Everyone should have an outlet, a passion, something they love to do just because they love doing it.  For me, that is running.   It was only 3 years ago that I started running, at the age of 37 and it took hold of me and set me free.  It was a gift that God showered down on me at a time in my life when I needed something to give me confidence and joy again.  I went from never having run, well, anything, to running and winning 5Ks and then running 10Ks and then right into half marathons.  It was a release, an escape, and it even became spiritual for me, as I found myself using the time to talk to God.

In the years that followed, my running ability has steadily declined.  My body took a toll that first year, when I went all out.  Now, I only run a couple of 5Ks a year and no halfs.  Now, I am just grateful if I can get out there and run 3 1/2 miles a few times a week.  And I do because it is still a spiritual escape for me, a time when I can talk to God and praise Him, as I look around at nature and take in its beauty.

On a recent weekday run, my mind drifted, as it often does when I run, and I found myself thinking about how good I was doing with various aspects of my job and how strong I felt running.  And immediately, I found myself asking God to help me stop exalting myself.  I saw right away that I was feeling very in control of my life and it scared me.  I have learned, throughout the years, that as soon as I start feeling that power, that control, that praise in my own talents and abilities–that is when everything tends to start falling apart.  Because that is when I rely on my own strength, my own abilities, and I stop relying on God.  That is not a good place to be.  So, I immediately asked, as hard as it was, that God humble me.  That I come down from my high point where all I can see is myself and be brought back down to a level where God is my focal point again.  It’s not an easy prayer to say, because when I ask to be humbled, it means swallowing my pride–it means defeat in some aspect of my life–and it is a very hard thing to know when you have been defeated and to have to  swallow your pride.  I know this all too well, as I have watched my running ability ever so slowly be lessened and lessened.  That is when you have to rely on God’s goodness and trust that His plan is far better than your own.

I said that prayer a couple of weeks ago and life went on.  God answered that prayer just a few days ago.  Again, a weekday run.  Recently, I had been experiencing some pain in my hip/hamstring area and I was having to take it easy on my running.  A regular occurrence these days.  I’ve been running with my husband, who only started running with me about a year ago and not steadily until recently.  He’s been running to lose weight.  Naturally, he’s been a slower runner than I have, since I’d been running longer and was in better shape.  Until now.  On this run, my husband passed me up.  And then, on the next run, my husband passed me up again.  How could that be?  I’ve run (and won) tons more 5ks, I’ve run half marathons.  For 3 years running has been my life.  He’s only been running steadily for about a year.   How could he be passing me up?  It was a blow to my pride.  I prayed, again a very hard prayer to say when your pride is wounded, that God help me to be happy for him, to help me let go of the anger and jealousy and pride that I was feeling.

When I got to work that morning I was still feeling so wounded.  I put my stuff in my office and then I stood by my desk and suddenly, the poster that I hung up just the day before caught my eye.  It was one of those motivational posters, with lots of words on it.  But, in the midst of all those words, I only saw one.  Humble.  The word jumped out and it was all that I could see.  And I knew, in that instant, that God was showing me that one word.  Suddenly, I remembered that prayer that I said a few weeks ago and God was telling me that He was humbling me.  He was humbling me to make me a better person.  He was humbling me so that I would once again rely on Him.  What a gift He had given me.

Because it’s not about being a number 151Y7UBvfc3L._SY450_  runner.  It’s not about being number 1 at your job.  It’s about what is number 1 in your life.  What is your focal point?  What is the one thing you could never live without?  Once again, God humbled me so that all of those other things in life that we start to place such a high value on could be put back in their proper place.  And I could once again see clearly what is most important.  I could once again be made strong in my weaknesses.  Knowing that God’s strength is stronger, God’s plan is better, God’s love is bigger.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.–2 Corinthians 12:9




What You Take

I just finished reading a great novel by Kristin Hannah, Fly Away.  It is the sequel to Firefly Lane, a story about the friendship between two girls.  Fly Away tells us what happens to one friend after the other has died.   As the book is drawing to a close, the two friends part ways one last time and it brings back memories of my childhood friend, my best friend, my sister.

Katie died when she was 13 and I was 11.  Being two years apart, we grew up very close.  Katie was a tomboy.  She was carefree, unafraid, sporty, talkative, funny.  She was a star.  I was her opposite “twin”.  Timid, shy, extremely girly, not very coordinated, and never one to want to be in the spotlight.  I was tall, she was short.  Thus, we were often about the same height, with similar hair color.  Sometimes we’d switch jackets and put our heads down as we walked to the bus stop, hoping to fool the other kids into thinking I was her and she was me.    Katie and I did everything together.  She was my rock.

The last memory I have of Katie, and probably the strongest memory I have,  was after she died.  We had just said goodbye to her in the hospital.  Seeing her laying in that hospital bed, it didn’t look like my sister at all.  Her face was swollen, she was bandaged and had tubes everywhere.  There was no life…it was not her.  But we held hands around her and we said the Our Father.  And I said goodbye.  When we got home, I told my parents that I should go upstairs and call my friend and tell her why I haven’t been in school.  I will never forget my dad asking me if I needed help.  I did not understand that question.  Why would I need help calling my friend?  I was eleven.

So I started walking up the stairs in what felt like slow motion.  I remember looking over to my left hand slide along the railing.  And when I reached the top of the stairs I felt something on that hand and I shook it.  And then, immediately after I shook it, I knew exactly what it was.  It was my sister’s hand, holding my hand.  I felt her fingers slide into mine.  It felt so real that I knew then and there, at age eleven, that if I had just looked over, I would have seen her standing right beside me.  And suddenly, I knew exactly what my dad was asking when he asked if I needed help calling my friend.  Because as I went to make the call and started speaking, all of a sudden, I couldn’t get the words out.  The realization that my sister was no longer by my side hit me all at once.  And there was my dad, ready to take the phone and finish the conversation.

I hold that memory tight.  It was the last time my sister physically held my hand, letting me know that she was with me.  Her message rang clear in my heart, “I am always with you, holding your hand through life.” And many times, in the 29 years since that moment, I have felt my sister with me.

As I read Fly Away, one particular line hit me like a ton of bricks and instantly brought tears to my eyes, “…my best friend, with her long, tangled blond hair,  and thick eyelashes and her smile that lights up any room.  My other half. The girl who took my hand all those years ago and didn’t let go until she had to.”  And suddenly, I was missing my sister all over again.  But I noticed, as I sat silently crying, that after so many years had passed, so many memories start to fade.  You forget exactly the expressions that she made and how her voice sounded and you try so hard to bring back so many memories that you know you shared.  The tons and tons of conversations you had when your parents thought you were sleeping, but really you (she, mainly) was talking for hours and hours into the night.  What did you talk about?  It all  fades with time.

But here is what I remember.  I remember the love.  I remember feeling safe with her.  I remember feeling like we’d always find something fun to do together.  I remember feeling like she would always protect me.  And I remember her holding my hand.  And that’s what you take with you.  No matter how much time passes, you never forget that love that you shared.   The love stays with you forever and in the end, it’s all that you have.  It’s all that you need.

Until we meet again, and hold hands.