For those that have been following me for some time know that I have had quite the journey this past year. I have lost 125 lbs since March of last year, 95 lbs of which have been since May of this year. In order to maintain this weight loss pace I had to make some major changes in my life. I was a glutton. I refused to admit that, but, I was a glutton. I lived to eat. I loved to eat. And I looked forward to those occasions when I could gorge myself upon a bountiful feast. I denied my problems and in doing so denied my faith. I ballooned to 367 lbs and couldn’t walk up stairs without my knees sounding much like the stairs. (They both were groaning under my weight).
But, that was the old me. The new me is excited about the direction my life is headed. The new me is thankful that the old me is no more. Don’t get me wrong, food is still tasty. I still am tempted to overeat. The difference is that now it is a temptation and not a constant problem. I meet challenges head on with confidence that my God will give me the ability to succeed. This year I ran a ½ marathon. I have set personal bests regularly in my 10K and 5K runs. And this past month I have been participating in a 100 mile challenge (run 100 miles in the month of November). So far I am at 85 miles, and I have yet to go running today. Due to all these challenges I have succeeded in, I wanted to issue you a few challenges for this Thanksgiving.
Challenge #1: Don’t over eat. I know it is thanksgiving. I know that it is easy to do. But be mindful of what you are eating. Just because you have 10 different sides to choose from doesn’t mean you need to eat all ten sides. Just because you have 3 pies and 2 cakes to choose from doesn’t mean you need to eat a slice of each. Too many of us gain those extra pounds this time of the year. By the new year we feel guilty, vow to lose those extra 5 lbs we gained this year, etc. Give yourself a jump start and have a healthy Thanksgiving.
Challenge #2: Go for a run. Speaking of a healthy Thanksgiving, find a Turkey trot to run this week. If you are in the Grinnell, IA area I know ours starts at 8:30 Thanksgiving morning. It is a quick 5K and you won’t miss anything. In fact, I did this for the 1st time this past year and had a blast. It was a great way to start my day. It helped to set the tone for my eating habits. After working so hard to set a personal best that morning I didn’t feel like overeating. Start your day off right.
Challenge #3: Share. Now to get a little more spiritual. The truth is there are a lot of lonely people out there. People whose family won’t be coming home for Turkey day. People whose can’t afford to purchase a Thanksgiving meal. Share with them. If it is helping to provide the food so that they can cook at home, then do that. If it is providing a place at your dinner table, that would be even better. But, find some way to share. On a day when most Americans are spending time with friends and family and over eating, there is no excuse to find a friend, a neighbor, or a co-worker go without this Thursday. Show some compassion, take the blinders off and reach out and help make someone else’s holiday a special one.
It seems like every year Christmas comes sooner and sooner. This year as I walked through Wal-Mart a couple of days before Halloween to get some last minute costume buying as my eldest failed to inform me he costume didn’t fit I was stunned that I found more Christmas stuff than I died Halloween. It wasn’t even Halloween yet! Yesterday, my wife ran to the grocery store and she distinctly heard Christmas music being played in the store. We aren’t even at the week of Thanksgiving yet, and Christmas music is playing. On yahoo I noticed a black Friday countdown clock. And all I could think was wow. It is the season. The season of excess. The season of wanton pleasures. The season of greed, materialism, and covetousness.
I miss watching the old Little House on the Prairie TV show. It was not just “simpler” times it was a more moral time. The Christmas episodes were always my favorite. The time Laura traded her horse to buy her mother a stove for Christmas brought tears to my eyes. What an amazing sacrifice this young girl made for her mother. While we could say things like, that wouldn’t happen. It is just Hollywood trying to create a feel good moment, Landon created a world where we would believe that such things would indeed happen. Laura was not interested in pleasing herself. She was interested in giving her mother something truly wonderful, and more importantly needful.
While today’s season seems to be about excess, the days of seasons past portrayed something that has been eating at me for quite some time. So, this holiday season, my children are not going to be treated to a smorgasbord of toys. They are not going to be treated to a gluttony of presents. This year, I am taking back my holiday. I want my children to have the type of Christmas’s I had as a child. My all time favorite year was the year a blizzard hit on Christmas eve. We went to grandma’s house as was our custom. This year we went early (normally we arrived at midnight as part of our tradition) because our aunt and uncle were coming in from South Carolina and we wanted to be able to spend the day with them. The blizzard hit a whole lot harder than the weather man expected. We got snowed out. When it came time to go home, we couldn’t make it. We were stuck in town and the only presents we had were the few that were there at the gift exchange. For the better part of the next week we didn’t open our presents. And the truth is, my brother, my sister and I didn’t really care. The best part of our holiday was sitting at grandma’s sleeping on cots, couches, the floor, and laughing, playing and enjoying the company of our family. It was the 1st Christmas I can remember that toys were not the center of our holiday and it was by far the best we ever had.
So, I am taking back my holiday. I want my kids to remember this time of the year for friends, family, and selfless behavior. Yes, under my tree there will be presents. (Just like there was at my grandmother’s house and at the Engel’s home). But, this year will be about giving, not getting. This year will be about others, not self. This year will be about lasting memories, not toys.
As October was coming to a conclusion, my boot camp friends began discussing what we could do next to strengthen ourselves. A few of them had just completed a ½ Marathon, some of them for the very first time. We came across a 100 mile challenge for the month of November. The purpose was to run 100 miles in the month of November. I guess a lot of long distance runners that live here in the north see November-January as a bit of a loll. There is not a lot of long distance runs in these month due to the chilly weather. And since there are not a lot of long distance runs, it can be easy to shut down for the winter. Being that this is my 1st year I consider myself a runner, I was not really aware of this issue. Nonetheless, the challenge was issued. Log 100 miles running/walking in the month of November. 100 is a daunting number. Broken down, that makes 3 1/3 miles every day. That is just a hair over doing a 5k every single day. That does sound so bad. Running three miles is rather easy. But, finding time to run that much every day is not always easy. Especially, if we don’t want to give up all the other things you do to keep in shape (Boot camp, spin, boxing, etc) Add to this that I am a father of 4, I have work responsibilities and other church functions, a Thanksgiving to plan and a slew of other things going on finding time and energy can be complicated. Furthermore, one thing I hadn’t considered is that even when I was training for my ½ marathon I technically never ran 100 miles in 30 days. Just as I hit that point, I ended up getting injured. The most I have logged in a month is 80. So, what is 20 more right? It is exhausting. I have just over 38 miles. (Not too bad considering that we are about a 1/3 of the way through the month).
Sure, I could quit. I could say it is too hard. But, what message am I sending my children? I taught them by my poor example for years that challenges weren’t worth doing. I sat around and told them to try, but never tried anything. And now, am I supposed to tell them only the easy stuff is worth the effort? I think not. If that were the case, I wouldn’t ever be able to encourage them to be Christians. Sure, Jesus said his burden was light. But, the pathway to heaven is not always an easy one. We don’t always have easy choices to make. We don’t always find the road cleared out. Often times it means that we must take up our cross and follow him.
There is a real challenge. Take you the cross, not a pretty necklace, but a symbol of death and suffering, and follow Jesus. Are you willing to be mocked for Christ? Are you willing to be looked at with derision for Christ? Are you willing to be hated for Christ? Challenge yourself. Take up your cross and see where it leads. As I log my 100 miles this month I plan on putting alot of time meditating upon the challenge Jesus gave to me. The sad reality is I quit carrying more often then I like to admit. But, each day is a new day. No longer will I cast it aside because it is too hard. If I can ran 100 miles, I can carry that cross with me every step!
It has been a few weeks since I lasted posted anything. I took a sabbatical for 10 days. I thought unplugging and permitting my heart to be fully dedicated to the Lord would be a good use of my vacation. My family went down to eastern Oklahoma and met up with some other home schoolers and went “camping.” While there we had daily bible studies and devotionals dedicated to the theme of “Giving Your Heart to the Lord.” It seemed like an easy enough task. I was even asked to teach one of the classes for the Jr. and Sr. High kids there. Once the week began I quickly realized that giving your heart to the Lord was much more difficult to do. There are so many things that we permit to distract us from the task at hand. And more importantly, there are so many things that keep us from fully serving him because we love them more than we love God. This lesson, as I said was learned early in the week.
In fact, it was one of the first lessons I learned. During one afternoon, when we had a break to enjoy God’s beautiful creation, a group of us parents took most of the kids hiking. At the entrance to one of the more popular trails there was a good sized rock, a couple of stories tall at its highest point. We have been going there for a few years now and now the kids love climbing on it. We always tell them to be careful and let them climb. For the most part the rock is easy to climb, even my 3 year old can manage to climb it (although she was quickly removed from it). In fact, while I was removing the 3 year old from the rock I heard a blood curdling scream. My blood turned cold as ice. I knew that voice. It was my eldest son’s. I grabbed the 3 year old and dashed towards the crying out of my son. When I found him, he was lying at the base of the rock, clutching his ankle and crying out in pain. In that moment I was not certain of all that was wrong with him. What I did know is that I needed God. I needed God’s strength, wisdom and courage to not let my son see me freak out.
In the moments that followed, which seemed like hours to me, I learned a great deal about my faith. Giving God my heart requires me to give it to him, even when things are bad, really bad. In that moment I had no idea how badly my son was hurt. I didn’t know how far he had fallen. In the moment, I didn’t know how he had fallen. I just knew that he had fallen and that he was in great pain. I said my prayer. I didn’t give any ultimatums. That thought never crossed my mind. I don’t even remember asking God to make certain that my boy wasn’t hurt badly. I surrendered my will to God and simply asked him to give me strength.
When God asked Abraham to sacrifice his own son, Abraham didn’t waiver. He didn’t flinch. He took his son to the mountain God had shown him. He laid his son upon the altar and he was prepared to sacrifice his son when the angel of the Lord stayed his hand (Gen. 22). Giving your heart to God isn’t about asking God to get you out of the hard times, it is about trusting God to get you through the hard times. There is a subtle difference. One asks for the trial to be removed. The other asks that you survive the trial, that is doesn’t break you. As for me, I learned to trust Him. And you know what… he didn’t disappoint. My son was fine. Despite falling more than 12 feet and smashing his ankle against a jagged rock he managed to only have a really bad bone bruise that didn’t keep him down for too long.