Soccer is just running while kicking a ball…

This month, many of us watched the Soccer World Cup Championships in Brazil. Soccer is a great competition, but what sets it apart from other sports is those players sure do know how to run, and run fast. I know that soccer is a game of strategy and team work, but it is also a solitary sport of sorts when it comes to who can run the fastest with the ball or who can run fastest to steal the ball.

Here in Germany, things have been a bit crazy. The locals honk their horns every time Germany scores a goal. Germany vs. Brazil was a bit crazy. I thought there was too much enthusiasm over the game — silly me. Since we have not yet hooked up our TV we didn’t realize Germany scored 7 goals! Many locals broke out in song, literally walking the street and singing the German national anthem and other patriotic songs. It was like a Fasching event (Carnival Parade) with people wearing face paint, temporary tats and flags! Traffic had stopped in some parts of our downtown and police were directing the people and cars to safety.  I am sure it was the same as other countries rooting for their team. When Germany made the finals, things got crazier.  It was hard to sleep through the horns, singing and infectious yelling. For a moment,  I thought I was in America during game 7 of an NBA Championship game. LOL! I don’t hate on Germany for their enthusiasm but it would have been more exciting if the U.S. faced Argentina in the finals … just saying!

Prayer for the Runner:

Dear Lord, Today, help me to run my best race. Please help my legs to run swiftly and for them to carry me safely along my route. Help me to clear my mind of distractions, past hurt and  negative self-talk. Please help me to connect with you as I run. May I see the beauty that you created. While I have my eyes on my route, may my heart never take its focus off of you. I love you Father God. Thank you for the gift of running. Thank you for this day. Thank you for knitting me in my mother’s womb — for you say that I was fearfully and wonderfully made. I am grateful for my creation. I am grateful for the Creator. Thank you for all that you do. In Jesus’name. Amen.

 

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How Running Will Save You from the Zombie Apocalypse … Really

zombie photoYou have all watched the zombie movies. The undead, with broken limbs, distorted faces and foul dispositions chase people through dilapidated buildings and abandoned streets. The zombies want you to become undead too. They want you to seek out others, infect them with your undeadness until the entire world is undead too. But the funny thing about these movies, I never seem to understand the ultimate goal of zombies. What happens when the  entire world is undead and zombie-like? There will be no one left to kill and eat. Will the zombies turn on themselves? Can the dead eat the dead and survive? I think you can see my quandary with the zombies. But just in case you don’t know this, let me let you in on a secret: Running will help save you from the zombie apocalypse! It will also save you from trying to understand the motivation and goals of zombies. How, you might ask? Read on.

Many of you chose running, not just because it is a good exercise, but because it helps you connect with God. Zombies do not run and I have never seen a movie where they run at a 7-minute mile marathon pace. So if you run regularly, you don’t have to worry about zombies catching up with you. They will chase you and fail to catch you because they are missing limbs and they are dead and they have no adrenaline to pump up their hearts. However, if you are careless and fall while they are chasing you, well your running skills won’t help you! Here is another thing about zombies:  I have seen few movies where these zombies – while alive anyway – have any kind of relationship with God. But rest assuredly when I tell you this – if you believe in God and he is your heavenly father, than no one can every separate you from his love – not life, not death, not the angels and not zombies. So even if zombies infect you with their germs  – you still belong to God and he will claim you.

There is also another point that I would like to make. Zombies are not just in the movies and zombies are not always physically dead people trying to infect you. The zombie chasing you could be friends and family who encourage you to eat another slice of cake with chocolate sauce on top of the four fried pork chops you ate, when your diabetic self needs to go run a mile. A zombie could be the friendly pusher encouraging you to try “recreational” cocaine and ruin your recovery from meth and booze. The zombie could be the abusive loved one who puts you down and tries to crush your dreams because they think you need to stay in your place – under them. Or a zombie could be the mistakes of your past that still continue to haunt you and keep calling out to you and attempt to ruin your current fulfilling life. Zombies are all around us and good thing these zombies are dead and have no power over you – unless you give in to the fear and stop trusting in Him who made you. When you give the zombie power, you become the person in the zombie movie that falls down when they are just a few feet from freedom.

Have any of you ever seen the movie, Resident Evil, where the bad fighter chick destroys the zombies and saves the people. Girlfriend, you are the bad fighter chick and you can and will destroy the zombies in your own life. When I run, I feel powerful, just like that bad fighter chick. I feel as if I can fight or outrun the zombies in my life. I feel that if I have to, I can fight them and not just in my power, but with the power that comes from God. Running and walking help to clear my mind so that I can better hear the words from God. Running makes me strong and fearless so that I can better go about the work that God has called me to do.

zombierunSo just so we are clear about a few things, I have a summary: Running is great. Walking is awesome. God is good. Zombies are bad. Trusting in God to direct your life and learning to run is a good way to escape the zombies.

My zombie rant was another way of telling you that God is with us and for us and that nothing can ever separate us from his love. God is our ultimate zombie slayer. Let us go to Psalm 138 for a clearer picture: “Though I am surrounded by troubles, you will protect me from the anger of my enemies. You reach out your hand and the power of your right hand saves me. The Lord will work out the plans for my life – for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me (Psalm 138, verses 7-8).

Be blessed

Richelle

(The zombie photo is courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Ga., that wants to encourage all Americans to create and emergency kit in the even of a natural disaster or zombie apocalypse. The graphic is courtesy of the world wide web and all the wacky that one can find on the internet.)

For a little added inspiration, here is a popular gospel song that talks about the mighty powers of God to do remarkable things — even when all seems lost. I think it might help keep the zombies at bay. I hope that you enjoy it. It always makes me break out in dance at my desk!

Dottie Peoples, gospel song,”I Got This”

 

Prayer for today:

Dear Father, I want to thank you for today. I am grateful that I am alive. Thank you for a body that I can use to walk and run. Thank you for loving me and for sacrificing your son so that I could be free. Thank you for not giving up on me. Thank you for encouraging me Thank you for not seeing me as the mistakes I have made, but for seeing me as the person that you know that I can become if I put my trust in you. I pray for all the runners as they prepare and race during this marathon season. You are an awesome God. You are a loving God. Thank You. Amen.

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An Ode to CrossFit and Goofy Socks

We are showing off our fun socks at the last official CrossFit gathering for Functional Fitness at Conn. The socks  display funny words like "BACON"and "AWESOME" to super hero colors. I am third from the left sporting the "NERD"socks. LOL!

We are showing off our fun socks at the last official CrossFit gathering for Functional Fitness at Conn. The socks display funny words like “BACON”and “AWESOME” to super hero colors. I am third from the left sporting the “NERD”socks. LOL!

 

I started doing CrossFit this Autumn. I didn’t do it to cross train, I just did not want to run in the cold. Germany is known to have some brutal winters, and I wanted to avoid cold running at all costs! So, I joined a group of women in Schweinfurt, Germany to do CrossFit.

I must admit that at my first session was more than intimidating. I didn’t think it wise for my middle-aged self to be jumping on 24-inch boxes, climbing ropes and lifting 100 plus pounds. I was sure there was an age cut-off to this particular sport and that I had passed it! But my friend Margaret, who is kind and patient, helped me get started and motivated me to do more at each session. We met three to four times a week and did workouts that I never would have imagined I could accomplish! The workouts ranged from sit-ups, push-ups,  chin-ups, farmer carries , burpees to lifting heavy weights. I wasn’t sure about what CrossFit would do for my body because I was not losing any weight. I was however, losing inches. I could feel more muscle on my body and I could still wear my same clothes. So, I guess this CrossFit stuff was not as bad as I had thought!

So when spring came and I started to transition back to running, I noticed something amazing — I was able to run faster! I felt stronger. I knew for sure that I was still a runner and that I loved running even more. I guess the old adage is true about taking a break from something you love in order to rekindle the love affair.

This week, I say goodbye to many of my CrossFit team mates, as some return to the United States or other parts of Germany. I wish them well and hope they can continue training and sharing their knowledge of CrossFit with others. CrossFit helps people not only reach their fitness goals of  a smaller dress size, but empowers women as they learn they are stronger than they imagined —  and those dead lifts and squat presses can prove it.

Blessings to you all.

Richelle

P.S. Thanks Kasha for the groovy socks!

Stephanie doing a lift.

Stephanie doing a lift.

Hazel rope climbing during our last official meet.

Hazel rope climbing during our last official meet.

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Inner Renaissance

 

I knew I would become a writer ever since elementary school. I felt it was my purpose – the thing I needed to do. The poetry of Paul Lawrence Dunbar and Langston Hughes sparked my love for the written word. I loved this wonderful form of expression. Hughes’s poem, “Mother to Son,” was my favorite and while it was a sad prose about the disappointments of life, the mother encouraged her son to keep climbing and striving toward his goals. I voraciously read about Hughes and the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s when African American singers, writers, artists and dancers all seemed to converge upon Harlem and do some of their best work. I also read stories of how some of these black greats went on to live in Paris because they experienced less racism and could better support themselves as artists. Some Americans, like author Richard Wright and singer/dancer Josephine Baker, became French citizens.

I remember thinking as a kid that I had really missed out. You see, I was born 50 years too late for this renaissance, and as a Philly girl, I knew little of Harlem or the culture it seemed to incubate. I had hoped to one day walk the streets of Paris and be inspired by those who came before. I wanted to travel through Europe and find a city to become my home, in the same manner that Josephine Baker adopted Paris as her home. I had a lot of dreams, but somehow, I did not know that my dreams were way bigger than some people thought possible. Thank goodness I had God, who taught me the importance of faith, hope and dreams.

Fast forward 20 years after elementary school. I was a journalist living and working in Europe and my editors sent me to France to write a story about African Americans in Paris. I was to retrace the steps of African Americans – from Baker, Wright, Chester Himes, James Baldwin and others. At the time of this trip, I did not really see it as an answer to a prayer. I saw it as a great reporting assignment. Today, when I look back on it, I see my trip to Paris as a blessing, an answered prayer and a great seed of hope. It taught me that my big dreams could be realized and that it was not too late to have a renaissance of my own.

That trip to Paris also taught me something else: I can now see that we all go through a renaissance – or rebirth several times in our lifetime. My first rebirth was when I gave my life to God in elementary school. The second time occurred on Easter Sunday on 1991: I was baptized while still a college student. The next renaissance came when I became a professional journalist, the next when ,I took up painting when I lived in northern Brazil and began finishing up a fiction book. I literally became a new person in Brazil because our lovely daughter was born there – and I could now help my daughter with her own life purpose and dreams.

The life of a human seems anchored on two sides – life and death, a beginning and end. God is the bridge. And during this wonderful life, we can experience many rebirths and we should not think that we missed out on something great, because something great is always around the corner if we trust and believe in God. I recently read an article in National Geographic Traveler Magazine about a new rebirth of black art, culture and writing taking place in Harlem. (The past has come full circle. Here is the link: http://intelligenttravel.nationalgeographic.com/2013/12/23/the-next-harlem-renaissance/). This story made me realize that we are born at the right time –and it is all part of  God’s perfect timing. And he will help us to do our important work in  this life no matter what is happening in the world.

I felt that I missed the Harlem Renaissance, but God gave me an inner renaissance that was much more important – it helped me know Him and rekindle my love for both art and writing. I was born in the right time for my birth and rebirth. You too were born in the perfect time. It is not too late to experience your dreams – even the dreams of a young child who wished to go to Paris to participate in a great enlightened movement. In the book of Corinthians, we learn that anyone born in Christ is a new creature because the old has passed away and a new one has come – a rebirth. In the book of Romans, we also learn that God gives us the newness of life!

God is not done with you! He is not done with me. He has wonderful plans for our lives! He has wonderful plans for your children and your loved ones! I say all of this to tell you that I think the crux of any renaissance is letting the bright love of God shine through you as you do your work, whether it is writing, painting or driving a school bus. The best of you, the light in you, is yet to come. Don’t give up. Don’t turn your back on rebirth, renewal or re-establishing your dreams.

Keep dreaming, and of course, keep running for your life!

Blessings to you all

 

***

Are some of you currently training for an upcoming half marathon or 10K? Be sure to dress warmly and to not overdo it. Be sure to stretch before and after your workouts and have faith in yourself and your abilities. Get good sneakers and throw them out after when they are not longer of good and proper use (about three to four months). Use your running time as a way to connect with God, to pray to him, to talk with him to share your heart’s desires and fears. He is running with you and wants to hear what you have to say. Do not, forget to listen. He likes for us to listen to what he has to say.

***

A Prayer for the Runner:

Dear heavenly Father be with me today as I run

Run beside me, run with me as I seek your face

May the sun caress my face the way your word has touched my heart.

Help my legs to carry me closer to you and the finish line

Help me to complete your important work in this life

Help me realize that if I fall down, you are there to help me up

May I know that if  injured,  recovery is possible

May I know even more that all is possible if I believe in you and that you are always making miracles in my life. Your love for me is without end and that gives me joy

Thank you father for running with me, for running towards me and helping me to seek you as I seek to strengthen and renew my body and relationship with you

Thank you heavenly father for showing me the path and taking it with me

I praise you forever!

–Richelle

 

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Running In A Spiritual Storm

rainrunJust this morning I was wondering what advice could I share about running in the rain. If it is raining lightly, you can just run faster and hopefully you can get home quicker. A little rain will not hurt you, nor should it endanger your run. If it is raining hard, you can stop and seek shelter. If it is a thunderstorm and you are in peril, you have other options such as calling a friend for help or even catching a bus or a train so that you do not have to endanger yourself. If the storm is the kind the weather service says can destroy life or limb, like a hurricane, then I advise you is to seek a safe haven far away from your home.
We can take the same advice when we are running through spiritual storms. Some are light and we just need to keep going; do not let the enemy stop us from our running goal. If the rain is hard, we may need to seek temporary shelter until the rain lets out. We could ask a friend or loved one to pray for us and talk with us. We too must pray. If you are in a thunderstorm or severe storm, we may need the safe haven of our church, and to speak with our pastor or one of the elders. And we must have faith that the storm will pass. We must trust that God is with us, helping us. This may sound scary, but here is the good news, no matter how much pain, difficulties and disappointments rain down on us, we can always find safety with our God. He will be there for us always, to love and comfort, provide mercy, correct and encourage. In life we will get wet when we run in storms, but the best protection is not a mere umbrella, it is our shield of faith. We must also put on spiritual rain gear. In the book of Ephesians, Paul reminds us that we need God’s strength to get through the storms of life:
“Put on God’s armor so that you will be able to stand safe against all strategies and tricks of Satan. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against persons without bodies – the evil rulers of the unseen world, those mighty satanic beings and great evil princes of darkness who rule this world: and against huge numbers of wicked spirits in the spirit world( Ephesians 6: 11-12).”
So what kind of armor should you wear to fight this evil? If it was a physical run, you would wear running clothes to wick away moisture, cozy socks, comfortable sneakers, a hat, maybe even a rain parka over your running clothes. If you are running through a spiritual storm, Paul gives us specific examples of what we should be wearing into battle in order to go through the storm successfully: “ … You will need the strong belt of truth and the breastplate of God’s approval. Wear shoes that are able to speed you on as you preach the Good News of peace with God. In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. And you will need the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit – which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6: 13-17).”
Paul also tells us that during these times we should pray. We should ask our heavenly father for the things that we need and to “plead with him, reminding him of your needs and keep praying earnestly for all Christians everywhere.”
I remember reading a story once about a famous gospel singer. That singer had repeated some knowledge her elders had taught her about the Christian life. The wise words were this: We are either going into a storm, currently in a storm or coming out of a storm. I do not necessarily agree that we are always in the midst of storms, but I know that storms do occur in our lives. We cannot escape pain or disappointment in our lives. And, life is not fair. But we can rest in God and know that he has equipped us on how to ride out a storm … until we can rest safely with him in eternity.
So ladies, keep running — through storms, sunny days and blah days when you just do not feel like it, and know that God is with you, running beside you and he wants you to run this race to win – just like the apostles have taught us.
Be blessed!
Richelle

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Some Inspiration from the Apostle Paul:

runninggirlIn a race, everyone runs, but only one person gets first prize. So run your race to win. To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I fight to win. I’m not just shadow-boxing or playing around. Like an athlete I punish my body treating it roughly, training it to do what it should, not what it wants to. Otherwise I fear that after enlisting others for the race, I myself might be declared unfit and ordered to stand aside.
I Corinthians 9, verses 24-27, The Living Bible Edition

 

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

freetreeDear Ladies,

Have a wonderful holiday season! I hope you spend time with loved ones. I also hope that you remember to feed your soul during the holiday season by spending time with God and reading his word. I recommend Luke Chapter 2 because it tells us the story of Mary, Joseph and Jesus.
Today, I ran in the Baby Jesus 5K race in Schweinfurt, Germany. A special shout out to Pastor Dean for organizing and running in the race.Running today was great because it reminded me that I am both a runner and a child of God. I am also reminded of the long journey Mary and Joseph made to Bethlehem to register for the Roman census.(Luke Chapter 2). It was during this journey that Jesus was born.
Do you have a family tradition of running or walking on Christmas or New Year’s to honor God? Do you set aside time to celebrate God in some other way during the holidays? Send me an email telling me about your holiday spiritual/fitness routine at richellelclark01@gmail.com. The first person to inbox me will get a holiday goodie pack. (This offer only applies to readers living in the continental United States, Germany or who have military post office boxes. Sorry, family and friends are not eligible).

A Christmas Wish List For You

This holiday season when you are running from one store to the next, do not forsake your own run, walk or fitness routine as it will help you decrease your holiday stress. I know that many of us do not like to run in the cold, snow or rain, but you can turn this frosty experience into a winter appreciation day! Go slower than normal and take in the sky, the bare trees, the brown grass or even the remaining flowers or greenery in the area. Be thankful that you are healthy enough to enjoy these sites and that you can witness God’s natural wonder.

Dress To Impress

Have you been thinking about getting yourself a new pair of sneakers after the holidays are over? Well how about a pair or monogrammed or personally designed kicks? New Balance offers you the chance to custom design your own sneakers at its website: http://www.newbalance.com/Custom-Shoes/40001,default,sc.html. You can choose the color of your sneaker, including the color of the heel design, accents and an embroidered message including your name or running philosophy. The New Balance 993 sneaker costs about $175.

Know Your Speed

The Garmin GPS running watch is a great gift this holiday season. I have one, along with a chest strap heart monitor that gives me an exact count of the calories burned during a workout; the watch will also save my running route so that I mark my progress over time or create different workouts based on fitness and calorie burning needs. The Garmin Forerunner watch is available where most electronic and computer devices are sold.

Fitness Routine

Sometimes, after eating too much pie and not enough pumpkin, we swear we will do better and begin a fitness routine. I invite you to try running or walking. Join us this year as we begin our spiritual marathon and mini-marathons. We enjoy the company of those who want to get physically and spiritually fit. For more information about the spiritual marathon, go to our companion website at www.runforyourlife.mobi. You can also check out our mini-marathon, posted on this site last month. If you need additional help with planning a study or other assistance, send me an email. Happy running and walking!

Be blessed ladies and keep running for your life!

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Spiritual Mini-Marathon

Hello Ladies!
I have some soul food for you today! As we feast this holiday season, may we remember to feed our souls! I am asking you to join me for a spiritual mini-marathon. It begins whenever you are ready to feed your hungry soul. In the past, I invited you to join me on a spiritual marathon to help you get physically and spiritually fit. For some, the original marathon at www.runforyourlife.mobi might have been too much reading or too intimidating. I have an updated, shorter version — aka The Soul Food Mini-Marathon — that includes reading the book of 1 Corinthians over 7 weeks. It also includes an optional walking plan. Join me in reading the book of 1 Corinthians. There are no rules for this self-study. You can read day or night. You can read in between loads of laundry and cooking dinner. Just take some time during the day to read, take in the word and think about what God has to say to you. If you have questions or need to share, send me an email at richellelclark01@gmail.com

The Soul Food Mini-Marathon:

  Mon. Tue. Wed. Thurs. Fri. Sat. Sun.
Week 1 Walk 20 minutes Read I Corinthians Chapter 1 Walk 20 minutes Read I Corinthians Chapter 2 Walk 20 minutes Read Psalm 138 Walk 15 minutes
Week 2 Walk 20 minutes Read I Corinthians Chapter 3 Walk 20 minutes Read I Corinthians Chapter 4 Walk 20 minutes Rest Day for prayerful meditation Walk 30 minutes
Week 3 Walk 1 mile Read I Corinthians Chapter 5 Walk 1 mile Read I Corinthians Chapter 6 Walk 1 mile Rest Day Walk one hour
Week 4 Walk 1 mile Read I Corinthians Chapter 7 Walk 1 mile Read I Corinthians Chapter 8 Walk 1 mile Re-read Psalm 138 Walk 2 miles
Week 5 Walk 1 mile Read 1 Corinthians Chapter 9 Walk 2 miles Read I Corinthians Chapter 10 Walk 2 miles Rest Day Walk 30 minutes
Week 6 Walk for 2 miles Read I Corinthians Chapter 11 Walk for 2 miles Read I Corinthians Chapter 12 Walk 2 miles Read I Corinthians Chapter 13 Walk 3 miles
Week 7 Walk for 2 miles Read I Corinthians Chapter 14 Walk for 3 miles Read I Corinthians Chapter 15 Walk for 2 miles Read Psalm 138 and I Corinthians Chapter 16 Walk 3 miles

 

 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Turkey Day ladies!

I am so thankful for this holiday season. I am especially grateful that God continues to work in my life. I am grateful for my family and for all of my running, walking and CrossFit friends. I am also thankful that I continue to learn new things. And I am especially thankful for yummy Thanksgiving food!

As I write this note, I am thinking of my grandmother’s sweet potato pie and her macaroni and cheese. I remember how she would spend days preparing our annual family food fest and how happy she was to watch us eat! When I was a kid, I ate until my stomach was about to bust! Then I would take a break and eat some more. Oh my, what good pie! But now that I am a mom, I look forward to watching my daughter eat until her stomach is filled with food and the love of family and friends.

For some of us, the holidays are a time of sadness or stress, particularly if we lost a loved one or we are going through a rough time. We may have too many people to visit, too much food to cook or too many expectations. But do not despair. Remember that God is with us. In the book of Matthew, he tells us not to worry because he knows our needs and will provide for us: “What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met (Matthew 6:31-32 The Message translation).”

How awesome.
Also ladies, do not forget to take some time this holiday for yourself and for your spiritual life. Say a prayer while making those mashed potatoes. Go for a walk while that pie is in the oven. Give your kids tickle kisses as the turkey is roasting and don’t forget to have some fun!

Remember that the holiday is not just food and fun too. It is also about making memories and remembering our blessings. What are you thankful for this holiday season? Let me know. Did you reach a fitness goal, running goal, a prayer goal? Did you complete the spiritual marathon or run a half marathon? If so, email your praise at richellelclark01@gmail.com and I will post your comments on the website. It will serve as good encouragement to us as we enter into the New Year.
Once again, Happy Thanksgiving and keep running for your life!

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Being Grateful

Guincho Beach, Portugal

It was a blessing to spend four years in Portugal. We made our home along the Lisbon coast. As we prepare to move to Germany, I can reflect on our time in Portugal. I am grateful for my experiences in this country and I am especially grateful that our daughter was able to blossom here: she learned the Portuguese language and made so many friends. My husband and I are also blessed to have done the same.

For me, what I will remember most was rekindling both my faith and my love of running. Before moving to Portugal, I had been in a dark place spiritually for many years. I did not want to believe that God had plans for me and my life and that he would use me. I thought that a purgatory of mediocrity and listlessness had imprisoned me – I was numb and uncertain about everything. (I know it’s a bit dramatic, but it is how I felt!) But God had plans for me and my self-pity and he is true to his word:

In Jeremiah 29:11, God says, “For I know the plans I have for you… plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

When I moved to Portugal, I learned that God was not done with me yet. He had plans for me and for my family that would forever change us.

Since moving to Portugal I have been able to finish my Master’s Degree – it was a lingering project that I needed to finish. When I completed my studies, I embarked on a PhD program at the Catholic University of Portugal in Lisbon. If not for a friend’s recommendation, I would not have applied to UCP. He assured me that some classes would be in English and the school had a stellar academic reputation. He was right.

I prepared myself mentally as best I could for a PhD program, but I feared that my weak Portuguese skills were not up for the challenge.  There were times that I doubted my sanity when I tried to make sense of a lecture only to realize that I could not. And that is where faith and really cool friends come in. I am grateful to my UCP classmates for all of their help. Sometimes my classmates served as translators. Sometimes they were motivators. But most of all they shared their love of international relations and European politics. I am grateful for my colleagues because they made my experience in Portugal richer.

I am also grateful that I could run. Boy did I need to run. It was a great way to handle the stress and enjoy the Lisbon coast, which has running trails along the beach. Running was a way to escape the stress and uncertainty and a way to also embrace the life that God had given me. It was during one of these runs that I decided that I was going to run a half marathon. Encouraged by my friend Leila, I decided to sign up for the Portugal Half Marathon. A year later I signed up for the Lisbon Half Marathon and although I have written about it many times, the races were not pretty, but I finished them. I was so happy to accomplish those goals.

In addition to running, I was able to write a book that I hope inspires women to run and connect with God. The book, called Running For Your Life! A devotional for women who run slow, walk fast or jog with reckless abandon. The book shares personal stories and it also serves as a motivator for women to reconnect with their faith. I used to think that I wrote that book for other women, but I now believe that God led me to write that book to motivate me. The words I wrote helped me as I ran, attended university classes or tried to do other things that I felt called to do, yet too fearful to accomplish. I have re-read chapters of my book to motivate myself. I figured that if it worked then, it could work now. And work it did.

But more importantly than that, I have been able to watch my little girl grow from a shy toddler to a more confident tween who enjoyed visits to Kidzania, KFC (tower burger!) and European travel. She enjoys church Sunday school and she asks me the most profound spiritual questions while I am in driving the car in traffic or trying to back out of a parking space. LOL! She also enjoys telling me all about what she learned about God and the bible (Thank you Mrs. Colleen and Riverside International Church!). She is also much more confident than I was at her age and excited about her move to Germany – because “they have swimbads and skiing, mommy.”

In the hustle and bustle of life, I have often felt as if I did not have enough time to do what I wanted; but sometimes I focused on what I was unable to do instead of what I was able to do. I also forgot to focus on the fact that God is able and that I can do anything with his help. God has helped our family grow closer to him and to learn a lot more about the world we live in. I am grateful for my husband, who also studied at UCP with me, for helping with my daughter. They developed weekly rituals of Wii games, movies and other projects so that I could get my school work done. He even stayed with her in the mornings or late evenings so that I could run. And more than that, he made me feel OK about not being the perfect homemaker. I could only be the perfect me.

So it is with tears that I say goodbye to Portugal, our lovely home and life here. I know that when God closes one door, he opens another and I look forward to what awaits us in our next adventure in Germany. I am grateful, I am wiser, a bit smarter (at least about the international political system thanks to UCP) and I know that God loves me and has plans for me. He also has plans for you too!

Thank you Portugal! Thank you heavenly father! Hello Germany!

A beach walk in Madeira, Portugal

 

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