Tuesday, June 30, 2015

"Run with Perseverance the Race Marked Out for You"

If there was one thing I could say about what I've learned so far this year, it is to keep going through whatever circumstances may come.  Find joy in the journey!  If you let life keep you down and miserable, you're letting Satan win and you're only hurting yourself.  Whatever race God has marked out for you can be exciting if you only choose to see it that way.  Embrace the challenges.  That's how I am trying to look at it.  I'm always up for a challenge, and life never fails to throw them at you!  By keeping your eyes peeled for anything that can be used for God's glory, you will never get bored.
Here's some of my motivation from indoor and outdoor track season.
Success or failure in our eyes will always be success if it's used the way God intends.
This is one of my favorites, not only because it was one of the best races of my life, but I was filled with such joy from Christ!  No pain in the run, and I only felt like I could keep going faster and faster!  I knew I couldn't run fast on my own, but God wanted me to have the opportunity.  Joy comes with surrender"God...rewards those who earnestly seek Him."  Hebrews 11:6
Photo credits to Mom on this one.  This was during one of my spur-of-the-moment afternoon runs during those crazy snow days!  I had been saving up my neon outfit for a special snow day, and this was it.
Our weather is one thing that I say God uses to show us that we are not in control and we "do not even know what will happen tomorrow."  James 4:14 
The beautiful scenery also left me in awe of all He does.  We don't understand the things that happen in this world, but that is so we see that He is all-powerful.  Reading these verses just makes me "stop and consider His wonders."  Job 37:14  I just can't put words to it; I love it.

Hebrews 12:1-2 is our verse for the cross country team, but I also used it myself this track season to help me get my head right.  There were so many distractions filling my mind and keeping me from being who God wanted me to be.  My focus ended up being less on winning races and more on winning peace of mind.  My goal was to get rid of the worries that were holding me back (yes, mentally, but that leads to physical barriers, too), and keep on keeping on.  It's not easy to be joyful when things are so tough and painful, but we have to go through those things to make us better.  Satan will use these times to break us, but God intends to use them to make us.  (Genesis 50:20)  Changing the focus from my own problems to God's plan is the best way to be able to enjoy every moment, even when it's not something very enjoyable. 
I didn't get to see all of them, but Walmart had an entire section of shirts like this that were scripturally based!  Mom sent me these pictures while she was there shopping.  I would have bought so many, but my drawers already "runneth over."

Another seriously matching running outfit
This quote came from one of my college leaders at Motown Madness this year.  We aren't perfect and never will be.  Not even close to good enough!  That's not the point.  Christ died for us and all of our nasty sins and still loves us more than anything we could imagine.  He wants us all to be a part of His family and ministry.  He doesn't call us when we are good enough or ready enough, because there is no such thing.  He gives us what we need in the life that we are in. 
All of us are just petty sinners, given grace from God.
I found an awesome instagram and twitter account called Daily Bible Verses that posts all kinds of pictures and scripture.  I spent hours looking through them!  These were two of my favorites that I kept in the front of my mind during track season.

This ring means a lot more to me than just being on the back to back state championship team.  This season was a lot tougher than last year.  I've grown much more in my faith.  This verse speaks to my heart much more than it did before.  (We also had to pay for this ring, because we decided to get it in real gold!)  I also associate it with myselft being the indoor 2 mile individual state champion.  I wear this ring a lot, not to show off that I'm a state champion, but to remind myself of what I'm here for. I am a champion, but not just physically.  God has blessed me with these abilities and opportunities to use them for His glory every moment.  I have to throw off all the distractions and focus on the daily race that He has laid out for me.  You can't see the engraved verse while I'm wearing the ring, but I know it's there.  Wearing the ring reminds me of all these great things and the true victory that I am called to proclaim.  That's something I can brag on without having to worry that I can't live up to those standards again!  I may never win another race, but that's not important.  Bragging about that stuff just leads to destruction (Proverbs 16:8), but bragging on God is something to be proud of because I never have to fear that He won't win.  God will never lose. 
Social media can be used for amazing purposes!  I myself find so much encouragement when I surf the socials.  I was blown away one day as I saw all three of these right in a row, relating to just what I had been thinking on lately.
1)  God has blessed me, but I must be faithful, using those gifts totally unselfishly, for His purposes, not my own.
2)  Attitude impacts everything!  I have tried to stop worrying about the things that are out of my control, because they're in God's control.  I have to go with it, and stop rebelling and forcing my own ways.
3)  Fear of any kind is a major road block to our faith.  Trust me, I know.  We have to stop being afraid and just trust and act on what God leads us to!  He has told us to have no fear.
"...God is love...There i no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  the one who fears is not made perfect in love."  1 John 4:16, 18
We fear when we rely on ourselves.  When we focus on obeying God, there is no reason to fear.

What is your race that God has called you to run with perseverance?

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Final Countdown--Junior Year Addition

After Spring Break, mom always makes a countdown calendar to mark off the days left until we are out for summer.  This year, I don't know who was ready for summer more, mom or me.  I've always heard that junior year is the worst, but at first I didn't believe it.  Then second semester came.  Changed my mind.  It was true for me, too.
Looking back, yeah it was really rough, but there's always diamonds in the rough.  If not diamonds, maybe a shiny rock or two.
You gotta take the best of what life gives you.
It's always good when a day starts with poop, right?
These are some great pictures that I found from a race we ran at Dobyns-Bennett!  The first couple days after a race, I always look forward to going online and looking at all the pictures people have posted.
On my way to a 3200 victory...with an untied shoe.
Chantal, Cherie, and I have come together to create some epic pictures this year in xc and track.
Chemistry got tough at times, but my teacher was what kept me going!  I was so thankful to have Mrs. Heflin to keep us entertained while teaching us what we needed to know, too.  This lab wasn't really that educational, but the rest of them were.  We roasted smores on bunson burners, so that's still a chemical reaction!

Timehop makes me happy.
So does my doggie.
This is kinda my usual pumpkin oatmeal stuff, but no pumpkin.  I woke up to find that the pumpkin was moldy. But it was race day, so I had to improvise!  Carrots were close enough.  Not bad either.

Selfie with a fish on shopping trip after a track meet.
Yes, I asked a stranger in the bathroom at Bass Pro Shops if I could take a picture of her shirt.
It makes me happy to see people I know (and people that I don't know) out running while I'm driving around town.  Here's Michael on the left and Mrs. Bowen on the right.  These were a few days apart, but at the same place!
Have no fear; I was stopped at a red light.
Track buses are too much.
Friday night lights
Late night 3200 at Dobyns-Bennet was worth it.  It was past my bedtime before we even started, but under those lights, running feels like flying.
Getting to do things like this may be stressful, take my sleep, make me sore, and so much more, but moments like this, looking out at an almost empty track because it is so late make me think about how much of a blessing it is to get to do this thing that so few people get to do.  For most, running (especially fast) is a "have to."  For me, it's a "want to" and a "get to."
Between D-B and Morristown, especially at 11:30 at night, there is not much to pick from.  Sonic came to the rescue being open until 2am, so we grabbed sandwiches and me a blast on the way home.  It was late, but I also had an early morning ahead...see below...
After getting in bed after 1:00am, I had to wake up extra early to go to school to take the ACT.  It made it not so bad, though, since I got to see one of my friends from church in my testing room!
Some fancy flapjacks
caramel banana
Sub-deb meeting:  to dress up or nah?
When meetings are in the middle of Sunday afternoons, the few people who come come wearing whatever is convienient.
Excuse my selfie, but I was excited about my hair and stuff.
Munk Packs are an awesome, tasty, healthy, portable snack that I found on The Feed and have tried a couple flavors!  It's like fruit and oatmeal in a squeeze pack.  It may sound weird, but it is delicious!  One of their main things they focus on these products is that they can be taken on any adventure the day may lead you to!
With Chemistry and AP tests studying overload, I was sick of it.  My toenails also hadn't been painted since Christmas, so since it had gotten to be flip flop wearing time, my toenails kinda ruined it.  Mom came to the rescue one night and painted them for me!
Just like the good ole days when I was a little tot.  Only now, my feet are the definition of runner's feet.
Being on the yearbook staff saved my life sometimes this year.  It was a fun addition to each day because I love pictures, and it also gave me time to do other things at the beginning of the year and after the book was submitted.  One day I had a doctor's appointment right after school, so I got to go out to the track and do it during 4th block!  The speed workout actually went by pretty fast out there by myself.  Accept for the construction crew building the freshman academy.  Shoutout to them for letting me use their porta potty. 
20x200.  I had to wear two watches to have a rolling time to know every 2 minutes and the other for a stop and start on the 200 each I ran.
An even bigger blessing came from this opportunity.  The longer I was out there, the windier it got and the darker the sky looked.  On the last few reps, sprinkles began to fall.  By the time I finished my cool down, it had turned into a drizzle.  The team was just coming out to stretch.  Leaving the school parking lot, it started pouring.  Down the road, lightning and thunder.  A few minutes later, sunshine and hail, big hail!  And yes, sunshine and hail are in the same sentence because they occured at the same time.  This crazy weather pattern continued for about an hour.  The team ended up not even getting to do any of the workout!  Not only was I thankful to have gotten the whole thing done--in dry weather--I got done early, too!
One of my friend/teammates Emily took this picture as the sun was setting at one of our home track meets.  Pink skies are just another peaceful picture from the Lord.
Hey look, it's another Lord!
One Sunday, Jessica and I did a run from my house to Ingles, just about 3 miles, to give us a chance to recover our legs a bit and our minds.  We had a fun time just talking while we ran!  I'm thankful to have fun friends who are there to just hear me out and I can listen to them, too!  Her sister Emily met us there, and we got some fruit off the salad bar and drinks from Starbucks!
Being common white girls.
Whenever I post something cliche, it's usually mocking it.
I wanted to do a little something to put a bright spot in some other people's day (hopefully), so we decorated some sticky notes with Bible verses and such and stuck them around places in the store!  We also shared stuff and prayed with each other.
Jessica wrote this one, and it was perfect!  There were 3 of us!
The social club I am in, Sub Debs, has a hell week for the pledges (freshmen) each year.  Now as an upperclassman, I look forward to it because one of the parts of hell week is gifts!  Every day, each pledge has a couple upperclassmen girls to call and ask them for something they want.  I got free snacks or a drink every day!  This is Emily in her outfit for the week and the cookies and drink she got me.  She was a real trooper!
The past two years, the cross country team has been invited to the Citizen Tribune Hall of Fame banquet where we get to eat some delicious food, socialize, dress up, and get recognized.  This year, there was a different part of the night that made it so great.  The guest speaker was Nick Reviez who played football at UT and professionally.  His testimony was amazing.  I can't explain how much it related to my life.  God knew that I really needed to hear that from someone else other than just His Word.

During the earlier parts of his football life, he had a thought that filled his mind quite often, "What if I fail?"  He put a lot of pressure on himself.  I did and thought the exact same things.
There were all these things he worried about--college, scholarships, etc--just as I was stressed over, too.  But he said, "I need to stop worrying about all these things that I wasn't created to worry about.  I was made to be faithful with today, to trust Him."  It was like he was telling me to stop worrying about all my worries!  I was given my gifts as a runner to bring Him glory, not to stress over.  I don't need to fear failing or losing running; it's just a race.  When I make it more than that to bring myself glory, God disciples me to get my focus back.
Another thing he hit on was control.  He said, "I've got no control at the end of the day.  God's in control of everything."  I like to make things happen my way, but that's not a good mindset to have.  It's always God's way.
Finally, he ended with how using what we've been given to bring God glory brings us pure joyJoy joy joy!  I feel like we were the same person, just two different ages, sports, and genders.  I just hope to be able to share how God has worked in my heart like Nick did.
I was so excited down in my heart that I had to go talk to him and take a picture with him afterwards.
A couple verses he referenced:  Isaiah 40:6-8 and Matthew 6:33
I'm sure you can find all kinds of information on him if you just pop his name in that Google search box, but here is a video of his testimony.
Another pancake:  dark chocolate
The pastel M&Ms were a nice change up to see
 This comic is true in a couple different ways.  Many kids see school as a prison, myself included at times.  The location of my school makes it basically like prison, too, because we are smack-dab in the middle of the projects.  It is a sketchy area.  Morristown West keeps us on our toes.
So there's what I had saved from spring break to May!
Basically lots of footsteps, faith, food, and school with a little bit of friends and fun in there, too!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Weary yet Wonderful

It's been said time and time again that the most beautiful things can come from the most terrible circumstances.  I totally agree.  During the lowest times of my life, I learn more than I ever do when I am on a mountain top.  Since I am a stubborn person, learning the hard way is often how I have to do it.  I hate feeling totally broken, but I have learned to be thankful for those moments.  They are all a part of what Christ uses to get our attention and rid us of our selfishness.  Another relevant quote:  "When God is all you have, you'll realize that He's all you need."
 "But He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is perfected 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, insults, hardships, persecutions, difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong."  2 Corinthians 12:9-10
This basically sums up the things I've learned so far in 2015.
Learned:  You may never realize how much you enjoy something until you make yourself (or have no other choice than to) do it.
One example of this in my life is taking some easy days.  I always hate the feeling of "doing nothing," so I try to do little bits of things throughout the day, but I have realized that it is really great to just have a day to spend extra time on other things.  For the second half of the track season, I rested the day after night meets.  Those were always long days because I would run the 1600, sometimes the 800, and always the 3200, which is the last event except the 4x400.  That means I'm not even done racing until after my bedtime.  Then I still have to cool down.  I haven't had dinner or dessert yet either.  And sometimes, we are an hour away from home.  Then once we finally get there, I still have to shower.  Yeah...nights like that killed me this season.  Saturdays after those races ended up being awesome, though.  Sleep, rest, recover, enjoy
"Be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power." 
Ephesians 6:10
Exhibit A
This was my dinner after a meet at Anderson County, where I barely made it to Bojangles before they closed.  Luckily it was literally right next to the school.  They were cleaning everything up to close at 11:00.  We walked in the door at 10:56.
This is one of my favorite fast food meals, so I was incredibly thankful.
In the car, I had to use my iPad as a light so I could see what I was doing!
Another reason I was thankful for this Bojangles in particular was the atmosphere.  These signs were hanging in the entry way with Matthew 19:26, Proverbs 3:5-6, and Philippians 3:14 on them.  They were also playing KLove music!  One of the songs that played while we were there was one that I had in my head during the races.
Jeremiah 29:11 is probably the most well-known and fitting verse that could go with this quote.
"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.'"
Not coincidentally, as I am posting this just now, I realize that the man who is quoted here wrote the book that I have been doing occasional devotions with, The Purpose Driven Life.  Not only that, I found this picture in April, and I just read those exact words in the book last week at the beach.  Along with the theme of this post, life is tough; we get weary.  But in those times, that is not what we are to focus on.  Although we may be weary, every part of our situation part of the wonderful plan that God has to make us more like Jesus and to share His gospel to the world.  In fact, when I focus more on the wonderful plan and try to ignore myself, I feel so much more joy in serving others.

This is something that I use to remember my purpose for the opportunities to run and all the blessings that I experience in life.
"...From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked."  Luke 12:48
I have been through two sides of this.  On one hand, starting in cross country season, I saw how blessed I was.  That was the most running success I'd had in my life!  I had so many chances to make an impact.  With all those blessings given, God expected me to use them in mighty ways for Him.  This spring, I still had many opportunities, especially with so much success in indoor track, but I let the worries of the world wear me down over time.  The more I thought about those things, the less faith focus I had.  More things started to crumble as I wasn't focusing on God more than myself.  If we do not use God's gifts the way that He intends, He will take them away so that we shift our focus back to Him!

Anderson County actually has a really cool track and football stadium!  The bleachers were concrete, but the view was great!

Megan and I were taking a picture being the "not fun ones" because we had a lot of homework to do before this meet, then a couple guys wanted to join in the photo, too.

This was a rough race.  After running one of my worst 1600s ever, I broke down to God.  But that got me refocused.  I was so ready to be finished, all I did the whole race was sing songs and pray.  I felt so much better, though!  Taking my thoughts from stress over my performance to rejoicing in running changed not only my attitude, but my physical feelings as well.

Song lyrics that fit the race and filled my mind:
Lift Me Up by The Afters
"You lift me up when I am weak...so I'm letting go!"
The Well by Casting Crowns
"When you're running on empty, and you can't find the remedy, just come to The Well."

I like to fix peanut butter oatmeal with some kind of fruit before races, and I even get the matching spoon!  Apple chips and the spoon says "chip away."