Friday, August 17, 2018

Let it Shine!


I've probably shared something similar before, however, I have really been thinking about this a lot lately, so wanted to just write out some thoughts.

I spend a lot of time in prayer in the morning.  Really more so just having conversations with God.  My friends know that my bathroom is kind of like my "prayer closet" because that's where I spend time in the morning, alone!!!  I have sticky notes on our mirror and some of my greatest thoughts and prayers come from this small room.

As I was getting ready for work just a few days ago, I clearly heard God say, "You don't need the spotlight, Jenny, because you ARE the spotlight!" 

Ummmm...what?!

Me??
I don't want or need the spotlight.
Why would those be the words I hear clearly?

And when I say I heard the words clearly, it wasn't like an audible voice, more like a resonation deep within me - if that makes any sense?

And then I thought to myself, "Do I?"

I like to write, I like to post on social media, I like to send notes in the mail...
Is that me trying to be in the spotlight?

The answer is no.
I do not like to be in the spotlight.
And that is 100% truth!

But because I have been thinking about this quote, I had to double check myself!
And then put into perspective the words I was hearing being spoken to me.

You don't need the spotlight because you ARE the spotlight!

I AM the spotlight because I have the light of Jesus within me and I have been called to let that light SHINE!


For those who may not know - I love sunflowers!!!
They are bright and cheery and have these brilliant yellow petals that are known as "rays" and truly have a resemblance to the sun!

I did a little research on sunflowers and this is what I found:
  • Phototropism (the orientation of a plant in response to light) effects both the leaves and flowers of the young sunflowers.  The small leaves of a young seedling turn toward the sun.  However, as the plant grows, as it matures, the leaves on the shaded side of the plant grow more quickly than the leaves in full sun.  
  • Heliotropism (the directional growth of a plant in response to sunlight ) - the flowers following the sun across the sky!  They literally seek out and face the sun.  Facing the sun is mostly observed in young flowerheads and generally stops once the flower starts to bloom.  
  • Sunflowers grow best in locations with full sun yet they are also remarkably tough and will grow in any kind of soil as long as it is not waterlogged.  
  • A single sunflower can have up to 2,000 seeds!  This amazes me!  That fuzzy center actually holds flowers themselves. 
  • More than 60 varieties of sunflowers are found around the world in different shades.  Some varieties also have striped petals and each center may vary in different shades. 


And here is what I am taking away and want to encourage you to think about!

Those who shine from within don't need the spotlight!

Did you catch those facts about sunflowers?!
Facing the sun (being in the spotlight) is mostly observed in young flowerheads.  Once the flower starts to bloom, this need of being in the full sun generally stops.  In fact, it's noted that as the plant matures, the leaves on the shaded side actually grow more quickly than those in the full sun. I love that there are more than 60 varieties of sunflowers around the world and their petals can be found in different shades as well as their center YET it doesn't make one more or less beautiful than another.  And probably one of my most favorite facts is that each single flower can have up to 2,000 seeds!  ONE sunflower has the opportunity within itself to allow thousands of new sunflowers to SHINE!!!

While being in the spotlight may be needed for a time of growth, sunflowers do not need the sun to continue to "shine!"  I just LOVE this!

I took this photo last spring because, among all of the other blooming sunflowers surrounding it, I was drawn to this one.  I loved how the sun was behind it, it hadn't yet bloomed, but you can already tell that it is going to shine!!!  I loved how confident it looks among all the other sunflowers, that it knew its potential, just was doing things its own way!

And I think I'm figuring this out...

Some people just don't need the spotlight.
At all.
They simply shine just by being who they are.
They are the kind of people you gravitate towards.
You feel their warmth.
They somehow make any cloudy day sunny.

Some people need the spotlight because they need the affirmation they receive from being there.  Maybe they will mature and not need to stand in the spotlight for long.
Or...maybe they will.

And some, well some just have the need to be in the spotlight, regardless.

What we need to remember is this - keep shining your light!!!  Keep encouraging the inclusion of everyone to simply be in the field/on the stage, regardless where the light shines!  We have the power within us to plant thousands of seeds for people to eventually step out of the spotlight and shine their own light!!  That is powerful!

The sun helps sunflowers shine bright!
The Son (God) helps each of us shine bright!
We can help others find their light!

Friends, we are so much better together!  Take what spotlight you need, but I want to encourage you to get to the point where it doesn't matter where the light is shining because you have become the spotlight helping others on their way!!!

xox,
Jenny

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Catch People on the Bounce


I like to read.
Actually, I LOVE to read!!!

I read to wind down.
I read if I have some down time.
I read waiting for appointments. 
I read at the beach.
I read before bed.
I read with my girls.

I have a very bad habit of reading on my kindle at night and will get so into a book that it will be WAY past my bedtime when 1) it runs out of battery life or 2) I look up to see what time it actually is.

I recently came across the book, Everybody Always, by Bob Goff.
And OMG!!!
THIS book!

This book is absolutely one I will be recommending for, well, EVER!

It's an easy read but simply filled with so much truth and insight.

24 chapters.
Each based on a unique experience that Bob has had in life and has somehow made it so easily applicable to the reader to put into perspective.

I'm just going to be completely transparent.
I thought I was a person who "loved well."
Reading this book has made me take a deeper look at my own self and the interactions I have on a daily basis...maybe not so much with the people I know, but for sure the ones I don't.

Being better together also means loving well.  
And I am determined to put into practice what is stirring in my heart after reading (and rereading) this book.
I want to live my life so the words below are 100% true at all times.

[I bet this is what Jesus meant when He told His friends that people would understand who He was by watching how we treated each other. Early on I thought big acts of generosity or great sermons or arenas full of people singing songs would help us understand God's love for us. He said it was none of these. Jesus told His friends that letting people see the way we love each other would be the best way to let people know about Him. It wouldn't be because we'd given them a lot of directions or instructions or because they memorized or studied all the right things. It would be because someone met you or me and felt as if they'd just meet Jesus.]

[[ It would be because someone met you or me and felt as if they'd just meet Jesus. ]]

A few of my favorite quotes:










And here's an excerpt from one of the chapters that stuck with me the first time and I want to share with you in closing.  

Catch people on the bonce:

[ ...There's one last thing the instructor told us in class. He said if the main parachute doesn't open up and the reserve parachute doesn't either, you've got about forty-five seconds before you hit the ground and make your mark. I was surprised and a little grossed out when the instructor said hitting the ground isn't what kills you. Every bone in your body will break, of course. But after you hit the ground, you'll bounce - and it's the second time you hit that kills you as the broken bones puncture all your organs. I know that is kind of graphic, but it's true.
I'm a lawyer, so with this information in mind I figured I needed a strategy. Here's mine: if none of the parachutes open up, when I hit the ground, I'm going to grab the grass and avoid the bounce. What is true in skydiving is true in our lives. It's usually not the initial failure that takes any of us out; it's the bounce. We've all hit the ground hard at work or in a relationship or with a big ambition. Whether we had a big, public failure or an even bigger private one, the initial failure won't crush our spirit or kill our faith; it's the second hit that does. The second hit is what follows when things go massively wrong or we fail big, and the people we thought would rush to us create distance instead. They express disapproval or treat us with polite indifference.
If we want to be like Jesus, here's our simple and courageous job: Catch people on the bounce. When they mess up, reach out to them with love and acceptance they way Jesus did. When they hit hard, run to them with your arms wide open to hug them even harder. God wants to be with them when they mess up, and He wants us to participate.
.
.
.
Be with each other. Don't just gather information about people who have failed big or are in need - go be with them. When you get there, don't just be in proximity - be present. Catch them. Don't try to teach them. There's a big difference.
We don't need a plan to do these things. We don't need to wait for just the right moment. We just need to show up, grab a parachute, and when it's time, jump out of our shoes after people the way Jesus jumped out of heaven to be with us.
Sometimes we make loving people a lot more complicated than Jesus did...]


We are SO much Better Together my friends!

Do yourself a favor.
Read this.
And then read it again.

And simply LOVE.
Everybody, Always!



xox,
Jenny





Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Get In Where You Fit In...

My hubby said something similar to me the other day and while he didn't know it was just what I needed to hear - it was JUST what I needed to hear.

You all know I am one who truly does believe we are better together!
And I absolutely love the quote, "A single twig breaks, but the bundle of twigs is strong" - Tecumseh

I daily strive to reflect this attitude and build bridges.  And to be totally transparent, I have these HUGE dreams of what this "Better Together" looks like locally but often times find myself feeling like that single twig.


In January, I knew my schedule and "life" would allow me to join our church's Adopt A Block ministry.  Although I had volunteered a few times prior, there is something different about making a commitment.  Since February, my youngest daughter and I have faithfully shown up to serve and show love to our local community the 2nd and 4th Saturdays each month.

And it has been one of the BEST decisions I've made!!!

The people I didn't know I needed in my life - well, we are now family!!! 
My Green Team!

We clearly realize there is food insecurity in our community and that is our way into the "door" and by doing so, we have not only been able to provide food, but we are building relationships!

Our program director, Mark Thompson (who is remarkable), invited me to attend a round table forum with the USDA this weekend.  My heart has been stirring for some time that I need to do more and I simply told him to let me know how I can be of more help.  So here I come, young white female, into a predominately black church, not knowing a soul, as I waited for Mark to join us.  While some might have felt out of place, I felt right at home.  They seated me, unknown to me, next to the church's First Lady :)  and to my right, the sweetest "Mom Francis."  I did end up knowing one lady there, she was my 7th grade ELA teacher, but I don't think it would have even mattered because when you're surrounded by those who are like minded, you just "fit in."

This meeting, facilitated by the local USDA team, was geared towards recognizing the challenges our communities face and working TOGETHER to help tackle these issues.  There was representation from political, business, school, community, and faith based leadership.

I felt like I was part of the "bundle" at this meeting.
As I sat and listened, I gained much insight.

Some of the top challenges our local communities face include:
Education
Affordable Housing
Hunger
Drug Crisis/Mental Health
Transportation

As I mentioned, our Adopt A Block ministry supplies food 2 Saturdays a month to a section of our community and that is our way to build a relationship with the people on these blocks.  Our other 2 campuses do the same thing monthly.  But by doing this, we are also ensuring that the children in these houses are enrolled in school, and if not, have someone reach back out to them to help get them enrolled.  We ask besides food is there anything they need for their household and we have provided beds, kitchen tables, refrigerators, clothes, etc as needed.  Our blocks fall within a heavy drug and crime area and we offer assistance with the resources we have available - we've had narcan training and information on rehab services - but more often than not, the one thing they will allow for us to do is simply pray. And PRAY we do!!!  There have even been times we've helped those who want to come to church but have no transportation to get there!

So this ONE ministry program that our church does just twice a month (once a month at each of our other campuses) is reaching 650 families!!!  And we are touching on each of the top challenges are community faces in some form.

Can you imagine what that would look like if we work TOGETHER to do this more?
And not just focus on education for school aged children, but education and mentorship for those who have fallen on hard times and need to relearn how to "live" again?!?

I know I've said it before but I think it's worth repeating - we do not have to cross borders to find people truly in need.  We have people right in our own communities who need help!!! 

***

Another opportunity I've had this year is to be on the leadership team for our Shoulder to Shoulder women's ministry at EWC.  My beautiful friend, Sara, came to me earlier in the fall and shared what was stirring in her heart and knew I had much of the same stirring in mine...so when she asked if I would like to be a part of the team I was ALL in!!!

And talk about bringing people TOGETHER!!!
We had over 200 women show up for our 1st gathering!
Ages ranging from high schoolers to Great Granma's and a mix of color and nationalities.
What an amazing sight it was to see so many women, standing shoulder to shoulder, as we ended in prayer that night.

As we are praying and seeking direction on how we can serve our local community, I cannot help but feel overwhelmed with what the effect of 200 women on a mission will look like!!!

It's so exciting!
And it is exactly what our communities need!

Small things.
Or big.
It ALL Matters!!!

When we come together to work to build our community UP, I truly believe that we are leaving the greatest marks on the world.
I know we are already doing good things locally and I am believing for greater things to come!

I want to encourage you to get in where you fit in!!!
Get involved with programs that are helping to revitalize our communities.
You might not feel comfortable at first, and it may just be because you don't realize just how privileged you are.

Do it anyway.
It ALL Matters.

We are so much BETTER TOGETHER my friends!


xox,
Jenny

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Words Matter


Words Matter!

I already knew this.
And truly, make it a mission of mine to continually speak life.

However, this past week, I had the opportunity to meet and listen to Brian Boyle speak and I was reminded just how important words matter.

So who is this Brian Boyle I speak of?!?

A few of his online bio's include:
It was a horrific car crash.  On the way home from swim practice in 2004,eighteen-year old Brian Boyle's future changed in an instant when a dump truck plowed into his vehicle. He was airlifted to a shock-trauma hospital.  He had lost sixty percent of his blood, his heart had moved across his chest, and his organs and pelvis were pulverized.  He was placed in a medically-induced coma.  When Brian finally emerged from the coma two months later, he had no memory of the accident.  He could see and hear, but not move or talk.  Unable to communicate to his doctors, nurses, or frantic parents, he heard words like "vegetable" and "nursing home."  If he lived, doctors predicted he might not be able to walk again, and certainly not swim.  Then, miraculously, Brian clawed his way back to the living.  First blinking his eyelids, then squeezing a hand, then smiling, he gradually emerged from his locked-in state.  The former swimmer and bodybuilder had lost one hundred pounds.  

In 2007, Brian Boyle staged what many consider to be one of the greatest comebacks in sports history when he crossed the finish line at the Hawaii Ironman just three years after leaving the Intensive Care Unit.

In 2008, Men's Health magazine named Boyle one of its twenty heroes.

In 2009, he published his first book, Iron Heart, and he was presented the spokesperson of the year award from the American Red Cross for his contributions, service and for hosting his series of Iron Heart blood drives.

In 2010, he graduated Cum Laude from St. Mary's College of Maryland and also made his very first blood donation at the hospital that brought him back to life.  

His story has been features on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, NBC's Today Show, ESPN, and several other programs throughout the globe that have earned Emmy nominations and awards.

His journey of courage and determination has touched the hearts of many and his story and the message it carries has been celebrated around the world.




And I was able to hear it first hand at PRMC last week as he was brought in as guest speaker to relay the importance of what healthcare workers do, day in and day out, from a patient's perspective.

And yes, his journey is an amazing one that is truly an inspiration!  And it didn't stop in 2010; I encourage you to take time to learn more about him and ALL the things he has continued to accomplish since his recovery - including getting married and having their 1st baby girl!

But one of the biggest things I took away from him were two words:

Words Matter.

As we sat and listened to his story, he reminded us that although he was in a medically induced coma, there were times, about 1/2 way into his recovery, that although he couldn't talk and indicate that he was "with it," that he could hear.

He could hear the words being spoken.
And those that were not.

He talks about how at one point he wanted to give up, the fight was just too hard.
And that was the day his dad had come to his room, laid his hands over his body, and begged him to fight.  And reminded him what he was fighting for and who was fighting for him.
He truly spoke life into his son!
And although Brian couldn't respond, he determined that day that he was going to live!

He recalled that as he lay in his hospital bed, he learned to listen to and get to know the voices that were speaking to him each day and night.
That he could tell what kind of day he might have based on the voices he heard.

WORDS MATTER!

Based on the voices, he knew if the nurses and doctors would speak to him as though he could speak back - asking him questions even knowing he couldn't yet respond, talking to him about life in general, sports, the Olympics, telling him what they were expecting of him, etc.

Based on the voices, he also knew if it was going to be a quiet day with no interaction from his care team.

He thrived on the voices that spoke life!!!

Brian, during his recovery, was encouraged to start journaling his experience; to get out all his thoughts onto paper. Meant as part of the healing process, it ultimately led to the writing of his first book. He shared he had a thick stack of composition notebooks simply filled with each day of his journey and what he was experiencing.

Words.

Words that when compiled together became a healing for him and, ultimately, encouragement for others.

I just want to remind you that our words matter!

Just as much to the patient laying in a hospital bed fighting for their life to the one sitting beside you who very well may be fighting just as hard...our WORDS MATTER!

We ALL have something to say that can potentially make or break someone else.
Do you believe that?!?

We all have the power, within us, to build each other up!
And God knows, I know, we all aren't speakers.
Trust me, I've tried...been there and done that...and let's just say it's better I stick with writing.

But none the less, I can still choose to speak life into the people around me!
I don't have to be some big name person in the spotlight when I can simply just be me...

There are people around us who are hurting and giving up.
Our words matter.
There are people around us who lack self confidence.
Our words matter.
There are people around us whose loved ones are fighting addictions.
Our words matter.
There are people around us whose marriages are crumbling to pieces.
Our words matter.
There are people around us __________ (you fill in what you know to be true).
Our words matter.

Friends, we are so much BETTER TOGETHER!!!
And our WORDS MATTER!

I encourage you this week to really stop and think about the words that you are allowing to come out and reach others.
Are you building up?
Or tearing down?

Speak Life to the people around you and watch their world change!


xox,
Jenny

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Importance of Mulching

I would like to introduce you to my friend, Tanya Smith!  I have had the pleasure of serving our community with her through our Adopt A Block ministry.  As much as I would like to think I am an extrovert, I am not, and it has taken me a while to connect with everyone!  But I am...slowly but surely! 
Tanya is one that I have gotten to know more so in the past month and it's not by coincidence that we have more in common that I thought!  She, too, has a passion for writing and you know how I love to encourage others to share - so I told her anytime she felt like she had something she wanted to share to please pass it on and I would post on my Bundle of Twigs - We're Better Together blog and facebook page!

So here you go!!!  Please show her some love!

Tanya states, "I'm 47 years old, newly converted introvert who made the decision to seek her identity in Christ Jesus.  May the words that I write be acceptable in His sight, my Lord and my Redeemer."


The Importance of Mulching

For the last several weeks, the first five words of Mark 4:32 have been needling at my spirit, "Yet when it planted, it grows". Those words have been on a loop in my brain. It just kinda pops up whenever it feels like it. Washing dishes? Yet when planted, it grows. Running errands, yet when planted, it grows. You get the idea. So I did what any good Christian would do. I prayed, "Lord, please make this thought stop!" 🙄 Before I could even finish my request, I heard the faint still voice of the Holy Spirit, "ummm, NOPE". 

Tanya being Tanya, I tried debating/defending my position, "I am planted but its not working! I go to church, I serve, I give, I pray, I study the bible, I attend small group, what am I doing wrong?? To a large degree, I still felt disconnected, like my roots were carelessly dangling, not planted. I went back to God again, Lord, please give me vision to see what I'm not seeing. The Holy Spirit put it in my heart to look up the intricacies of farming. Yeah, I know, God works in mysterious ways😉 . 

Moving right along, I start researching farming and planting and wouldn't you know it, I come across a word that I know, but I really don't know what it means: MULCH.

While studying the topic, I read this sentence: A newly planted tree's best friend is mulch! 
OK Holy Spirit, I hear ya, I think we might be onto something! 
Further investigation (quick google search) informs me that mulch plays an integral role in the planting process:
     1. Weed suppression
     2. Slows moisture evaporation
     3. Gradual breakdown of underlying soil to improve the soil's texture. 

Hmmm....ever think God is trying to tell you something??? 
Soooo, the thread that links planting to subsequent growth is mulching??🤔

Ummm, God, you know I'm not a farmer, right? What does any of this have to do with me??

LIGHTBULB MOMENT!!!

Planting + Godly Community (Relationships) = Spiritual Growth!

Much like what mulch does for trees, relationships do for us:
     1. Suppress the growth of negative influences (weeds)
     2. Promotes the growth of God's word in our hearts by engaging with fellow believers, decreasing loneliness and isolation (evaporation)
     3. Gradually breaks down the underlying soil (our hearts) and improving its texture (becoming less like us, more like Christ)

If you're anything like me, you might find yourself spending too much time focusing on the outcomes of situations rather than the process that gets us to the outcome that aligns with God's will for our lives. I was "planted", BUT, I wasn't allowing the soil (my heart) to be cultivated and tilled by God through his servants. I'm a recovering loner and my spiritual growth was being stunted by my unwillingness to reach out, let others in. The enemy has a way of perverting legitimate needs (like connection) that we were created with, thus diminishing the value some of us put on those needs after negative experiences. I was "doing" all the right things, but not "being" transformed. Continual conversion is achieved through community. Yes, God tells us in Proverbs 4:23 to guard our hearts with all diligence, however, we're given the tool with which to guard it in Ephesians 6:14, the breastplate of righteousness. Righteousness is simply in right standing with God, a right RELATIONSHIP, with God. Having a real relationship with God guards the heart better than LifeLock or Brink's ever could!

Now, here comes what could be the difficult part about this whole mulch business, OK? Most of the "mulch" God sends your way probably won't be familiar. It won't look like you, walk like you, talk like you, probably won't always agree with you. Guess what? That's on purpose. Familiarity can be the breeding ground for stagnation. Sustainable growth happens past your comfort zone. Let God till that soil and water all those seeds He placed in you. We really are better together and here you thought that was just a catchy phrase Jenny came up with to name her blog! So just remember, they're not strangers, they're your specially designed mulch that God sent to cover you through the process. 

Sooo, who's your mulch???👭

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Wisdom I Gained from the Marathon Runners...


This weekend I had the opportunity to be a "cheerleader" for the SBY Marathon; it was divided into three categories - the full and half marathons and a 5K race.  The full marathon was a qualifier for the Boston Marathon and the half did the same for the New York Marathon.

Needless to say, it was a humbling experience for me AND I WASN'T EVEN RUNNING!!!
***Side note - Jenny does not run!!!  Nor have I ever enjoyed running.  To be totally transparent, I'm not real big on exercise in general.***

My girls and I were assigned to report to our spot right before noon  - - - mile 24.

MILE 24!!!
It's still amazing to me that at that point, these runners were still running!
And I wanted to share a few things I learned from my experience yesterday!


1. At some point you will want to stop.  Don't!!!

We were right around a bend that sits on the river; we seriously could not have asked for a better location to be cheerers on such a beautiful day!  Our location allowed us to see as soon as the runners turned the bend before us - and that was our cue to start the clapping and loud encouragement!!!

One woman in particular I had a short conversation with.  As I called out to her, "You're doing fabulous!!  Keep going!!  You're almost there..." she smiled and said, "ugghhh, I've hit a wall.  BUT I'm going to finish this!"

[Hitting a wall - experiencing a sudden loss of energy in a long race.] 

You guys - whether it's a marathon or life in general, there are going to be times when we "hit a wall." But just like this strong woman, we have to determine in our hearts and mind that we will keep on moving.  To summon that strength you didn't know you had to make it to the finish line.  To just keep moving, putting one foot in front of the other!

I would imagine that finishing a marathon isn't just an athletic achievement, but an overall state of mind...reminding you that anything is possible!



2.  There will be people along your path that you might not "know" but have been put there for a specific purpose.

I read last night that there were close to 1,200 runners!!!  Out of those, I knew just a handful.
But my job was to be a cheerleader for these runners, whether I knew them or not! 
That was my sole purpose yesterday!
One of the bike riders keeping an eye on the runners stopped briefly and chatted with us and said we were at the perfect spot for cheering because at this point, these runners were just tired.

And we saw it.
Some had to literally stop and lean against the trees to stretch their muscles, some had slowed to a fast walking pace, some just looked zoned out.

Yet many of the runners responded back to us, thanking US for being on the path, especially at the end of the race...but in my mind, that's where we needed to be because that's where I think I would need the most encouragement.

I found these and thought they were both appropriate for this:


I don't know how many times I said out loud that I was just so proud of these runners!!!
And, imagine this, found myself right emotional for them. 

Friends - there are people on our paths, whether we know it or not, that have been put there for a purpose!  Take time, even when you're steady focused on the end goal, to listen to their encouragement.  It may be JUST what you need to hear to continue on!

3.  We REALLY are BETTER TOGETHER!!!

Ok, talk about being emotional.
One of the moments that I will remember forever - two runners, coming from the opposite direction - coming FROM the FINISH line, already adorned with their medals.  They came to finish out the race with what looked like "their people" - they met up with two other runners (that had succumbed to walking at this point) to encourage them to just keep on going. 

It was a great example for my girls to see.

There are going to be times that we finish way ahead of others - but what an example it is when you can go back and help the ones still on their journey. 
Because you HAVE finished, because you have come out on the other side, you can go back and remind them that they, too, can make it!


***

In closing, I wanted to share a personal testimony from my friend, Shannon.
She simply amazes me.
One - because she's just really an amazing woman!
And Two - because she rocked this marathon!!  And I wanted to give you a perspective from a runner's standpoint!

Running a full marathon had been something on my bucket list since I ran my first half marathon over 4 years ago.  I said, "I can't imagine ever actually training for it, but maybe some day when my kids were grown and I had more time."  I then ran another half marathon, and several other small races, but put the goal of a full marathon on the back burner for something later on in life.

Then last spring I heard the announcement that the following year Salisbury would be hosting a full marathon in April 2018.  My thought was "Oh my gosh - I have to do it!"  But then I was reminded of all my many responsibilities right now at this point in my life, and I just didn't think it was possible.  Between being a wife to a pastor (at a mobile church at that!), a mom, working full times as a teacher, and taking master's classes - I just didn't see how it would work.  

Then this past fall I was at the Baltimore Marathon running the relay with 3 other people.  I was leg one of the marathon, so I was able to be at the finish line and see the last leg of our relay finish.  Not only that, but I got to watch all these people cross the finish line and finish a full marathon.  Some becoming a "marathoner" for the first time.  I seriously had tears in my eyes watching these determined people cross the finish line.  I knew that I had to do it.  I had to run the first ever Salisbury Marathon.

At that point, I was only running a couple times a week - from anywhere from 3 to 5 miles.  I had always enjoyed running, but since my half marathons, I had just been running one or twice a week.  I started doing my research on training plans and finally found one that I wanted to use.  When I first read over Hanson's Marathon Method, I thought there was no way I could actually follow this plan.  It has you running 6 days a week for most weeks, for 18 weeks, and peaks you at 57 miles a week.  But I knew if I was committing to running a marathon, I wanted to do it the right way and be prepared.  I started training the day after Christmas.

I knew the only way I could guarantee that I could get my runs in each day was doing them in the morning before work.  So most of my training was done in the dark and cold before work.  There was a lot of early bedtimes and even more early alarms.  At the peak of training I was waking up a 4:00 am to get in up to 12 miles before work.  It was hard, but every time I felt like sleeping in - I remembered my goal.  I could do this.  I knew God was keeping me healthy and allowing me the ability to keep up with the training, then I could do my part and show up.  I reminded myself of this many cold mornings.

My verse for the race yesterday was Joshua 1:9 - "Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."  I was so nervous and anxious going into the race yesterday.  I knew I was physically prepared, but I was still so nervous.  The Lord put this verse in my face in the beginning of last week  - and I knew that it was my verse for race day.  The hardest part of the race for me yesterday was around mile 20-21 when the extreme nausea took over.  I'm guessing it was the sun and heat that did it to me, since my body was not accustomed to that type of weather.  Most all of my training was done in freezing or below temperatures, and in the dark!  But during those hard miles, I said Joshua 1:9 over and over again.  I am strong and courageous - God's with me right here on this road.  You've got this!  I continued to say that the rest of the race.  And God got me through the hard part and to the finish line.  God got me through every single workout of this training, and He got me to the finish line of my first marathon!  All for HIS glory!




Shannon came in 3rd place for her age group and 6th female overall!  Like I said, she rocked it out!!!

***

As proud of I am of ALL these runners, I still don't have that desire to get out there and just do it, but I am reminded this:

Whatever it is you are trying to accomplish - it doesn't matter what happens between the starting line and the finish line - what really matters is that you decide to cross both! 

Surround yourself with the people who want to help you reach your goals! 
And remember, God will send people you may not even know to encourage you along the way!
Take the time to listen.
Learn to silence the noise and lean into the people cheering you on!

We are BETTER TOGETHER my friends!

xox,
Jenny

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Green Team




Today was simply an absolutely gorgeous day!
And I was able to start it with these phenomal people!!!
I know I post a lot and share about our church and Adopt a Block ministry...and it's because I have seen first hand how people's lives are being changed and relationships are being made!
You all have heard me say for years now that I really do believe we are BETTER TOGETHER and days like today are constant reminders of this.


The beautiful ladies represented in these photos - they are reminders to me of what it looks like to stand shoulder to shoulder.  We've shared laughter and tears together but most importantly, we have stood in the gap and prayed together. When I say I'm blessed to know each one of them, I mean it - my life is richer because of them!
The little boy whose smile is simply contagious ... well he told me he loved me today. 💙
On our route, a few of us were able to strike up conversation with him and his aunt. He told us ALL about his school and his teacher and what his favorites were. As we continued on our block, they went across to the other side of the sidewalk to continue straight...just as we were rounding the corner his aunt called out and I turned around and he was just steady waving with that HUGE smile...so I ran back over to him real quick and got down on his level and he just gave me the biggest hug and simply said, "I love you."
And my heart burst into a million pieces.
We gave them a bag of food, bread, and watermelon. 
Nothing fancy or extravagant. 
But we had also taken a few minutes to just listen. 
To hear what he had to say.
And friends, isn't that what we all long for at times?

This picture of the two boys playing "got your nose..." just another reminder that you just have to get down on the kids levels. I wish you could have seen how that little boy just gravitated towards Jordan. And while they played, we were able to hold conversation with his mom...and hear her story...and as we were getting ready to walk on, Naomi simply said, "You're doing a great job, Mom!"
And I don't know about you...but no matter what stage you are as a mother, there's just something about hearing you're doing a great job that encourages you to keep going!
These are just a few examples of what took place this morning!
I leave each time feeling thankful for these connections and relationships I am making. 
I leave feeling thankful that we are helping to meet needs right here in our community. 
I leave being reminded of just how good my life really is.
I leave thankful for my "green team" family.
God is SO good.
He really is!