Broken

Saturday was quite the experience for me.  I engaged in my first long distance relay run.  We ran from Jefferson, IA to Des Moines, IA.  It was a 75 mile run.  We had a team of 8 which left us with the responsibility of running 2-3 times during the course of the day.  It was a rather interesting day because we had typical Iowa weather.  It was breezy and chilly to start the day.  We had thunderstorms by midday and by the evening it was hot and muggy (at least for those of us from Iowa).  I had one of the harder legs in the race.  I was responsible for the longest single run at 5.8 miles and a grueling 4.4 mile run that had a few big hills and a long climb up another small hill.  My first run went well.  I thought I timed myself wonderfully.  I felt good when it was over and was under the 10 minute mile mark (which is my ½ marathon pace).  While I did have to run in the thunderstorm I was excited that I was able to put some distance between me and the runners behind me.  My second run did not go as well as I had hoped.  It was the hardest 4.4 miles I have ever run in my life.  I have heard about people “hitting walls” while running and I think I really hit it for the 1st time.  It was painful in every way.  My lungs burned, my legs burned.  And I was getting overheated.  I hadn’t properly eaten or taken in liquids that day.  As a result, I stopped sweating.  If you know me, you know I sweat a lot when running.  As I crossed the finish line, I collapsed on the ground.  I gave everything I had to finishing that race.  But the reality was, I felt broken.  I wanted to quit.  I wanted to walk away.  And I honestly felt that I had no business running in any kind of race.  When I got home, my legs started cramping.  I couldn’t walk the 10 feet from my ride, to my truck without painful cramping.  As a result, I dropped my “finisher” glass.  As I looked at the broken glass on the sidewalk I realized I felt just like that glass.  I was broken.  I was defeated.  I felt like I had nothing worthwhile offering.

What a defeatist mindset.  I thought I had gotten beyond all of this “quitter,” “loser” talk 2 years ago when I convinced myself that I can.  And yet, there I was honestly contemplating if I should just quit now because I couldn’t run 4.4 miles.  What happened?  I began comparing myself, and my achievements to those on my team, those running 5 minute miles and those running circles around me.  Of course I am not as good as someone who has been running for 15 years.  Of course I am not as healthy as a person who has taken care of themselves their whole lives.  I spent 30 years of my life eating unhealthy foods, being lazy, etc.  I have only been living healthy for the last 3 years.  And a solid year of that was spent getting all that bad weight off of me.

So, I realized yesterday, I was not that broken glass.  I am not worthless to my team, to my family, to my local church, and most importantly to God.  The broken glass was just a slip of the fingers.  It was not some omen.  It was not some message from God that I should just walk away.  Yes, my confidence was broken. But it was broken because I was looking at life in the wrong way.  It makes me wonder how often those of us struggle with self worth do this to ourselves.  Are we not a good provider because we don’t have Trump’s disposable income?  Are we not a good housekeeper because our home doesn’t look like Martha Stewart’s?  Are we not a good parent because our children are not the best at everything they do?  Are we a failure at work because someone else does it better?  No.  No we are not.  Stop comparing yourself to the best.  Stop comparing yourself to someone else.  When we do that we end up slipping and remain shattered on the sidewalk.

Expecations Verses Reality and My Children

parenting

A few weeks ago, Frederic Gray, a good friend and gospel preacher, stayed in my home while preaching for the special youth seminar the church here in Grinnell hosted.  The whole week was filled with all wonderful lessons and I got extra spoiled as I got special one on one time with him to talk more about the lessons each night.  In one of his lessons he talked about the key to lifelong happiness.  In that lesson he talked about our expectations verse our reality.  When our expectations fail to meet our reality we end up feeling discouraged.  When it happens over and over it can destroy any hope of happiness.  The problem is not that they don’t match.  It happens to us all.  When it becomes a real problem is when we try to fix that inequality.  More often than not we try to change the reality.  And more often than not, reality isn’t changing.  Thus, we end up in a seemingly endless cycle of sadness and discouragement.  As we discussed this lesson, I began to wonder how much I hurt my children’ hope of happiness by pushing them into this endless cycle.

My eldest daughter loves to run.  Her love for running is what got me into running.  It was something that we could do together.  She has run several 5ks.  She competed in cross country this year and currently is participating in track and field.  My daughter is not the fastest kid.  She is not winning ribbons.  While she is on the cusp of being able to place (just a few seconds here and there), she hasn’t gotten there yet.  Last night, while watching her compete I caught myself doing something very dangerous.  I caught myself setting her up for failure.  I was expecting her to do better than she can do right now and showing started seeing in her eyes disappointment.  Her reality was not measuring up to my expectations and she was getting discouraged.  While I would always encourage my children to do their best, I need to be certain that they understand that I am always proud when they do their best.  I need to be certain that they understand that I am always proud when they try hard.  There is always going to be someone faster, stronger, smarter, etc.  I don’t want to be that Dad that yells at the coach for not permitting my son or daughter to be the starter.  I don’t want to be that Dad who ends up trying to either relive his glory days or have a glory that he never had through his children.  I don’t want my children growing up believing that despite their best efforts that they disappointed me.

 

Spinning out of Control

spinning disc 2456.jpgOver the past month I have been suffering from the sensation of vertigo.  In case you don’t know, vertigo is the sensation of feeling dizzy.  It is much worse than merely being lightheaded (a sensation that I have felt on a number of occasions as well).  It literally feels like the world is spinning around you or that you body is being pulled to one side or in my case a combination of the two.  Most of the time when I have these “attacks they are rather short lived, but this last month they have been intensifying and lasting longer with each attack.  This past Saturday night the attack started around 9:30 at night.  I took some Dramamine in hopes of aiding in the intense nausea I was feeling (as well as putting me to sleep).  The spinning sensation lasted until about 7:15 the next morning.  I woke up several times in the middle of the night feeling like I was being tossed from the bed.  The rest of Sunday morning was seemingly going just fine.  That is, until our song services began.  I couldn’t shake that spinning sensation.  They continued to intensify to the point that I couldn’t stand in the pulpit when it became time to preach that morning’s sermon.  It was a humiliating experience.  I wanted to be there.  I was wanting to serve God.  My body was keeping me from it.  As I was helped to a pew I was hit with yet another sensation.  Fear.  The fear that this wouldn’t go away.  Panic set in and I had to get outside.  I wanted to cry.  It wasn’t fair.  I have been working so hard to fix my health problems (obesity caused health problems) and how I have a new health condition that every doctor told me I can’t do anything about it but wait until by brain recalibrates.

I no longer just had the sensation of spinning out of control.  I now felt like my world is spinning out of control and there was no way to stop it.  Feeling like you have no control of your life is a very scary thing indeed.  Millions of people with anxiety disorders suffer from that very condition.  It suffocates them, it overwhelms them and leaves them feeling helpless.

Believe it or not this is where God comes in.  To feel overwhelmed and to feel like your world is spinning out of control is not a new sensation.  Many “God fearing people” have had that feeling.  Elijah was so overcome by worry and trials and tribulations that he felt it was better to die than to continue feeling that way in I Kings 19.  David once wrote, “Have mercy upon me, O LORD; for I am weak: O LORD, heal me; for my bones are vexed (Psa. 6:2).”  According to Strong’s Dictionary of  Bible Words, vexed means “to be alarmed or agitated.”  Inward parts feel just that way when I am under a vertigo attack or feeling panic stricken.  David, while feeling that way, cried out asking for mercy.  Asking God to heal him.  My doctors don’t have a solution, but my God does.  He promised Paul that in our weaknesses is where he is made strong (II Cor. 12:9).  I will trust that God will be strong in me.  And if I must suffer many more days with this feeling of spinning out of control I will trust in God to give me whatever I need to get through these difficult days.  He will have mercy on me and all that call and trust upon him!

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Painting my Garden with Beautiful Roses (Part II)….My ‘Sultry Red ...

Sweet, so would I,
Yet I should kill thee with much cherishing.
Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow

I think I can go on record as saying this has been one of the more difficult years I can remember having. And more specifically, it is one of the more difficult months I can remember having. A few years ago I experienced what I considered the worst month of my life. I had to say good bye to one of my favorite aunts, a long time friend in the church, and my father’s best friend had a near fatal accident at work. All of this right around Christmas. It was supposed to be the 1st Christmas I spent at home with my parents in a decade. It was really hard on me and the kids. But, this year has trumped the sorrow I have felt that year.

For those following this blog for some time know about my own loss. It has easily been one of the more difficult things I have had to deal with. I know that people have miscarriages all the time, but that doesn’t lessen the blow this had on me personally. At the same time I learned that one of my best friends was having complications in her own pregnancy. The doctors weren’t even certain that her little girl would survive birth. God surprised them all. She was beautiful in every way. And every time I saw her picture I was reminded of the wonderful grace and love of God. Over the last two weeks I have needed that reminder of God’s grace and love. My aunt passed away. Her funeral was this past Monday which is why you never saw a post from me last week. A young man here in town tragically passed away. His funeral was Friday. On Saturday morning, I learned that my friend’s daughter went home. Her struggles in this world are over. And on Sunday morning, a family in our congregation lost a beloved sister (and aunt).

I know and I get that death is a part of our world. I know that I cannot blame God for what man brought into this world when he sinned (Rom. 5:12). I know that God loves us more than I could possible know (John 3:16). And I know that God understands the pains of having a child die. But, often times I look at weeks like this and think why? Why does this have to happen? We things get this bad I start to feel like I am coming apart at the seams. Why does saying goodbye have to be so hard?

To Those That Make Their Wives “Football Widows”

football

I love seeing the different seasons that come and go each year, but no season excites me like football season. There is just something about watching this sport that can keep me captivated for an entire weekend. If you are lucky enough to live in certain communities, Friday night lights kick off our festivities. Saturday is an all day event. College football can be watched from morning until evening with seemingly countless games on every channel. And of course Sunday brings us the NFL. And two bonus games have been added to the NFL schedule throughout the years. We now have both Monday night and Thursday night football. Nearly every day provides us with a reason to watch the game. To the rabid fan, this can be considered nirvana.

But, to the wives of those whose lives become consumed by football, it is 6 months of not having their husbands around. I don’t remember the 1st time I heard the phrase, but it certainly is applicable. During football season, many wives become football widows. Their husbands tune out parenting responsibilities, the quit working on jobs around the house, yards don’t get mowed, projects are forgotten, and wives are neglected. Yes, I know that some of you men have wives or girl friends that are football fans. But, not every woman is into football the way many men are. As such, men, we need to be mindful of what we are leaving behind when the games come on.

As I said, I love football. I will watch football even though my beloved Bears lose. I will watch football even though my college team can’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag. But, I cannot love football so much that I love it more than I love being a father, a husband, and a child of God. So, what can you do to assure that your wife knows that you haven’t abandoned her?

Don’t make your week all about football. Yes, there are games on seemingly every day. However, that does not mean that you need to watch every game that is on TV. Just because you play fantasy football doesn’t meant that you have to catch every pass, every sack, and every touchdown. It takes 15 minutes to jump on line and check the stat lines for your team. One of the easiest ways to not make your week about football is to schedule certain games with your wife that you desire to watch. My wife knows that if the Bears are on, I am watching the game. The other games are games I would like to watch. However, my wife knows that those are games that I am not emotionally invested in as I am not a fan of the Packers, Lions, Vikings, etc. As such, she knows that if she needs my attention, a project done, or someone to talk to that she can ask for it during those times. But, more importantly, I don’t bother turning those games on if there are things that need done. If she needs a few hours to herself, I can be a dad and play with my kids.

Don’t make football your life. I know that we can be a bit fanatical about sports. But men, when your wife needs your attention, turn the sound off or better yet, turn the TV off and let her know she has your attention, even when your favorite team is about to score. She needs to know that she is the love of your life and not your favorite sports team or favorite player. One of the biggest reasons marriages fall apart is because husband and wife are not talking to each other. Don’t be that couple. Give your wife the attention she deserves. Let me put it like this, when you make petitions to your God, how would you feel if he isn’t really listening because he is distracted with things he deems more important than you? Would you not feel frustrated if you felt God replies to your prayers with a “Yea, Yea, Yea, I’ll get to that in a moment.” If we wouldn’t want God to half-heartedly listen to our requests and petitions, why would we ever listen to our wives with the same disdain for her feelings?

Get out and play the game. If you really want to make football a bigger part of your life, pick up a pigskin and throw it around with the kids. Your children are not going to want your attention all the days of your life. There will come a time when they won’t want to hang out with you. There will come a time when you will cease to be their hero. Use the time you have wisely. Teach them to love football by helping them to correlate football to time dad spent with them, not time dad spent glued to the TV all weekend ignoring them.