Faith Rooted in Joy not Fear

Last Wednesday, on the one year anniversary of the terror attack in Brussels, a radicalized British-born man drove his vehicle into a crowd of pedestrians on Westminster Bridge killing three and injuring forty before exiting the vehicle and fatally stabbing a police officer. The assailant was then killed by other police officers before he could cause more harm. The entire incident lasted just under a minute and a half.

This incident impacted me for a couple reasons, the most prominent of which being the fact that Mom and I will be walking in that exact area this coming June. if everything works out I hope to actually enter the Palace of Westminster and sit on one of the benches like a regular back-bencher.

One of the men who died as an American man on his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife who was also critically injured. This trip likely was a bucket list adventure for them, a milestone in a committed life. I imagine that they may have toasted to 25 more years before in the blink of an eye his life and their life together ended.

This trip will be the first time Mom has traveled to Europe, a trip that we have been saving for quite a while. In a blink it could be over, just like for that couple. Does that mean that we should not go?

On the contrary!

I faced a similar scenario two years ago before I traveled to Rome. Several prominent airplane accidents had occurred in the past year including the as of yet unsolved disappearance of MH370 and the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by BUK missile purportedly of Russian origin provided to Russian backed Ukrainian separatist fighters. Then, while we were in Italy, Andreas Lubitz committed suicide by intentionally crashing the plane and killing 144 people. Most of my coworkers at the time declared their intention to keep their feet firmly planted on the ground. As my trip approached, a few of them questioned whether all of this made me rethink my travel plans.

Without hesitation I replied, “No. Not at all.” Obviously, they did not understand and probably still do not agree. The reasons I explained to them then remain true today.

Starting with the least important, my reasons are as follows: One, the pure statistics of plane crashes and terrorist incidents provide the perfect counterpoint to those irrational fears. Two, the fiercely independent streak in me refuses to bow down in fear to those who seek to take away freedom or to random unpredictable accidents of man-made or natural origin. Third, and most importantly, as a child of God, death holds no fear for me. Killing me would be the least that someone could do to me. If I die, I leave this finite, corruptible body on a world infected by sin, death and decay to begin an eternity together with the sinless, incorruptible God giving glory to Him for all eternity.

To leave with faith rooted in fear would be to say to God that I do not believe that He is sovereign, that I believe that my effort can do a better job at keeping myself “safe” through life’s uncertainty. This sort of life holds very little if any real joy. I reject it.

Instead, I choose to live with faith rooted in joy, joy in the God who has delighted to love fallen humanity and a world tainted by sin and to redeem that world for His glory. I will delight in His creation with the goal in all that I do whether work or leisure to glorify and honor Him.

A Hero’s 5k 2017 – Race Recap

Race #121
5k #44
2017 Race #5
2017 5k #1
A Hero’s 5k #3

It has been a while since I ran this race. I am much different runner than the first and second time that I ran this race back in 2011 and 2012. Additionally, this year I want to focus on longer distances, especially the marathon. I had planned to run the iRecycle Half Marathon in Spartanburg but each time I looked for information about this year’s edition, I found nothing. I needed a March race, saw this one and ended up registering. Mom joined me.

Since I am in the middle of training for my goal race, Mountains 2 Main Street, I sandwiched this run in between 40 minutes on one side and 30 on the other to make a total of about 90 minutes. I did not intend to run super fast but I wanted to push the pace during the 5k to get a bit of an adrenaline rush or something similar.

I have decided that 5ks are my least favorite distance. If one looked solely at the number of 5ks that I have run, that fact would contradict my last statement. However, the only reason that I have run so many of them is the over-availability of the 5ks compared to all the other distances. That’s not to say that I don’t like them; I am obsessed with racing, of course.

Mom and I started the day with 40 minutes before the race. We had enough time to run 50 or even 60 but Mom wanted to make sure that we got back to the start in time. We definitely did since the organizers started the race ten minutes late thanks to an over run on the opening ceremonies. I still do not like them any more than I did back in 2012.

While we waited we happened to be with a group of other NHCC “runners.” After all, the race honors Geoffrey Whitsett, a former member of NHCC.

A Hero's 5k 2017

We headed to the start line and waited for the race to start. We had to wait another three minutes. Again, this is not my favorite. It feels a little presumptuous on the part of the race organizers to assume that the runners have endless time to simply delay for no other reason than a lack of time management.

At 9:07 (official race start was 8:55) we were off. The pace felt fast right from the start but I loved it so we kept it up. Mom mentioned that the wait made her body feel like she needed to make a pit stop again. I hate the timing for her.

We passed the restrooms between the lake and the trail but Mom chose to keep going.

Mile 1: 8:01

A little after this Mom speculated out loud that she might not make it and I should run without her. Of course, I told her that I wanted to run with her but if she saw a restroom she should stop and use it. Unfortunately, although there were likely restrooms available to use in the many buildings that we passed, it would have been a gamble to head to one to find a restroom. I figured that she would probably need to use that one between the trail and the lack when we passed it on the way back.

Even with a significant couple hills, this mile was almost as fast as the first.

Mile 2: 8:05

I felt really strong and was ready to push the pace. We headed back around the lake for the final mile. Mom told me that she was going to stop at the restroom so I went on ahead. We had already started to push the pace so I tried to keep it up. My legs felt strong. I felt strong. We parted ways and I kept pushing. I thought I could likely get a sub 25 final time, well off my PR but for a 5k sandwiched into a long run, I’ll take it.

Then I finished and happened to see a 22 on my Garmin before I pushed save. That confused me so as soon as it finished uploading I opened the stats, 2.91. That’s short. I know that a GPS is subject to error but two whole tenths is not within the margin of error.

Mile 3: 7:32
Final time: 22:55

As soon as I finished I headed back around to get ready to take pictures of Mom. I was a little disappointed when Mom said that Ellis would not be coming with us today meaning no pictures. Turns out, we got some pictures!

Mom has a fabulous stride, so perfect!

A Hero's 5k 2017

We then headed out for a little more. Mom stopped when we got back to the car but I got in another 20 minutes after that. I felt so strong and so excited about could be to come with my upcoming races.

Normally I include a race recap but life has gotten in the way. Perhaps I will add a separate recap later.

Sickness Induced Apathy

Over my life I have not been sick often. I am incredibly grateful for this health. When I do get sick, I consider myself a rather terrible patient, not the worst, but no where near decent.

Even the slightest cold makes me feel like the most apathetic person. I thrive on goal making and goal completion but when I feel even slightly sniffly, the only thing I feel like doing is turning on the TV and binge-watching Netflix. (My current binge show of choice is Jane the Virgin.)

I still usually muddle through y day; it galls me to have to call in sick even if I have paid sick days. It’s impossible to count the days exactly but I think I have taken less than 10 sick days in my working life.

This post concerns a potential sick day from a week ago. Last Monday I slept terribly. My throat began to feel sore earlier in the day so I knew a cold or at least cold symptoms would plague my next few days. I did not expect the disrupted sleep. I started to feel chilled even while I knew I was sweating under my top sheet.

Each time I woke up I contemplated the pros and cons of calling in sick. I kept hoping each time that I would feel better and when I didn’t I kept debating whether I should stay home. On one hand, I knew that rest would help me recover more quickly. On the other, we had MAP testing at school aka high stakes testing with all sorts of requirements that throw a wrench into obtaining a sub if any would actually take a job at my school.

In the end, I told myself that I felt just terribly enough that I could muddle through a day of testing and low-key tasks with my students.

That day felt like it stretched on interminably. I knew that I felt sick and gave up fighting it. All I wanted was to go home, curl into a ball and binge-watch Jane the Virgin.

I am not saying that all it takes is will-power to cure any illness. That’s ridiculous. I am saying, however, that apathy can be more infectious that the actual illness. I knew I felt sick and simply gave in to feeling miserable. I expected to feel awful so I wasn’t surprised when I felt awful.

It affected my mood, my interactions with my students including the particularly trying student that I had to keep in my room for four hours that day. It affected how much I was able to get done of the normal things that I needed to do to keep my head above water at school.

When I finally did get home after this terrible, no-good, awful day (literary reference alert.) I no longer felt most of the symptoms from earlier in the day, save the tail end of a headache on its way out thanks to pharmaceutical help. However, I persisted in my plan to veg out on the couch and binge-watch.

I didn’t need to. I no longer felt terrible. However, I felt entitled to veg out and do nothing when I was at home after suffering through the miserable symptoms at work. I had the start of woe-is-me syndrome.

After an hour or so of doing nothing I had to head downstairs to restart the modem so I could continue to indulge. While down there I decided to go ahead and prep all the stuff I needed for the morning. Something about getting up and moving snapped me out of my apathetic stupor.

I still didn’t feel 100% but my motivation returned. I no longer was interested in feeling sorry for myself. Instead I dove back into the daily tasks that needed to get done.

It was then that I started thinking about the subtle mood shift and analyzing how easily I slipped into apathy and entitlement. Not once did I ever pray and ask God for help with facing the day and all its challenges.

Instead, I adopted an internal habit of naval gazing. I looked inward and downward, took my eyes off God. My grandmother has this habit. Many times when something is happening that she doesn’t like or doesn’t understand or any other number of reasons, she looks down at her lap, shoulders slumped. Often I have wondered what she thinks about. Now I think I have a little taste and I don’t like it.

The next time illness knocks me down, I want to get back up by looking to the source of my strength. Sometimes that will mean taking a sick day and resting. Sometimes that will mean pushing through, relying on the strength that only God gives.

Hit on at Walmart

I had a vastly different post planned for this week than this. I could not, however, pass up the subject that completely unexpectedly landed at my feet.

I headed to Walmart Saturday evening with the intent of picking up some thread for my next cross-stitch project and some groceries so I would have something to eat for supper. I normally purchase my thread from Hobby Lobby since they have a wider selection. The need for groceries had me head to Walmart since they have both.

I’m not as familiar with Walmart’s layout so I ended up making quite a trek around the store before I found the right section. As I looked for the specific aisle, a young black man about 25 years old, pushed a cart past me. He asked what I was looking for. My first thought was that he was an employee, even though he wasn’t wearing a blue vest.

Even though I did not know where the thread was, I declined the help. I typically try to find the item on my own if at all possible. Since I was headed the opposite direction, I thought that was the end of the conversation.

Little did I know.

He wheeled the cart around, got my attention again and said, “Can I ask you a question?”

I thought maybe he needed assistance finding something.

When I didn’t say anything right away, he added “If you’re not in a hurry that is.”

I managed to give him an “okay.”

“Are you in a relationship?”

I kid you not. That was the last thing I expected him to ask. My face displayed my sheer befuddlement.

“You don’t have to answer,” he mumbled.

I paused a little longer, considering if I should lie and say yes or if I should say no and what to say after that. Finally I said, “No. I’m not interested.”

“Oh ok. I just wanted to tell you that you’re really attractive girl.”

“Uh…thanks?”

I turned and walked away as quickly as I could while pulling out my phone to text Mom about the patently absurd thing that had just happened to me.

I know that this happens to some women all the time or at least on occasion. This is the first time in 31 years that it has happened to me and it provoked a lot of deep thoughts.

My first response was laughter. I found the minuscule thread section and could not contain the giggles. I kept laughing as I sobered up and thought beyond the surface comedy.

I started to think about why this had happened. The cause I settled on, although I will never know for certain, was what I was wearing. I hadn’t dressed up. I wore just the “around the house” stuff I spend the day in, a well – but not tight fitting – t-shirt and my “Run Like the Doctor Told You” leggings. I realized after this encounter that this may have been the first time I have worn them “out in public,” basically anywhere expect working around the house. Beyond that, it’s likely the first time I’ve worn leggings “out in public” since these are my one and only pair.

These leggings help accentuate my figure which since I have started running and strength training is the fittest I have been in my life. I will not lie by omitting the fact that a part of me liked it. We are created to be desired and loved. This craving manifests in so many forms, a large portion of them unhealthy. This is why flattery is such a powerful currency.

As soon as I realized that part of me liked the attention, the rest of me recoiled in repugnance. I am so much more than my looks. Would that man still think I was attractive if he really knew me, my likes, dislikes and most importantly, the primacy of God in my life?

I hate the objectification of women that pervades our society. On this principle alone, I will not eat at Hardee’s. Mom and I encounter it at least once a week or so on the run when random strangers honk at us or old men ogle us from their pick up trucks. Runner’s World ran an article in their December issue about this. This is beyond not okay.

Then came Sunday. We’re in the midst of a series on I Thessalonians and have just started a mini series within the larger series on sexual purity. Before Peter came up to speak, another man from our church via video shared the first part of his struggle with pornography, a thing that my family has history with, one of the causes of my parents’ divorce. It made me wonder about the kinds of thoughts that may or may not have been going on in that man’s mind when he thought about my “attractiveness.”

Pornography is also a familiar subject to all those brought up in the same repressive, Fundamentalist/Independent Baptist culture in which I spent so much of my life. I must qualify the way in which I just used the term “familiar.” Unless intimately acquainted with the sin, all those within that bubble knew the fire and brimstone consequences of succumbing to that base evil. As a female, my acquaintance with the subject was the strict legalistic enforcement of the dress code. We were told that if the neckline of our shirt came up to more than four fingers’ length below our collar bone, we invited men to sin by lusting after us.

So how do I balance all of this? I enjoyed the attention yet wholeheartedly believe that a woman is so much more than her looks. I know that what I wore drew this man’s attention yet I do not control his actions, only he does.

Once again, I come to the end of an entry without a clear directive answer. My wisdom pales in comparison to God’s omniscience. In the end, I hope taht all this rumination draws me closer to God in whom dwells all wisdom and truth.

A Day without Caffeine

I drink a lot of coffee.

Anyone who knows me responds, “No, duh.”

I could attempt to trace this back to when I first started drinking coffee-if I remembered-and my subsequent evolution as a coffee drinker. That would appeal to my strength of context but would not serve the point of this essay.

Currently, I drink three cups of coffee a day: one with breakfast, one at school during planning and one as I unwind at the end of the day. That final cup is just as caffeinated as the first. At the beginning of the school year I discovered that I needed that cup of coffee to sleep well. I tried to cut it out in an effort to get the best sleep possible but found that effort counterproductive.

Last week, the “unthinkable” happened. I ran out of coffee.

Mom offered to make the Costco run for me, something that I had to keep putting off thanks to several long days at school. She also brought over some of their coffee to tide me over. (I have the best mom ever.) The “crisis” would have been averted. Unfortunately, all she had left was decaf.

Finding the words to describe the brain fog that ensued would be a Herculean task. I have never experienced anything like that before.

I first noticed the effects in first period when I attempted to speak in Spanish. The words took their time to come if they came at all. Perhaps a better way to describe this would be a brain quagmire. The thoughts were lost in a thick, soupy mess.

During my planning period, I could barely keep my eyes open which meant that my first planning period without a meeting drowned in the brain quagmire.

I trudged through the remainder of the day which included a two hour grad class after school. By that time, a pounding headache joined the quagmire. I felt terrible and still had Life Group ahead before I could go home. I even contemplated taking the next day as a sick day; that’s how awful I felt.

After a couple ibuprofen and a large cup of coffee at Life Group, I felt completely fine. By the time I got in my car to head home, I felt like a normal, functioning human being again.

This experience generated thought-provoking questions, questions to which I do not have answers. Two conflicting facts drive this dilemma. One, I sleep significantly better when I drink a cup of regular coffee in the evening. Two, the lack of caffein has the potential to detrimentally affect my work and overall functioning.

Over the weeks and months to come I hope to explore this and come to a much better balance, a balance that, hopefully, does not include dependence on a thing, in this case a chemical.