S t a y i n g t h e C o u r s e : A Tale of Many Miles

I don’t want to do anything today but write a blog. 
I want to sit right here with my Peanut-butter slathered toast,and let the reflections roll.  And after too many un-etched memories put to cyber paper, I can only take it so much!
 My thoughts and stories are piling up to the brim of the bottle- that it is like an ocean wave roaring its way out. 
We have been in The States now for many weeks!The children and I returned home right before Thanksgiving, and have been spending some amazing moments here on this side of the ocean. Family is a very beautiful thing. You recognize how rich it is, when you don’t have it for most of the year.
As much as the time was peaceful for the Holidays, the rapid moments are beginning to take motion. I recently shared at the Ladies’ Christmas Dinner for Calvary Chapel Fullerton where the theme verse took resonance in my spirit.
...And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 

We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, 

the champion who initiates & perfects our faith. 

Hebrews 12
I have been reflecting on the past year. I personally took on a couple of different & fun challenges in the year 2013. A Marathon and a Triathlon. But none of those would have been even possible without mentioning the Training that goes into it!
I believe it to be the tip of learning to truly Run with Endurance the race God has set before me. Even though it is not a normal feat, It is a feat, and God showed me much of His strength in so much of my weakness... mile by mile.

To make a Short story Long, I would love to share with you my experience with training for this Marathon in a little Village in Eastern Europe. 
There were many reasons I wanted to run this on October 13, in Budapest, Hungary. First of all, It was a ‘long-ish’ term goal I could put out just far enough to stay focused-to stay the course. And as much as this marathon taught me to stand on the brink of discipline, I can see now, that there are many more people out there, with far more of a rigid ability to discipline themselves than me. I am just learning it, with some remnants of ‘rookie-like’ tendencies.

There are still times of “I don’t want to.” And days where my alarm goes off at 4:55 am to suit up... but make excuses why I can’t until about 4 pm in the day. Then I run.

THIS Day would be my 3rd Marathon, but first International participation.

Each one I ran was to prove something to myself. Each made a millstone- a mere milestone, just to see if I could accomplish it. I am so thankful God was with me every moment of these. 

But this one was a little different. Taking on a marathon in another country splinters the imagination of adventure-to reality. I’ve heard it said, that: 
‘Everything you want to find out about yourself is found in 26.2 miles.”

 Maybe, in my heart, I still see myself as my parents’ kid, but I had to will & accomplish this task physically on my own, even if I felt lost in the middle of tens of thousands. I wanted it. And when you begin a marathon, You’ve only got prayers... and You. (AMEN, LORD!)
Looking back I’ve been keeping up my running since training for the OC marathon ’12. It was a 10 month goal after having a critical hysterectomy where God granted life for me and my 2 year- old son, Cruz. This is great to reflect on. He is good, and He sees. He is involved and invested. He cares about Big and Little. He continues to Breathe life in us for a purpose...
In training, I ran with a running group in Orange County, then ushering me out into the Wintry days of Hungary, beginning in January 2013. 
It’s a long Season.
Those were long days in the beginning. I remember the jet-lag and snow. I did my first 16 on the 3rd day after I arrived, and I was, for lack of arctic words, COLD.  I’ve learned now not to take the ‘wide open fields route’ on a snowy day. Nothing is there to block that blustery wind. Your chin is freezing and you have to create a make-shift chin warmer out of scarf and vest. And your fingers gotta stay individually wrapped. 
One thing I noticed in Euro winters, is to never stop. If you’re running long, create your long-out route somehow to drop you off near home. {obviously} But here’s what I mean: running out long, and then back in, can be a bit tricky. You’re tired towards the end, so you slow down and maybe even walk. Yet, when you slow down, your internal heater drops considerably, and wow, you c a n  g e t  c o l d real q u i c k . So a recap; If you’re going to run long in the Wintry Cold, you better be serious and even better, determined.
I soon realized, as well, that taking on the rain of a spring day unequipped, is not wisdom. When all of the imaginative ideas of Zip lock bags shielding your shoes swirl around in your head because you don’t want to experience what you did the last time you dashed out in the rain, you know you’re willing to do much. Cuts on the back of your  heels from drenched socks in many hours of rain just wasn’t the brightest idea. 
Even just any run for many hours dumps you off to the pit of physical, experiential pain - 
clothes’ burns, and raw cuts when you jump into the shower. . . Daily.   Yowzer. It’s honestly like your body is screaming all at once. . . or maybe that’s just your own voice.
But you’re still willing. 
You're willing because you're looking to the Finish...
So as the Budapest Marathon finally drew close, turning pages of hot summer days, and suntan lotion on 3-4 hour training runs, Autumn opened it’s doors. Ministry still full to the brim, and Homeschool in full swing, I literally ate pastas with Pestos, and oils, and  tomato Arrabiata spices for 4 days straight prior to the Day, with no fried foods, and liters of water, matched with many a’ Gatorade the day before! (It made my family eat better too!)
Caleb was at a Pastor’s Conference in Jordan that week, so we stayed in Budapest for the weekend with a bunch of little helpers for the munchkins, ready for the job of cheering mommy on! {Thanks, guys!} The apartment in the city was perfectly situated for getting on the Yellow Line, and then underground for the Metro to ‘Heroes Square’ that morning. The kids and friends would follow but a few hours later. 
I remember stepping out on to the crisp Budapest streets in the a.m. of October 13th. Where good style and european confidence meet; I walked along in my Pink and Turquoise running outfit, with a number pinned to my shirt, and compression socks up to my knees. I was definitely not computing in people’s minds. 
I had my thrift-store bought sweatshirt on, ready to shed during the race, and walked to the Yellow Line. It looks like the “Monorail” at Disneyland on regular streets. I felt very ‘New York’. Everybody dressed in nice long coats, boots, and Sophisticate in their eyes.

Arriving after 2 different transports at Heroes’ Square was A quiet experience. No Conversations, but much understanding. As we drew closer, I was with ‘my kind’. This is where it all made sense. Everybody with Asics, and number bibs.
We were ready

As for the day,
I had 3 things on my mind that day. Caleb had left me this verse on my pillow...

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.                                                                     1 Corinthians 9:24

Don’t let this marathon happen to you, Happen to it.

If you want the pain to end, you’ve got to cross the finish line.

After the hour of stretching and Porta-potty visits, I went to the race start. I had my Energy gels, I had my Garmin watch set; I had my music playlist.

The goal when you begin a marathon is to do the first 6 miles at a pace not only below your best, but even below your comfortable. This is where you are learning how much more you are about to take on- how much you have to act like you haven’t begun yet. Then you will soon pick up the pace.   

As the Hungarian countdown was made, my surrounding group of people crossed over the Starting line 5 minutes after it begun. 
I started my timer. 
There were 22,000 runners that day, and only 4,900 were running the 26. 2.
By the end of this race, I am humbled.

My music playlist had some slightly upbeat worship mixed in with some motivational running mixes that were perfectly formulated for that first hour. I kept checking my watch to keep my seconds up a few, because they say, “No matter how good you feel, make sure you don’t run fast. Every minute you take feeling good, comes back double in the end.” So it’s important to stay patient and steady.
Without guidance in this area, you’ll want to run hard and fast, because you can almost imagine yourself running like this for the whole course.
But you’ve got to take your time. Pace Yourself. Almost like a studying; a rest. You will not be able to take that same pace on for the whole race. So Stay Prepared. Don’t vere off. Stay the Course.

As time drew on, probably about the 14th mile, I began to feel the tiredness creeping in. I ingested all of my energy gels, and salt tablets, and kept on running. 
To be honest, towards the end, I had so many miles to contemplate cheating just a little. I thought to myself how I might not go those extra miles,cut the corners, or  just slip on to the other side very easily, and just head the opposite direction.  
Your body is telling you to Stop Running! 
But even though, when you're tired, and the temptation is there, You gotta stay the course, and recognize who you are. The whole point is to see what you're made of. 
And it is the same in Jesus Christ. 
There are so many things out there, that want us to cheat just a little.They are there to tempt us, but the Bible says, 

let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us...

Hebrews 12:1

I knew had to continue....Continue with what I know! I have trained for this. God's going to be there all the way through. And I'm  going to make it to the end!

I set a goal to beat my Personal Record of 4 hrs. 20 minutes. And all the way through, I asked for that. 
3:59 turned to 4, and I still had 3 miles to go.
It wasn't looking promising. . . 

And as I headed towards the last mile, I looked down at my watch and saw that it was at 4:19. 
I knew I wasn't going to make it. 
This Runner's heart was crushed.
I wanted to stop right there. Thoughts of giving up running altogether were present. 
The crowd was cheering as I came down the long stretch...
                  . .  I crossed the finish line at 4:24... 

As I felt that hidden pang of letting my self down, the Lord spoke to me as we drove home that day. 
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? 
Run in such a way as to get the prize 

I read this recently in a commentary:
"In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul indicates that life is a race and its a race that we are all entered in so we might as well compete. We can choose to sit the race out but it is to our own demise. Our entry fees are paid, the starter has fired the gun, and our finish will still be recorded. Only those that complete the race get to advance to the next event.

Run to win. Run to finish first. At the very least run it in such a noble, honorable, and faithful manner that you are allowed to finish. Compete so that even if you do not win all of life, you will not be ashamed of how well you finished. And remember, the race isn't won on the track, its won in the training and preparation. "

In Comparison to other people, or to my personal goal, I didn't live up to it all.  We are always going to have ups and downs. Prizes and Failures. 

But The Lord encouraged my heart that day. 

"There was not a moment that you can say that you didn't give it your best...
 And that's what I want! Your Very Best."

...We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, 
the champion who initiates & perfects our faith. 

Be encouraged, Friends. 
He is the champion who came to earth, 
and has Finished the Race. 
And He stands there, cheering us on, waiting for us to cross that Finish Line. 
Finish Well, Beloved.
Love in Jesus,

Ps. More to come. We return back to Hungary on the 29th as a Family. Please pray for safe travels and that we will Keep Looking to Jesus as our Ever-Present Strength and Joy!
Gwynn and I at the Missions Conference


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