It's time to 'fess up

I've got to keep it real with everyone.  That's just who I am and sometimes it's a bummer.

I didn't post my run on Facebook on Saturday. I didn't even mention it.

I was scheduled for a 7 mile run this Saturday.  Last Saturday I had a great 8 mile run and was able to run it at a 9:45/mile pace. Next week we go back up to 9 miles.

Well, a couple things didn't go right this week and I had a horrible run.  Our runs have been starting at 6AM to avoid the heat of the day.  It takes me about 15 minutes to get to the run site.

What went wrong:

  • I set my alarm for 5:40PM instead of AM. (Dang it!)
  • I do not naturally get up before 6AM so I am pretty reliant on my alarm.
  • I awoke at 5:55AM and needed to be there at 6.
  • I did not eat or drink before I left to meet up with the team.
  • I was hungry when I went to bed the night before.
  • I got new shoes.
  • I usually rest on Fridays, but I ran in order to break in my new shoes a little before Saturday.

So, ugh.  I ran for about 4 miles and was ready to stop.  I pushed through another mile and started to feel strange.  I was feeling light headed and when I started to see spots I decided I'd better walk it.  It was very humbling.  I am competitive but had already decided not to run with my usual partners. So, to still not be able to make it even at the slightly slower pace was so discouraging.  It worked out fine really, I was able to start to run again after just a little bit and probably ran a little over 7 miles in the end.

I'm trying to remember that some weeks are just hard.  I know the contributing factors and the better I take care of myself with good nutrition, sleep and hydration, the easier it is.


Going to keep running

So, the time has come.

Yep - got this beautiful couple at the store yesterday.  They are so gob-smacking beautiful I almost don't want to wear them.  Except, I do and I will.  ASAP!

I went to a real running store (the clerks wear running clothes instead of suits) and got some actual potentially expert advice.  It was like going to a spa after only having gone to Great Clips your whole life.  I felt pampered, appreciated and loved.  I'm totally taking my kids there to get their school shoes.  They better appreciate the cost of all that lovin'.

If you care, the shoes are Brooks Ghost 5.  I wear orthotic inserts (thanks to my parents for the genes) and needed shoes with some stability but not too much.  I've been having some significant foot pain the last few weeks after my runs, so I'm hoping this helps.

I also bought some much needed new socks and they are so beautiful I almost took a picture of my feet.  I told Matt that my feet (size 9!) actually looked cute with these socks.  Note: running socks are not cheap so it helps if they are cute.

Wish me luck!

PS - you can totally support my run here.


Called to be a party host

We felt called.

That's a strange phrase.  It's often mentioned in spiritual circles.  I'm "called" to missions.  I'm "called" to be a parent.  I'm "called" to transfer jobs.

I'm not sure quite what it means.  Calling involves voice, sound and a request.  But, when you do feel called to do something there generally is no audio component.  It's more of a subconscious feeling.  The calling comes from someplace beyond yourself.  And the calling usually pulls you into something you wouldn't normally do.

I think in order to be called you have to be listening.  I have found myself listening more and more.  Instead of pushing that voice away, or using all my insecurities to build a wall around my internal dialogues, I have left myself open.  I'm open to any and all possibilities.  My choice has been to give over my subconscious thought life to God.  To open my heart and ears to His words.  Many prominent thought leaders and celebrities praise the value of opening up your heart and ears to your inner self.  More power to you!  You can do all things through the power of you!  Except those words are meaningless.  At the core of my being, I am imperfect.  At the core of God is perfection.  His words are worthy to be heard.

So, what does this have to do with a party?  Well, Matt & I felt called to offer our home as a meeting place for new families from our church.  Our church is large (2K people) and is a satellite church of an even larger main campus.  We found ourselves with 40 RSVPs and a party to plan.  I was honestly a bit overwhelmed and scared.  Our house is not beautiful and I am not a decorator.  I'm happy to report the party went amazingly well.  Many people really didn't know anyone at the church (even after attending a year!) and were so happy to get to know some people.  We will continue with a monthly get together at our house.  Yay!

Other areas we have stretched ourselves in (being called):
Adopting a refugee family from Burma and making weekly visits.
Helping pack hundreds of thousands of seeds for families in Africa.
Running a half marathon to benefit kids in Angola.
Presenting our refugee story in front of our church and children's ministry (upcoming!).
Making our home more open to others.
Becoming regular Sunday school teachers.
Putting our kids back in public school so they can be a light to others.
Living with less stuff.
Giving away furniture to a young refugee family from Sudan.
Keeping our eyes open to need and opportunity around us.

What are you doing with your calling?  Are you listening?


Ever get blog anxiety?

So, a lot more people are reading my blog.

Good, right?

Perhaps - but I've got a bad case of blog anxiety.  I feel like I need to plan some posts, think more carefully about what I write about.  Definitely don't write anything boring or mundane.

Oops, that's stressing me out.  And, I'm afraid to write anything.

So, honesty rules the day today.

This blog is not fancy, not extraordinary, doesn't do great crafts and certainly won't be teaching you how to bleach your socks back to whiteness.

Me, creative?

But, I do hope to challenge myself a bit to write more creatively, more often and about whatever happens to be going on.  I'd like to document some of the things that are going on in my life.  Why anyone wants to hear about this besides my close friends and family, I may never know.

Glad you are here.  I hope you leave a comment sometime so I can be reminded that there are some real, interested reader people out there.  Not just the ones that searched for "barbie sleeping bags"or "how to dress up like an 80's pop star for halloween", stuff like that.

Okay, thanks, bye.


Welcome to America, Part 3

This is the third in a series of posts that I shared here on my blog. Please read the first and second parts of the story for better understanding.

A tiny population of immigrants can hardly afford a church, or even to share space with an existing church. They meet in two bedroom apartment not much bigger than Suan and Sing's. Zomi people prefer to sit on the floor or on low stools, and so the central room of the apartment is completely emptied of its daily furniture, and thirty or so Zomi sit on the floor. The children meet in an adjacent bedroom, where several mothers teach them Bible stories, songs, and verses. In the main room, we sing hymns and praise songs. The tunes are familiar, but the words are in Zolai. Then prayer requests are shared, followed by a period of congregational prayer. After that comes the sermon, and then more singing and prayer.

One of the young women in the church -- a high schooler who has been in the country for several years -- was assigned to be our interpreter. She translated prayer requests, updates on church members, song lyrics, prayers, and even the sermon. On that day, Suan was asked to deliver the sermon. She translated Suan's heart-melting story as he told the small congregation how his family had rebounded from the brink of despair in Malaysia, and how they looked with optimism toward their future here. 

The next few words from his lips caught me off guard. They needed no translation, for they were my name and Angie's. Our translator leaned over and told us that he was citing Matthew 5, "You are the salt of the earth." He used Angie and I, and the efforts of Willow Creek and Exodus, as an example of how the church can "season" the world, can bring zest and flavor. I looked over at Angie and could see tears in her eyes. We didn't know we were going to be salt. We didn't know we could be salt.

Salt is a funny thing. During certain periods of history salt was so valuable that it was used as currency (giving rise to the saying "worth his salt"). It is used as a seasoning and a preservative. That is, it has both aesthetic value and utility. Humans require salt in our diet. It's necessary for life. And yet nobody sits down to a nice big bowl of salt. We sprinkle it. We mix it. It only performs its function when it is blended with other things. 

Why did Jesus call us the salt of the world?

Suan and Sing are beginning their fourth month in Chicago. In only a few months, they have learned a surprising amount of English, and they have ventured out into the city on buses and trains. Pancakes, it turns out, have become a typical breakfast for their two children. 

Suan worked with his refugee case worker to find his first job. Hearing the other children in the building fluidly switching from the Zolai language of their parents to their newly acquired English reminds me once again how quickly children can learn, and how much hope their parents bestow upon them. 

But more than anything, being invited into this small village of refugees tucked away in an urban neighborhood on Chicago's north side, I have become acutely aware --  through their faith -- that the church, the whole church, really is the salt of the earth. Like the Zomi, spread from their home in the mountains of Burma, salt is sprinkled out, mixed into other things. 

The church can only be the hope of the world when we allow ourselves to be mixed, to be spread. Only then do we bring both the utility and the beauty of God's work to the world.

This is a guest post from my husband, Matt.  Matt is a software developer with an amazing gift for writing. His passions include theology, philosophy, grilling and reading. He wrote this story as a way to share our recent experiences with refugees and the organization that connected us with them. (We have changed some names for privacy.)


Welcome to America, Part 2

This is the second of 3 parts of this story that I will be sharing here on my blog. Please read the first part of the story for better understanding.

It has been a few months since we first met Suan and his wife. Our first visit, the day they arrived from Malaysia, was the day we delivered the welcome pack. With several other Zomi refugees in attendance, as well as a staff member from Exodus World Services (EWS), we opened boxes, made beds, stocked the kitchen, and furnished the small studio apartment. Suan struggled to understand what was happening. Our daughters, while anxious to help, also struggled to understand. At four, eight, and ten, our girls had never before spent a moment of their lives in an environment where English was not the dominant language. Their exposure to non-Americans was scant. And here we stood in a cramped apartment with a dozen other people, struggling to communicate what shaving cream was for or inquiring where they would like their toolset to be.

I would like to say that that first day was an amazing, spirit-filling experience. But I would be remiss if I did not state how difficult those first hours were. Had our EWS friend not taken the initiative to schedule our next visit, I sometimes wonder if I would have just let things go.

But our second trip went better. It was on that trip that we made pancakes. And the third was even better. As we met other Zomi refugees and they became part of our lives, we realized that we had become something like an extension to their urban village. We were, in many ways, the outsiders hoping to be accepted, hoping to understand what was happening.

Suan, it turns out, has a gift for music. He was known in the Malaysian refugee community for his singing, and he is now the worship leader in the small Zomi church that meets in Rogers Park. Our first visit to that church marks a moment in my life that I will never forget.

Follow along with Part 3.

This is a guest post from my husband, Matt.  Matt is a software developer with an amazing gift for writing. His passions include theology, philosophy, grilling and reading. He wrote this story as a way to share our recent experiences with refugees and the organization that connected us with them. This is the second of 3 parts I will be sharing here on my blog. (We have changed some names for privacy.)


Welcome to America, Part 1

"Do you have any questions for us?" Angie asked Suan and his wife through our interpreter, another Zomi refugee who has picked up a fair amount of English in his few years in the United States.

Angie's question set off a series of back-and-forth exchanges in Zolai, the language of the Zomi people. The Zomi are from the Chin territory in Burma. As a minority (strike one), largely Christian (strike two) nation in Myanmar's Eastern border, the Zomi have suffered under the military junta that still controls the Burmese government. Many have fled as refugees, and some of those refugees have been given a home in the Chicago area.

As the chatter died down, the interpreter, Pau, turned back to Angie and said with an embarrassed laugh, "Um, yes… my wife would like to know what the bag of white powder is for." Answering our uncomprehending stares, Sing, mother of two daughters, gesticulated toward the kitchen.

"White powder?" mumbled Angie. Then again addressing Pau, she asked, "Can Sing show us?"

Who would have thought a simple little exchange like this would lead to the fulfillment of one of Angie's childhood dreams?

Angie grew up a stone's throw from Phoenix, Arizona. Having only one sibling, a brother four years her senior, she tended to rely upon her active imagination to fill those scorching childhood summers in the desert. Envisioning herself as Julia Childs, little ten-year-old Angie would stand before her bedroom mirror and host a cooking show. In a matter-of-fact tone, she would walk through the process of beating an egg, mixing dough, or baking a pizza. She was always careful to explain the details to her imaginary studio audience.

As Angie grew up, the practical concerns of everyday life replaced her childhood fantasy. She had all but given up her aspiration to host a cooking show until that very moment when Sing pulled the paper back out from under her sink: All Purpose Flour.

The Zomi people are an agrarian society. In a climate conducive to farming, they grow corn, rice, fruit, and vegetables. Apparently, they do not grow wheat. They had never seen wheat flour, and hadn't any idea how it should be used. And as Angie realized this, a light rekindled in her eyes as she enthusiastically offered to show them how to cook with it.

When Pau translated this to Zolai, Suan and Sing nodded their assent. Someone, I'm not sure who, ducked out the front door of the small studio apartment provided to the refugee family, and called down the hall. The Rogers Park apartment building into which Suan and Sing were placed houses several other Zomi families, and in some ways they act like a tiny village inside of the large urban Chicago building. As Angie was busy finding the necessary kitchen utensils, other Zomi families streamed into the apartment, removing their shoes (as is the custom in Burma) and making a beeline for the tiny five-by-five kitchen nook.

Glowing with the enthusiasm of Rachel Ray, Angie began demonstrating how to make pancakes. Explaining the function of each utensil as she went, she scooped, leveled, mixed, poured, and cooked. Her audience stood rapt, interrupted only rarely by the exclamations of an inquisitive Zomi child.

Fifteen minutes later, the plate of pancakes passed from hand to hand. I'm not sure that our American cuisine immediately won over the hearts and stomachs of the Zomi refugees, but all of the pancakes were consumed. Everyone expressed their thanks to Angie, "lung dam mahmah." Thank you very much. Angie glowed.

Follow along with part 2 and part 3.

This is a guest post from my husband, Matt.  Matt is a software developer with an amazing gift for writing. His passions include theology, philosophy, grilling and reading. He wrote this story as a way to share our recent experiences with refugees and the organization that connected us with them. This is the first of 3 parts I will be sharing here on my blog. (We have changed some names for privacy.)


Only the good? (Thankful Five)

Here sits a nice happy, family blog.  I struggle with posting either only the good in our life, or keeping it real with a bit of the bad.  I also struggle with only wanting to write about the bad (possible venting) and just put up pictures of the good.  Pictures speak for themselves right?  I don't want a picture of tears and fighting.  But, a picture of hugs, laughing and good experiences is awesome!

So - today is a non-picture taking kind of day.  The camera is tucked safely away, possibly it will come out for tomorrow's holiday.  If we can drag ourselves out of the nice A.C. to the suffocating heat, that is.

I think I'd better take some advice from my new friend and co-worker, Carrie (check her out here!).  Let's see what I am thankful for.
  1. A house large enough to find an escape when it's all just too much.
  2. A husband who wakes up when I can't sleep and scratches my back to help me settle in.
  3. The makings for a really good sandwich just happening to be in my fridge.
  4. An upcoming trip for my 10 year old and lots of family to show her love.
  5. A very healthy family at the moment.
Ah - I feel a little better.  Okay - I feel a lot better.  I think that is a practice I need to do a little more often.  I'd love to hear what you are thankful for too!

(Happy thoughts mean...  yep, a picture!)

Last week we visited our favorite Chicago beach.


Running is not my piece of cake.

Running a half marathon is not a piece of cake for me.
How I wish running was this easy.

I feel like it should be easy.  I tend to compare myself to people who have been running miles since they were toddlers and I feel kind of pathetic.

I must battle this - I try to remember that those people are just more obvious because we see them out running all the time.  The rest of us "normal" humans are enjoying hamburgers, french fries and probably too much TV.  We watch people push themselves to their limits and cheer them on from afar.  We don't enter into their crazy world.  We don't really think of trying to push ourselves.  I didn't see any point to it all.

Oh, yes, there is the reward of personal accomplishment.  But I personally don't find that motivational.  I could choose much easier and less tiring ways to succeed.  I could be an expert knitter, an amazing gardener, even being a great cook wouldn't require so much sweat and exhaustion.

So, I have chosen to run for someone else.  To push myself for someone else entirely.  I expect no reward and will really marvel in my success (if I make it!).  I'm running for kids who can't go to school and for an organization that has a proven success rate in building schools for others.  It sounds lame to say I'm running for Africa (at least to me) but it's true.  I'm running for a village and a group of families.  Really, to keep it real for me, I think about the mothers of these kids.  I'm a mother and I so value education for my girls.  I cannot imagine if that was not an option.

I want that to be an option for all kids and a chance for whole communities to push out of their current situation.

Running update:

Currently I have just finished a 6.2 mile run - I'm almost halfway!  I can hardly believe it.  I couldn't run without my team and I look forward to every Saturday morning and our runs together.  I'm also running 3 days a week - varying distances.

Fundraising update:

I am 70% of the way to my goal for this September 9th run!!!  I would be thrilled to blow my initial goal out of the water.  How much is possible for one inexperienced, non-runner, mother of 3, drive everywhere, city girl to raise?!

Join me now!