HAVING AN ‘IN’

“Having an ‘In’”

You have heard it before. “The reason Susie got the job is because she has an ‘in’ with the director,” or “Yeah, John got court side seats because he has an ‘in’ with the coach.” Everyone typically has an ‘in’ somewhere, at some point in their life. Maybe you just happen to know the lady at the local café pretty well, and she gives you an extra shot of espresso for free, or you happen to be Hines Ward and are offered a free entry into the Kona Ironman?  In any of these cases, it is kind of nice to have an ‘in,’ is it not? Recently I read this same phrase in a comment by someone on an opinion page, having to do with Phil Robertson and his recent statement that got him into trouble with certain individuals. The opinion stated that Phil seems to act like he has an ‘in’ with God based on his wording, making it sound as though he knows something they do not know and that he is above them. Well, guess what? Phil does have an ‘in’ and so do I.

I have pondered writing about this for a month. This is partly due to being way too busy, but more so because I hesitate to share how I feel on this topic. Why? Because look at what happens when Christians do share their beliefs. They are banned from T.V., ridiculed, and made to sound like mean-spirited, hateful, ignorant people. However, on the flip side, there can be a same sex wedding at the Grammy’s, with barely any repercussions the next day. Hmmm…diversity? Or just when it works for you and allows you to do what YOU want to do? You do not need to watch Phi’s show or read his books if you disagree with him, and I guess I will not be watching as much mainstream T.V., including shows like the Grammy’s, since it is insulting to me and my beliefs. After wrestling with whether or not to write this and express my thoughts, I decided to go for it. You are free to agree or dis-agree, but here it goes…

If Phil reads the Bible, believes what it says, and has faith based on a personal relationship with Jesus through salvation, (which I believe he does), then he most certainly has an ‘in’ with God. The coolest part about it is that YOU can have that ‘in’ too. Phil is not saying he is above all others at all, but rather that he hates the sin, as God calls it in the Bible, but NOT the sinner. There is a BIG difference. He, as well as other Christians who may agree with him, can tolerate other’s sins, but do not need to accept them or have them be shoved down their throats. We as Christians have love for Christ and others, but we also know what is right and what is wrong, based on the teachings that Jesus gave us. That does not mean we hate the sinner.

Maybe it seems as though his words imply he has an inside scoop or a direct path to Jesus Christ, but that is because he does! If you know anything about Phil’s history, or when he came to Christ in his late 20s, you would know that he, like all of us, is a sinner too, and at that point in his life he realized he needed Jesus and that there was only one way. “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. The only way to the Father is through me.’” (John 14:6) This applies to all people, and the sooner you realize that, the sooner you will have that direct path to Jesus, the ‘in’ I am referring too. The Bible will come to life for those filled with the Holy Spirit, and yes, as Phil stated, he does believe it and follow it in his daily life. This may be different than others’ views, but if diversity is the goal, then he is entitled and should be respected for that, right?

If you disagree with Phil or what he believes, so be it. You are absolutely entitled to that opinion and your own way of life. However, if you are curious as to what Phil has that you do not have, I would encourage you to take the dust off of the Bible and open it up. Read the book of Romans, or John, or just start from the beginning, but I promise you that you will not be disappointed. There is one way, no other, and according to the Bible, no amount of good works, going to church or living a “good” life will get you there, will give you that ‘in.’ Isaiah 64:6 says, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags…” They mean nothing to Jesus who already paid the price for us, all He asks is that we believe and accept His invitation.  Phil Robertson did just that, and he has been given an ‘in’ with God, allowing the scriptures to be clear to him and to see what is right and what is wrong .

Again, whether you believe it or not, that is up to you, and I am just stating my opinion and beliefs. I am not going to force them upon you. That is impossible. However, remember that Phil was asked about his faith and opinions, and he offered them. If you disagree with him, fine, but in the future, if asked for my opinion, you can bet on the fact that I will give it based on my faith and my belief in the Bible and what it says, not on what is popular or the politically correct thing to say. If you would like to have diversity in this country, then you will respect my beliefs even if you disagree, and you should not ridicule me, or call me a hater. Instead we should be able to move on, with different opinions, and still remain civil.

Phil is not above others nor is he a hater. He reads the Bible, believes what it says, and has followed it, and if the Bible is the true word written by God, which I do believe, then I am sorry folks, but he has an ‘in.’ In today’s world, not knowing what tomorrow will bring, I am so thankful that I have the same ‘in’ as well. It gives me hope and joy to know where I am going after this life, and a love for Jesus and for others, even those whom I may disagree with either in words or actions. We are all fish in the fish bowl, and the striped fish may disagree with the spotted fish, but they can still swim by one another without harm and without feeding the other to the sharks.

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Baby It’s Cold Inside!

“Baby It’s Cold Inside!”

Winter has arrived. Frigid temps, biting winds, and ice storms grace us with their presence. It is the time of year where a down vest, hat, and hand warmers are a necessity for me at all times, and I can literally see my dog’s breath inside my home! Even though I struggle to stay warm all the time, I somehow enjoy the snow kissed countryside, the refreshing air, and the beautiful morning skies. So, when asking my oldest nephew what he thought I should write about, he responded, “that it’s cold.” “OK.” I said. “So what specifically should I tell them about it, what advice could I try to give out?” He thought about it for a second and said, “Maybe about how to stay warm while running in the cold?” Great idea I thought! Smart kid he is. I do believe I have written about this before, as I feel I am an expert on this topic. With my extreme issues with the cold, somehow I still manage to make it out the door, get started, and heck, even break a sweat by the end of the run. However, after thinking about this and recent events in my life and those around me, I realized there is a different kind of cold this time of year, and that is what I want to talk to you about.

You have seen A Christmas Carol, I am sure, and I am sure you know a few real life Ebenezer Scrooge’s who are pessimistic, mean, and grouchy most times of the year, but especially now. Then there are those of us who turn into one as Christmas approaches, living on a short fuse, due to the stress of getting all the gifts wrapped, cookies baked, houses decorated, and oh wait… we have to work full time too. Ugh! It just starts to be too much, and it wears on us, brings us down, and makes us scream, “Bah, Humbug!” As Mike Tischio put it so well, it pulls us away from the reason we are even celebrating this joyous day. After all, it is not just another holiday, it is a birthday celebration!

Have you ever noticed how there is so much sadness, and so many tragedies this time of year, including the loss of loved ones? I have firsthand experience, as my aunt passed away on Christmas day last year. I hear the grief and stress in my mom’s words, trying to figure out how to “keep it normal” this year when the loss of her sister is felt with each holiday gathering, cookie made, and fallen snowflake. Last year, we were singing “sisters” with her, from White Christmas, and this year, she is singing it with the angels.

This is the cold I am talking about, the cold heart. There are many who feel empty, weary, and bogged down, who just want it to be over. The single digit temperatures just contribute to it, solidifying that it is a dark, difficult time. So, what can we do to come out from under this cold, empty place, and to not only find joy in the moments and people that we DO have surrounding us, but to also find joy, warmth, and love in the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ?

I have to be honest, if you do not know Jesus, I honestly do not know many other options, as knowing Him is the only hope there is in this world. When you are lonely, He loves you. When you are poor and unsure of how to pay bills and “get it all done,” He will help you and guide you. When you are freezing in your house, due to trying to cut heating bill costs, He will provide you with warmth. However, you must know Him and ask. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) Adversity is not a stranger to me, even in my young age, and each time He has seen me through. My heart has broken several times, and I have bills I have no idea how I will pay, but He always provides. Hmmm… so, maybe I, and you, should be thanking Him more, giving to Him more, and following Him no matter what. Maybe instead of thinking of ourselves and wondering how we will get it all done, we should stop, and think about how we can give to Him?

I am a strong believer that doing for others will bring you much happiness. “As pressure and stress bear down on me, I find joy in your commands.” (Psalm 119:143) If you are cold hearted, sad, empty, stressed about all that the seasons brings, think of others and what you can do for them. Focus not on yourself, but what you can sacrifice. We all can sacrifice something, whether time, money, or even just our prayers. Look at your surroundings, what you DO have, and you may be surprised to realize you are quite blessed. Volunteering is an awesome thing to do, and I admire those who do, but even if you cannot do that, there are other ways in which small gestures mean so much to others, and may help warm your heart.

Remember the Grinch, whose heart grew several sizes larger, when he realized that Christmas came without all of the food, the decorations, the gifts, etc.?? He realized that even if they had nothing, it did not matter, because that was not why they were celebrating. We are celebrating a birthday, and yes, we give gifts to others to show our love, kindness, and appreciation. However, as pointed out to me in my nephews’ church Christmas program, typically during a birthday celebration, one gives gifts to the birthday boy or girl, not to each other. Hmmmm….what do I, or you, give to Jesus? Maybe you cannot provide much, but showing God’s love, goodness and kindness to those around you, is a gift in itself and something He asks us to do. If He provides for me, then I feel an obligation to give to others, to share His gift with words and actions. Pay for the person behind you at the coffee shop, help an elderly person take their grocery bags to the car, send a card to someone going through a hard time, or make a visit to the nursing homes providing your time and attention. It is not hard to do.

 Instead of feeling the stress and pressure to cross off items on your to do list, and allowing the coldness to settle into your heart with misery and grief, think of Jesus, what He has done for you, get to know Him and the hope He provides, if you have not already, and give a gift back to Him, through sharing His love and story with others. Melt the ice from your heart, whatever reason it may be there, and wake up to the joy of the season with a strong and cheerful, “Merry Christmas!” I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, filled with much joy in your heart!

“Two Roads Diverged…”

“Two Roads Diverged…”

This is by far my favorite time of year, and it often brings back fond memories. These include raking leaves in my parent’s yard only to jump right into them with Cricket, my German shepherd, warm apple pie fresh out of the oven, and throwing the football in the yard with my brother during half time. Lately, as I have been running through life, figuratively and literally, another one has popped into my mind.  Sitting on my dad’s lawn mower for one of the last times of the season, and memorizing a specific poem for Mrs. Weaver’s 9th grade English class, to help pass the time as I drove in circles. The poem that circulates through my head, whether I am deciding which running route to take, or thinking back to past events of my life, is “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost. Thanks to Mrs. Weaver, I know it well and reflect on it often.

 My life has not gone as I thought it would originally…you know… the white picket fence, kids running around inside a warm, comfortable home, a nice, new car that runs perfectly, and enough money to afford a weekend getaway, or heck, just the medicine I need. However, I can tell you that I am extremely blessed in so many ways and very thankful that the Lord has directed me down the correct road at each diversion, much to my dismay at the time. Have you ever felt that way at any point in your life? Maybe things have not, or are not, going the way you had hoped that they would, or maybe you have always just taken the easy way out, but you do not have too. I am here to tell you that you can take the other road and face the obstacles other’s dare too, and come out on the other side stronger, smarter and more blessed than you ever thought you would be.

Challenges build character that others will never achieve. I have been through more trials in my young life than many will face in their lifetime; however, looking back, I realize those experiences helped build character and make me who I am today. Through them I have been given perspective that helps me relate and understand others better. Try to view your obstacles in the same way, using them to learn for the future and give advice to others in need. Look at those who lose a large amount of weight and improve their health. Many go on to be personal trainers or group fitness instructors, because they want to help others realize that once you make the decision to take the hard road, the one less traveled, all things are possible. Are you ready to take that road? Or do you want to stay on the easy one where a lot of people are headed, because it is just too dang easy to sit on the recliner after work with your cheese curls?

Funny how I thought I had everything figured out when I was younger. I assumed so much, but God had other plans for me, and I suppose He wanted to teach me a few lessons. Believe me, I got them, and I am still being taught daily! It is also ironic how every obstacle seemed like the end of the world, but looking back, I get it… I get why He took me through them. Another favorite verse of mine is Isaiah 43:2, which says, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” He brought me through and out to a beautiful place that was even better than I thought it could be, with more faith, patience and strength to move forward. In all sincerity, without my faith and personal relationship with God, I would be lost and feel much differently I am sure.

So, if you are at a crossroads in your life not sure whether to go for that job, ditch the crappy boyfriend, make a decision to lose weight and get healthy, or give up your smoking habit, can I encourage you to take the road less traveled? I know there are ginormous obstacles ahead, and it is scary. Sure, you will hit bumps, walls, potholes, maybe a few rivers to cross, but you will figure out a way, possibly with help from above, to jump, climb and run through them, coming out the other side with experiences that others will never know. The path ahead will be even brighter than you ever expected, until of course you hit the next giant hole; however, keep in mind, if you try, if you take that chance, win or lose, you will get past it with something awesome waiting on the other side! “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference!”

“The Running Man”

You may have seen it before? The hip hop dance move called the “running man.” It is a fun move one may do at a dance party or in their living room after their team scores a touchdown. Most do not even think twice about it, nor the fact that they are moving all four limbs at the same time, and jumping up and down, breaking a sweat. Most take for granted the fact that they can move their bodies in any way, shape, or form that they want too, at any moment. If you missed Evan’s Health and Wellness Expo, you missed a great event, filled with useful information, screenings, class demos, and thought provoking lectures, but you also missed an opportunity to see a woman do her version of the “running man,” with a huge grin on her face, like there was no tomorrow. Do I have your attention??

At the Expo, the LiteGait was demonstrated. Seeing as how I had no clue what this piece of equipment was myself, I figured I better find out. One of my best friends just happens to be one of the finest physical therapists in the area, maybe state, and o.k., I may be slightly prejudiced?! She utilizes the LiteGait with a few of her MS patients, and the lady I referred to earlier is one of them. Over the past year she has made significant strides in her fight against MS, improving the quality of her life tremendously, and to top it all off, she is one of the nicest, strongest, and most positive women you will ever meet. Instead of being down and out, she focuses each and every moment of her days on what she CAN do and not what she CANNOT do, with the conviction that she will make it happen.

I watched in awe as she proceeded to do all kinds of movements in the LiteGait, a partial-weight-bearing gait therapy device, which basically allows her to leave her wheelchair and elevate her body so that she can move freely with all limbs without any fear of falling. It secures her and enables her to do things she could not do without it. That includes the “running man.” Being able to move her legs and arms just as if she was running, brings her heart rate up, helps fire up the muscles, and golly, it must feel good. The look on her face said it all. Not only was I just amazed, but at the same time, my being down about not being able to run for two weeks, due to an injury, deserved a “boo-hoo,” from up above. We take for granted so much what our bodies can do, such as walk to get the mail, climb a flight of stairs, grip a fork to eat, ride your bike to the market, or walk the trail with friends. Being able to move and feel that sensation is lost to some, or maybe they once had it and no longer do. However, in this case, I saw someone take the high road and give her body every fighting chance it has not just by using a LiteGait and an amazing P.T., but by using her mind, her attitude, and her drive.

The next day I participated in a 100 mile century, benefit ride in Shunk, Pa. Well, it was 107.5 miles really, but who’s counting? It was a chilly, foggy start to the ride, but warmed up quickly on the first big climb and ended up being just a beautiful day, with gorgeous countryside, mountains, and great company and food. In the back of my mind throughout this ride, I just kept thinking about what I saw the day before, and I decided that no matter how tired I got, I would ride every mile for her. Even though I do not know her all that well, I can probably safely say that she would give anything to be able to ride a bike and feel the breeze in her beautiful hair, so I vowed to not take it for granted that God had enabled me at this point in my life with a body that could do this. Somehow that made the day fly by and feel easy. Of course, I do think the oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and candy bars helped with that just a bit.

I guess I am sharing this, because first of all, I feel it is a shame more people did not come to witness this first hand, and also just to get you thinking about how lucky you are to be able to do the things you can do. Maybe some of you can relate to this woman and are in similar situations, but that does not mean that all hope is lost. Change your attitude, change your life. Maybe some of you are completely healthy, but choose to sit on the couch and eat bags of chips and cartons of ice cream. Shame on you! Get moving, and be grateful, and know that God designed your body to be a temple as it is truly His creation, (1 Corinthians 6:19), so do not waste it and treat it poorly, but be happy with what you can do with it, and give it love through exercise and a healthy diet. While you are at it, put on some tunes, put a smile on your face, and break out into the “running man!”

“Stop…. Look Around!”

“Stop….. Look Around!”

What do you see?? A computer screen staring back at you? Four walls and a pile of work? A sleeping baby and two toddlers running around? Four lanes of the same highway you see every morning and afternoon? Maybe a yard that needs mowed, dishes that need done or a bed that needs made? Have you ever really looked at your surroundings beyond your backyard or four walls? Are you are itching to get away and need a much deserved break. If you just stop and look around, you will realize what a beautiful area we live in and how much there is to see and do here, much of it for free!

A few weeks ago, I went for a ride to Halfway Dam with a few others, and after we climbed to the top of the look out, we all paused to take it in and enjoy the moment. How beautiful the mountains looked! A perfect photo opportunity presented itself, and honestly, that picture of me on my bike, with a mountainous background is just as awesome to me as the pictures I own of the red rock in Arizona.

You may think you have to get in a car and drive 7+ hours, or take a flight to the west, but if you look closely, you will find amazing views, and some of the best that nature has to offer right in your own back yard. I have seen a mama bear and her cub cross the road in front of me, bald eagles flying overhead, and views that I never knew were there. None of this cost me a dime. No travel expenses, luggage fees, etc. Just a bit of sweat and energy to get to the top by foot or by bike, or a lazy afternoon in my brother’s backyard watching the eagles soar overhead. Free. All of it! If you have no idea what I am talking about, get to a local visitor’s center or park ranger station, and ask for some guidance. R.B. Winter also offers free programming throughout the year on various topics, and another local hot spot is Dale’s Ridge where there is a short little hiking trail allowing you to see views of the beautiful farmland surrounding you and I.

Speaking of mountains and farmland…. I was recently away, and it seems that no matter where I am, whether it be 4 hours by car or 4 hours by plane, every single time I come back to the area, I am in awe. With all my travels, I have done and seen a lot and am very blessed and fortunate, however, for some reason nothing compares to central Pa. The mountains, the farmland, I love it all. Many miss out on it, which is so unfortunate, and unnecessary. If you are unable to be active for a health reason or otherwise, at least get in a car and take a road trip out into the country, or go down by the river with a lawn chair. One never knows what you will see!

Not only is there a plethora of nature surrounding us, but there are also so many events going on for free. There are fall festivals approaching, where you can get a taste of homemade apple butter, soups, etc., and survey the handmade crafts. (It may cost you a few bucks for that apple dumpling!) Music in the park is offered in several different towns, and at this time of year, you can easily find a place to catch a hayride or pick a pumpkin from the patch.

Now, as you all know, I am a health nut, so I cannot bring up all of these great events, without mentioning at least one that is very health conscious and important to me. On Saturday, September 14th, from 10a.m.-2p.m., there will be a FREE Health and Wellness EXPO, sponsored by Evangelical Community Hospital’s rehab and fitness departments. Class demos will be offered, including Body Pump, Zumba, and Yoga, as well as lectures on walking, stroke awareness/heart health, and golf. All of this for free! There will be discounts on memberships to the fitness center, and you will be welcome to try out the facility for that day. Also, there will be information presented, and demos of physical therapy equipment and services. Get a free pedometer when you arrive to kick off the 10,000 steps walking program, enter your name in drawings to win free gifts, and get your blood pressure taken as well as your body fat, with nutritionists right there to give you one on one attention. Oh, and did I mention free refreshments?? That always brings a crowd, right?? This is another example of a free event taking place right in your own back yard, so please, come out, and take advantage of it!

If the four walls surrounding you are becoming too much and your day to day routine is bringing you down, you do not have to fly across the country or get on a boat with thousands of other people to get away. Rather, take a walk, ride a bike, or drive just a few miles up the road. You will be surprised at what you find when you stop, and look around!

P.S.  If you are reading this and are not local, apply this to YOUR area!  What do you have in YOUR backyard????? 🙂

 

“Finding Joy in the Rain”

“Finding Joy in the Rain”

According to my radar screen Saturday morning, there was rain coming, and a lot of it. My planned ride with “the guys”  at 6a.m. was in question. After texting one of my riding partners, he stated he was going either way, and that it looked as though it would be hit or miss and “rather light.” Ugh. Usually the only way I will ride in the rain is if I have no choice because I am stuck in it. To know it is coming, and to head out anyways?? Not my style. I would rather play it safe and not push my luck. However, he is much wiser than I am, so at 5:50a.m. I was on my way, and met up with 3 other crazy people. “We are most definitely going to get wet,” to which my previously mentioned partner said, “There is a distinct possibility.”

Not only did we get wet, but it poured, and riding in a pace line behind another cyclist’s tire, I was spitting out water like I was in a pool, unable to see through the raindrops on my shades, and discovered I had gritty dirt between my teeth, and all over my face, jersey, etc. Somewhere between trying to safely stay in line, and spitting out “yuck,” a smile came to my face. “This is kind of fun, in a sick and twisted way,” I said to my partner, who just chuckled. Rain? What rain? I faced it head on, had a great ride, and gained insight from the experience.  Ever hear a phrase similar to this? “It is not about avoiding the storm, but about finding joy in the rain.”

This brings me to my question for you…. What are you not doing in life because you are scared of failing? You know you should start exercising or losing weight for your health, but you do not, because you are scared you will not succeed. You know there is “rain” coming in the form of hard times and setbacks, and you are not willing to be uncomfortable or take risks. You would rather stay in your “safe spot,” where it is easy and routine. It is time to throw those excuses out the window and face your fear! Whether you want to lose weight, start eating healthy, try a new hobby, travel more, or challenge yourself to a race, do not let fear keep you from trying and eventually succeeding, because, guess what? Eventually, you will!

Failure is a good thing in life. If you can face it, find joy in it, and learn from it, you will gain resiliency, which will teach you to cope and “bounce back.” It is unavoidable, but you will learn from it as you overcome it, push through, and keep on plugging away. What are your other options? You can sit on your “hunkers” and do nothing, allowing perfectionism to fuel your fear, and never realize your true potential, or you can face it head on, recover, and gain strength others who have never even tried, can lay claim too. You must expect mistakes when facing situations in life as they DO happen, and you cannot stay in your own personal bubble forever!

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1.     You are worth it! (Matthew 10:31:  “So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”) If you feel you are not good enough or will never be a star athlete so why bother, then you are missing out on so much in life and quite possibly your health is at risk too. Do you really think star athletes have never faced failure? Serena Williams, Tiger Woods, Dara Torres…I could go on and on, but they faced failure over and over and over again. They did not start out winning, and they still lose! Nobody is perfect. We all fail, and yes, failure does make us feel inadequate, but it is those who deal with that feeling and keep trying that succeed, not those who give up and get all “woe is me.”

2.     Speaking of that… Get out of your head! You will be fine and will recover. Reach out to family and friends who care about you. They will help you see things in a new light.

3.     Forget about what others’ think about you. It is very easy for people to be critics of others, but eventually, that will turn around and bite them in the backside. People in this world can be cruel and mean, but YOU are the one making your own journey, and they have no idea what you are doing, why you are doing it, or what life experiences you have had up to this point. What is it to them anyways??

4.     Stop worrying! Learn to laugh. At first, it may be difficult, and you need to give yourself time to be upset, etc., but eventually, you need to laugh at yourself.

To master something, you must fail a lot, but guess what? Success will be that much sweeter to you! If you have 50lbs to lose, think about how much sweeter it will be for you than for the person who only has 5lbs. You will fail for sure. You will not go from inactivity to running a mile overnight, nor will you not ever eat chips or ice cream again. Heck you may even gain a few pounds back over the course of your journey, but that is the idea. Facing the failure head on, learning from the experience, and then being able to make better decisions in the future. How else will you grow? Be persistent. It is the source of success for most people, not complacency. The first walk around the block will be difficult, you may not make it to the top of that rock climbing wall, and you may not finish your first race, but so what? When you know the rain is coming, do not back down, do not shy away. Stand strong, face your fear, and find joy in the rain!

 

“CURVEBALLS” – JULY ARTICLE

Curveballs

Planning is a strength of mine, as well as determination, perseverance, and making sure all of my “ducks are in a row.” Call it a Type A personality, OCD, being stubborn, or just being a Reitz. Whatever it is, good or bad, it is who I am. I like knowing what is ahead, what is coming towards me, and being able to prepare for it, but sometimes in life, God throws us a curveball. Have you ever been thrown one of those? Most of my baseball fans know what that means as far as the game is concerned, but the slang definition of “curveball” is, “to cause to be surprised, something that is unexpected or designed to trick or deceive.” Now I do not think God was trying to “trick or deceive” me, but He definitely wanted my attention, and in His timing He threw me a wicked curveball. As it was unexpected, it threw me for a loop, causing both physical and emotional effects, but at the same time, He taught me how to toss it back, while listening and learning. There are tricks to dealing with change, and hopefully, through my own experience, I will be able to shed some light on how you too can cope with change so that you can not only anticipate the curveballs, but thrive on them!

If any of you read my last article, you knew that I was taking some time to enjoy life a little bit, kick back, sip a little tea, and that the next event I was planning was to run the 5k with my nephew. Well, I do not always listen to my own advice, and taking that “break” was not really happening as I had hoped, hence the curveball. Without boring you with the details, I became ill with a fever for 15 days. Again, I will spare you the details, but I could not do any form of activity for those entire 15 days. As most of you know, a fever will wipe you out, making getting off the couch a gigantic task. I was not allowing myself to rest and take a break, so God forced me too. I literally could not do anything, except barely try to make it through work. Honestly, I could have cared less that I could not run, ride or swim, I just wanted to be able to do my day to day activities and live life again. At first, I was depressed and a little bit angry if I am being honest. Why me? Why now? So much for the 5k race. Heck, I was not even sure I would race the rest of the year. After a few days of this, I started to realize something. As much as I like to plan out my life, sometimes God has other plans for me, and due to my unwillingness to change, He stepped in and made it for me.

Change is inevitable, and the sooner we accept that the better off we will be. You can only control yourself and your reaction to it, and that reaction is the difference between coping or falling apart. I was on the verge of falling apart, but instead, through prayer and having way too much time on my hands to sit in deep thought, I gained perspective. First of all, life is too short, and sometimes our habits and routines get in the way of enjoying the best that life has to offer, whether family, friends, or hobbies. Racing the last several years has caused me to always have a purpose to “train,” but guess what? After not doing anything for 15 days, I fell in love with running again my first time out, settling into a nice, easy pace, where I took in all of my surroundings and enjoyed being pain free for once. On my first ride since being sick, I felt like a kid again who had just learned to ride the “big boy” bike. The wind in my face, the warmth on my skin, and the feel of the tires on the pavement. My dad reminds me before every race I do, but somewhere along the lines I forgot that “this is supposed to be fun!”

Another thing that crossed my mind is the fact that I am so blessed in so many ways, and 15 days is nothing compared to what some very sick people deal with on a monthly or even yearly basis. This was a “drop in the bucket” compared to what some people struggle with, and in the context of my entire life. Get a grip Lis. There is more to life than being an athlete… like being a sister, a daughter, a good co-worker, a friend, and a God fearing Christian woman.

One’s true character shines through with change, and it can be good or bad. Have you recently went through a change in your life, only to find yourself negative, mean, and cruel to those around you? Or maybe you snapped out of it quickly enough, as I did, to realize that you need to take a purposeful approach to the change occurring in your life. How you ask? Well, begin with restating or rerouting your purpose in life. Re-examine, renew, and decide what really fulfills you. What have your dreams and goals been up to this point? Maybe it is time to set new ones that are smart and do not only take into account what you want. Talk to family and friends, gain some insight, but also do not rely on it. After all, they are not you and you are not them. We are all different, but take their words and hold onto them for a bit. Some will stick and guide and encourage you, while others will just fall through the cracks.

Change happens. We have all experienced it, whether we were prepared for it or not, and some of us learn, move on and focus on the future while others fall back into old habits once they get through the hard time, not learning a dang thing. Take this time to develop new habits and routines. View it as an opportunity to have a new lease on life, and maybe finally allow yourself to make the changes that you have been meaning to make but just could not do on your own. Be grateful for change. If not for change, we would still be sporting 80’s hairdos and having to actually get off of the couch to go change the channel! Hmmm… maybe that would actually not be so bad?!? Ha! Seriously though, change does happen for a reason, and you best just expect it and control your response to it, because physically and emotionally it is your best option.

In the end, after being tested every which way, it was all attributable to my Crohn’s disease, and after being on the wonder drug prednisone, I am doing much better. But the 5k did not happen, and I am making a very slow comeback, and you know what? It is great! I am falling in love with my sport all over again, I am enjoying my family and friends more than ever, and most importantly, I realized as much as I want to control and plan my life, there is most definitely someone else in control. He enjoys throwing curveballs, not to hurt us, but to get our attention before we hurt ourselves. One of my favorite verses is Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Change is not intended to hurt us, but rather, force us to re-evaluate, gain newfound perspective, and move into the future with a strength and purpose that will carry us through the next curveball. Do not be afraid of what is around the corner or any upcoming change in your life. Enjoy the journey, and get out there and “play ball!”

“Work Hard. Play Hard.” – June article

“Work Hard.  Play Hard.” 

Anyone recognize this phrase?? Only my Duck Dynasty fans will know that this is a “Si-ism,” and that he also includes a “nap hard” in there. This phrase can mean different things to different people. Maybe working 80+ hour work weeks, and then floating down the river in an inner tube is your version of working hard and playing hard, or maybe farming your land and chopping wood all week, and then playing a game of backyard volleyball is your definition of the term? For me, my work and play have been so closely related to one another that I am beginning to forget what play really means. Any of you feel this way by chance? How do we get back to “play” as a society and individuals, to where it is not “nose to the grindstone” every single second of every single day, no matter what the task at hand? I am in the process of trying to figure this out myself, and am hoping to add some insight on how you can do this as well.  

After being a competitive athlete for the last several years, I am at the point in my athletic career where I feel the need to retire. O.K., stop laughing! I know most of you know I am on the younger side, but as far as athletes go, I am actually viewed as quite old, and guess what? My body is showing it. I work hard, training clients all week, managing a gym, etc., and when I get to my runs and rides, they are my outlets, my stress release, my “me” time. However, with all of the competitions I have done, they have turned into focused training efforts and an “all out, hold nothing back, do not even think of looking at those beautiful dogwood trees blooming beside you,” rides and runs. Bummer.  

Do you ever feel the need to beat your last time on that 3 mile run you do daily or hit that tennis ball so hard there is no chance your opponent will ever get it back to you? We are all a little competitive, and that is a good thing, however, there need to be moments in your day, week or months where play is just that. Play.  

Lately, I have been forcing myself to slow down, enjoy the moment and notice all of my surroundings. When I run or ride, that is my “play,” or at least it is supposed to be. So, with no races in my future, it is time to get back to the basics, and remember what it is like to just get out and go for a bike ride. If you are dreading your next run, ride, or any type of workout for that matter, try to switch your focus to doing it for the “play of it.” Notice everything. For example, the two deer standing beside the road that I would have missed had I been striving for a 20mph pace, the turtle on the side of the road happy as could be, or the tree frogs that I hear on my 4a.m. runs that I would not even notice if I was “plugged in” and in race mode. How refreshing. Slowly, I feel the division occurring, where work and play are starting to separate into their proper places.  

Your play may not be fitness related at all. Maybe you enjoy playing old maid with your grandkids or tossing a football around with your nephew in the back yard. Whatever it may be, soak it up, take it in, and relish the moment. You have earned it and done the work. This past weekend I was cruising down the river with my brother and two awesome nephews, with the river breeze blowing my hair around, my oldest nephew sitting beside me completely content, and my youngest nephew sitting up front with the biggest, brightest smile on his face. No computers, no cell phones, no video games, just a boat ride. It included watching a loon dive beneath the water and waiting to see who would spot it first after it popped back up again, a few quick turns making it feel like an amusement park ride, and a happiness that overcame me bringing tears to my eyes. This is what life is about; faith, family, play.  

So, the next time you go to “play” your racquetball game or go for your evening jog, remember you worked hard. It is most definitely time to play hard, and enjoy the moment. I am not competing aggressively anymore, nor am I a professional athlete getting paid to do so. I have an answer for the next person who asks me what my next event is or what my future plans are for my racing career…. No plans. Enjoy life, take a break, “sip a little tea,” feel the river breeze, and enjoy, (as Jase Robertson puts it), “God’s gym.” Put the pressure on someone else. My only future goal is to cross the finish line of the Mifflinburg 5k with my oldest nephew beside me, huge smiles on our faces, knowing that moments like these, one should not pass up, nor overlook. I worked hard. Now, this is my moment to play hard. Want to join me??? 

 

 

MAY ARTICLE – MY THOUGHTS ON THE BOSTON MARATHON….

“Renew, Soar and Run Again”

Surreal. One word sums it up, and it was one of my first comments to my parents after finishing the 2013 Boston marathon. In all of my events, I have never experienced one like it with unmatched spectators, volunteers, and a “buzz” amongst the athletes from stepping onto the big yellow buses, all the way to picking up our capes and medals. The definition of surreal is, “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream; unbelievable; fantastic.” Leading up to this event, injuries and long, cold, icy, dark training runs made me doubt if I should even be running 26.2 miles, so being there and finishing was definitely a “reality of a dream,” for me. As you know, many did not get to achieve that reality, and in some cases will never be able to even attempt it, due to an evil attack that shook the city and our nation. Surreal. Unbelievable. A reality of a dream I had never dreamt until my recent nightmares following this tragic event.

Along the course, many held signs with bible verses, including one of my favorite; Isaiah 40:31. “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” I carried this verse with me throughout those 26.2 miles, and we, the runners, the finishers, the non-finishers, the victims, the families, the city, the nation, I believe, must cling to this verse and carry on, as strength and hope in the Lord trumps all evil.

Since the marathon, the news and media has overwhelmed us with coverage of the tragic events, and the actual marathon itself, including the winners, has been put on a back burner, maybe indefinitely. Many are scared to run again, whether Boston or any big city marathon, and what was supposed to be a day of celebration, triumph and patriotism, turned into a dark cloud of worry, sadness and fear.  It has been weeks since the marathon, but I still struggle with feelings of guilt, anger and sadness. What started as an amazing experience for me and a great race and moment in my life, turned into one that seemed very insignificant. I want to try to share a small part of my Boston experience with you in hopes of shedding some light on the good parts of the marathon, the entire event, and the people that were part of all of it. I believe we need some stories showing what this day was originally meant to be about.

After a few hours of restless sleep, (thanks snorers!), I woke up at 5a.m., put on my racing clothes, covered by my “throw-away clothes,” and grabbed a hot tea, my yellow bag filled with my pre-race fuel, and headed to the elevator. Another runner, identified by the yellow bag and the “pre-race look,” hopped onto the elevator with me and we descended. “Are you riding the buses” I asked? He responded yes, and so it began, a connection, a friendship, with a man who had done this several times beforehand and helped to calm my nerves and give me peace. My parents watched from the hotel window as I walked down the sidewalk to the T, (subway that would take us to the buses), and as I found out later, it eased my mom’s mind to see me walking with a “buddy,” as 5:30a.m. is dark and lonely in a city.

Cary is from Florida. He is running a marathon in every state, and has been doing this for two years. His wife typically travels with him, but was not along this time, and in hindsight, that was probably a good thing. Cary is a pilot, and a smart man, as he had answers to all of my pre-race questions, and stuck by my side the entire time. On the long bus ride there we met runners from Italy, China, and all over the U.S. Walking into the athlete’s village, which is the pre-race “hang out” area for the runners, there were athletes and yellow bags everywhere! Bagels, coffee/tea, music, power bars, etc. were free for your taking, and as soon as I realized I did not have a blanket or garbage bag to sit on, as other athletes did, Cary saved me once again. “No worries,” he said. “I brought two kiddie, blow up floats, one for each of us.” Sure enough, there was a tiny little raft and a donut shaped raft, which I chose to use. Sure beat the cold, wet grass! So, we sat on our floats, sipped a little tea, and chatted while we waited in anticipation. After grabbing a bagel, Cary provided me with some of his peanut butter, and between that and my peanut m&ms, I was well fueled, caffeinated, and ready to run!

Conversation with Cary, and the excitement and energy in that village, made time fly. Before I knew it, we were off to the start line, but not before one more porta-potty stop and shedding our top layers into our yellow bags, which we would hand over to the awesome volunteers in the big, yellow buses. I looked over at Cary who now had on the shirt he would run in, and there it was, my favorite Bible verse; Isaiah 40:31. I looked at him with a smile on my face, and tears in my eyes, and said, “I cannot believe you are wearing that shirt with that verse. I believe God sent you as my angel today.” He put his hand on my back and just smiled. Cary never left me that morning until we parted at our separate corrals, where we said a final “good luck,” and never saw each other again. Even though he stated I was helping to keep him calm, I definitely feel I got the better end of that deal, blessed with his kindness and grace.

Walking the mile to the start line, I honestly felt like Rocky heading to a fight, as spectators were already cheering us on and we, as athletes, were heading into one of the biggest events of our life. If you are a runner, Boston tends to be the ultimate destination. After months of hard training runs, battling injuries, and pre-race logistics, we were finally beginning what would be one of the most memorable runs of our lives, for reasons even unknown to us at that time.  I will sum up the entire 26.2 miles again with the word surreal. The spectators, the fellow runners, made it go so fast, and just when you were feeling that dreaded realization that you were only at mile 15, the roaring crowds lining the entire race, and the site of military men and women in full gear, and Team Hoyt, made you forget that. Thanks to the kids who handed me twizzlers, ice pops, swedish fish and pieces of chocolate, and thanks to the volunteers who provided Gatorade, water and encouragement. With 4 miles to go I felt great, and the spirit of the Boston people was alive and well, carrying me to the finish. Crossing that line was exhilarating, emotional, a high I have never felt, but maybe once before in my life.

The events that unraveled, an hour after I had finished, took that away, and I am angry for that and for those that did not get to finish, and for those that were hurt or worse. However, now looking back, they really did not take that away from me. I still have those amazing memories, my angel, and the emotional meeting of my parents afterwards. The runners, the victims, and the city of Boston, I am here to tell you that while evil lives in this world, there is goodness, there are angels, there are thousands of people that want to help and encourage, and above all of that, there is a Savior who reigns supreme and will help us all recover. We will renew our strength, soar like eagles, run again and not grow weary, and walk again and not grow faint! Boston strong.

APRIL ARTICLE: “CHANGE IS IN THE AIR”

“Change is in the Air”

 

Can you hear it? Feel it? Sense it? Spring is here! Finally! It has been a long time coming, but the sounds of the spring peepers and morning doves, the wonderful warmth of the sun on your skin, and the smell and sights of the daffodils springing up all around us is proof that a change is happening. It is a season of new growth, new beginnings and everything around us is coming alive, saying goodbye to the past and not looking back, at least for several months. This month, I am approaching a change called aging, as I am now another year older. It is causing me to re-evaluate many things in my life and realize that I too need change, a new beginning, a fresh start. Do you? Have you fallen off the wagon since January or did you maybe never get on it? Is exercise your enemy or your drug of choice? Do you eat to live or live to eat? Take a good look at where you are right now, and let me give you some pointers on how to use this time of year to motivate you to change in the direction in which you want and need to go.

In the fitness world there is a phrase used quite often called the “80/20” rule. It typically applies to diet, meaning eat healthy 80% of the time and the other 20% do not worry so much about. It can apply to many things in life. For me, I am a typical “Type A” personality, who is stubborn, determined, and driven, to a fault sometimes, causing me to over train and burn myself out with injuries, etc. In other words, I tend to be 100/0. So, I need to go in the other direction a little bit, and according to those around me, find some “balance.” J Where do you fall on that spectrum? 80/20? 50/50? 20/80? Did you start off the new year going full steam ahead at 100/0, only to burn out and quit? Or have you been maintaining a 30/70 ratio in many areas of your life, not leading the healthy lifestyle that you desire?

As I have stated in previous articles, it has always been odd to me to form resolutions in January. Let’s face it… who wants to start a walking or cycling program outside in the freezing cold, icy, windy conditions? We are forced inside, which for most people is boring, and if you are new to an exercise program, it can be enough of a boredom and dread to you, that you drop out within 3 months, along with the other 60% who made resolutions. So, why not now? Use the warmth of the sunshine, the smell of the lush, green grass, and the sounds of nature as motivation to get you out the door and start being more active. The rails to trails offer a safe place to walk, jog or ride bike, and you can easily take your strength workout outside to a local park or even your back yard. Bring your kids along, play catch with them, or start up a friendly game of “pig.” There are several local walking/hiking trails that will offer breathtaking views, wildlife sightings, and a calorie burning workout. Find a soccer, softball or volleyball league that you can join, and remind yourself how it felt as a kid when spring came and all you wanted to do was go outside and play!

Are you stressed out? Finances, work, kids, pets, etc. can all get you down and cause extreme amounts of anxiety. Maybe change for you means figuring out a way to handle the stress in your life, whether that means changing the way you do things in certain areas, or just taking some time out to rest and unwind. Bring a yoga mat outside and practice a few poses or just sit there and breathe in the warm, spring air. Maybe you are on the opposite side of things and have been lazy, hiding not only from the cold, winter air, but also hiding from your obligations, healthy eating habits and health in general. In this case, you need something that will jolt you, cause a little positive stress, and move you closer to the other side of the spectrum. Call a friend, meet for a walk and then a cup of coffee. Pick yourself up off the couch and make a conscious effort to start tackling projects you have been letting go, one small step at a time. Again, balance is necessary in everyone’s life and in all aspects of life. Decide where you stand on that scale, and use this time of year to change in a positive direction.

What better time of year to start a healthy eating regimen. In January you decided to eat more healthfully and cut out the junk, but instead of seasonal, fresh fruits and vegetables, you were faced with mac and cheese, bags of chips, leftover holiday cookies and events like super bowl Sunday, which can cause any one of us to fall of the wagon! Frozen fruits and veggies, and even canned ones, are still good for you and offer great benefit for low cost, however, when you first walk in a store you are not surrounded by that. You typically face the chips and bottles of soda on sale, and the produce section, which in the dead of winter holds some pretty sad looking products. If you walk into a store now, you will see fruits and vegetables that are greener, riper, and actually look pretty darn good. Buy them! Eat them! Take advantage of what this season offers you and move towards that 80/20 goal. Not only is there fresh produce, but you can find all kinds of meats and seafood on sale for grilling, including tuna steaks, chicken, and pork chops. Capitalize on the specials and the sunshine and break out your grill!

Where are you right now in every area of your life? Are you pushing yourself too hard, whether through exercise, your job or your family demands, where not only did you get on the wagon, but you are holding the reins and traveling at 90mph? Or are you lacking energy, lazy, unmotivated, and unhealthy, having fallen off the wagon months ago, not quite sure how to get back on it? Well, now is the time to make your move! Change is most definitely in the air, and I for one am using this time of year to push myself to find balance and to remind myself that God wants me to enjoy life too. It does not always have to be all one way or all another. Balance. Change. New beginnings. Spring has sprung and now should you!