Redeemed Things

I'm not sure where to start this. I have a lot of thoughts that are connected, but in that down-the-rabbit-hole kind of way. Wanna come along? Then hold on tight and don't drink any suspicious potions along the way. 

I run. That's something I never thought I'd say. But here I am, two and a half weeks from my second half marathon. You may think I am some uber healthy person who has it together with her health and fitness. You might think that if you know me or if you don't. I sure do try hard. I share healthy recipes and tips on Facebook. I try to encourage others on their health and fitness journeys. I like to think about it and discuss it. 

But today was a bad day for all that. I skipped both breakfast and dinner. I have drank about two sips of water all day (iced tea doesn't count?!?!). I ate almost a whole bag of off-brand sour candy on my way home from a direct sales party tonight. I realized just how poorly I've eaten and drank as I started my 4-mile training run (at 10pm), so I ate half a bag of beef jerky as I walked the first mile of my “run”. The side stitch was intense and sharp. I haven't felt 100%, mostly run down from too much on my plate while feeling unproductive and unsuccessful as well as too much “people-ing” over the last couple weeks. I couldn't get a full breath while lying in bed last night, let alone while I was walking tonight. I walked, I ran, I walked, I ran, I walked, jogged, ran slow, ran faster, finished. 4 miles should be a piece of cake, but it was not tonight. 

But you know what? One bad workout doesn't make my training a failure. More importantly, it doesn't make ME a failure. 

Starting when I trained for my first short-distance triathlon in 2015, I have leaned on Psalm 121 when I felt weak. 

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains— 
where does my help come from? 
My help comes from the Lord, 
the Maker of heaven and earth. 
He will not let your foot slip— 
he who watches over you will not slumber; 
indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 
The Lord watches over you— 
the Lord is your shade at your right hand; 
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 
The Lord will keep you from all harm— 
he will watch over your life; 
the Lord will watch over your coming and going 
both now and forevermore.”
It's written and taped up on my desk, underlined in my Bible, even engraved on my Road ID bracelet.

It's inspired me when I felt I couldn't run anymore, when I was afraid of drowning (literally), and when I wanted to quit. 
It's been a comfort to me through heavy grief and desperate worry. 

But do you see what it hasn't been? It hasn't been my daily prayer. I haven't looked to the Lord to be my help doing laundry or working or nurturing every day relationships. I so easily fall into the trap of looking to myself to get it all done and manage the day-to-day. While I would never say it, and while I find myself convicted when I discover I've done it, what I do is avoid “bothering God” with my day-to-day. I thank him for my health and family and home, but never truly surrender those things to him. I don't wake and consecrate the day and its events to him. I “rise and grind”, as the expression goes, though it often feels more like “drag and trudge”. 

I've been doing a lot of trying hard and not so much surrendering or consecrating. 

I have both felt guilt and been made to feel guilty for my health and exercise habits. I have prayed and worked through my motivations for health and fitness and have found that for me, all the standard reasons for health and fitness: to add years to my life, to be there for my kids longer, to be able to run around and keep up with my kids, to live longer with my spouse, etc., feel hollow to me. I also don't do it for me. Heaven knows if I was doing something for me it would be eating donuts! No, health and fitness are redeemed for me. They are acts of stewardship of the body God has given me. They are as much expressions of worship as singing at church. Well, on good days. On the consecrating days and the not-trying-so-desperately days. 

I have been seeing a quote by Ann Voskamp that says something like, ‘The world has enough women that know how to do their hair. The world needs women that can do hard and holy things.’ And that quote is oh-so-true. But some days, doing my hair is the holy thing. Some days, just throwing off the weight that says I am not good, I am not enough, I am too much, I am nothing is the holy thing. And my act of obedience in the faith that I am fearfully and wonderfully made is fixing my hair. Once I have acted in acceptance of that gift, of the not-so-hard-but-holy, I can move onto the world-changing, hard-and-holy obediences. Am I saying that you can't obey God in one way while faking it on your stewardship of your body? Or that the only way to steward our bodies well is to look nice? Nope. I've never seen a picture of Mother Teresa with her hair and makeup done. And I don't recall the passage of scripture where Jesus was busy man-scaping. But I am saying that *I* am more likely to do better trusting and obeying in other things if I start with this one. And, boy, has this one been a long time coming. Maybe you feel that, too. I hope I'm not alone. 

All this to wind back and say that you can start anywhere. If you want to honor God with your body by exercising and eating healthy, you can do it by starting now. Just as God doesn't ask you to get your life together before you accept his gift of salvation, he also doesn't expect your first act of obedience in this area to be running a marathon or winning a cross fit competition. He expects you to be faithful in doing what you can. Same goes if you feel convicted to honor God with the condition of your home, your diligence at work, your kindness or generosity with others, with the way you treat your spouse, or how present you are with your children. Like the parable of the talents, be faithful with little and you'll be trusted with more. Start where you are with what you have and build from there. One day of failure doesn't a failure make. I, and you, may not be perfect, but we can aim for holy and the only way is through God’s grace. 

I had a poster in my bedroom as a teen that said, “Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.” --Henry VanDyke

Will you steward your every day well? Will you join me in offering my day to God and looking to him for help in the regular stuff? And looking to him for help to grow more holy each day? Let me know some everyday things that have been redeemed for you. Or some area where you long for redemption. Thanks for reading. 


How To Run Well, According to God

I have begun training for the Chicago Supersprint Triathlon as well as the Chicago Half Marathon.  It takes a lot of time and energy and I don't want that time lost to simply working out.  So today on my run, I didn't wear any headphones and I asked God, "How can I run well?". I chuckled to myself and told Him the double entendre was not lost on me, after all, I'm familiar with the many passages of scripture that equate our time here on earth with a race (Heb 12:1, 1 Cor 9:24, Gal 2:2, Gal 5:7, and more).
God poured insight down on me. It was as if He'd just been waiting for me to ask. So without further ado: How To Run Well, According to God.

1.Keep your eyes up. I am clumsy. This is not negative self-talk, this is fact. Ask anyone who knows me. Because of my clumsiness I have a habit of looking at the ground when I walk, run, hike, etc. But when my eyes are on the ground at my feet, I become very short-sighted.  The goal seems out of reach because it is out of sight. My pace slows. I miss the scenery around me.  Today it was the river on one side and a row of houses with summer blooms in their landscaping on the other.
In my Christian race the same thing happens. It is easy to get short-sighted.  Bogged down in daily decision making and church politics.  In national and world politics.  Weighed down by the grind of the week. Instead, I need to remember that each step takes me closer to a goal.  When my eyes are up, I don't find myself slogging through as often.  Non-Kingdom issues don't become the biggest deal in my life.

2. Run all the way to the goal. My GPS told me I had reached the 2-mile mark before I reached the spot that I expected to be the 2-mile mark. I had my eyes on that spot as my turn-around and I considered turning around when the GPS told me I'd reached my goal instead of going all the way to the pre-set goal. God whispered to me to continue to the pre-set, visual turnaround.  Why?  Because I would need a cool-down at the end of this run and by running just a little further before turning around, it would build in a little extra distance for me to cool down.
When God has set you on a path and given you a goal, never quit just because someone else--even an expert--has told you you've reached your goal.  Continue until you've reached the place God set out for you.

3. Don't be too prideful to walk. Sometimes, I need to walk.  I'm a beginner runner. I suspect I have bad form. Today, especially, my muscles didn't feel good and I was running first thing in the morning, which was a new experience for me and which I have now learned I need to prep/fuel for a little differently.  So I needed to walk.  There is no benefit to running till I collapse or throw up on a 4-mile training run. I needed to lay aside my pride and walk.
Sometimes, God leads us into deep water. I might feel "in over my head" in ministry or study or the goal God has set before me.  It's OK to walk sometimes.  Don't stop, don't give up, but take the step back, evaluate the situation, see what needs to be done to prevent exhaustion and burn-out.  Sometimes that's more time alone with God.  Sometimes it's more time with my family.  Sometimes it's changing up a schedule or rearranging priorities. A short walk doesn't make you less of a runner.  It makes you a runner able to finish the race.

4. But don't be too fearful to run. Running is hard.  Walking is easy.  I don't find myself panting, my legs don't cramp, I'm not usually pouring sweat, and I can still get where I'm going. I enjoy a walk. I enjoy easy. But there comes a point where a walk does not benefit my endurance, does not build my fitness, does not ready me for the race.  I could walk all my training miles, but it would not prepare me to run the half marathon in September. I had to step out of easy, but comfort behind me, lay aside fear of pain or difficulty or struggle and run.
It's easy to coast along as a Christian. Easy to accept Jesus and then live a good life afterwards. But does that grow you? Does that prepare you for battle? No. It gets you from point A to point B and that is all. Don't be afraid to jump in with both feet. Don't be afraid to read that book, go on that trip, take that job, pray for strength, or patience, or ask God what He wants you to do now.  Don't be afraid--it's in the Bible.  Lots of times.  Set aside fear or apathy, or both.  Whatever is holding you back.

5. Find a Friend to Run With. Ugh.  But I'm so slow.  I'm embarrassed by how slow I am! No one wants to run with me because it won't be a challenge to them. I can't keep up with others. They'd be waiting for me for like an hour at the finish. I like the quiet time while running. I'd rather do it alone. But a running friend helps keep you motivated.  She can teach you things about form and training methods you don't already know. This is someone who agrees to go with you on the run.
I felt the kick in the pants on this one.  I may need a running mentor, but I am capable of being the mentor for someone else's Christian race. And you never really grow out of needing a buddy on our Christian race, either. I've got women who come alongside me and my husband who leads me.  I need to get get on the mentoring wagon.

6. Stop Writing the Summary Before the Finish. I kept writing this blog post in my head as each of these lessons came to me.  But God said, slow your roll. Wait for the end to write down your experience.  Things change along the way. I may have a different outcome planned than you do.
With CIY Mix and NYR coming up and a summer of study and a new semester coming quickly, it's easy to try and anticipate what will happen. To try and make a plan that caters to the eventuality you expect. But God says to have faith in Him and follow His leading. HE knows what will happen and how it will come to pass. I need to seek Him in goal-setting and be ready for Him to do very different things than I might expect.

7.There's a time to push through and a time to rest. I found myself needing to slow down and walk in the first half of my run.  But in that last mile, it was time to push through and finish strong. The way my body felt was similar in both halves of the run, but the occasion was different.
Sometimes it's time to take a step back and figure out what changes to make in ministry and in life. Other times, I've gotta buckle down and push through. I sometimes have a hard time sorting through the differences between how I feel and what is reality.  So I seek God to find out if it's a God-given urge to make a change or if it's an enemy-given urge.

8. Make adjustments, but don't quit. I did a lot of adjusting today.  Compression leggings up, down, up, down. Running, walking. Short strides, long strides. Swing arms more, swing arms less. Push up my sunglasses. Sometimes I have to make adjustments to in order to get the run done. But I don't quit. I didn't say, "I don't like how my compression leggings feel today, so I'm just going to call Zach to come get me."
Some in the Christian race. Make adjustments as needed.  If it's not working, change it. If there's a better way, go for it. But don't quit.  If I feel like my relationship with God is stagnant or weak, it's not because God doesn't exist, it's because I need to make an adjustment.  Pray more, read more, read something different, change when I do my quiet time. Change an attitude or habit or activity in my life. But never quit.  I can never say, "My relationship with God feels weird today, so I'm just going to stop doing what I've been doing and maybe I'll be "into it" again in a few days/weeks/months/years". That would not lead me to the finish line.  That's the equivalent of sitting down in the middle of the race course and just waiting to "feel like" running again.  Many races have time limits...that's a good way to miss the cutoff and when you finally reach where the finish line was, it's gone.

9. Stop caring what you look like. Oh, man. I tell my voice students all the time to breathe deeply.  That your ribs expand and your belly pooches and you feel it all the way down in your low, low abs when you take a full breath.  You can't worry about looking skinny while you sing.  Same with running.  If I'm worried about whether my belly or thighs are jiggling or if my stomach pooches out when I breathe, I'm probably not running well.
I've cared for a long time about how my Christian walk looks. And to some extent, this is important (Matt. 18:6; 1 Cor. 10:23) . But when it affects my obedience to God, it is detrimental. I need not care who Christians see me befriending. I need not care if I look like a fanatic to non-Christians. This is a hard hurdle to clear and I'm still working on it.

10. Shut judgement out. As I was cooling down, I felt glad to have finished my run. I felt maybe a little pride. And then, a van turned the corner in front of me and the lady in the passenger's seat was eating a McDonald's breakfast burrito.
And I thought, "My run was hard, but at least I got out and did it.  At least I'm not eating McDonald's".
And then God said, "Shut the judgement down".
And I thought, "That's right.  Maybe she only eats it on Saturday.  Or she just got bad news.  Or is recovering from surgery or something. There could be a good reason for her eating McDonald's."
You see, someone having a justifiable reason for their actions doesn't change my judgement to non-judgement. The fact that "everyone has a struggle you don't know about" doesn't make me less judgmental, it just reminds me to shut up about the things I think. It's OK to see sin in someone's life and call it what it is. But if that person hasn't accepted Jesus as their Savior, there is something much more important I need to be addressing with that person than their particular sin that felt like an affront to me.
And calling something sin when I don't know that it is a sin leads to really scary territory. It's easy to make the leap: breakfast burrito=gluttony=consumerism=not caring for the body God gave you=sin. But that leap was more about making myself feel superior to someone else than worry for that person's soul. Oh pride, it is deep in me. But I know God can, and will uproot it...even if it's hard and takes time.

So there's my 10 lessons from a 4 mile run. I hope it's been insightful or helpful or at least not boring!


Happy Friday

Hey there! I haven't blogged in for-ev-er, but here I am. I never stopped enjoying blogging, but I was paralyzed by a lack of direction for what to write about. The blog felt non-cohesive and I didn't like that (and it's a big no-no in the world of for-real blogging). But I've decided I just like writing and I don't care if the blog feels like a crazy person writes it.

So I'm going to try and write every Friday.  Just whatever is on my mind and/or a summary of the week.

Zach and I started a high school discipleship group somewhat recently and it brings me great joy. I love sitting and talking about being a true disciple of Christ with these students and making them dinner each week. I feel like the phrase "doing life together" is overused and abused, but during the short time they're here, that's what it really feels like. One thing I have mentioned starting within the group is some form of accountability in which we each share just a little about what we've read, studied, and learned from God that week. Blogging each Friday will help me be accountable to look for God in everyday life.

So this week! My Mom and Dad were here part of last week and over the weekend. It was a great visit. I love having them here. We did a small sewing project that required all of us--even Zach and
Dad were looking at the sewing machine!

I pinned this post a long time ago about pre-sprouting seeds and starting them indoors for the garden. We had trouble last year with squirrels and birds eating our seeds straight out of the ground when we planted, so I decided to give indoor starting a try this year. It works like a charm! I've never had much of a green thumb (My Granny could grow a tree out of half a dead leaf. How I wish I got that talent!), so seeing little seeds sprout and then putting them in the dirt and having them actually grow is like watching a miracle happen! I've been dutifully checking on them and squirting them with my water bottle daily. So far we have spinach, lettuce, basil, cucumber, squash, zucchini, tomato, and broccoli started. Bell and Jalepeno peppers sprouted and have gone into their little containers, but haven't pushed through the dirt yet. If you're a pinner, you can follow my Gardening Board here.

Today, I decided I would reorganize the closet in our living room. It is a HUGE closet. It holds dvds, cds, electronics, some toys, workout equipment like my yoga mat and weights, extra blankets, games, and more. Because everyone in our home uses this closet, it has a tendency to get a little...ahem...messy. So today I started pulling everything out of the closet. Zach quickly jumped in to help me out. We sorted through everything, purging a bunch of things we haven't even so much as looked at since we originally stuck it in there. We also sorted out the toys in the baskets in the living room. Our kids kind of suck at playing in their rooms. They bring toys down to the living room constantly, so we have these basket footstools that toys can be stashed in at the end of the day. Well, the toys were not going back to their rooms regularly...or ever. So the baskets were over flowing and the bottom of the closet was overflowing. We chose a bunch of stuff to donate that they don't play with or have outgrown, took toys back up to their rooms (and really put them away), and threw out broken, mostly lost, and worthless toys (read: Happy Meal toys). It feels good!

I'm hating the cold weather and the snowy, sleety, nastiness it's been doing the last few days, but I'm hoping to squeak out a few more "winter" projects around the house before our focus turns outdoors.
Last summer we joined a local recreation club and pretty much didn't do a single project around the house all summer. We barely kept our laundry and dishes done. Summer is so precious and short here in Northern Illinois that we felt like we needed to bask in it as much as we could. So we swam, and biked, and camped, and fished, and picnicked, and kayaked, and hung out with friends to our hearts' contentment last summer. I plan to do the same this summer. So for now: projects.

God has been talking to me a lot about pride lately. How it can manifest in so many ways and rear its head in every area of our lives. The Bible never speaks highly of pride. Yet it's something that is drilled into us from the time we're babies. Have pride in yourself, be proud of who you are, where you came from, make me proud, etc. People live their whole lives doing more and more in an attempt to hear their parents tell them they are proud of them. There's even a Sesame Street song that Elmo sings about that good feeling you get when you write your name or tie your shoe and how it is pride! How deeply Satan has embedded pride into our minds and culture. This all started because I was thinking about self-esteem and realizing that it's not a Biblical concept. God never tells us to take pride in our bodies, in our self, to think highly of ourselves. The Bible actually says the opposite--that the humble will take the spot of honor in the Kingdom of Heaven. Our confidence, the thing that holds us up and keeps us going, needs to be God. When you really think about it, self confidence doesn't even make sense! When we're feeling inadequate and unsure, people tell us to have self confidence. HOW? Where would that even come from??? We need to draw strength from the very thing (self) we are feeling inadequate in and about? It's a serpent eating its own tail. But when we look to God for our confidence...now that makes sense! Look to one greater, stronger, smarter than ourselves and draw confidence from Him. That's a concept I can get behind.

So there are my thoughts for the week. I look forward to checking in again next week. Maybe I'll have pictures then. We'll see. Stay warm out there! And if you live where it's nice, soak up some warmth, bottle it up, and send it my way!


Sometimes You Cry At The Dinner Table

Sometimes you've heard your name 30,000 times this week. 
And sometimes one of your sweet, wonderful children is going through terrible twos and the other is crying and having an attitude problem like a teenager. 
And you've cleaned and tidied till you want to use disposable dishes from now on--environment be darned--but every time you turn around there's another 50 puzzle pieces on the floor and there are still fruit flies buzzing around the sink. 
And your job that has always offered so much security suddenly doesn't feel quite so secure. 

And your heart just feels tired. And your soul is full of fatigue. 

And you cry at the dinner table. 

Sitting there smiling and enjoying the little people who are your special blessings and thankful for the husband who made dinner, the soul-fatigue leaks from your eyes. 

And you go sit and read 7 books while terrible two sits on the potty. And you say prayers and are thankful for tiny hands folded, eager to talk to Jesus. And you whisper to God asking that those little hands will always be so eager to seek Him. And you go to the other bedroom for cuddles and silliness. 

Then make a cup of tea. And assure that wonderful, dinner-making husband that those dinner table tears weren't sadness or anxiety. 

And God whispers as you cry a few more tears that He is your security. Your strength. 

And you remember and you read:

"There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no rock like our God." (1 Samuel 2:2)

"As for God, His way is perfect: The Lord's word is flawless; He shields all who take refuge in Him. For who is God besides the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God? It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure...The Lord lives! Praise be to my rock. Exalted be my God, the Rock, my Savior!...Therfore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name." (2 Samuel 22:31-33, 47, 50)

And you breathe easier. And you feel peace in that heart and in that soul. 

Thank you, Lord, for being that Rock, security, refuge, strength, that your Word is flawless. And thank you for holding up the worn out. You are Good. Amen. 


Chicago Triathlon Supersprint 2015

On August 29, 2015, I kicked 30's butt by participating in the Transamerica Chicago Triathlon Supersprint!  I wanted to write about it so friends and family can hear the story and so hopefully someone like me who is obsessing about figuring out what it's like can find this post and get a little peace of mind for next year's race!

On Friday, Zach and I went up to the race expo.  The expo was neat.  They were selling huge stuff like bikes and wetsuits and $200 shoes and also little things like car stickers (which I forgot to buy-ugh!), shoe laces, and body glide.  We picked up a pair of elastic shoe laces to help make my transitions quicker and a race belt so I wouldn't have to pin my race bib to my tri suit.  We also got an official race tshirt.

Then, we attended my "course talk" which explained details of the course and transitions, the rules for the race, safety considerations, where to park, etc.  Even though I had heard most of the information, attending the meeting really helped put my mind at ease.

After attending the meeting, I was allowed to pick up my race packet.  We followed signs through the labyrinth of the basement of the Hilton and found pick up.  I had received an email early in the week with my bib number and all I had to tell them was my number and show an ID to get my packet.  Inside was my bib, tri-tats (temporary tattoos) of my race numbers for each arm, the numbers to put on my bike and helmet, and my timing chip.  Then we moved to another kiosk where I got my participant tshirt and a "goodie bag".  The bag is a nice cinch sack and had samples of vitamins, beet juice, Gatorade and all kinds of weird stuff.

After leaving the expo it was almost dark, but we drove to Foster Beach to check out the race site anyway.  We parked on what would become the bike course, walked part of the run course, and walked almost the whole path between the swim and transition.  We went down the beach and put our toes into cold, cold, cold Lake Michigan.  I wanted to get an idea of just how cold 60 degree water was.

Then we drove to our hotel from the beach, which was nice so we could see how long it took.  There were no hotels in the City under $100, so we stayed in Skokie.  It was about a 30 minute drive.

The next morning, our alarms went off at 5am and we got everything for the race together and headed down to the car, where we discovered it was raining.  I checked the weather and it was forecast to rain all morning.  We found a 24-hour Walgreens on the way and picked up an umbrella and poncho and a box of garbage bags.

When we reached the parking area, we had a not-so-short walk in the rain to the check in area.  Zach stayed back and waited in line to pay for parking and I went ahead to the site, which was good because the line to get into transition was huge.  They advised us at the course talk to arrive by 6am to transition so we'd have time to get everything settled before transition closed at 6:45.  We arrived in the parking lot around 6am, so by the time I walked down to transition, waited in line, and checked in, it was 6:40.  Thankfully, they recognized this was mostly due to organizational flaws, so transition remained open longer.  It was pouring.

I got my Divvy bike and found a spot right next to the beginning of the run course to set up my stuff.  I put a garbage bag on the ground and then put my transition bag on the back edge of it and my towel (ha!) on the rest of it, so neither would be laying on the wet ground.  I put my helmet on the bike handlebars with my sunglasses ready inside them (double ha!)  I also set my shoes (which were already soaked) out on my towel with socks rolled down so I could just roll them onto my feet and then slide them into my shoes.  I also laid out my race belt with my bib already attached on the towel.  Then I took two more garbage bags and covered my transition bag, towel, and gear and laid the box of garbage bags on top so they wouldn't blow away.  Finally, I put my wetsuit on up to my waist and headed out of transition down toward the beach with my swim cap, goggles, and earplugs in hand.


THE SWIM (375m/not quite 1/4 mi)
We lined up at the starting line on the beach (my wave had 37 people in it) and an air horn sounded to set us off.  We ran down into the water, which was 62 degrees the morning of the race.  We swam out to a buoy, rounded it, swam parallel to the beach, rounded a 2nd buoy and swam/ran back into the beach.  The short description of this is that it was the worst thing I have ever done.   I had trained swimming 400+m, but I was not ready for swimming in Lake Michigan.  The wind, waves, and cold were just brutal.  Every time I got a stroke rhythm going I would choke on the water and have to stop and sputter or turn onto my back.  I backstroked a LOT of the swim.  Also, we were hitting and kicking each other, which I expected but was still annoying.  On top of it, I was wearing ear plugs because I've had trouble with water in my left ear all summer and my goggles were tinted, which was great in nice weather, but on this gray, yucky day, I just felt isolated and sensory deprived.  My goggles also fogged and I could barely see. The girl behind me as we started cried and hyperventilated.  I don't know if she continued or quit.  A woman in my wave had to be helped out of the water near the finish.  It was the real deal. We were never more than about 20 feet from a lifeguard, which was good. The water was only about 5.5ft deep--just deep enough that I couldn't touch. Next year I will train swimming a much longer distance--maybe a half mile or so--and will try to get some training sessions in Lake Michigan so I feel more comfortable with the open water.

THE BIKE (10K/6.2mi)
I expected the bike to be my best event.  I was signed up for the Divvy wave, which means everyone in my wave was riding the rent-from-the-city bikes.  They are 3-speed cruisers.  Great for cruising around Chicago, site-seeing, riding along the lakefront path.  Not race bikes.  They were very heavy.  At home I ride a Trek mountain bike and it is much lighter than these bikes.  The ride would have been easier on my mountain bike and it would have been fine for the race.  Many other people were on mountain bikes.  The Divvy wave was a good choice for this first time, though, because I was unsure when I registered if my mountain bike would be OK and knew buying a road bike this year was out of the question, and I wasn't too keen on transporting my bike up to the city. Mercifully, aside from two overpasses the course was flat and guarded from the wind, mostly.  Again, I would train for a longer distance than required by the race, maybe around 10 miles.

THE RUN (2.5K/1.5mi)
I expected the run to be horrible, but it wasn't.  I choked on my Gatorade on my way out of transition, but after that I did fine.  I did stop to walk for a few steps at a time a couple times during the run, but everyone was very encouraging.  They had people cheering along the way and even some of the athletes running back toward the finish were cheering on the wave that was headed out on the run.  The group at the turnaround was so sweet and encouraging! The run was partially on a gravel path and there were some seriously huge puddles, but my shoes were already drenched so I just ran through. I was tired, but felt OK through the run.  Again, next year I'll train for a 5K to be more prepared. The rain and cool day were a big help on this leg.  On the way back I reached a point where I wanted to stop and walk, but then I could hear the crowd at the finish line and I had this renewed energy and was able to finish strong.  It was awesome.

At the finish everyone was cheering and they announced my name as I crossed the finish line.  Zach and Lynn had been somewhere along each course cheering for me and Lynn had made encouraging posters to hold up and cheer me along the way. They were rock stars standing out in the rain for me! I finished in 1 hr 6 min, which is not very good, in the grand scheme of things (the fastest women did it in about 38 minutes, I think).  But I had estimated based on my training that I would finish in about 1 hr 20 min, so my actual time was quite a bit better than I expected. As soon as you crossed, they showered me with things.  A small towel, chips, pretzels, bottles of Gatorade and water, and, of course, a finisher medal.  I've been on the "get rid of participation trophies" bandwagon before, but man, I feel like I earned that finisher medal!

We weren't allowed headphones or music on the course, so I took a page from my friend Rachel's book and prayed along the way.  I prayed for the sweet babies born recently in my life and for their Mamas.  I prayed for a friend's Mom who was in ICU.  I prayed for baby Luke and his family--who I've never met, but have been following their story on Facebook.  I prayed for the family of the child that will eventually pass and give baby Luke the heart he desperately needs.  I prayed for students in our ministry.  I prayed for my dear friend who recently experienced a miscarriage.  I prayed and praised God that He gave me a healthy body and that He is my strength and provider.  I thanked Him for Zach and Lynn cheering me on and Andee at home watching our kids so they weren't standing in the rain. It helped a lot.

After the race we went back to our hotel (since it was only just after 9am) and sat in the hot tub--glorious!!!!  We splashed around in the pool and did a few laps, which helped relax and stretch out my tight, cold muscles.  Then we packed up and headed home.  I took a 3 hour nap.  Sunday, I was very cranky and tired.  By Monday, I had pretty much recovered.

Bottom line: I will do it again next year.  Registration for 2016 opens October 2015 and I won't hesitate to sign up again.  If you are thinking about trying it, DO IT (I'm looking at you, Jodi).  It was awesome.  It was hard the whole time and scary at moments, but overall it was just an awesome experience.  Worth every difficult moment.  I will also start training earlier, train most intentionally, and train for more distance in each event next year, and then go have a blast as a Supersprint veteran!


Customer Service: The Power of A Name

Image result for customer service icon
I've worked in customer service my entire adult life.  Offering great customer service is something I care about.  I want my customers happy and I want them to think highly of the company I work for.  I could go on and on and on about it.

But I won't.  Today, I just have a few thoughts on the impact of using your name.

Many companies require their Customer Service Reps (CSRs) to use their name in their greeting when they answer a call.  But I think reminding a customer of your name at the end of a call is far more important.

1. It gives them confidence.  When you close a call and remind them of your name, that customer knows you stand by the service you've given them.  They feel confident that they'll receive what you've arranged and will follow through on your end of the responsibilities.  And if something goes awry, they know who to call or who to say they talked with.  You taking ownership of the service you offer makes your customer feel confident.

2. It comforts them.  I work in a service industry, so I frequently talk to people who are distraught.  Offering my name at the end of the call helps them know that I care about their situation.  They know that Joy is working on their behalf.  Tell a customer your name and that they can ask for you if they need anything else.  Often, they don't need to call back again, but they feel more calm and like their situation is under control just knowing you're there for them.

3. It creates personal service.  When you use your name at the end of the call and invite them to call again, they no longer feel they're a customer of whatever-company-big-or-small-am-I-talking-to-someone-in-India.  They're now your customer.  That sense of personal service makes a customer much more likely to "buy in" to your company and stick with you for the long haul.

These are obvious tips for someone in phone-based customer service, but they can go equally as far for someone in retail, out in the service field, executives, home-based businesses, networking, interacting with your children's school teachers/administrators, and beyond!

I know this isn't something I have ever really talked about on the blog here, but it was just on my mind today, so I thought I'd share.  Happy Monday, all!


New Year 2015

What would a New Year be without resolutions?  Actually, resolutions don't need to happen right at the New Year, but I think we are remiss to allow a year to go by without giving some thought to where we've been and where we're going.  I have some friends that do it around their birthdays or other prominent dates in their lives.

I did not do so well with my resolutions last year.  I made too many to keep up with AND I let even the manageable ones fall to the wayside because I didn't keep those goals in front of me.  The ones I met, I met by accident.

But now it's 2015.  New Year, New Leaf is what I'm saying.  My New Year Resolution list could alternately be titled "Kick 30's Butt".  :)

Here are some of my goals for 2015.

Say "How about you?":  Last year I added more "pleases" and "thank yous" into my vocabulary.  This year I'd like to add more "how about yous" and things like that.  I always want to be a good friend and a good listener and to care for others more.  So my goal is to never let a conversation completely center on me.  When someone asks me about my day, my weekend, my plans, etc, I plan to give them an appropriate-for-the-conversation answer (I tend to be long-winded and an over-sharer) and finish with a question back to them.  I feel there's no better way to get to know someone better than to ask them about the things that matter to them.  It's about courtesy, but it's even more about connection and letting people know they matter to me.

Say "Yes?": If I have one struggle in my life, it's having patience and giving grace to my family.  So this year (and I've already started) when someone is calling my name, I don't want to respond with "What?" or, even worse (but all too common), "WHAT?!".  I am going to respond with, "Yes?".  I think it is a simple way to give affirmation to my family, to set the tone that what they're about to say will be received and not rejected before they can speak, that their talking to me is not an inconvenience.  I can see that this is truth in the look on my 3.5 year old daughter's face when I answer her.

Do Something Healthy: I know that health goals are hackneyed for New Year's Resolutions, but I have one anyway.  I would like to lose some weight (20 pounds if I can), but more than that I'd like to get stronger and feel better.  I frequently find myself worn out and feeling blah and I'm over that.  We got a Nutribullet for Christmas and have started drinking smoothies for breakfast.  My Mom and Aunt swear by them (they've been doing it for several months and have both lost weight and report feeling more energetic and physically better).  I think Nora would have a smoothie for every meal if we'd let her!  I just started today drinking Matcha.  It's powdered green tea leaves.  One 2-ounce swig each morning gives all the good stuff of about 10 cups of steeped green tea.  It tastes kind of gross (call it an "acquired taste"...that sounds nicer), very Japanese/Sushi/Seaweed-like.  I also like that because of...something...in it the caffeine is delivered evenly over several hours which prevents the jitters/crash that I get from coffee.  It's science.  I also plan to do the Chicago Triathlon Super-Sprint later this year.  Don't think I'm crazy or all hard-core...it's something like 1/4 mile swim, 8 mile bike and 1.5 mile run.  I will have to do a little training for it (I couldn't run 1.5 miles without stopping even if zombies were chasing me), but I think it will be fun and very rewarding!  My sister is planning to do it also, and I'm hoping Zach will, too.

Practice God's Presence: I have been in on the "Not A Fan" movement since the very beginning, and I've been learning and growing over 2014, but I still feel like something is missing.  As I look at my life, I think that missing piece is communion with God.  I want to carve out some quiet time to connect with God.  Right now I'm going to try several things and see what works well and then make a commitment to it.

Experiences Over Things: It is SO hard for me not to pick up that little toy, book, item, whatever for my kids every time I see it.  But while giving a gift is rewarding in the moment (for both parties), experiences and time spent are so much more valuable.  This comes in the form of playing a game one-on-one with Nora, or taking Judah outside even when I don't feel like it.  It also looks like letting my kids take their time putting on clothes or packing a bag or doing a task even though I could help them or do it myself and get it done much faster.  It looks like redirecting my money away from buying "stuff" and toward doing things--bowling, ice skating, camping.  It looks like re-allotting my time to make space for all these things.

Be A Champion For My Husband: This looks like speaking to and about him with respect.  It's relating with him using his love language.  It's praying for him.  It's encouraging him and being a help mate.  It includes the above-mentioned goals of answering with "Yes?" and asking "How about you?".  It's putting him before the kids (which benefits the kids, too, in the long run).  It's also keeping him in the loop on what's going on in my life schedule-wise, emotionally and spiritually.

So those are my goals.  It looks like a lot written down, but I think it can be done.  How am I doing kicking 30's butt? I think it'll result in a better me all around and having some great experiences under my belt.  In October I'll be able to ring in 31 with no regrets.

So, how about you?  When do you set goals? Do you have plans for 2015?