Running, Running.

I’ve been running a lot lately.

For the last 10 weeks, actually. It started with a local 10k, which led to another 10k, and a husband inspired to train for a marathon (thanks, Chip Gaines).

So for the last 8 weeks especially, I’ve been intentionally training and putting in the miles.

I don’t know what it is about this week, but I’ve been exhausted. We had a race this past weekend that I put my all into and I’m not sure if I burned out, or if the heat has gotten to me, or if I’m just tired. But my regular runs feel as difficult as they did at the beginning of our training! This might be why today’s run was extra introspective, a feeble attempt to distract my body from it’s pain.

The reality is I’ve been running for a lot longer than 10 weeks, friends. It’s my nature.

Fear? run away.

Conflict? run away.

Doubt? run away, hide.

Loss? Run away, run, run, run.

Anger? You better RUN away.

This has been a hard year in a lot of ways. God is pruning, I am remembering; God is moving and I am finding my emotions out of control. I’m often scared and sad, grieving so many things both good and very bad. I am afraid of the future and afraid to stay in the present. I’ve adopted an attitude of life that I need to just run and get it all over with before it hurts. Yet I so long to leave something meaningful behind. Is that even possible?

You can imagine how this makes me less of a joy to be around.

And yet, God is so faithful.

John 15:1-17

Sometimes on a run I think “go faster, just push it and you’ll be done sooner.” But, if I’m already tired, or I’m running mile 1283 for the week, my body rebels and I burn out too soon. Other times I think to myself, “this is a good speed, settle into this and enjoy the ride.” (I’ll admit that second message isn’t as prevalent as the first, but it happens on occasion. Thank You, Holy Spirit!)

Today I was reminded of how I so need that latter message in my life. My passion and my calling and my ideals have told me that God wants me to produce, to do big things, to not waste a minute.

I’ll show You, God! I am good at this!

But how often does my striving leave me too depleted to actually finish out a mission well? How often am I so empty from trying that I can’t even think of pouring into a relationship? How many times have I collapsed into my bed, too exhausted to do the things that matter like love my Jesus, or talk to a friend?

When I was around 8 years old, we had a field day at my home-school group. There was a race for my age class. I remember being so excited, itching to go at the starting line. “*POP* GO!” sounded in my ears and I bolted. I can honestly see the whole scene now as if I was a bystander. I took off, a solid distance ahead of my peers. Giving it all I had, showing I was so capable, so good at running, and then suddenly I got about half way and completely ran out of energy. My legs grew weak, my lungs were burning, my heart was racing probably harder than ever in my life.

Then all of my little peers started sneaking past me, inching further and further ahead as I slowed down to a walk.

I burned out because I didn’t pace myself. I didn’t understand what it meant to start out slow, warm up, and keep a steady pace until the end.

Isn’t it funny how we learn the same lessons over and over again?

“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself, it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.”

Stay with Me, walk with Me in each season: hard or easy. Joy or pain. Let Me carry it, child. Let me carry it all. Don’t run away.

Remain in Me in every area of life. It’s not your accomplishments, it’s not your trying, it’s My love and My Spirit that accomplishes the work. Just love Me as I have loved you.

Slow down. Don’t run from the bad stuff, because it’ll make you miss the good stuff.

Just like I constantly need to pace myself when I’m putting in the miles, I need to remember that this life, this calling, this gift of existing that I’ve been given is not about how fast I can do it all. It’s not about how well I hold myself together. It’s not about accomplishing all these things that will impress God.

Because I can’t do that. My own strength will fail, my own emotions will betray me, my striving will leave me empty.

I’ve got to slow down and remain in Jesus, letting Him have every moment: good and bad.

I teach it, I preach it, but it’s sometimes so hard to live it. I’ve got to let Him have all of me: the good and the bad.

No more running away.

Sing My Way Back

Go ahead and listen to this as you read. Then watch it at the end for good measure.

 

Sometimes seasons of life come with confusion. You take a risk, jump in, only to find that what you thought would be an exciting and soul-filling swim turned out to either be a puddle, or worse, torrents of huge waves that you can’t keep your head above.

I’ve always been an idealist. I’ve always wanted to change the world. I’ve always been emotional and passionate. Yet, as we all grow up and I see more of the world, I’m reminded that only Jesus can save us. I can’t change people, I can’t keep people alive, I can’t fix all the broken hearts and families and relationships.

I could take that news and spiral into sadness. I could throw in the towel and forget all of my ideals. Believe me, some days I do.

When I lose direction, and when I can’t see the stars; If we get disconnected, I’ll sing my way back to Your heart. I’ll sing my way back to Your arms.

I’m here to say that even in the midst of my abundant weakness, my struggles, my flaws, I have found (again and again) a God who is faithful and true.

A God who breathed galaxies into existence and still cares about my broken heart over a little boy who spilled his soda at a basketball game. A God who gave humankind every opportunity to choose Him and experience incredible life and love even when they defied Him, and still picks me up every time I choose to ignore Him and fall on my face.

People are broken and messy (I’m up there in the rankings) and I’m still trying to be okay with that. Life doesn’t always look the way I want it to, but I’m still constantly surprised by Grace. Because in the midst of what looks like a loss, there’s always a greater story being written. He is not finished yet.

Praise the LORD.
How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise Him!
The LORD builds up Jerusalem; He gathers the exiles of Israel.
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.
Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit.
The LORD sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.
Sing to the LORD with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp.
Psalm 147:1-7 NIV

I’ll keep reaching for the Star-Naming-Heart-Healing God of all.

 

P.S. A huge thank you to Steffany Gretzinger for writing this song and sharing such a beautiful live performance. I have cried and felt so much comfort from watching this some 100 times this week. ❤

April 13th, 2016

Excited about the future and all the p o s s i b i l i t i e s.

There’s so much I don’t know, so much I can’t guess. But I’m ready to try.
I think that one of the beautiful things about living is we get to choose to experience things. We get to choose to pursue people. We get to choose where we live, and how we feel about it. We get to choose to be.

For awhile I was beginning to think I had no choice in anything, but that was a lie.

I get to choose to live happily
purposefully
joyfully.

What a blessing it is to be alive.

I don’t know about you, but looking back and reading what I wrote in the past sometimes brings me so much encouragement.

I could have written this yesterday and it would have been equally relevant. On the one hand, it’s exciting that life is always changing. On the other hand, it’s silly how often I have to relearn the same things.

This is a season of taking new steps, finishing chapters, and lots of unknowns. If April 13th, 2016 Hannah were to see me now, I think she’d be surprised at how much joy those changes brought. Maybe that’s what Jesus wants me to remember, after all.

He is always faithful, patient, and good. So, I’ll say it again:

What a blessing it is to be alive.

I Know God is With Me

Today I am thankful for God’s little gifts throughout the day, at the moments I needed them most, reminding me that no matter what is happening around me: following Him is the way to perfect peace.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” -Isaiah 26:3 NIV

When a wise, encouraging friend shows up at the perfect time to listen when I need an ear, and then says exactly what I need to hear, I know God is with me.

When my mom walks into my workplace at the exact time I’m taking my lunch break, and it’s 2:30pm, I know God is with me.

When I took a shaky step of obedience the day before a door was shut, I know God is with me.

Some days it feels like everything falls apart at once and your left with your mouth wide open and your insides shaken.

But then you remember that every day is new, and nothing happens outside of His gaze, and everything works out for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8).

My God is a God who speaks life into things that are dead and calls into being things that are not (Romans 4:17) and I started this journey by faith, and so by faith I will press on.

Because I love Him, I trust Him, and I know God is with me.

Because I’ve been reading His word and I know He is not surprised by anything, I know He is worth more than everything.

I know God is with me, and there’s nowhere else I want to be.

What I do when I’m losing my mind.

You’ve been stuck inside your house for so long you can’t remember what the sun feels like. Everything starts feeling really heavy.
You want to sleep, but you also don’t, you feel like everything’s falling apart.

Do you know what I mean?

Suddenly it makes sense to throw a 3 year old style tantrum and curl up on the floor until you find motivation to get up.
You just want to scream or cry or run away, but also do none of those things at the same time.

Anybody out there hearing this?

If you live in the Northeast, or know anyone who does, you probably know that we got a typical March Northeastern Storm this weekend. Upstate NY is used to it, but we still got hit with a solid 20 inches of snow, and it was heavy and wet enough to cause large-scale power outages across the state.

I took these pictures today, so things are already starting to melt and clear up. But yesterday went from being an exciting, novelty snow-day where my husband and I got to hangout together and be cozy in our apartment, to me feeling like I was trapped inside of a cell and I couldn’t get out.

Dramatic, I know. The brain is weird.

I had such great plans of getting my homework done early, spending time in the Word, finishing up a few projects, and watching a movie with my husband.

But then the power went out and I couldn’t do anything:

  • no homework
  • no projects
  • no productivity

As the sun went down, so did my attitude.

Even the next morning I had such a weight over me that I wanted to just give up (that was after a sweet hangout with my family and their generator, and my husband’s tireless love, praise God).

So, what could I do? I wanted to scream and cry and hide in my bed until I hated myself so much I slept for days. Real talk here.

But I didn’t. Instead, I did these 3 things:

1. I opened my blinds and let the sunshine in.

Honestly, I know myself, and when I can’t go outside and get fresh air or sunlight, I start to lose it. Yesterday proved that in a real way. SAD is a real thing, people. Just opening my blinds and feeling those rays made me realize I wasn’t completely dead yet.

2. I cleaned my kitchen table.

It wasn’t like my house was a disaster, but to me it felt like a disaster. So I cleaned my kitchen table off and made it look nice. Just that simple action of clearing a space and throwing away some trash made me feel so much lighter. I was reminded that I had today, a fresh, clean start to be productive and to get things done. Yesterday may have been a wash, but today was clean and new.

3. I turned on some worship music.

Classic spiritual warfare. I knew that a lot of my struggle was that I wasn’t reaching out for help. Instead, I was letting my negative emotions spill over and pour out on my husband (and it got kinda messy, yikes). I needed to change the atmosphere, and after doing the first two things I mentioned above, it was easier to focus on what was really necessary.

Turning on these songs helped me to remember that my struggle is not my own. It was like a baby step of obedience; by changing the atmosphere in my apartment, I was saying: “Jesus, I know You’re the One who can help me the most.

 

None of these ideas are new or revolutionary, nor do I consider this an exhaustive list. But, sharing my real struggle this weekend might resonate with someone. I don’t always have it all together, and multiple times I have to say, “Josh, I’m struggling”.

I realize that I am surrounded by grace, and I have a God that is so loving and patient with me. I’m thankful that my bad days aren’t who I am, nor are they the whole story.

Sometimes taking a tiny thread of motivation and doing something simple will help you remember that you’re not finished yet.

Finally, here’s a beautiful song that I feel sums this up completely; give it a listen if you want to be inspired.

 

Thanks for reading, you are dearly loved.

Walk.

I’m sitting in the cold church, with my laptop, on an office chair, at the table that usually holds snacks on Sunday mornings and chatting teens on Friday nights; my husband is painting the nursery just down the hall. It’s 8:46 pm and I’m working on theology homework, thinking about curriculum within ministry, pondering what tomorrow’s youth group will look like, praying for direction, and sipping cold LaCroix while I’m still wearing my coat over-top of my jacket because it’s colder in here than outside.

Isn’t this the life I dreamed of having? Aren’t these little moments the ones I lived for?

I remember being 17-ish and hearing God say something along the lines of “your life is not going to be normal.

At first I thought that meant a million exciting things, and I was ready to sell everything I had and give my last dollar away to the poor. I was fired up and nothing felt more worthy than the King of Kings, Jesus, and whatever plans He had for me. But “abnormal” doesn’t always mean “special”, unless you look at it that way.

Now I realize, when I’m staying up until midnight every night pulling together all the loose ends of my days that are full of a thousand things:

maybe not being normal means saying “no” to things that most would say “Yes, yes!” to.

maybe not being normal means giving away every extra minute to try and show love to people who don’t receive it.

maybe not being normal means giving away the things that feel comfortable.

maybe not being normal means taking the risks that don’t have explanations.

In 2011 we drove over the river to bring a friend home and I heard Him so clearly,

“Do you want to walk on water?”

I said, “yes!” and thus began the greatest summer of growth I’ve ever had. It doesn’t make sense to the human mind, I can’t explain it through science or logic or simple terms. But I know Him, I trust Him, and each step I take in faith brings more joy than I can explain.

So, this week as I walked over the river, again and for the thousandth time, I felt this same sense of asking:

“Will you follow Me, no matter what?”

How can I say anything but yes?

Stay tuned, friends.

May 9th, 2016

Wanting so desperately to be heard in a world full of voices speaking so loudly, I find myself wondering: How can I speak loudly enough to be heard? How can I move mountains with a faith that is so small? How is God so backwards, and still my soul longs after His ways? What in the world has made my longings so opposite from the rest of the world?

In the midst of all the noises and rushing and striving and wondering,
I hope that there is growing and stretching and strengthening and surviving.

Because what I’m more afraid of than anything is wasting my life.

I still believe I have a fire inside.

Not much has changed, and I am okay with that.