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Saturday, November 30, 2013

I’m Running Away

I’ve always struggled with balance, putting all my heart and effort in one thing more than all the other things life brings.  Be it my job, a particular friendship, a hobby, or academics, I’ve struggled with balance and the issue of finding purpose from those particular things.  When things were great, life was good.  When things were hard, I was depressed.  All of those things, at one time or another, have been my default mindset (what I was generally thinking about) or my easy conversation topics.  I’m not amazing at small talk, but if you wanted to talk about the thing my heart was passionate about, I could talk for hours and hours.

This time last year, my default topic was my job.  It really is my dream job.  I always knew I wanted to be a teacher and after Bible School, was introduced to the thought of Christian education.  When I did my student teaching, I had 100 students whom I enjoyed muchly, but being a public charter school, opportunities to talk about God were very limited and I knew it wasn’t the right fit for me amongst the staff.  Christian education though, opened a door to pour into students lives both academically and spiritually.  The first two years of teaching were fantastic.  If you talked to me in person, I loved talking about school.  If you followed my facebook status, they were mostly about school.  If you asked me what I did in my free time, I was preparing for school.  School, school, school.  Academically, I thought I was doing fairly well teaching students, and spiritually, I felt I was making connections, pouring in, praying for and seeing growth in my students and the school. 

This year’s school year has not quite been the same.  We’ve experienced tremendous growth.  In the upper grades (7th-12th) for instance, my first year we had 16 students, second year 22, and this year just over 40.  Growing pains and stretching have caused tremendous stress on the capacity of the school building, the attitudes of students and the impact that can be had in smaller settings.  I was a teenager once, so I shouldn’t at all be surprised by some of the fads, conversations, attitudes, and jokes I hear.  I shouldn’t be as broken as I am, over the brokenness of the family unit, respect towards authority, and the state of this world.  I shouldn’t throw in the towel because I know I went through that same path and in the end, things turned out better and I did indeed follow Christ. 

But remember, I left the public schools so I could make an impact for eternity.  I wasn’t as worried about test scores and high grades, as I was about the opportunity to pray with and for my students, point them to Christ and challenge them to live for Him now….not just when they grow up.  The first two years, I thought I was seeing great growth and was always so encouraged by the work God was doing in and around me.  This year, I feel like there is not as much growth.  Not in everyone anyway. ((Of course, there is a handful or so of students that I see growing leaps and bounds through all these circumstances.  I wish I was seeing that growth in me through these circumstances.))    I can still feel the sting of some conversations I’ve had with students about me in particular.  That they laugh on cue, they say all the right things knowing it’s what I want to hear but with no intention at all of doing the right thing, and that all the talk about me being impactful on their lives was a joke.  I know it’s not I that can change hearts.  I know that it has to be God and Him alone to take and mold and shape them.  I know it’s all Him.  But in my effort to make an impact and be purposeful, I’ve been left feeling useless.

So what do I do, when the going gets tough?  I run away.  But this time, it’s a different kind of running.  It’s a literal, physical running on a track, trail or treadmill.  In the month of November alone, I’ve ran/jogged/walked purposefully over 47 miles (hoping to be at 50 before the day is done).  If you have talked to me at all lately, I’m sure you know I’m running.  I’m sure you have heard about my mileage, my training program, and the goals I’ve already conquered through it.  You might have even carried on a conversation with me about how to best run in the winter, clothes to wear, and how running is just not for you, just as I used to say it was not for me.  I have friendships now where literally about the only thing I talk about is running.  I ran for the first time with people on Tuesday and it was the best experience running I’ve ever had because I was in community.  Running is great for health, focus, and goal setting.  But what am I running to?

My all consuming focus has lately been on running.  I read numerous blogs from runners.  When I go to the store, I check out their fitness section and clothing, looking for good base layers and cheap gear.  When I get up in the morning, I make sure my running stuff for the day is ready and in tow to bring to school so I can head out right after the bell rings to get a run in before the sun sets.  When I come home in the evening, I tell of my accomplishments, cough up a quarter of a lung (it used to be the whole thing so I’m making progress), drink water and wait for the water to be warm enough to shower and clean up.  I still plan for school here and there.  I still attend meetings, talk to parents, and laugh with students.  I still eat meals and sleep often enough. I go to game night and fellowship group weekly. 

My life has more diversity this year than it ever has before, which perhaps is not a bad thing.  The only thing that feels like I’m growing and advancing in though, is running.  I have now hit under a 10 minute mile a few times (athletic friends---try not to snicker at that), ran two miles non-stop and did an unofficial 5k with two friends in under 40 minutes.  Those aren’t great numbers for avid runners, but for me, it was once something only dreamed of and now possible. 

But what is the purpose??  Yay, for gaining some self confidence, better health and a potential for weight loss.  But what about for eternity?  Those reasons listed above, are all great for personal growth, but they have no weight in eternity.  God’s not going to ask me how many miles I ran on the last day of my life.  But in His throne room, I know I will reflect on what I did in the “miles” of my life. 

I am questioning if I have made a good thing, like running, an idol in my life.  If I am running just for the friends, just for the goal achievements, and just for the self satisfaction it brings, then, no matter how far I go, I won’t leave any footprints as a mark of where I’ve been or what I’ve done.  Maybe I’ve made running into a defense mechanism.  Now that I do it and immersed in it, I can talk about that instead of having to talk about deeper things.  I can talk with a smile on my face because at least I have one thing going for me, and it is something that is commendable in most people’s eyes.  You won’t find many people disappointed in someone for running.  Running brings people giving encouragement to me and being encouraged themselves sometimes.  But what if it’s all a ploy?  An evil scheme to mask reality.  What if it’s an idol, giving me false worth, when worth, value and joy can only be truly found in Christ?  What if all I am running to is self centeredness and pride?  So far, that is the fruit I am seeing, and I don’t like it, but I’m not sure what to do.  What if running isn’t the root?  What if it’s just the means that is being used to tangle me up and keep me down?  Maybe the root is my focus, and it not being on Christ and what He can and will do.  Maybe I need to cling to the potential of my students and the work being done at my school and not find my value in the product.  Maybe I should find myself on my knees more often, in pure exhaustion of the spiritual battle faced every day and let Him fight it for me.  Maybe it’s not the running that’s a bad thing, but what I am running to that I need to decide.

What are you running from? 

Until next time,

In Christ,

Joy Lynn

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Power of Self-Talk ((November 2, 2013))

At the beginning of October, I had the privilege of taking part in a school wide fundraiser called the CCA Jog-a-thon.  It raises money for the schools Scholarship Fund and is vital to our schools health and success as many students would not be able to attend without some help from Scholarships.  This year, the school raised over $7,500 which is phenomenal and a blessing in itself! 

I never thought the Jog-a-thon would continue to haunt me a month later though.  To back track, the week before the Jog-a-thon, I was challenged by a potential sponsor and good friend to do at least 16 laps (4 miles) in the hour allotted.  My friend is an ultrarunner (two 50-mile races under her belt already) and I…..well, I am NOT.  I walk at a 16 minute mile pace, so once I accepted this challenge, I quickly realized it was not going to be a simple walk in the park.  But accepted it I did, and I actually walked/jogged 19 laps in the time period given.  Yay!  Victory!  So glad that is over and won’t have to do that again for another year!

If only that was the end though…  Since then, I have taken on a new challenge (I love friends who point me forward and push me onward in life…spiritually and otherwise) and have been “training” using a Couch to 5K type program.  I have a great encourager and trainer holding me accountable, and once this is posted, a host of mass accountability.  I am not up to running very far non-stop yet, but I’m sure it’ll come with time.  I’m not at all convinced that I’ll be anything like my ultrarunning friends but that’s ok too.  This is a challenge and I secretly love me a good out-of-my-comfort-zone-but-not-totally-out-of-reach challenge.
I’m not sure if everyone who trains for running is like this but for me this is how it works…  I have a set routine about how long I will walk and run, and then walk, run, etc.  I go by either distance or time.   I have heard several people say they love running long distances because it gives them time and space to clear their minds.  For me though, at least in this training program, there is no clearing of mind or even deep inner thinking.  It’s complete focus on goals.  I am fueled by self talk.  I set off for a jog, feeling strong at first, but over the next bit, slowly lose steam and my brain takes over…

“only two laps….only 2 more minutes….1 and a half…..200 meters to go……30 seconds, you can do it…..push, push….ah, time to walk again…..alright, 8:30 mark on my watch is when I have to begin jogging again…..10 more seconds…and we’re off….”

I am CONSTANTLY talking to myself as I work out.  But having a goal in mind, seeing it just ahead and cheering myself on has helped me make most of my goals so far, day by day, quarter mile by quarter mile. 

But this all got me thinking on self talk.  As I mentioned before, I have a great trainer and encourager in my friend, Leah.  She cheers me on every step of the way, even when sometimes I shush her and accuse her of lying in her encouragement.  And sometimes, I am my own worst enemy, especially when I am not running.  If I am not actively engaged in working out, it is very easy for me to discount myself and my value/ability to be an athlete.  But in the midst of a workout, I am my own biggest cheer leader, pushing on and pushing through to hit my goals and not give up on myself. 

Self Talk is powerful.  Positive self talk can get you through the hardest of days, the longest of runs, and the never-ending battle with lies.  Positive talk, in general, can be greatly beneficial but also easily discounted.  I know for a fact, that I would be quick to remind my friends that they are beautiful inside and out.  That they were made in God’s image, made for a purpose, and loved immeasurably.  I could even give Scripture to back up each of those compliments.  But, if someone said that to me, I’d be just as quick to laugh it off, shush it up, and push it away.  “Yes, you are beautiful, but me….I’m a piece of work, I tell ya.”  I know the Truth and am willing to share it and even sometimes push it on others, but I, myself, don’t buy into it. 


This is where self-talk comes in.  That Truth that I know in my head….has it traveled those 12 inches down to my heart and really resonated there?  Am I simply aware of God’s presence in my life or am I abiding in Him, and He in I?  Am I careful which filter I am straining my thoughts through daily… I using the world-culture filter or God’s Word as a filter?  And am I owning that Truth?  I am learning I need to own Truth and then speak it to myself, daily. 

I am beautiful. (Psalm 139:14)
I am made in His image.  (Genesis 1:27)
He is not done with me yet. (Philippians 1:6)
He is good. (Psalm 136:1 and 100:5)
I may fail but He still loves. (1 John 2:1-2; Romans 8:1)
He is here. (Joshua 1:9; Matthew 28: 20; Hebrews 13:5-6)
He is mine. (Psalm 54:4)
I am His. (John 1:12)

What self-talk is going through your mind these days?  God’s Truth or the world’s lies?  Am I alone in this mental/emotional/spiritual battle?  I’d love to hear any stories you'd have to share or tips to offer.

Until next time,
In Christ,
Joy Lynn