Tag Archives: Faith

What’s Next?

I’m in a “what’s next?” season of life.  If you’ve followed my blog, you know that my husband recently left the field of law enforcement after 18 years (16 as a sworn officer).  Looking back, I have a new understanding for how all-encompassing and intrusive his police occupation was.  It dictated everything in our lives – from the big decisions to the small.  For 18 years, I tailored my schedule to meet the demands of my husband’s job, the responsibility of raising three boys, and the management of my training business.  Finally able to catch my breath after this big transition, I’m getting around to me.

Where are you today?  Are you transitioning to an empty nest, either with young adult children moving out, or with your youngest child heading off to kindergarten?  Perhaps you are facing a transition with your job, or you are relocating your family.

In terms of fitness: with winter coming, you might have finished your last race or other event/competition of the season.  Maybe you finished an exercise program and are looking for new goals.  Or, perhaps you are hoping to get into a regular exercise pattern, get fit, or lose weight.  What’s next for you?

Fall is my favorite season for walking and observing nature.  I was recently on a walk one crisp, cold morning—the fallen leaves crunching under every step.  As I passed a tree that had already lost most of its leaves, I noticed that there were also walnuts (about ping-pong ball-sized) everywhere.  The ground leaves were so thick in some spots that they camouflaged the walnuts.  I was looking ahead while walking (instead of down at my feet) and stepped on the walnuts, rolling my ankle.  In order to make it through that area while avoiding injury, I decided to look down as I stepped.

In that moment, I realized that this experience mirrored my tendency to get antsy in the “what’s next” moments.  I want so badly to project too far down the road, for God to show me the bigger vision of what He is doing in my life.  But in reality, He is only revealing the steps right in front of me…and I had better pay attention, because there might be things that trip me up or throw me off of my path.  I need to shift my gaze from the “horizon,” to what is directly in front of me.  With each faithful step, He will show me what’s next…and next…and next…in doses that I can handle.

With fitness, we can get caught up in the final outcome and forget about all of the steps that it takes to get there.  Yes, goals are important, but set those goals with your steps in mind because they are just as important as the end result.   Some things to consider:  How much time each day will you need in order to commit?  What preparation do you need before starting?  How can you anticipate and plan for things that might trip you up –like holidays or work travel, for instance?  Will you need to enlist support/accountability from others?  What is your body telling you (i.e., do you need more flexibility, or balance, or do you need to modify due to a nagging injury)?  If you’re wanting to increase strength or get better at running, do you have those activities scheduled at least 3 times per week, balanced with plenty of restorative activities on the other days to promote muscle recovery?  Many successful exercise plans contain a sequence of phases that build upon the previous phase, providing a natural progression toward the end goal.  By focusing on each step of your plan, you will be less overwhelmed by the end goal as you move toward it.  Success is more likely, too.

In a broader context, if you are experiencing a major “what’s next” season in your life, I want to encourage you to stop trying to focus on where you’re going to end up –you could miss the crucial steps right in front of you.  Look for your very next step and trust God to show it to you.  He never fails to show us what needs to be seen, with just the right timing.

Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)  

Called to Move On

“It has to be a calling.”  I remember hearing those words from my pastor as he spoke to me about his profession.  Several years later, his amazing wife would utter those same words to describe my husband’s 16-year profession as a police officer.  Yeah… she’s right.  God’s calling on our lives takes any number of forms and paths, and is certainly not exclusively reserved for those in full-time ministry.

Without a doubt, law enforcement has been Scott’s calling.  There was a time in our lives when I was absolutely certain that God had placed my husband on this earth for the sole purpose to protect and serve.  He has the heart of a protector, and it has always been in his nature to step into harm’s way, if necessary, to accomplish the task.

The police profession has changed so much in the past decade, even more drastically in the last 5 years.  Men and women in blue are paying very high prices to earn a living today.

Three years ago I began praying a new prayer, in addition to my usual one for Scott’s protection.  We were perplexed and discontent, experiencing many closed doors (professionally), and sensing that we no longer had a clue which direction he should go.  I wanted my husband’s spark back –the one that you have when you are operating within your calling.  So we began to pray for direction, help, and strength, admitting that God’s ways are higher than ours.  And we waited.  More closed doors came and went, often painfully so, as our path was being refined.  Then, the unexpected answer…time to move on.

This was a shocking revelation, as it’s a path rarely traveled in law enforcement.  Historically, veteran police officers don’t leave the job; you “suck it up” until you reach the magic pension age.  But as we evaluated every aspect, our priorities became crystal clear.  With that, the decision to stay became much harder than the decision to leave.

Moving on is a calling too, when you think about it.  All of Scott’s experiences these past 16 years have intersected to bring us to the beginning of a new chapter.

I’ve been feeling a flood of emotions, with excitement and astonishment being the most dominant.  As I process how all of the upcoming changes will impact my family, I’m anticipating a moment when tears will flow.  These tears will appropriately mark the end of an era along with the beginning of a new chapter, both of which deserve space to process and celebrate.  It’s an odd experience for me, putting aside one of the many hats that I’ve worn for the past 16 years.

You see, this was my chosen “profession” too.  Sure, I didn’t go to the police academy, shoot a gun for qualifying, wrestle weapon-wielding drunk idiots into submission, hold a scared child as they watched their parents succumb to the consequences of their monumentally poor and selfish choices…I didn’t weave together intricate drug conspiracy cases that would ensure successful prosecution…I didn’t drive along the streets at some ridiculous hour searching for a perpetrator who had been burglarizing tax paying citizens’ homes, or have to notify a family of a loved one’s senseless death.  The list goes on.  I didn’t physically do those things, but every single moment, my heart was with the man who did.  With every hit, both physical and mental, I took it on the chin with him.  With every false and baseless citizen complaint filed against him, borne out of some systemic hatred for the men and women in blue, I stood by him and longed for the truth to prevail.  I symbolically held my breath every night as he walked out the door, and didn’t exhale until he returned safe and sound the next morning.  The holidays missed, birthdays, kids’ events, and the general upheaval that his crazy schedules caused…that was on me, too.  But, I was a proud police wife.  It took a strength beyond understanding to do it.  I didn’t have a physical badge, but I wore a badge of honor, intensely proud and protective of my husband and his profession.

As this chapter of our lives comes to a close, I’m thrilled and thankful, but I must acknowledge how it feels to say goodbye to the people we leave behind.  Police officers and their families possess something unique and special.  There is a sisterhood among wives, a brotherhood among officers, that can’t be rivaled… and I will miss it.  We have had the privilege to serve among some of the most hard-working, caring, strong, morally fit officers and their families. To you all, I say thank you for fighting in the trenches with us, and I hope that we can keep in touch.  Keep fighting the Good Fight.  You will be in my prayers, just as you have been for so many years.

Finally, I want to encourage anyone who is struggling with closed doors and NO’s in their life. Scott and I have had so many of them over the past 16 years, and no doubt there will be more.  We have had some low points, times of discouragement and questioning God’s plan.  But, we’ve had some monumental, eternity-impacting, life-changing YES’s too.  Rejections are hard, but believe and trust that God has a bigger opportunity for you on the horizon.  His no’s are merely making room for much bigger yes’s.

 

When Your Reality Makes You Weary

It was a gift—a relaxing camping trip with my family.  We had unplugged, played, napped, laughed, read books, and connected.  Heavenly, but it couldn’t possibly last forever. Now it was back to reality.

Our family’s “reality” includes my husband returning to his usual midnight shift job, with a Wed-Sun work week.  It was Wednesday evening; in anticipation of his first night back to work, he laid down for his usual nap.  After a hot summer day, the heat still lingered into the evening.  My 3 boys were buzzing around, indoors and out, playing with their neighborhood friends.  Doors were opening and closing loudly, the outside water faucet creaking on…and off…and back on.  I heard muffled squeals of excitement outdoors as I felt the rush of the cool A/C on my bare toes.

Then came a familiar wave of panic.  Like an unwelcome visitor, it plopped itself down in front of me and I was forced to acknowledge it.  I didn’t have to ask what prompted this feeling because I already knew.  It was the dread of being my husband’s “sleep gatekeeper.”  That’s what I call it, anyway.

I’ve always seen myself as the sole person responsible for his sleep quality, quantity, and therefore general health.  In my mind, everything hinges on him getting quality rest, something that evades most midnight-shifters.  When your husband struggles to meet his daily sleep needs, AND you have 3 active boys and a very vocal dog, the struggle to maintain a quiet house is exactly that, a struggle.

Midnight shift is counter-intuitive to human nature, offering up persistent fatigue, absent-mindedness (we call it “third shift brain”), and low vitamin D levels.  Those who work these hours take on an increased risk for heart disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, and cognitive decline.  As a wife, I’m keenly aware of the fact that the most dangerous part of my husband’s work day (despite being a police officer) is his drowsy drive home after shift.  To keep the house quiet during the day, I alter my laundry and vacuuming schedules, whether I park my car in the garage or out, and ration my trips in and out of my bedroom while he’s sleeping.  I pack what I need each day, and live out of our guest bathroom to avoid waking him.  (Many times I’ve forgotten crucial “items” and have had to improvise.)  It isn’t easy, or normal, but it’s how we’ve done life for over half of his 16-year career.

This particular Wednesday evening as the noise ensued and the panic came knocking, I realized that my physical response to our reality was second-nature, and had been for quite some time.  I felt the anxiety wash over me; choking back tears, I felt hopeless and stuck.  I didn’t want to do this anymore; I longed for the blissful normalcy that we had tasted on vacation!  I was weary.

Do you have weary moments?  The kind where there is no end in sight and you don’t have it in you anymore to endure?

I asked God for comfort and a Word.  Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28.  When I studied this verse in Greek, I learned that weary means “exhausted (with toil or burdens or grief)” and rest means “to refresh; to cause one to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect his strength; and to keep quiet, of calm and patient expectation.”  This kind of rest can only refresh when it is given from above.  I can’t achieve the full measure on my own.  Anything I try to do for myself is temporary, at best.

When there is no light at the end of the tunnel, it can feel impossible.  Enduring for as long as we must requires trust.  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7.  We can trust Him to take our burdens and lighten our loads and we can trust Him to strengthen us to endure anything that we face.  In this verse we also have the promise that it won’t last forever!  That summer evening, I needed to rest in these reminders.

I don’t have all of the answers, and I have my share of tears and fears.  All I know is that when I go to Jesus and cast my anxieties, somehow miraculously, I’m able to get up the next day and do it all again.  The same can be true for you.  Hang in there…think action verbs: come, trust, and cast.  You will find rest for your weary soul.

Restoration

This past weekend was the Illinois Marathon, an event that I used to run every year.  It was a tradition to do the 5k, 10k, or half-marathon with one of my best friends.  We would train and encourage each other from a distance (we live 150 miles apart), eagerly anticipating the uninterrupted “girl time” that we would get to share while running together on race day.  It was always a fun race weekend and a family affair, but I haven’t run it in 3 years…

I chose to quit due to an eating/body image disorder and a wrecked thyroid.  Running had taken a front seat to everything else in my life, and it became a trigger for binge eating and body shaming.  I was stuck in a bizarre dance with several elements:  the euphoria of accomplishment; “rewarding” myself with sugar binges after long training runs; appeasing the massive running-induced appetite increase with indulgent foods; intense regret from binging on said foods; starvation, obsession, and over-exercising to regain “control” of my body; relief when the number on the scale came back down…and then the crazy cycle would start over again.

I needed to face the reality that was driving my behaviors.  My body image and insane exercise regime had become an idol in my life, which was a difficult thing to admit.  I didn’t want it to be true!  How could this have happened?  I tried to get off of the crazy train many times, but the anxiety of giving up “control” had me quickly jumping back on board.  I was stuck, and it was time to honestly answer some questions.  Did I really want to be free?  I mean, really?  Was I truly ready for radical “heart” surgery, and willing to do whatever it took to be free?

In order to reset my life, it would mean giving up the things that I was clinging to – for as long as it took, maybe even forever.  It was time to stop trying to white-knuckle my way through the mental battle.  I didn’t have the strength for it anymore.  I decided to let God in on my secret…I needed rescuing.

It didn’t happen overnight, but freedom came after I surrendered control.  There was something different this time. I traded my weakness for God’s strength, and before the fight began, I boldly claimed victory because it had already been won for me.  I laid down the many things that were tripping me up, like running, and trusted that there would be something far better waiting for me when the radical work in me was finished.

Seeing all of my friends’ Facebook race posts this past weekend caused me to pause and consider how I’m feeling 3 years later.  What have I learned, and will I ever run again?

The enemy had distorted a perfectly good thing, like running, in order to trap me.  The experience rendered me totally ineffective for living out God’s purpose for my life.  Fool me once, shame on you…fool me twice…well, you know the rest.

But did you know that God is in the business of restoring?  All throughout the Bible, there are promises and stories of restoration.

1 Peter 5:10 – And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

God has restored my health and given me balance.  If I run again someday, I must do it in light of all that I have learned.  Otherwise, it will make a mockery of what God did for me in that season of radical heart surgery.  I have scars, but they are no longer wounds. They serve as reminders, but they don’t hinder me.

I truly miss running with my friend.  I miss the thrill of the accomplishment.  I miss the girl time!

Running will look very different for me in the future.  My focus will be on the freedom I have in Christ, and honoring my body as His temple.  This allows me to embrace what was restored; my peace, joy, and freedom…as well as my passion for fitness.

Do you have something that needs to be restored in your life?

My words of encouragement are this: be brave enough to let God do radical heart surgery on you.  If there is something in your life that needs to go, don’t be afraid to let it go.  Something better will be returned to you!