Chasing God's glory through tragedy and triumph

discipline

Running for His glory: How running found me

Posted by | brave, courage, discipline, family life, Guest blogger, running, self-care, Stories, struggle | No Comments

This essay is part of our summer series focusing on the intersection between running and faith. Danielle and I connected through the Hope*writers group online. She brings a unique perspective to the table on how running found her as a young adult and shapes her health, her mothering, and who she is in Christ today.

 

By Danielle E. Morgan

In high school, I tried running to try and stay fit. My mom was a decent runner, and my oldest brother ran track. I hated it. It was all I could do to muster the ability to run one mile. It took me longer to run one mile than it would take my whiny preschooler, but I ran that mile and felt so accomplished.

But I hated running. I even remember telling my mother one day in pure frustration that I would never ever be a runner.

Never once would I have imagined that one day I’d run a marathon, hike the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim, participate in the Ragnar Trail Relay two separate years, and that at the end of the day, from season to season, running would become something I needed deep in my bones.

I never set out to become a runner; it was just something that sort of happened to me. I always say “running found me.”

Twelve years,  before I had any children, I set out one summer to get myself healthy. I was dealing with high cholesterol that my endocrinologist was adamant I take care of. The freshman 15 I had put on in college turned into the senior 25. Then I had three years of marriage combined with a full-time job, in which I developed a lifestyle of eating out a lot and no regular exercise.

My motivation to get healthy was pretty high because of the health risk I was facing. My doctor had encouraged me to start exercising and being intentional about the things I ate. Due to my unique issues with cholesterol, I was able to consult with a nutritionist to offer guidance and tools along the way.

I faced each day with one goal in mind: I was going to move my body for 30 minutes and be consistent five days a week. 

We had just adopted a black lab who needed a ton of exercise, so I put him on a leash and woke up every morning at 5:30am to take a 30-minute walk. If you think I’m crazy for getting up that early, you aren’t the only one.

It was July in Arizona, and if you want to exist outside for more than 5 minutes without getting heat stroke, then you will wake yourself up before the sun does.

I walked every day, Monday-Friday, and it became a regular part of my routine. After losing 12 pounds in six weeks, I was hooked. I had no idea I could lose 12 pounds, and now I was seeing my consistency produce a reward. It felt so good.

I kept walking and lost 35 pounds by the end of four months. I was a new woman. I had to buy new clothes and throw out the old ones. For the first time in my life, I owned my confidence and wasn’t pretending anymore.

I started to get addicted to exercise. I knew it was good for me, and even more so, I knew that I never wanted to go back to that person I was before it all started.

Then something happened. The walking became easy. I wasn’t getting the same sort of sweat I had gotten before and I realized in order to get my heart rate up and utilize the 30 minutes best, I needed to pick up my pace.

One day, I just started jogging. I thought, “I’ll just run until I’m uncomfortable, and then I’ll walk.”

The first time I tried running, it lasted maybe 30-45 seconds. So, I listened to my body and resumed my walking pace until I felt good enough to go again.

After a few weeks of off-and-on running and walking, I jogged the entire half hour. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. How was it that I was running – by choice!? And that was just the beginning…

When I look back on the past 12 years, I am deeply blessed that running  found me.

Running for me is like writing; It fills up my soul with its richness, but requires grit and tenacity. It’s deeply hard and life-giving at the same time.

Running has been woven into the very fabric of my motherhood as I’ve bonded over hundreds of miles with my children. It’s also been the perfect escape for me. Running is my personal retreat when I’ve needed to unpack the heaviness of life and allow God to work through my literal breathlessness.

There is something powerfully divine about the places your feet can take you. It’s different when you experience a firm foundation under your own two feet, because getting somewhere requires strength, endurance, and pure fight.

When you find yourself standing over a bridge overlooking miles upon miles of road, or in the bottom of a canyon with unending hills to climb before you see the top, you realize then and there that you are so very small and God is so very big.

And yet, He invites us in. He crafted these heights and depths for our very enjoyment and has allowed runners to experience Him through nature in a uniquely glorious way – a way that fills our soul and gives life to our bones.

Running is a holy experience, a collision of the physical and spiritual in a supernatural way. It allows us to experience God through the lens of breathlessness and grit as we rely on Him for every step.

To me, running is the perfect picture of what life is. It’s less about the destination and more about our reliance on a Holy God as we embark on the journey. There are many roads and pathways your feet will carry you, but as you trust in Him, He will guide and direct your steps along the way.

 

Danielle is an Arizona native, wife, and mother of 2. She works full-time for a large multisite church as a Communications Director, in addition to consulting for a Digital Marketing Firm. Danielle is passionate about writing and speaking and is a regular contributor to local churches and organizations on issues of faith and women in business. She is particularly interested in empowering working moms and encouraging women to use their voice of influence in the workplace. When she’s not working, you can find her running outdoors or frequenting local restaurants and coffee shops.
You can connect with Danielle on Instagram at @DanielleEMorgan or on her blog at www.DanielleEMorgan.com.
*Read the other articles in this series:

-In “When God brings you full circle,” Dorina describes how sometimes we have to return to particular places, relationships or memories in order to measure just how far we’ve come. She learned this on a trail race she ran a few times in different seasons of life.

*Dorina and her husband Shawn recently started the Glory Chasers running group on Facebook. They offer up courage, coaching, and community for Christian runners. If you’re a runner or know one, pass it on.


The steepest path: A single parent’s choice of faith vs. fear

Posted by | brave, courage, death, discipline, family life, fear, flourishing, grief, hope, kids, parenting, relationships, Stories, struggle, transitions | No Comments

My feet felt heavy, like someone had filled my trail shoes with rocks. I followed the path before me. Each step brought me closer.

I stumbled, but eventually regained my footing. I could make out a fork in the road just ahead. The cadence of my heartbeat increased. My feet slowed.

I found myself at the intersection of fear and faith.

Which way would I go? Which path would I choose this time?

After my husband died in 2014, I faced many fears as a young widow. I often felt overwhelmed and vulnerable. He had been my anchor, the one who helped me feel secure, and empowered me to run after my calling. Without him, I second guessed my decisions and agonized over the future. I feared financial ruin and being alone for the rest of my life.

Although my faith was strong, my fears frequently reared their ugly heads. I had to make a choice. Would I run down the path of fear or pivot toward the steeper path and run with faith?

One of my biggest fears was that I would not be able to parent my children well. At the time of his death, my girls were ages 2, 5 and 8. My husband and I were partners in parenting. We prayed for our family together. We agreed on discipline. We tag-teamed when the other person was tired or frustrated. Now I had to be the mother and father in parenting.

My fear was not an issue of striving for perfectionism. After birthing three babies, I knew I would never get the parenting thing perfect. I was more fearful that I couldn’t give my girls my best. There were days I just didn’t have my best to give. Simply breathing and surviving grief were my focus.

Some days it felt like my girls had been cheated out of time with their daddy. He wouldn’t be able to attend their high school graduations and walk them down the aisle at their weddings. I feared his absence would damage them emotionally and their grief would overcome them.

Before I married my late husband Ericlee, I heard his grandmother teach on Isaiah 54:5. She spoke passionately about how God is our husband and partner. These words carried me as a single girl, a married woman when my husband was traveling, and eventually as a new widow:

Wedding bandsFor your Maker is your husband—
the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.

– Isaiah 54:5

This verse and others have helped me fight my fears and replace them with truth. The more I wrapped my heart in truth, the more confidence I gained as a parent. He covered me in a blanket of grace again and again.

When I was uncertain about a decision, when I needed strength to discipline my children, when I had to attend those parent-teacher conferences or awards assemblies alone, when I couldn’t participate in an event because I didn’t have childcare, I clung to those words.

There was comfort in knowing God, my Maker, also serves as my Husband. He cares for me and partners with me. He imparts knowledge and courage to me when I call out for Him. He fills in what I lack. And He transforms even the darkest circumstances for His glory.

{This essay is continued today over at my friend Jerusha Agen’s blog. Find it here.}

*Main photo provided by Jens Lelie on Unsplash.com.

Contemplating Lent: A Return to Gratitude

Posted by | behold, discipline, gifts, inspirational, Stories | No Comments

 

I press in like Elijah. He does not reply in the mighty storm, or in the breathtaking earthquake, or even in the consuming fire, but in a gentle whisper dancing before dawn on Ash Wednesday.

I hear it: gratitude.

He is calling me to return to the discipline of gratitude. I began my list of 1000 gifts more than six years ago now when my belly was just rounding with our third baby girl – a surprise! I learned from Ann that “thanksgiving always precedes the miracle.”

This Lenten season I return to that practice of looking for Him in the minute and the mundane. I am chasing the word “behold” this year. I’ve discovered it means “being held” by my Savior. It means taking a posture of wild-eyed wonder. It means pressing in to listen and witness the miracle. It means putting aside my addictions, my idols, my sacred cows, and braving the Word he has for me in this darkness.

For the last few months, I’ve been starting my day with music. I put together a Morning Worship playlist and I’m trying to fight the urge to reach for my phone and social media first. Admittedly, that’s become a reflex, a pathway. I need to reroute.

Instead, I’m turning back to music to ground me, to point me to the Father. And now I hear Him asking me to remove the clay from my eyes and see Him again in the everyday. I need to be intentional about stopping to notice, beholding the wonder of the world around me, and chasing His glory in all circumstances.

I’ve gotten away from the practice of listing my gifts. It’s been more than a year since I pecked out late night or early morning posts about how my Father was caring for us. Rest assured, He has. In fact, the blessings have been so abundant I had this little fear worming its way through my heart that people would think I was showing off. I wondered if celebrating the daily joy, the newlywed heart flutters, the glimpses of His glory, would somehow discourage others. I felt like a fraud while so many across the world are suffering.

Wednesday morning He chastised me. These words rang out in the darkness:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16).

 The glory is His. It’s not for me to hide or be ashamed of or even wonder what others will think about my lists. It’s about my posture of gratitude. If Lent is about giving things up and turning our hearts back to our first Lover, then I believe gratitude may be the pathway out of complacency. I’m looking for that route with the more glorious view.

And so I continue my counting gifts – the discipline that lifts me, that lifts us all, that causes me to see Him in the every day.

Here are a few gifts from my week:

  1. That candle, my wedding scent – a reminder that Beauty always comes from the Ashes
  2. The way he laughs when he holds the baby, such light
  3. My smallest girl screaming out in pain after dropping a dumbbell on her toe – just a smashed toenail, nothing more
  4. Dipping spoons in bowls of soup and sharing life with this beautiful mama in the quiet
  5. The way his daughter, who has been reluctant to participate, just up and jumped the farthest on the whole Track team, following her daddy in Heaven’s footsteps
  6. This house that is so much more than a new roof, but a symbol of a new life and multiplied provision
  7. All my girlies piled on the big bed to read before bed, now a sacred practice
  8. The light in her eyes when she presented her book for an autograph and proudly announced she, too, was Filipina like me
  9. That book of poetry and homemade pear syrup she gifted me from her heart
  10. A phone call from across the ocean from my heart-friend who is navigating a transition and learning to make an old home new

I hope you will join me for the next 40 days. Let’s take time to count gifts again. I’ll be on Instagram and Facebook with the hashtag #GloryChasers if you want to post your gift lists. Maybe we can take back the internet in the process. Maybe?!

When your morning feels stressful, start with music {and a free playlist!}

Posted by | discipline, fear, inspirational, rest, self-care, Stories, worship | 3 Comments

 

About a year ago I was struggling with how to spend my time in the morning. I got in this rhythm where the first thing I did was reach for my phone and start scrolling through social media. One thing would lead to the next. I would read an article here, a post there. I would start a conversation with a friend about that cute kid picture she posted on Instagram or my heart would get all worked up about that political meme I saw on Facebook.

Before I knew it, more than an hour had passed and little people were crawling into my room. The day was sucking me in. I felt crabby because I didn’t have any time to quiet my soul, to read my Bible, to connect with God. I knew I had to make a change. I was squandering my time, and it was affecting my attitude.

That’s when I decided to create a Morning Worship playlist. I longed for a new rhythm, a new way to start my day. I wanted to get back to seeing God’s glory from the moment I woke up.

I am that girl who had a different sound track for every season of life. If I hear U2 or Sade or Amy Grant or Miles Davis, I can conjure up memories of another place and another time in my life. I grew up making those mix tapes on my little boom box in the ‘80s and burning CDs in the ‘90s. I was always working to assemble that just-right blend of tunes.

In 2014, I discovered Spotify. If you’ve never used Spotify before, it’s a free music app or site where you can make your own music playlists or listen to what others have compiled. Yes, this is the 2017 version of those mix tapes I used to make. I fell in love. (I even splurge for the premium account now so I don’t have to listen to commercials.)

I needed music in 2014 more than any other year. I remember those days vividly. Each morning before school, I urged my three girls to kiss their daddy one more time. We would pile in the family Highlander with our usual mess of backpacks, coats and lunches. I often choked back the tears, wondering if this would be their last goodbye. As the cancer continued to spread through his body, I had to juggle “normal” mama duties and being his caretaker.

The only thing that would lift me from the horror of each day was worship music.

On the drive back to our house from school drop offs, I would blast my music. The lyrics washed over me, lifting me, guiding me home. I poured my heart out to God in song. And He met me there.

I learned to redefine worship in that season. Music was not just playing in the background. It was my guide taking me to God in the darkest moments.

One of my favorite examples of how God uses music to bring healing in the Bible is in 1 Samuel 16. King Saul was tormented by an evil spirit that filled him with fear. His servants suggested looking for someone to play the lyre. They understood the power of music to calm the soul. They recruited a young man named David.

I Samuel 16:23 says, “And whenever the harmful spirit from God was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand. So Saul was refreshed and was well, and the harmful spirit departed from him” (ESV).

I recently read an article that talked about the neuroscience behind listening to music. The article said a single song can reduce anxiety up to 65 percent. Music has the power to calm our nervous system.

In this age of unprecedented stress in our jobs, swirling politics, chaos in our country, tension online between friends and in communities, we need to develop habits to start our day with our Creator who holds all things in His hands.

My challenge to myself and to you is to start each morning with music. I’ve curated a FREE music playlist for my readers to get started. Try listening to just two worship songs each morning. Meditate on the words. Let them lead you into prayer or Bible study.

***

I hear the alarm ring out in the darkness. I lean over to turn it off and press play on my Morning Worship playlist. As my body and my mind are still waking up, the music dances through my room. I take in the truths of the lyrics. I pray. I open my Bible.

It’s a habit now.

This is the way I pivot toward God each morning instead of being sucked into the chaos of social media and the to-do list. This is the way I center myself. When dawn’s light slips into my bedroom window, I am ready for a new day.

Cover yourself with grace and join me.

 

Ready to start a new morning rhythm and start your day with music? I’d love to send you my specially-curated FREE Morning Worship playlist. You can try it out and then create your own!

Photo by Leio McLaren from Unsplash

Running Life’s Trails

Posted by | discipline, inspirational, Personal Stories, Stories | 8 Comments

My friend and I signed up for the 10k. We figured we could do anything for 6.2 miles – even if it meant we had to hike, walk or crawl. We heard the scenery at the San Joaquin River Gorge Trail (just 45 minutes from my home in Central California) was breathtaking. I longed to try something new. How hard could it be?

Let’s just say it was hard. Maybe the hardest race I’ve ever run in my life.

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