Friday, December 12, 2014

“I belong in the mountains."

“I belong in a place where there are mountains.”  I am sure my friends are tired of hearing me make this statement.  This isn’t a new revelation for me, but I woke up this morning with a longing for the mountains, and a message about the “flat land” I’m in right now.

As a kid, I grew up camping in the Green Mountains of Vermont with my family.  Daily hikes in the woods to lakes tucked away in the hills and cliffs overlooking the gorgeous scenery were just a part of my summer every year.   Every 4th of July, we would camp at this same place on Lake Dunmore, and stare up at the “beast” the locals called Rattlesnake Point.  As a little girl, I couldn’t wait for the day I was big enough to climb that peak.   Once I was about 8 years old, I started climbing this peak every year with my dad.  I felt so proud of myself when I made it to the top without complaining or losing my water bottle.  And the first time I saw a view from the highest point I’d ever hiked, I think I fell in love with hiking mountains.

When I went off to college, I had a choice between two great schools that offered my degree program.  They were both equal in student enrollment, campus-size, and quality of education.  Both were “out of state” state schools for me.  One was in the heart of Connecticut, pretty close to Hartford, and the other, in a classic New England town tucked away in the mountains of New Hampshire.  Obviously I chose the latter.

About 20 miles from my college town was a large mountain peak called Mount Monadnock.  It’s known for being one of the most climbed peaks this side of the Mississippi.  It was almost a rite of passage for Keene State students to climb that peak every year.  And once at the top?  Breathtaking views of all the surrounding towns and mountain ranges.  Jordan even proposed to me on this mountaintop in 2007!

After we got married in 2009, Jordan joined the Air Force, which took us to our first duty-station in Omaha, NE.  No mountains.  Anywhere.  For nearly 1,000 miles.  They have these elevated pieces of land Midwesterners like to call “bluffs,” but let’s face it, they’re mole hills.

Two years later, we reached our ultimate mountain-top experience.  We were stationed in Anchorage, AK, a city that is surrounded by 5,000 foot mountains in every direction!  I could go for a hike on a myriad of trails in just under a 20-minute drive from my house to the trailheads.  And when I wasn’t hiking them, I was driving towards them in the city, or staring at them through the window at my dentist’s office, or watching the “termination dust” slowly creep down their peaks, letting us know winter was coming soon.  The Chugach Mountain Range in Alaska is simply majestic.  The first person to use “majestic” as an adjective for mountains must have visited this beautiful state.

But in this place, it wasn’t just the fact that there were mountains to be climbed and admired.  It was the people that the mountains drew to this area.  “Mountain people” are a breed of their own.  They care a little less about fashion trends, and little more about practicality.  They place outdoor recreation over any series on Netflix.  They go for hikes that last for days, or strap on their boots for a short trail after work.  They’re flexible, because when it’s a nice day in Alaska, it’s a day to be seized outdoors, regardless of deadlines and meetings.  Physical comfort takes a backseat to beautiful views and the feeling you get when you’ve peaked 3500 ft. or reached some far-off lake in the valleys.  Peeing in the wilderness and startling encounters with large wildlife like moose and bears are part of the fun accompanied by spending time in these glorious ranges.

These are my people.  The mountains are my jam.

Right now, the Lord has us on flat land again.  The coastal lands of Hampton, VA to be exact.  I’m 5 miles from the ocean beaches, and surrounded by tidal water everywhere.  To be clear, I am completely confident we are here for a reason.  In fact, these entire past 15 months in the flatlands have felt like (in “Christian”ese terms) a total “valley” experience that has been completely necessary.   And by a “valley” experience, I don’t mean to say I’m completely miserable here.  In fact, we have a very good life here!  We have an amazing church, even better friends, and a beautiful home.   There is so much to be thankful for in this place.  But it still feels like a place we don’t belong forever.  This isn’t our resting place.  Just a rest stop. 

Coming down from mountain-tops is necessary.  Eventually our water jugs run dry, we eat all our snacks, and “real-life” awaits us in that city below.  So I know our time here is a necessary chapter in our lives.  But as I awoke this morning, maybe the Lord was reminding me how temporary valleys and mountaintops are.  And He refreshes us in both places.  He is with us in both.  He is with us always.

Maybe the Lord was reminding me that He will soon bring me back to the mountains.  He created me, knows me better than myself, and therefore, knows my heart’s desire to be back in a place where the mountains are right outside my windows.  But more than that, where I truly belong is in Him alone, and no physical location on this earth is permanent.  The only place I will truly rest forever will be in eternal Heaven!  But for now, this is where I belong, and I must find rest and peace in His sovereign will to have me here.

“‘For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain.  My covenant of blessing will never be broken,’ says the Lord.”- Isaiah 54:10

Monday, March 17, 2014

It is finished.

Well my friends, yesterday I put my first half marathon behind me as I crossed the finish line at 2 hours, 16 minutes, and 33 seconds. I am so completely happy with my performance and just proud that I finished the darn thing still standing!

I promised I'd post once I finished the race, and honestly, I've been thinking about what I would write in this post for months. What picture should I use? Will I even have one I want to share with the world (or like the 10 of you who care)? What will I have to say about this whole experience?

Since beginning training in early December, I have pushed myself further than I ever thought possible.  I used to run 2-3 miles and call that a workout. Now I can run 13 miles, without walking, and still walk myself back to the car.  I'll admit, I'm not feeling great today. If I sit down, it's a serious commitment to stay down until I absolutely have to get back up.  And when I do back up, it's not pretty. I feel like a cross between an old lady, a duck, and a really pregnant lady.  Small steps, a little waddling, and very slow movements.  My 25 minute drive to Panera to meet a friend today was just enough for my body to decide anything out of the sitting position was going to cause for a very awkward stroll across the parking lot.

I should mention I was fighting and still am fighting a cold the entire week before the race.  I laid as low as possible and overdosed on Air Borne and tea in efforts to beat it, but I still ran with congestion.  So, I'll blame some of how I'm feeling today on that, too.

I should also mention what a complete blessing it has been finding a running partner who lives right down the street from me.  She (Michelle) has met up with me nearly every Sunday morning for the past 3.5 months to run ridiculous distances in the dark, rain, snow, and beautiful sunshine.  And our wonderful husbands have selflessly pulled themselves out of bed on those mornings to meet us every few miles with water and Gatorade.  This was definitely a team effort,  and I am so grateful for them!

When I crossed the finish line yesterday, I was overwhelmed with emotion.  I did it. I really did it. I set my mind to something, and I reached my goal.  And I gained so much more than just physical achievement.

Isn't this what happens when we remain steadfast with anything we do? We have the goal in mind (get the job, run the race, win the game), but when we actually achieve success, we realize the journey was really the important part. I have a new friend, I have a newfound confidence in myself, and I have learned the lesson of dedication in a whole new way.  These things are worth way more than any medal or beach towel I'll get at the finish line.

If you've been praying for me over the past few months, let me thank you for being a part of this "team" that got me to this run the race.  I truly felt the presence of God with me as I was running, and all throughout the week as I prayed for healing in my body.  Thank YOU for being steadfast in your prayers.

I finished just 3 minutes ahead of Michelle.... we stuck together until mile 10. Here I am waiting to meet up with her and ecstatic I  am done!

Hanging in the beer tent afterwards, rockin' some huge medals and celebrating our victory! 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

My favorite hoodie.

It's so ratty and stretched out, I have to roll the sleeves up instead of push them up. All of it's soft, fleecy material on the inside was eaten by the washer machine years ago. The white screen-printed lettering of my sister's alma mater "Roger Williams University" is all cracked. I was given it before I could even drive a car.  The memories I have wearing this sweatshirt could comprise their own novel.  You all have one of these lying around your closet, or you wore it last night and it's sitting in a pile of the floor next to your side of the bed, or maybe you're even wearing yours right now, like me.

Today is just one of those days I wanted to put on my stretchiest, non-restricting, so-comfy-they're-like-a-part-of-my-body leggings and my favorite hoodie. And oddly enough, yup, you guessed it, God spoke to me as I was putting it on.

God has been speaking to me a lot over the past 15ish hours.  Last night while at youth group, we sang this new-ish-to-me song called "Oceans" by Hillsong United. And while I was singing it, God gave me this bigger picture in my mind of what He's doing with me. In summary, He said, "Alaska is NOT going to fix you, Amy. It's not even the problem.  The problem is that you don't trust me with your life.  You think you have the answer to what will "make it all better" when the answer only lies in Me and My love for you. I have a plan, a purpose for you. I am your purpose. Serving me, Loving me, striving to be like me, and loving my people... those things can all be done no matter where You are. So get it out of your head that going backwards is going to heal You. Only I can do that."

The lyrics to the song we were singing were:
"You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You've never failed and You won't start now"

You know when you hear a song over and over again and suddenly, you hear something new in it? That's what happened to me last night. While it's still a kind of new song, we've sung it a lot at church over the past month.  But last night, God pointed out to me that Virginia and our life is my "ocean"... this great unknown... a mystery. And His grace will abound here, He will guide me here, He's never failed me, and He. won't. start. now. 


Then I get home last night to receive an email from a friend who reminded me of Matthew 14 and Peter's story of walking on the water.  Peter had faith, but a lack of focus.  Peter had to step out onto the water in faith, but because his faith was out of focus, he sank. In the email my friend reminded me that my purpose will not be in what I do for a job, or where I serve, but that JESUS IS MY PURPOSE.  And I just have to step out in faith to let Him carry me.

Whoa again. Right?!

I find it amazing that the Holy Spirit can both speak to me the same message He was putting in the hearts of my friends thousands of miles away. 

So back to the hoodie... I guess what God said to me this morning as I was putting it on was that it's okay to seek comfort in familiar things even when I need to move forward into the unknown.  I have walked with Jesus for almost 9 years, and it's important to remember all the ways He has carried me through in the past. Not to dwell in the past, but to seek comfort in His provision for me, and that He's never failed me, and He won't start now.

I have nothing left to do but to listen, be encouraged, put on my favorite hoodie, and step out of the boat.

Monday, January 13, 2014

"I was ruuuunin'!" (if you don't get the reference, you live in a hole)

I decided to kick New Year's resolutions in the butt this year and started mine at the beginning of December.  Well, it wasn't really a "resolution," but more of just a goal I set for myself.  I decided to run my first half marathon in March. 

"Woo hoo!" some of you may be thinking ever so sarcastically... "how original!"  Yeah, I know it's something a lot of you guys out there have done before. And it's probably not a huge surprise as most of you know how much I love running, but I've never really challenged myself to go past like... 6 miles... (ok, I lied. 5 miles) So the idea of running 13.1 is very scary and challenging and motivating and just. plain. crazy (especially for someone who's realistically only run like 4 miles on her best day... to be honest).

Anyways, so I'm running. And running. And running.

A couple wonderful things are already coming out of this goal I set for myself:
1. The endorphin rush has really helped lift my spirits after such a sad year.
2. I feel stronger and proud of myself!
3. I've made a new friend who is also running the half marathon with me.
4. I have great reason to shop the athletic clothing section of Target!

Also, while I hate giving Virginia any credit at all for being any bit more awesome than Alaska... it does win in the weather department. I'm able to run outside all winter long in 40-60 degree weather on flat ground.

So, while the rest of life still doesn't feel particularly amazing right now... running the streets of Hampton is where it's at right now for me.

Yup, this is January. Sunny and warm.