Friday, March 16, 2012

The Great Adventure: Travels to Come, Prayers to Pray, Preparations to Make.

On and off throughout my life I have gone through seasons where I run frequently. I'm not an amazing runner. I'd even say that I have a love/hate relationship with it. But it never ceases to amaze me how good running is for me; physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

The physical side doesn't need much explaining. This is really the core reason why I get back into running every time I do-- I love to eat and with that comes some unwanted side effects; namely, my sides expanding. Emotionally, it feels good to have some control of your life and your body. You see some physical changes, you begin to feel healthier, and you can't help but feel good; and you gain a sense of accomplishment.

But the big one for me is what happens for me spiritually. When I go running I find that my mind connects well with God. I'm often led to prayer. Songs pop into my head. People pop into my head. I don't want to read into it too deeply, but on some level I really feel that God directs my thoughts to certain things and people to pray for. It's also incredible to me the number of spiritual parallels that can be  drawn between our spiritual lives and running. So for me running is a very rich time of praying and connecting with our Heavenly Father.

Two songs came into my head this past week on two separate days while running. The first song is an oldie. Back in about 1995-'98 I was a pretty big fan of Steven Curtis Chapman. One of my favorite songs of his was 'The Great Adventure.' It's pretty dated, and when it popped into my head, I actually kind of laughed about it. But I loved that song, and I recalled the entire thing, word for word. It came rushing back to me and I realized the honesty, beauty, and truth in the words of that song-- and how relevant they are to what we're doing; to what all of us are doing, as we follow Christ! So, here are the lyrics that especially stood out to me:

Started out this morning in the usual way

Chasing thoughts inside my head of all I had to do today

Another time around the circle 

Try to make it better than the last

I opened up the Bible and I read about me

Said I'd been a prisoner and God's grace had set me free

And somewhere between the pages it hit me like a lightning bolt

I saw a big frontier in front of me and I heard somebody say "let's go"!

Saddle up your horses we've got a trail to blaze

Through the wild blue yonder of God's amazing grace

Let's follow our leader into the glorious unknown

This is a life like no other - 

This is The Great Adventure

I mentioned 2 songs, though, didn't I? The second that came to mind was 'Prepare Ye, the Way of the Lord' from Godspell. 

When my family moved to Fergus Falls, MN in 1999 we went as a family to the production of 'Godspell' at the Center for the Arts in Fergus. The show began with the actor portraying the rough equivalent of John the Baptist walking down the aisle from the back of the theater singing with no accompaniment 'Prepare Ye, the Way of the Lord.' I don't need to type the lyrics of that song for you, because it's simply that phrase over and over again. But that arrangement and those simple words repeated over and over have stuck with me. There's something so beautiful, powerful, and profound about those 7 words. 

So I asked myself, "What do these words mean for me? How can I... or am I... preparing the way for the Lord?"

I didn't even remember that those two songs had come to my mind while running until today. Today as I sat on the couch reading Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster, I remembered the two of them and I connected those two songs. I spent some time thinking over the words. Praying over the words. Meditating over them. 

What do they mean to you? 

We're working on our last couple assignments that we need to finish before leaving the country. One of them requires reading the book I mentioned above. It's not an easy read, but it's rich. The first part addresses the spiritual disciplines of meditation, prayer, fasting, and study. I think the word 'discipline' has taken on a negative connotation in our current day and age and certainly in this generation-- but these are disciplines that when boiled down are basically just intentional ways of spending time and communicating with the God I love. There's nothing negative about that whatsoever!

It's comforting. It's inspiring. It makes me excited to 'follow our leader into the glorious unknown.' The next leg of our journey begins next week as we pack everything up again and hit the road to spend time with all of you-- introducing Kaia to our friends and family spread across the States.  We're one step closer to Ecuador. 

I'm ready. I'm excited. And I want to make it my goal, today and every day, to prepare the way of the Lord.


Friday, March 2, 2012

13 things that progress when you have a baby…

It's pretty common to hear that, "everything changes once you have a baby". From marriage, to your social and professional life, name it and they tell you it's going to be different. Usually all this talk about "change" generally has a negative connotation. Before getting pregnant I always joked that, "I was still too selfish to have a kid." I enjoyed my marriage and the time I was able to spend with Jim, just the two of us, not to mention being able to do what we wanted when we wanted. Of course, we knew that some day we would have kids (God willing), that we would step into that joyfully, and that God would provide all that we needed to be emotionally, mentally, and spiritually ready to take on parenthood. However, I wasn't necessarily in a rush to transition out of the current stage of our life and marriage just yet; I wasn't necessarily ready for that change.

So I said it jokingly, but all jokes tend to have a bit of truth to them. Again, I never thought of myself as a really, really selfish person, but I recognize that I am  broken and selfishness is an inherent part of me. Also, did I mention that I really enjoyed the stage of life we had been in throughout the last 5 years of our marriage? But then, we got pregnant and Kaia arrived.

It's only been four weeks, but I can honestly say that I don't feel like things have "changed" as much as "progressed". Although, with the cloth diapers and dealing with spit-up I have gone from doing one load of laundry every two weeks to at least one load every three days! Seriously though, having Kaia in our life has felt like a natural progression of the plan and journey that God has in store for us. No, it's not super easy every moment of every day...just because it's been a natural progression doesn't mean that I've been as graceful at dealing with the [change] progression that I might hope to be, but it is an exciting journey to be on anyway.

Already, I can see my own character being shaped and refined by the presence of our sweet little daughter. God is growing and stretching me; this all hit home when I received an email the other day with a link to a list titled, "42 Things That Change When You Have a Baby". I clicked on the link thinking it was going to focus on all the things we give up when we have a kid, but I was pleasantly surprised; the list actually had a positive spin to it! So, I'd rather title it "42 Things That Progress When You Have a Baby". Many of the points were things I had been feeling, so it was refreshing to see them written out in list form; here are the top 13 things that resonated with me from that list (written in no particular order).

1. You finally stop to smell the roses, because your baby is in your arms.
     I have spent significantly more time "being" rather than "doing" in the last four weeks; definitely an area of growth for  me!

2. Where you once believed you were fearless, you now find yourself afraid.
     It is only in His strength that I can shepherd my child's heart toward Him and be something of worth to my daughter in this world.

3. The sacrifices you thought you made to have a child no longer seem like sacrifices.
     Every moment that she is awake and in my arms there is no place or thing on earth that I'd rather be doing.

4. You respect your body....finally.
     God's design is truly amazing!

5. You respect your parents and love them in a new way.
     I'm sorry for every moment I ever made them feel unappreciated or worthless to me and am already bracing myself for the inevitable day when my daughter will do the same to me :-(

6. You find that your baby's pain feels much worse than your own.
     No matter how tired I may be, all I want is for Kaia to be filled with joy and love and to protect her from every hurtful or  bad thing this world has to offer.

7. Your heart breaks much more easily.
     You name it, it'll probably make me cry...or at least will make me emotional.

8. You think of someone else 234,836,178.976 times a day.
     I can't tell you how true this is.

9. Every day is a surprise.
     Yes and we can't wait for it!

10. Bodily functions are no longer repulsive. In fact, they please you. (Hooray for poop!)
     So true! I've been spit up on, peed on, pooped on, and I love her all the more for it and rejoice knowing that they are signs of a healthy growing body!

11. You look at your baby in the mirror instead of yourself.
     Let's face it, all of us are a little narcissistic when it comes to looking at ourselves in the mirror. This is the one that makes me realize how quickly the "selfish" switch can be flipped...I truly know how much more important to me she is because of this one...I totally forget about myself and am mesmerized by her.

12. You become a morning person.
    I guess I kind of was before, but now I truly am....

13. Your love becomes limitless, a superhuman power.
   I thought I had a pretty good understanding of how limitless God's love for us is through my experience of loving Jim, but my understanding has definitely progressed and I now realize the depth of that "limitlessness" in a new way through my love for Kaia.

- Suzy <><