Pinterest A Grateful Life Lived: June 2014

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Presence Filled 2014: June 21

     Happy first day of summer!  Unfortunately, where I live wasn't very "summery" today.  The sun peaked out from behind the clouds a little, but stayed coyly hidden most of the day.
     Either way, God has really been ministering to me lately about His unfailing love.  Yes, I've blogged about it before (HERE and HERE), but in case you haven't noticed: His love is pretty amazing!  He has been pursuing me this week as I've flip flopped back and forth: Surrender, control, surrender, control.  I get so frustrated with me until I realize that focusing on my own faults is never the way to go.   As Christians, we don't get to far along the path when we are too busy looking at our faults to focus on God.
     So I've been making an effort to fill myself with Him-- not the crap on the T.V or catching up with Lifestyle News on my phone app, Pulse.  I've been taking prayer walks, reading more, getting scripture inside of me and trying to stay in constant communication with God.
     In life, I often go through spurts where I don't do so.  I don't treat life like a war, a spiritual battle that is swarming all around me.  The truth?  It is.  It absolutely is.  John 10:10 says that Satan "comes to kill, steal and destroy."  As a communications major, I love looking at the particular vernacular and diction choices in scripture, and this is no different.  There's a reason the Holy Spirit didn't say that Satan "is dangerous" or "wants to harm us."  Nope.  He wants to utterly, completely decimate you and your faith.  So what can we do?
     We can stop acting like little pawns for one.  I know I get sucked into that idea that while, yes: Spiritual warfare is real, it isn't really impacting me.  But we aren't just little pieces that are moved around.  We've got power!  We have the power of the King.  That is something Christ has been showing me this week: It's time to man up, get my armor and get back in the fight.
     Yes, it is hard.  Yes, the struggles we go through in life are downright gritty and take all our strength.  But it is worth it!  It's worth it to experience the presence of the King and the joy that comes with glorifying Him.  I'm no perfect example, I'm hobbling along on my own mountainous path.  But I do know that when I get off my butt and start engaging in the fight that's waging in this world, I am filled with more joy that I am exhaustion.  God's love is pretty amazing, it's pretty radical.  God isn't going to let you fight this battle on your own, because He has something invested in this fight.  He's got His own son or daughter out on the battleground.  He's got His reputation as King at stake.  His most precious creation is being threatened by the deception of the enemy.  There is no way He is stepping off to the side to see how it all plays out.  Remember that friends!
     As much as I'm reminding you, I'm reminding myself.  Just as we are unaware of the spiritual warfare around us, we are often unaware of God's great intercession and action on our behalf.

Today, I pray that God's love fills you to overflowing.  Let it be evident in all you do and say, compelling you to surrender to Him and His calling.  I pray you will listen for the Spirit, grow more aware of the spiritual battle in your life and cry out to God for the strength you don't have.  Let Him minister to you, let His love and joy draw you nearer and nearer to His presence in every way.  Do not give up your fight- simply give the fight up to Him.  

     We can't do this on our own, so thank goodness we don't have to!  I guess that's it for my spiritual musing, hopefully my ramblings provide some encouragement, perhaps God is speaking this same lesson to you.  In that case, leave a comment so we can be praying for each other, because I'm right there with ya!  While your at it, take a look at Philippians 3:14.  God recently spoke to me through this scripture, so I'm committing it to memory to strengthen my faith.  I encourage you to do the same:

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Book Review of "Watchman Nee: Man of Suffering"

  I just finished reading a captivating book, titled: Watchman Nee: Man of Suffering by Bob Laurent.  The book is part of a series called "Heroes of the Faith" which is a biographical series of Christian men and women through the ages.
     A few years back, I borrowed my dad’s copy of The Release of the Spirit, by Watchman Nee, and was struck with the power of God that was manifest in the life of this 20th century leader of the Christian church in China.  A few months ago, I picked up this biography from a box of free books, intrigued to know more about this man who was so consumed by the Holy Spirit.
     Watchman Nee: Man of Suffering is a short read at only 186 pages in large print.  Yet, it is moving nonetheless.  From childhood, Nee was a driven and dedicated young man.  But it wasn’t until he gave his life to Christ at nineteen that he realized how desperate China was for the message of Christ.  As the book relays, this passion for evangelism and the Biblically unsound doctrine of the current church led Nee to establish the Little Flock— the first large scale church in China.  As Nee studied the word of God—sometimes up to 14 hours a day—he continued to spread Christianity across the countryside in the midst of World War II turmoil.

     Watchman Nee: Man of Suffering drives home the message of full reliance on Christ.  It is something that my plush, American society has all but forgotten.  In the land of instant gratification and idols, it is such a refreshing reminder of the result of true faith.  Watchman Nee refused to defend himself against erroneous defamation of his character; He continued to preach in China despite the invasion of communism.  Ultimately, the last 20 years of his life were spent in prison, where he is said to have sung hymns daily for all prisoners to hear (RELATED: Upping Your Rep in Church).  He did not lose His firm hope in Christ, nor waver in His commitment to the gospel.  True to 2 Timothy 4:7, Watchman Nee gave every indication that he "fought the good fight and finished the race."  He kept the faith (RELATED: God's Perfect Peace).

            I would highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone who wants to see more power of the Holy Spirit revealed in their life.  If there is any evidence that our cushy society has left us in lack of the spirit, it is in the story of Watchman Nee's life.  Constantly in dire circumstances, Nee was able to see the power of the Spirit in ways we have not.  There are some amazing miracles recounted in this book because of this desperation and whole-hearted surrender to Christ (RELATED: Are You "Spiritually Face-Washing?").  As a result of Watchman Nee's life, the Church in China began to flourish at a time of great war and turmoil.  Better yet, the name of Christ was proclaimed around the world and hope was lit like a flame.
     This summer, whether you’re headed the beach, the mountains or your living room couch: Don’t miss a chance to read about this great man of faith and learn a thing or two about reliance on God.

RELATED: Book Review of "Like Dandelion Dust"
RELATED: Book Review of "Born to Run"

Are You "Spiritually Face-washing?"

     Last week, I had a huge pimple on my chin.  It was the kind of pimple that makes you wish you could bundle up in your thickest winter scarf and make a new fashion statement at the pool.  Alas, you would get many strange glances and, most likely: Heat stroke.
     While the size of the zit has greatly subsided, it now resembles a cut from a bad bicycle accident or  a fall on the sidewalk--  all appropriate, if I were a five year old daredevil off of training wheels.  In all honesty though, the whole experience has reminded me of a similarly embarrassing event when I was just six years old.
     We were on a family vacation in Sedona, Arizona during Spring Break.  I was a happy-go-lucky goofball, spending the week romping around the giant pool and hiking among the red rocks.  It was also the week of Easter, so the resort had a massive Easter egg hunt that blew my little mind.  The last night of our vacation, we were going to a fancy-- for a family with three young kids-- restaurant and I was elated to wear my new turquoise dress.  It was fringed with little beads and had swirls of neon green.  It was perfect.
     As we all got dressed, I went up to my mom for inspection.  After admiring my outfit, she noticed a little pimple on my chin.  "Why don't you go wash your face," she instructed.  I don't exactly remember what I was thinking, but I grabbed a washcloth and began vigorously scrubbing St. Ives Facial Scrub on my chin.  I scrubbed and scrubbed as hard as I could before emerging from the bathroom and meeting the family by the door.  What I had done all but horrified my parents: I had scoured my face to such extent that I was seriously bleeding, and not just from the area where the pimple was.  I vaguely remember my parents chuckling and assuring me it was ok, because I didn't give the incident a second thought after my initial panic.  We went to dinner and I had a great time.  But we also got a family picture taken that night-- one that was up in our living room for years-- and the evidence of my little "chin war" was as clear as day.
     Anyway, I was reminded of that this past week as I not only struggled with an equally stubborn zit, but also a struggle against the "need for perfection."  I so often get sucked into satan's lie that I have to put up walls, control my life and hide away my vulnerability.  I'll save you the trouble and let you know: It doesn't work.  Galatians 5:1 says, "It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.  Stand firm then and refuse to be bound again by a yoke of slavery."  (RELATED: Francis Chan at Passion 2014)
     That's exactly what perfectionism is: Another form of slavery, another bondage to hold us back from freedom in Christ.  Just like I scrubbed my face raw as a six year old with a little pimple, I scrub my sins with anger and vigor.  I try to wash it all away with my own anger and effort.  Maybe, when that doesn't work, I try to cover it up.  But Christ has already washed me-- us-- clean.  That's good news because we can't exactly scrub ourselves clean so he can't see it.  God loves us no matter how dirty and messed up we are!  As Romans 5:8 says, "While we were still sinners Christ died for us."  Period.  Not, "While we were still sinners Christ died for us, once he saw us cleaning ourselves up."  He is for us and He is making us His new creation, the more we submit and allow ourselves to be molded (RELATED: Book Review of Watchman Nee: Man of Suffering)
     If you struggle with perfectionism and your own spiritual "scouring," I hope this was a good reminder for you as it was for me.  God is with you and He infinitely loves you.  So put down the washcloth and just rest in knowing that your messy life is not too much for God to swoop in and restore.  All it takes is surrender, difficult but simple.
     What areas of your life have you been trying to scrub clean or cover up?  Go ahead and comment below.  If you're ready to address that pattern of sin, proclaim it.  And remember: I'd love to hear about it!

RELATED: A Book Review of "Practicing His Presence"
RELATED: God's Perfect Peace

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Life of a Summer Nanny: Week of June 2

This week, I watched the kids Tuesday through Thursday.  With varying weather and interests, we found lots of stuff to do in the area.  If you've got kids, watch kids or just act like a kids: Here are some child-friendly ideas in the Lewis Center area:

Aquatic Center from slide
Orange Pool (photo credit:
The sun was out and the pool pass was renewed.  That meant one thing: The Orange Pool.  The pool is always a hit because friends, neighbors and other nannies are bound to be swimming and lounging on any given day.  I enjoy getting to catch up with friends as much as the kids do!  Though is was pretty chilly the day we went, the kids didn't mind.  I was a little grateful that I had forgotten my swim top and therefore had an excuse not to get it: The water is not heated FYI!  After the pool, we stopped by the adjoining park for half an hour of tag and hide-n-seek.  It was a fun day with lots of laughs!

USACE Alum Creek Dam and Lake.jpg
(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)
Wednesday: I didn't let the rain deter my original plan to take the kids to the Alum Creek State Park for frisbee golfing.  That changed however, when we stopped at the nature center and I realized that the frisbee golf course is a bit farther than I'd remembered when running to it.  God had a better plan though because the nature center has a engineering-focused water feature that the kids loved!  Coordinating levers and gates on a mini dam kept them entertained for a good 45 minutes while we waited out the rain.  I practically had to drag them away, only successfully done with the guarantee that we'd return.  After that, we made our way down to the beachfront and hunted for shells after skipping a few rocks.  It was raining a bit harder by that point, so we drove down the the bottom part of the park for our picnic lunch under the shelter.  The kids played around in the rain for a bit before we piled back into the car and headed home.  Back at the house, we ended the day with indoor hide-n-seek and two square in the garage.  Both me and the kids were pretty tired out from our active rainy day  (RELATED: Babysitting Fun with Boat Making)!

Glen Oak Park Medium Shelter
Glen Oak Park: With a big hill perfect for
daredevil boys on bicycles! 
The weather was not warm enough for the pool but it was warm enough for the bike ride I'd planned, so we rode  down to a little corner market in Lewis Center that is at the end of the bike trail and past Glen Oak Elementary School.  It's a 25-30 minute leisurely bike ride from Orange High School, so the kids were ready for some popsicles-- only 49 cents-- by the time we got there.  We rode back through two parks before finishing the day with a dance party and dance-off in the living room!  It was a great way to spend the day (RELATED: Summer 2013 Comes to a Close)


Keep following my Adventures in Babysitting posts for more activities, crafts and destinations for your own babysitting or childcare needs!  Some of the plans for this summer include: A visit to the fire station, the zoo, the skate park, the splash pad, making s'mores with foil and sunlight, helping at the animal shelter, playing baseball, doing another lemonade stand, producing at television news broadcast and visiting a couple of local farms.  I'll definitely be busy to say the least!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Unforgettable Runs: Pre's Trail in Alton Baker Park, Eugene

         To say that there are some good "running spots" in Eugene is like saying there's some good seafood in the ocean.  There is a vast expanse of ocean critters; You've got fish and shellfish and even seaweed.  There are different sizes of fish, different varieties, different environments.  There's a boatload-- literally-- of choices!
     My point, other than to stimulate cravings for some grilled shrimp, is to let you know: Everywhere in Eugene is a good place to run!
Photo Credit:
     Before traveling there myself, I had looked up some good locations for running.  Yet, I threw plans to the wind when I got to my hotel on Thursday night and saw all the possible routes awaiting me in the wood-chipped and shade covered luxury that is Eugene.  There was no deviation from one plan however: To run Pre's Trail.

     I'll leave my personal feelings about Steve Prefontaine for another post, but it goes without saying that this man was a distance running legend.  Go ahead and watch a race.  Pre clearly ran with guts; He ran with courage, and he left no doubts about his work ethic or drive.  As a runner, I do admire that approach to racing.  It's one of the things that has made Pre synonymous with distance running.  It's also why I was itching to get out and run on the trail he most frequented while running for the University of Oregon.  There was no way I was going to leave Eugene without checking this off my runner's bucket list.
     I hit Pre's Trail first thing after grabbing a snack and setting down my suitcase at the Residence Inn.  The hotel was in prime location: Right across from Alton Baker Park.  The park was a gorgeous expanse of green grass, blooming flowers and endlessly interlooping trails that ebbed and flowed with the Willamette River to the south.  Google Maps had told me to follow along the bike trail in order to get to Pre's Trail.  After an initial struggle and a consultation with the park map, I made my way down the trail and relaxed into the stunning scenery.  The paths were lined with tall pines and deep green foliage- a happy reminder that I was no longer in the midwest  (RELATED: Book Review on "Born to Run.")

     After winding through the woods and passing by Autzen Stadium at UO, I found the marker as clear as day: Pre's Trail.

     The path itself is a runner's dream.  The wood-chipped surface leads you through shaded woods and by a large pond before spitting you out into the Oregon sunlight to follow along a small tributary of the river.  Along this stretch of the trail, there are some very unique and quirky houses along the tributary that I enjoyed as I ran by.  After a while, my body reminded me that it was nine o'clock back home and high time for dinner.  I sadly turned around and made my way
back through the serene firs and gave God another quick shoutout for creating such a breathtaking place for me to explore.
While The Steve Prefontaine Memorial Jogging Trail is about four miles, there are plenty of easy ways to add on mileage with the connecting bike paths.  I would argue that it's a must for any runner who's adventuring out in Oregon.  If not for the moments of quiet bliss that come from trekking through God's great creation, at least do it for the chance to run where great runners did-- and still do-- make their footprints.  Perhaps the run will spur on your dreams to one day be making those footprints yourself.

The Details: The trail is located in Alton Baker Park which is east of the Ferry Street Bridge in Eugene, Oregon and is off of Martin Luther King Blvd.  Additionally, runners can access Pre's Trail from the Autzen Foodbridge or the Knickerbocker Footbridge in Alton Baker Park.


      If you've run on Pre's Trail or plan to: Let me know about it by leaving a comment below!

RELATED: Unforgettable Runs: Pinckney Island Preserve, Hilton Head Island
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RELATED: Who's Who in Eugene, Oregon: Elite Runners at the Pre Classic

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Who's Who in Eugene: Elite Runners at the Pre Classic

     To say that my trip to Eugene was amazing, would be an understatement.  Not only was it a great time with God (RELATED: Off to Eugene!), but it was a great way to reinvigorate my goals and dreams as a runner.  I've been taking some time to address my health and get back on track and whenever I get in those periods of life, it is easy to a.) Become obsessed with running or the lack thereof, and/or b.) Lose faith and hope that things will improve.
     I have really focused in looking to my identity in Christ and while that's always a struggle, I've been battling more with the second problem lately.  Yet, I am reminded that God has given me this great gift of running for a reason.  He will not leave me.  As much as I love running for God and with God, He loves blessing me in my running (RELATED: Unforgettable Run on Pre's Trail)!  That is why it was so inspiring to see such great athletes competing and using their talents this past weekend.  I saw meet records broken, national records broken and 2014 world's best times broken.  To entice you a little further as I delve into my journey, here are some pictures of the running elites that I rubbed shoulders-- err...stalked with my camera-- this weekend.
     Please bear with me this week as I sort through all my pictures and video amidst nannying and getting back into the swing of things.  I can promise some awesome blogging material is headed your way!
 Jamie Cheever: A Brooks sponsored steeplechase runner who I saw doing a shakeout run on Friday afternoon before she competed the next day.  
 Gabe Grunewald: An inspirational middle distance runner who won the U.S Indoor National 3,000m and is a cancer survivor at that!
 Ashton Eaton!  He is the world's best all around athlete, as he holds the Olympic Gold Medal in the Decathalon.  I also learned he is a very nice, genuine guy who enjoys interacting with fans.
 Evan Jager: American record holder in the men's steeplechase
 Galen Rupp: Need I say more?  I will soon post the AMAZING video of his American record-breaking 10,000m this past weekend.  It was a race for the books!
 Emma Coburn: Pro runner for New Balance and 2012 Olympian!
 The polish high jumper and world record holder, Anna Chicherova.  She was on my flight from Portland to Eugene and won the high jump at the Pre Classic.
 Linda Prefontaine: She is Steve Prefontaine's sister and a really kind lady who I got to meet on Saturday night.  Stay tuned for that story!!!
 Jordan Hasay: A 4'11'' distance running beast!  She's getting a massage after her 2-mile personal best performance on Saturday.  To the right of the picture is the legendary distance coach, Alberto Salazar.
 Here's another shot of Salazar.

Taoufik Makhloufi: The 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist in the 1500m.

And of course: I took a trip up to the famous "Pre's Rock," where runners from around the world come to pay homage to the distance running legend.  Hopefully, you enjoyed this little preview of my trip.  I can't wait to share more about the meet, my experience and my tips for traveling in Eugene, Oregon.