It’s How He Made You. Just Let It Happen.

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Today’s title was inspired by a song that we sang during praise and worship. Before today I had never heard it, but I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I left church. “Let It Happen” by United Pursuit featuring Andrea Marie.

I don’t know if I found what I was looking for during this journey. It was filled with ups and downs. There were some good moments and some not-so-good moments. There were challenges, failures (like the vegan ramen that I made for dinner tonight), and triumphs. There was uncertainty, but also clarity. And I was honest and vulnerable with complete strangers.

One day last fall I called my mom in tears. I came back to a city that I had grown to enjoy and friends that I had grown to love, but I felt so lonely. During the two and half months that I was gone, the city didn’t stop for me. It seemed like everything had changed. Things at the university changed. Things at church changed. People changed.

If I’ve learned anything at all during these past few weeks, it’s the importance of intentional relationships. Through my journey I’ve been able to meet wonderful people and grow closer to people who I already knew. Most of them, not all of them, have helped provide me with a better understanding to a journey that many of them didn’t know I was on. I’ve accepted more invitations to lunch and coffee (which I dislike) from friends, colleagues, and church members over these last forty-six days than I did in my four years as a student. I’ve been able to sit down with people and exchange stories. Many of my experiences and feelings aligning with theirs. I have a colleague at the university who never thought she’d be working in higher education who is questioning whether it’s time for a career change. I have a friend who also graduated with a degree that he’s not passionate about, is trying to figure out his purpose, and is lonely in a different state away from all of his family and friends (Unlike myself, he still decided to work as an engineer). I have a church member who’s new in her walk with Christ and is also trying to dig deeper in faith and scripture. I’m not the only one dealing with these things. And I’ve realized that I’m far from lonely. I’ve realized now that I’m loved and appreciated by many.

Pain is the sensation that indicates a transformation is needed. There is a weakness where new strength needs to enter in. And you have chosen to pursue long-term strength rather than temporary relief. So don’t berate yourself for being in pain. It just means you are walking toward victory by not numbing yourself right now. You are making progress. – Lysa TerKeurst

This morning I was reading our chapter of Uninvited for today’s ladies group. This chapter was titled “Moving Through the Desperate In-Between” and in it Lysa mentions how she uses scripture-led prayers to press through the pain and the in-between. She also mentions that she shares these personalized prayers to press through the feelings of pain, rejection, and loneliness with one trusted friend. This way she has one human voice that can repeat them back to her during moments of doubt.

I have a trusted friend (or two). More recently, I have this blog. This, plus my prayer journal, is a reminder of the last forty-six days. And like Lysa said, on those days when life gets hard, these things will help me stand on the bold faith of today so I don’t forget that bold faith is within me. I don’t think I’m going to continue blogging. It was a great experience and a risk that I’m glad I took, but it’s hard work (Kudos to all of the bloggers out there). Double checking spelling and grammar. Making sure that what I type makes sense to others. Even thinking of a topic was difficult at times. And I’m just not sure if my words and thoughts are as honest as they would be if they were written on paper for my eyes only. For now, I’ll stick to my journal. Maybe in a year or so I’ll decide to give this blogging thing another try. Maybe.

My journal will help me get through those feelings of the desperate in between. And on the days when it doesn’t, I’ll remind myself that I’m more whole now than before. I smile with gratitude as I type this. I may not have found the person that I was before I let higher education consume my life. I may not have discovered my life’s purpose. Heck, I couldn’t even complete my eating cleanse. But that’s okay. I’m regaining control of my life one day at a time by finding comfort in the things that I once enjoyed. I’m making myself a priority again. Most importantly, I’m pressing in further to see Jesus more clearly and to understand that, “He has a perfect plan with flawless timing already mapped out for me.” I just need to let it happen.

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We In a Marathon We Could Build a Marriage On

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Today was the big day. My boyfriend and I had our 10K this morning. Neither of us were very excited. We didn’t train well and ate pretty poorly this entire week. When I asked if he was excited he responded by saying, “It’s just another day.” So you can only imagine how we felt when the race organizer told us that they changed the course from last year and added trail running to the route. To be fair, we didn’t run this race last year, but no where online did it say that trail running was included. And to make it even worse, they decided to make the course easier for the 5K runners by minimizing the number of hills. How much sense does that make? So before we started the race, my boyfriend and I decided that our only goal was to finish.

We started the race at different times; I started almost at the back of the pack. We talked about running the race together, but the more we talked about how unprepared we were, we decided it would be best to run our own race. I tried looking for him, but never saw him. To keep myself focused, I singled out runners who were in front of me and tried to pass them. It worked. At the two and half mile mark the course split for the 10K runners and the trail running began. Oh my goodness, talk about a workout. Trail running is a beast of its own. There were some pretty tough hills and I was struggling to get up them. One runner in front of me had a shirt that said “use walk breaks” and that’s exactly what I did to get up that final hill.

Somewhere between miles three and five, I saw my boyfriend. I had just reached the top of the hill and he was on his way down. He stuck out his hand and we high-fived. I probably would’ve smiled if I wasn’t so tired. When I ran my half marathon last year, he was hundreds of miles away and couldn’t be at the finish line to congratulate me (No one was there which still bums me out when I think about it). But this morning, after he crossed the finish line, he waited until it was my turn. There’s just something about seeing a familiar face at the end that makes me feel like I conquered something special.

Before the race started I had no intention of checking my official time, but when I finished the clock said 1:00:45. It seemed like I was running for longer than an hour so I was curious to see how I did. We checked our race times and to both of our surprise, we both finished second in our age group. Heck yeah! I think we were both more proud of the other than we were of ourselves.

Although we’re both very busy, we try our best to support each other whenever we can. For me, that means attending intramural games or watching him host comedy shows and concerts. For him, that means watching me give a presentation to a group of students or attending a program hosted by my department. We do a lot of things separately and independently. Not that we don’t spend time together because we do, sometimes it’s just rare. Which is why our marathon this fall, hopefully, is even more special. It’s something that we’ll not only be able to do together, but also accomplish together.

Difficult Communications

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That’s one of my homework assignments for this week. My classmates and I are supposed to read about the differences between responding versus reacting, gain a better understanding of our communication style, determine how assertive we are, and reflect on difficult communications that we have throughout the week. I had a difficult communication situation this morning (some of you might laugh and that’s fine), so I thought it might be a good idea to share.

Describe the Situation:

I was training for my 10K this morning and I got tripped up, literally. I broke my phone. Shattered. The screen is completely black and because of how they design these new models, I can’t even take the battery out to turn it off.  (Now that you’re done laughing – Yes, I’m fine. My knee is a little busted up, but thank you for asking.)

What did you really want or need? What did you actually get?

My cellphone provider doesn’t actually have a location where I live. Well, they have a small retail store inside of Radio Shack, but I’ve interacted with them and they’re not the most knowledgeable. So while at work, I tried to contact their customer service line and see how much it would cost for me to get a replacement. (I’ll be home on Saturday so I can purchase a new one then). And since I’m also trying to get off of my family’s plan and start my own, I figured this was a good enough time as any to ask about that as well. All I got was an automated system that kept asking me irrelevant questions and didn’t dispatch me to a customer service agent like I asked.

What did the other person want or need? What did they actually get?

I’m not sure what they needed. Answers to irrelevant questions. What did they actually get? I hung up.

Charlie Brown Wah Wah Wah

How did you feel during and after this time?

When it first happened I was very angry. I’m certain that I actually let out a loud disgruntled sigh because I was the only one around. Yesterday was a good day. Here I was trying to better myself and prepare for this race, and all of a sudden this happens. I took one step forward just to take two steps back. Seriously.

I was a little lost throughout my day. I’ve taken a break from social media so I’m not on my phone as often as I used to be. But there were things that I’m used to doing that I no longer could.

  • I couldn’t communicate with my family. Not that I don’t have their numbers memorized  (most of them actually don’t have my number memorized), but because I didn’t have a phone and when I did, they didn’t answer anyway. No one checks their email except my aunt so I asked her to relay the message to the others. She didn’t because she never responded to my email (in her defense, she’s very busy at work). I also tried calling a few of them from my work phone, but because they didn’t recognize the number, they didn’t answer.
  • Someone asked me for some kind of information, but I couldn’t give it to them because it was saved in my phone. So frustrating.
  • I didn’t know what time it was. I don’t really like wearing watches or jewelry in general. My stud earrings and one ring is plenty. So when I walked into my 3 o’clock meeting, I thought I was late. I had left with time to spare, but didn’t see anyone else when I arrived. And the clock outside the room was broken. FYI, I was early.
  • I realized later this afternoon that I didn’t know how I was going to wake up in the morning. Like most millennials, I use my phone for an alarm clock.
  • Once I finally got in contact with my brother so that he could update everyone else and once I got home, I started to relax. Everyone knows that I’m okay (at least I hope they do or my brother is in big trouble). Not having a phone meant fewer distractions at work. More time to be productive and more time to practice personal growth at home.

What was resolved and/or not resolved?

I still don’t have a phone. In a little bit, I’ll have a brand new alarm clock so that I can arrive on time to work.

I also realized today that my job responsibilities are changing faster than I thought. I’ll be moving over to our main office pretty soon and I think there’s a lot of questions or issues that my team still doesn’t know how to address. They don’t always listen, it goes in one ear and out the other (which says something about my level of assertiveness). So I began working on a process manual – a manual detailing all of my responsibilities, how to do them, and a tentative timeline of when to do them. I won’t always be around to answer questions or communicate for them. Hopefully this manual will serve as a useful tool for when I’m not available.

It Was A Good Day

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I’m driving home this weekend for my 10K and there’s not really a good radio station between here and there. I decided to create a new playlist for the car ride. This one is called Hippity Hoppity Favorites. It’s got a variety of artists on there like B.o.B., Wale, CeeLo Green, Kanye, Outkast, Nas, and more. I tried to find the edited version for most songs because I can’t really tolerate a lot of profanity these days, but there are songs where the edited version just doesn’t do it justice. Like Eminem’s “Mockingbird” or Kanye’s “Ultralight Beam”. But then there are others like Wale’s “Illest B****” that need to be edited. Unfortunately, Ice Cube’s “It Was A Good Day” didn’t make the playlist. I didn’t listen to him much growing up. I had this friend though who would walk around campus and listen to his song every time she had a good day. Today was a good day for me.

Before going to work, I decided to set aside a few minutes to do a breathing exercise. It’s called “the 3-minute breathing space”. Basically you dedicate one minute to focus on the following: awareness, gathering, and expanding. It was an opportunity for me to start my day with a clear mind and to reconnect with the present moment instead of all the things that I had to accomplish. Today was a very important day for me so I needed those few minutes to gather and expand my awareness.

Each academic year a student success advisory committee meets to discuss trending issues of academic success, whether we’re meeting students needs, and if not then new ideas that will allow us to address their needs and concerns. You know what else is discussed during this meeting? The performance and accomplishments of the center that I manage and supervise. I created a thirteen page report that outlined all of the progress and results made by my team and I during these last nine months and the goals we have for the next academic year. I presented this data to faculty members and directors of key campus departments. Guess what? They loved i! And they were also able to provide great feedback for how we can move forward. My hard work and long hours don’t go unnoticed like I think the do; it makes me feel good that my colleagues recognize that.

On another note, I also cried today. You’re probably wondering how that’s a good thing. I’m not a fan of crying, especially in public. But during my MBSR class we were sharing about the growth and significant changes that we’ve seen in ourselves since the first week. I’m not much of a talker in that class. I prefer to hide in the shadows and listen to my classmates, but this morning I made a commitment to myself that I was going to let my guard down and be honest. So today when I told my classmates that I admired their strength and dedication to the practice despite what personal things they may be enduring in their own lives, I got a little emotional. The tears just started flowing. No idea where they came from. I told them that their courage to share and to be consistence with their practice inspired me. Like I wrote in one of my previous posts, maybe I needed to see someone else become transformed before I can be transformed myself.

For dinner today I had a protein smoothie. It had a lot of fruit, two types of protein powders, flaxseed, fiber, and a little unsweetened almond milk. Sadly, there were no veggies because I ate them all. I haven’t made a smoothie in almost two weeks and I’m pretty sure I’m not getting enough protein. I should probably go to the doctor’s office and have a routine checkup because I definitely haven’t had one of those in a few years. (Also another good thing that happened today! I think I found a reputable physician in my insurance network.)

After being on campus for about twelve hours, I hyped myself up to exercise when I got home. Because the 10K is only three days away and because I ran on Monday and Tuesday, I didn’t want to run today and risk overdoing it. Instead I chose to go to my trusted online fitness channel for support, Pop Sugar. I did this 30-Minute Body Workout for Beginners with Lacey Stone (she’s hilarious by the way). Yeah, I’m definitely a beginner. I’m slowly getting back into running shape, but running and strength conditioning engage two very different muscle groups. My legs are sore. No pain no gain, right?

After some of the days that I had last week, today was worth it. It was much-needed.

Now Is Always the Right Time

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Confession: I stopped following my aunt’s nutrition cleanse about a week ago. If you want to get technical, I never really started because one of the things on the avoid list was gluten and I don’t see any real health benefit to eliminating gluten if you don’t have an allergy.

Confession Pt. 2: I had cheese last week. That’s right, this vegan had cheese.

At this point you’re probably asking yourself, “What’s wrong with this girl? All of the things she said she wanted to do during this 40-day journey, she’s not doing.” I’m behind on my reading. I haven’t meditated in forever. I stopped following the cleanse. I don’t run as much as I used to.

I’m an all or nothing kind of person. What I mean is I either give one hundred percent or zero percent, there’s not much in between with me. And I think this driven-ness attitude is where a lot of my feelings of unsatisfactory and stress stem from.

This morning I decided to practice “non-striving”. I woke up and decided to go for a run before work (because my 10K is now five days away). When I run in the morning it’s usually still dark outside. I consider the city that I live in to be safe; there usually aren’t too many cars or people out, but I have been spooked a few times by people out walking or guys who have stopped to ask me bizarre questions. So, this morning instead of grabbing my earbuds like I normally do, I left them behind so that I could be more aware of my surroundings. My mom would be proud.

I also thought it would be a good opportunity to do a little sound meditation – the sound of my feet hitting the pavement, my breath, the birds chirping, the sound of the wind blowing against the trash bags, the flag clinking against the flag pole, the thunder. And because I didn’t have my earbuds I couldn’t hear my running app tell me how fast I was going or how far I had gone. I didn’t have a goal. I wasn’t trying to achieve anything or push myself to reach a certain pace; I was just running and listening to whether my body was tired. Nothing else mattered and it was refreshing.

This feeling aligns with something that I read this evening:

It doesn’t matter because, basically, it is the promise of reclaiming your life, or more accurately, of giving your life back to yourself again. That can happen at any age, and in any moment. Now is always the right time because it is the only time. Just check your watch or clock. –  Mindfulness for Beginners by John Kabat-Zinn

That first line accurately describes my goal for this journey. I started this journey (and blog) to gain a better understanding of the person that I was before I started living for everyone else. At the end of this forty day journey, I probably still won’t have the answer. But I do know more about myself today than I did last month, last week, or even yesterday. Everyday won’t be easy, I’ve already experienced that, but now is always the right time to try again. What’s the worst thing that can happen? I fail and restart tomorrow.

Miracles in the Mess

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Today during our ladies group we discussed chapter thirteen of Uninvited, “Miracles in the Mess”. I usually read the chapters during the week, but I only read this one about two hours before we met. Oops. Our group leader usually likes to read ahead for the week too, but she only read the chapter last night. We both agreed that it was a rich chapter. The content was deep. A little overwhelming. And it really focused on applying the truth of God to our own lives.

The book has an overall theme of rejection and how we can deal with rejection. She begins the chapter by describing to us why Jesus is the perfect example of who we can turn to when we’re feeling rejected. People laughed at Him. People rejected Him. People misunderstood Him. And despite all of those things Jesus continued to do His miracles in the midst of messy realities. She reminds us, “Don’t get so consumed by and focused on the mess – the feelings of rejection, hurt, and disillusionment – that you miss the miracle.”

I saw the miracle in my mess this morning. Not necessarily in the way that Lysa may have intended, with the ideas of personal application and transformation. But I saw it.

Seldom does a person approach me and congratulate me for pursuing a career in higher education instead of in industry. I met a young lady at my conference and the morning we were leaving she asked me how I became so accomplished at a young age. The previous night I had told her a bit about my job and my responsibilities at the university. So when she called me accomplished I think I chuckled a bit and told her that my degree was in chemical engineering. The tone of the conversation immediately changed. It was like all of a sudden I was being lectured by my mom. And she said, “Honey, you need to be making six figures.”

So this morning when I was greeting members at church as they entered, a college student stopped and asked me more about my position with the university. We had met several semesters ago and he wanted to know why I decided not to pursue engineering. He was genuinely interested. He asked me how I knew that engineering wasn’t for me. How I found out about the open job position. How has my position allowed me to grow personally and professionally. The more in-depth our conversation got, the less I remembered to open the door and greet others. But after working as a resident assistant in student housing this semester, mentoring younger resident assistants and watching them grow (a lot of them are introverts and he’s been able to see them step outside of their comfort zones and gain confidence), and helping plan programs for his residents, he’s not sure if a computer science job will allow him to develop and engage with people on a level as intimate as that. He just wanted someone to talk to. Someone who could offer a bit of insight. He may not have all of the answers, but unlike my conversation with the student on Thursday, this conversation left me feeling a bit more fulfilled inside.

I love my church. We’re not perfect and by no means do we have everything figured out. My favorite thing about us is how transparent we are. As our pastor said today, “We are a church that lives in the messy middle and we acknowledge that life is hard.” I was reminded of that today during worship. Our worship team, small but mighty, sang “King of My Heart” and there wasn’t a dry eye on the stage. For me personally, it was nice to see. We talked about “saved people” today and often times I think that others and myself think this means that these people are exempt from enduring any trials or temptations from the enemy. And I know that’s not true. But it was nice to see our keyboardist and drummer with tears in their eyes, acknowledging that they too have pain and that life can be difficult.

During the sermon our pastor mentioned that he doesn’t really like the word “saved”. Or at least in the context that most Christians use it in. Because at least to him, being “saved” sounds like a one time event and it’s not. It’s an ongoing process. It’s past. It’s present. It’s future. “We were saved. We’re being saved. And we will be saved. Saved people participate in the saving of others.” Take a moment to let that sink in.

As I was reading this morning, I was reminded of a song by Kirk Franklin called “Miracles”. I’ve been listening to it often. There’s a line where he says, “While you’re waiting on the miracle that you want, don’t forget the miracle you are.” Even in your messiness and your brokenness, please don’t forget the miracle that you are to someone else.

What’s Your Life Verse?

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My pastor speaks about this concept of “life verses” often. He has two or three different life verses. He also regularly encourages us to find our own life verses. There are a few staff members that I pray with who also have life verses. I’m also fairly confident that my aunt has one. So what’s my life verse? I’m not entirely sure yet. Of the bible verses that I know, I would say the one that speaks to me most is Isaiah 40:31.

“But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:31 NKJV

Here’s why I like it:

  1. It’s a reminder that I must wait. Based on my MBSR assignments and the whole non-striving concept, I think it’s safe to say that I can use a little more practice with this whole waiting thing.
  2. It’s a reminder that my strength comes from the Lord and not myself. The word “wait ” is the Hebrew word “qavah” and the literal meaning of the word is “to bind together like a cord”. I read somewhere where the author used an analogy of a rope to explain “waiting”. Similar to our relationship with God, a rope is made of many strands. The more “strands” that we weave into our relationship with God, the more strength He gives to us.
  3. It includes three little words, “they will run”.

I worked twelve hours today and after how I felt yesterday, work was one of the last places I wanted to be. I’m an introvert. At my conference I attended a session titled “Being an Introvert in an Extroverted Field”. We basically talked about what to do when you’re an introvert who’s exhausted from attending multiple college fairs and recruitment events each week and how to recharge from that. We also talked about knowing when to “turn it on”. In other words, hyping yourself up to make a good impression or execute a great event. That’s what I did today, I hyped myself up and mingled with 168 incoming freshmen and their parents, my staff, colleagues, and various administrators. So at 6 o’clock when it was time to go home, the furthest idea from my mind was to go for a run. I decided to anyway because I was inspired.

My best friend, not the one who was on the plant tour but my other one, (You can have more than one best friend. Hilary Duff’s character in Cadet Kelly proved that to us.) ran her first half marathon today. She was one of the thousands of people in Kansas City, MO participating in the Burns & McDonnell sponsored race, Rock the Parkway. She hasn’t been running long and finding time in her busy schedule to train was difficult. She suffered an ankle injury two weeks ago, but decided to stick with it. And I couldn’t be more happy for her!

A year ago today I ran my first organized half marathon. Funny enough, it was that same exact race. Not running much the two weeks leading up to it and dealing with shin splints, I was skeptical about whether I would finish. I finished with a time of 1:56:57 and was 1307 of 4226. It’s definitely my greatest running accomplishment to date. It might be my only running accomplishment.

My boyfriend and I have decided to run a 10K one week from today to officially kick off our marathon training. Despite being only a few days away, I’ve only ran twice in the last two weeks. I haven’t really been motivated to run and keep sleeping through my morning workout times. I’m also slightly discouraged because my pace is anywhere from fifteen to thirty seconds slower than what it was a year ago and I’m also about ten to twelve pounds heavier. And a small part of me doesn’t find running fun anymore. I’m not sure if he knows all of this. He might. He knows me pretty well. Which is why I think he decided to share this video with me, I Ran a Marathon with Only Ten Weeks of Training.

Michelle’s ten week journey was wonderful. Like I’ve watched it twice already, wonderful. And I’ll probably watch it one more time before the day is over. I can’t imagine training for a marathon in ten weeks. I trained longer than that for my half. Besides actually seeing her complete the marathon and hearing how much she’s learned about running form, proper footwear, and herself, I had two favorite parts.

  1. When she had her mini panic attack. She mentioned that she never took into consideration how her personal life would affect her training. It definitely does. You can have a crappy day or emotional day and that definitely changes your mindset about your workout. But she still got out there anyway.
  2. The night before the marathon when she gives her reason for why she’s running. “My whole life has always been doing things to please other people, so I’m running this race for me. I don’t need to prove it to anybody else.” Yes. Yes. Yes. One thousand times yes.

This video and my friend’s half marathon finish gave me the strength to go for a short run today. It was only three and half miles, but it was three and a half miles more than what I had committed to this morning.

A few months ago I read the book Unashamed by Lecrae. Great book, highly recommend it. And in the book he mentions during his adolescent years (which were quite troublesome) how he tried to embrace positive things and his natural talents, but would always fail. He realized that the reason why he continued to fail was because of a void that he later identified as Jesus.

I feel like that sometimes when I try new things or hobbies – being vegan, running, blogging, anything like that. I constantly have to restart being vegan or restart my training because I fail. And as silly as this might sound, I think it goes back to me relying on my own strength instead of the strength of God. Maybe Isaiah 40:31 actually is my life verse. Maybe it’s not. We’ll see.