Making doggy strides

We adopted Missy almost a month ago. She’s a very well-behaved dog with us, knows how to go potty outside, and can obey simple commands like “sit”, “down” and “bed”. However, when we took  her on her first walk, she was walking on her back legs because she was pulling so hard on the leash. I was nervous and impatient with her. I had this puppies and rainbows vision of having a dog who would stay right by my side and be the perfect walking/running companion.

Everyone in our neighborhood it seems has at least two dogs, one of whom is usually a Chihuahua or other toy breed, and they leave them out seemingly all. The. Time. These dogs run up to the fence, bark, yap, whatever, and make the hair on Missy’s back go up. I get nervous because I’m thinking about her reaction and afraid that she’ll lunge or bite.

When my friend Jess brought her dog over for a meet-and-greet before the weekend we were supposed to watch her, Missy did not take kindly to Lux. She growled and lunged and seemed like a completely different dog than the one we adopted. After all, at the shelter, she was very calm with other dogs around. So what was the deal?

(we think she's a basenji/boston mix)

I think she was in a period of transitioning into her new territory. I checked out a couple books from the library about dogs and watched as many episodes of Dog Whisperer as Hulu would allow. I’m no Cesar Millan, but on our walk today I had a much calmer, more confident companion.

I started stopping in my tracks when she’d pull on the leash and coax her to come back by me. I don’t usually have to coax now or call her; after about 15 seconds of standing still, she gets the idea and puts slack on the leash. We encountered a couple dogs barking and coming within close proximity of us.

One of these dogs is the ugliest dog ever and it lives next door. I guess its owner lets it out and it poops and pees in our yard. Anyway, I redirected Missy’s attention while walking past when this dog was barking and she did well!

My attitude and confidence during our walks have been much better. As Cesar Millan says, dogs live in the present, so when we anticipate their actions and get worried about something that hasn’t happened yet, that “energy” transfers to the dog and they can get worked up for no good reason.

Besides pulling on the leash, she has a problem with jumping on us when we get home. We tried Cesar’s “no-touch, no-talk, no-eye-contact” policy and that helped a little bit. We did tell her to go lay down or go to her bed (kennel). Now when we get home, if we leave her out of her kennel, all we have to do is look at her sideways and she goes and lays down on her own.

In the car she gets very defensive if we’re driving by someone walking on the sidewalk. She needs to be socialized around more animals and people. There are dog parks, but none on our side of town. There is a park that’s pretty busy with families and their dogs on the weekends, so I want to take her there. I think Missy has a lot of potential. She’s a quick learner! Now that I’ll be home more, I’ll have more time to train her, and hopefully when she’s ready I can take her to the house where I’ll be tutoring and babysitting; they have a lot of property, and many animals, including a dog.

The crucified life

I’m on Day 3 of Week 1 of “Living Beyond Yourself”… let’s just say I’m still working on the whole time and study with God thing. Anyway, today’s lesson was especially pertinent because of the time of year. Sunday is Palm Sunday and the following Sunday is Easter. I’ve heard the story of the last weeks of Jesus’ life over and over throughout my near 26 years of existence. Every time I hear or read it, it gets to me in the best way possible.

In today’s lesson, Beth (yes, we’re on a first name basis) outlined the ten characteristics of living a crucified life, based on lots of Scripture but Galatians 2:20 being the basis of it.

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.

The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Here are the ten characteristics, which are not the easiest to digest. We have a lot to lay down for the One who laid it all down for us.

1.     Few will understand.
2.     You must abandon your own will and your own agenda.
3.     Your intimate spiritual companions will be few.
4.     Intense times of aloneness with God are required.
5.     You will be constantly on the witness stand.
6.     You must go “outside the camp”.
7.     There will be times when your dignity is forfeited.
8.     You must forego your rights.
9.     You must accept that death is painful.
10.   Because He was forsaken, you never will be.

That’s a lot to take in. I know what’s going to be on my mind in the coming days…

“We are the battling bastards of Bataan”

“We are the battling bastards of Bataan,

No mama, no papa, no Uncle Sam;

No aunts, no uncles, no cousins, no nieces;

No pills, no planes, no artillery pieces;

And nobody gives a damn.”

I am in awe… of the event, the weather, the volunteers, the survivors who were present, the Wounded Warriors running or rucking… the entire event was so well organized and planned. Of course, they’ve had 23 years to get it down. 😉

If you remember correctly, the Bataan Death March was a forced march of tens of thousands of American and Filipino soldiers during World War II. Soldiers were mistreated, starved, abused and killed point-blank during the 80-mile trek. The Bataan Memorial Death March at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico is a 26.2 or 15.2 course through sand, dirt, wind, desert and mountains.

When I found out Aaron had orders to Ft. Bliss, one of the first things I did, naturally, was look up races. I knew I wanted to do this one, but I also knew it would be completely different than a race like the Illinois Marathon. We both wanted to do the full 26.2 distance, but Aaron wanted to be a part of the military heavy category, which wears a full uniform and carries a ruck of at least 35 pounds (his ended up being 52. Crazy crazy man).

We trained by running up and down McKelligon Canyon and also Transmountain Road. My running training fell apart, but I still had a half marathon, a 16-miler and a 10-miler under my belt going into this race. Not ideal, but I knew physically I could do it.

I ran the first seven miles or so, walked until mile 16 when I was texting back and forth a little with Gabi and she must have prayed because I ran an incredible mile! I felt like I was in Runner’s World’s Rave Run. Then I walked the rest of the course.

It was rough. There were some paved parts, but most of it was packed dirt and loose sand. There is a “sand pit” around mile 21 that’s 3/4 of a mile long… sand that gets everywhere! I stopped to dump out my shoes at least three times.

I stopped at every water stop and got water or Gatorade and an orange or banana piece. My stomach was not agreeing with me today as every time I ate it would cramp up and I’d get side aches. However, I knew that if I didn’t eat or drink I wouldn’t have the energy to finish.

My quads and hip flexors were very sore, which is why I stopped running and stuck to walking most of it. Normally in a 26.2 race, a walker as slow as I was at the end would be at the end of the pack, but I think I was right in the middle. I finished in about 7:45 clock time. The website shows I finished in 8:26, which is not correct because Aaron finished in 8:23 and I finished about 40 minutes ahead of him… so I’m guessing it’s supposed to be 7:26-7:30.

The last few miles were rough for me emotionally. I’ve never lost a soldier who’s been close to me, but I have a few friends who have so I thought about them and all they’ve been through. And I saw a couple memorials attached to rucks that commemorated the marcher’s grandpa, one of whom was a Japan war camp survivor. I had to calm myself down because I got very emotional.

I’ve done a lot of races, but I’ve never seen a community of volunteers like I did today. They were so helpful, encouraging (which was good because no spectators were allowed on the course!) and dedicated. I think two of the greatest things to be meshed are running and the military… I really felt like I was running (walking… or moving…) for a cause. My grandpa is a Korean vet, my great-grandpa is a World War II vet, and my husband is currently serving.

We marched about a third of what the real Bataan marchers had to go through, and we weren’t tortured and bayonetted… I just cannot fathom how they got through it aside from gritting their teeth and relying on the grace of God. There were amputees, some double amputees running or walking today. The soldiers in full uniform carrying rucks were amazing as well.  I was utterly humbled today. Utterly. I am so thankful I was able to finish and that I wasn’t injured along the way.

I’m not sure I’ll run (or… move…) it again next year, but I would be ecstatic to volunteer. Or….. I could find four ladies who are just as crazy as I am a form a team. 😉 If you’re wondering why I haven’t posted pictures, it’s because I just ran (or walked.. or moved…) 26.2 miles and I’m sore. And hobbling. Check them out here. 🙂

On my heart

I’ve started doing Living Beyond Yourself, a Bible study by the lovely Beth Moore about cultivating the fruits of the Spirit. I’m only on day two and I’ve been in this study for, um, like a week and a half, but it has some good stuff! 

Galatians 1:10 is on my heart this week:

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

How spot on is this?? It’s good to want to serve others and see them happy, but God does not call us to make other feel comfortable or please them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to “change” myself momentarily depending on who I’m hanging out with… I’ve been much better about it in the past couple years as I’m learning (ever so slowly) to find my identity in Christ.

All I can do is be myself in Christ. That’s what Paul did, and he had quite a calling on his life. He had no choice. As a former persecutor of Christians, it was all or nothing for him. I daresay his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus jolted him out of his old ways and he stopped pleasing other like, yesterday. Well, technically, 2,000-some years ago. But whatev.

I am doing my very best to wait on the Lord… I want to take steps in different directions, but I want to wait on Him to close or open doors (ugh that phrase sounds so trite sometimes!). Basically, I want Him to just tell me in plain Elizabeth what the heck to do with my life. I mean, I know I’m supposed to love Him and love others, but…. how?

My desire as I pray now is to be patient and come to Him with problems and issues first… discuss things with Him first… strive to please Him first, and only.

A new direction

After praying, seeking counsel, and what felt like fasting (still don’t have a normal appetite), I put in my resignation yesterday. I feel that it was the right decision to make. I didn’t waver when speaking to my boss. I didn’t have any second thoughts. I don’t feel the need to constantly defend my decision. I’m not worried about what will happen next. I’m getting a recommendation and I’m not leaving on bad terms. I normally go crazy with planning every detail of what will happen next, but I’m waiting on the Lord. I have a few ideas of what I want to do with my time, but nothing concrete yet.

It was a decision that was based primarily on internal and spiritual factors, not outside factors. I almost second-guessed myself, since we’re having changes in staff and there’s some instability. However, I knew that soon I would be offered another promotion for a lot more hours and not a lot more money and it just isn’t worth it. And of course, the question of “What would Dave Ramsey do?!” popped into my head.

I am a very blessed woman to have a husband who is supportive of what I want to do. I’m blessed that I have the luxury of quitting my job. We’ve also worked really hard to be able to live on one income without being desperate.

The desperate Elizabeth would be second-guessing herself, profusely apologizing to her husband for the lack of extra “fun” money they’ll have, going crazy with what to do with all her time… What if he deploys? What if he goes TDY? What if this looks bad on my resume? What if….? Ya know what? I’m done with the “What if…?”

I’ve regretted some decisions I’ve made in life, notably my major in college. However, I believe we make the best decisions for the current time in our lives. You can try as you might to weigh all the pros and cons, but only hindsight is 20/20 and fully capable of making us feel bad if we let it.

In that case, I don’t regret decisions I’ve made, and it seems I’ve made quite a lot of big decisions in the last eight years… going to Bradley, majoring in Spanish, deciding to teach, marrying Aaron, encouraging him to join the Army (that was a joint decision), staying in Illinois to teach/work, etc etc etc. I feel that I make sound decisions and this is no different.

I feel like a weight has been lifted, but also that my responsibility is greater now. I’m not sure what I’ll be doing, but as always I desire to do the work of the Lord. My passion is teaching, and He knows that. He knows the desires of my heart. He’ll provide financially. I can’t describe how freeing it is to make this decision because I want to, not because I have to.

And, by the way, HAPPY ST. PATTY’S DAY!!!! We took it easy at the on-post 6-miler this morning. I ran in the Minimus and am feeling it now!

The true meaning of “blessed”

I’ve lost almost 4 pounds this week. Not from working out and eating right, but from not eating enough. I’m stressed. I’m confused. I’m indecisive. Besides the fact that I’ve made a decision for Christ, I don’t know if you could tell right now that I’m a Christ-follower. I wake up on Sundays and want to just have my day off, because I “deserve it”. I’ve not had the best sleep this week either, but thankfully I’m not an insomniac… yet.

I’m fed up and ready to move on, but I don’t want to make any decisions out of desperation. My desperation should be leading me to the cross, but I know what I would find there…. I’d find a reason to stop being worrisome. I’d find reasons to tough it out. I’d find reasons to trust. Why in the world do I think my handle on things is any better than God’s? It’s totally absolutely not.

I don’t feel blessed. Of course, my definition has a lot to do with having enough money in the bank account for emergencies, having mostly great days at work, and getting in 4-5 workouts per week. Being blessed in my world is having the house picked up most night of the week and the coffee ready to brew in the morning.

A good friend of mine gave me great advice. I can either go through the fire now, or it’ll be licking at my heels until I do. Refining is not easy, and I don’t like it. I just don’t. The same friend referred me to Philippians 4, and I jumped ahead to verse 13. It is so well-known, but I didn’t realize the gem that is verse 12.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

I’m ready for something new, and I just want God to tell me what to do. I’m learning to be content, but damn, it’s hard. I’m searching for direction for this “quarter life crisis”. I’m not so sure it’s as much a crisis as it is having to work for what I want in life. Things have come very easily to me… school was easy, college was relatively easy, having satisfying jobs for the past few years was easy even in this economy…. and now I’m having to work for it. At the age of almost 26, I look in the mirror and say, “Welcome to life, Elizabeth, and don’t mind the tiny tiny crow’s feet appearing next to your eyes.”

I think life is mostly like this. We live in a fallen world; it’s inevitable. I have to learn how to be content and see the bigger picture and not get lost in the details. You can’t see where the path goes if you’re focused on only the five feet in front of you. I don’t think the decision lies so much in what I do… but who I decide to become

I have to include a few points from the sermon on Sunday, you know, when I wanted to just stay in bed… Pastor was talking about what a blessed life and blessed church look like, and this is what he said about a blessed life…

A blessed life…

Has a right attitude (Uhhhhh. My work starts here….)

Is obedient to God (let’s just say I have some authority issues and can throw temper tantrums…)

Is a disciple (this can only happen if I’m actually reading the Bible)

Has a sense of the Holy Spirit (I think this happens full-force when the other three are in place…)

Just keep swimming…