Monday, September 30, 2013

Bristol Cross

This past Saturday, September 28th, was probably the best race day I have had.  It was a beautiful morning; the sun was shining, Steele Creek park was gorgeous, and my excitement was flowing for what lied ahead.  Ever since the night before, I had this urge to just sing and dance, but I knew I needed to hold it in a little while longer.  Between the race in the morning and getting to join my church youth at our fall retreat, I was ready for a thrill.  I did a lot of praying for opportunities and a positive, unselfish attitude for whatever happened.  On the ride there on the bus, I listened to some great contemporary Christian music getting me even more pumped, shared some thoughts on Twitter, and Blogger, and read some on my phone Bible. (One of my favorite pre-race songs is Eye on It by Toby Mac)  I just had a great feeling.

The girls varsity race was at 11:10, the perfect time it seemed.  This was my favorite racing weather.  Just one of the innumerable blessings of the day.  I started on the second line behind the twins on our team.  We had a start box dead center, so we wanted the best start for everyone on the team which meant Chantal and Cherie would probably get out the fastest.  I don't usually start too well, so I was worried for a moment, but then realized--unselfish, let it go.  God will make it work how it should.  We went through our normal team chant and prayer, and I said my "Just do your best and God will do the rest" right before we took off.  Well buddy, that was my best race start.  And I kept it up!  That gun went off and I just let go.  God completely carried me through that entire race.  This is no easy course.  Rolling hills and tons of curves and tight turns are everywhere on the two-loop course.  Girls from my JV team kept telling me in their cheers that no one was even close, but I didn't know.  Rounding those last couple turns, I was so excited.  Heading toward the finish of a race is always an amazing rush of adrenaline.  Sending up prayers throughout races also keeps me going more than anything.  The finish of this race is a long stretch of gradual downhill with an uphill into the finish line.  Around the 3 mile mark, I could see that the clock said 18:00.  Holy cow I was thinking.  Pushing in that last little bit in my head I was saying "PR! PR! PR!" and I did!  The only way I was able to do that was because God wanted me to have another opportunity to share His name.  I never would have imagined running an 18:28 on a tough course like that. 

Back at the tent, I looked up from changing my shoes to find two men asking if they could interview me.  "Oh man" I thought.  This hadn't happened before, and I didn't want to sound dumb.  Then I knew that they were there because God put them there.  I said a quick prayer that He would speak through me and give me the words to say.  I answered their questions and told them how God had just blessed me with an amazing race that day.  I also talked about prayer and our whole team.  I don't really remember what all I said, but I just hope it makes a difference to someone out there!

On my cool down, I ran along a gravel path that followed the side of the lake there.  I was overwhelmed by the day, and it was only around 1:00.  I use my cool downs to reflect on my races and pray and thank God for all His blessings.  Today He had given me a pie to donate, a new PR, even more joy in my heart, and an opportunity to share about Him.  I still can't believe all that God is doing here in this world.  I feel so blessed to be a part of His plan and can't wait to see what all is ahead.

A song by MIKESCHAIR comes to my mind daily this season.  All I can do is thank You for this life I never deserve.  Wanna thank You for the grace I know I don't have to earn.  You love me, You love me, Your mercy is proof.  All I can do is say thank You.
Two girls from our varsity had to leave to go to violin lessons, but here is the rest of the team with our head coach and the first place plaque!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sleepless Morning=Blessing in Disguise

I was discouraged when I woke up this morning from a great night's sleep despite the fact that I was in a tent, because I still had 3 hours before we had to be awake.

It is the Sunday morning of Camp Your Face Off, my church's fall youth retreat.  I didn't get there until around 6:00 Saturday evening because of a cross country meet in Bristol.  I was upset because I had to miss all the fun on Friday night and then the service on Saturday morning, so laying there with all kinds of thoughts was not good.  I now feel bad for taking the service the night before for granted, but after being awake for an hour, it hit me.  God convicted me big time.  I was being so selfish right then.  I felt like I was wasting my time.  All these scriptures and notes I looked back at opened my eyes to see the sin I had inside me at that very moment.  To be honest, I felt so stupid.  God humbled me this morning.  On a beautiful morning, I had some time to myself to be humbled before anyone was awake.  Almost in tears, I pulled out my Bible and my notes from the previous night.  The speaker, Jay, read from Galations 5:1, 16-25.  I was feeling that war that he spoke of inside me like crazy.  Those conflicting thoughts are evidence of Christ in me.  "For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.  They are in conflict with one another, so that you do not do what you want." (vs 17)  I then found a verse falling out of a page I had written on a notesheet.  It was 1 John 2:15-17, "Do not love the world or anything in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For everything in the world-the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does-comes not from the Father but from the world.  The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever."  Holy cow, that's no coincidence.  This is exactly what I was doing.  I was upset for one thing because one of my guy friends didn't ask me about how the cross country meet went.  The reason I wanted him to ask was so he could hear how "great" I did.  Selfish.  I also wanted to do the fun things at CYFO that I wanted to do.  It's not about me!  It's about fellowship and learning about and praising God!  I just had the best day and was planning on the weekend just getting better, and there I was miserable.  I needed a renewed spirit.  God woke me up this morning to open my eyes to things I needed to change.  This weekend was still a blessing, and He had things for me to learn. After some praying and reading in Galatians where we had been this weekend, Hebrews where we were in our regular study, and looking up verses I still want to look into, I found a new light to the day.  Next week's chapter in Hebrews was titled A Sabbath-Rest for the People of God.  Again...whoa.  God's word never fails.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Almost Pumpkin Cheesecake

I made up this recipe as a snack that I could take to school. I love pumpkin and cheesecake, and this season has gotten me all excited for the sweets. As a runner, however, I try to make the sweets healthy too. So here I used Honey Maid Whole Grain Honey graham crackers for the bottom. I mixed whipped cream cheese, pumpkin, pumpkin butter, and cinnamon and spices together to spread on top. Delicious!

Love, Believe, Have Joy

Last night I was reading my Bible where I have been studying in 1 Peter, and these were the next two verses. I found it just beautiful!  Even though I never have or will see Christ in this life, I still love Him and believe He is alive. I can feel His presence and see the work He does all around me. I know that every blessing comes from Him. I don't deserve this life, yet it has more to offer than I could ever imagine. I am filled with this amazing joy every day, even when challenges come because I know they are for my own good. I know that I am saved and Christ lives in me. This is a great feeling that everyone and anyone can experience, too. I pray that we will not be ashamed to have faith and press on through life and be His disciples!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

God's Grace

Lately, the verses that have been making an impact on me have all contained the word grace.  Every Wednesday morning, the girls cross country team meets at Chick-fil-a before school to do a Bible study.  This week I shared a couple verses and quotes that stood out to me from Ryan Hall's book Running with Joy.  He did an interview with Running Times magazine that was mostly centered on his faith.  When asked if he is as good a runner as he is because he trains harder or because he is more talented, he responded with saying "I am what I am because of the grace of God" which reminded me of a verse I had found during my personal Bible study just the day before.  1 Corinthians 15:10 says, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect.  No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me."  This is one of my new favorites because I get asked questions all the time about how I run so fast, do so well in school, have so much joy, and many other things.  I can't explain much, except that I do what I do because God has blessed me with the opportunities.

Another thing that has helped keep me humble and positive through all sorts of circumstances is 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 and what Ryan said about that.  "But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong."  Ryan used just the part until weakness, but I continued on when I was reading, and it just gets better.  Like he said in the interview, "I may not always win or do something great, but I will always have enough strength to accomplish the purpose God has called me to race for."  Even more than that, I can be glad I have weaknesses because that is where God shines through.  He makes up for everything I lack.  When I fail, I still have every reason to praise Him.  His grace lifts me up so that others can see Him at work.  I can be joyful, even when the going gets tough, because His power can be made known even more.

I have also felt lately that time is not passing me by, but running me over.  I feel constantly rushed and always have a list of things to do.  I too often get distracted doing things that aren't necessary, but I feel like I "have" to do them.   Then before I know it, it's over half an hour after I wanted to be in bed.  Looking back through old Instagram pictures for a photo contest at church, I found a verse I had forgotten about, but that I had come to love last season.  Acts 20:24 says, "However, I consider my lift worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace."  Again, more about grace!  This time it's not only talking about the grace I receive, but sharing that grace to others.  This can apply to my life in several ways.  When I am literally racing for cross country, it hurts.  I want to be finished and then feel great.  My goal is to finish that race with all I have, but then also to continue to let God's light shine through me the entire day to all the people who will see me.  Also, in the race of life, I want to be able to finish strong, so that when I see Jesus, He will be proud that I, His servant, worked for His glory.  God's grace gives us so much to live for and hope and joy for every moment.  I want everyone to have the opportunity to know this feeling.  This is what really has worth in life.  Even though material things of this life seem so important, they are worthless in comparison with eternal life in Christ.  Working to win souls for Him will always fill our hearts more than winning any competition ever will.