The World Through My Shoes is my look at living this incredible gift God has given us. As a busy wife, mother and daughter I relish the alone time I receive on my early morning runs. It is in the stillness of those predawn mornings where I often am inspired. Thank you for taking the time to read my words.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Running Steps of 2015

As soon as my watch hit 9.77 miles, I stop my run and give myself a high five.  It's possible - just ask the 2 sheriffs sitting in their parked cars watching this anomaly happen.  Normally I would not stop a run this short of a gloriously round number like 10 (I may have OCD tendencies) yet I do today.  9.77 miles pushed me to 1,420 miles for the year.

1,420 healing and life giving miles.  This number I celebrate.  Today's run - the last one in 2015 - was a reflective one.  Each one of those miles taught me about myself.

Today the sun shines bright in the cold December sky.  The northerly wind puts the air at a brisk 28°; all reminiscent of the start of the year.  Those were some incredibly difficult miles.  Losing both my parents within a year of each other and both at Christmas brought a darkness and a sadness I have never known.  January and February's running steps held many, many tears, brokenness, peace and comfort.  

Running steps didn't happen much in those first months.  Some days it was a good day by getting out of bed.  Some days it was a really good day by getting out of bed and getting pants on.  The rest of the world appreciated that too.

March came ushering in spring.  Sunnier days with birds singing and warmer temps made running steps easier.  My running friends always making it a point to push me forward.  We got a summer marathon on the calendar and with it came a training plan.  On the days when I felt I had no energy to tie my shoes, I did.  After all, my friends were waiting.  

Those running steps brought me strength.

The trees around me clear and I am passing a farmer's field.  Mount Baker stands regal in it's beauty.  Psalm 46 comes to mind, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore I will not fear, though the earth should change and the mountains slip into the heart of the sea."  I wonder what it would take to make something as strong and sturdy as Mount Baker slip into the heart of the sea. 

I think about God as my strength.  I think about who He surrounded me with during this difficult year.  Many people come to mind, and I am overwhelmed when I think of each of them.  One of those strengths He gave me is a fabulous woman who is the most outgoing introvert you will ever meet.  And she gets me.  Oh, does she get me.  

As a fellow  introvert she wasn't afraid when I would retreat away from the world.  She let me be in the scary lonely places in my heart, but would always be there with a nudge when she thought it best for me to come back out into the world.

"Let's meet for dinner after church." 

"It's time to plan a date night, what night works best?"  
"How 'bout we eat some Russian perogies Saturday night?"

She prayed with me in the ICU when my dad was given a 10% chance to live.  She prayed for me more times than I will ever know.  She also makes me laugh until I snort.  Countless times while I ran I thanked God for putting her in my life.

Those running steps taught me gratitude.

The summer marathon came.  So did the hot summer sun.  I do not run well in the heat.  This marathon crumbled beneath me and I let it.  At times I was dizzy on the course, and I knew full well what that meant, but knowing the fight both my parents showed in their last days I would not quit.  With 2 friends at my side, we walked and ran and talked about many things.  The emotional highs and lows of the previous months had taken it's toll on me physically.  Everyone (but me) could recognize that; I finally accepted it.

Those running steps taught me the importance of health.

A runner passes me on a quiet country road.  Where did he come from?  He startled me and I karate chopped him.  Or maybe I screamed and said, "You scared me!"

The months of 2015 began peeling away.  Focusing on my emotional and physical health, I gave myself permission to "just run".  I signed up for a fall marathon and the entire goal was to enjoy every single step.  My BRSs (Best Running Sisters) signed up with me and each week's long run we worked on falling in love with running again.  No speed work, no tempo runs, no "have-to-do-this".  We simply ran.

It worked.  This marathon we laughed and took our time.  If we felt like walking we did, if we wanted to run, we did.  We enjoyed every single step.  We ran by multi-million dollar homes in Seattle and made up stories about the people who owned them.  

The finisher medals double as beer bottle openers (score!) and the race director made sure there was plenty of hot soup waiting as it was a cold 32° when we finished. 

Those running steps taught me that to love running is a choice.

I'm closing in on the 9.77 miles.  Once again Mount Baker comes into view and this time faint oranges and yellows kiss the snow.  The sun will set soon on this last day of 2015. 

1,420 miles and I close out my running year.    There have been higher mileage years, faster mileage years but none near as important.   I'm hard pressed to recount a running year that has meant more to me than this one.  

This running year showed me that my running friends are not people I'm just sharing Saturday morning runs with; they are family.  They uphold me, cry with me, laugh with  me, and push me out the door to run.  They make me a better me.

I look forward to sharing many miles with them in 2016.

Happiest of New Years my friends.

Friday, December 4, 2015

A Feast of Joy

Winter rains are approaching.  Canadian geese flying south look stark white against the dark storm clouds.  From the comfort of my chair, I sip my coffee and watch the world outside my window.  I reach for my book.

My  mom loved daily devotionals.  Often she would gift us girls her latest treasured find.  Max Lucado was always one of our favorites.   While going through my parent's things, we would find Mom's devotionals tucked away into different spaces; lending proof Mom always had one of her books close at hand.

It's hard to recall exactly where I found it, but somewhere in their home I stumbled upon Safe In The Shepherd's Arms.  As it was written by Max, I pick it up.  It is a small little book not much bigger than my hand.  The subtitle reads "Hope & Encouragement from Psalm 23"; Max has written short sections on each one of the Psalm's 6 verses.  My siblings gave me their approval and I took the book home.

With Christmas time approaching, I decide it would be a good time for some Hope & Encouragement.  Every day before work, as I eat my breakfast, I open the book and read one of the sections.  Today I do the same.

I have the day off work and everyone has left for the day.  Our home is quiet sans the soft tick tock coming from the clock my dad made.   The rains have begun to fall.  I open the book and begin to read.

I am at the book's last chapter focusing on verse 6.  "I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever".  

My parents are in God's house now, I thought.

Max writes reminding us our home is not here.  Life is hard, sickness comes, death happens, there are lasting hurts from deep pain.  He finishes by saying:

"Remember this: God never said that the journey would be easy, but He did say that the arrival would be worthwhile.  He may not do what you want, but He will do what is right...and best.  He's the Father of forward motion.  Trust Him.  He will get you home.  And the trials of the trip will be lost in the joys of the feast."

My hand reaches to turn the page and I discover Mom's bookmark.  My eyes well with tears at the thought of Mom's last words read from this book pointedly acknowledge her difficult battle and promise a great reward.

Then God nudged me and said, "Read that last line again."

And the trials of the trip will be lost in the joys of the feast.

The words were no longer about Mom, the words were about me.  God reminded me the difficult journey the last two years would be lost in the joy of the feast.  From the comforts of my chair, it is hard to imagine joy so great it can erase pain this deep.  

Yet, I will believe it. God is known to do great things.

May we all find some joy in the feast this Christmas.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

A Pocket Full Of Promise

The calendar reads April but my days are all a blur.  It's been 3 1/2 months since Dad died.

My siblings and I have been working diligently on cleaning out the house.  47 years of memories are packed into every corner of their home; making the job at times seem endless.  Boxes of forgotten memories from years past were opened and rediscovered.  Wood working projects dad started remain unfinished where they stood in his workshop.  Never did we think a pile of sawdust on the floor could make us cry.

Grief does that.  It has a knack of taking something simple and seemingly unimportant and breathes a different kind of life into it.  Like the potato masher I found on the kitchen counter.  A simple kitchen utensil used in homes every day.  Yet I picked up this potato masher and held onto it tightly.  Dad had made mashed potatoes for our Christmas Eve dinner.  Mashed potatoes that never made it to the Christmas Eve table; they remained in the front seat of his car after the accident.  This potato masher was one of the very last things he held.  And now, this potato masher held great importance to me.

On this day in April we were on the final room of the house.  We worked clearing out one room at a time and today the last room sat quietly waiting.  Their bedroom.  The sacred room in any marriage.  47 years of love and heartache and laughter and life happened in that room.  And there I was standing in the middle of this sacredness.

My siblings would be there soon enough, I was early.  I dreaded cleaning out this room not because of it's condition, but because I knew it would be one of great emotional difficulty.  I stood there not knowing where to start.  Dad's work clothes hung where he left them on Christmas Eve.  Taking in a deep breath, I pick up his work shirt.

Really God?  This is my life story?  First mom at Christmas last year and now Dad this Christmas?  Why is THIS my life story?  Did Dad's death have to be so...violent?  I don't get it God.  I really don't understand.

This conversation with God is one I've had many times.  Immersed in emotion while standing in their room, I figured it would be another good time to ask Him these questions unsure if answers will ever be given.  Yet, I ask and if I'm honest, at times, demand.

I reach into the pocket of Dad's shirt and find an old pocket calendar from 2010.  I can't help but wonder why Dad is carrying around a calendar that is 5 years old.  The edges are worn and the pages are frayed.  I see the grease smudges from his mechanic hands.  Knowing I will have to turn each page in case there is anything important hidden in them, I take a deep breath.

The pages hold nondescript notes; I run my finger over his handwriting.

Jesus?  Tell Dad I miss him.

Oh look, here is mom's social security number written on a loose piece of paper.  This was just like Dad to keep her social security number close by just in case.

God, I'm not sure my heart can handle all this heartache.  I can't believe I'm having to go through his pockets.  Why God?  Just...why?  

What's this?  I unfold a piece of paper that was tucked in between two pages.  It's a handwritten note by Dad.  The words pierce my heart and I begin to weep.
"Where you are today is no accident.  God is using the situation you are in right now to shape you and prepare you for the place He wants to bring you into tomorrow.  Trust Him with His plan even if you don't understand it."**

I am stunned.  Had I not just been asking God these questions?  Had I not been wrestling with these very things?

God, did you just reach down from heaven and put that there for me?

My tears fall freely.  It is undeniable I was meant to find this note on this day.  God answered my questions.  Although I do not know the 'why' this is happening in my life, I do know God wipes away my tears and helps move me toward tomorrow.

Dad's days were perfectly numbered by God.  Although his death was a shock to our family, it was not a surprise to God.  When we walk in the Valley of the Shadow of Death I remind myself of this.  I'll see Dad again and God promises to walk each step with me until then.

The days aren't as difficult as they had been.  I still have Dad's note.  It now hangs in a frame in my living room.  Sometimes I look at his handwriting and wonder if God opened heaven that day and dropped that note into Dad's pocket for me to find.  God gave me exactly what I needed when I needed it.  An encouraging note, handwritten by Dad, reminding me of God's love, hope, and promise.  A promise Dad now experiences.  Forever.

**Original quote by Anna Bachinsky