Bataan Training: Week 3 :: Running is spiritual

Thanksgiving was this week, if you can remember through your turkey and pumpkin pie comas. A total of 13 miles were run, which is definitely not spectacular; HOWEVER, I personally had two amazing runs, and that in my book beats running a couple more mediocre runs.

Wednesday I ran 5 miles on the treadmill at Soto Gym on  post. It was a progression run, which means that I got progressively faster as the run went on. I started out at an 11:00 pace and finished at a 9:13 pace with a final time of around 53:00. I. Felt. AWESOME. Like I conquered the world. If 5 miles is all it takes….

We were supposed to get up early-ish yesterday and run an 8-mile loop around the neighborhood. Well, in all laziness, we decided that we’d run today after church. Harvest Christian Center is on the west side, and is located among a few long roads with either sidewalks, a paved trail or a nice wide shoulder that connects with Transmountain Road.

These photos do not even do it justice. At the bottom of the mountain you’re at about 4,000 ft, and climb to 5,280 at the top of the road. There are still 2,000-3,000 feet to go as the peak is about 8,000 I believe. Anyway, since I forgot to take my camera today, this will have to suffice.

Our climb was about 554 feet over four miles. It was a nice, slow, gradual incline. On the way up, we had views of the bluest sky I’ve ever seen (maybe it just looks so blue because of all the desert deadness flora and fauna). We could also see Transmountain Road stretching out before us, cars speeding past at 60+ mph. We had a wide bike lane, though, so I felt pretty safe. I also ran on the rocky shoulder of the bike lane since Bataan will be rocky in some places.

I never liked hill training before we got here. Now, I don’t have a choice. I wish I could describe to you the exhilaration of coming down the mountain. Sure, you’ve sped down a hill on your bicycle, or ridden a roller coaster. But until you’ve propelled your own body with your own feet and your own strength, there’s no comparison (though I’ve been told skydiving is quite a rush…..) Now imagine that with uninterrupted views of Texas, Mexico and New Mexico and you’ve got it made. Ahhh. It was perfect.

At mile 7, I fell. On concrete. I must have tripped over a crack or something… but it hurt. I almost started crying. It’s been quite awhile since I skinned my knee. Aaron was already a little ahead of me since I gave him the OK to kill the last mile. He stopped, came back to help me up and I told him to GO! So he did, and I finished out my last mile really strong.

It was an amazing run.

I was thinking about this blog pretty much the whole time I was running. Running is spiritual. I don’t mean in some weird new-agey way… though it may sound that way to some.

When I run, long distances especially, I am completely aware of all my physical failings. My chest hurts, my lungs burn, and my legs feel stiff. Going up inclines only exacerbates these symptoms. But I also am paradoxically aware of how fearfully and wonderfully we are made. I know that we are made, by an all-loving Creator. In case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve been on the other side, weighing  evolution and its plausibility. I never used to think science and the Bible could go together, much less complement one another so perfectly.

Something that stuck with me from a podcast is that the world is always going from order to chaos, not the other way around. Even in science, order does not come from chaos. If you let your yard grow and grow, it becomes chaotic with weeds and unruly grass. If you let yourself eat whatever you want and never exercise, your body inside and out becomes chaotic. If you don’t manage a relationship, it gets chaotic and can possibly end. How does it make sense that order, meaning humans, plant life, animals, the food chain, the water cycle, everything could come from complete chaos?? It totally defies laws and theories of science, not to mention the principles of the Bible.

It’s totally amazing to me that our bodies even have the capacity to run long distances… the stress we can put on our bodies is amazing, and yet all our systems work together to sustain us. I’m no science expert, but I know that the skeletal, muscular, cardiovascular and many other systems have to work properly and in some sort of order to sustain movement and stress for that long. It’s incomprehensible to me every time I complete a long run. I guess that’s one reason I absolutely love long distances.

The other thing that makes running spiritual to me is the community of people it involves. People from all walks of life, races, backgrounds and ability levels can come together for one sole purpose (no pun intended). We wave at each other while running opposite directions, but it’s much more than a wave. It’s a mutual understanding of the time, preparation and physical sacrifice one makes.

I haven’t been posting things I’m thankful for every day in November, but I have a couple for you for today.

  • I’m thankful for my healthy body. This morning during service I was feeling my heart rate go all over the place and was a little worried about my run. But as the morning went on, I felt better and felt my best while running those eight miles!
  • I’m thankful for all of my running partners, ones I’ve met (Gabi, Regina, Karen) and ones I haven’t (Darcy in Germany and Natalie in Washington State). I have been so blessed to get to know these amazing ladies, and also blessed that they too love the Lord. It’s so amazing to share these parts of our lives. I hope to meet Darcy and Natalie and run with them someday, though they’d both probably leave me in the dust. 😉

I have so much more that I could write about concerning running and the Bataan Memorial Death March… but I’m going to carb up with turkey and noodle soup and ice cream. 🙂

Our “first” Thanksgiving

It’s past midnight in “chilly” West Texas. Wife has just completed a knitting project after seven literal straight hours of knitting… Husband is playing Skyrim in the other room. It’s been a blessed and great day, complete with a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.

2008 was the first year we were married. We spent the day with either one of or both families. Don’t remember. Either way, I didn’t make but a side dish.

2009, I visited him in Arizona and we stayed at a great resort in Phoenix.

2010 he was in Korea, 6,000 miles away.

2011. This year we were away from family, but we have each other. We made a full dinner: turkey, giblet gravy, stuffing, oven-roasted sweet potatoes, corn bread casserole (those were both new creations) and pumpkin cheesecake. It was all delicious, and I was very proud of my off-the-cuff corn bread casserole made in the crockpot.

That’s dinner. Yum.

Last night I had a little breakdown. We went to the hospital to see our small group leaders.. the husband had three stints put in near his heart. We got home and I was freaking out because we didn’t know when we were going to cook the turkey. We had planned to run the 5K this morning and then stay downtown for the parade… but would we leave the oven on all day?? By the time we were talking about it, it was too late to cook it last night.

I was feeling lonely, besides… lonely to really be away from family for the first time. Lonely because sometimes our house can feel empty without children or even a dog…

I expressed this to Aaron. And then I felt like a huge jerk. He knows what it is to really spend Thanksgiving alone, thousands of miles away from family. Skyping last year was great, but still isn’t the same. At least I had his family and mine.

Even after I apologized 17,562 times, I still felt like a jerk. What a paradox, being glad we’re together but taking it for granted all at the same time.

Our solution to the emotional issues (and the whole cooking-the-turkey thing) was to stay home today.. all day.. and just be together. I didn’t put on any makeup or decent clothes; we stayed in PJ’s all day until we took some Turkey Day dinner over to our small group leaders’ house. Then we came back and changed back into PJ’s.

Happiness today really hit me when we were snuggled on the couch with fresh hot coffee and a piece of pumpkin cheesecake, just being together, safe and warm (you know, because it’s sooooo cold here in El Paso. You can tell by my parka in the above picture.)

Moral of the story is that we had a wonderful day, and after watching a late-night news special on Afghanistan, we are so thankful to be together and safe. Most likely, next year we will be again thousands of miles apart. I also realized yet again that it takes two, not necessarily four or six, to make a family. He is my family.

The rest of the weekend is up for grabs, and I could not be more excited. The only things we really have planned are decorating for Christmas (yay!) and going for our long run on Saturday morning. (More to come about Bataan… not sure we’ll be able to do it this time around. :()

Hope all of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving… and remember and cherish what is really important.

Bataan Training: Week 2

I started counting this week on Tuesday, since we did our long run on our day off on Monday.

Wednesday: 3.13 miles

Thursday: 4 miles

Saturday: 7 miles

Total: 14.13 miles

It’s hard to get up early. I hate it. I lay in bed like I’m paralyzed, not wanting to move. But I know as soon as I do, it’s closer to getting done with the run. And then I feel great, especially when looking at the mountains through the eyes of the early morning sun. I should take a picture, but they’re usually a reddish hue with the washed-out moon peeking over the top. The sunrise almost always starts out dark blue topped with bright orange.

This morning, we planned to do 7 miles, five of those in the canyon. I was a little nervous… not gonna lie. We planned our route so that almost the whole 3.5 miles in were uphill. That was a good plan. I felt like an elite runner on our way back down.

Yeaaaahhh. +900 ft in about 3.5 miles. In the Bataan course, we ascend about 1300 ft over four miles. I’d say we’re off to a pretty good start. We had a decent headwind, probably 15-20 mph, and after we turned around it was still coming at us. I don’t quite understand that, but this wind is Texas wind. Just sayin’. We picked up our pace dramatically after beginning to go downhill. My pace before turning around was (gulp) probably between 15:00 and 16:00. On our way back, it increased to 10:00 or so. It felt AMAZING. I felt so strong, like I conquered, well, a pretty big hill. Here’s an illustration for you visual learners:

Hilarious, because it’s true.

Anyway, we need to find some sand to run on. You’d think it’d be easy here in the high desert, but no such luck. We need a big sandy hill, so for a couple long runs we may need to take a little trip to White Sands itself. I want to be prepared and know what I’m in for with this race. 25% of people drop out during because they’re not prepared. I want to be part of the 75% for sure.

I stumbled upon a (cheap!) half marathon right at the perfect time in our training. It’s in January on post… only $20 for active duty military and $35 for all others. I’ve never run a half in a race before, so it’ll be a new experience for me.

Overall so far I feel strong and confident. I’m so glad I’ve gotten over that slump I felt for the first few months of being here. We are SO killing our 19-miler in Illinois… it’ll be flat, for the most part, and at 700 ft above sea level. Maybe we’ll take on Grandview Drive. 😉

Feeling blessed

Even last pay period when we had just a few dollars until payday, I felt blessed. Blessed that we didn’t go in the red, blessed that we were “broke” because we chose to pay extra on debt. I am so incredibly determined to get the rest of it paid off! This pay period we were able to pay another decent chunk. It feels good to get back into paying extra because the past several months have been a little crazy with job changes, moving and honestly, spending more fun money than we should have.

However, we’re back on track. And just to let you know, I’m not shy about talking about money. I wish more people weren’t so secretive about it. I don’t tell just random people about our debt woes or anything, but I like to get it out in the open what we’re accomplishing and that anyone can do it. And this is on a modest middle-class income.

At the end of this month, we will have paid off close to $27,500! That is roughly 44% of the debt we started with. It’s hard to sacrifice the things we want, even small things. Aaron’s not too fond of this Dave Ramsey saying, but I love it: “Live like no one else, so later you can live like no one else.” Basically it means that right now, live like no one else does… saving money, giving up your latte or fast food, doing whatever you can to save money, so that you can live like no one else is when you’re older.. i.e. having a good retirement, putting your kids through college, etc.

Now we’re really into the heart of paying off my school loans. I’m so thankful to have a job where I get to work in my field AND contribute to paying them off.

 

Here’s a list of things we’ve been doing recently to save money:

-Going to the library or buying books at garage sales instead of buying them new or for my Kindle.

-Using coupons when we want to go out to eat (fast food).

-Using cash for our spending money each week. Right now we’re each spending between $10-15 per week. I know this is silly, but I get excited when I see that $10 bill in my wallet! We use our debit card a lot so I hardly ever have cash.

-Making Christmas gifts and purchasing only a few. This is a win-win because I get to share my love of knitting and sewing AND save money at the same time.

-Buying ice cream or frozen pizza at the store instead of going out.

-Running around our neighborhood instead of Aaron meeting me at work to run. I work about 15 miles from our house so that’s a lot of extra gas if he meets me there!

-Taking coffee and lunches from home to work.

-Being homebodies and in general spending a lot of our free time relaxing together at home.

 

Deployment is still on the horizon, and I actually look forward to the extra money coming in during those nine months. (Hopefully it’s only nine months.) Military pay is tax-free during deployment, and we’ll get other allotments like separation pay. I would like to get a second job (possibly?) to keep me busy (really busy!) and supplement our income so we can pay and save faster. We would like to take a trip after he gets back and I hope we can save enough by then.

And then, of course, the other thing we can do is pray. I’m excited to where we’re seemingly being led so far, and I want to be ready financially when that time comes.

Bataan Training: Week 1

I have a feeling that Bataan will be like no other race I’ve ever done. It’s crucial for us to do our long runs on hills, against wind, and in the sand. The good thing about this is that we’ll gain fitness like we’ve never had it before, and also that our shorter runs during the week will become easier since we run around our relatively flat neighborhood. (Not to mention that we’ll torture the poor unfortunate 19 mile run we’ll have when we go back to Illinois to visit in February.)

The biggest elevation change for my Illinois marathon training was about +300 ft over the course of about six miles. Today? +600 ft over 2.5 miles, and starting out at about 4300 ft above sea level. Wowza.

There’s the map and elevation profile. And man, did we feel it! By the time mile 2 rolled around, I was pretty much yelling at Aaron that I couldn’t do it anymore. C’mon, Elizabeth. Stop being a pansy!!! You ran 26.2 flippin’ miles… you can do this! (That was me talking to myself, by the way, not Aaron talking to me… haha.)

We were up this morning at 6:42 AM, and that’s with no alarm. Whoops. I had energy that lasted all day and we got a lot accomplished! I had taken the day off because Aaron had a four-day weekend. It was nice to be off during the week together.

Here’s a picture of the sky on our drive to McKelligon Canyon.

Mountains are just plain awesome. That little tiny road is where we ran this morning. Looks quaint, right? HA!

Here’s us after our run…

Our average pace was 12:24, and we finished in 1:14. Not bad considering the elevation gain and wind. We did it.. that was my goal.

So, how did the rest of the week go?

Monday: Anaerobic exercises: pushups (on my knees still…), crunches, leg lifts, tricep dips, pullups (negatives where you jump up and try to slowly lower yourself down)

Tuesday: off

Wednesday: 3 miles

Thursday: off.. stayed up too late since we had Friday off of work…

Friday: a really great 4 miles around the neighborhood.. avg pace was about 10:30, and the last .5 was at around 9:20. I was super-excited about that.

Saturday and Sunday: off…. (coughHusbandplayedSkyrimtillhisfingersbledcough)

Monday: 6 miles (I’ll consider Monday part of last week because of the long weekend)

Total: 13 miles. Quite a modest start to the training season.

Like I said, we don’t officially start the Hal Higdon Novice II training until next Monday, but we’re just doing the first two weeks twice. We’ll have 20 weeks of training, total. And I am kicking the core and upper body exercises into high gear this time around!

In case you were wondering, the clouds did melt away to reveal a gorgeous blue Texas sky. (No, in real life, Texas does not own the sky. But shhhh, don’t tell the Texans that!)

Committed…

…to a  life of following the Lord wherever He leads.

…to selling our possessions and going across continents and oceans.

…to giving generously of our finances in order to further His kingdom and show our obedience.

…to raising and educating our children to love people in a foreign land if we are so called.

…to adopting children from a foreign land if we are so called.

…to being content with what we have.

…to being thankful when we have what we need, even if it’s not in excess.

…to storing our treasures in heaven, because then our hearts will follow.

…to literally dying for the Truth.

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I won’t say that we know for sure that we’ve received “the call”. What I will say is that we are willing to put aside the American dream-life that we’ve been planning for our family so that we can pick up and move halfway around the world. I won’t say that we know that we will be ministering to Muslims… but we are willing to take the Gospel there because there is a huge harvest waiting to be brought in. There are so many people in so many places who have little to no access for the Gospel.

I feel the way we are living life right now is in the center of God’s will. It’s seriously is the best place to be… physically, emotionally, spiritually, matrimonially. We are giving generously and sacrificially… we are content with what we’ve been blessed with… and we are working hard to pay off our debt.

We know that having some savings is important, but we’re not interested in building so much wealth that we don’t know what to do with it. What is the point of being a millionaire, really? Sure, your kids have a great inheritance and you can enjoy whatever material pleasures you want… but I only want to accumulate wealth so that I can bless others. I’m not saying this to sound “holier-than-thou” or whatever.. it’s just where my heart is right now.

Waiting to have children is really hard for me. I admit it. I go in stages of either being really happy for people or really jealous of people when I hear of their pregnancies. I’m in a continual stage of surrender. I know that our time will come someday, and I am committed to caring for whatever children God gives us, whether biological or adoptive. We’ve talked about having both… we’ve also talked about adopting all of our children. Really, I want to prepare my heart for whatever happens.

We’re committed to living dead. John 12:24: “Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains alone.” We must die to self, to selfish desires, fabricated plans, everything, in order to follow Christ fully.

Just enough

Just enough… like $3.46 in your checking account until payday after all bills and expenses are paid… like older cars that run on prayer and get us places… like just enough patience to get through the end of the work day…

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Last night at church we had a celebration called Taste of the Nations, where the small groups in our church each host a booth of a different country. We make food, handouts for prayer requests and info of the country, dress authentically, and learn common phrases in the language. Our small group was in charge of Libya.

I did not know hardly anything except for the location of the country before we started. Now, I know there are 26 different people groups that have never heard the Gospel. I also know that even if the Assemblies of God (our denomination) had a missionary there, we wouldn’t know because it would put that person in a lot of danger. We learned phrases in Arabic and dressed the part. I was very surprised when several people commented on how I really looked like a Libyan. Aaron and I were even asked if we were missionaries!

We encountered a young couple who have been missionaries in Sudan and now will be leading a Live-Dead team to the Comoros Islands. They have worked under Dick Brogden, a well-known missionary to the Muslim world. Aaron has connections with him through Stone Creek Church back in Champaign/Urbana. We chatted with them for several minutes. They gave us their card and a Live-Dead devotional journal.

It’s no secret that Aaron and I want to go into the mission field. It’s been something we’ve talked about since we started dating, and it’s been confirmed by others. Not necessarily that we will go international, but that God will use us as a team to reach the unreached for Christ.

Recently, I’ve lost sight of that vision. Being together with my husband and living life, however mundane at times, has kept me in a whirlwind of comfort. After his stint in the military, it’d be great to settle down, buy our first house, and start a family. I have these “dreams” for my kids.. that they’ll live in the same house their whole lives, go to the same schools and not have to move around. I “dream” that we’ll finally have a solid emergency fund and cars that aren’t fifteen years old. We’ve even talked about moving back to the Chicago area to be closer to family…

But is that God’s dream for our lives, for our children’s lives? It’s a bit unnerving to think that five years down the road we could be raising funds to go to some remote place to share the Gospel with people who are completely unlike us. Time is short, friends. Jesus could come back at any moment and we need to be ready. As much as I would love to be a stay-at-home mom and live my personal American dream for the next 50+ years of my life, there are dying and lost people out there who have to literally travel 150 miles before they even have a chance of meeting a Christian.

That needs to become a reality in my life. Aaron and I need to continue to cultivate a heart for the lost, and pursue further direction on where we should go and what we should do in 4.5 short years. All our “stuff” doesn’t matter. I think so far we’ve done a good job at not getting too attached to material things. (Check out the link for an awesome blog of a friend of ours!) God has always provided enough. Sometimes, it’s just enough. Our needs are met. Sometimes we’re blessed enough to have excess, and we need to learn how to generously give from that abundance.

We follow a pretty strict budget, but something we haven’t been able to do is save, save, save. Between Aaron coming home for leave from Korea, using our tax return to pay off a loan, and moving and using our travel pay to buy a car, we’ve had slim pickings the past few months. We are thankful for the extra things we get to do, and we have started paying extra on debt again. One of the big reasons we started this whole debt-be-gone ball a-rolling is so we can go into missions with zero, I mean zero, debt.

The truth is that God has equipped us with amazing gifts… every day I am reminded that I don’t teach because it’s what I went to school for; I teach because it’s who I am, my calling. Aaron has an incredible gift with technology, computers, and figuring out technical problems. Imagine how God can use those gifts in a country where they don’t allow declared missionaries, but they do allow teachers and IT guys?

I want wisdom. I want direction. I want a pure heart. I can’t have any of these things until I ask the One who gives all of these things freely… and He’ll give just enough for the need, and more.

I am reminded once again of a quote from A. W. Tozer:

“Wisdom, among other things, is the ability to devise perfect ends and to achieve those ends by the most perfect means….All God’s acts are done in perfect wisdom, first for His own glory, and then for the highest good of the greatest number for the longest time. And all His acts are as pure as they are wise, and as good as they are wise and pure. Not only could His acts not be better done: a better way to do them could not be imagined.”