Thursday, September 8, 2016

Living a Life of Boldness

Exiting the lake at my first triathlon

I am panicked. Bodies are everywhere. I can’t breathe. I feel as if I am about to drown and I think, “I can’t do this.” I turn on my back to try to relax; it helps a little until I turn back around and another swimmer almost kicks me in the face! “My Lord, help me!” 10 more strokes I say to myself, just 10 more. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… I see the shore. No, 10 more! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5……I’m out! I peel the zipper of my wetsuit down. I made it! I breathe a sigh of relief. That was the hardest thing that I have ever done! This was my first triathlon in 2014, a sprint. 

When I made the decision to train for my first triathlon, I was terribly afraid of open water swimming. As a child, I had witnessed my beloved dog almost drown in the ocean. Fortunately, my sister (who was a very strong swimmer) saved him. In addition to the terror of almost watching my dog drown, I had seen Jaws several times: not a good thing for someone to watch who didn’t know that sharks were uncommon in the Pacific Ocean and didn’t live in any other body of water. 

I didn’t allow my fear to keep me from my goal. Prior to that first triathlon, I practiced just once in the Willamette with a group and it was initially terrifying. I even screamed when a twig hit my hand. However, I did it! At that first triathlon in 2014, I was very scared, but I came out of the water relieved to be done, proud and thankful. 

God wants us to be confident! Proverbs 3:5 says to Trust in, lean on and be confident in the Lord Jesus with all your heart and mind. So, the next day, I signed up for an Olympic triathlon! I realized that I needed more training in the water. A sprint triathlon had a ½ mile swim, but an Olympic was a mile. I trained for the swim by showing up over the next few weeks with the group practicing in the Willamette and I did get more confident. Now 3 years later, I’ve swum a couple of times at a 2 ½ mile lake event, several triathlons! I feel fear every new season, but one scripture that has always stuck with me is in Isaiah 41:10. Fear not, for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My [victorious] right hand of rightness and justice. 

Another fearful moment that unsuccessfully attempted to cripple me happened about 4 years ago, I had a bear encounter in Gasquet, Ca. This is the story: I ran on two trails that connected. The first is 3 miles long and the 2nd is more of a fire road that seemed to rarely get used and it went on for many miles. I usually never saw anyone up there and if a car came, they would just wave. The only way back to my car is from the trail. I spent most of my time on the fire road. I’m on a 17 mile run and I'm just about on the trail headed back to my car and I hear a noise in the bushes. (I had heard there were cougars, but had never seen any yet). I heard the noise again and I think, “If I hear the noise one more time, I’m going to stop and see what it is!” This is when I see a large black bear, about ¼ mile away on the fire road! I first pull my body alarm, I now can’t hear, but the bear doesn't even look up! I yell at it and it finally looks up, but starts walking towards me! I keep yelling, I wave my arms and pull the alarm again and it doesn't stop! I walk away from it, but then stop when I was out of its sight. I then walk forward again to see if it's still there, it is and it’s stopped and looking at me. I yell again and it starts walking towards me! I pray for help! I am told to go into the forest, to go around him. Because stomping around in the forest made me louder as I walked by it, I finally see the bear run away to the opposite side of the forest. Because I didn’t want the bear to scare me away from my favorite running spot, I went back up to the exact location where I saw the bear the following weekend.  I’m thankful to say, I never saw another bear while we lived in California.

Romans 5:19 tells us that our choices to obey God’s calling not only affect us but our future generations. In obedience to God, we will impact not only ourselves to the blessings that God has for us, but our obedience will impact others (friends, acquaintances, family) in a positive way. 

When I got the calling to train for and run a marathon, I was watching the marathon runners in the summer Olympics. I said out loud, “I could do that!” A few weeks later, I got an invitation to train for a marathon in the mail after having a beer in the driveway with a neighbor. The seed to run was planted and I just needed to obey and say yes. I did say yes and that decision has changed my life forever. I learned that running is truly a gift that God has given me. Since running that first marathon, I moved on to several 50 milers and a 100 as well as triathlons. My kids have always known me to be an athlete who works hard and motivates others.

Running has taught me patience; it has taught me about hard work, to not allow fear to consume me, self discipline, self respect and strength. What if I had disobeyed and said with doubt, “I don’t think I could train for a marathon; I feel afraid; I don’t even like running and I’m too slow!” Disobedience also impacts everyone around us. Think about the lives around that you have touched because you chose to obey and not allowed fear from holding you back!  

God does not want you to live in bondage to the fear that is holding you back from living your life and your goals. Live in boldness for Jesus. Lay your fears down and ask him to help you. In II Timothy 1:7-8 Paul states that "God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline."

If you feel fear and don’t want it to hold you back from living out your dreams and goals, pray this prayer with me, “Dear Lord, I thank you that you didn’t give me a spirit of fear nor timidity; but of power, of love, and of a sound mind. I know that you will never leave me nor forsake me. You are my strength and my shield. My heart trusts in you and I thank you for helping me. I ask that you will strengthen me for I believe that I can do all things through you who strengthens me, in the name of Jesus I pray Amen.” 

Seen on the Gasquet trail
The fire road in Gasquet is actually all uphill until you decide to turn around.

The fire road

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Let the weak say, I am strong!

God is our strength, our rock and fortress. If we put our FAITH and TRUST in him, he will STRENGTHEN us.  In our weakness he is strong. 

Let’s quickly look at Judges 16:26.  

Then Samson said to the lad who held him by the hand, "Let me feel the pillars which support the temple, so that I can lean on them."  27 Now the temple was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there -- about three thousand men and women on the roof watching while Samson performed.  28 Then Samson called to the LORD, saying, "O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!"  29 And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars which supported the temple, and he braced himself against them, one on his right and the other on his left.  30 Then Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines!" And he pushed with all his might and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life. 

You see, Sampson knew that when he prayed to God for strength, he would indeed receive it! Although Sampson was blind and had been ridiculed, he gained strength from God. In our Christian walk, we need to remember that it doesn’t matter how badly we are beaten physically or mentally, we just need to pray to God for strength and have faith that we will receive it!  

29 He gives power to the faint and weary, and to him who has no might He increases strength.  31 But those who wait for the LORD [who expect, look for, and hope in him] shall change and renew their strength and power; they shall lift their wings and mount up as eagles; they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not be faint or become tired. Isaiah 40:29&31

It’s February 2016 and I am 3 months post double ACL and Meniscus repair surgery. I’m standing at the track about to run for the first time on a cold winter, misty day. It’s quiet and I can feel my heart beating strong; I’m shaking and I feel weak. I look to heaven through the mist and ask God for strength.  Through faith, I begin to run slowly…I think,”I’m running!” However, I feel as if someone just pushed me forward as my flesh didn’t feel ready!  I ran for only a minute then took my first walk break. With renewed enthusiasm after that first day, I kept at it one day at a time over the next several months, with PATIENCE and a spirit of thanksgiving, getting stronger and stronger.

Looking back, I had double ACL and Meniscus repair surgery Nov. 23rd 2015. My right ACL was torn as a teenager, 25 years ago and I never knew about it until I tore my right meniscus in 2014; I was four days from running a 100 mile race in Utah when I tore my right meniscus. The surgery to repair the right meniscus ended up being cancelled by my previous surgeon; I never agreed to repair the right ACL.  I then tore my left ACL and meniscus during a crossfit workout almost a year ago. Both knees did get a little better and I was able to run again, but not to my standard. God gave me the gift of running; however he didn’t give me this gift to only run in pain.  It was during a 7mile run in October of 2015 that I finally had an awakening of my injuries. I realized that my running potential was not a lousy 7 mile run that really didn’t go well. That day, I called the knee doctor. I was referred to a new surgeon who suggested that I have both knees operated on. I needed to do the right one as well because I had arthritis setting in and having surgery would slow it down.  He suggested that I do the surgeries at the same time and that I needed to be very strong because it would be tough for awhile. I agreed to do both surgeries and my surgery was in 1 week. After speaking to few people who had gone through just one ACL repair surgery, I started questioning the doctor’s plan and even called and asked the receptionist if he had ever done a double ACL and meniscus repair before.  

After the surgeries, that first week was the toughest time of my life. For the first 2 weeks, I was required to lie down for 23 hours a day, not an easy task for someone who is as active as I. I would lie on the couch, crying in pain, hoping for the time to quickly pass so that I could take 2 more Oxycodone, Tramadols and 3 Ibuprofen. I’d take them all early as I convinced myself that they would take 45 minutes to take effect anyway. I was heavily medicated and it never seemed to help. I was never comfortable. Sleeping was horrible, the first few days, I slept on a recliner. I eventually moved to the bed, but had to sleep on top of the bed with a blanket because getting into the covers annoyed my knees. Walking to the bathroom was painful with each step and it took so long to get anywhere.  I’d pray for healing and I would often imagine myself dancing and running.  Slowly, I healed. Looking back, 41 weeks post surgery, I’d do it again.

Running truly is a gift and I am only successful because of God’s Grace.  I cannot do it without him. In 1 week, I will compete in a ½ ironman and at the end of October; I will make my comeback into the Ultramarathon world and run a 50K. My right knee feels as if nothing happened and my left gets a little achy, but is okay. 

                                              Let the weak say, "I am strong!" Joel 3:10
If you feel weak and need God’s strength, turn to him with your arms open wide and say father, “I am weak, and you are strong. I cannot get through this without you. You are my strength. Help me. Make me strong where I am weak!” 

God wants to have a relationship with you. You are not a mistake. You are not here to live life miserably. He loves you and will never forsake you. He wants to bless you in so many ways. He will make you strong and you will soar like Eagles.  Say yes to him today.