Heart in the Clouds

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Back in the saddle again...

I was challenged to get back into blogging by my friend, Joe Conrad, who is a blogger himself. He's a witty guy with lots of interesting stuff to say about church and faith. Check out his blog here. He threatened me with certain death (or at least a swift, imminent excommunication from his blogging family), thus I felt compelled to write.

Really, though, I had been considering writing again, but I often feel like I don't have anything of importance to say. I have a whole file of blog drafts that I've never posted because I talked myself out of them. 

But I'll try today...

I can't sum up the entire last year in one blog post, but I guess I'll have to start somewhere...hmmm...

*taps chin* Well, here goes.

1. I now live on a farm (above photo was taken yesterday)! Holy heck, if you had told me that in 2015, I'd be moving to a place I had always driven by and dreamed about in passing, I'd say you were cray cray. But here were are! Every morning when I walk outside to the pond and see the sun peeking over the hillside that is entirely covered with trees THAT WE OWN, I am still amazed that all of this even happened. No, there aren't any barnyard animals, except four ducks that we have raised from teeny ducklings and, of course, Sedona, our trusty Beagle (who is constantly on guard against groundhogs). But we're thinking about goats. We shall see.

(PS. We're currently in the market for a decent tractor if you know of anyone who is selling one!...and add that to the list of things I never thought I'd say.)

2. I have become a trail runner! At this time last year, I had just completed my third road marathon (a marathon is 26.2 miles/42.2 kilometers) and had caught the distance-running bug. However, something in my runner soul was pushing me to try new challenges. Since I love running hills, my friend, Bob, suggested I start into trail running. So I'm now not only a six-time marathoner, but I'm also a two-time (about to be three-time) trail ultramarathoner. The term "ultramarathoner" sounds far more cool than it is, but it's something I love to do. Running is the life challenge I get to choose for myself. I think it's great to have challenges you take on on your own terms...so that's mine.

3. I'm now the mother of a teenager and a 10-year-old...not only did I turn 40, but my older son turned 13 and my younger son jumped into the double digits, as well. Add those to the list of things I wasn't emotionally prepared for.

4. I've had my ups and downs this year with my anxiety/depression combo. Yeah, that's kind of sucked, I admit. But, through it all, God has shown me his faithfulness. Just when I think I can't go on and I'll never be "normal" again, He reminds me that I'm not alone. He shows me that by being open about my struggles, I not only help myself, but I help others, too. Sometimes you have to feel the feels and then let them pass. I have had some really low "valley" moments in recent days, but I'm thankful that my amazing family and friends and my awesome Father have encouraged my heart in so many ways. Life happens, but I continue to have hope. Plus, "normal" is overrated. So there's that.

Life has some crazy ebbs and flows. I plan to begin writing again and reacquainting myself with my blog voice. I know I have things in my heart that I want to express, so we'll see how they manifest themselves. Currently, photos are the way I express myself, so feel free to follow me on Instagram under @sarahfishcolligan. 

Thanks for reading my thoughts. It's quite possible I'll share more in the near future, so get ready! 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Learning to Love--The Part About Letting Go

But he said to me, 
"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power 
is made perfect in weakness." 
II Corinthians 12:9

Well, as I said at the beginning of the year, my only real goal for 2015 is to learn to really love people and God (and myself, if I'm honest). But what I'm learning is that loving people sometimes means you have to let go of them and remove them from your life.

I'm the type of person who likes people to feel included, happy and like they belong. I've always been like that. I want people to be nice and like each other, and I want everyone to feel like they're accepted, despite their issues.

However, there comes a point where people start to refuse to deal with their crap. They refuse to face the facts. They refuse to get help, or deal with addictions or even admit that they have deep issues that they need to address. In their eyes, their issues become everyone else's fault, and they take on a victim mentality. We all have issues, but when those problems we hold on to begin to affect the people in our lives in a negative way and our lives begin to go downhill, it's a sign something needs work. We can't fix people we love.

When a friend or loved one's issues begin to affect you negatively, sometimes really loving them (and yourself) means saying goodbye. When you allow someone in your life to behave badly over and over again, they take it as permission, which it is. But, in all honesty, sometimes that means it's time to let them go.

None of us are perfect. I know I'm not. But truly loving a person is the complete opposite of enabling them to stay where they are. Addictions, bitterness, anger, fear...all of those things are like chains. When we enable our loved ones, we are adding chains. We are locking them into these behaviors because we make it okay, and we even sometimes help them to continue. But love isn't enabling.

The best example of this is God. He loves us too much to enable us to stay where we are. He is constantly reaching for us and ready to pull us up. He could let us wallow in our issues, our addictions, and our failures...but if we ask Him for help, he won't let us get stuck for long. He is constantly providing us with help, in many forms. We just have to accept it. At times, enabling our loved ones to continue in their behavior keeps them from accepting the help God is trying to give them. Enabling and helping are different things.

I think there's something inside of each of us that knows when it's time to let go. It's scary to let someone go, even if there truly isn't anything you can do for them. It's admitting that they are out of your control (and their own). It's admitting that you don't have all the answers. But it's also admitting that you--your emotions, your heart, your mind, your life--are valuable and worthy.

It's okay to let people go. If your heart is broken repeatedly, let them go. If you have become the focus of their unwarranted anger too many times, let them go. If you know that their behavior has reached or will reach a point where it becomes dangerous for you or them, let them go. If you've permitted their addiction or their illness to infiltrate your life, and they refuse to see that they need help, let them go. Give them into God's hands. He's far more capable.

If you constantly carry a child around, refusing to let her touch the ground, she will never learn to walk. She will never learn to pull herself up. She will never learn what it's like to fall and then get back up. Enabling is carrying around someone you have no business carrying.

If you feel like there's someone in your life whom you need to let go of, start to think about it and be honest with yourself. Seek counsel. Pray. Then, in the best way you can, let them go...really let them go. God is more able to care for the person than you are. He knows them and He created them, and He loves them even more than you do. Letting go is admitting God is stronger.

Monday, December 22, 2014


Yesterday, I wrote a great blog post about this past year, my struggles, my triumphs, my ups and downs. It was also about my goals for the coming year--the ways I want to challenge myself and things I want to learn.

But I didn't post it.

It didn't feel like what I really wanted to say, and it really wasn't that great.

So tonight on my 4-mile run in the dark, I started thinking. This past year for me has been about simplicity and getting rid of the junk in my life--physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. While I don't think I've succeeded fully, I've definitely made good headway. I've come out the other side of a bout with depression and anxiety. I've gotten rid of some toxic emotions--unforgiveness, anger, fear--obligations that have been draining me and even some physical junk that's been filling up our home. I've accomplished some goals. I'm more "myself" than I've ever been.

Yeah, I'd say 2014 has been pretty good to me, all things considered, and I've been pretty good to it. 2011-2013 were some of the hardest years of my life, in so many ways. But this year I started to feel a restoration in my heart.

While I was running tonight, though, I thought about this coming year and all the things I wrote last night. But I realized that all those things I wrote were just more "blah, blah, blah" to complicate my life. They're things I'd like to do and new goals I'd like to accomplish, but nothing that really spoke to the core of what I feel in my heart that I need to learn.

Then it dawned on me. Love. That's what I want to learn in 2015. I've simplified a lot in 2014, so I've opened up a lot of space in my heart and my mind.

To start off my 40th year, I want to start to learn what it means to love with my whole heart, out of a simple faith. I want to love like God does--without expecting anything in return. I want to love people whom others may consider unlovable. I want to be able to give my heart fully to my friends and family, without fear or reservation. I want to be like Mary (Luke 10:38-42) and sit at Jesus' feet and just listen--forgetting my self-imposed obligations, others' expectations and the tasks that I think need to be done. I want to make His love my focus and allow Him to teach me.

I want to be a person people know they can trust. I want to be a person who epitomizes what it means to live out the heart of God. To do that, though, I think I need to refocus. I tend to be a little scattered, but I feel the time is coming for me to focus myself on this one thing.

When we know we're loved, we realize our significance doesn't come from people's opinions. It doesn't come from what we've accomplished. It doesn't come from what we do, what we say or how we act. God loves us just as we are, imperfect and flawed. He loves us despite the darkness that lives in each of us.

Romans 8 reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of God. Our sin and our walls can keep us from receiving it, but nothing keeps him from constantly giving it. I want to live that way--loving, whether people can receive it or not.

In the past few days I've been thinking about the aspects of real love. I want to be able to measure what I'm learning about it with the way it is defined in I Corinthians 13:4-8 (I'm liking the Amplified version at the moment). As you read through this passage, take the time to think about how you give and receive love. Maybe, like me, you'll want to make 2015 a year of learning how to love.

"4 Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.
It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].
It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.
Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].
Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]." 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tuesday Thanks

We are all a part of each other, and it deeply saddens me to see people struggle. It's horrifying to know that right now other human beings in different parts of the world are being tortured and taken from their families, or they are dying from diseases that could be preventable, given the right medicine. I hate injustice and corruption. I hate fear. I hate that depression or addiction can overwhelm people to the point that they feel their only way out of the hole is to take themselves out.

Having gone through different levels of depression and anxiety myself over time, I know (even in a small way) that feeling of hopelessness--as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel and there will be no one to help me. Seeing others struggle unsuccessfully with that same feeling hurts my heart. I wouldn't wish that emptiness on anyone.

But, in the middle of all the world's chaos, my anchor "within the veil" is God and my gratitude for all He is doing that I can't always see. I can keep my eyes up and find God's hope in the world's darkness by being REAL with Him, with myself and with other people, and being truly grateful, knowing I always have Someone to thank.

Hiding behind any mask is harmful, especially the masks of religion and pride. Masks separate people from each other, and they separate us from the joy God has for us. Over time, He's taught me that there really is nothing to hide, and there is no fear when I step into the light and just BE who I am, flaws and all.

You are loved completely, just as you are, and there is no fear in Love. People will either judge you or they won't, they'll either accept you or they won't...but who cares? Take off your mask. Life is too short to hide. Let it all hang out, baby!

Simple gratitude strips away the "protective" layers we've put up around ourselves, revealing who we are at our core. I've learned that the best thing I can be is me--real and true, for better or worse. Years ago, God helped me learn to differentiate between trustworthy and untrustworthy people, and when I am listening to Him I can easily separate the two. The trustworthy ones will accept me as I am, build me up and encourage me. Learning simplicity has allowed me to love myself and to receive love from other people, but also to not accept less than authenticity from others.

Be your real, true self. There is no reason not to be. Don't be ashamed of your flaws or afraid to show when you're struggling. The act of sharing yourself may help someone without you even knowing it.


1. I'm grateful for the fact that I got help. The struggle of depression and anxiety is real, and every day we see the sad effects of shame or self-medication. If you are struggling, there is help out there. My life made a 180 when I reached out. Go get help now if you need it.

2. I'm grateful for the breath in my lungs and the power in my legs that I never knew I had. Running has saved my life. I truly believe it.

3. I'm grateful for laughter and the gift of truly funny people. Laughter has been medicine for me all my life, and I so appreciate "sparkly" or funny people. They are a gift to the world, whether they feel that or not.

Even when you feel alone, you're not alone, so...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Three things...

"He has shown you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
To love mercy,
And to walk humbly with your God?"

If you look at the top of my blog page, there's a little Scripture reference on the bottom right of the header. Micah 6:8.

My favorite verse has been coming to my mind again. It usually pops up when I start to notice I'm over-complicating my life or my faith, and filling it with too many unimportant things. It's like God's little whisper to remind me that my goal for this year is simplicity.

I'm grateful for this little reminder. Amid the expectations I pile on myself, the obligations I accept from other people and the desires I have for more life and meaning, I can lose the knowledge that simplicity is best. More isn't better.

It's a process. Simple isn't a destination, it's a journey. Gradually peeling off layers of junk from my life is not easy, though. It's a cleansing of the mind, of the spirit and of the emotions. It's a refiner's fire. For me, "simplicity" has meant cutting off toxic relationships and cutting back on bad habits. It has meant throwing out trash and clutter, even some things I had deemed "important." It has meant cutting out the noise of the world and the voices in me and around me. It has meant losing some of the mental and physical weight that had held me back from seeing some of the true potential of my imperfect human body.

When I gradually start to fill up my life again (and the lives of my family) or get religious, I hear a little whisper, "Three things."

Do justly.

Love mercy.

Walk humbly with God.

The rest of the stuff doesn't matter.

It's a big eye-opener when I remind myself. It's the measure for my behavior, my thoughts, my attitude, my spirituality.

I feel like true gratitude brings these three things to the forefront and forces us to see and appreciate what's important--all the little, quiet moments and opportunities we might miss in the noise and clutter of a busy life. It cuts through the messes and the obligations. It separates the meaningful from the irrelevant.

So while you're going about your life, stressing about the expectations put upon you or those you put upon yourself, or you find yourself over-complicating your faith, breathe and remember...three things. Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The Change begins...

Remembering to feel and experience and live gratitude is going to be something I have to remind myself to do daily because I've gotten out of practice. But so far I'm off to a good start.

Today was a good day.

I spent time with my older son, just the two of us. I spent time with friends. I finally met (in person) an online friend I've had for years. Lots of moments to smile about!

Today I'm grateful for...

Blue sky. I needed to see it, and it was there.

Wisdom. I needed to use it, and it was there.

Confidence. I'm learning to live in it and to help bring it out in other people.

Knowing when to keep my mouth shut. Sometimes maturity is about knowing when to keep thoughts, feelings and opinions to oneself, even more than it is about sharing exactly what's on your mind. That's something I've had to learn the hard way, in some cases, but I'm grateful for the many opportunities I have to put it into practice.

Imperfection. We all have our faults and issues. We all have our insecurities and fears. But we are beautiful in our imperfection. In our weakness, His strength is perfected.

Firsts. My younger son had a big first today--his first day at Cub Scout day camp. He was nervous about being without his big brother, but I have wanted him to have opportunities to find himself and have fun outside the family bubble. He loved it and can't wait for tomorrow. He's taking more steps into the world and growing more confident each time. I love him and can't wait to see the man he becomes...even though I'd sometimes love for him to stay my little boy a little bit longer.

Waiting for his ride on the first day of camp...

Thursday, June 19, 2014

I woke up this morning...

and I immediately thought to myself, "I need a change." Do you ever get the feeling that you're stuck in a rut, it may be a happy, mellow rut, but it's a rut nevertheless? No big highs or lows, and you're just happily putzing along?

There are times when I'm stuck in a rut and I don't notice it, usually meaning things are moving along fine, but I'm not really connected with my life. Yesterday, I noticed the days are flying by. Before I know it, a week has gone by and I have nothing I can say that has really moved me or made me think or put me in awe.

Part of it, I'm sure, is my medication. I am SO happy to be on meds...oh, you have no idea! They're not for everyone, but they have turned me around. My anxiety was overwhelming, which was causing me to be depressed. That has turned around for sure. But medication also has the ability to mellow me out to the point where I get comfortable and I coast. 

If you know me at all, you know I don't just like to coast. I want to feel. I want to move. I want to know that what I'm doing and how I'm living has meaning, and I want to give off a positive light in the world. My light has been pretty weak lately, if I'm honest with myself. Not much fuel in the fire. I'm just "here." A comfortable lump. While I love my comfort zone and would probably stay in it forever if I could, I need to give myself a swift kick in the hindquarters now and then.

So this week the training period for my second marathon is beginning (Columbus in October--woo hoo!). I'm already a few days in, and will be making physical changes, obviously, and eating less sugar, drinking more water, and sleeping more. But along with that, I am wanting to make some other changes, emotionally and spiritually.

Gratitude has long been a theme in my life. It's obvious to me that when I'm recognizing the people and circumstances that God has put in my path and the little things that I often don't take time to notice, I am more connected with this journey I'm on, I'm more "in the moment" and I find joy in the small things. I'm able to pay attention to what people are saying with their hearts, more so than what they're saying with their mouths. I'm able to have compassion when I would have only had judgment. I'm able to speak blessings, where I might have only spoken curses. I'm more focused on what I truly desire (God), and I'm not brought down easily.

So I've decided to reconnect with my gratitude. Not sure how it'll look, but I'm going to do it, as part of training for my life, not just my next marathon. 

If you look at your life, what is a change you'd like to make? Something positive you can incorporate into your daily routine that will connect you more? I encourage you to think about it. It's easy to be negative or just coast along. Being a positive light is a lot harder if you don't have the emotional and spiritual fuel to keep it bright. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

On gossip and the power of words

"A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, 
and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. 
For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of."
Luke 6:45

Recently, there was a little thing going around on Facebook where a person would write a certain number of things about himself that people probably didn't know, and he would then challenge whomever "liked" his post to write a number of things about themselves. One of my friends challenged me to write 14 things about myself, so I did.

One of the things I wrote about was my hatred of gossip and about how I automatically don't trust people who constantly gossip about others. And that's true. But I don't hate it because I'm somehow above everyone else and never gossip myself. I do. I sometimes gossip when I'm feeling hurt or attacked, or I feel the urge to lash out or belittle someone in the eyes of other people. 

I think the real reason I hate it so much is because when I gossip it exposes something dark in me that I despise. Plus, it also exposes my massive insecurities.

For me, personally, recognizing that darkness in myself makes me want to avoid situations and topics where I'm prone to gossip. Not everyone feels the way I do about it, and that's totally okay because it's a personal thing. In my own journey, though, I have come to realize the hard way how powerful the spoken and written word can be.

Things people (even friends) have said about me have often gotten back to me without their knowledge, so it stands to reason that things I say about someone else could easily get back to them. It really hurts when you realize people you thought cared about you have said mean, sarcastic or belittling things behind your back. It's a big trust-breaker for me. In my heart, I know I don't want to cause lasting hurt over my momentary feelings, so I have decided to try my hardest to avoid gossip. Like I said, it's a personal thing.

There are things I've said about people in the past that I truly wish I could take back, but we all know that words can't really be taken back. Once they're out there, they're out there. I seem to put my foot in it fairly often and I've offended more people than I know, I'm sure, with the overflow of my heart coming out of my mouth (or out of my written words).

I've begun to try to really take the above Scripture to heart--not just in the area of gossip, but also in every other area where my words can have an effect. I have stopped posting about politics (because I generally don't have good things to say about anyone in that arena), and generally about most of my negative feelings. Taking the overflow of my heart seriously also makes me more aware of what I say to my kids and my husband out of my frustration, too. 

In the coming year, as part of my "resolutions" (hate that word), I really want to work on what's in my heart and having as much love and kindness in there as I can, so that whatever flows out of it will be as anger-free or hurt-free as possible. Words are powerful. We've all experienced their power in positive and negative ways. Positive definitely feels a lot nicer, though, don't you think?

"The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences."
Proverbs 18:21

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Divas Half Marathon--DC's Wine Country (My long, in-depth review)

I was really looking forward to this race because not only was it my first half marathon, but it was also going to be girl time, centered around running. My kind of fun! It was going to be the Divas organization's first race in the DC area, as well, so it sounded awesome.

After about a four hour drive, we arrived at our hotel, met up with a friend and drove together to the Divas race expo that was held at nearby Lansdowne Resort to pick up our packets. The resort didn't have enough parking for all the Divas, though, so we had to park on the street. The expo itself was around the size I expected, but the race had a lot fewer sponsors than most races that size do, so it didn't have a lot of shopping or selection available unless you really liked headbands. What they had was decent enough, though. The "stores" there didn't have much selection, though, and we had gotten there in the afternoon. I wonder what was available for those who came in the evening!

Picking up the bags that contained our shirts and bibs was pretty easy and straight-forward, but I was really surprised at how few freebies came in the bag. I've been in many other races half that size (and half that price--we payed $97, including the price and all fees) that have at least some samples--a bottle of water, an energy bar and a lip balm. Something! What did we get? Our bib, the race shirt and...safety pins? For just under $100? Boo. Thumbs down.

After we explored what there was of the expo, we went to dinner and hung out at the hotel. We had a great time together and we laughed a lot!

The next morning, we woke up before 5am to the sound of elephants stomping overhead (probably fellow Diva racers getting up and ready), so we got up. Once we were dressed, we realized that the hotel fridge was broken, so all of our expensive food that we were going to eat before the race had spoiled. Thankfully, Chick-fil-a was open, so we grabbed something quick and headed to the winery. The Divas coordinators had said that getting to the winery early would be a good thing because of traffic, so we left more than an hour to get the 8 miles to the winery. However, we sat in traffic FOREVER and we barely made it there for what would have been the 7:30 start. And there was still a massive line of traffic from both directions waiting to get into the winery. The winery is surrounded by tiny two-lane roads, so it would have been impossible to get all the 3,500 runners and the spectators into the parking area in enough time. Poor planning on the organizers' parts, but they've vowed to rectify that problem next year.

After parking in the field, we made our way quickly toward the entrance. There were four port-a-johns there, but there was also a long line of ladies waiting to use them. There were ladies running into the woods near the parking field because the race was supposed to start about 10 minutes after we arrived. However, someone told us there were more johns down by the starting line, so we headed there. When we got down the hill to the starting line area, there were a lot more bathrooms available, but there were also a lot more ladies waiting to use them. The number of bathrooms wasn't enough to handle the flow (no pun intended) of runners who were arriving late (because of the ridiculous traffic) and needed to use them.

After we finally used the bathrooms and quickly got to our time corrals for the start of the race, there was an announcement saying that the start would be delayed about 20 minutes to allow for more runners to arrive. However, the announcer implied that it was the runners' faults for not heeding the warnings by the coordinators to arrive early...pardon us for thinking an hour was enough time to get 8 miles! The roads around the winery were part of the race course, so they couldn't start until all the cars were gone. Meanwhile, the bathroom lines were backing up again because the start time was pushed back once again. Ladies were getting out of the lines, going behind the potties to squat behind trees or running up the hill into the woods again.

The start time kept getting pushed back until it was announced that the race would begin AN HOUR AND A HALF AFTER IT WAS SCHEDULED TO START! Great. Whatever. At least more runners had the opportunity to arrive. The race started and we finally got going.

Most of the course was made up of country roads that wound around big fields and it was a beautiful view of the local countryside. Plus, the weather was gorgeous, cool and dry, so it made the whole thing even prettier.

The organizers also directed the race through a few neighborhoods, which was nice, but I kind of felt badly for the people living along the route because they'd have to wait an extra hour and a half to get out of their driveways than they had already planned to. But people in the neighborhoods were out cheering for us...and some letting people use their bathrooms, apparently.

I will say that there were a fair number of EMTs in golf carts (and a couple of ambulances) patrolling the route, so it seemed that the ladies who needed medical attention actually got it. Two things that were definitely lacking on the route were extra bathrooms and food/fuel options. I, for one, had to pee in the bushes in someone's front yard around mile 7 because there weren't bathrooms close enough and I was in pain. Because the race was delayed so long, a lot of runners had to "go" again once the race started and they were already hungry again because the food they'd fueled up with had already digested. I, personally, was starving by around mile 6-7...I mean, my stomach was literally growling.

Now I've heard a number of runners who felt underprepared because there were a lot more big hills in the course than were advertised. I believe they advertised it as "some rolling hills with a big hill near the end" but it was a lot more than that. I, personally, didn't feel upset about it because I didn't even pay attention to the map on the website. (Actually I very rarely do that for any race anymore. I made the mistake of worrying about the hill in one particular race that everyone was ended up not being bad at all...after that, I decided not to look anymore and just take each hill in each race as it comes.) But I DO understand why people were upset! If I would have expected one type of race course and gotten another, I'd be pretty ticked, too, especially if I were trying to use my time for this race to qualify for another race. Again, the Divas organization has vowed to rectify this issue, as well, by changing the course.

By the time I reached the end of the race, there were already runners leaving, but because there weren't many routes out of the finish area they had to walk ON the course. So runners were having to run around the people who were walking out. Not great. The finish line area was a little confusing, too, and they didn't end up giving out the champagne they had promised when people first signed up. (They did mention that before the race, but I still didn't like that. Don't advertise something if you're not going to deliver.) Also, I think the tiaras/boas could have been passed out AFTER runners crossed the finish line. That caused a little clogging in the course near the end. But I know lots of ladies were happy with the muscle men at the finish line who handed out the medals.

Overall, aside from a few major annoyances, the race was decent. The weather was beautiful and I was running with a bunch of other chicks, so I was happy. I was also running injured, though, so I wasn't in it to break any land speed records or get any PRs and I'm okay with my time. Will I be running a Divas race again? Probably not. I don't like the fact that you have to pay so much for so little. If I'm going to travel again for a race, I'm going to make sure I get my money's worth.

I give it 3 stars out of 5.

The roomies! (I'm in pink.)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thoughts from a gurney...

While I was lying in the ER earlier this week, waiting for the doctor to figure out what manner of incredibly painful craziness was occurring in my kidneys, the person in the curtained room next to mine died. Over the next hour or so, I watched the person's loved ones file in. I heard sobbing. I heard praying. I heard laughter. I saw people hugging each other, smiling while wiping tears. I saw a woman on her knees on the floor, unable to stand in her grief. It made me wonder who this person was and what had caused their death. But less than 15 minutes after their loved ones left, the room had been cleared and cleaned, and there was a new person in the room, with an emergency of his own, waiting to be seen by the doctor. Life moves on, and how quickly its direction can change!

As I lay there after watching this situation unfold, I thought about the odd mixture of circumstances that have recently been visited on my life and the lives of people I care about. I thought about the ways I've seen God's hand working and the ways I may not have even looked for His hand, and it occurred to me that I generally seem to trust God pretty well except in a couple of specific areas.

Many of us have areas where we don't really trust that God is on our side. Maybe it's finances. Maybe it's relationships. Maybe it's a career. Maybe it's more vague or more specific, but everyone has something. If a person says they fully trust God in everything, they're lying.

The most faith-filled people I know have had many of their own moments of fear, anxiety and doubt.

That thought helps give me peace. None of us is "there" yet. I'm not less of a Christian because I have doubts or fears. Denying your doubt is the first step to becoming religious, and not in a good way (if there IS a good way). A real relationship with God means asking questions like a child. There's one question our little ones (and sometimes bigger ones) ask more often than any other...Why?

That's the human condition. We need to have a WHY behind everything. Why is the sky blue? Why are the clouds white? Why do innocent children die of starvation every day? Why do bad things happen to good people?

In Matthew 5, right after Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (yeah, I know), He says that the sun rises on the evil and the good, and the rain falls on the righteous and unrighteous. Great things happen to good and bad people. Terrible things happen to good and bad people. It's part of being human. In many ways, we are subject to our humanity. We are subject to the laws and desires of other people. There isn't always a WHY.

There are corrupt governments that withhold resources, funds and medical care from their people, causing widespread starvation and disease. There are people who plan to hijack airplanes and use them to kill as many people as they can. There are cells in our bodies that have the possibility of mutation and the ability to kill us. Being subject to all of those things is part of being human.

God doesn't promise us an easy path. The fact that we have faith doesn't make us exempt from life's ills. But having God means we have a hand to hold through the struggle--the hand of Someone bigger, stronger and so far beyond our timeline of mortality that we can have a peace that makes no sense. But He's not only far beyond our mortality, He's closer than our next breath. That's the comfort of knowing a loving God. He's here. Right here. He's behind us and in front of us and above us and below us.

I know He's here, even when I don't feel Him. I'm one of those people who can't look at the world and all the beauty and the creativity expressed in it and believe that it just "happened." I can't. I've tried. 

Life moves quickly and things can turn on a dime. One minute you're alive in the hospital, waiting to see an expert to tell you what's happening to you. The next minute your body shuts down and your loved ones come and go and grieve. The next minute your room is cleared and another person is lying in your bed, waiting for help. But the unconditional love of God is the blessed assurance that adds a layer of peace and permanence under all the craziness and the sense of impermanence.

Why did God send Jesus? He sent Jesus to be the answer to our questions and our fears. He came to show us that we are fully loved and accepted by our Creator, and all we have to do is believe that He is who He says He is. Jesus endured rejection, love, anxiety, joy, loneliness, persecution, pain and death so that you and I would have no reason to say that God hasn't been where we are or felt our pain. He has, and more. He endured all of those things, taking on humanity, because He loves US!

Using John Mark McMillan's words, Jesus is God's way of giving us a "sloppy, wet kiss" and of breaking the barrier that lay between God and man. The curtain that separated us from God was torn, allowing us to see His LOVE face-to-face in Jesus, the One who traded His life for ours. The fact that He destroyed all of those constraints on our humanity by his death is what gives us hope for a future. There are moments in life where all you can do is "wholly lean on Jesus' name," and you can do so with the confidence that comes from knowing you're loved and that He'll never let go.

So lying there on my gurney, I thought about all of these things, and I felt a sense of peace because I looked for it. For once, I looked for it.

If you're going through craziness right now, whether you're lying on a gurney or not, realize that there's a layer of God's peace somewhere under all of it. Look for it because it's there. Dig it up and drink it in. God is with you and you're not alone. Life is fleeting and it's hard, but God is good and there's hope beyond what we see now!


One of my favorite hymns was written by a man named Horatio Spafford who lost his daughters in a shipwreck. He wrote the lyrics as his ship was sailing over the spot where theirs had gone down. If you read the lyrics, you'll understand why it's one of my favorites. For a person who suffers with random bouts of anxiety, it's a good reminder that no matter what happens, God is with me and "it is well with my soul."

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
  2. When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well, with my soul.
    • Refrain:
      It is well, with my soul,
      It is well, it is well, with my soul.
  3. Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
    Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  4. My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  5. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  6. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  7. And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day

I'm thankful for the blessing of the good men in my life--my husband, my dad, my brother, my father-in-law and my brother-in-law, and the many friends with whom I have had the opportunity to share a lot of laughs and great life experiences. You're all such a blessing and I'm thankful for all of you!

Bono on Jesus

I've seen this interview with Bono circulating on the Interwebz for the past few days and I really connected with it, so I thought I'd share it. In fact, it was a big part of our discussion at church this past Saturday (in our church we sit together and have discussions instead of having sermons), and it made for some good food for thought and gave me some things to chew on for a while.

I've seen the interview in a few different places, so I'm just going to post the link from the most recent place I've seen it.


While I don't really look to rock stars for opinions on faith, I have to say I wholeheartedly agree with Bono's feelings on grace and whole point of Christ and the cross. Check it out and see what you think of it. In some ways the things he says remind me of some of the teachings and writings of the late Brennan Manning. I'm interested in what you think after reading it, so please feel free to comment.


Bono on Jesus

From the Amazon page:
“Bono’s career is unlike any other in rock history. As the lead singer of U2, Bono has sold 130 million albums, won fourteen Grammys, and played numerous sold-out world tours, but he has also lobbied and worked with world leaders from Bill Clinton and George W. Bush to Nelson Mandela on debt relief, AIDS, and other critical global issues. He has collaborated with the same musicians for nearly three decades and has been married to his childhood sweetheart since 1982. His life, at all turns, resists the rock star clich├ęs.
In a series of intimate conversations with his friend Michka Assayas, a music journalist who has been with the band since the very beginning, Bono reflects on his transformation from the extrovert singer of a small Irish post-punk band into one of the most famous individuals in the world; and from an international celebrity to an influential spokesperson for the Third World. He speaks candidly about his faith, family, commitment, influences, service, and passion. Bono: A Self-Portrait in Conversation is the closest we will come, for now, to a memoir from the iconic frontman of U2.”
What follows is an excerpt from the book where Bono talks about Jesus Christ:
Bono: My understanding of the Scriptures has been made simple by the person of Christ. Christ teaches that God is love. What does that mean? What it means for me: a study of the life of Christ. Love here describes itself as a child born in straw poverty, the most vulnerable situation of all, without honor. I don’t let my religious world get too complicated. I just kind of go: Well, I think I know what God is. God is love, and as much as I respond [sighs] in allowing myself to be transformed by that love and acting in that love, that’s my religion. Where things get complicated for me, is when I try to live this love. Now that’s not so easy.
Michka: What about the God of the Old Testament? He wasn’t so “peace and love”?
Bono: There’s nothing hippie about my picture of Christ. The Gospels paint a picture of a very demanding, sometimes divisive love, but love it is. I accept the Old Testament as more of an action movie: blood, car chases, evacuations, a lot of special effects, seas dividing, mass murder, adultery. The children of God are running amok, wayward. Maybe that’s why they’re so relatable. But the way we would see it, those of us who are trying to figure out our Christian conundrum, is that the God of the Old Testament is like the journey from stern father to friend. When you’re a child, you need clear directions and some strict rules. But with Christ, we have access in a one-to-one relationship, for, as in the Old Testament, it was more one of worship and awe, a vertical relationship. The New Testament, on the other hand, we look across at a Jesus who looks familiar, horizontal. The combination is what makes the Cross.
Michka: Speaking of bloody action movies, we were talking about South and Central America last time. The Jesuit priests arrived there with the gospel in one hand and a rifle in the other.
Bono: I know, I know. Religion can be the enemy of God. It’s often what happens when God, like Elvis, has left the building. [laughs] A list of instructions where there was once conviction; dogma where once people just did it; a congregation led by a man where once they were led by the Holy Spirit. Discipline replacing discipleship. Why are you chuckling?
Michka: I was wondering if you said all of that to the Pope the day you met him.
Bono: Let’s not get too hard on the Holy Roman Church here. The Church has its problems, but the older I get, the more comfort I find there. The physical experience of being in a crowd of largely humble people, heads bowed, murmuring prayers, stories told in stained-glass windows
Michka: So you won’t be critical.
Bono: No, I can be critical, especially on the topic of contraception. But when I meet someone like Sister Benedicta and see her work with AIDS orphans in Addis Ababa, or Sister Ann doing the same in Malawi, or Father Jack Fenukan and his group Concern all over Africa, when I meet priests and nuns tending to the sick and the poor and giving up much easier lives to do so, I surrender a little easier.
Michka: But you met the man himself. Was it a great experience?
Bono: [W]e all knew why we were there. The Pontiff was about to make an important statement about the inhumanity and injustice of poor countries spending so much of their national income paying back old loans to rich countries. Serious business. He was fighting hard against his Parkinson’s. It was clearly an act of will for him to be there. I was oddly moved by his humility, and then by the incredible speech he made, even if it was in whispers. During the preamble, he seemed to be staring at me. I wondered. Was it the fact that I was wearing my blue fly-shades? So I took them off in case I was causing some offense. When I was introduced to him, he was still staring at them. He kept looking at them in my hand, so I offered them to him as a gift in return for the rosary he had just given me.
Michka: Didn’t he put them on?
Bono: Not only did he put them on, he smiled the wickedest grin you could ever imagine. He was a comedian. His sense of humor was completely intact. Flashbulbs popped, and I thought: “Wow! The Drop the Debt campaign will have the Pope in my glasses on the front page of every newspaper.”
Michka: I don’t remember seeing that photograph anywhere, though.
Bono: Nor did we. It seems his courtiers did not have the same sense of humor. Fair enough. I guess they could see the T-shirts.
Michka: I think I am beginning to understand religion because I have started acting and thinking like a father. What do you make of that?
Bono: Yes, I think that’s normal. It’s a mind-blowing concept that the God who created the universe might be looking for company, a real relationship with people, but the thing that keeps me on my knees is the difference between Grace and Karma.
Michka: I haven’t heard you talk about that.
Bono: I really believe we’ve moved out of the realm of Karma into one of Grace.
Michka: Well, that doesn’t make it clearer for me.
Bono: You see, at the center of all religions is the idea of Karma. You know, what you put out comes back to you: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, or in physics; in physical laws every action is met by an equal or an opposite one. It’s clear to me that Karma is at the very heart of the universe. I’m absolutely sure of it. And yet, along comes this idea called Grace to upend all that “as you reap, so you will sow” stuff. Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff.
Michka: I’d be interested to hear that.
Bono: That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge. I’d be in deep s—. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.
Michka: The Son of God who takes away the sins of the world. I wish I could believe in that.
Bono: But I love the idea of the Sacrificial Lamb. I love the idea that God says: Look, you cretins, there are certain results to the way we are, to selfishness, and there’s a mortality as part of your very sinful nature, and, let’s face it, you’re not living a very good life, are you? There are consequences to actions. The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death. That’s the point. It should keep us humbled . It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.
Michka: That’s a great idea, no denying it. Such great hope is wonderful, even though it’s close to lunacy, in my view. Christ has his rank among the world’s great thinkers. But Son of God, isn’t that farfetched?
Bono: No, it’s not farfetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: he was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says: No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: “I’m the Messiah.” I’m saying: “I am God incarnate.” And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet, we can take. You’re a bit eccentric. We’ve had John the Baptist eating locusts and wild honey, we can handle that. But don’t mention the “M” word! Because, you know, we’re gonna have to crucify you.
And he goes: No, no. I know you’re expecting me to come back with an army, and set you free from these creeps, but actually I am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes, and says: Oh, my God, he’s gonna keep saying this. So what you’re left with is: either Christ was who He said He was the Messiah or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson. This man was like some of the people we’ve been talking about earlier. This man was strapping himself to a bomb, and had “King of the Jews” on his head, and, as they were putting him up on the Cross, was going: OK, martyrdom, here we go. Bring on the pain! I can take it. I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me, that’s farfetched
Bono later says it all comes down to how we regard Jesus:
Bono: If only we could be a bit more like Him, the world would be transformed. When I look at the Cross of Christ, what I see up there is all my s— and everybody else’s. So I ask myself a question a lot of people have asked: Who is this man? And was He who He said He was, or was He just a religious nut? And there it is, and that’s the question. And no one can talk you into it or out of it.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

I can't believe it.

There are days when I'm a couple of miles into a run and I think to myself, "I cannot believe I'm running." Because I can't. I can't believe it. I can't believe that I can get past my block without getting winded, and it completely blows my mind that I can run miles at a time without stopping.

If you would have told me two years ago that I'd be out running in races with thousands of people, wearing fluorescent short shorts and multi-colored shoes, I'd have told you you were nuts. If you'd have told me I'd actually enjoy running in a rain storm or a snow squall or planning my schedule around running, I would have laughed it off. But here I am, doing web searches for the closest 10Ks and half marathons and trying to fill my calendar for the next year.

Running was something I HATED. Just the thought of it used to make me tired, and, even though I had played sports in high school and college, I figured people who ran all the time were suffering from some form of insanity. It was understood that running was something I would just never be interested in.

But one day I was out for one of my long walks and I decided to try jogging for a bit. So I ran a short distance at a fairly slow speed. Then, I looked back (between my heaving breaths) at all the ground I had covered in that short period and thought, "Wow. I could do this." So I gradually built more and more jogging into my long walks, and then I slowly began to extend the jogging time and cut back on the walking. Eventually, I was running more than I was walking, until I was running all the time. It took a while, but I did it gradually.

I liked the feeling of the wind in my face. I liked covering more ground faster and burning more calories. I liked lacing up my bright yellow shoes and heading out into the fresh air. After a run, I felt like I had accomplished something. I gained some lean muscle. I lost some fat. And I had the sense that I was breaking a cycle in my life.

Until the point where I started running, I never really thought about the idea of food as fuel--what you put in your body determines your energy level. Yeah, it's all common sense, I know, but I just never applied it to myself. I never equated my afternoon blood sugar drops (shaking, sweating, couldn't think straight, etc.) and sleepiness with the fact that I was only eating sugar or carbs for breakfast. I never took into account that I actually needed to burn what I was taking in, and that I needed protein AND good carbs at every meal to be able to burn efficiently. (An aside: I still like some sugar and carbs and I eat them on an almost daily basis, but I eat them more moderately than I used to because I have to think about what it takes to burn them.)

When you grow up with an amazing metabolism, you take it for granted that it'll always be that way. But somewhere around 25-30, your metabolism decides it's not going to do all the work for you. I was in denial, I guess, so I ended up at 36, about 25 lbs overweight and feeling exhausted all day long, but not knowing why.

My decision to start running really had nothing to do with my weight. I just decided one day that I'd try it and see what my body could do. From there, it just became a daily decision to try again because I realized it was fun and it gave me time to think. But over time, I truly saw the many benefits of vigorous exercise and the flood of endorphins and dopamine that comes with pushing yourself.

I've seen myself grow in so many other ways because of running. I have become a little more organized--maybe because I have the energy to do it. I've become more conscious of how I spend (and to whom I devote) my time. I've grown in my faith. I've become more able to fight for myself--maybe that's because, in a small way, I realize what I'm capable of and what I'm worth. I've experienced object lessons out the wazoo...so many running metaphors, so little time. I've met some amazing, inspiring people. I've stepped out of my comfort zone. I've become less moody and more even. I've seen hundreds of beautiful sunrises and sunsets that I never would have seen sitting at home on my couch.

Even injury has taught me a lot. I was sidelined for a few months because I injured my knee. Coming back from that has reminded me of the simple joy of running and that competition isn't important. Personal bests aren't important. PRs don't matter. If you're not an Olympian, who cares?

What's important to me now is creating a legacy of health (mind, body and spirit) for myself and my children and living by example. I want to keep my body healthy for my whole life because heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and other diseases run in my family. I feel the desire to take care of the body God has given me because it's the only body I have. I have a long-term goal in mind. If I decide down the road that running isn't for me anymore, I'll just do something else.

So I want to encourage you. You don't necessarily need to start running, but start making daily choices that will build you up and benefit you in the long run (mind, body and spirit). Keep your eyes on your future. Don't go for quick-fix diets. It's not something I used to think about, but I've decided I want to be a spry, healthy, happy 90 year old. There are things in the future I won't be able to control, but I can do my part.

Running has changed my life.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Valentine Letter

Dear Myself,

I know I don't usually participate in Valentine's Day happenings very often, but I wanted to write you a little letter to tell you how I feel about you.

Every day I'm learning to love you more and more. Not just for who I think you should be, but for who you really are. I'm learning that you need love from me just as much as you need love from everyone else, and I want to learn to give it.

Sometimes when I catch a glimpse of you in the mirror, I don't immediately see the beauty God put there. I see wrinkles and ripples and stretch marks and sags. But what I need to stop and really see is the true beauty of a heart that is full and open. I need to see you for the dreamer, the writer, the runner, the singer, the traveler, the loving wife and mother and friend that you are. You are lovely just as you are.

You are becoming whom you were meant to be and you are letting go of the things that have held you back. I know there are times I've hated you and called you names. I know there are times when I've let other people do the same and I haven't stopped them. I regret those moments that I didn't stand up for you. But I want to change that...

I promise that every day I will look at you in the mirror and tell you that God thinks you're beautiful, and I promise to do all I can to make you remember that. I promise to love you, even when I don't want to, just because God made you, fearfully and wonderfully. I promise not to hold you to an impossible standard, and make you feel worse when you don't meet it. I promise not to expect perfection. I promise to forgive you. I promise to remind you to take time for yourself and recharge. I promise that I will do everything I can to keep you positive and proactive.

I'm grateful for you. 

You are loved. You are who you are for a reason. There are gifts in your heart for the world that only you can give. You are worthy of real love. You are worthy of great friendships. You are worthy of the unconditional love of your children, though you don't always feel you deserve it. You are strong. You are capable. You are valuable.

I want you to remember the words in this letter, especially on days when you don't want to.


Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

(Sunrise on the last morning of 2012)

I found this quote this morning as I was searching for thoughts about the new year. Words to ponder:

"We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives...not looking for flaws, but for potential."
- Ellen Goodman

Earlier this month, I wrote down some of my resolutions for 2013. Because I know that most typical resolutions fail miserably, I am resolving to do things like laugh more and spend more time with my family.

So many people use New Years Eve to look at themselves and think,

"This year, I need to lose this weight and THEN I'll be happy with myself."

"This year, I need to stop spending so much money and THEN I'll be satisfied."

"This year, I need to stop blah blah blah..."

While many resolutions are good goals, and they are readily achievable with the right mindset, there will always be the post-achievement letdown where we realize that happiness is a choice, not necessarily a list of achievements.

I am changing my view on what I want to see in my life and making it positive. Instead of thinking about all the things I need to take out of my life, I'm thinking about all the things I want to add into my life.

Instead of wasting my time imagining more ways to lose more weight, it's healthier to think about how I can add more smart practices INTO my life. Things that can make me a happier and healthier person all around, rather than just making me into a weight loss "after" photo. Instead of eating a burger and fries for lunch, maybe today I'll make a yummy spinach omelette with garlic hot sauce, or instead of taking the elevator up only two flights of stairs, I'll walk. Individual healthy choices and substitutions add up. If it becomes about denying yourself for an extended period of time, statistically, you will eventually fail. Human nature.

Learn to love who you are as you are now, and think of ways to add to the wonderful person you already are. Balance.

Instead of just thinking, "I need to get better at time management," I'm thinking about how I can add more positive, joyful and peaceful experiences INTO my life. How can I add in more opportunities for using my creative energy or chances to spend quality time with friends? Maybe I can actually do a few more of those things I've pinned on Pinterest. Maybe I can focus on creating more time to see the people I care about, and laughing with them and enjoying their company. Maybe I can help someone else achieve a dream.

This time next year, I want to be able to say I'm becoming a better version of myself. What are the areas where I want to grow and develop? What do I have in me that I can share with other people? What are the gifts I have that I can give?

This year, make resolutions that will add value to your life and the lives of those around you. As humans, we are generally happiest when we feel like our lives have value and depth.

Spiritual simplicity, health and value. That's what I want in my life this year and it's what I wish for all of you.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas Eve Eve

What Christmas is all about...

This is the first Christmas in a few years where I've truly felt the "Christmas Spirit"...last year felt like nothing to me, and I think I completely missed the whole thing, emotionally. I was hyper-focused on all the things that made me anxious, and I wasn't myself. 

This year, I'm reveling in all the things that make up Christmas for me. I'm loving the baking. I'm loving the present wrapping. I'm loving every minute of our time off school. I'm loving the Christmas lights and the cheesy Christmas movies. I'm loving the excitement of my kids. I'm loving the feeling that everything is going to be okay in the end and that God is the focus.  

The tragedy of last week reminded me that I really can't prepare for every eventuality. I can't do anything about putting off my last day or that of anyone I love. I likely won't wake up on my last day and know that it's my last. The mother of the killer and all the other victims of his senseless crime had no idea that they'd be waking up to their last day.

Surrendering to the unknown and giving up control of my life is hard for me. But I know that the idea of control is really only in my mind. There are so many variables I'll never be able to corral or make manageable. 

So I'm going to wring every bit of Christmas spirit and New Year newness out of this holiday season. I'm going to try my best to savor all the moments I missed emotionally last year. I'm going to show kindness and try to be understanding. I want my heart to be full and not empty and the only way I can do that is to keep from wasting precious energy and time on negativity and toxic people. 

I can surrender myself to this season and to the God who gave a part of Himself for me. I can open my heart to the knowledge that my life is in His hands. I can remember to savor life because it is fleeting. I can remind myself to hug my kids a little longer and kiss their cheeks a few more times a day than I normally do.

I'm not going to miss it this time around. I have goals for the coming year, but they all are part of the idea of learning to really live in simplicity. In this new phase, I want to go deeper. I feel that that desire is something I have gained by enduring such a difficult time in the last couple of years. 

It's time to move forward, keeping my eyes on the things that are unchangeable. I've begun to learn what it means to die to myself and yet to learn to love myself. I've also learned how important it is to stand up for the things I value. My life is in God and I'm setting my heart on things above, on the place where I belong. This life isn't my end, but knowing that makes me want to experience the richness of what life can be.

Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.--Colossians 3:2-3

My prayer for all of you is that you can let go of the hindrances in your way, and be open to the newness of life and the feeling of turning a new page in your existence. Every day is an opportunity to make a new start. Don't worry about pleasing people, but seek to be kind. Don't be afraid to rock the boat, but keep a tender heart. I'm gradually becoming my true, contended self, and I wish that for all of you, too.