God pushes…The Valley of Death.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Psalm 23:4 NIV

The darkest valley. Called the valley of the shadow of death in the KJV version.

Reminds me of our own “valley of death” where Bo and I run. There is no breeze. It’s always hot. And coming up out of the valley on one side is a steep hill. The other side is a gradual 1/2 mile climb.

Hard work on both sides. 

There was a time in my life when I just couldn’t do it. I’d give up and walk instead of run the climbs. Beat myself up along the way because I couldn’t do it on my own.

Last fall, Bo and I led a small group study called Run for God. One of my first realizations was that I could run with God as I ran for Him. Realized if I asked for help and gave my run to Him, He would push me out of that valley.

So many times I have asked God to push me out. Push me up the hill. And every time He has shown up. He was with me.

My legs burning. My breath laboring. Gravity slowing me down. Feels like everything is working against me to keep me from coming out of the valley of death.

I want to stop. Give up. Like so many times before.

I just ask God…”push me up this hill. I can’t do this on my own.” And every time I ask, He does. I know I can conquer those hills and come up out of that valley with His help.

Just like Bo, who has gently put his hand on my back to encourage me and literally, physically give me a push…I can feel God’s hand on my back, gently pushing and encouraging. 

Just like Bo who has spoken words of encouragement to me as we run together…I can hear God’s words of encouragement.

Only when I don’t rely on Him do I fail. Stop. Walk. Give up.

Of course  I can eventually come out of the valley on my own but there is no celebration or feelings of accomplishment. I feel worn instead of rejuvenated. Defeated.

I need that push! I need that encouragement.

I’ve made a habit of asking Him to join me on my run. Mostly because I know I will need His push out of the valley. I know I can’t run out of that valley without help. On my own, I beat myself up. I tell myself I can’t do it. On my own, I fail over and over. I know I need Him in that valley.

And just like I need His help to run out of that valley, we all need His help as we go through low points in our lives.  Times when we feel like giving up. Times of fear.  Failure.  Disappointment.  Trouble. Despair.

If God is SO willing to help me run up this valley of death in my neighborhood, He for sure is willing to help us through our other valleys. We just have to remember to ask him to join us.

I’ve learned that if I ask him to join me on my run before I reach that valley, I have peace and comfort, knowing He is with me….before I ever even reach the first sign of struggle. I’m ready. Prepared.

If I stay with Him on the easy flats and the downhill slopes, I know He’s there. I know I’m not in it on my own. And I can trust him and know He will push me out of those valleys and up the big hills.

Oh the celebration of hitting the top of the valley!

The air is moving…wind hits my face. My muscles that worked so hard feel lighter, stronger.  And my heart swells, knowing that I conquered that valley.

All because of Him.

And let me tell you….we celebrate! Thankfully it’s a not a populated area or I might be a pest with my whooping and hollering.

He tells me every time “see? I told you. Stick with me. I’ll get you out of there.” 

Every time. He never fails me.

I can’t do it without Him. Whether it’s on a run or in my daily life.

I know that in any valley, He is right there with me. Encouraging me. Pushing me. Getting back up on those easy flats. Celebrating success with me. Staying with me.

There will always be valleys of death. Times of need. Struggle. Pain.

With Him, those valleys aren’t as scary. I don’t have to fear because He is with me.

I was run-ning!

It’s been a while since I posted about my running. Ok, well it’s been a while since I posted…anything! A busy fall (full of co-op, field trips, football x2, basketball, and some illness) along with the regularly scheduled program got the best of me. Ha! But that is a different post. I have fun running news to share. 🙂

So we’re still doing Run for God. We are about to finish up week 10 right now. The devotional is going well. I love how each week’s devo seems to go right along with that week’s sermon.

Bo and I have already ran in two AWESOME races this fall.

The first was race in honor of cancer survivors and in memory of those who didn’t survive. It was a pretty emotional run. Our team ran in memory of a past member of our homeschool group. She passed away one year ago. The race actually fell on the anniversary of her death. I didn’t get to actually meet her before she passed but we did get to meet her family on the day of the race. Also my aunt passed away five years ago. The anniversary day of her death was the day after the race. My father-in-law is a cancer survivor after beating prostate cancer this last year. Add in all if the survivors who were there with their teams, the survivors who held up signs to encourage US as we ran, and the pictures people wore of their loved ones who had passed…emotional!! I spent my run thinking about my aunt and praying for the survivors, their families, and the families of those who didn’t survive. Our team theme was Disney and I dressed as Minnie and wore the cutest tutu, several people lined the streets to cheer us on (including some guys from BACA…love those guys!!) so it was also a super FUN run!!

While I ran the 5K race, Bo tackled the 10K and had a GREAT time!! I remember a time last year when Bo laughed at me when I suggested a 4 mile race. He said “there’s no way I’m running 4 miles.” 🙂 Silly hubby. He did 6 like it was nothing!!

Next up was a race I have been waiting to do since I learned about it during my pregnancy….The Color Run!!!! If you’ve never heard of the Color Run, you must google now! It’s “the happiest 5K on the planet!!” It was SO fun!! I loved every minute of it! We’re going to take the boys next year.  I know they will LOVE it!!

So thankful that I was able to even run it. A few days after the Survivor Run, I ran my fastest 5K ever….34:16. It was a great run. I felt good the whole time. No pain at all. So that weekend I ran again pretty hard on Saturday and then we had our Run for God life group that Sunday evening. I ran an even faster pace that night and knew that I was thisclose to a 30 min 5K. My legs were TIRED though from running so hard two days in a row. I really needed a day or two off. So I took Monday off, right? WRONG!! I got it in my head that I was fine and could hit that 30 min 5K. Even though I realized my legs really were sore when i took off running and with the thought that maybe my shoes were too broken down, I kept running anyway. Guess what! I hurt myself. Yep, my calf muscle swelled up about three times the normal size and cramped. I had to limp back to my car. I took the rest of the week off. Tried again on Saturday and still had a lot of pain so I didn’t run that Sunday during group. Took the whole week off, hoping that I would be ok to run in the Color Run.

With new shoes and a sparkling white t-shirt, I took off and felt pretty good. My calf cramped a little but as we ran, it loosened up. We took it slow and even walked a bit (seriously…I soaked up as much color as I could at each color point!!), and by the end I realized I didn’t hurt at all!!

The moral of the story: (That i kinda sorta already knew but I’m a teeny tiny bit stubborn and impatient so sometimes it takes a time or two for these lessons to sink in) From now on, at least one rest day between hard runs and no more than two days of running in a row. Duh! 🙂

So I took a few days off (due to a sinus cold) this week. Bo and I took off for a short 2 mi run last night….and it was AWESOME!!! Felt great. No pain. No problems.

Our next race is Thanksgiving morning. “Um yes I AM having mashed potatoes and gravy….because I ran 3.1 miles this morning, thank you very much” Ha! Hoping for a 32min time but would just die if I hit 30!!! We’ll see. It’s a nice flat run so it could happen!!

My oldest son, Nathan, is running with us….his FiRST 5k!!!! Super excited about that!! I think he really just wants the shirt…..but then again, so do I. Not a bad reason to run!! 🙂

Before the Color Run…
….and after!!!!

Run for God

Have you heard of a training guide called Run for God?  I’m in love.  It’s similar to Couch to 5K but with a devotional.  A friend found it and asked if anyone in our homeschool group would be interested. I was the only to reply so it never came about.  However I emailed it to our Believe pastor at church. She’s over Life Groups and I was hoping this might make a good one. Sure enough, she agreed so we have a Run for God life group starting in a couple of weeks. I am super excited!

I’ve been struggling with my runs since having Joshua.  It seems my body is totally different than pre-pregnancy. I just couldn’t get anything going. So frustrated and down on myself about my FAILURE as a runner that only echoes after my failures as a wife, mom, sister, daughter, friend, sinner….I really just wanted to give up. Give up, go home, and eat as much chocolate as I could stand…every day for the rest of my life. Sound like a plan?

I didn’t think so.  So one morning as I’m preparing to run (*with* my husband, which means we started out together, he quickly ran ahead, and outran me by miles…literally. He rocks and I totally don’t hold that against him.:), I decided this run would be different.  I wouldn’t run for my own needs or desires. I would run for God. Sound familiar? Hey, I’m not above stealing a catchy phrase. Ha! 

Yes, I was thinking of that running program and the significance of the title. Run for God. Why not? Run for His glory (not my own selfish desires), and praise His name every painful step of the way. Give it to him. Let him make or break me.

I still tear up just thinking about that run. I only wanted to run one continuous mile. That’s all. One lousy mile and I wasn’t going to do it for me anymore.  I said “here we go, God” and took off. Oh man, how I wanted to stop and walk a little. Just a couple of steps and then I’d run again, but every time I tried to stop, I would hear “no, not yet.” He was leading me and I determined not to stop until He said to. 

As I rounded the corner and could see the turn that would take me to the one mile marker, I knew it would take everything in me to make it. And it did. BUT I did it. We did it. In the middle of the road, with my fists in the air, that’s exactly what I yelled, “we did it!!! Thank you God.” He knew what I needed and He totally delivered…His way which happened to be the exact way I needed.

Obviously it wasn’t just about a run. It was more than that.  Obedience. Submission. Trust. Faith. Turning it over to the One who makes things happen. Giving up on what I want and only desiring what He wants for me.

It was a miracle mile for me, a turning point, and a wake up to what can happen when I let go and let God.  Every run since has been a Run for God. And every single time He has shown up. Every single run has gotten easier, farther, faster. And every single time I have the most amazing conversations with my God.

Tonight was no different.  It’s been a difficult week. Sickness, heartbreak, exhaustion, and confusion. I’ve wallowed in self-pity. Thought only of how this week affects me. Wondered “why me?”  He spoke to me so plain this afternoon and I knew that we needed a running date.  I needed to give this junk in my head and heart to Him so He can do what He does best….Forgive me and love me past my own selfishness. And tonight….we hit another goal. It was just as amazing as the first. I am just as thankful and humbled.

I love our running dates. My God and me. Hitting the pavement. One step at a time. And just when I think I can’t go one step further, He pushes me. Encourages me. Showers me with grace that I certainly don’t deserve. Clears my head and heart, and sets me on the right path.

I pray that, as we begin this Run for God program, other people will really, truly Run for God and experience the Amazing Grace that I have.  That every time their feet hit the pavement, they will give it all to Him so He can bless them as He has blessed me.  That they will open their hearts to the One who LOVES us so much. That at the end of their run, they feel that rush and, with their fists in the air, say “we did it!!! Thank you God.”