Why running is dangerous

Becoming a runner is dangerous.  I am not referring to barking unleashed dogs or dark streets without streetlights at 5 AM.  I am not referring to running your first marathon in Kmart shoes…which I in fact did and do not recommend.  I am not even referring to injured knees or plantar fasciitis.


Check out those Kmart shoes

Running changes you.  It is easy to get caught up in the inner transformation and make running or triathlon (or whatever sport that drives you) your religion.

You might be like me and discovered once upon a time that running gave you the confidence you never believed you truly had.  When you could hardly run a mile without huffing and puffing and your muscles were screaming, “Mercy!” you never dreamed you would be training for marathons let alone run a 5K.  And when you completed a race, you felt like you could do anything.  That it’s up to you and your willpower.  It’s up to YOUR ability to fight.

Another triathlon mom says:  “I challenge you to fight…face your issues head on. Look your challenges in the eye and put up your dukes.  Your life isn’t going to make itself.  No one is going to come to your rescue.”

What is dangerous?  It is easy to believe it is all about YOU.

But it can’t be.

It is about God.  God orchestrates your life.  And you cannot rescue yourself as much as you think you can.  But God can.

We run and we begin to feel better.  It helps with our anxiety and depression.  It helps us crave carrots and apples instead of Oreos.  We feel more motivated at work.  Tackling laundry does not seem as daunting of a task.  We long for the outside air.  We feel better about our bodies.  We find meaning in life and our joy returns.

amy half marathon

Better. Better.  Better.  It is a word I hear constantly.  Each year we want to become a better wife.  Or a better mom.  Or a better house cleaner.  Or a better (insert your own ambition here).

Although running makes us feel better…it doesn’t make us better.

Because you are like the rest of us.  You’ve screwed up and you will continue to do so.

Christ is better.

Not only is he better, but he is the BEST. As long as you try to make yourself better, you will keep making things like running your religion.  What happens when you can’t run anymore?

And even if you truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior you will be tempted many times in your running journey to believe it is about you.  You may need to remind yourself (or someone may gently remind you) that it is not.

The Bible verse that is painted on the wall plaque where my and my children’s medals hang from has the verse John 11:25 written on it.  It is also embroidered on my gym bag.  It says:

I am the resurrection and the life.  The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.


Not a verse that makes you picture running.  However it was the text read at my Grandpa’s funeral back in 1989.  I have run a few races in memory of my Grandpa raising money for the Prostate Cancer Foundation. My grandpa went to his heavenly home after a seven year battle with cancer that started in his prostate and spread to his spine and then his brain.  My dad is now a prostate cancer survivor.


This text reminds me that the one who believes in me [Jesus] will LIVE.  It is through Christ we have life.  Not through running.  Not through swimming.  Not through biking.  Not through whatever it is that drives you.

But running is a gift.  And I don’t want to forget that it is a gift from God.  Because every good and perfect gift comes from Him.

14 years ago I ran my first ever 5K on the campus of Calvin College.  I thought it would be a one time thing. I never believed that it was the beginning of an amazing spiritual/mental/physical journey.  And now in only 33 days I will run my fourth marathon and this time I get to share the experience with my sister.  I am forever grateful for this journey.

Family Update: This is your time

It has been forever and a day since I have written a blog post…and even longer since I shared any type of update of our lives.  With all the reading I have been doing on time management and scheduling, I rarely say, “I don’t have time” anymore.  Instead I say I use my time for other things.  Which is in fact true.  God has given each of us the same twenty-four hours in a day. We all use those hours differently, right?

Somehow time is slipping away and things keep changing.  Did I really just register my youngest for kindergarten?  Is it true my oldest does not want to play in the Playland at IKEA anymore?  Since when did everyone’s shoe size get past the children sizes?

I have seen this the most lately in my oldest.  Last year we drove to swim lessons and she spent the entire car ride talking about My Little Pony.  Pinkie Pie is an earth pony.  Fluttershy is a pegasus.  Zecora is a zebra (which is confusing…how did a zebra get into Pony World?).  There are times I will see her get the ponies out and let them prance around the family room, but most of the time it is with her little sister.  She wants to listen to the rock station in the car and I am grateful I am (most of the time) content to listen to it with her.  She actually bought me a Taylor Swift CD for Christmas instead of buying one for herself.


I sometimes mourn the little pudgy cheeked girl she used to me.  But more of the time I am grateful for the beautiful young lady she is becoming.  I have always had a heart for middle schoolers and have been doing middle school youth ministry for years and years.  It is exciting (and a little nerve wracking!) that she is slowly getting to that age.

She is so unlike me.  The day she was born my mom took one look at her and said, “This baby doesn’t look a thing like you.”  She has been Daddy’s girl since she was an infant.  She thinks like he does.  Her hand writing looks like his i.e. hard to decipher.  She loves to cook and has her own drawer in the kitchen with her own knife, measuring cups etc. She loves to make lunch for everyone and has cooked a few meals.  When I was nine years old I doubt I could be trusted with any type of kitchen machinery or my own knife.  She plays piano beautifully and is self disciplined and self motivated…again she did not get this from me.  She likes to run but I don’t know if it will be her passion like it is for me.  Then again I didn’t really become passionate about it until my 20’s.  She enjoys basketball, wants to try soccer again, and still likes to swim.  She loves theatre and acting.  It is fun watching her try many different things.

My son is the child of which I sometimes feel like I am reliving my own childhood.  His big blue saucer eyes remind me of “little me.”  I hate to admit I thought he would struggle in school.  When I home schooled him for preschool many years ago, I pulled out alphabet flashcards.  After a few cards he groaned and said, “Mom can we do something else?”  He never got into Sesame Street and was not a big reader like his older sister.  I was very wrong.  He is an advanced reader now and brings home A’s.  Math comes pretty natural to him at this age.  He works very hard at school.  He has a great sense of humor and a big heart.  He reaches out to the kids who are hurting or left out.  He loves animals and like me cannot handle movies where animals get hurt (I guess we’ll  never watch Old Yeller together).


He is very extroverted and likes having extra kids around the house.  He and I both a share a need to be outside and we get stir crazy on rainy days.  I love to run and bike with him.  He loves legoes and hot wheels.  Like me, he hates mushrooms and olives.  I asked him how he thinks we are alike and he said, “We both have the same feelings.”  Which is very true.  We are both pretty emotional… sometimes to a fault.

He had an experience in school in February that mirrored a situation I had at almost the same age, it was uncanny.  The class had to make heart-shaped animals for Valentines Day.  It required them to fold construction paper in half to make hearts.  He could not figure it out and tried repeatedly.  He got overly frustrated.  When he told me about it when I was putting him to bed and he got very upset.  When I was in second grade we had to make hearts folded in half.  We had to staple two hearts together and put memory verses we learned in the hearts.  I could not figure out how to cut a half heart shape with folded paper.  I tried so hard and gave up.  The teacher laughed (which made me feel even dumber) and gave me one she had already made.  I told that story to my son and he said, “Mom you’re not dumb. We just couldn’t figure it out.”

I wondered when the third child was born if she would be like her sister or her brother.  The answer to that question is she is not like either one.  She is who she is.  She was a strong willed toddler that constantly kept me on my feet and challenged me in many ways.  That made her into an independent girl who makes her own lunch every day without my help (she’s five), picks out her own clothes, and is learning to read (and do some basic math too).


She is truly an artist.  She takes paper creations, pipe cleaners, paint, magazine cut outs, stickers and makes things.  She will do this for a whole morning.  What she comes up with is incredibly creative.  I am much more “arts” than “crafts” and I appreciate the “not having to follow directions.”  I would much rather have a blank canvas and some paints.

Like her brother she loves to ride her bike and get dirty outside.  She is still very much wrapped up in the world of My Little Pony and Barbie.  She is still strong willed.  I have to tell her to tone it down and not tell her friends what to do.  Yet I see some leadership in her.  I am excited to see how her little personality is going to continue to develop.  I am not sure if she is more like me or my husband.  Most days I see a bit of both.  Sometimes she reminds me a lot of my sister and my niece which makes me smile.

As for my husband and I…when we first moved to Oregon we were in our late 20’s.  30 seemed normal and 40…well old.  Now we are inching closer to 40.  Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am in my late 30’s and I’m not 28. I don’t feel old most of the time.  Maybe sometimes when my middle school youth group kids have no idea who White Snake or Van Halen is or what life was like pre-Internet or that our family shared a phone that was attached to the wall.  There is something fun about sharing those stories of pre-technology age.

The husband and I both listen to indie/folk music pretty regularly now.  I don’t know if that is because we are in our late 30’s or it is more popular in the Pacific Northwest.  When I was driving my middle schoolers to go bowling I said, “You can put it on whatever radio station you want.  I have it on the indie/folk alternative station.  I am not sure you have heard of it.”  She said, “No I don’t listen to it but my mom does.”  It is a different experience when your youth group kids moms are your age and even your friends whereas when we started youth ministry years and years ago we were actually closer in age to the kids.


The husband is about to graduate with his doctorate which is pretty amazing.  He made trips all the way to St. Louis for 2-3 weeks each year for classes.  He wrote a dissertation that included interviews and tons of reading and hours of research.  All while being a full time pastor, husband, and dad. And author…he wrote a book in there too!  I honestly think he could teach a course in time management.  I asked him what he is going to do with his spare time once he is completely finished.  That might include more reading, writing, and possibly model airplanes.

As for me I feel like my life this spring has not been this “run around crazy one thing to the next circus” like it has been in the past.  Maybe my husband’s time management skills finally rubbed off on me after 14 years of marriage.  I work almost full time doing in home child care, but I do have time to read, connect with friends, and of course run a crazy amount of miles.  I will be (Lord willing) running my fourth marathon at the end of May and this time with my sister.  I desired friends who run and even prayed for running partners over the years.  But I still was (mostly due to my unpredictable schedule with kids) the lone runner.  I have found people to train with and it has been a tremendous blessing.  I shared more about this on my running blog  where you can also follow my marathon training.

In this phase of life being a stay at home takes on a new form.  I feel like I still need to be at home, but I am not doing the changing, dressing, picking up their toys (most of the time they are supposed to pick up their own) etc.  We are doing more together outside of the home that are things we all enjoy (like going to a movie, bike rides etc.). More often than not, I am the mom on the play equipment or the trampoline or in the tree (that was a little much–I wasn’t sure how I was going to get down). I don’t expect every mom to be like me, but I am grateful for my energy and need for activity.

I know this post is getting super long…I am nearing 1800 words…yikes.  But tomorrow I leave for Michigan for my grandma’s funeral.  She was 96 years old.  I am reminded again how precious time is.  I am grateful for all the memories I had with her.  She was an amazing grandma and I am grateful I got to know her so well.  But we don’t live forever here on earth…time does not stand still.  It is time to say good-bye at least on this side of heaven.


 So I close with this:  Don’t let time pass you by that you looked back and questioned, “What did I do with those twenty four hour periods God gave me?”  Create memories.  Make a meal together.  Go for a bike ride.  Paint a picture. Jump on a trampoline. Dance to 80’s music. If that’s not you–figure out who you are.  Even though there is pain, brokenness, anxiety, suffering, and fear of the future, don’t discount this beautiful life God blessed you with.

You Don’t Have To Do It All…Pick One Thing


Your life as a mom is a mess and you don’t even know where to start.  Has that been you?  Is it you right now?  Your house is cluttered and the mess overwhelms you daily.  No one appreciates the fact you cook every single night.  You need to shed a few pounds but you have not exercised in months.    You love God but you cannot seem to get to church.  You feel guilty about not doing daily devotions so you put it out of your mind.  You know your stress affects other peoples’ behavior, but you are not sure how to control it.  Before you throw yourself another pity party, please hear me out.

We have all been there if we are not at that place today.  We have all struggled with one or more of those things…maybe not all at once…but we have felt overwhelmed the demands of being a mom.

This was on my mind as I read the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Duhigg shares about Paul O’Neill who took over as the CEO of Alcoa, one of the largest aluminum corporations in 1987.  The corporation had been struggling with product quality, effective employees, and a whole host of other issues.  When he addressed his investors for the first time at a meet and greet in Manhattan, he began by addressing only one issue:  worker safety.  He wanted to make Alcoa the safest company in America.

Duhigg says

The audience was confused.  These meetings usually followed a predictable script:  A new CEO would start with an introduction…then promise to boost profits and lower costs.  Next would come an excoriation of taxes, business regulations…Finally the speech would end with a blizzard of ‘buzzwords’–‘syngery,’ ‘rightsizing,’ and ‘co-opetition’–at which point everyone could return to their offices, reassured capitalism was safe for another day…O’Neill hadn’t said anything about profits.  He didn’t even mention taxes.  There was no talk of ‘using alignment to achieve a win-win synergistic market advantage.'” (98)

By the time he retired in 2000, Alcoa’s annual net income was five times larger than before he arrived. By attacking one habit–worker safety–it set off a chain reaction affecting other habits.  He believe there are big habits or “keystone habits” that begin a process and can transform everything.

Duhigg says one of those lifestyle habits is exercise.  He says:

When people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives, other unknowingly.  Typically, people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work.  They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family.  They use their credit card less frequently and say they feel less stressed.  It’s not completely clear why.  But for many people, exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”

For me personally exercise gives me more energy (even though I have to wake up earlier).  I crave fruits and vegetables versus junk.  My moods are more stable.  I get outside air and feel refreshed.  I am more likely to do things with my kids like go to the park, ride bikes, and roller skate.

Some of our moms were told in the 1970’s they can have it all.  I see many moms today trying to be it all.  While we try, we end up in a mess of “mom” issues. Maybe we don’t need try to clean up the whole mess in one sitting.

Pick a keystone habit. Over time, your life might evolve into something that is not quite so overwhelming. I no longer set vague goals for myself.  For instance one year my goal was to chill out and not take my anger out on other people.  How can I measure that?  All the sudden I yell at my kids for fighting. Did I already fail?

This year I simply set one goal.  I am going to read the Bible everyday following a simple Read the Bible in One Year program.  It even has an Ipad app.  This is one keystone goal that seems simple yet takes discipline and it has been transforming other areas in my life.

Although Duhigg’s book focuses on the psychology of habits and not necessarily on our spiritual lives, we can apply it to our walk with the Lord.  If our keystone habit is to focus on God using whatever spiritual discipline we feel called to do (prayer, Bible reading, studying), we can trust that God will lead us in every single area of our life.

Lent Day #2 Giving

My garage is full of stuff right now.  Stuff I need to get rid of.  Or sell.  Naturally I am not a hoarder.  I love to get rid of things.  However, I am having a harder time parting with baby items and toddler clothes.

I am realizing that my life is more than all the “stuff” I acquire.  Making sacrifices and giving away…especially to those in need…is something I can do more of.

During this Lenten season I am reminded that Christ gave us way more than we can ever give anyone.  It is a gift we receive with no string attached.  He gave us his life.  How can we not stand in awe of that and how can it not motivate us to give willingly and freely to others in need?

18For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.  – 1 Peter 1:18-20

Lent Day #1: Prone to sin


I was talking with one of my children last night and he/she was saying how he/she is good all day long at school and rarely gets his/her name on the board anymore.  He/she gets his/her work done on time and does not distract others.  This child was saying how difficult it is to come home and “keep being good.”  It is hard to follow the rules all day long, sit still, listen, and be kind to others and then come home without falling apart.

It made me think how much easier it is to sin at home.  It is easier to take my anger out on my husband or the kids at home versus places like the grocery store or church.  It is easier to complain at home in front of the captive audience of my family who I know will continue to love me versus friends who may come in and out of my life.  It is easier to harbor anger towards those I am close to and act like they owe me something instead of choosing to forgive and move on.

I am grateful for the Lenten season because I am reminded that I can’t earn my way into good standing by following all the rules of the Christian life.  We tell one another not to be so hard on ourselves and now wallow in our mistakes.  Yet we also need to ponder how EASY it is to sin.  In our more natural setting like home, it is our tendency to choose grumbling instead of gratefulness or resentment instead of forgiveness.

It is the season of Lent.  May our hearts be humbled.

Getting Your Kids to Clean

Cleaning and de-cluttering is an emotional issue for me.  I struggled with it for years and years.  Which makes me feel like I may not be the best person to dish out advice.  However, I have learned a lot over the years especially from my husband who is more naturally organized.  So please understand most of what I have implemented is from lots of trial and error and learning from my own mistakes.  I did not want to blog about it until we had several weeks of “drama free cleaning” and I can safely say we have.

Last spring the kid’s bathroom was getting so nasty last year with toothpaste blobs all over the sink, laundry thrown all over the floor, and toys from the family room somehow ending up on the counter. I about lost it.  We actually kicked the kids out of their bathroom for a couple of days and they had to use the one in the laundry room on the other side of the house.  I got tired of their rooms becoming cluttered, their beds being sloppily made, and laundry thrown everywhere but the hamper.  I found myself organizing their rooms only to see them go back to that state a week later.

I started to feel like the “mom martyr” declaring how I was the only who cared and I am the only one who cleans.  If that’s you, the problem is you are not giving your kids enough responsibility and they don’t care about the mess because they don’t have to.  Why clean if Mom is going to do it anyway?  Or I don’t know what to clean or how to clean because Mom never showed me how.  So by that point I felt overwhelmed by the mess, and I also felt like a bad mother for not giving my kids enough responsibility.  Once my pity party was over, I could actually make some changes and see some results.

We tried a number of different things and settled on something quite simple.  I make a chart each month–one column per week.  Each weekday the kids have the chance “to earn a star” which is a simple sticker put next to their name.  To earn a star they have to 1) make their bed properly for their age level (I have had to do Bed Making 101 a couple of times and sometimes they need reminders) 2)  have their room mostly clean (no laundry on the floor, toys put away etc.)  I tell them if I can vacuum without sucking up toys, it is usually clean.  3)  bathroom mostly clean.  Most of the time they have to pick up towels and wipe down counters.  They don’t clean the toilet, bath tub or mop the floor during the week.  This needs to be done before school.  So sometimes this means packing their lunch (which I don’t do at all anymore–they do it), laying out clothes, and getting homework finished the night before.


My husband or I inspect usually right before they leave for school or right after.  They have not gotten a star everyday.  They are starting to feel the pinch when they don’t get one.  It is motivating them to try harder the next day.  All three kids have different personalities and some are more organized than others.  But all three have adapted to this system and are motivated by it.

If they earn a certain number of stars (we say 4 per week which gives them one day of grace) they get some type of reward.  It has been anything from a doughnut from the bakery, a candy bar, or a can of pop.  In January we tried earning stars for the whole month and they got lunch from Mc Donalds delivered to them at school.  I think I like the weekly reward better–it is just more work to find weekly rewards that are not expensive.

It hasn’t happened yet, but it could happen that one child does not earn the reward while the others do.  That is life–you don’t do the work, you don’t get the reward.  However we do try to show grace and give lots of encouragement for certain situations.

The heavier cleaning like the toilets and sinks, vacuuming, trash, and disinfecting high traffic areas gets done on the weekends–typically Saturday mornings.  We divide it up among the kids.  The kids have been doing this on Saturdays for over two years now and it is part of their routine.  Since I started in home child care, we also have to do some cleaning Sunday late afternoon to get ready for Monday.  If we did quite a bit on Saturday, this does not take very long.

I was de-cluttering their rooms while they were in school when I had an afternoon off from child care.  This was happening once every 4-6 months.  Then my husband remarked that it is their room and they need to be involved in the de-cluttering. Is it more work?  Yes.  But they don’t learn responsibility if you did it all for them. So we decided we would do this with them about once a month or at least every other month.  Some of the kids need it more often than others.  My husband and I take turns helping them with this.  I did it at the beginning of the school year and he did it closer to the holidays.  Some of the kids need it again soon.

As for cleaning other areas of the house, I don’t have a great rhythm for that right now.  I tend to clean throughout the day rather than one block of time.  I know areas get neglected so I may go back to a chore list.  I try to keep the laundry at a steady pace so I don’t spend an entire day doing laundry.  With busier weeks, this gets difficult.  Laundry is one of those areas I need to help the kids take more responsibility so this is a goal for 2015.

What has helped me the most is having my husband on board and taking initiative in their chores.  I am not one of these moms who thinks they can do it all.  It has always come very natural to us to share in the housework, cooking, shopping, etc.  We both work, exercise regularly, are involved in our church and kid’s school–it makes sense to share in the housework too.

All in all I am happy my kids go off to school with clean rooms and a decent looking bathroom with little to no drama anymore.  They are doing so much better taking responsibility and I know they are learning valuable skills that will pay off when they fly the nest one day.

What is wrong about being crazy busy

I have noticed that we as moms tend to be “all-or-nothing” about many things.  Take eating for instance.  We are either a slave to My Fitness Pal obsessing over what to eat for lunch hence not using up all our precious calories.  Or we enter into what I once heard a speaker call “Screw-itsville.”  Just love yourself.  Accept your body for what it is.  Eat that doughnut.  You probably deserve it anyway.

Or take keeping the house as another example.  Daily chore charts, cleaning schedules, and to-do lists cover the refrigerator.  The laundry must be all caught up and the floors swept daily.  Or throw the charts out the window, clean whatever you can in the short time you allot, and as long as the kids have socks and underwear–who cares about the laundry.

I have noticed we are the same way when it comes to “being busy.”  We feel like we need to be the “busy martyr” running kids from one activity to the next, cooking a meals that hit all areas of the Food Pyramid, buying snacks for the basketball team, leading Bible Study, and planning our friend’s baby shower until we crash into bed and wake up at 3 AM with our mind racing about all we need to do the following day.  Or we feel like we need to be “zen like moms” with time to breathe, relax, and visit the day spa.  Pamper yourself.

There needs to be some sort of balance.

Life is a rhythm of “busy” and “inactivity.”  Finding that balance means “working hard” and “resting hard.”  Sometimes I feel like I am too far on one side and not the other.

I have been a runner for many years, but it was two years ago I discovered track runs.  I used to think running laps around the track was boring and monotonous.  Until I learned of actual track workouts such as running fast 800 meters and then running slow 400 meters or sprinting a 200 and then walking/running slow another 200.  Put in fast paced techno music on your iPod or run with a couple buddies and you got yourself a great workout with more variety than running laps which might give you bad flashbacks to 4th grade PE.  It is that slower lap known as the recovery lap that is equally important as the fast lap.


Kevin De Young describes it in his book Crazy Busy explains it like this:

People like to say life is a marathon, not a sprint, but it’s actually more like a track workout.  We run hard and then rest hard.  We charge a hill and then chug some Gatorade.  We do some stairs, then some 200s, and then a few 400s.  In between, we rest.  Without it, we’d never finish the workout.  If we want to keep going, we have to learn how to stop.”  (93)

The problem is some of us who struggle with “chronic busyness” and we skip that recovery lap.  We think we don’t need it nor we do we have time for it anyway.  The problem is we are not completing the workout.  We are drowning in a bunch of unfinished projects and clutter.  Those of us living in the land of “Screw-its-ville” are only doing recovery laps or we’re just hanging out on the bleacher watching everyone else run by.  We are living are our days with no plan, no goals, and no structure.  You know the old saying, “If you aim at nothing, you will hit it.”


God may call us into big careers, daunting projects, or to be moms to thirteen children.  Busy lives?  You bet.  We cannot live the kind of life God called us to live if we are not resting in His Word and abiding by Him.  God gave us the gift of the Sabbath to worship Him.  For how many of us has Sunday become another day of run around chaos?

De Young also says:

“It’s not wrong to be tired.  It’s not even wrong to feel overwhelmed.  It’s not wrong to go through seasons of complete chaos.  What is wrong—and heartbreakingly foolish and wonderfully avoidable—is to live a life with more craziness than we want because we have less Jesus than we need.”  (118)

My friends it is not trying to do everything perfect by the book with lists and schedules and systems even if they look beautiful displayed on your refrigerator. When we try and try to be Super Mom, often times we feel much worse.

But it’s not saying “Screw it either.” Which feels great in the moment, but not so much when we’re feeling directionless.

It is abiding with Him. It is making him the center of your day and the Lord of your life.  The daily rhythm will change, but you will not be walking it alone.   You will find direction and you will find peace.