Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?
Run in such a way as to get the prize! 1 Corinthians 9:24 NIV
When I first memorized this verse as a teenager, I thought it meant that I needed to try to be first in everything I did. Of course as I have matured, I have realized what this verse really means— to work hard at all that I do as working for the Lord and not for men (Colossians 3:23).
But recently, I was struck with the beauty of this concept in view of community. I was reading with a group of women and as we looked at different verses in scripture, I thought of a glorious illustration that hit this point home for me (I have told you before that my life is a series of sermon illustrations!!).
We looked at these verses from 2 Corinthians 3:
We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. -verses 4 and 5 NLT
And then some of my favorite verses in scripture found in Hebrews 12:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. -verses 1 and 2 NIV
As we read all of these verses, I imagined that I was an Olympic athlete (my imagination is huge!). I had qualified for the final race, not because of my great running abilities, but because God put my name on the list. As I ran to the finish line of the race marked out for me, running as if I would win the gold medal, the stands erupted with cheers and shouts from the great cloud of witnesses who had come for the sole purpose of cheering me on. I ran like I had never run before!
Because I might be just a little strange, I could feel my excitement welling up within me as I grasped a concept that had eluded me for quite some time. Several things stuck out to me. First, we are not supposed to be competing against anyone else. The race marked out for us means that we each have our own race to run. What I have been called to do will look different from everyone else. No one else has been called to be the Mom of the Daye kids living in my home. No one else has been asked to be the help meet to the Senior Pastor at Orchard Community Church. No one else has been uniquely gifted with my personality, my abilities, my passions, or my idiosyncrasies. And this is true of everyone. So when scripture tells us to run in such a way as to get the prize, it’s because we are all running our own race and we’re supposed to run it with diligence and perseverance. Running OUR race well should inspire and encourage others to run theirs well. It’s not meant to be a competition, because we are all running different races.
One thing that always makes me a little sad when I watch the Olympics is all of the athletes that make it to the games, but don’t qualify for the final round. I would imagine that would be incredibly disappointing— to make it all that way and then not be able to compete. But in the race of life, we are all qualified in Christ! When we believe in Him and trust in Him for salvation, we can run whatever race He has called us to with confidence. We are qualified! We don’t have to keep earning our place in each new race. Our place has already been established through the work of Christ on our behalf.
So we have been qualified for the race marked out for us and we are to run it to get the prize, but this is not meant to be a solitary effort. We are to be encouraged and celebrated by others who are watching us run our race and we are to do the same for others with equal vivacity and generosity. This picture is so beautiful to me! For many years, I have held tight to the mantra “Celebrate more, compare less”. It is a beautiful way to live, one that brings great joy when I remember to live it out. We’re not supposed to compare ourselves to others because we all have different races to run!! But if we were all celebrating one another (building up and not tearing down! Ephesians 4:29), the race marked out for each one of us could be run with joyful hearts, free of comparison and competition.
This is exciting for me, not just for the implications for my own life, but for my children as well. There have been times in their lives when they have been compared to others instead of recognized for their own race that they are running. These times were deeply hurtful, but were an indication to us as their parents that we needed to surround our kids with the right kind of crowd— the crowd who understands that we are all running our own races which means we don’t have to be threatened by anyone else’s success or achievements, but instead we get to cheer everyone on. Seeing my kids thrive in environments that value everyone’s race marked out for them has been beautiful. As thankful as I am for this, I am also grateful for the difficulties that they have had to walk through. Because the truth is, most people don’t live this way. They are still stuck in believing that winning the prize means that you have to be first (which means that you have to tear others down in order to achieve your goals). My kids will continue to face crowds that will not cheer them on and will not value them, but they know the difference now. And I pray that they would be the ones cheering others on and throwing kindness like confetti.
And I pray that they would run like they have never run before.
Twenty-five years ago on June 7, 1993, seventy-two teenagers graduated from Tri-Valley High School, a school nestled in the mountains of central Pennsylvania. I was one of those graduates and while I hear many people describe their high school years as the worst time in their life, for me it was a magical time. I loved my friends and peers. The faculty was inspiring (mostly!). The opportunities were plentiful.
Turns out it was a great time of preparation for my future.
In the 1993 yearbook, the seniors had an opportunity to share pet peeves, ambitions, activities, and embarrassing moments. As I reminisced about graduation day all those years ago, I read my ambition as an eighteen-year-old. This is what I wrote:
To go to Moody Bible Institute, serve God, and change my world.
It’s pretty amazing to me to consider that to some degree I have achieved those goals that I set so long ago. I wonder how many of my classmates would be able to say the same. As I look back on my life, I can clearly see the defining moments in my life. One of those moments was on a missions trip to Australia the summer before my senior year of high school. I read Psalm 139 every day while I was on that trip. On one of those days after reading scripture, I wrote in my journal that I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew that I wanted to serve God and Moody seemed like the best place to pursue that desire.
There have been times along the way when I have questioned my purpose (if you have read my blog for any length of time, you know I have done this a lot recently!). But reading my eighteen-year-old ambition reminds me to keep moving in the same direction. To keep serving God. To keep changing my world by being faithful in loving my children and impacting others for God’s glory.
As I paged through the yearbook, so many memories came flooding back. One of those was a National Honor Society Induction Ceremony. For some reason, we didn’t have a speaker, so a week before the ceremony, I was charged with asking my Dad if he would speak. I will never forget what he talked about- it was that memorable for me. “Whatever gets your attention will get you.” His words have been a nudging reminder when I was tempted to go my own way, to possibly not go to Moody, to compromise what I believed in. I have not led a perfect life by any stretch, but his words have been an anchor reminding me to make sure my attention is focused in the right direction. Seeing a picture of me sitting beside my Dad and my Mom in our high school cafeteria is so sweet to me.
I was reading in Proverbs recently and these verses stuck out:
Listen to your father, who gave you life,
and do not despise your mother when she is old.
Buy the truth and do not sell it—
wisdom, instruction and insight as well.
The father of a righteous child has great joy;
a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him.
May your father and mother rejoice;
may she who gave you birth be joyful!
My Dad wrote in his Bible that his daughters have brought him great joy. I know that my Mom feels the same way and this is one of the biggest blessings in my life.
Twenty-five years since high school graduation and I have never regretted pursuing the goals and ambitions I set for myself! I’m so grateful for parents who faithfully pointed me to Jesus, for teachers who challenged me and saw potential in me, and for friends who loved me well, idiosyncrasies and all.
I had the opportunity to contribute a writing piece in our yearbook. It seems appropriate to end this post with my words from a quarter century ago…
So many memories have been firmly established in our hearts and our minds since we, the Class of ’93, first stepped into these halls of truth and knowledge six years ago. We were all small and scared then and there was seldom a time when we didn’t run to class. As time went by, we grew close to some people but seemed to drift away from others. Each of us has a different course in life. For awhile, we seemed to be divided for undefinable reasons, but as we matured, we realized that no matter how unique we were, we were still a part of the Class of ’93. Perhaps we are not the best or the brightest class to ever walk through these halls, but we are still unique individuals that can make a difference in our world. Some people say we are naive; I say we are blessed. We have received a good education and have made many lasting friendships. If man is truly a product of his environment, then we can be thankful that we have been a part of Tri-Valley High School.
Now as the sun creeps up on another era of our lives, let us always remember what we have learned. Let us remember to put others before ourselves. And let us remember that as soon as we stop learning from our mistakes, that is when we stop living.
God bless us, everyone!
Happy twenty-five years, Class of ’93!!!!
Lately, my life has been more reactive than proactive. More surviving than thriving. More of an in-a-rut than in-a-rhythm kind of living. I’m over it.
I don’t want to feel stuck anymore and while my circumstances haven’t changed, I need to change. I need to live life inspired. I get stuck when I am not excited about what I am doing or when I feel like there isn’t purpose in what I do. What I am realizing is that I have started to think that I need to be okay with not being excited about what I do and while I believe that this is partially true (there will always be things that we have to do, but will probably never love to do!), it is perfectly acceptable and even appropriate to want to be excited about life and to live it fully. Being serious all the time and rigid and meeting all the expectations is not for me.
Over the past few years, I have given up some of the areas that have brought me deep joy and satisfaction. I am giving myself permission to reclaim them. Because while I am now a homeschool mom, that is not my only role. And I realize that in order to be an engaged, joyful mother, I must have inspiration and excitement in my personal life.
And so, I am going to reclaim my blogging life. My life is fuller and richer when I experience life with intention and blogging helps me to focus on being intentional. When I consider how I might write about something, I am forced to consider experiences in a deeper way. I miss “Try Something New Thursdays”, posts that never caught on with anyone else, but were immensely inspiring to me. Every week, I was trying something new and it’s a wonderful way to live!
I have become like a stagnant pond that receives no fresh water. I need water pouring into me and I need outlets for my creativity.
There will be more blog posts. You have been warned.
Last night, my soon-to-be thirteen year old came to me with a too frequent request- he wanted to play on the computer. Instead, we started to look up fun activities on Pinterest. He is now inspired to make bleached design t-shirts. Finding ideas for things to do with him was a reminder that we used to do this all the time in our pre-homeschool days. But now, we (the kids and I) are with each other every day and so much of what I do involves coming up with ideas to aid their education that I forget to do the FUN things. Computer time, Xbox games, and Kindles have replaced our creativity because the truth is that I need a break after working with them all the time. I’m tired of this being the default though and the truth is, they are tired of it too. An hour of playing on electronics is not nearly as exciting as creating something that they are proud of.
Did you know that I wrote a book last year? It was a labor of love for my Mom, but as I have written it, I have felt the responsibility to share the story. It’s taking me a long time to edit it and revise it. Part of me doesn’t want to. It is safer to not share, but the whole point of the book is to inspire my kids and anyone who reads it to live fully and with intention. Even as I write that, I realize why I have been stuck in regards to my book! It’s obvious, right? I haven’t been living inspired, so perhaps I am a fraud.
Who am I to write about living a legacy when that is not the way I have been living?
But the truth is, I am not a fraud and I know this to my core. Sure, I have been stuck in so many areas, yet I continue to pour into my kids with passion every single day. We have read countless books, experienced some truly remarkable things, gone on the most amazing adventures and made memories that will last a lifetime. I am leaving an indelible imprint on the lives of my mysterious Daye society. Perhaps the whole point of writing this post was for that very thing. To remember.
My Purpose: to have an impact on my kids and on those within my sphere of influence for the glory of God.
When I am being faithful to my purpose, I am living life inspired and I am living a legacy.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity for the fourth time in my life to explain to one of my offspring the reason why we take communion. Before going to church, I found my youngest under her bed, playing with my Kindle. So, as she sat on my lap in “our” pew, I explained to her that the sacrifice that Jesus made for us would have been like Gibson taking her punishment for disobedience. He wouldn’t have deserved to be punished. He didn’t take my Kindle and play with it and he didn’t make her take the Kindle or hide under her bed (she was fully aware that the opposite would have been true- had he discovered her covert operations, he would have made sure Mama knew about it!!). Her eyes widened as she considered the implications of this sacrifice. To take a punishment for someone else when you didn’t do anything wrong? Inconceivable!
But this IS exactly what Jesus did for us. He didn’t deserve to die on the cross. He never sinned, yet he was willing to die in our place and give us his righteousness instead of the punishment we deserved. It’s remarkable. It’s why we have a ritual that faithfully causes us to remember what he has accomplished for us.
As I reflected on our conversation later in the day, I was reminded that THIS is exactly how I want to live, sharing truth when the opportunity arises. Seeking to make the most of life. And faithfully sharing my stories, because while there is more security in keeping things to myself, it’s not how I have been made to live.
I want to live a legacy. I want to live inspired.
This past week, I played softball for the first time this season. On paper, it was my best game ever. I hit the ball every time I was at bat and made it to first base every time. I had an RBI and I scored a run. For a few of the innings, I played the position of catcher and threw an out at first base.
In reality, my game was not that great. I was only at bat twice and one of those hits went about three feet in front of home plate. Making it to first base was pure luck! My RBI was the result of an outfield error. The run I scored was entirely due to the fact that I play with an amazing group of women. My “throw” to first was actually a desperate attempt and instead of a throw, I rolled the ball. Although it resulted in an out, it was pretty pathetic. After five years of playing softball every summer, I still can’t throw the ball under pressure.
As I reflected on the game, I wondered why I keep playing. Each year, I am the most improved player, but that’s simply because I can’t get any worse. Although I have moved past my phobia of playing softball and I am much better than I was my first season, I’m not sure I will ever be good at softball.
So why do I put myself through the humiliation?
As I pondered this question, I realized that there are several reasons why I keep playing. One of the reasons that I started playing in the first place was to be an example to my children. I want them to try things that they aren’t necessarily good at (how will they know unless they try?). When they are scared of something, I want them to face those fears (getting knocked over by a softball when I was seven was traumatic, but never playing softball again was not the legacy I wanted to leave for my kids!). I also wanted my kids to see that there was more to me than just the “mom” things I do (although I love it when I hear them yelling, “Go, Mom!”). I want them to actively pursue passions and interests for the rest of their lives.
While that was one of the reasons why I started playing, the main reason why I want to keep playing is because the team is made up of fantastic women. Many are from the church where my husband is the pastor, but several other churches are represented on our team and it is beautiful. It’s a sweet thing to show up to a game and to have a camaraderie based solely on being sisters in Christ who happen to play softball together. Even when I play horribly, I genuinely enjoy the team I have the privilege of playing with and I leave every game smiling.
Sometimes people only see the pictures we share or what our lives look like on paper and they make assumptions about us. But when our reality doesn’t match those assumptions, it can feel isolating. Would others still like me if they knew about *insert your deepest, darkest secret*?
Softball is teaching me the importance of showing up no matter what. I don’t have to be perfect in order to play. In fact, my team still loves me even though I’m pretty awful. I can still enjoy playing with the team and I get to share in the victory even if I will never hit a home run!
If you are one of those people who sees my pictures of playing softball or the adventures my family has or you read about the fact that I’m a pastor’s wife and a homeschooling mom of four kids and I work for an online ministry, you might be tempted to think that I’m amazing, but that’s just what I look like on paper. In reality, I am in desperate need of grace. I mess up a lot. I’m not always kind to others and I have a tendency to hold grudges. I love my kids deeply, but I am not always as intentional as I would like to be and I check out way more often than I should. I forget things all of the time and let others down way more often than I would like.
But the love my softball team shows to me is a reminder of the unconditional love God has faithfully shown to me throughout my life. He KNOWS it all- my successes, my failures, my strengths, my weaknesses, those deep, dark secrets- ALL of it, yet He loves me. The security I have in this love makes me want to keep showing up to all of the things that have been asked of me. Even when it’s hard. Or I’m awful. Or it’s humiliating.
I hope that you will keep showing up too. You are lavishly loved. No matter what!