them to overcome and push through tragedy, disease, painful suffering and heartache.  Anger and bitterness have been exchanged for kindness, forgiveness and love.  They are true trial-athletes! Many are inspired by the athletes who train and compete in a race for finish lines and medals.  Look around at the forgotten, shoulder for cryingunsung heroes you share life with.   They are still running their race, often injured and their finish line is still years down the road.  Their legs and arms get tired.  It’s hard and it hurts.  They shed tears out on the course.  Keep cheering for them.  Step up and pass them a cup of cold water or nourishment from time to time, whether it be just a smile, a card, a text or phone call, a hug…  Let them know they are heroes in your eyes and that you’re sticking with them for the long haul!  By doing so, you will have entered yourself in a race.  It’s a race with no finish line and no medal on this earth, but the rewards are far better!  You will become that special gift in their lives and you too, will build an ability to endure.  Just watch out though.  You might become addicted!  I hope so!

Since we have such a huge crowd of men of faith watching us from the grandstands, let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us.  Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterwards; and now he sits in the place of honor by the throne of God.”  Hebrews 12:1 – 2 (TBL)

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Cor. 4:17 (NIV)

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“A Fall Apart Just Waiting to Happen”…

fall apart puzzelYep, that’s me!  You’ve probably heard people describe someone as, “an accident waiting to happen.”  Well, “a fall apart waiting to happen” is kind of the same thing.  I’ve found myself feeling this way on occasion lately.  You know, those days that all of us feel at some point, no matter how positive we try to be.  Not one of us walking on this planet is totally immune to negative thoughts and feelings that attack our mind and emotions. 

If you’ve read my blog, you may already know of the ongoing struggle that I’ve had with running injuries.   I talkedfall apart poster about the last MRI report in a post called, “Coping with Injury, a Photo Journal”.  I did have a little fun with that post!  It’s been about three months since then and I’m just starting to get back into a few easy workouts each week.  My body sure doesn’t want to cooperate, though.   Add the ongoing spine and sciatic nerve issues into that hip and hamstring mix, and right there you have what sounds like an old lady just complaining about all her ailments.  I sooooo, never wanted it to be this way!     

Gumby stretchesI’ve had some other minor health things creep in on top of those I’ve mentioned.  It’s so frustrating when you go to your Primary Care Physician and they have to send you off to other specialists.  I’ve got six different doctors I am seeing and a seventh I’m avoiding.  Well, maybe I’m avoiding the sixth one, too.   Regardless, I feel like I’ve been pieced and parted out in so many directions.  The healthcare system must think I’m like a Gumby figure and each doctor is stretching a different body part in their direction.  Gumby meltsFrankly, even with all the stretching, I’m just not that flexible!  And then you have all the specialist’s higher copays!  I’ll stop right there with that discussion.  The state of our healthcare system is not the hot topic than I wanted to get into today.  Let’s not make Gumby have a melt down!

The point is, I’ve had a few days when I wake up feeling like all of these little irritations and inconveniences have been combined together into this huge glob.  The ugly glob is present, just waiting to greet me when I open my eyes.  It sits on my chest, its weight causing pressure, its toxic gases filling my lungs, its fog clouding my vision and infiltrating my thoughts.  For whatever reason, this day, it’s difficult to shake off.   I feel consumed by it.  I stumble through the dark to the kitchen to make coffee.  The shadow follows.  Maybe the caffeine will help.  I turn on the Fear.1computer.  Maybe there will be something positive and uplifting in my inbox or on Facebook.  But before I can even have my first sip or sign in to anything, an all too familiar fear creeps in.  It’s been awhile, but I’ve felt this before.  Its fear of some impending doom, some catastrophe that’s just waiting to knock on my door.  My cell phone rings with an unknown number.  This is it that call I knew would come… 

Tell me I’m not the only one!  You’ve been there, too, haven’t you!  It doesn’t happen as often anymore, but there was a long season in my life, when this was the way I felt most days.  I would eventually be able to shake it off, but only to have the glob visit again the next day. 

One of my son’s has become very interested in cycling.  He joined a racing team and had his first race this past weekend.  I was photo (34)excited for him as we made the hour drive to the race location.  The course was about a mile loop that participants had to circle many times.  A good part of the course was out of our view, and the multicolored kit clad riders were going by so fast.  I had a hard time seeing my son each time he made his way past our vantage point.  Twice during the race, the announcer shouted over a speaker, “There’s been a crash on the course!”  Can you guess where I’m going with this story?  There it was that feeling of impending dome.  Thankfully, my son was not involved in either of the crashes and there were no serious injuries, but those minutes spent waiting to see him go by were pretty intense for a mom.

Blob.1I’m no psychologist able to say what causes a person to feel this way, but I can speak from my own experience.  That fear of impending dome, the feelings of some foreboding evil hovering nearby, just waiting to swoop down and pounce on my head, that kind of fear was learned over time.   The situations in life that were real, such as living with an abusive alcoholic and addict that did cause physical harm, actually being the victim at the end of a knife or sawed off shot gun, receiving those dreaded phone calls with bad news, living through an emergency medical situation with my body being the one transported in an ambulance or having to many visits to emergency rooms with people you love…  When it happens enough, you learn fear.  When you combine those real situations with the ones that you begin to imagine and then come to expect, well, there you’ve just created the ultimate Halloween cocktail!  And let me tell you, it’s a fear filled, seductively strong drink!

Fear isn’t something to be messed with.  Fear is destructive, even devastating.  It will hold you down, even suffocating your very last breath.  Fear keeps us in a dead, dry place.  It keeps us from really living.  It keeps us out of healthy relationships.  We won’t take the risk to care and love.  It holds us back in our careers; it keeps us from reaching our goals and even keeps us from daring to have any dreams to chase after.  It keeps us small, keeps us invisible and unnoticed.  Fear is an evil prison guard that keeps us locked in a very cold, damp and dark place.

Courage poster.1

So how do you get out of it, break free?  Like I said, I’m no physiologist, so what works for me, might not be the same as what worksBravery.1 for you.  First of all, you have to be able to recognize whether the fear you feel is the healthy kind that keeps you safe or if it’s a fear that’s debilitating to you.  If it’s hurting you, it needs to go!  Recognizing that it’s an issue is a huge victory in itself.  You have to recognize something is broken before you will attempt to fix it.  Even taking a risk to consider it might be an issue takes courage.  Be brave.

I have to break in for important practical advice right here.  If you are in an unsafe place, like an abusive situation, get out now.  I know it takes great courage to take this step.  It may require knowledge of resources available to help.  Know there is help and there are safe places to go.  There are agencies that can help online.  Find them where you are.  You have to protect your physical body from harm before you can work on your emotional wellbeing.  Please, be brave!

Once you recognize that fear is something that is hurting you, it’s not like you can just tell it to go away.  You can only do that when it first makes an ugly appearance.  Once you’ve allowed fear to move in and stay with you, you’ve fed it and allowed it to grow, it’s Cat couragenot so easy.  The truth is we all need help with things like this.  We were not meant to do this life alone.  Other people were put on this earth so we wouldn’t have to be alone.  I don’t care how independent you are.  It might be fear that made you feel a need to be such an independent person and if that’s the case, fear has just succeeded l in keeping you in prison.  I’m saying this, not to cause anyone to feel under attack, but as one who allowed the ugly life situations cause me to put on, “Miss Independent”, as a banner across my chest for a good number of years.  I remember one occasion just before entering into my third marriage.  I can still see myself standing outside on a dark driveway, screaming into the face of my soon to be spouse, “You’re not going to make me your slave, you’re not going to tell me what to do…!”  It’s amazing that he still married me after that little explosion.   My point is, don’t try to break free on your own.  Positive, encouraging friends with wise advice, churches or professional counselors, they are all there for you to get help.   Take the risk to join the human race again and connect with other people to help you.  This too, takes courage.  Be brave!

Since I wasn’t intending to write a book today, I’ll wrap this up.  My almost last piece of advice would be this.  When you first see Courage.1that glob trying to make another appearance, whether it be a little thought, feeling or a little action to pass it a tasty morsel and feed it again, immediately stop yourself.  You have to stop it dead in its tracks.  Don’t entertain it, not even for a second.  If you need help to do this, then make that call or send that text.  Fill yourself with all the positive encouragement and support you can get your mind, eyes, ears and hands on.  Your life is on the line here.  All of your relationships, goals, and dreams have one thing in common.  They need you to be healthy in order to have them to the full extent that they were meant to be had.  It’s worth the effort and you are totally worth it!  If you blew it yesterday, today is a new day.  Be brave!

Lastly, I’m no longer going to think of myself as “a fall apart waiting to happen”.  Yes, the health issues seem to continue, but I’m Strong and Courageous.1choosing to focus on the good.  I have supportive friends and family.   I know that I’m in the good hands of doctors who will do the best they can within our healthcare system; to do what’s right for me.  Best of all and what brings me the biggest strength, I believe I’m in the good hands of a loving God who is big enough to take care of me in this broken world.  Bad things do happen, but he works it for good on my behalf.  It takes courage to let go of control and trust an unseen entity with the details of my life, but my experience tells me, God is really good at what he does.  He’s always come through for me, every time!   I can be strong and courageous because I’m not doing this alone.  Yes, I will be brave!

When “Little” Becomes “Limitless”…

limitlessHere’s my personal pick for my tweet of the week:

“Typing the word “little” on my phone & auto correct changed it to “limitless”.
When little becomes limitless, that’s ok! Thanks autocorrect!”

Two words, “little” and “limitless” have become my theme this week.  How auto correct would ever change the word little to limitless is beyond me.  But when “little” becomes “limitless”, that’s more than ok.  It’s incredibly awesome!  I’ve thought about these words and how they apply to my life.  After last week’s blog post, Digging Deeper, Whatever It Takes, I’ve done some hard thinking about the things that I’ve felt were limiting to me.  I’ve come to realize that while my dreams may be big, my own thinking is still small.  My own “little” is keeping me from my “limitless”.

It was last Monday when I was typing the word “little” on my phone.  I was texting a few friends, asking for a “little” prayer.  I had started experiencing the familiar symptoms that have landed me in the hospital four times in the past, symptoms that have been the reason for two of my surgeries.  I’ve talked about this before in a post, I’m Not Average.”  Monday, I was preparing to go the hospital.  I really thought that by that night, I would be admitted.  I know how this goes.  I followed the doctors’ instructions to try and prevent another episode, which haven’t been successful previously.  I made it through that day with no hospital admission.  I’m happy to say that my symptoms have subsided a little more each day since, and today I feel back to normal!

I asked some friends for a “little” prayer last week, too.  I told you about the issue with bulging disks in my neck.  That’s been more than a little painful!  I’m happy to say that the pain has gotten better each day since!  It’s not completely gone, but I’ve been able to stop taking all the pain medication I was on.  And for those who know the story already, there is a good chance I can start running again next week!

As a child, my parents took me to church and taught me to believe in God.  Yes, they taught me, but I’m the one who had to learn what it meant to believe in a god.  Like every other person out there, I had to do my own searching and formulate my own opinion about who God was and what place he was going to have in my life.  If you’ve read any of my previous posts, I think you would agree that my life has been quite an adventure.  I would describe it as being a “better than a soap opera” kind of life.  These experiences have given me much opportunity for life lessons.  I’ve had lots of opportunity to let experiences make me bitter or better.  I chose to let them make me better and in the process, I did indeed form my own opinion of who God was and what place he was going to have in my life.

I think back on the Bible stories I heard as a child.  There were a couple times recorded in the Bible, when Jesus, God’s son, found loaves and fisheshimself in a remote location with large crowds gathered around to hear him speak.  They became hungry and there were no grocery stores nearby, so Jesus took the little that he had, like a few loaves of bread or a couple fish.  When he put his hand of blessing on it, the little became limitless!  He not only fed the thousands that were gathered.  They even had leftovers!

There was a widow that’s talked about in the Old Testament.  She was in debt up to her eyeballs and her two sons that were about to be made slaves to pay for her debt.  She asked a prophet if he could help her.  He asked her what she had.  The widow told the prophet that she had nothing except a “little” jar of oil.  The prophet asked her to do something quite odd, but amazingly, she listened to him and did it.  He told her to gather up all the empty jars that she could find, so she gathered every empty jar she had and even got all the neighbor’s jars.  Next she was to go inside her house and start pouring the small amount of oil from her little jar, into the big empty jars.  Can you imagine all the thoughts going through her mind about how crazy this was, as she did it?  I’m sure she expected it to take about two seconds for the oil in her little jar to run empty, but it didn’t!  She just kept pouring her little into her emptiness and every single jar was completely filled.  The oil didn’t stop flowing until there was nothing left to pour into.  Her little became limitless!  Her sons were saved from slavery and her debt was paid.

love limitlessThose are just a couple of the many, biblical examples of little becoming limitless.

Believe me when I tell you that in my own life, there have been many times when God made my “little” become “limitless”!  I hope you’ve caught that in my posts.  I don’t talk about God in most of my posts, but I believe that there have been many events that I consider to be “a God thing”.  Maybe they weren’t all good things, but God worked them together for good in my life.

I was inspired twice this week by video links posted by friends.  Both were of a man born with no arms or legs, Nick Vujicic.  Now this is indeed, a man who has what appears to be, very limiting factors in his life.  Yet, when you talk about someone who has overcome obstacles, he’s one of the best examples I’ve seen!  I’ve posted the links to these two video clips below.  Nick not only gets where he needs to go, which is challenging in itself, but he even swims, surfs and plays golf.  He is now a bestselling author and a motivational speaker who travels the world.  His first book was titled, “Life Without Limits”.  Nick is a perfect, real time example of “little becoming limitless”.  I look at his life and can’t help but be moved to let go of every excuse I’ve ever made!

There is one common denominator in each of these examples.  It’s the God Factor.  God was involved in the Bible stories, my own life and certainly in Nick Vujicic’s life.  It’s been quoted by several people, “The size of your God, determines the size of your goals.”  Through my own life lessons, I’ve come to believe with all my heart, that I’ve got a really, really BIG GOD!  I feel that I’ve spent much time exploring the aspects of his love, grace and mercy.  With each new obstacle I’ve bumped up against, I find His love, grace and mercy are there.  I have yet to find their limits.  But you know, I’ve stopped looking for limits.  “Little” is going to have very limited use in my vocabulary from here on out.  I’ve concluded that my God is big enough for whatever comes my way, that he is indeed, limitless!Gods treasure

The moral of this story:  If God is big enough for me and all the messes I’ve made, he can be big enough for you, too! 

Don’t look at your limitations.  Look at your limitless God.

http://t.co/z7yjTJg8

The Bumble’s Story

Wow!  I almost have no other words to say in light of all the tragedy that we’ve seen happening during what is supposed to be a joyful season.  We have indeed, seen unthinkable and horrific events unfold before our eyes.  I am not attempting to address what has happened, nor relate these events to my story today.  I just can’t help but express the heaviness in my heart for the families involved as I begin to write today.  My prayers for those who are hurting so deeply are united with yours and the prayers of this nation.

I will repeat, I “almost” have no words to say, but I do have a few.  It’s not that what I am going to say is easy or all that joyous, but it’s important to me, so pull up an ice block for a few minutes and lend an ear.

One of my favorite Christmas specials is “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”.  I grew up watching it every year.  I remember many years ago as an 18 year old, working “adult”, (well before the days of the DVR), I had a boss that let me have a long dinner break from work so I could go home and watch the show.  Yes, it was that important to me.  Even now, many years later, Rudolph has this special place in my home every Christmas.  photo

While the story of Rudolph offers many good life lessons, today I want to focus on the Bumble’s story.  In case you aren’t familiar, the Abominable Snow MonsterBumble was the Abominable Snow Monster of the North.  Everyone knew and feared the Abominable Snow Monster.  Rudolph’s father, Donner, taught Rudolph the dangers of this monster as a very young buck.  The prospector in the story, Yukon Cornelius, was always cautiously aware of the possibility of encountering the monster in his daily search for silver and gold.

Today I’m thinking of what the Bumble represents, but not in the cute, cartoonish way he is portrayed in the Christmas special.  There is no way that I would ever begin to make light of the situations that are on my mind today.  The fear that Rudolph was taught or that Cornelius had, can’t possibly even begin to touch the reality of what I’m talking about today.   Today, I’m talking about some other monsters, the monsters of addiction and alcoholism.  You see, these monsters have robbed some of my family and friends, people I love, of portions of their life.

This morning I walked out of my bedroom to find my husband already up, eating breakfast and browsing the web.  He informed me that our youngest son had posted a picture of our family on Facebook.  The picture was from about 18 years ago.  Oh my, the things your kids do while you’re sleeping!  My son had gotten all of the family albums out and apparently found this particular picture to be entertaining and posted it.  Entertaining, it was indeed!  Once I got past being horrified by the look of my enormous hair, I was brought to tears as I scanned the sweet faces of my four children.  They were so adorable!  I had a moment, so surreal.  How fast they grow up!  The picture had been taken before life had robbed them of the fun and innocence of childhood.

In the years since that picture was taken, I’ve gathered many stories to tell about how the abominable monster has reached out to grab those I love and attempt to snatch their very lives.  The battles waged against this monster have been bloody and fierce, neither are they over.  As many of you know, this is a lifelong battle that is fought everyday by millions of you.   Today isn’t the day to go into details on the specifics of my stories.  We’ve heard enough negative this season.  Today, I think we all need to be encouraged.

You see, the Bumble story has a happy ending.  Just as those who daily fight the monster of alcohol or addiction, Yukon Cornelius had more than one encounter with the Abominable Snow Monster.  One time he used the tool that he worked with on a daily basis, his pic, to make a “do it yourself iceberg”.  He was able to escape certain harm at the hands of the bumble and float away to safety, because Bumbles sink!  There finally came a time when Yukon could no longer run and hide from what he feared and he had to face his monster head on.

Remember Herbie, the elf whose dream was to be a dentist?  Yukon and Herbie devised a plan to save Clarice and Rudolph from being Abominable Snow Monster 2eaten alive by the Abominable Snow Monster.  Herbie made pig noises, because we all know that Bumbles will gladly turn down reindeer meat for a pork dinner.  He was able to lure the Bumble out of his cave and he and Yukon courageously faced that which they feared the most.  Yukon was spastically swinging his pic as Herbie oinked and they were able to bait the Bumble away from the cave so their friends could be safe.  Unfortunately, they backed the Bumble up to a point that appeared to be certain death for Herbie, the Bumble and Cornelius, as they all fell over the edge of a deep crevice.  The lives of Rudolph and Clarice were now safe, but at the cost of their friend’s lives.

The scene shifts to Rudolph and Clarice mourning the loss of their friends.  Were they ever surprised as the doors of Santa’s castle Toothless Bumbleswung open and in walked Cornelius and Herbie, followed by the Bumble!  Cornelius proclaimed that he had reformed the monster!  And Herbie the elf had started his new practice as the North Pole Dentist, by pulling the monster’s teeth.  The Bumble no longer had the power to eat reindeer or pork!  The reformed Bumble then helps to make the tree in Santa’s castle complete, as he places the star on the top.

Why do I like the Bumble story?  Because, it’s a story redemption and hope!  The Abominable Snow Monster that everyone feared was reformed.  No one imagined that he could ever be anyone different than what he was, but it did happen!  Yes, it’s just a make believe child’s Christmas story.  I know that, but “hope” is very real.

There is another Christmas story which is the basis of my hope.  Hope was sent in the form of that little babe lying in a manger.  I think that story is much better as it’s read by Charlie Brown in another childhood Christmas special.  That baby didn’t stay little and powerless.  That baby was sent by love to bring light to a dark world.  I believe that love has the power to overcome any monster we face and certainly, the evils of addiction and alcoholism!  That perfect love chases away that which makes me fearful.  Yes, the God of limitless love is my hope.

That hope is the gift that I use as a tool in my life, this life that I’ve learned to live just one day at a time.  That powerful hope is also the weapon that I use to fight the monsters that make me fearful.  It’s the one thing that I’ve been able to hang onto in the very dark days of this journey.  When all else has been ripped from my hands, hope is still there.  No, all of the struggles are still not over, nor all the battles won.

HopeI posted this picture last week.  The word “Hope” is written free hand in pencil by someone I love.  It was written on a piece of manila folder and was sent to me from a prison cell as a Christmas card several years ago.  The person who sent it had no idea how much it meant to me.  This person is still struggling to this day.  Though it breaks my heart, I still have hope.  This one hasn’t made it to the side of victory in this battle yet.  I said, not “yet”, but I know many others who have.  There is a victory side in the days to come.  I just know it.   As I posted, last week, hope is my gift.  “I’m a mom.  I will never give up my hope!”  For that reason, I can still have a joyous heart this Christmas season.  Merry Christmas!

 

 

This Could Change Everything…

You’ve heard of “vague booking”, right?  It’s when someone posts just one word or phrase that doesn’t give the whole story, but leaves you compelled to comment and ask questions.  A friend’s recent Facebook post left me and all her other friends hanging with the statement, “This could change everything.”  She was referring to a phone call she had taken from a number she didn’t recognize.  Her phone conversation had the potential to change her life.  It made me start thinking.  How many of us are just waiting for that one thing, that “this” that could change everything?

Later that day I got this Toyota Clearance Sale advertisement in the mail.  The ad had the same message, “This changes everything”.   I hardly think their sale is going to change my life, but it did keep me thinking on this subject.

How much time do we spend waiting for that one phone call, that one event, meeting the right person or being in the right place at the right time?  We wonder when do we get our big break or when is our ship coming in?  We wonder and we wait.

There are many “firsts” in life that change everything.  The first time you took a step enabled you to get farther, faster.  The first time you fell in love you experienced a whole new intensity of emotion.  When you first got your driver’s license, your world became so much larger.   Those are all good things that changed everything for you.  Good “firsts” that happen in your life can bring such a rush of exuberance.  They help us feel motivated and inspired.  They give us hope for bigger and better things in our future.  They help us see more of the big picture ahead.

Then there are “firsts” that changed everything for you in a negative way.  The first time you were lied to and it made you suspicious or the first time you were betrayed and you began to not trust.  Maybe for you, the first time you smoked a cigarette or took a drug, you became addicted or the first time you were fired or laid off of a job, as a result you lost everything you owned.  These things suck the life out of us.  They cause our world and our big picture to become much smaller.  Joy, inspiration and motivation are diminished.  Hope for the future fades.

There are “lasts” in life that change everything.  That last day of kindergarten leads us to the last day of high school and eventually the last day of college.  We’re on top of the world at that point and just know that success will soon be ours.  The day the smoker or the addict has the last cigarette or the last hit, now that’s a good day!

Then you have the excruciatingly painful “lasts”.  That last kiss, that last hug, the last goodbye…  These do indeed, change everything.

I saw a Geico commercial recently.  The little Geico gecko is standing in a high place and wondering if he would be able to see Mt Rushmore from where he was standing.  As the camera pans out, the gecko is actually standing in the eye of one of the presidents on Mt Rushmore, but the gecko can’t see that.  He was already a part of the big picture that he wanted to see, yet he stood waiting…  Can you see yourself in the place of this little gecko?  I know I’ve been there.

How many of us sit on the edge of our destiny, not even knowing what that edge is that we’re sitting on?  The only action we take is to wait…

The big picture isn’t always easy to see.  The puzzle pieces that make the picture are never all put together in the box.   They’re a jumbled mess and unless you actually have the box, it’s very difficult to make any sense out of the pieces.  Yet the fact is, the puzzle piece that represents us is in that box.  It is a part of the big picture.  It’s all there and we’re already part of it.

Ok, now it’s my turn to ‘vague book”.  I don’t know how your puzzle is supposed to go together any more than I know how mine is supposed to look when it’s complete.  I just see pieces and some are in their place already, but I still can’t see the big picture because I’m right in the center of it, just like the gecko.

What I do know is that there is one truth that changes everything for me.  For those of you who aren’t into religion, I’m not either, but I do believe in a good God who watches over and takes care of me.  And I do believe the verse in the Bible that says this:

 “For I know the plans I have for you”, says the Lord.  “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

My hope and my future rest in the hands of a God who has been big enough, in spite of the messes I’ve made, to make himself real to me.  The puzzle pieces of my life don’t just randomly fall into place.  I believe they are put in place in the right order at the right time.  I don’t feel a need to know how it’s all going to play out because I trust the one who holds the box and sees the big picture, and it’s beautiful!  There are bigger and better things ahead.  Hold onto that hope.  It’s one truth that changes everything.

My Angel Stories…

Real angels ride Harley’s, have scruffy hair, furry arms and wear leather jackets.  I know this is true, because I talked to one once.  I’ll tell you that story in a minute, but first my inspiration for today’s post, my most recent angel story.

So I’m driving down the freeway yesterday morning and start hearing a loud banging noise by my front tire. I maneuvered the car across four lanes of traffic and exited the freeway where I parked to check it out. A chunk of my tire tread was flapping around but the tire wasn’t flat, so I drove to a tire place just down the road. My aunt was with me and we were thankful the tire hadn’t blown or all the tread come off.  The incident brought on a discussion about angels and we began exchanging our personal angel stories.

While my aunt sat inside the tire store, the sales guy and I were checking my tire. I was shocked at how bad my tire was!  I was riding on metal on the inside rim and the tread could be easily lifted. After paying for all new tires, my aunt said that her daily reading had popped up on her phone and guess what it was about. Guardian angels!  We left the tire store and had to change our destination due to lack of time. We decided to go to Scottsdale to shop a little and have lunch.  I parked in old town and my aunt said to look what we had parked in front of. It was “The Angel Store”. OK, so we got the message! Angels must have been taking care of us yesterday.

Angels can make an appearance anywhere!  There was one time I saw what I believed to be angels in a more supernatural form.  I know I’ve shared a little history about past abusive relationships in other blog posts.  One particularly intense story happened at a time I was in the process of moving out to get away from a bad relationship.  I had just broken the news that I was leaving to my x-husband who had been drinking heavily, as usual.  Let’s just say he didn’t take it very well.  After a tirade of profanity and swinging arms he had me pinned on the bed with both of his hands firmly gripped around my throat.  I had reached the point of being light headed from being unable to breathe.  Somehow I was able to escape, so I’m still here to tell about it.  That night I was unable to sleep because, of course, I was a bit traumatized by the experience.  I had tossed, turned, cried, and desperately looked for sleep, to no avail.  The room was dark, but all of a sudden, two glowing outlines in the shape of people were at the bottom of the bed.  One was tall and the other about a foot shorter.  Instantly I was overwhelmed by a sense of complete safety and peace.  All fear was gone and I was able to sleep the rest of the night, no longer the least bit tormented by the events of the day.

I believe angels can be pushy, too!  Another time, I didn’t see any angels, but my daughter had an experience with one.  I was a single parent at the time and my parents kept my two children for me while I was working.  (Side note here, I don’t know how I would have made it without my parents at that time in my life.  They were awesome!)  I had just arrived at my parent’s house to pick up my kids.  My three year old daughter was at the neighbor’s house and saw my car pull in the drive.  In her eagerness to greet mommy, she started running down the steep hill of the neighboring driveway.  A pickup truck was coming down the road and was approaching the bottom of the driveway that my daughter was going full speed down.  There was a big bush at the end of the drive that blocked the pickup truck driver’s view of my baby girl.  The driver had no idea of the tragic picture that I was seeing about to unfold in front of me.  My screams were not enough to stop the driver of the pick up, nor the out of control speed of a 3 year old running down a steep hill.  It was clear that I was not going to reach her in time and inevitable what was about to occur.  My daughter was almost to the road when suddenly, she fell backwards! How does a 3 year old running down a steep hill, fall backwards?  She cried and said her stomach hurt, like someone pushed her down.  I blame it on an angel.

Angels can perform amazing feats beyond our comprehension, too!  One morning during that same season of my life, I had a “shake my head and wonder” experience.  I had dropped my kids off at my mom’s and as I was leaving, mom said something to me.  I can’t remember her exact words now, as that was many years ago, but it was something about being especially concerned for me that day, that she was praying and to be careful.  I had a 30 mile commute into Cleveland and let’s just say, I could make some pretty good time.  I needed angels to be watching out for me, because I wasn’t always the best at it.  Ok, I was stupid!

At one point along the way, the freeway ramp curves around and comes up to meet the freeway on a bridge.  There is very little time for cars to merge into traffic from this ramp before the ramp leads off to exit again.  Drivers coming up the ramp don’t have the best view of the oncoming freeway traffic either.  Add rush hour, a speeding little ice blue Chevette stuck between two semi trailers and not enough lanes, and you have an equation that equals disaster.  I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and I just knew I was about to see my life flash before my eyes.  All I remember was that there was no way to avoid being crushed by the semi trucks.  I slammed on my brakes, felt my car start to spin, closed my eyes and cried “Jesus”.  There is no way to explain how it happened, but all I know was the next minute I looked in the rear view mirror and I was in safely in front of the two semi trucks.  I was trembling so hard I had to pull off the road until I was calm enough to drive again.  How does a speeding car, slamming on its brakes, end up ahead of two semi’s when it had previously been between the back of the trailers?  I can’t explain it, but apparently, I didn’t drive faster than my Guardian Angel could fly.  I say more than a few angels must have been involved in that one.  I’m so glad they didn’t hold back on protecting me because they figured I deserved what I got since I had been speeding.

I suppose you are wondering about the furry armed, scruffy angel riding a Harley and wearing a leather jacket.  I met him one day just outside of Payson, AZ.  Again, it was during that same single parent period.  I was in the process of moving myself and my 3 and 5 year old kids from Arizona to Ohio.  I was driving out of the valley and up the mountain road to Payson, pulling a heavily loaded U-Haul trailer behind my car.  Many of you are familiar with the road and the steep grade just a ways outside of town.  On that lonely stretch of desolate road in the heat of summer, the front of my car started to billow smoke.  Not being a mechanic, I had no idea what was happening.  I thought my car was about to blow up.  I found a place to pull over and I jumped out, grabbed my kids and ran before we all died in the explosion.  As I’m standing in the middle of nowhere with two small children, I had no idea what I was supposed to do next.  Cell phones were not even an idea yet and there were no pay phones or gas stations close by.  I was praying for a little help at this point and here comes this scruffy, furry armed guy with a leather jacket, riding a Harley.  “Oh God, not him!” I prayed, because surely he must belong to a motorcycle gang and would harm me in some way.  I apologize to the bikers reading this.  Keep in mind, this was many years ago and I already admitted that I was stupid.  I actually breathed a sigh of relief as he rode past, but not even a minute later, he was back.  I was petrified as my imagination went wild with the possible scenarios.  But what could I do?  There was no where to run.  I was probably in the most vulnerable spot I could possibly ever be in.  He got off his bike and asked for the keys to look at my still smoking car.  I thought, “Oh God, he’s going to steal my car and everything I own and leave me stranded here!”  He didn’t though.  After he looked under the hood, he said my car had overheated and told me to wait a little while and then drive up the road about a mile.  There would be a drive that would turn off and he instructed me to pull off and drive down to where I would find a garage.  He said that someone would be there who would help me.  Then he left.  My out of control imagination played with the horrific scenarios of following this furry armed biker’s instructions, but not having the knowledge or sense I needed, I felt I had no other choice.  I found the dirt road and drove down the drive and sure enough, there was an old little, white building.  A man came out and looked at my car, added fluid and sent me on my way.  I was safe!

I headed into Payson and grabbed some lunch with the kids before we were on our way out of town.  It wasn’t long before the road got steep, once again and my check engine light came on.  As I checked my mirrors before I pulled off the road, I was totally shocked to see that same biker behind me.  Instant panic set in!  Was it just a coincidence or was he following me?  Had he been watching us as we stopped for lunch?  Was he just waiting for an opportunity to do God knows what?  I chose to keep on driving rather than pulling over, as that seemed to be the lesser risk.  But believe me, I was praying hard the whole time.  I’m not sure how far I drove with the motorcycle following me, but eventually, the road leveled out and a long desolate stretch lay ahead.  Just when I had about worried myself sick, the check engine light went off.  I was so relieved, but to my surprise, the biker was gone, too!  There had been no turn off, no intersection.  He just seemed to disappear and believe me; I had been keeping a close eye on him.  My best and only conclusion was that this must have been an angel watching over me!

Yes, I do believe in angels all around us, everyday.  I think we probably have far more encounters with angels than we ever realize.  A couple morals of this story:  1. Don’t judge a person by their appearance.  2. Don’t doubt the ability of a big God who cares enough to send angels to protect you and don’t be surprised if they ride Harley’s and wear leather jackets.

Life Lessons from an Athlete…

I wrote a blog post this past February entitled, “I Wanna Be an Athlete”.  Little did I know that within a couple weeks of that post, well into training for my first marathon, I would be taken out of the game.

Just over a year ago, my husband and I took up running.  We saw the value of being healthy and making healthier lifestyle changes and running was a way to move us in that direction.  As you know, running isn’t a sport that those qualifying for an AARP Card usually jump into.  It wasn’t easy, but it was a serious jump and we’ve gotten several races under our belts now, the longest for me being a ½ marathon.  My first full marathon was to be the Cleveland Rite Aid Marathon this past May, but that didn’t happen.

In March while doing an intense speed workout, I had a hamstring and hip injury that brought me to an abrupt halt.   I was barely able to limp the three miles home.  I hate not being able to complete a workout the coach gives me!  Feeling desperate not to miss any training so close to my 1st marathon, I tried everything to speed up the healing.  Loads of stretching, physical therapy, ice, rest, nothing was working.  Along with the hamstring issue, the Sports Orthopedic Doctor found that I also had a lot of arthritis in my spine that was contributing to my pain and probably a stress fracture.  It became evident as the weeks passed by that I would not be running my first marathon in May.  I was intensely disappointed!

At the same time in March, I learned that I had developed an incisional hernia from a surgery that I had last September.   (That’s a whole other drama that I wrote about in “I’m Not Average”.)  The lump on my belly was huge!  I called it my belly boob except the problem was that it was bigger than the original two.  This would require surgery, so I went ahead and scheduled that, hoping to heal the hip at the same time I was recovering from the surgery. It turned out that the surgeon not only had to repair the hernia we knew of, but found that I had many holes to repair.  The surgeon described it as looking like swiss cheese.  The eight previous abdominal surgeries had done a number on my midsection.  Thus the surgery and the recovery time turned out to be a bigger ordeal than was originally planned.

I’ve not been able to run for over three months now!  If you are a runner, you certainly understand how painful this is.  Sadness wells up when you see other runners on the road or when you drive down roads you usually run on or your spouse suits up to hit the road.  You even begin to crave those nasty GU packets!  What was really painful was being sidelined for three races that I was already signed up to run.  Reduced to being a race T-shirt collector, I still attended and cheered on my husband as he ran those races, including the race that was to be “our” first marathon.  Bittersweet as it was, I was so proud of him as he crossed that finish line!

All that said, I’ve had lots of time to re-think this “wanna be an athlete” thing.  I think there is much to be learned from athletes that can be applied in other areas of our lives.  Here is what I’ve learned.

  • Being an athlete changes the way you eat.  I’m an athlete.  I need to eat healthy food.  What I put into my body matters.
  • Being an athlete changes your daily activities.  Workouts “must” fit into your day.
  • Seeing yourself as an athlete changes the way you think about a workout.  I am an athlete; therefore hard work is what I do.
  • On a substandard, humorous level, it changes the way you see yourself.  It makes it a little more okay to be smaller on the top side.
  • An athlete needs to have a healthy balance between mind, body and spirit.  You need to be strong in all three areas.
  • Athletes see themselves as WINNERS before they have even run the race or played the game.
  • Athletes push harder; they go above the norm, above the expected.  They push the limits, if there are limits.
  • Athletes go through periods of strict training.  They beat their bodies into shape to be able to accomplish their goal.
  • Athletes endure setbacks and injuries as being a part of the game.  They don’t give up but use it as time to gain strength or endurance in another area.
  • Once an athlete recovers from an injury or setback and is able to get back in the game, they forget what’s past and strain for what’s ahead.  They can’t afford to allow fear of the past to slow them down.
  • Athletes are persistent and determined.  They know what patient endurance means – “steady, active persistence”.
  • Athletes strip off everything that would hold them back, even the tiniest thing that would weigh them down.  They wear appropriate clothing and gear, specifically designed for their sport.
  • Athletes don’t allow themselves to be distracted.  They stay focused.  Their goal, the prize is always set before them.
  • Athletes work together with their team.  They help each other win the game.
  • Athletes find motivation and encouragement in those who have already endured through the agonizing pain that comes with training.  They look to those who have pushed through hardships and setbacks, those who have already attained high goals and already succeeded at winning.
  • They run hard or play the game as a fight to the finish and they get the prize.  And the rewards don’t suck!

I’m sure there is more that I will learn in this journey.  I’m at six weeks post surgery now and had my first physical therapy appointment this week.  I was hoping to hear that I was good to hit the road, but it looks like I’m going to need another two to four weeks to rebuild my core strength before I can run again.  The next scheduled race is the Napa to Sonoma ½ Marathon which is just over a month away.  I will probably have to walk most of this, but at least I won’t be sidelined.  My husband who will be running will just have more time at the finish line to enjoy the fruits of Napa while he waits for me.  🙂

Having re-thought this athlete thing, I can tell you that I haven’t changed my mind.  The difference now is, I’m seeing myself as an athlete, because I am!  Life is an amazing race.  Let’s run it well, together!