Don’t Fear the Hills

You often hear people say that they don’t enjoy running.  While I love to run, I definitely understand where folks are coming from when they tell me, “I’m just not a runner.”  At the beginning, running is painful.  It hurts to push your body beyond its comfort zone, become winded, and feel your legs strain as they propel you along the path.  Why would anyone do this??

Well, once you push through the initial pain and build up your stamina over several runs, you’ll experience new sensations.  The “runner’s high” is a real thing.  Running longer distances makes the shorter runs feel downright easy.  Running along a flat or slight decline, can feel euphoric, like you could run forever.  Listening to music while running helps cultivate these moments of pure joy when the right song lyrics and beat match your breath and running pace.  It’s the best.

Beautiful view along my run today.

While I love to run, I still find myself avoiding running routes with steep hills.  When you live in a neighborhood whose name means “little cliffs” in Spanish, you have to deal with a lot of hilly terrain. On my long run today, I headed out the Highway 56 bike path to discover police tape at the first major intersection I crossed.  Feeling determined to get in my run, I thought, “That’s odd” and kept going.  When I only passed one other runner in over two miles, I figured something was up.  Sure enough, at the next major intersection there was major police tape blocking both ends of the path. 

As I diverted my running route to the neighborhood, I contemplated the long hills that this route would make me climb.  These long runs are a prayerful time for me, so I breathed deeply and prayed that I’d be able to keep going and not let fear stop me.  “Don’t fear the hills,” ran through my heart and mind.

When I feel trepidation about running a long or steep hill, what I’m actually fearing is discomfort and pain.  I enjoy the feeling of running effortlessly and hills are anything but that!  However, when I allow this fear to dictate my actions, by picking less strenuous routes or worrying about an upcoming hill along my path, it steals strength from my body and joy from my heart. 

I’ve often thought that long distance running is a great metaphor for life, and here’s another example: fearing emotion pain or discomfort in life likewise keeps us from embracing the fullness of our experiences.  Avoidance of pain causes people to do all sorts of unhelpful things.  Truly, the only thing to fear is fear itself. When we allow for the normal ups and downs of life to impact us, we don’t waste our strength or energy trying to keep pain away. 

Ironically, the pain that we fear, whether it be emotional or physical as we run up a steep hill, often isn’t nearly as bad as we anticipated.  Once we are actually in the moment and experiencing pain or discomfort, if we bring our awareness and energy to that moment we can push through and build our resiliency.  Relying on Christ in these moments, with a prayer like “Lord, I can do all things through you who strengthens me,” helps a lot too. 

There are times when I sense that I’m modifying my actions because of a desire to keep feeling “good” and avoid discomfort. Sometimes it’s when I’m plotting a running route and other times it pops up when I’m deciding whether to read something sad or watch something upsetting. When people in my life are struggling, I decide how much to lean in and carry their burdens with them. These moments of pain are like hills in our emotional lives.  I don’t want to let fear keep me from experiencing the full range of emotions and the potential joys of engaging with my loved ones or trying new things. 

Now I have a little shorthand reminder of the way I want to live: “Don’t fear the hills”.


Morning Prayers

This morning, Sienna greeted me by saying, “I just woke up and said Luther’s Morning Prayer.”

“Really?  How does it go?” I replied.

I thank You, my Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, that You have kept me this night from all harm and danger; and I pray that You would keep me this day also from sin and every evil, that all my doings and life may please You. For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things. Let Your holy angel be with me, that the veil foe may have no power over me. Amen.

She smiled sweetly as she finished reciting the prayer.  I gave her a hug and soaked in the moment.  We’re all feeling a bit lost and uncertain during this time.  Seeing my angel girl turn to Jesus and pray a prayer she’s been taught for comfort and strength touched my heart deeply. One of the simple joys of this time of quarantine and family togetherness at home has been the time and space to slowly wake, spend time in prayer, and be more slow and intentional in our day.

Last night, while snuggling with Teo after reading, he asked me “What’s your favorite time of day?” To which I quickly replied, “Morning. I’m a morning person.” 

“Me too.  I like mornings best.  I don’t like afternoons as much because then the day is almost over. In the morning the day is new and good,” Teo confided.

I’ve been thinking about morning prayers a lot recently.  A couple weeks ago a prayer spontaneously popped in my mind upon waking one morning:

“Lord, I don’t know what the day ahead holds, but I know what you daily provide: mercies that are new each morning, peace that surpasses all understanding and graciously straight paths. Amen.”

This prayer quickly buried itself in my heart and soul, so that it’s one of my first thoughts upon waking each day.  Good timing too, as it’s never been truer than this past week that we simply don’t know what the day ahead holds.

What a week!  I’ve spent the better part of this past week at home on the phone trying to coordinate logistics for my team working remotely.  It’s really hard to believe that Monday was the tax deadline, it feels like a month ago! 

But, there’s also been a great freedom it letting go of the schedule and all the day-to-day demands of life.  I’ve felt incredibly present this past week.  Late this afternoon, the kids and I went for a long walk and I haven’t felt so connected to them, engaged in their conversation, and truly relaxed in a very long time.  We walked on the bike path I often run but they’d never been down.  It was fun to see them explore a place that was familiar to me but new to them. 

I’ve heard it said a lot this week and I really relate: the crisis of this pandemic will show us all what’s most important in life.  When things are so out of our control, we can rest and rely on the one who has everything under his gracious and loving will. 



I’m not used to being the one being cared for and protected.  This role reversal right now feels strange, but also very comforting.  The feeling reminds me of when I was diagnosed with diabetes and stayed in the hospital for five days.  My pediatric nurses were so attentive and caring, my mom slept on a fold out chair next to my bed, and visitors came in a steady stream to show their love and concern.  It was a scary time, but I felt immensely loved and safe.

Frankly, I’ve not germaphobic at all.  After testing my blood, I typically put my finger in my mouth to stop the bleeding, so yeah, I’m not afraid of germs.  In fact, maybe that’s why my immune system is strong?  The kids and Dennis all came down with the flu last month and I didn’t.  Who knows?

The panic over the conoravirus seems both extreme and rightly concerning at the same time.  As a Type 1 Diabetic, I’m in the “high risk” category of those with “underlying health conditions”.  With diabetes, the concern is that viruses cause high blood sugars which can be more dangerous that the actual virus.  In terms of respiratory issues, I’m healthy as can be!  But, dealing with a serious virus and high blood sugars can be a challenge in terms of hydration and blood sugar control. 

Fortunately, I can do my job entirely from home, so I started self-quarantining (for the most part) on Thursday.  Dennis and I discussed the situation on the way home from school drop off yesterday. I went along because it was Colonial Feast Day for Sienna and I wanted to help setup her hat shop display.  “If something happened to me, it would be really devastating for the children,” I said.  “You think?!” Dennis replied as he reached for my hand.

As I spent most of the day on the phone dealing with the logistics of my team working remotely and back-up plans should offices need to close, Dennis went to multiple grocery stores.  Armed with a list of items I texted messaged him, he navigated the stores, overhearing concerned mothers as they learned that San Diego Unified announced a three week school closure. 

When he got home, we had a few laughs at some of the incorrect items he purchased!  My “veggie chips” were supposed to be the mixed root vegetables chips, but instead he got a bag of the potato puffed “chips” that are flavored with spinach and therefore labelled “veggie chips”.  We also now have enough fire roasted crushed tomatoes to feed an army, as he got 28 oz cans of crushed instead of 15 oz cans of diced tomatoes.  But, he did his best!  He offered to return them when I realized we needed a few more things, but I told him they’ll work just fine. Something as simple as taking on all the grocery shopping and family errands is Dennis’s tangible gift of love and concern for me. It makes me feel safe and loved.

Sitting there at my computer and gazing around our home, I felt really grateful for the preparation God has been doing to my heart and soul lately.  I’ve been thinking a lot about home and the nature of home making lately.  Our home is a cozy 1,100 square feet.  In sunny San Diego, this small size is offset by a lovely backyard and covered patio area that adds enough livable space for us to spread out. I even enjoy working outside at the patio table on nice days. However, in the winter or when it rains (as it has all week!) then we enjoy abundant family togetherness as most of our living happens in one space. 

Several ideas from The Life Giving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging & Becoming captured my imagination, such as these quotes from Sally & Sarah Clarkson:

“If you want your children to grow up loving what is true, beautiful, and good, your whole home should reflect that wholeness,” (pg. 89).

“Through the years, I have realized over and over that I conduct the atmosphere in my home by the way I rule over my heart.  When I focus not on performance or perfection but on joy, gratitude, and service, everything seems to fall into place,” (pg. 177).

Home should be the place we long to be, as it’s the place where we take refuge.  Home is where we enjoy the company of our loved ones and can truly rest and relax.  Home is where our children learn important lessons and where we all demonstrate love and patience in our daily interactions.  Home is where it’s safe to fail, where grace is extended and we remind each other of God’s love and forgiveness.

Now, since the kids’ school has opted for online instruction for the next few weeks before spring break during Holy Week, we prepare to spend most of the next month at home together. I’m grateful for an outlook on home that is inspiring and restorative.  Life has felt very full and busy the past year or so.  Although the circumstances are a little scary, I’m embracing the coziness of home and period of rest this season will bring. 


Daily Simplicity

As we sat down for dinner, my arm stretched uncomfortably across the table to grasp Mateo’s hand, we all recited The Lord’s Prayer.  Even though I’ve said this prayer thousands of times in my life, the phrase: “give us this day our daily bread” particularly struck me.  It was the word daily that caught my attention and my imagination.  My heart was moved by the simplicity and utter reliance that a prayer for today’s bread, for this meal in front of us, implicated.

In recent weeks, I’ve been relying on God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for daily provision, support, and guidance.  When I think back over many years of my life, I’m shammed to admit that often my attitude toward God was something along the lines of, “Thanks God, I’ve got it from here!” as I proceeded to live as if I were in control.  Not right now! My morning prayer is for God to keep me close and help me rely on Him for everything.  As I turn out the light at night, my prayer is one of thanksgiving that Christ has been graciously guiding and protecting me all day long.

This reorientation from contemplating, striving, and seeking to improve things on a wider scale, to focusing on the daily simplicity of life unfolding, has brought such peace.

We have very little control over our thoughts and feelings, they ebb and flow throughout the day. But, we can decide how to behave, what to do with our time, and intentionally pray for God’s guidance as our day unfolds.  John W. Kleinig says:

Our work goes hand in hand with our praying, for we are daily called to work with God. When we pray for God’s support and guidance in our work and the people we work with, we live by His grace and rely on Him to do His work through us.

Grace Upon Grace: Spirituality for Today, pg. 199.

I love the idea of resting from the striving of modern life and instead let God do His work through me throughout the day.  There is simply no area of life that God doesn’t desire to support and guide us through. Years ago I realized that I never prayed for help in managing my diabetes.  Here I had this disease that required hourly monitoring and I’d opted to handle it alone for so long!  Now, I pray for peace around my food choices, discernment when I’m deciding on insulin doses, and for overall good health.

I’ve been loving the book: The Life Giving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging & Becoming by Sally & Sarah Clarkson.  It’s full of practical suggestions and inspiration for creating a home oriented toward God and love for one another.  In the chapter for July, Sarah describes how reading great books can help a family to develop strong character through mimicking heroism found in stories and character.  I loved the way she concludes the chapter:

This life, this single day, this one home is the setting in which we have the chance to remember and honor the heroes who have gone before us and allow their tales to draw us into a heroism all our own.

In the end, I believe, heroism is simply faithfulness, a moment-by-moment choice to do what is right – to love once more, to give without fear in the face of every challenge.  Heroism is forged and known in such choices, whether in a blazing moment of courage or in the countless small moments of luminous, ordinary life.  Let us pray for courage and grace to join the ranks of loving and brave people who have gone before us and, in so doing, take our place as part of God’s story on earth.

The Life Giving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming, pg. 163.

This season of my life is full of routine, which can sometimes lead to a feeling of dullness in the day-to-day. However, the mundane everyday is where my life is happening, where my children are growing, where our family culture is created through daily activities.  Our relationships are grown through supporting one another when we’re struggling and cheering when we succeed, in acceptance when a child (or adult!) is cranky and loving cuddles while we read at night.  When the day is long and everyone is tired, it is heroic when you dig down for the energy to cook a healthy meal and have patience with your family when the bath and bedtime routine drags on. 

I’ve never been a big fan of Matthew 6:34: Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble, probably because I didn’t want to think about today or tomorrow being fully of anxiety! But, I’ve come to appreciate the wisdom of Christ’s teaching on this matter. We are so much better off when we’re present in the moment, trusting that God is providing the grace and provision for this day, rather than worrying about tomorrow and therefore robbing today of it’s strength.

This morning, before my eyes fully opened, I started a morning prayer that just flowed from my heart: Lord, I don’t know what this day holds but I know what you provide daily: mercies that are new each morning and peace that surpasses all understanding.