Navigating faith with some help from tattoos

He has told you, O man, what is good;

and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and to love kindness,

and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:8

We all go through times in our lives when we are growing and questioning our basic beliefs.  When I have gone through this in the past, I haven’t actually questioned God, but I do question the way humans live out their faith in the name of God.  I am once again wrestling with what it means, for me, to live out my Christian faith.

My current “faith struggle” has been brewing for quite some time.  I don’t think it is a secret that I am socially liberal, although I try very hard not to rub it in the faces of those with differing opinions.  Plus, I am in the clear minority in my area.  I really don’t want everyone I know to be pissed at me all the time.  However, my heart truly hurts when I hear the comments that “Christians” make so flippantly on  a day-to-day basis.  Generalizations are spoken about how anyone on government assistance must be lazy and worthless, anyone without a job must be lazy and worthless, all these people do is sit home and do drugs, and the list (sadly) goes on and on and on and on.  And now….add in all the opinions on the refugee crisis and it has become almost too much for my soul.  I haven’t even brought up the other issues that are causing huge divides such as race issues, marriage equality or the political differences that seem to divide us further each day.

I am not afraid of ISIS.  I am not afraid of Muslims.  I am not afraid of refugees.  I am not afraid of people who are any color other than white.  I am not afraid of people on welfare.  I am not afraid of LBGT having equal rights.  I am afraid of complacent, holier-than-thou Christians.  I am afraid of becoming a complacent, holier-than-thou Christian.  And I am afraid of my own judgments against this group of people, because they make me very angry.

As a result of this, I have allowed myself to become disheartened with ALL of Christianity and with ALL of humanity.  I am no better than the people who have angered me, because I have allowed anger and judgment to enter into my heart.  That stops today (well….my journey to stop that has started. 😉

I think the root of the problem is that we (ALL of us) refuse to see the people in these issues as fellow human beings.  We MUST remind ourselves that each person is a Child of God and loved unconditionally by God.  (I MUST remind myself that person who spews negative, generalized statements is a Child of God and loved unconditionally by God.)

I know I can’t change the world.  I know I can’t change even my city.  All I can change is my reaction to the negativity that is out there.  Today, I pledge to see each person as a Child of God, loved unconditionally by God and I vow to treat them as such.

A part of the journey to the place in which I find myself today was the urge to get another tattoo.  I began to realize that one way I would deal with my current struggle would be to use my next tattoo as an expression of my faith.  I knew that Micah 6:8 would be the verse on which my tattoo would be centered, as it is my FAVORITE verse of all time and it is the verse to which I turn the most in living out my faith.

I also REALLY want a Texas tattoo on my ankle that is specifically running related.  When I made the tat appointment a few weeks ago, I fully intended to go ahead with the ankle tat and save Micah 6:8 for later on down the road.  But God had other plans.  In the past week, I have seen some version of Micah 6:8 EVERY SINGLE DAY, multiple times.  I was paying attention, for once, and realized that now was the time for Micah 6:8. 

So a couple of friends and I went yesterday and we each got a tattoo that was very meaningful to us.  Ben, our artist, showed me my drawing last, but I caught a glimpse of it before he got around to me and it took my breath away.  It was amazing and perfect.  I am so glad that I paid attention to those little clues God was sending me!IMG_6173

My friend that took pics while I was in the chair told me that I HAD to post a pain pic.  So here it is.  Yes, it HURT!  LOLIMG_6178

Remember….pray with your feet.

May God bless your Thanksgiving!

Jen

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Weighted Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving break couldn’t have come at a better time!!  To say that I’ve been riding the Struggle Bus lately would be an understatement.  Marathon training is nearing its peak which has left me mentally and physically tired.  All.  The.  Time.  Plus, I still have to be an adult (why can’t someone show up to work for me and wash all my clothes?!?).  The weirdest thing: society expects me to continue to act sociable.  (By the way, I haven’t been very sociable.)  Throw my ADHD in there and you have the perfect storm!  Some days I have trouble forming sentences…..seriously!!  As tiring as it all is, I absolutely love (almost) every minute of training!

Training has been going very well.  My fitness has been improving and I might even be getting a tad bit faster!  I really appreciate the guidance that I’m getting from my coach.  And successfully executing workouts that are appropriate for me has substantially raised my confidence level.  I have been battling a little calf issue, but I found an ART guy who is more than happy to inflict unreal amounts of pain on me…..and I can tell a huge improvement after 2 sessions with him!

Even with my recent successes, I still wrestle with doubts.  At this point (I say ‘at this point’ because I still have almost 3 weeks to race day), I am at truly at peace.  (If you have known me for any length of time, you realize how HUGE this is!)  What has changed?  I am finally trusting in my training.  (Hint: trusting your training is much easier to do when someone who is knowledgeable is planning your workouts for you and your training isn’t crap!)  I do have some goals for the race, but I refuse to fret over whether I meet them or not.  I know full well that ANYTHING can happen on race day and I have decided that I will simply do my best to manage the challenges that the race throws at me.  I’m a week away from taper and I don’t think I’ve ever been in a better place, running wise.  Being able to toe the start line, uninjured and strong, is a victory in itself, especially considering all the stupid injuries I have overcome this past year.

Weighted Thanksgiving

My husband is so wonderful.  He has been dedicating so much of his spare time to improvement projects around the house.  In late summer, he completely renovated the kid’s bath and lately he has been transforming his old shop into a workout space/game room for the family.  We are finally to the point that we are putting the finishing touches on the room.  He has filled it with TV/satellite, couches, darts and ping pong.  But he also moved my treadmill out there (NOT an easy task!) and I have my bike trainer out there as well.

To finish out the space, he got me a squat rack and Logan a bench press.  I have wanted to add “real” weights to my strength routine for quite some time, but I honestly couldn’t do the gym.  I am kind-of self-conscious, plus I can’t handle all the guys flexing their muscles in the mirror.  LOL  No worries – I am adding weight into my routine very slowly.  

Of course, Logan is using this as yet another reason to poke fun at his dorky mom, especially because right now I am only using the bar.  I have tried to explain to him that I am less than 3 weeks away from my race and runners can’t just go and max out without a huge injury risk.  I am NOT willing to do ANYTHING that will risk my performance in this race.  I have some things to prove to myself out there.

However, I am so excited to add this to my training….I think it will most definitely help me become a better runner!

“Save the World” Taylor

I laughed last year when I was told that many of Taylor’s high school friends call her “Save the World” Taylor.  The name fits her.  I really had no idea what kind of storm I was releasing upon the world when I was raising her.  She was my first and I was so worried about raising a child that was indifferent to the suffering in our world.  I wanted her to see the person’s heart and soul, not their race, religion, sexual orientation or any other restriction our human brain imposes on others.  I think I succeeded.  🙂  I also wanted her to be independent.  Of course, I never expected that teaching her to be independent would have her already travelling to Guatemala and Thailand by the age of 22!  I admire her fire and drive and fearlessness to follow her passion.  She is amazing.

She is in Thailand right now with my niece, Laura and her boyfriend Michael.  Laura and Michael have been in the region since late August and are scheduled to return next month.  Taylor couldn’t resist the opportunity to visit and I am so happy that she went!  The pictures that Laura has shared are absolutely beautiful!  I am experiencing a bit of jealousy sitting at my computer right now!

Beautiful women, inside and out!

Beautiful women, inside and out!

Happy Tuesday!

Jen

My Allison

Today, my best friend, Allison, would have turned 41 years old.

I find it hard to believe that she has been gone 11 1/2 years.  The time that we shared together seems like only yesterday – as if no time has passed at all.  Then again, it seems like an eternity since I’ve seen her face or heard her infectious laugh.

When she died, I seriously didn’t know how I could or would go on.  I know that may seem silly to some – she wasn’t even a “relative”, but we had such a strong bond.  And she was so much larger than life.  And a much better person than I could ever hope to be.

But enough about me.  Today is about her.  Instead of focusing on her death, I try to remember the way she lived.  And what better day to honor that than on her birthday.

Allison NEVER met a stranger.  I’m somewhat introverted and keep my guard up until I feel things out and figure out what I have in common with someone…. and I’m HORRIBLE at small talk.  She would talk to ANYONE (and enjoyed it!!!).  Anytime we were in a place for longer than….oh, 30 seconds….she would strike up a conversation with a stranger.  I never understood how she was able to get someone’s entire life story in the short amount of time we would spend in a check-out line.  I may or may not have made fun of her for this…but I secretly envied her ability to talk to anyone without getting tied up in knots inside.

Allison ALWAYS saw the best in others…even when they had already shown her their not-so-best.  I remember that once, there was a person who notoriously used others for things that she needed and asked to start working out with Allison.  Allison asked my opinion, and,  being the cynic of the relationship, I told her to watch her back because the history spoke for itself.  Allison was so kind and caring, though, that she decided to give this woman a chance.  And even though we later found out that this woman was using Allison for an alibi to cheat on her husband, I always admired Allison for being willing to give her a chance.  Like God said about His creation after it was made – Allison was good.  She was just good.

Allison was an AMAZING mother.  She loved her kids fiercely…STILL loves them fiercely.  She focused on the important things.  She wanted them to be decent and loving human beings.  She wanted them to know they were LOVED.  I could tell story after story to illustrate this.  Even when she was nearing death, they were at the forefront of her mind, because her last words to me were asking me to promise to take care of her babies.  Witnessing her love her children made me a better mother.

Allison was tough.  She would bend over backwards for people; give them more second chances than they deserved; see the good when there wasn’t much good to see, but she was NOT a pushover.  You did not mess with Allison or anyone she loved.  She fought for what she believed in….which was usually some liberal cause.  🙂  She was so amazing.

Allison dressed me.  It’s true.  I’m a terrible shopper, but I loved shopping with her.  She would practically throw things in my arms then tell me to go try it on.  Me??  I need to see it matched on a mannequin.  (Except running clothes.  I’m good for running clothes shopping. 😉

And….Allison was a runner.  I am, without question, a runner today because of her. (She tried pretty hard to convert me when she was alive…I can’t imagine she would let death get in her way.  NOTHING got in her way.)

One of my favorite stories of her:  She was a nurse and was working at the Bonham hospital.  (She had worked at Children’s ER for the longest after moving to Bonham, but as the kids grew, she felt it more important for her to be close to home.)  When she first went to work there, she worked as a respiratory therapist.  She would get SO aggravated at the employees that took smoke breaks every hour.  It mainly irritated her because they were “health care professionals” that didn’t take good care of their health.  But the fact that they got 30 times as many breaks as non-smokers chafed her hide.  Most of us would just continue griping.  But Allison?  Allison went to a convenience store and bought candy cigarettes so that she, too, could take “smoke” breaks.  Of course, I would have laughed at the idea and I might have even bought the cigarettes, but I would NEVER have had the nerve to follow through.  That’s where Allison was different from me.  She marched her happy ass right outside with the rest of the nurses on smoke break and “smoked” her candy cigarettes with the rest of them, just to prove her point!  I can’t remember how long she carried this on, but she was completely satisfied that she had gotten her point across.  Goodness, I miss that spunk!

I’ve long said that the world became a darker place the day that Allison’s light went out.  She truly was a lighthouse to those who knew her.  I wish that I could convey what an amazing and wonderful person she was to those that didn’t know her, but it is simply impossible to describe her accurately.  I hope my feeble attempts here have given you a clue that she was nothing short of amazing.

My favorite picture of Allison. I looked and looked for a long time and thought it was lost.....until I stumbled upon it in Alli's baby book. I was soooo happy to find it!

My favorite picture of Allison. I looked and looked for a long time and thought it was lost…..until I stumbled upon it in Alli’s baby book. I was soooo happy to find it!

Allison, you are loved.  You are missed.  Our hearts will forever ache.  I still think of you every single day.

Happy birthday.