I have a love/hate relationship with exercise. But mostly I hate it. I don’t wake up in the morning in anticipation of my workout thinking, “Yes! I get to go to the gym today!” Usually, I am thinking, “I can’t wait until I am finally home from the gym today.” I have always told myself I love how exercise makes me feel; I just hate doing it. But right now, as I nurse some very sore muscles, I am not really thinking I love how it makes me feel. It makes me achy and tired - and it has always made me feel achy and tired. So why do I continue to punish myself this way? I am contemplating that on this beautiful morning.
Largely, I conclude, it is for my health. Physically, when I exercise consistently my resistance to colds seems to increase. I don’t get sick nearly as often when I am continuously working out as I do when I lose my motivation and spend too much time sitting around. I also eat less when I exercise, and I have read in the Bible many times the passages which warn me against gluttony, which can be a struggle. Sometimes I find myself eating just to be eating - especially if it is food I really love - and I realize I could readily fulfill the definition of a glutton (an excessively greedy eater), which I don’t want to be. Exercise teaches me self-discipline and helps me control my appetite through restraint. It also wears me out so I am too tired to overeat. Let’s face it, I get up at 5:30 AM, go to work until 3:00, sometimes tutor kids, go to the gym, and then get home, hopefully before 8:00 PM. I am whipped when I finally come through that door - and eating takes too much effort at that point.
But exercise also helps me mentally. I sleep far better at night when I exercise during the day than I ever do when I skip exercising. It is also a fantastic stress-reliever. One time, when I was working on my Bachelor’s degree I had so much homework I did not have time to exercise for a week (actually, I did not MAKE time to exercise). I was coming down to the end of the thesis I was writing and I found myself facing a complete mental roadblock for how to get through the final section and wrap it all up. I took a break and went back to it. I got some caffeine and went back to it. I ate a snack and went back to it. But, it didn't matter what I tried, nothing worked = my brain just would not cooperate. Finally, even though I "didn't have time", I decided to throw in the towel for awhile and go for a run. I ran two miles, wishing I had more time. I was AMAZED when I returned home and sat down with my laptop once again. My thoughts flowed and I breezed through the rest of the homework.
I have used exercise as a stress-reliever ever since, and believe me, I have endured some very stressful times in my life. I get concerned for our nation. We are a society that loves our pills and medications. I have worked with teenagers in high school for many years and they take a variety of prescriptions designed to help them deal with stress and tension. As adults, we are setting the example for our kids and for future generations. I get that life can be stressful and frustrating and that we often have to face things that hurt deeply. And I will admit, it would be a lot easier to deal with stress simply by taking pills or eating away my pain. But I find the closer I get to God, the less I want to solve my problems the easy way, because I don't think He created me for that. I think He gave people the ability to exercise for our own good. I am not saying there is never a time for medication, but I am saying I think as a society it has become a first choice for dealing with many of life’s stresses - before we try exercising or addressing our lifestyle habits. And I think we all know this. We are a very educated, but just not a very self-disciplined group of people.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 compares our lives to athletes in a race: “You've all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you, but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I've got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition. I’m not going to get caught napping, telling everyone else all about it and then missing out myself.”
I urge you to find a form of exercise and commit to it - starting TODAY! You can do it! I know you can!
Thankful for my children.
Thankful for my friends.
Thankful for my health.
Thankful for my jobs.
Thankful for The Torch.
Thankful for the sunshine.
Thankful for food in the fridge and on the table.
Thankful for a comfortable apartment.
Thankful for a warm bed.
Thankful for hope.
Thankful for this moment of peace.
Thankful for a great fundraiser this past week.
Thankful for such a supportive board of directors.
Thankful for early morning time with God.
Thankful for my clothes.
Thankful for my upcoming trip to California.
Did you ever try to count your blessings? I could go on and on listing the many things I am so thankful for. When I woke up this morning I was just so full of gratitude to be incredibly blessed. I didn’t ask God for one thing when I prayed today. I just thanked Him and thanked Him. When I think about everything God has done for me, I cannot imagine ever being able to repay Him.
Did you know He spoke audibly to me once? Crazy, huh?
My daughter, Misty, was eighteen months old. My son Markie was two months old. It was a Sunday morning and I was just finishing up getting them ready for church. Markie needed his liquid vitamins, so I propped him in his baby seat on the table and started trying to wrestle those down his throat. Their dad, Mark went outside to start his very loud car. I forget what model it was, but it was loud. It was the kind of car the men at church would stand around afterwards with the hood up watching the engine as it roared.
Wednesday, 04/16/14 - 6:30 AM. There are days when I wake up two hours before my alarm is set to go off. This was one of those days. My mind swung into full gear as soon as I woke up. Pretty soon, the pull of fatigue was in a tug-of-war with my racing thoughts. On days like this, I have to make a decision about what is the most important - more sleep, or more prayer time? Prayer won out hands-down. The nervous butterflies in my stomach could, perhaps, be ignored for a few more hours - but I didn't want to lose the opportunity to spend time with God on a momentous day such as this.
Now, as I look out at the purple/pink/blue dawn sky this morning, I feel so much pent-up joy and excitement and fear and hope. That is a lot of emotion for 6:30 in the morning. I am filled with joy because of the promise of the beauty of the coming day, both as I drink in the lovely morning and I anticipate meeting the wonderful people who have supported and encouraged us this past year. I am excited to see what the day brings - everything I have done so far with the food truck has been an adventure. At the same time, I am afraid. I am nervous about the possibility of something going wrong with the truck (can’t imagine why I feel that way), or that we will break something, or who knows what else? I know the flesh and blood persons Sarah and I are - we could quite easily mess things up ourselves, just in our own weaknesses. But I am also filled with hope because there was a day when I greeted each morning with sadness and trepidation. There was a day when the unknowns were frightening in a life-threatening, sanity-stealing way. And yet, I could meet with God every morning and He would greet me with His unchanging love, unconditional acceptance, and unfathomable peace.
And here I am today. Facing the first big event in which we will be cooking and serving food from the truck. And I have no idea what is to come…
04/18/14 9:07 AM. So here I sit, 51 hours after I started this blog and I feel exhausted still, yet peaceful and incredibly blessed. I realize we have the most wonderful volunteers and supporters helping with The Torch. We have met so many new people in this journey and I am repeatedly touched by the generosity of the people I meet. Dawn and Darl at The Shop are such giving and caring people - so willing to give to the community and so gracious and helpful to work with. Meg at Shone Foto is a joy to talk to and such an encouragement.
Several years ago, I decided I was going to become more daring with my life. I heard a story about a man who, as he was dying, began to regret not doing many things he realized he should have done in the course of his lifetime. He acknowledged he had had a good life, even a successful life according to worldly standards, but as it all came to an end, he realized he had not lived a full life. By living his life safely and in fear of change, he believed he had missed his calling and found himself spending his last days reciting a litany of “what ifs”. He said he wanted his story to be a warning to people, that if they didn't want to end up like him - wondering “what if?” - then they should embrace life and change without fear. He pointed out how he had backed away from risks many times in his life because he was afraid of what others might think and of what it might cost him. He had lived a comfortable life as a lawyer, with plenty of money and the material possessions and comforts that go along with it, but as his life drew to a close, he knew he had not ever really lived.
That message spoke powerfully to me. I had spent plenty of time avoiding the pursuit of difficult things, even though I knew God was putting them in my heart and mind to do. I admit, I was afraid. Even though I sensed I was not living fully in His will, I was comfortable with the familiar, so that is where I safely stayed. But that was not the person I wanted to be - and I knew it was not the person I could be. I was settling. It took a tremendous amount of prayer and time for me to work up the courage to begin to really take steps of faith into the unknown. Initially, they were just baby-steps, with a bit of risk, but not too much. Every little change I made increased my courage and my faith.
Now, several years later, my life resembles nothing like the life I had before. There are definitely struggles and stressors. Everything did not become perfect when I chose to stop being afraid and began to embrace change, but it has certainly become fulfilling. If the idea for The Torch had been presented to me ten years ago - I would have dreamed about it and then pushed it to back of my mind, into what would have become my “what if” box. I know I wouldn't have had the courage to lay it all on the line like Sarah and I have done. I fully realize the enormous task we have undertaken and the multitude of risks involved. I have listened to people as they explained to me all the reasons The Torch wouldn't work, couldn't work - and occasionally I have run those thoughts through my mind. And I have faced obstacles which looked utterly impossible to overcome, but which apparently were not, because they were overcome. Even now, doors are opening for The Torch and I have a sense we are merely at the tip of the iceberg with what is going to happen. But what do I know? I can’t see the future.
But here’s the thing, the thing which brings me incredible peace and hope and joy - the thing I will never lose out of all the experiences I have had during these past few years - The Torch will never be a “what if” for me. However things turn out, however they go - I will know “what if”. I will know I tried. I will not have to end my days wondering. I will know. And I have learned such a valuable lesson about taking risks and exploring new opportunities.
I don’t ever want to look back over my life and wish I had done things I didn't do. I would rather fail than never know what could have been. I would even prefer to - gasp! - make mistakes than stay safe and never try. I have learned mistakes are great teachers, and risks can be very fulfilling.