I spent yesterday afternoon at a religious retreat for catechists. It was the sort of thing that I signed up for thinking “This sounds like a great presentation. I think taking this afternoon to reflect on a few things will be inspiring as I start a new year of teaching religious education.” It was also the sort of thing that had me dragging my feet on the actual day thinking “Why did I sign myself up for something that requires me to sit in a room full of strangers for four hours. I could be at home reading a good book instead of having small group discussions.”

It’s hard being an introvert sometimes.

As my earlier self suspected, it was a great presentation. At the very beginning I gasped a bit when the presenter told us we were there to focus on one word: joy. It’s a word that is popping up a lot for me lately. Just last week in my marathon training update I told you that I want to run this race joyfully. I haven’t picked a race mantra yet but I know it’s going to include the word joy. I find my prayers lately focusing on the joy in the world around me (maybe my Friday posts should be Joy in Small Things…).

The goal of the retreat was to teach us how to lead our classes with joy. At the end of the day, the presenter revealed that he took a scripture verse as the framework for the retreat:

…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

(Galatians 5: 22-23)

That was my second a-ha moment (to freely rip off Oprah). These concepts go far beyond the classroom. If I can find ways to develop these gifts, I will have a more fruitful life. I will live a life centered on joy. I’ve got some more thinking to do on this and with a month full of long runs ahead of me, I’ll have plenty of time for reflection. But I wanted to write this down before I lost the sense of surprise I had yesterday: I showed up out of a sense of obligation. A feeling of “how bad can it be.” A stubbornness of making myself do things that should be good for me. And I walked away smiling because it gave me the gift of joy.

Grace in small things

You know how some weeks fly by and you’re not really sure where they went but here it is Friday so you know it went somewhere… that was this week. An even better reason to spend a few minutes today and look back on moments of grace:

  • Listening to the spark of competitive spirit from my eldest as she returns to swim practice
  • Math flash cards after dinner (maybe you had to be there to understand why math brought a bit of grace)
  • Working the dugout during a fall baseball game this week… watching the boy who played the dizzy bat game while he was on deck (?!?), listening to the excitement when they *almost* catch a ball… this team cracks me up.
  • Running. Because I hit double digits again this week with no calf issues. It’s time to build back up for the marathon: 49 days and counting.
  • Yoga – something I’ve been missing for months

Marathon Check In: past the halfway point

It’s week 13 of 20 and this is when things start getting serious. For me they are twice as serious because just three days after my last update (back in Week 9) I found myself pulled up short by a calf strain. By the time I got to the third week of the injury – and the third week of missed long runs, the most important part of marathon training – I knew things would have to shift.

Luckily I started running again last week. Not back up to the same mileage but I’m able to run without feeling like someone threw a knife in my calf (this is a good thing). I’ve drastically adjusted my training schedule for the next seven weeks with the help of a good friend who is far more experienced at this running thing than I.

I’m focused on two things right now:

1. Being smart so that this calf strain doesn’t pop up again on race day. I can run through a lot of things but this injury was so painful that I sat down on the sidewalk and wasn’t sure I could even walk home.

2. Being thankful that I didn’t have any big time goals for this race. My primary goal on November 1 has been to cross the finish line joyfully. Therefore, this injury is a speed bump but not a road block (at least that’s my cautiously optimistic outlook now as I rebuild).

I read this quote during my running hiatus and it speaks volumes to me. I think some version of the last sentence might be my mantra on race day:

Sometimes we train to run far. Other times we train to run fast. If we train to run joyfully we find our pace for life. ~Kristin Armstrong

On we go… the next time I post an update I should be staring down my last long run (20 miles) of training. Keep your fingers crossed!

Renewing grace in small things

With the kids getting a fresh start in the new school year, I’ve felt the need to have a bit of a fresh start of my own. I’ve decided to come back to my weekly thanks for the small things that make my days happy, that help me see the big picture, the things that show me God’s grace if I just take the time to realize it. I’ve missed taking these few moments to reflect and smile. If sharing them with you brings a smile to your face too that’s even better.

Grace in Small Things – the early September edition

  1. Watching the kids settle into their school routines, getting the hang of new teachers and new classes. My kids are getting old and I love watching their personalities come together.
  2. Road trips with those three kids – especially when they were the ones that asked for this particular trip.
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  4. Running with no calf pain. It’s not 100% but it’s certainly ready for me to strengthen it. I’m easing back into marathon training with my eyes firmly fixed on November 1.
  5. Laughter around the dinner table.
  6. A Friday night ahead of me in a quiet house with a stack of library books beside me.

Summer 2014 Recap

We didn’t get to go on any vacations this summer. My oldest worked her first job. The middlest had her first regular babysitting gig. The youngest participated in a lot of sports camps. We went to the library each week. We didn’t go to the beach nearly often enough. And, I’ll admit it, a lot of television was watched.

However, we accomplished nearly everything on our Summer Fun List!

  • Hikes at Taltree & Dunes: Yep! We did them both and we’ll do both again before fall arrives.
  • Canoe trip down the Tippecanoe: Yep! Last Friday we went on our first canoe & kayak trip. We even convinced Matt to join us. It was a great day! I think we’ll definitely do this again as a family.
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  • State Fair: Sadly, the weather forecast took this one off our list. We had one day set aside with no obligations and the forecast was cold and wet. It’s hard to justify driving two hours there and back when the forecast looks lousy. On the flip side, we’re still making a trip to Indy to play this weekend – but school has started so it doesn’t count for the summer fun list.
  • Trips to the farmer’s market: Accomplished and they were delicious!
  • Brunch at Bartlett’s: We did this after a dunes hike and it was soooooooo good. So good that my son asks nearly every weekend if we can go back for brunch. We need to make that happen soon. YUM.
  • Birky’s Farm Lunch: There is a local pork farmer that has opened a restaurant and market. Nearly everything on the menu comes from their farm and is homemade. I’ve been wanting to find time to make this drive for lunch and it was delicious.
  • Three trips to Chicago: We had four ideas in case we found extra time. We didn’t get to make four trips but the three we made were tons of fun – Lincoln Park Zoo; Adler Planetarium; Art Institute & hanging out in Millennium Park.
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  • Chicago Arboretum: We didn’t make it here but it was all my idea and not something high on the kids’ list. We swapped this out for an afternoon of miniature golf. So we’ll consider this an even trade.
  • Bears training camp: J changed his mind about this trip so we came up with another swap for the list – blueberry picking.
  • Bonus trip: Indiana University! We snuck down to Indy on a Saturday, picked up K’s lifelong friend and toured campus on a beautiful summer day.
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I think that’s a pretty successful, fun, active summer! I know I enjoyed each of those adventures. Most of all I enjoyed having my kids away from distractions and all together.