Thursday, September 18, 2014

Priority Check: Weeding My Life

This morning the Parable of the Sower took on a new meaning to me, especially in relation to thorns and weeds. Luke 8:1-15 has very important truths to share about our priorities in this life and what we are allowing to consume us.
“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is God’s word.

The seeds that fell on the footpath represent those who hear the message, only to have the devil come and take it away from their hearts and prevent them from believing and being saved.

The seeds on the rocky soil represent those who hear the message and receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they believe for a while, then they fall away when they face temptation.

The seeds that fell among the thorns represent those who hear the message, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the cares and riches and pleasures of this life. And so they never grow into maturity.

And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest." LUKE 8:11-15 (emphasis added by me)
In this parable, Jesus warns us of the danger of thorns and weeds in our lives and He's not talking about the ones that are overpopulating my garden right now. The thorns and weeds of He is talking about are worldly responsibilities, material things and pleasures that gradually begin to consume our thoughts and priorities

Most people would agree that weeds and thorns are bad but really they are plants too. The problem is that they are misplaced plants - they don't belong in our garden space and they choke out our crops. This same concept can apply to the things in this world that distract us and steal our passion for God. Sin draws us away from God; we'll call it the "thorns" because sin is just a big 'ole pain. Now the weeds are the good things in our lives that Satan so sneakily manipulates into bad things.

Even good things can turn into weeds that choke out our passion for God when they are misplaced in our lives. Problems begin when these good things start to consume our thoughts and our priorities. Just like the nasty weeds in our garden attempted to choke out this year's crop, the weeds and thorns in our lives will eventually start to choke out our relationship with God if left unattended.

The most annoying weed ever, Cirsium arvense, a.k.a. the Canadian Thistle

Here it comes, another reference to Ryan Hall's book, Running with Joy... I felt like Hall was describing my personality to a T in the below quote. (It's basically a nice way of describing the "Type-A" personality)
"God created me with a passionate, driven, and focused personality, but it can work against me when I focus more on the gift than on the God who lovingly gave me the gift." Ryan Hall, Running with Joy
I'm passionate, motivated and focused in many areas of my life (aside from putting away laundry maybe) but this has also gotten me in trouble in the past. If my zeal is misdirected, I can end up running away from God instead of growing closer to him.

God has blessed me with so many good things - my sweet family, the passion for running, a piano, and a heart for writing - but the key is to keep my priorities in line. When something sneaks it's way to the #1 seat in my heart, it becomes an idol. Relationships have attempted to steal that #1 seat, so has running, and even my old job! Thank God for His Holy Spirit that warns me when things are getting out of line and that guides me back to where I need to be.

Keeping my priorities in line is a daily battle and that is yet another reason why I am also so thankful for God's patience and unconditional love for His children!.
And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest." LUKE 8:15
P.S. Even though E and I can't keep those weeds down in our actual garden, we still have a really good time pretending we're gardeners :)

What worldly thorns and weeds are distracting you from God today?
How do you keep yourself in check?

Linking up at Friday Favorites.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wild Hog Half Goals

I've got a countdown going... only 10 days until race day!

This morning was another dark, early morning run. I am definitely the only person in this little town who runs around in a reflective vest (aside from construction workers). I don't earn any points for fashion, but the last thing I want to do is get hit by a car!

Reflective vest, GPS watch, and headlamp. Check, check, check. (P.S. I wrap the headlamp around my hand instead of trying to run with it on my head.)

6-mile tempo run for today - 9:12 (warm-up), 7:30, 7:25, 7:42, 7:34, 7:52 (cool-down). I dropped into the 6-minute miles here and there, but wasn't able to maintain it. Guess I should have eaten my Wheaties pre-run!

Clear skies this morning!

Aside from earlier morning runs due to sugar beet pre-pile starting, training for this half has been really fun. The longest run I have had was 13.18 miles and it has been much easier to fit training in before everyone wakes up! It feels good to have a run under my belt, breakfast cooking, coffee brewing, and then to see this smiling face :)

My Wild Hog Goals

Switching to the Wild Hog Half Marathon was a last minute decision. Like, as of last week-last minute. I scratched out of the Blue Ox Half Marathon and switched to the Wild Hog because it's closer, no hotel required, and my best friend is going to babysit E for me! Added benefit: the course is flat :)

Since the race is next week, I thought it may be nice to have a few goals established. Here we go:

Have joy regardless of my performance.

As I'm re-reading "Running with Joy", Ryan Hall noted that he has to remind himself before races that the only thing that matters is receiving Christ's love and giving it out to others. Getting wrapped up in times and performances is something he struggles with and it has been a struggle for me over my entire life!

God loves those who come to Him simply because they are His children. Performing well or performing poorly will not change God's love for me! His love is something that can't be "earned". God's children are saved by grace through faith - it's a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9).
"My message is that even if you don't land on the podium or run a personal best, even if you have a bad workout or are struggling with an injury, you can experience joy to the fullest." Ryan Hall

Be a blessing.

I love this saying: "We are blessed to be a blessing." God has given every person specific gifts and passions that are to be used to bless others.

Our gifts give us each a unique sphere of influence and new opportunities to share the love of Christ with the people we meet. That doesn't mean I need to yell "Repent!" at people as I pass them (or as they pass me). Blessing people in daily life is actually quite simple.

Encouraging a fellow runner, taking the time to visit before the race, or even smiling at someone makes a difference. I know this because I remember the people who have encouraged me in each race I have run. A simple act of genuine kindness makes a huge impact. And, if I feel the Holy Spirit prompting me to tell someone about Jesus, I pray that I will boldly be all over that!

I remember meeting these ladies in the porta-potty line in the Boston Marathon Athletes' Village (glamorous meeting place). Just a simple conversation and encouraging one another brought my nerves down one notch and they made the wait for the starting line much more enjoyable. It was simple and they probably didn't even realize it, but I was blessed by our visit.

Turns out the porta-potty line is a great way to meet people! Boston 2012

Run my best race.

Like most runners, I would love to set a new personal best in this race but my focal point isn't on a specific number. Tina Muir wrote an excellent post on all of the factors that affect each run or race. From your emotions to the week's accumulated sleep, there is a long list of what can affect your time on race day.

My greedy side wants to run a 1:30 for this half marathon but really all I want to do is have a good run. Running is a sport; just go out there and have fun. Though, we are called to be "all-in" and to do everything as though we are working for the Lord (Colossians 3:23) - yes, even running for the Lord! To summarize it, I'll share something my dad would say: "If you aren't going to give it your all, don't bother going out there."

When race day comes around, I'm going to run my brains out and then go on a lunch date with my best friend and little E. Hopefully I can fill Leo in on the race when he has a break from the army that day.

Read the rest of Tina's post here.

Discipline my thoughts.

When 2 Corinthians 10:5 talks about taking our thoughts captive and making them obedient to Christ. He wants us to think on what is true, pure, right, excellent - not talk trash about ourselves (Philippians 4:8). This truth applies to every area of our lives; whether it's parenting, body image, or running.

Negative thoughts have been a struggle for most of my life. Back in college, I had lost many tennis matches in my own head before I even stepped on to the court. As I am growing in my relationship with the Lord, I am making a conscience effort to make my thoughts obedient to Christ. Negative comments still sneak in but I do my best to hand them over to God ASAP!
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5
Happy running this week! Only a few more days until the taper :)

Are you a nocturnal runner/exerciser?
What goals do you have for this month?

Linking up at Tuesdays on the Run and Fitness Friday.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Thankful Things: Camping Edition

This weekend, little E and I went camping at the Itasca State Park with my family. We had an absolute blast despite the weather being a bit chilly and the fact that Leo couldn't join us. The farm is busy with harvest so both Leo and Uncle Wayne stayed home to work (while we went to play... that doesn't sound fair!).

There are too many pictures that I could share from this weekend so here are "just" a few things (and people) that I am thankful for!

My 8 Thankful Things

First of all, it was my dad's birthday this week and I was excited to give him his birthday present >>> Pumpkin and carrot cake muffins that I later smothered in buttercream frosting:

Sibling time. I had so much fun being with my brothers and my sister-in-law this weekend. E loves those uncles and his auntie!

On Saturday, we headed out on a family run-bike-roll. My parents were biking, the guys were long-boarding, and the girls ran (with E in the stroller). 5 miles out-and-back with hills. Running on actual hills is a rarity for me! That's probably why we look so excited.

A Happily Sleeping Toddler. E had a hard time sleeping in the RV and I was so thankful he fell asleep on our run. It's just no fun when he is tired and cranky! Like my mom said, "Sleeping baby, happy mommy."

Fudge Samples. The Headwaters Gift Shop had free fudge sampling, which is really dangerous. Salted nut roll was great, chocolate cherry was... okay, and the watermelon fudge was unique. Fruit-flavored fudge was a first for me.

We took a breather after all those samples and then headed out on the road again. I had to let all that fudge settle before the last 2.5 miles.

Burnt S'Mores. Camping isn't camping without s'mores and I like 'em burnt.

Family Memories. I'm thankful E gets this time to bond with Grandma and Grandpa, his uncles, and aunt. I love watching him make memories like these:

The "Feed Me" Face. Not sure what he wanted to eat, but I hope someone fed him quickly! He wants whatever good things you're eating.

Leo, a.k.a. "Daddy". I saved the best for last. I am so thankful for my husband, for the long hours he works to provide for our family, and for the great job that God has blessed him with!

Spending time in God's creation and just getting away from ordinary life makes me feel even more in awe of God and all He does for us on a daily basis. Technology is helpful and has its place, yet "unplugging" from the noise and distractions of this world re-boots my soul. This verse from 1 Chronicles has stuck with me. It's simple and it's the Truth.
Sing to Him, sing praise to Him; Tell of all His wonderful acts.
1 Chronicles 16:9
What weekend things are you thankful for?
Have you ever tried watermelon fudge?

Linking up at Mommy Moments and Titus 2 Tuesdays.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Homemade Mocha Energy Gel Recipe

Well, I'm back to report that the homemade energy gel trial was a success!

Monday morning's workout was 4 x 1600 meter intervals at 7:00~7:30/mile for a total of 6.5 miles. About 15 minutes before heading out the door, I took in 1/4 cup of energy gel. Before most weekly training runs, I don't eat anything but I was antsy to try this recipe out (and I was extra hungry yesterday morning)!

Overall, the taste was great and the energy gel didn't bother my stomach at all. Whew... GI distress is the worst, especially during speed workouts. I look forward to using this in the upcoming half marathon!

Speaking of my upcoming half, I just switched from the Blue Ox Half Marathon to the Wild Hog Marathon which is coming up on September 27th. This race is closer, we won't need to have hotel reservations, and my best friend is going to watch little man! Win, win, win.

Here is my energy gel recipe if you are looking to try it yourself:

Homemade Mocha Energy Gel

  • 8 dates, pitted
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1/4 c. maple syrup
  • 1 T. cocoa powder
  • 1/8 c. brewed coffee (optional)

Chop the dates into slices.

Soak the chopped dates in water for about 1 hour in the refrigerator.

Drain extra water off dates and pour into food processor. Add honey, maple syrup, cocoa powder and brewed coffee. Process until smooth.

This recipe makes approximately 4 servings. Approximately 1/4 cup of energy gel is equal to one serving for the long run. Store in the fridge until you are ready to run.

To use on the run, store in a snack-sized ziplock (the below baggie was a bit big). I'm sure everyone will have their own unique technique for this, but I plan to bite/tear off the corner of the bag and eat it like that. **Update** I did order a set of Mygreen Travel Bottles to try for carrying the gel!

One last thing. Be sure you don't spill any energy gel on your clothes, the color of this gel may look a bit awkward on your shorts...

What is your go-to long run fuel?

Linking up at Tuesdays on the Run, Pin It Thursday and Fitness Friday.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Food for Thought

This past weekend has been full of good things >> Food and Fellowship.

E helped me bake round #2 of our energy bars that I mentioned in the last post. He was much happier while helping than he was 5 minutes prior having a meltdown on the floor. Hand the boy a measuring cup and all is well in the world!

Craisin Date Energy Bars: After this weekend's long run, I found that these bars work great for me pre-run but not so well during the run. Chewing and running at the same time just don't work for me... or my stomach. Gel texture has worked in the past so I will share my experimental energy gel recipe below :)

Carrot Cake Cookies: I made a batch of these cookies plus butter cream frosting for girls' night on Friday. This was my first time baking carrot cake anything and they were delicious! The recipe was super quick and easy, too. E, Leo and Uncle Wayne approved of them.

Girls' nights need to happen more often. It's been way too long since I've seen these ladies! E was the only boy allowed and he seemed to enjoy the attention :)

Tim Horton's Doughnuts: Thanks to my friend, Erica (pictured far left), I brought a dozen doughnuts home to the guys that night. So many doughnuts, so many choices. Which one would you have picked?!

I'm not usually too crazy about doughnuts but I couldn't resist one of these. The pumpkin one was all mine.

After Saturday's early morning 12.2-miler, I refueled with that pumpkin doughnut (followed by some egg pancakes). I was so hungry that it tasted absolutely phenomenal! A doughnut once in a while won't hurt, I suppose.

Homemade Energy Gels: While full/half marathon training, GU energy gels have worked great (except the Espresso Love because of the high caffeine content... not good).

My problem with GU gels is they are expensive and I have to order them off Amazon plus pay shipping on top of that.I got brave this weekend and made my first batch of energy gels. We'll see how these go tomorrow morning.

To make these, I chopped up and soaked 4 pitted dates. Then I combined them with 1/4 cup maple syrup (I was out of honey) and 1 Tablespoon cocoa powder in the food processor. Process until smooth, pour into ziplock bags and store in the fridge. This recipe makes 2 servings.

I'll let you know how the gels go tomorrow. If they sit well, I will have to make a bigger batch. It's about time to figure out a plan for fueling during the run. Only 5 weeks left until the Bemidji Blue Ox Half Marathon!

Do you have any recipes to recommend?
Runners: Have you made your own "fuel" before?

Linking up at Mommy Moments and Fitness Friday.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Conquering the Long Run

No matter what race you are training for, the weekend brings around the ominous "long run" for most runners.

Whether I'm setting out for a 20-miler or a 10-miler, long runs create an anxious knot in my stomach. I really don't understand why that happens because I run simply for the fun of it (and partly for the love for competition). The long run causes me to doubt my training and my ability to run that far.

I started training for my first marathon in 2010 and since then I have had many mishaps on the long run. Not enough water, inadequate fuel during the run, GI issues and, worst of all, the times when I just plain decided to skip a long run because I didn't think I could do it.

Over the past four years, I like to think I have learned a few long run lessons. At least I hope so!

Tips for Conquering the Long Run

Here are a few tips that have helped me to prepare for a successful long run.

1. Prepare the night before. I charge up the electronics and I usually download a podcast from My Faith Radio to listen to while running.

In the morning, I leave my water bottle and whatever "fuel" (a.k.a. fruit snacks in the picture below) I have on the porch. I usually do one big loop and stop home quick for a drink and to grab a snack. Then I head off again and eat on the run.

2. Find (or bake) your long run fuel. Fruit snacks do work as a "fuel" for long runs but I prefer something that packs just a few more calories and tastes better. I made a batch of long run energy bars for this weekend's run:

To make your own long run energy bars, all you need is 2 bananas, 1 1/2 c. rolled oats, 3/4 c. peanut butter, 1/4 c. honey, 3/4 c. craisins (or dates, other dried fruits, etc.), 3/4 c. flour, 1/4 t. baking powder and just a dash of cinnamon and vanilla. Mix and bake at 350°F for 20 minutes. Cut into squares after they have cooled. I wrapped mine individually and placed them in the freezer until long run morning.

Homemade Long Run Energy Bars

3. Eat a safe breakfast. By "safe" I mean eat something that you know will sit well in your stomach. The last thing you need is GI issues when you are miles from home!

Cream o' wheat with raspberries for me!

4. Run for time. Running for "x" amount of miles can be intimidating so often I "run for time" instead of mileage. When I start wiping out, I tell myself "only xx minutes to go". Maybe it's just me, but it definitely helps! This strategy is especially useful for winter running or trail running when the terrain is more technical.

5. Think you can. Because if you keep telling yourself you can't finish the run, you probably won't. If you want to get pumped before the run, read "The Little Engine that Could" with a toddler. E loves this book!

The Little Engine made it because "she thought she could, she thought she could"!

6. After the run. To cool down after all those miles, it's best to do a ton of squats with a toddler on your back.

Just kidding. You should probably stretch, shower, and find some food. This is one of our new favorite games: back squats with baby.

Baby back squats count as cross training

Book Review: Every Body Matters

I finished the book Every Body Matters by Gary Thomas last month and am finally getting around to a review. I decided to read this book because Ryan Hall mentioned it in his book, Running with Joy. I really enjoyed Ryan's book so I thought I would give this one a read.

Every Body Matters presents the idea that physical fitness and discipline can have a positive impact on your spiritual and emotional growth. Thomas encourages the reader to view their body as an instrument for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work (2 Timothy 2:20-21).

By understanding that our bodies are instruments of service to God, we can find renewed motivation to take better care of ourselves and to be good steward of the body that God has blessed you with. This point resonated with me because it challenges us to question our motives for exercise. Do you exercise to properly steward your body or to get the attention of other people? Is your body an instrument for God or an ornament for the world?

Another point that really stuck with me was from 1 Timothy 4:8. This verse does emphasize that spiritual fitness is our most important pursuit and that it is more important than physical training. But, it does not state that physical training is of no value and that it has no impact on our godliness and spiritual fitness.
For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 1 TIMOTHY 4:8
As faithful believers, we cannot ignore our physical bodies. Thomas shared a quote from Dr. Ed Young that brings both spiritual and physical aspects together:
"We cannot have total heart health if we focus only on the biological heart and ignore the spiritual. But true spirituality means accepting the stewardship of the physical heart God has given us as well."
(Source: 365 Days of Total Heart Health: Transform Your Physical and Spiritual Life)
Overall, this book was an interesting read and it did make some excellent points about the connection between spiritual and physical fitness. On a five-star scale, I would give Every Body Matters three stars. The book covers topics that I am very interested in - spiritual and physical fitness - and I do agree that the two are interrelated though I wasn't crazy about the book as a whole.

Do you have any long run advice to share?
Have you read any good books lately?

Linking up on Pin It Thursday and Fitness Friday.

Monday, September 1, 2014

18 Months Ago

...our "big guy" was born!

His onesie in the picture below was my favorite because he weighed in at just under 5 lbs at birth. E was definitely mommy's big guy and my busy guy, too, as he was born 5 weeks early. He just couldn't wait for that due date!

Now E is a bigger guy and still very busy. He is such a blessing to our family and we are really loving this toddler stage. So much of his personality is coming out!

As parents, Leo and I are much more relaxed about things than we were 18 months ago and parenting is so much more enjoyable now! The newborn months were precious but we were so exhausted and stressed out (like most first-timers!).

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. JAMES 1:17

E's Favorites

  • His puppy, Sully

    Hugs for Sully

  • Fruit snacks and rice cakes
  • Playing the little guitar
  • Throwing the ball (or anything, for that matter)
  • Riding in the combine and tractor with daddy

    The look on his face says, "Who are these crazy people I'm stuck with?!"

Some New Things

  • Sleeps through the night!!! (except when his molars were coming in)
  • Says "momma", "dadda", "wah wah" (his word for hot dog), "nigh nigh", and "ame" (his Amen)
  • Mommy gave him his first haircut last month
  • Loves to give hugs and kisses
  • Holds our hands when we pray before meals
  • Bobs his head and dances to music, especially Lecrae
  • Still falls asleep in the jogging stroller!

Ephesians 6:7 Prayer

My prayer is for E to have a servant's heart and a passion to live for the Lord. Praying for our children is so important and Hannah's "Intentional Prayer Series" has been so helpful for guiding my prayers for E.
"Dear Lord, Give my son a servant’s heart and a desire to live for You. Thank you Lord for blessing us with this wonderful boy and for the privilege of being parents."

Cousin playtime in the sandbox!

Linking up at Mommy Moments.