Enjoy the Journey

I recently saw The Shack.  It is a wonderful, beautiful movie with so many pearls of wisdom, so many moments that make things seem so clear.  I am sure that there are different parts of that movie that speak to people in different ways, depending on their circumstances and their life experiences.  For me, the part of the movie that pierced my heart was so hidden, but so powerful.

The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are taking Mac to a beautiful destination.  As they are walking, Mac asks, “So where are we going?”  Papa immediately says, “Take a look around  and enjoy the journey.”  That line took my breath away because it hit so close to home.  This is a lesson that has taken me seven years to learn…and I am still struggling with.  It was a lesson that began with having to leave everything I had planned and many people I love. To leave a place I thought I would be at forever and to take a job I knew nothing about.  I look back on that, on before the move when I kept asking God to help me in this new journey…always using the word journey.  And then coming here and my first retreat was focused on our journey.  And then I became involved in running and through running I kept learning to enjoy the journey of running and not to get so caught up in the race.  And yet still, still I struggle constantly with wanting to know my destination.  Constantly I ask God to show me what it is I’m supposed to be doing, where I’m supposed to be going.  I want to plan my future.  I am always looking ahead.

But God is not ahead.  And God is not behind.  God is now.  God is here.  How many times must God be whispering to us that we are precisely where we are meant to be?  How many times must He be trying to tell us to stop focusing on where we are going and instead to live, to love, to trust right where we are?  Who is in control?  Is it you…or is it Him?

That line in that movie, “Take a look around and enjoy the journey”, was a beautiful reminder of what my Father is probably whispering to me every day.  He is right where we are–we only need to let go of constantly looking for the destination and instead look to Him and enjoy the incredible journey He is on with us.

 

The Little Things

Are there some things in your life that you just don’t pray about, because they seem trivial?  I have recently noticed that I was not asking for God’s help with something in my life, because I figured, in the grand scheme of things, that there were more important things to pray about.  On my run this morning, as I started asking God for his help in keeping me strong and free from injury, as I have recently started doing on every run for the past few weeks, I asked myself why had I not ever bothered asking for God’s help before with my running needs?  And I know the answer was that I just felt it was so insignificant–with all the things going on in the world and with needs so much greater than mine…a part of me felt selfish for asking for His help with my running.  And, honestly, there was also a part of me that was trying to do it all by myself.  This was MY endeavor, I don’t need anyone’s help.  It really hit me today, on my run, that both of these ways of thinking were just not right.  As I said, for the past few weeks I have been asking for God’s help on my runs.  I think it was because of a christian song I recently put on my playlist–it just prompted me to pray!  And today, on my run and also in my devotional for today, I received confirmation that God wants us to bring everything to Him.  Nothing is too trivial for our God–nothing is too big or too small for Him.  To think otherwise is to doubt the enormity of His love for us.  And to leave Him out of a part of our life is putting limits and constraints on all that He wants to bestow on us.  I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to come to this realization, especially when I know how powerful prayer is.  But I am grateful that I finally heard God whispering to me, in the early morning hours when it was just Him and me and the stars: Ask for My help in every little thing.  There is nothing too big or too small that you and I cannot handle together.  Lay it all at my feet.  I am in every detail of your life. Share your whole self with me.  I am your Helper and I am always with you.  Come to me fully and completely and trust in My love for you.

Humble

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

 

 

Timeless

Good Omen“It’s an omen.”

That is what a man told us when we found a purple starfish on the beach, that early morning 20 years ago, when we went to watch the sunrise.  That was when my future husband and I were  just getting to know one another.  We were in that exciting, wonderful stage of a relationship when feelings of friendship start growing into feelings of love.  When every moment of being together is fun, exciting, innocent, and new.

Twenty years later, my husband and I came back to our old “stomping grounds” to celebrate our upcoming 20th wedding anniversary.  We live far from here now, but every chance we get, we come back to St. Augustine to visit.  We love it here.  We love being by the beach.  We love being able to walk downtown and visit the unique and interesting little shops along St. George Street.  To us, this is our home.  This is where we met and fell in love and our new life began.

Every time we come for a visit, we go to the beach and we go back to our favorite restaurant, the Oasis.  We walk among the familiar shops down St. George Street and discover new ones that have sprung up.  And of course, we pay a visit to  my old college.  We walk through the breezeway, where so many wordless hugs were exchanged.  Where so many “I love you’s” were felt, but not yet spoken.   We  reminisce.

Last night, we drove to this one spot near the beach where we use to park the car, open the sunroof, lay our seats back and just talk.  Minus the sunroof, we did that again.  And suddenly, for the first time since we have been coming back here, I felt very sad.  Through my tears, I told my husband that I suddenly grew very sad at the thought that all of those memories, all of that “newness” that we had so long ago…that it’s gone.  We will never be able to recreate those memories and those feelings again.  We will always love one another, in fact, our love has only grown stronger and deeper throughout the years.  But the joy of discovery…the way your heart use to leap every time you saw one another….it’s gone.  I suppose it just hit me suddenly for the first time.  We talked for awhile about all of the things we love about one another and how far we’ve come and we talked about a few of our memories from those early days in our relationship.  Like the love letters we use to write to one another.  We lived only a few miles apart, but we would write important letters to one another about nothing at all that we couldn’t wait to receive in the mail.  And then we remembered the time we drove to the beach we were now parked at to watch the sunrise and we found a starfish together.  As soon as we picked it up this complete stranger all of a sudden appeared  and told us, “it’s an omen”.  As we were reminiscing,  my husband then asked a very good question that I had never thought of before when he said, “Where did that guy even come from??  It’s like he just appeared out of nowhere the minute we picked up that starfish!”  True…upon reflection…that was odd that a stranger would then appear and make that comment.  Thinking not much more about it, we soon drove back to where we were staying, leaving another memory there, at the beach.

The next morning, we decided to go for a run along the beach.  As we were running, I remember thinking to myself, “Man, I wish he (my husband) would look down from time to time to watch his step so he doesn’t stumble.” He rarely looks down when he runs and has stumbled from time to time.  I guess I was just worried about him.  It wasn’t but a few seconds later that my husband suddenly stopped running to look at something.  There, amongst all the shells and all the people, without even having his glasses on, he found a starfish.  We couldn’t believe it.  And neither of us had to say it.  God, as he has always been, was there, in our midst last night listening to us grieve a little over the time we would never get back.  The feelings that would never quite be the same.  The youthfulness and vitality, the energy and innocence that floats in the air around our old favorite places; that we can remember so well we can almost feel it, but is now just out of our reach.  And in finding this new starfish, this “omen” that made us believe even more in our predestined love all those years ago, God was reaffirming our love.  He was reaffirming all of those wonderful moments and memories that He gave us.  And He was telling us that love goes on.  Real love never really begins–it was always there, just waiting to be discovered.  And real love never ends.

Memories and moments will always be created and treasured.  They will begin and they will end.  But what really matters is the  love that remains.

Love, His love for us, and our love for one another is timeless.  And that is what I will always remember.