Oct 31, 2012

Stuck in My Teeth

I have an aversion to Oreos and Cheetos because they get stuck in my teeth.
Sure I can just brush my teeth and prevent plaque built up and cavities, but that isn't the issue.
The issue is the lingering flavor.
When I'm still tasting the cookie ten minutes after I consumed it....it makes me hungry for more.  That hint of whatever I just ate creates a craving in me that is so hard to resist and often causes me to go back for more, and more.
I'm currently suffering from a wicked addiction to candied pecans.  They are my favorite little sweet snack and my dear friend Darlene whipped up a batch and sent them to me for my birthday.  AWESOME!
But the problem is, like Oreos and Cheetos, the pecans and all their sugary goodness are crammed down in my crevices of my molars and as I work feverishly to get them out, it just spreads the flavor around and makes me want more.
I consumed a large quantity in the past two days.  I won't say how much but it is so much that even Gabe had something to say about my level of consumption.
The moral of the story is
1: definitely surround yourself with friends who love you enough to send you home-made candied pecans.  Since these are made by a Georgia girl, you pronounce them peee-can not the West Coast way puh-kahn. And they are delicious.
2: Open your tasty packages alone so nobody can see your goodies, request them to be shared or comment on your over-consumption of them.
3: If you are going to eat something, do something, or hang around someone that is going to stick to you like Cheetos in your teeth, make sure that something or someone is one that you want to stick with you.  Carrots get stuck in your teeth but its ok to keep going back for more.

Oct 30, 2012

"If you can't do it right, don't do it at all!"

I think that is the worse advice ever.  Horrible.

Recently I have had conversations with three different people who said the afore mentioned phrase or something really close.  Each time I thought to myself "that doesn't seem right".

Rather than tattle on my friends, I'll speak hypothedically about general topics.  You'll get the picture. 

Doctors recommend working out at least 3 days a week. If you operate under the "do it right" principle and you can't go to the gym or run three days a week, then you should just skip it and wait to exercise until you can commit to all three days.
But what if you can go one day a week and work hard?  Is that not worth anything?  Is your body not getting a little something?  The correct training schedule for a 1/2 marathon is between 8-12 weeks, depending on your fitness level.  I didn't have time to follow the schedule so I just winged it.  I did what I could, I made it up as I went,  and I figured out a way to get my body ready in just one month.  If I had let this "do it right" stuff get in my way, I would have missed out on the great opportunity I had to train and run a 1/2 marathon.  It wasn't "right" but it worked.

I started going to a women's bible study, I have great intentions of doing my study each day and attending regularly but due to one thing or another I have only made it to the meetings every other week.  A friend of mine was in a similar situation and decided rather than continue to come when she can, she wanted to stop coming until life settles down and she can get in there and do it right.  
Maybe you can't watch every video and maybe you are slightly lost on the lessons, but when you are there you get something out of the lessons you are doing right?  God can speak to your heart, and reveal to you just what you need to hear if you show up once a year or once a week.  He has something for you every single time you come ready and willing to listen.  To claim that you can't take part in a study because you can't show up every time or do every lesson is really just cheating yourself.  Give Him one hour and he will show up.

I was baking with my Aunt, well she was baking and I was watching and learning, and she asked me if I had a kitchen scale.  No I do not.  She was not surprised because throughout the baking experience I lacked about half of the things she needed.  When she realized she was going to have to estimate the weight of the ingredients she commented that she liked to do it right or not at all!  She was a little flustered for a minute by my inept kitchen, but she estimated just fine everything turned out perfectly!  What if she took inventory before the adventure and decided not to bake because we couldn't do it right?  Ahhh I would have been out some super delicious pie.
How many delicious recipes have been created because an ingredient was missing?  One time I didn't have milk for scrambled eggs but I had cream.  Yum.  Methods of cooking, ingredients, tools can be improved by that one time that you don't have what you need and you find something else to fill the void.  

If we wait to take on new challenges until we can do it right, until we are ready or until life slows down, we may never have the opportunity to succeed....or to try and fail.

Sometimes trying and failing provides just as much growth, entertainment, or pleasure than succeeding as planned.  When I only run one or two days a week, I can't run as far or as strong because I'm out of shape but I'm working so much harder for that 3 miles than I used to work at mile 6.  You absolutely cannot just omit the oatmeal from chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.  It doesn't work, but now I know you can edit things like nuts and raisins but not hearty ingredients like oatmeal and flour!  You probably cannot lead a small group if you don't show up regularly, but if you listen intently when you are there you can passionately spread that same message to a friend who also needs to hear it.  And you cannot just drill four spindly legs on a hollow door and expect it to turn into a desk.  But, you can consult your dad on ways to make it work and come up with a new plan.
There is some truth to the do it right idea, but it is not a rule to live by.

A very wise mentor once advised me to do my best for today.  My best today may not be as good as my best was yesterday or will be tomorrow but it will be my best.

I know it is still October but...I accidentally sang Drummer Boy today and now it seems so fitting.  I'll spare you the pa rum pums.
"I have no gift to bring, that's fit to give a King, shall I play for you on my drum?....
I played my drum for him, I played my best for him, then he smiled at me...pa rum pum pum pum"

Give the best you have in all you do and your reward will be encouragement to give your best again, and again, and again.

Oct 16, 2012

Thoughts on Running

I am constantly amazed by fact that runners come in all shapes, sizes and ages.
Today I was chatting with a lady about the morning sunshine we were blessed with.  I mentioned that I am hopeful to squeeze in some runs in the moments that it is not raining this fall.  She laughed at me and told me to live in Western Washington is to get rained on and I will either embrace running in the rain or only run a few days out of the year.
She then went on to explain that while she was training for her marathon last year she ran all winter and just got used to running soaking wet.
What? SHE ran a marathon recently?
I know, I know, it was a judgmental thought and I confess my lameness and request forgiveness.  Enough about my faults...
What surprised me about her recent running of the marathon is that looking at her, I wouldn't classify her as "fit".  I actually would say a little overweight and I wouldn't even guess she worked out regularly let alone runs marathons, if I were forced to utter my inner opinion out-loud.

If you haven't had the opportunity to watch a marathon, I encourage you to find the time to swing by and watch these amazing athletes.  We watched the Honolulu marathon years ago and saw the most incredible finishes.  There was a man who ran in a full kimono to include those wooden platform shoes, someone ran barefoot, someone looked like he was 150 years old, there were short people, tall people, ridiculously skinny people, strong people, chubby people and every other type of body represented at the finish line.  Some ran as teams, some alone or with another person, some were strong, others struggled in their finish but they did it, all 26.2 miles.

After my race, I met up with friends and family and then we all walked over to a restaurant for dinner.  We ate dinner and were walking back toward the train to head home when I saw a lone woman running in the dark.  The support booths were gone, the street blockades were being torn down, it was dark and nobody was cheering on the sides of the road, yet one runner remained on the path.  She was older, a little larger, and she looked like she was struggling. My guess is that it must have taken her about 4 hours to run the half marathon.  She had on a head-lamp so I suspect that she knew she would be running in the dark, perhaps she knew she would be running alone.  I was overwhelmed with emotion when I saw her.  Despite the fact that she was running a long slow race, alone and in the dark she was finishing her race! That is more impressive to me than the guy who finished first.

When it comes to running, it doesn't matter what type of body we have.  Its just one of those things that any body can do and can do well.  It is about putting one foot in front of the other and going for it.  It is about endurance, determination, drive, and perhaps sheer will.  It may be harder for some than others but with training and commitment it can be done.  Not just to run, but run far, run hard, run fast, and run with great success.  

The beauty of running is that it doesn't matter who you are, where you have come from or what you look like, when you put on the running shoes you run your own race with the strengths and weaknesses that you have been given.  Each person's race and prize might be as different as the bodies they are running in, but that is what makes it exciting.  I can see why Paul used running a race as a metaphor for our lives, it fits so perfectly.  We show up at the start and finish line at different times, we look different, we have different strengths and we have different methods of running but we are each called to run our own race and do it in a way to reach the prize.

Oct 15, 2012

Perfect Fall

The sun was shining this morning but the day's rain had not yet begun to fall.  The evergreens stood tall in the sunny sky, while the leaves of their neighboring trees slowly drifted to the ground.
The tree-line behind my house is a mix of orange, yellow, green and gold.
It is indeed fall in Western Washington, however, that has nothing to do with my title.
I'm talking about the action that took place today on my run.

I headed out for my run right after dropping the kids off for school this morning.  Sometimes I do some stuff around the house and then run so that the temperature outside has time to warm up a little before I hit the street, but today rain was in the forecast so I needed to get out there and log a few miles before a downpour.

I grabbed my ipod, mapped my route, and took off.  Things were going so well.  I've decided I'm too much of a chicken to run on the paved path that runs behind my house so I have to take to the street.  The path is pretty, tree lined, and goes for about 30 miles from the Sound down to Chehalis.  But, this path is totally abandoned during the day when I'm out for a run, which is creepy.  It is so secluded I fear that some disgruntled citizen might see this specimen of middle aged mess running by and decide he wants to freak me out by simply showing his face or yelling "boo".  So, in the interest of not peeing my pants in public, I'm trying to keep to the sidewalks until I find a running buddy.

My first 2.5 miles were smooth sailing.  Well, at mile .001 my neighbor tried to run me over by opting to only look to the right, and didn't see me until his truck was nearly running over my foot.  But aside from that, things were going well.  I was feeling good, running strong, and getting it done.  I turned the corner onto the main street that leads back to my house and prepared for the hill climb that was in store.
Suddenly, to the right I noticed a building that my mom had asked about the day before.  I decided since I was running right by it, it was my duty to check it out. I quickly decided it wasn't an old school, but the building was distinct and I started to peruse the photos of stores and office buildings in my mind to see if something rang a bell.

Ring Ring.
Pot hole.

I let out a super loud, scared myself it was so loud, yelp type sound and next thing I know I was in mid-air. My arms were spinning in some attempt to grab some extra large particle of air that may save this trip from turning into a fall.
For one brief moment I was filled with excitement - I was safe.  I got this.
But that moment passed and my flailing turned into my body contorting into a perfect flat belly flop into a pile of leaves on the grass median of that empty building I had been looking at.
I should have taken advantage of that moment and looked on over to see what that building was, but I was worried that the people in the cars who were passing by would think I was dead.  In order to avoid the conversation between me and a potential good samaritan, I thought it would be best to hop right up and keep running.

Fall #2 of my little running career was not very painful at all.  Grass and leaves made for a cushy landing spot.  I hurt my shoulder a little, probably not when I fell but when I was tripping or rushing to get up quickly to try and save my pride.

The rest of the run home was fine, but I couldn't stop thinking about the fact that in all my miles of driving I have never witnessed anyone fall while running on a seemingly flat surface and yet I have now fallen twice.  And although most of my running seems to be on mostly empty paths or quiet streets the only times I have fallen have been in the presence of strangers, no doubt entertained by that woman who levitated off the path and slid to a grinding halt on her face.

So I guess the silver lining to this fall is that it was fall and those leaves and damp grass protected my hands and knees from road rash.

Oct 9, 2012

God is Not Here

Wait a minute.  Before you start penning your rebuttal, read on.

A group of adult children lost their dad.  Well, they didn't actually lose him.  He died.
In the days that followed his death, the children and their mother began discussing how they wanted to memorialize him.  Some assumed there would be a memorial in the church that he and his wife attended.  Others assumed there would be a family gathering at someone's house.  Another assumed there would be ticker-tape parade in New York City.  One thought there should be a circus with elephants and flying trapeze artists.  A few thought it would be a good idea to go to the beach, or HomeTown Buffet or maybe a family climb of Kilimanjaro.  One person was simply adamant that the family walk across America hand in hand in his honor.
Or maybe that wasn't how the story went at all.
When it really came down to it, there were people who didn't want a memorial in a church and people who did.
The people who did want it in the church thought it fit the bill quite nicely for a few reasons: it would be free (super important factor) and it seemed like a fitting place.  The man attended church regularly as long as his health allowed it, his church was a source of support and encouragement to his wife throughout the years, and this specific church was the place he was baptized in 10 years earlier.

The people who didn't want a memorial at the church said their dad always said he didn't want a memorial at all and a memorial at a church would become a social event, they wanted something just for family.

I have a hard time understanding how a short memorial service at a church would be offensive to someone.  The location itself seems so insignificant to me.  Nobody ever told me why they didn't want a service in a church so, I can only guess.  I think that some people simply feel uncomfortable in a church.

Churches are pretty unique.  The buildings house pews, hymnals, religious art on the walls, and the carpet is usually bad.  Sometimes there are little troughs of water by the doors for dipping your fingers, offering baskets piled in the back, and that feeling that you have to be on your very best behavior.  Then there is that one thing, that really big thing that no matter how hard you try you just can't avoid seeing . . . the cross.  Usually there is a big cross at the front of the church symbolizing that place where Jesus died for our sins.
Oh that cross.  It reminds me of my shame, it reminds me of the price that Jesus paid for me.  It is not comfortable to look upon that cross.

I get it, a church can be uncomfortable.

While you can escape the discomfort of being in that church building, you can't escape the discomfort of the whisper of God.

See, God is not in that church, he is here.
Moses was hanging out in a desert and God said "take off your sandals, for the place you are standing is holy ground".  A desert. Not a church.
God has arrived in a mighty wind, a furious earthquake, a fire, and he hung out on a mountain top.  He has shown up in the most common places.  He showed up as a baby in a manger, he hung on the cross and he shows up every day in a still small voice.
You can run out of a church but no matter how hard you try, you cannot out run God.
God will be there when we face trials, like it or not.  He will be that whisper that you can't get out of your head.  He will be peace whether you accept it or not.  He will be comfort when you don't want it. He is wherever you are.

Perhaps it would be an understatement to claim that October didn't start off so well.
October 1st I woke up with a nasty cold and Nyquil hangover.  I always try Nyquil one time per cold season and then remember that I actually cannot take the drug without being comatose the entire following day.  I pulled through Monday and managed to get up and head to bible study on Tuesday.  I  was highly medicated and overly snotty.  
I got home around 1pm and within the next 12 hours all hell broke loose.
The first blow was a call from my mechanic with a huge estimate for a whole bunch of maintenance on the van.  I was prepared for $1500-$2000.  Not that I wanted to spend that much money but I was trying to be realistic.  However, I was off by about $1000 and I pretty much had to cry when he told me the grand total.  So the van is still in the shop getting overhauled.  Not only is the van costing a small fortune but with the van gone I'm extremely limited to what I can get accomplished during my day.  Our food supply is dwindling, and all projects are at a standstill since I do not have a car to get out and about.  While I'm not really excited to pay for the van upon pick up, I need my vehicle!
The second call that got me all high pitched and whiney was to my transportation agent who is allegedly ensuring that my stuff that has been in storage for 3 years eventually gets to me.  I've already had a delay of 3 weeks on the Army side of the transaction but this phone call revealed some problems on the shipping side of the transaction.  The woman told me that my stuff was picked up on 20 Sept and should arrive sometime between 28 Sept and 10 Oct.  She said that it was somewhere between VA and WA and the driver would call me when he has a correct estimate of arrival.  I spent the last week assuming that my stuff was on an overland tour of the USA.  Yesterday I called to find out a more specific time that I would be getting my stuff this week....at such point I was told it was in fact not even picked up yet.  I won't reveal the explosion that took place after she told me what was going on.  It wasn't pretty.  So on August 22 I started this process and here I am on 9 October and my stuff is still in storage and there is not currently anyone assigned to come pick up my stuff.  I'm on hold on the phone with the Army side of the house now, going on 45 mins. (correction 1 hour 10 mins)  Not pretty.
Lastly and most importantly the news of the death of my grandfather is still heavy on my heart.  I went to California to spend the weekend with my family.  It was good for me to see my grandma and the rest of my family.  I thought the most difficult part of this grieving process would be dealing with my own issues of not seeing my grandfather.  I was wrong.  It seems my grandpa's children and wife all have their own ideas of how arrangements following his death should be dealt with and all the ideas probably couldn't be more different from each other.  It is so frustrating to see people's feelings getting hurt and family making statements like "I'm not coming if ........." when dealing with something that seemed so simple - saying goodbye to my grandpa.
I can't help but shake my head and think how ridiculously petty and selfish people are being.  I admit, I was frustrated when I initially heard that the plans for a memorial time were not what I had expected, but it never crossed my mind to declare if it wasn't my way I wasn't going to participate.  It didn't really cross my mind that non-compromise was an option.
Instead of celebrating the fact that my grandfather is no longer in a care facility suffering in pain, the family is bickering over how to say goodbye to him, where to do it, and who should or should not have done this, that, or the other.  I'm so disappointed in this reaction and sad to call this my family.
It's only October 9th and it already feels like the longest, worst month ever!  At this point all I can cling to is the hope that there is pain in the night, but joy comes in the morning.  I hope morning comes soon.

Oct 3, 2012

I Cried to the Lord

Psalm 118:5-6
In my anguish I cried to the Lord and He answered by setting me free.
The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.

My day began yesterday with a text from my dad letting me know that my grandpa, my mom's dad, had a stroke.  He suffered some paralyses but was still able to speak, eat, and drink, though labored.
I immediately started making plans to head to California this weekend to see my Grandpa.  
I prayed that everything would work out for me to get down there at the right time and that things would work out for Matt to be with the boys.
By lunch, Matt and I realized he has a four-day weekend this weekend and the timing is actually perfect for me to make a quick trip.  He's going to be gone for work or busy in the coming weeks and this weekend is the only time I can go down without the boys until at least November.
Throughout the day I checked in with my sister, dad and mom.  After dinner I had a final conversation with mom and booked my tickets to arrive on Thursday night.  Grandpa typical only stays awake for a short time so I planned to pop in and see him once a day throughout my long weekend.
As Matt and I laid down I talked to Matt more about the reports I got from my family during the day.  I wasn't sure how my visit would go, how alert my grandpa was going to be, but I was glad to have all the details worked out and that I would see him soon.

At 1:45am my phone rang.
My sister.
She didn't bother with pleasantries.  Calls at that time don't require them.
"He died.  Clarissa he died.  I'm so sorry".

I fell to my knees and cried like I have never cried before in my life.
My heart was broken.
I was so close.  I would be there Thursday.

My sister talked with me as long as I needed and then I got off the phone.
One more time.  I wanted one more time.

I had a chance to see him last August but between a busy trip and some other personal things going on, I didn't go.  I thought I had more time.

I could have called him last night.  My sister was there, I could have called her and had her put the phone to his ear so I could say "I love you Grandpa" one last time.
I didn't.  I thought I had more time.  I'd see him Thursday or Friday at the latest.

There was no more time.
It wasn't about my time.  My grandpa was tired, in pain, and ready to meet his Lord and Savior face to face.  My mistakes, my poor choices, couldn't keep him from his appointment.

His nurses say he was doing well. They checked his vitals and he was stable.  Then he just stopped breathing.  
I believe grandpa called to the Lord and He did answer by finally setting him free.  And I do believe that my grandpa was not afraid because the Lord was and is with him.

I know that my grandpa is finally at peace.  I pray that God will bestow on me grace and give me peace as I struggle with my regret and loss.