When Joy Came Down

Luke 2:11-14

11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

 When I was on my Christmas Eve run between storms last night, I started reflecting on the word-Joy. I’ve heard the word before but most of the time I find it being pretty misused. Joy to most people means happiness, which is a good way to put it. But what if Joy was a person?

Before anything else, what if Joy came down to us in a form so humbly as a baby being offered to us as love. That’s what I believe.

As I kept running, I started thinking about the Christmas Eve service I attended earlier in the day, and Joy of course was the topic heavily centered around. PK at 12 Stone(Pastor Kevin from my home church in GA) said something that resonated deeply within me.

“Joy can’t be taken, it can only be given”. -Kevin Myers

I thought about all the times throughout 2015 that I felt like my Joy had been taken. I thought about times where I had let my “joy”dim down because of broken relationships, disagreements with people I cared about in my life, times when I did wrong or upset someone to the point of maybe taking their joy.

I felt annoyed that my thoughts had brought me there and didn’t want to admit to myself that maybe I wasn’t always operating out of love but rather selfishness at times. I also struggled to face that I had let negative people and situations that hurt me interfere with my joy.

Then I thought about Jesus. Joy in the flesh that came down for us. I realized that no matter what wrong I did or what wrong was done to me, that nothing could ever take my joy.

When I felt alone or without my Joy, it was only being hidden, or dimmed at times when I chose to forget it was right in front of me.

Humans are so imperfect and complicated but that doesn’t matter because we’re given such an incredible gift; so undeserving anyways.

As I finished my run, I felt comforted by the joy revived in my heart, even knowing that I am so imperfect and constantly messing up and trying again and again.

No matter what I did or didn’t do, my Joy is with me always and nothing can take it. No one can take yours either. It’s yours and it’s there to stay!

I literally just pumped myself up writing this. So thinking about 2016 coming up, I know we all have goals and a lot to work on, but how about we put this very important mindset at the top??

And it doesn’t matter what place your at right now, or even if you don’t believe everything I’m talking about that’s okay too.

It takes an intentional effort but placing joy at the center of everything you do will radically change everything in your life. What bad could come of trying..? Exactly. Spread joy even when it hurts to at times and even if you don’t feel like your gaining anything.

Love is at the root of Joy and it’s not a selfish thing. It’s a giving thing. This is a topic for another post, but they go hand in hand.

I’m challenging you to make Joy  a priority from now on. It’s not always easy to be a joy to someone, to show them joy, or to receive joy but let’s do the best we can and stop taking the easy rout of neglecting your spirit. Joy paid such a high sacrifice for us and thought we were worth it, just the way we are right now. It’s time to start reflecting that in our own lives and hearts.

Merry Christmas everyone<3

Impatiently waiting for Patience.

Patience.

This is something that I severely lack in most areas of my life and have for some time.

Although I have gotten much better at accepting situations presented to me with less anxiety and worry, it doesn’t make being patient any more pleasant! (Again, being a perfectionist does not help here.)
Patience has been on the forefront of my mind a lot lately, especially in the past few months.

noun pa·tience \ˈpā-shəns\

Definition of patience

:  the ability to remain calm when dealing with a difficult or annoying situation, task, or person.(according to Merriam Webster)

I know it’s because I’m now in a new stage of my life with a lot of changes:
I graduated college in April, got my first full time job, chose to chase my dream of becoming an elite runner and began training post collegiate with a new coach.

I’m adjusting to a lot of balancing- finances, training full time, working full time and having some sort of a social life in between there. As a millennial(I know we get a bad rap but we’re not all bad!) balance is so important and having time for myself is needed. And honestly, sometimes I feel so alone.

I feel like I work so hard all by myself and question-where are the fruits from that now?

But that’s partially a lie I tell myself when I am discouraged.

Like I said earlier- being patient isn’t easy.Just like anything worthwhile, it isn’t going to be easy and anything you go after while climbing up the mountain doesn’t always seem clear when your in the middle of it.

With all of that swirling around in my head all the time..staying patient in my training, work, relationships and working hard in where I am right now is the most important thing I can focus on while giving it all to God.

Theodore Roosevelt said-

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

I’ve really been struggling with that lately. Not that I don’t understand that I am making investments in my future with what I’m doing now while relentlessly working hard at all I do every day but I am so impatient!

This can be a very tricky step for us and dangerously misleading because being impatient poses the thought that we are smarter or better at planning that God.

That simply isn’t true. Think of times where you have waited for God to come through and it’s turned out so much better than anything you could ever imagine? I can think of a few. And he has never come short for me so far.

On the flip side, think about times you have tried to rush something or force something to work. How did that turn out in the end? I know I have definitely had to learn that lesson the hard way a few times too many.

I’ve been reflecting in Psalm 37 all week, just picking it apart and really relating to situations in my life. I would highly recommend that you listen to it on your bible app before bed or read it sometime this weekend if you find yourself lacking patience or being a little bummed about something bringing you down!

“Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.” (‭Psalm‬ ‭37‬:‭7‬ NIV)

So whatever you are working toward every day, waking up for every day, staying late for, doing an extra rep for, or praying for..don’t stop.

Don’t quit just because you’re overwhelmed with anxiety or impatience. I’m probably much more impatient than you, trust me!!

I would encourage you to go back to the three W’s we talked about in my recent post- “what”,”who”,”why” am I doing this.

You’ll find the reasons to be patient there. And don’t get distracted by anything or anyone negative. Some people just can’t stand to see you do well or shine, don’t let that stop you from being the brightest light they’ve ever seen. Focus on your goals and don’t make excuses.

Lastly, what are you all struggling with being patient for?? Post below. I would love to pray for patience for you all in those areas! Feel free to share!

Suck it up Buttercup

“though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” Psalm‬ ‭37‬:‭24‬ 

Tonight was my first “bad” workout in a while. I’ve had a string of successful “speed workouts” as we call them(distance runners) and tempos since the summer when I started post collegiate running. Minus the whole getting sick thing in late October-early November; I’ve been feeling great and feeling myself about to reach a new plateau in my fitness and speed.

Every race since I started running again after my collegiate career ended in May, I’ve ran faster each time and seen improvement every day.

However, as all true runners know..you cannot and will not ALWAYS nail every workout, split, run the way you want to and at the pace you want to. That’s okay and that needs to happen or else you’d never see a real improvement for yourself.

 

I realize that.

But, I am a perfectionist and extremely hard on myself and I overthink even the most minute detail if I don’t perform the way I expect myself to. This is especially true in my running. Which can be a great thing because it shows I actually care about getting better.

At the same time, it can be unhealthy because I can be a little too hard on myself when I don’t need to be. Like tonight:

I sat in my car and just looked at my splits. I was getting pretty pissed. Then I started getting pissed at myself for getting pissed!!

“It was just a tempo!”I told myself. Shake it off, you weren’t even off pace by that much and it won’t have any effect on your race this weekend. Seriously, Lauren what are you doing..

 

So, I had two options:

1. Continue to sit and sulk and feel sorry for myself and get pissed off 

OR

2. Asses the workout, evaluate my rational emotions about it, understand what I need to do to improve, realize the factors in my control and SUCK IT UP.

 

Forget about the run after it’s over. Tomorrow is a new day and a new run.

So I reluctantly sent my coach my splits and started the car and went home.

As I rolled across my foam roller and rolled my sore, annoyed body out, stretched and prepared for dinner, I called the one man I always call when something goes wrong or I’m feeling down- my Daddy.

Luckily, my dad happens to be a Marathon Runner(I know it’s pretty awesome and you’re probably jealous my Dad’s such a beast). But he “gets it” and he’s experienced just about every emotion and high and low associated with running.

 

I felt a lot better after talking to him, then my coach texted back and basically told me the same as my dad. And the same I told myself behind all the negative waste of energy I created after the tempo tonight.

 

“don’t sweat it!” ONE bad workout or even a few doesn’t define you as a runner. You are much more than what you do on a bad workout, whatever that means for you.

When you start to panic in any workout, like I did( I focused on all the stuff out of my control instead of what I could), you set yourself up for failure to begin with.

 

When I went through the two mile, I knew I was slowing down and I had a 15-16 second drop in pace coming up.

Instead of focusing on the fact that I knew I was fit enough to hit the pace and just switch gears and go,(don’t think about it just run!), I started to panic and think about “my hip flexor is tight, it’s really dark, it’s too cold and I’m not warmed up enough, my iron is low this week”..blah blah blah!!

 

Those are all great excuses but I failed to remember what I could control- my attitude and effort(as one of my great coaches instilled in me).

He would probably have shaken me by the shoulders after that workout and said, “come onn!!!! Don’t F*** it up like that!”

 

Bottom line- I know I am a good runner, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do now if I wasn’t. But there are a lot of other “good” female runners my age like that. I’m not trying to be good, I want to be GREAT.

That’s why I work my ass off every day, relentlessly and I don’t give up- so I can become elite and reach the next level in my running. I won’t give up either even when I reach the goals I have for myself in running.

 

Running is so incredibly important to me and it’s a gift I don’t plan on wasting. That’s why I’m so hard on myself but tonight I remembered that to be a mature runner you have to take a step back and not let irrational emotions take over.

 

Workouts like tonight make us tougher. Without them, we wouldn’t appreciate or humbly accept our victories when they come.

 

So, next time you have a tough workout or a run doesn’t go the way you planned or hoped it would, shake it off!

Analyze the facts and move on! Don’t dwell on useless emotions or negative energy that distract you from how awesome you are!

Instead, focus on tomorrow. That run is over and gone. Nothing you can do about it and nothing good can come from obsessing!

“Suck it up butter cup”, a phrase I like to tell myself and others often when I see a tendency for a pitty party coming on.

You’re a lot stronger than you realize too, but being mentally strong as a runner is what will make you great. I’m still working at that part every single day.

Why do you do what you do?

“People are like grass, and all their faithfulness is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:7-8Lauren'siPhonepics 051.JPG

I know that I have veered off of the fitness/running blogging this week and before you see the bible verse up there and sigh* “here we go”, hear me out. And this is my first blog post for DECEMBER! Wohooo, happy Winter everyone.

Okay, so this has been weighing heavily on my heart over the past week-more so than normal. Probably because of some of my own personal experiences the last few months combined with a little bit of everything I see going on in the world everyday and observations of people daily.

I have also had the worst writers block trying to force creative energy to flow during a busy/ higher intensity training schedule this week(no excuses I know, I know). But the question that has been prodding itself  within my thoughts- Why do we do what we do?

Seems like a pretty obvious question at first glance. A no brainer. But I felt like I should write about this after a few people actually asked me this question multiple times this week. “Why do you do that?”

After completing a few easy miles early before starting work at 8AM, I darted in from the cold to pick up a smoothie. This kind woman and her daughter see me a lot(I have a healthy addiction okay!!) who work there. They couldn’t help but ask the same question I’ve been getting a lot lately-Why?

At first, I didn’t respond but not because I didn’t have an answer or didn’t know why. I know exactly why I do what I do. It’s just hard for me to think that anyone will understand me, even if I tell them.

I knew the lady and her daughter were simply inquisitive about my training and wondering what races or big event I was training so hard every day for. I smiled and just told them that I run competitively and I’m training to stay fit and get faster.

Every day after work I lace up and get ready to head out for my run or lifting if I already did my run in the AM. My co-workers are used to my “insanity” if you will. My boss calls it- “dedication” but that doesn’t stop him from wondering too, Why do you do it?

I sat across from him explaining that if you are not getting better at something, then you’re getting worse. There is no grey area there.

I always ask myself this little checklist of “W’s” everyday:

  • What
  • Why
  • Who

What am I doing? Why am I doing this? Who am I doing it for?

Colossians 3:17 says- “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Let me preface this: I am fully aware that not everyone follows the teachings of the Bible or shares the same beliefs as me, and I am not writing this for that reason.

But that verse, for me is why. It’s why I get up in the morning some mornings alone, in the dark, at 4:30 and go run 7 miles on a track. It’s why I keep pushing myself to be a better friend, sister, daughter, servant, worker, runner, and a light to everyone I can.

I fully believe that I was fearfully and wonderfully made by a loving God who cares more about me than anyone on Earth ever will or can. Even, knowing how imperfect I am and how many times I will mess up- he loves me anyways. And so I do the things I do for him, to glorify him through the gifts he’s blessed me with and to bring love and joy to everyone I meet in any way I am able to.

With that, I’m so so far from perfect! I sometimes do things out of sheer “mindlessness” as I call it. I say hurtful things when I don’t mean to, I ignore things that should be addressed, I run from things that hurt me, and sometimes I fail miserably at being a “light” for others when I am created to be a leader and display kindness and love. Instead I can just be a selfish human.

BUT. Enough about me, now you know why I do what I do. Even if I’m not always good at it. No one is good, really. At least I know why I am the way I am.

So let’s jump back to why we are here(literally)-

Why do you do what you do? I’m not asking you to evaluate yourself and if you don’t know what you want to be when you grow up, then well you’re screwed! Or to read this and feel crappy because you don’t agree with me. Or even to get mad at me for sharing my faith and displaying the driving force behind my soul.

Everyone has a different journey, and everyone does what they choose for a reason. I am asking you what that reason is.

Why do we hold doors open for people? Why do we help one another when we are struggling? Why do we do good at all if we don’t believe in anything after this?Why do we kill people? Why do we act cruelly to strangers instead of being kind? Why do we keep going back to the same broken relationship that tore us apart? We do we not trust exceptionally loyal people? Why do we let friendships we’ve had for years just fade into nothing like we’ve never met?  Why did you get out of bed in the morning? Why do you go to work? What is the point to you?

Why, why, whyy...the list is limitless.

Let me remind you of that checklist-

  • What
  • Why
  • Who

When you look in the mirror, you see a different you than the rest of us. Only you know your true self. You know why you are doing what you’re doing right now. So..why are you?

What is the driving force that motivates you everyday?

Is it money? Well, obviously you need money to eat, have a house, have nice clothes and live well right?

Is it love? Do you do nice things for people because you love them? Or perhaps you want to be loved back too. Or maybe you do nice things because it’s the right thing to do and you have no other attachment.

If you believe that you’re just here in the world working, paying, eating, sleeping, getting up and “mindlessly” going about things without asking yourself-Why, are you really living or just surviving??

No one has it all figured out, and probably won’t in this life. That‘s okay though! We are all going through something, getting over something, or struggling with something. And I know we won’t always agree on the right what, why, and who.

But I am challenging you to ask yourself those three questions every day. Check in with yourself throughout the day and you will become more aware and focused on whatever you set out to do.

If you have been neglecting these thoughts and just going through the motions, my heart breaks for you. Wake up and ask yourself what you are doing. What are you really doing?

It doesn’t have to be wrapped in a pretty bow or nice and neat around the edges, but please, please know yourself this way. There are too many people in this world that just survive day to day with no aim or direction in their heart.

Imagine if we all adopted this mentality of health for ourselves. How could we better love and offer understanding of one another?

It is so important for us, especially in a time surrounded by such darkness and “mindless” actions and thought that we choose to snap out of it and really dig deep within ourselves by questioning our own self.

Not everyone will always agree with you or understand you. That’s fine too. But you need to understand why you do what you do to truly know yourself.