Monday, November 30, 2009

Brotherly love


I am sitting at my desk this morning trying to get some work done. The to-do items are being checked off one by one but probably not with ultimate efficiency. You see, I am working under—literally—two difficult circumstances; one is named Loci and the other, Fraya.

These five-month old furballs are kitty siblings. We managed to find homes for the other four and the five that preceded them but ran out of friends to place the last of the kittens in loving homes. Hence, they still live in contented bliss under our roof.

These young cats are adorable even if somewhat demanding. As I type, both are curled up in a furry heap between my arms and my laptop. For a long time they lay draped over one another, hiding my arms under a mass of hair and whiskers. It was hard to type but harder to disturb their contented snoozing. But now, they are engaged in a peculiar activity: community grooming.

Fraya started it. She nuzzled her brother and then started licking his head with tender care. Loci accepted the spa treatment, purring softy as if to say, “More please. It feels so good.” Loci soon returned the favor, washing his little sister’s face and paws. It was a wonderful thing to watch. So selfless. So purely loving to risk hacking up a mountain of furballs in the interest of serving the other.

I wonder if there isn’t a lesson to be learned from my four-legged friends. Am I as willing to spontaneously show love to my friends or family? Am I willing to risk an unpleasant outcome or hardship in the name of showing selfless love to another? I think The Apostle Paul had a pretty good handle on this concept when he wrote:

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Romans 12:9-13).

What a perfect season to be reminded of the importance of loving one another in practical ways. Hum. . .maybe I could surprise Gary with his favorite dessert. Perhaps I could drop a dollar in the red bucket of the bell ringer at Wal-mart. Or I could possibly write an encouraging note to a friend.

The possibilities are endless. Don’t wait. Love now. Love often.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Why is this so hard?

“Hard?” you ask. “What’s so hard?”

Well, let me tell you. A few days ago I was ecstatic with my feelings of burgeoning fitness gains. Then a day or two of entertaining relatives and power shopping shifted my training from the roads and trails to the sidewalks of the mall and the comfy cushions in my family room. But, okay, it was a holiday. I’m allowed time off for good behavior. Right?

The holiday eventually brought the dawn of my long-run day and an insurmountable desire to sleep in. After all, who said all long runs have to start in the pre-dawn hours—especially when it’s cold and windy! So sleep in I did. Ahhh. What bliss--until I remembered the demonic Hellgate 100K looming a mere two weeks away.

But did I spring to my feet and fly off to the mountains? Nope. I put on a pot of coffee, ate my cinnamon roll, and watched DIY programming waiting for my oldest son to rise. When his feet eventually found the floor, he announced plans to run with a friend and not with good ‘ol mom. Heavy sigh. I had to go soon or risk losing daylight at the end.

The sun was shining and wind whipping as I made my way up the steep and unrelenting trail. Taking in the views I tried to adjust my attitude. I was lonely. Hum. I should have made myself more accountable by finding a running mate. But there I was in the woods. I settled in and got comfortable with the planned miles for the day. I conquered the tough section of trail and popped out on a dirt road that would lead me downhill for a number of miles.

Then it happened. A rock mysteriously jumped out of nowhere and into my path. My foot hit it and my ankle rolled. I saw stars. . . even in the daylight. Yowsa! It took me a minute to catch the breath that had left me so suddenly. What to do now? Keep heading downhill, I guess. Off I went, amending my plans to march back up that road and descend the rocky way I had come. My run was reduced to a measly three hours and the miles cut by a third. A bit disappointing.

Plans, emotions, and motivation wax and wane. I can be more fickle than a pickle despite the best of intentions. But the lesson I must continually teach myself is to press on. Don’t give up. Ride the wave of ups and downs. It’s normal to have good days and bad. It will be okay as long as you keep trying.

Postscript: The ankle doesn’t look too bad. With a little TLC, it should heal quickly.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Could it be?

I don’t want to get too excited. And, I’m not really even sure I want to say anything publicly because there is always a chance that I might have to eat some crow. Yuk! Not my idea of fun. But, I feel something stirring inside and I like it. (And no, the stirring is certainly not a baby!) I haven’t felt like this for a very long time. Maybe. Just maybe. . .See a smile slowly creep across my face.

Several weeks ago I decided to join the YMCA again. More non-running options for this aging body, you know. I wanted to glide effortlessly through the water again. And all those exercise contraptions. . .well, who could resist? So join I did.

Headlong into the pool I went. The effortless gliding took a little more work than I had remembered. And the 5:45 a.m. core strength class nearly caused my stomach muscles to explode like rubberbands too tightly stretched. Then we have to talk about Pilates. My, I knew I wasn’t Gumby flexible but this was ridiculous. What was so easily achieved in my brain did not translate to the mat. But then we have the revolving stair machine (think escalator) towering gladiator-like over all the other exercise equipment dwarfed in its presence. I decided to take it on.

This stair climber kicks butt. . .or at least I hope it whittles mine down and firms up those fifty-two year old cheeks. The most I have been able to do without getting thrown off (or throwing up)is thirty minutes at level fifteen out of twenty. My legs scream and rivers of sweat nearly create a waterfall effect down the steps. I am exhausted when I call it quits.

And then I run. In fact, I ran twenty road miles nearly thirty-two minutes faster than a couple weeks ago. Until my toaster strudel and single pack of gummy treats wore off, I felt unbelievably good. Hum. I wonder if training is actually working? Duh.

Oddly, I almost relish the thought of entering races. I want to be fatigued from training. I like the feel and look of legs that seem to be stronger and abs just a little tighter. Dare I believe that my increased cross-training is making me a better, faster runner? The thought is almost too good to be true.

I’ll never be as fast as I once was but know that I can be faster than I am now. For the first time in years I anticipate my workouts. I look forward to toeing the line at the next race. I embrace the thought of finishing challenges in satisfied exhaustion. What’s happening? Is it real? Will it last?

I sure hope so. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Turning ordinary into extraordinary

Remember the story of the Israelites right before they went into the Promised Land? Twelve guys went on a reconnaissance mission; one brave soul from each tribe. Over the border they went, starry-eyed and amazed. The land was bountiful, grape clusters so huge two men had to bind them to poles carried between their shoulders. And this was no overnight camp out. They explored the territory for forty days before reporting back. I can just imagine them standing before Moses, each so filled with images of what they had seen that their mouths ran on ahead of their brains. Truly, the land was glorious but—and this was a big but—the people were ginormous, so much so that the Jewish men looked like little grasshoppers by comparison.

Ten men said, and I paraphrase, “You gotta be kidding. I’m not going in there! We’ll get creamed, annihilated, squashed like bugs!” So convinced were they of their inevitable demise, they got the entire nation stirred into a frenzy, threatening to stone Caleb and Joshua. However, Caleb and Joshua had other ideas.

The distinct minority argued that the task was large but God was bigger. Caleb and Joshua, just ordinary guys, dared to see beyond the obvious, beyond the obstacles, beyond the normal course of logic to see the possibilities. They stepped over the line to trust God to be faithful in his promise to give them that land. Their faith was rewarded. They were the only men over the age of twenty to ever again enter the land flowing with milk and honey.

Caleb and Joshua knew this situation was anything but ordinary. They stood in awe of what God was doing. They understood that God was using them for an express purpose. Truly, they were ordinary guys turned extraordinary.

Running blind

When my youngest son was in grammar school, I got this phone call. “Mrs. Trittipoe. Seth had an accident. Can you come?” It’s what every mother hates to hear.

Upon arriving at the school, I found my tearful second-grader whimpering in the office, tissues held against his mouth to catch the bloody drool. “What happened?” I inquired as I further noted a clear imprint of a brick embedded into his forehead. Seth looked at me with those puppy-dog eyes, not quite sure how to respond.

It seems he and his gaggle of girlfriends had been playing a game. The girls called out directions to Seth and he was to do accordingly. “Turn right. Go straight. Now left.” Simple enough. Simple enough, that is, if one could see. Those girls had Seth don his sweatshirt backwards, the hood covering his face. It was only blind faith—or stupidity—that guided him. The game proceeded for a time but as young girls often do, they soon became distracted and left Seth running full speed into the old brick schoolhouse. The teacher in the classroom heard the thud as the windows shuttered upon impact. Hence, the phone call.

Seth was running blind. But don’t we do the same thing? We live our lives following anything that catches our fancy. We turn right, left or run straight ahead based on what everyone is doing.

Avoid running into a brick wall. Let's open our hearts and eyes and allow the Spirit of God to do the guiding.

“For as many are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Empty Room

Written January 2009 to a first-time expectant mother:

The bedroom at the top of the stairs, the one on the left, was spotless. With the door propped open by the weighty brass doorstop, it invited the passer-by to enter into the room—or at least give a quick glance. The duvet on the bed, designed and created by Mother, was perfectly arranged, nary a wrinkle to behold. The custom pillows were propped just so against the headboard. Books and mementos stood like well-behaved soldiers on recently dusted and organized bookshelves. A comfortable chair sat in front of the clean desk as if anticipating the arrival of an occupant, pens and pencils at the ready. The curtains on each window hung elegantly from the rods, the blinds beneath all opened to precisely the same degree. The dust bunnies that reproduced so easily underneath the bed had migrated to the dust pan and not even the corners held captive little bits of dirt and debris. It was an impeccably-kept room, perfect in every way. Perfect, that is, in every way but one. No one lived there anymore.

A few weeks prior, the room did not look so perfect. It had that. . . well, how do I put it . . . that “lived-in” look. Rather than a wide open door, the door most often remained closed, protecting the privacy of the resident. The desk was an electronic depot and the floor a depository for dirty clothes. The covers on the bed were seldom straightened. And at times, three-quarters of the glasses from the kitchen cabinet took up residency on the bedside table. Still, the room was in many ways perfect. The resident, my eldest son, made it that way.

Now he’s gone. His departure is not the kind that happens when a college kid goes off to study. In that case, they predictably return on Christmas and summer breaks. But this time, that is not the case. This child of mine, a young man of twenty-one years and anxious to begin life on his own, has left for good. When he returns, it will be only as a short-term visitor. What remains on his shelves and hanging on the walls are merely remnants of a distant childhood that have come and gone all too quickly.

What happened to those years? How did we get to this point? I have always known that children are raised so that they can leave. But when it happens, it catches you off guard. Though always a parent, you realize the years of parenting have come to a screeching halt. Your own flesh and blood has slammed his foot down on the brake, propelling you forward into the post-child rearing years. The whiplash from that process can be oh so painful.

As a new parent, embrace the dreary-eyed, sleep-deprived nights. Love the poo. Embrace the puke. Hold his tiny hand. Tickle his tootsies. Sing songs in the night. Look for monsters under the bed. Read him bed-time stories. Go for walks in the park. Dare to be silly. Zoom down the slide. Teach him to ride a bike. Help him with homework. No matter how busy, don’t forget his birthday and reduce him to tears. Take pictures to remember his artwork passionately scribbled onto the wall. Let him see you and Daddy kiss. Teach him to manage his pennies. Teach him to work. Teach him to play. Talk about God. Live like you talk. Cherish the good, the bad, the joy, the sadness for surely it will be gone sooner than you realize.

Hold onto each moment for “this too shall pass.”

Post-script: That son of mine? He moved back home anyway as he awaits his Navy training to begin in May. Maybe then his room will once again be tidy.

Monday, November 16, 2009

So soon we forget

Enjoying sunny skies and warms temps, I took off on a little jaunt around my 8.5 mile country block. Having time to think, I wondered how my young friends were doing wandering around campus in the aftermath of their first marathon over the past weekend. I wished I could have seen their agility levels (or lack thereof). But it also gave me reason to think back to my first big race. At the time, I thought for sure those memories would be forever embedded in my brain. Alas, they were not. Hence, I offer these humble suggestions.

1. As soon as possible after a race, write down everything you can remember: how you felt, what you were thinking, impressions along the way. If you don't, you'll be lucky to recall the details two days afterward. Re-read whenever you need to reignite your passion and excitement!

2. Be prepared to feel depressed by mid-week after the race. Years ago, this one caught me by surprise. But after all the planning, training, and pre-race hype, the finish line comes down and exposes a deep, empty hole. It's like the feeling you get once the gifts are opened and the tree comes down. So if you feel a low coming on, chalk it up to mental and physical weariness. Rest up and know that all these all feelings will soon pass as recovery heals. Don't despair. Just ride the wave and be grateful for your experience. . .and re-read what you wrote in # 1. It will make you smile and appreciate your accomplishment.

3. Sometimes there is a tendency to become overly critical of your performance in the days following the race. "If only. . ." permeates your thinking. "'I was a wus,' 'I could have gone faster'" haunt your thinking. Certainly, there are lessons to be learned from mistakes or encountered difficulties. Just be careful to keep everything in perspective. Regardless of how you did, the sun continues to rise and set each day.

4. Give yourself a few days before setting a new goal--but do set a goal. It will serve to motivate you and get you moving again after your period of rest.

Congratulations to all who have ever toed the line and found the finish.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

First-timers


It wasn't exactly what I envisioned. I anticipated a happy-go-lucky drive marked by senseless chatter, raucous laughs and good-hearted ribbing. With college kids in the car headed for their first-ever marathon, the mood was light.  Light, that is, until I glanced at the race information handed to me at dinner.  It was nearly eight o'clock when we found our tables at the pizza shop. "Race packet pick-up:11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.. There will be no packet pick-up on race day."  Houston. We have a problem!

"Uh-oh. I thought you said pick-up was until 11:00 p.m.," I  blurted out to the leader of the pack. Oops. Though exceptionally organized for this adventure, she had the wrong 11:00 in her brain. It happens. We asked for the afterburners to be cranked up on the pizza ovens and inhaled the food as soon as it hit the table. A GPS phone calculated a twenty-minute drive to the convention center. We headed out at 8:10 p.m.

But as these things go, a few missed turns changed the mood from frivolous to deafening anxiety when faced with the possibility of missing their first race simply because they weren't there in time to pick up race numbers. And on top of that, the two cars got separated, neither having any better luck at finding the stealthy building. We prayed for red lights to turn green; for the GPS to shout out "Approaching destination." At last, we spied the center and those in my car jumped out as we pulled up to a red light. They made it by three minutes. The occupants of the other car pushed the deadline even closer. But by the end of the night, all had bib numbers in hand. The mood relaxed.

Now, the reality of running 26.2 has set in. All were successful in completing the distance and have stories to tell; chafing, bathroom emergencies, loudly protesting muscles, and frustrations of getting beat to the finish by a guy in a pink tutu and fat "old" women in leopard outfits (read that women in their 30s). But they all seized the day and I could not be more proud of this group of neophyte runners. It was just a few short months ago that the mere thought of running a few miles was a challenge. Now, after weeks of training and long runs through the mountains of Virginia, they achieved their goals and conquered the distance. Their success can be contributed to what they wrote (and believed) on their hand-made t-shirts: "You can do more than you think you can," a notable quote by Dr. David Horton, ultrarunning king.

Get involved in the lives of younger runners. It will motivate and inspire you and maybe, just maybe, you can impact their lives in some small way.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Slip-sliding away

"Well, you see, I was getting on the entrance ramp and well, it's like. . .I sort of spun out. I'm OK and so is the car but it's stuck and facing the wrong way."

Don't you just hate getting these kind of calls? If you have little kids, just wait. Big Wheels turn into bicycles which morph mysteriously into two thousand pound moving targets. This time it was Caleb on the other end of the line. The wet road and his slightly aggressive acceleration on the curvy ramp (I'm just taking a wild guess on this one) caused him to lose contact with the road, sending him into an unanticipated spin. Thankfully, his angels didn't desert him and after rescuing him with the Jeep and a tow rope, we are all safe and sound back home.

But isn't that how life is? We get just a little complacent, thinking that we can take the road in front of us at the same speed as always.  We're almost on autopilot. But when we do so, we gravely err. We fail to recognize things that need our attention: family, our relationship with God, keeping our priorities straight.  And before we know it, we are spinning out of control and headed for the ditch. It's only when we screech to a halt that we see the truth.

May we keep our eyes on the road. May we see the warning signs. May we be steadfast.

"Oh, that my ways were steadfast in obeying your decrees!"  (Psalm 119:5)

God hears and listens

I was shocked.  Probably shouldn't have been but I was. God must laugh when we react that way.

A young college friend of mine had suffered what appeared to be a stroke several weeks ago.  After a frantic but unproductive trip to the emergency room, she left without a diagnosis, the remnants of her symptoms following her back to the dorm.  A promised consult to the office of a neurologist failed to materialize, further frustrating the student and her worried family, living in far away Ethiopia.  A distant late December appointment was offered instead. Little good that would do as she would be in Africa at that time. So when her symptoms reappeared yesterday, I suggested we try to open a few doors together.

We first collected her medical records from the hospital and drove to the neurology office.  As we stood at the check-in window, we saw the receptionist pick up the phone and dial. "I am calling for Rachel Chestnut. If you get this, we have an opening today at 2:30. . ."  We couldn't believe our ears. This office that rarely accepts new patients was calling my friend from the other side of the glass.  We giggled and signaled the women.  As she returned the phone to its cradle and opened the glass window, I recalled my prayer earlier that morning.

"Lord, I ask you to please open a door and allow Rachel to get the care she needs. I know the odds are slim of seeing a doctor today but you can do anything.  Please Lord. We need some help!"  Sure enough, God not only answered that prayer but provided a diagnosis that alleviated the fears of a stroke, brain tumor, or aneurysm. In the nick of time, Rachel got the go-ahead to run a weekend marathon without having to wonder if she was going to hurt herself.

God is so good. Never doubt that He is involved in our daily affairs, orchestrating events to bring glory to Himself and encouragement to our souls.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Brief introduction



Welcome to my blog spot. My name is Rebekah and I am still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up! I've been a lab tech in a radioimmunoassay lab, a high school teacher and coach, a cardiovascular perfusionist for a long time (twenty-plus years), and now an online high school teacher and provider of online continuing medical education. In addition, I am an author and speaker, seeking to  inspire and motivate both athletes and women. But, I also love power tools, building things, design, landscaping and yes, even organizing!  What's a girl to do?

I want to be authentic and will do my best to write honestly and often.  There's no telling what you might find on these electronic pages.