Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Love where you are now.

Well, to start, I have to begin with the beginning. On January 1st 2011, I was in Bihar, India, so I was not so much focused on making New Years goals as I was on ministering there & fully being there. When I got back to the states though, I realized that having goals set for each year is so important. When you set goals for yourself (physical, spiritual, mental, emotional, etc.), you can literally look back & see how you have grown by what you have accomplished through the year. You can see where you need to improve & where you can challenge yourself even more for the next year because of victories that came easier than expected.

This year, 2011, was the first year EVER that I actually typed out, and taped up goals for the year. One of the very first ones that I wrote down was to run a half marathon. Now, looking at that written our on paper sounded so simple & like an easy accomplishment. However, when I thought about all of the miles that I would have to run to train & prepare myself, I  realized that this goal I had would be too much work. I began to doubt myself & just accept that it would just be another goal that I would not see accomplished.

One thing that I am working on in myself is follow through. I am very much a visionary person, so I can see the end product & what I want to accomplish, but sometimes I never end up finishing what I start. I did not want this to be a part of my life anymore. I remember as soon as I wrote down the goal of running a half marathon, I prayed that I would find someone to do it with me & someone to train with. That very same day after I stepped away from my computer & headed to lunch at the rot, I bumped into Liz Ruba! This meeting was a divine appointment from the Lord, & I know that for a fact! She looked at me, smiled, & all she said was "Hey Ash! How are you? You know, I want to run a half marathon this year, but I don't know who to do it with!" I was shocked & smiled so big that my face probably hurt as I responded with "Liz, I literally JUST wrote down my New Years goals, & running a half marathon was one of the first things I put on there!" We both had one of those 'girl moments' of excitement & joy ( know the feeling, & have no idea what those feel like!) & that day we began our journey together of training for a half marathon!

Now, I remember praying for one person to run the half marathon with, but come the day of the race, I was running with FOUR other friends! Our God is so good!

Looking back on this training & on the race, I realized how much I learned. I got to watch week by week, Liz grow as a runner. She would have days where she did not think she could go any farther, but as I ran with her & pushed her along, she went farther than she ever dreamed she could go. I watched her fall on the her knee...& get up to keep on pushing through the pain. She taught me so much about perseverance. I remember we would always start our runs off praying together & would end them with just shouting back & forth what we are thankful for. This was so encouraging because our runs were no longer about us, but about us using running to glorify the Lord with our bodies & our voices singing praise to Him. Each cadence of our runs were beats of praise going up to our Lord who gave us our legs & our bodies & our lungs & our hearts. Wow. We have only been given ONE body...& it has got to last a while. I know that I want mine to be the best that it can be because I have been entrusted with it by the Lord.

Anyways, now that I am off on an eleven o'clock tangent, I will get back to the results of the half marathon.

I remember standing at the starting line, thinking about what I was about to do...I was going to run 13.1 miles...up steep hills in woods & on trails that I have never been on before. I had no idea where the trails would lead me, where I was going to be, where the finish line was, or where I would come in for places at the end. It was totally unknown to me. Fear was beginning to creep in & doubt was filling my mind as I stared ahead of me at the little bit of the course that I could see.

You know...there is always something before us. Something bigger than we think we can accomplish. I remember thinking "How in the heck am I going to finish this race...?!" Then, as the gun went off, & all the runners began to run, I realized that I could only finish if I took one step at a time. I am so thankful that races are hard. That I have to push myself through with my heart, more than I do with my body. I remember crossing the 7.2 mile water station with Bjorn Waldron. I was exhausted and I looked at him & said "I am going to have to run the second half of this race with my heart now because my body is too weak." And that is exactly what I did. I took each step. One by one. I was running on a trail, over rocks and falling trees, that was unknown to me. I would never want to just start the race & then magically appear at the finish line because I would have missed so many incredible things along the way during that race. Yes, it was hard, but no one learns when it is easy.

Sometimes in life, we want to go hard after something that seems bigger than we can accomplish. However, we look at the sweat & pain that taking each of those individual steps will bring upon us & we just wish we could skip ahead to the finish line. Crossing the finish line means NOTHING though if you told someone that you just walked from the starting line to the finish line & skipped all the hills & rocks.

We have to all be very careful of what we are wishing away when we ask the Lord to take away trials & pains in our life. Sometimes, the best thing that the Lord could do for us is to allow us to go through something that seems impossible, but as we run with Him & take those steps with Him, we learn more about who He is, about His encouragement, His love, His grace, His mercy, His strength & perseverance. If we do not go through the woods & the trails, we would not experience God in a way that draws us closer to Himself.

My challenge: Let us love where we are now. The race will always end, & the pain & joys of the journey will be over. However, whether we are barely making it up a hill after we have been running for hours, whether we are enjoying the wind in our faces & the relief on our bodies by running down a hill, or whether we are giving every last bit of energy at the very end to finish strong, we must be learning & growing from that moment now. All we have is this moment. Do not wish it away because you will be missing something greater...a treasure that the Lord desires to use to sanctify us & make us more like His son. What a gift.

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