Threads of GRACE

After collecting an excessive amount of running tee-shirts from years of races, I finally put some of them to good use!

Sorting through my unique collection, I chose some that stood out to me  and had them turned into a beautiful tee-shirt quilt.

It turned out better than I expected!

Each piece of fabric brought back memories from a particular race. Some had happy memories attached to them while others emitted feelings of misery and disgust.

This shirt represents my first 5K. The race I thought was on flat pavement turned out to be a difficult trail run through the woods. I really felt like quitting! 

This one was a half-marathon through pouring rain the entire time. The kind of rain where you’re literally soaked to the bone and you can hardly see in front of you through the water gushing down your face.

This race was actually an obstacle course–A TOUGH MUDDER– I vowed years before I would NEVER do. After some prompting from my brother, I decided to do it anyway. Muddy from head to toe, I truly did not recognize myself in pictures from this insane mud run.

But other shirts on this same quilt have happier, more positive feelings attached to them.

This was my first half marathon! I can still conjure up those feelings of elation from crossing the finish line.

This race was a fun 5K my family did together. No pressure. Just a fun race where lots of unexpected prizes were given out at the finish line party.

Ah yes! This one represents the best time I ever had for a half marathon. Perfect conditions. Best pace ever. (And no injuries!)

I looked at each shirt, traveling back in time to relive each of these races. The good, the bad and the ugly. But then I stepped back and looked at the quilt as a whole.

Yes, when all these shirts were weaved together, it symbolized my entire running journey. It was beautiful!

But as I continued looking at the quilt, I saw something much more powerful….

This quilt is a beautiful picture of what God does with US!

Hang with me here, and please don’t miss this!

God is a master at weaving the seasons of our lives together–the good, the bad and the ugly–and He knits them together with threads of grace. And over time, He takes these individual moments of our lives and turns them into a beautiful tapestry of glory!

The 5K I ran where I wanted to quit? That’s like the seasons of life when we are ready to give up because we’re disappointed or our expectations weren’t met.

Running a race in pouring rain? It paints a picture of those times we’re trying to survive the storms of life.

Ha! And the Tough Mudder where I was a crazy-muddy-mess? Don’t we all have seasons like that? Where we are such an absolute mess we don’t even recognize ourselves. Life knocks us to the ground and we wonder how we’ll ever get up to keep going.

But we also have those seasons of happiness. The times we are living in our sweet spot, using our gifts and talents for God’s glory.

And we have those moments when life is just good. Our families are thriving. We have unexpected blessings heaped upon us when we least expect it.

And I’ll bet you can think back to moments in your life when you felt so successful. You accomplished something you’d dreamed about. Something you worked really hard for.

So just like this quilt represents the good and not-so-good moments of my running journey, in the same way,

God is continually weaving the moments of your life together for a greater purpose of displaying His glory.

So we have to be patient and we have to trust Him. Maybe you feel stuck in a season of wanting to quit and you can’t see beyond the difficulties.

Maybe you’re stuck in a muddy mess and you don’t see a way out. But I can assure you there is a clear path up ahead if you’ll just hang on. Because God is already taking the fragile threads you’re grasping on and is weaving them into something strong and beautiful.

It’s easy to get hung up on the current set of circumstances we’re in if that’s all we’re focusing on.

But when we take a step back and look at the big picture, we can see how God is weaving everything together for our good and His glory.

Which seasons of your life stand out to you–the good, bad and even the ugly–where God held you together with His threads of grace?

Blessings to you today!

Lisa

Check out my devotional book, EMBRACING THE RACE

 

 

 

 

 

The Halfway Point

Nehemiah 4:6 “So we rebuilt the wall till all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.”

One and a half miles. You’re halfway through a 5K. Just a little bit past a 5K, you’re halfway through a 10K. At 6.5 you’ve hit the halfway point of a half-marathon. And for those who are determined enough to run a full marathon, 13.1 miles is your halfway mark.

Halfway.

Some runners view the halfway point as major progress. Excitement oozes out through pouring sweat. Reaching this place in any race—no matter what the distance—ushers in mixed thoughts and emotions. Look how far I’ve come! I’m halfway through! The hardest part is over.

But others might see the halfway point with a completely different perspective. I’m only halfway through? I can’t possibly repeat the same distance I’ve just come. I thought I was closer to the finish line. I thought my pace would be quicker than this.

In 2009, Jenny Barringer was favored to win the NCAA cross-country championship race.  At first Jenny confidently held the lead. Surely she’d win the coveted first place title. But midway through the race something happened. Jenny’s pace slowed considerably. Runners who trailed her, suddenly whizzed past, leaving Jenny gasping for breath. She dropped to 10th place, then 20th. Struggling to keep up, she later crossed the finish line in 169th place. When questioned after the race as to what happened, Jenny explained, “Halfway into it, I didn’t feel so good. It was sudden. I thought I couldn’t run.” It wasn’t an injury that slowed her down. It was her perception. Discouraging thoughts paralyzed her, leading to utter panic.

In the Old Testament we find the prophet Nehemiah at a crucial turning point. He’d reached the  halfway mark in rebuilding the broken walls of Jerusalem. Compelled to undertake this impossible task, the odds were against him. He courageously led the Jewish people for twenty-six straight days in an ultra building project. That’s when their enemies started taunting and threatening them. Halfway through, a choice had to be made. Allow the enemies of criticism and discouragement to halt their efforts? Or keep persevering in spite of how they perceived the remaining work.

In the same way, we too approach halfway points in our lives. We’re midway through a tough project at school or work. Halfway through a challenging phase in our child’s development. Maybe it’s the halfway point of a business venture, ministry dream or a recovery period in our health. Whatever our halfway point is, our perception of it determines the outcome.

Alan Redpath writes, “The halfway stage is the toughest of all. When the initial enthusiasm for something has departed, you are more conscious not so much of what has already been done, but of what is yet to be done; you are increasingly impressed with the magnitude of the unfinished task.”

If we aren’t further along than we expect at our halfway points, we become vulnerable, intimidation gaining on our heels.

So how did Nehemiah proceed? He chose to embrace faith in God instead of allowing discouragement and defeat to take over. He challenged the people with these powerful words: “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome.” He chose to help put their mind in the right perspective. He reminded them there was no reason for fear. Greater was he who was in them than he who was in the world. The opposite of discouragement is faith. While discouragement looks for and believes the worst, faith believes God and his promises.

READY?  Identify a time in your life where you were at a halfway point. How did you proceed? How did your perception affect the outcome? Are you approaching or standing at a halfway point now? Resolve to embrace truth and faith instead of discouragement and defeat.

GET SET. Deuteronomy 31:8 “It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”

GO! Lord Jesus, when I find myself at a halfway point, please give me your eyes. May I not give in to discouragement in those moments. Help me embrace your truth and trust you. Give me a heart of faith that will keep me strong for your glory. Amen

halfway

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

Hitting the Wall

Psalm 18:29 “In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall.”

 

Labored breathing ignites. Weakness spreads through your body. Sore muscles ache with intense pain. Exhaustion soaks up the last drops of motivation. Overwhelmed with the miles left to go, your pace slows down to a shuffle. Negative thoughts saturate your mind. Impossible. I can’t keep going.

You’ve hit the wall.

Sometimes without warning, it’s when sudden fatigue and loss of energy overtake us runners. Some have described hitting the wall like this: A sledgehammer slammed down on my entire body. A charging elephant trampled me to the ground. My legs turned into concrete.

Once you’ve hit a wall, you must embrace some proven strategies to keep going. Slow down your pace and walk. Stretch out your achy muscles. Consume a sports drink or gel to refuel. Whatever you do, don’t just stop. As impossible as it seems, keep putting one foot in front of the other. Break up your remaining distance into segments. Tell yourself you’re going to make it to the next mile marker, street light, intersection or building.

Luis Manzo, a sports psychologist and running coach, recommends recruiting a running partner to jump in with you at a point where you anticipate a struggle in the run, almost as if fighting for you.

After years in the wilderness, Joshua and the Israelites came face to face with their wall. The city of Jericho, surrounded by walls 12 feet high and five feet thick, stopped them in their tracks.

It looked impossible. Insurmountable. Thoughts of giving up and turning around flooded their minds.

Yet God led them—through Joshua—to courageously conquer what appeared impossible. They were instructed to march around the city walls one time for six days in a row. It probably didn’t make sense to them. But they kept marching, one step at a time. Finally on the seventh day, God told Joshua to have the people march around seven times!

Imagine being in that crowd of people. Exhausted. Nothing left. Feeling stuck.

In that moment they could’ve walked away and given up hope. Yet they kept on going. Faithfully moving forward one step at a time. And there in front of their very eyes, they watched those seemingly impenetrable walls come crashing down.

In our own lives, we sometimes feel like we’ve hit a wall. We come face-to-face with something that stops us in our tracks, knocking us off our feet. Suddenly crushed to the core, we think, I can’t get through this!

What’s a real life wall look like? A troubled marriage. Diagnosis for cancer. Losing your job. Financial distress. A strained relationship. Your wall may look totally different though. But it’s anything that appears impossible or insurmountable. Whatever it is, there is hope. No matter how wide or how tall your wall looks, it’s not the end.

Just like the Israelites, we can choose to trust God’s unique plan, even when it doesn’t make sense. We keep moving, one foot in front of the other. We don’t run in the opposite direction. We don’t stand still as if paralyzed. We persevere and keep going. We let God do the fighting for us.

When we focus on the actual wall in front of us, despair and fear overwhelm us. But God promises to go ahead of us, making our path straight.

READY?  Identify a wall you’re facing right now. Are you standing still or running away from it? What’s the next step you can take to get through the wall? Are you willing to keep going even when God’s plan doesn’t make sense?

GET SET. Hebrews 11:30 “It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.”  (Also read Joshua 6:2-16)

GO! Dear God, I thank you for your faithfulness and patience with me when I’m facing a wall in my life. Help me to focus on your truth and strength instead of the obstacles in front of me. Help me to walk obediently with confidence, just as the Israelites did when Joshua led them around the city walls. Amen.

If you enjoyed this post, check out my devotional book.

 

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

What’s Your Training Plan?

Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path.”

Monday-short run. Tuesday-strength training. Wednesday-cross training. Thursday-short run. Friday-strength training. Saturday-long run. Sunday-rest!

Are you following a training plan? Whether you’re a beginning runner or a seasoned veteran with a wall of medals, you’ve got to have a plan. You need to know what your strategy is from day-to-day in preparation for upcoming races.

Training plans are usually developed by experts. They develop plans so runners will have the endurance to successfully complete whatever their distance goal may be. Many faithfully follow Jeff Galloway’s trademark plan, designed for those who desire a mix of running and walking. Running expert Hal Higdon is known for his myriad of training plans for every running level.

Runner’s World magazine lays out multiple plans to choose from. Beginner 5K plans. Intermediate 10K plans. Advanced half-marathon plans. Beginner marathon plans. Whatever your goal is, there’s a strategic plan mapped out specifically for you.

Once you embrace a specific training plan, you know without a doubt that it’s equipping you to be a better runner. And most importantly, it enables you to cross the finish line.

Imagine a half marathon on the horizon without a training plan in place.  Would you just go with the flow from week to week depending on how you felt? Would you show up at the start line unprepared?

Just as runners follow a training plan, in the same way we follow a training plan to live our lives for Christ. In this case, there’s not a multitude of plans to choose from. It’s called the Bible. Whether you’re a new Christian learning to walk or a seasoned follower teaching others, we all live by this training manual. God’s breathed, inspired and flawless word—not the opinion of men or current culture.

This is what drives us.

This is what aligns us with our creator.

This is what keeps us on the righteous path.

Without it, we’re like a clueless runner without a training plan.

The Bible—our training manual for life—was developed by an expert. God himself used many people—led by the Holy Spirit—to write his story for us. From the creation to the fall. From the cross to redemption. He shows us who he is and how we are to live for him.

A runner’s training plan dictates daily steps to accomplish. But when it comes to God’s word, we have to dig a little deeper to hear him. We have to be still long enough to know what our next step is. We must be patient, studying and soaking up what God wants to show us.

The word of God will challenge us, yet comfort us at the same time.

The word of God will show us our sin up close, yet it equips us with strength.

Whatever each day brings, God desires to teach, direct and guide us on the path he’s prepared for us.

When we embrace God’s word, it equips us to be better followers of Christ. Whatever situations we face, his word gives us direction and insight. The strength we gain from the word of God enables us to thrive, and not just survive.

A finish line awaits us at the end of our earthly days. I don’t know about you, but I want to arrive and hear him say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

 

READY? How would your life change if you engaged in God’s word with the same devotion you give your training plan for running? Identify an area of your life where you need direction. Pray and ask God to speak to you through his word and show you your next step.

GET SET. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

GO!  Heavenly father, thank you for giving us your word! Please help me embrace it for every situation in my life. Help me to understand your word when it seems confusing. May your word guide and direct me for all my days no matter what others around me are saying. Amen.

training+plan2

If you enjoyed this post, check out my BOOK.

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

Figuring Out Your Course

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.”

For most official races, runners can view the course online. You can view every single twist and turn. In detail, you can see the highest point of elevation. You know precisely at which mile markers the path will ascend to steep hills. You can sigh with relief knowing exactly where the path will descend, giving you breaks throughout the race. Some runners will even determine whether or not to register for a race based on the course layout. Too many hills! I want a flatter course. Better not run this race, the elevation is too steep towards the end. I’ll be too exhausted.

You can even view the places where water stops are located. Knowing this beforehand, runners can train to run specific lengths, spacing out their water intake. Mentally you can prepare for worst case scenarios, seeing exactly where medical tents are located. Most importantly, you can see exactly where the finish line is. You tuck the names of the intersecting streets in the back of your mind. That’s where I’ll finish the race. That’s where my family will meet me afterwards and congratulate me.

All of this information we are privy to is great!  Can you imagine how cool it would be to see the course of your real life? To actually see in detail what was in your future? You’d see every exciting milestone awaiting you. In wonderful elation, you could anticipate all those mountain top experiences in your future.

But if you examined the course a little closer, you’d also see the dark valleys up ahead. What?! Just around that corner you’d see a marriage crumbling, ending in divorce. The unexpected job loss—the one you thought was secure just a few miles back. Huh?! And when you keep looking further down the course, you’d find that one of your kids has broken your heart. And you don’t even see a medical tent anywhere in sight. What would you do?

Maybe you wouldn’t even want to continue your race of life any longer. I can’t bear the thought of these things coming. I want an easier course. I won’t be able to live this kind of life.

Thankfully, we don’t get this kind of information in our journey of life. That’s not how God designed us to live. While we don’t get to see the whole course of our lives mapped out in front of us, God does. We don’t know the details of trials and challenges headed our way, but He does. We can’t fathom the abundant blessings He has in store for us, but He knows and can’t wait to lavish them upon us.

He’s designed us to live one moment at a time, in total dependence on him. Our flesh craves to see an entire mile at a time. But God wants to lead us one step at a time. We desire to know how long a certain trial will last. But God wants us to trust.

When we register to run the race of faith with Jesus as our guide, we run with all our might. We run with boldness and perseverance. We run like there’s no tomorrow. In fact, we don’t know what a day will bring forth. We may think our course is quite long, but we don’t know exactly where our finish line will be. Whether it’s a quick 5K or multiple marathons back-to-back, we must keep on running. Keep on trusting. Keep on thriving.

So while we don’t know where our earthly finish line will be, we know who is leading us on the course. And we are promised that He will greet us at the intersection of time and eternity. Now that’s something to get excited about!

READY? If there was one thing you could figure out about your future, what would it be? Are you willing to surrender this concern to Jesus? Take some extended time to pray about your fears and worries and lay them at the foot of the cross.

GET SET. Proverbs 16:9 “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord determines his steps.”

GO! Lord Jesus, help me to trust you with every twist and turn of my life. I’m so prone to worry and wanting to know what’s up ahead, that I’m missing out on knowing you more intimately. Help me to let go of the things out of my control and trust you completely. Amen

coursemap

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

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In the Heat of Summer

Isaiah 58:11 “The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.”

Heading out the door, you check the temperature. Already 80 degrees! Sweat begins pouring down your face. Just minutes into your run, you’re already out of breath. The scorching sun feels like your enemy, staring you down.  The humidity is unbearable–sapping all the energy out of every fiber of your weary muscles. Your parched mouth craves water sooner than normal. Tempted to quit, you wonder if you can finish what you’d planned to run. You’d give anything to return to the previous months of cooler temps. But no, this is what it’s like to run in the heat of summer.

Running in extreme heat puts more stress on the heart and our muscles don’t get as much oxygen. The higher the humidity level, the harder it is for our bodies to evaporate sweat, making it difficult to cool down. No wonder we reach exhaustion sooner!

But runners who want to maintain fitness goals and train for fall races have no choice but to run in the heat. So instead of quitting, we must adapt to the heat. There are multiple tips on beating the heat, but the most essential thing we can do is maintain optimal hydration.  We have to drink more than what we’re used to–even when we don’t feel thirsty. Without enough water we risk dehydration, causing muscle cramps, dizziness and nausea. It’s a matter of survival!

Just as runners must hydrate more frequently in extreme heat, Christ followers must run to the source of our living water–especially when we’re in a season of life that feels like a desert. Ever been there? Before the day even starts, a wave of exhaustion washes over you. You dread the day ahead. Can’t I just pull the covers over my head and go back to sleep? You’ve lost your joy. Your motivation to live purposefully has disappeared.  Your faith feels like it’s dried up, leaving your soul parched. Maybe you don’t feel God near you. Perhaps you’ve given up waiting for an answer to your prayer. Every fiber of your weary soul is burdened. Worn out from stress and anxiety, you wonder if you’ll ever make it to the other side of the desert you’re trudging through. Why even bother? Does it really matter?

Dear friend, it does matter! Although Jesus told us to expect trials in this fallen world, he promised to never leave us–even when we don’t feel it. Desert seasons often usher in waves of exhaustion, fear and hopelessness–crashing in and pushing out our peace and joy. But instead of quitting, we must resolve to stay faithful and embrace Jesus with our whole heart. Whether we thirst for him or not, we must fix our eyes on him and cling to him more than ever before. Spending time in prayer. Soaking up promises from his word. Resting in his presence. Reaching out to him desperately. Without him, we risk falling into hopelessness and despair. It’s a matter of survival!

I don’t know how long your desert season may last. But I can promise you that Jesus is with you every step of the way. Your sun-scorched soul will be watered…by him alone. The heavy burdens weighing you down will be lifted…by him alone. The empty places of your heart will be filled…by him alone.

READY? If you’re walking through a desert season, what are you actively doing to maintain your relationship with Jesus? Recall a previous time in your life when you walked through a desert season. What insight did you gain from that time in your life? Claim a promise from God’s word you can cling to for times you may not feel his presence.

 

GET SET.  John 4:14 “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”

 

GO! Jesus, I praise your name for your faithfulness to me. Even when I’m going through a rough time, I thank you for your promises. Help me embrace your presence when I’m walking through a desert. May your truth fill my thirst and satisfy my longings. You truly are the living water. Amen.

summerheat

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett

 

 

 

 

 

Who’s Ahead of You?

Galatians 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

Just when you think you’ve arrived at your fastest pace, whoosh! Another runner speeds past you like a bolt of lightning. You can almost feel a breeze from the force of their speed. You see them quickly disappear from your view and before you know it, they’re long gone. How in the world does she keep up that pace? I’ll never be able to catch up!

Unless you’re the first one to cross the finish line in a race, there’s always going to be someone running ahead of you.  We are definitely called to run at our own pace, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from others who are ahead of us. Beginning runners seek out training tips from veteran runners. Runners who’ve sustained their first injuries could gain valuable wisdom from others who survived those same injuries. The first race ushers in a wave of anxious nerves. What should I expect? What should I wear for this kind of weather? Who else out there would know answers to these questions? Runners ahead of you! Their pace may not necessarily be faster than you, but they’ve pounded the pavement far longer than you have. Instead of putting them in an unreachable category, those of us who are behind them could instead reach out and ask for guidance and insight.

Dear friend, if you’re a follower of Christ, there’s always going to be someone ahead of you—further up the path of life. People who have been following Christ for many years longer. People who have long ago passed through the very same season you may be walking through now. People who have much wisdom and insight to offer if only we will ask. As you enter into a difficult season, perhaps a wave of anxiety is rushing into the depth of your weary soul. How will I ever get through this? Will I ever make it to the other side? And then you may wonder with great curiosity. WHO do I know that perhaps has ventured through this same kind of challenge?

Let me tell you without a doubt that someone is ahead of you that can gently and lovingly guide you. Maybe it’s an older mom who survived the season of raising teenagers. Maybe it’s the woman you’ve heard about who survived her nasty divorce and is on the other side now. Whatever challenge you may be facing, you’re more likely to gain peace and strength with someone else helping you through. So go ahead. Reach out. Ask. Humbly wave the white flag of your soul and courageously say, “I need your help!”

In the Bible we meet a young man named Timothy, a new believer who needed some guidance and direction. The apostle Paul was running his race ahead of Timothy. Paul poured his very life into this young man! Without Paul, Timothy would’ve floundered in his faith. Grown weary. Lost his hope. But instead he clung to Paul. He humbled himself and listened with a teachable heart. And then he flourished into a bold teacher of the gospel. He could keep running his race at a fierce pace because he walked in the footsteps of Paul. Who’s ahead of you?

READY?  Identify an area of your life where you feel challenged and could use some guidance. Ask God to show you someone who has walked through a similar challenge. Are you willing to reach out and ask for help? Pray and ask God for strength and wisdom to take the next step.

GET SET.  Proverbs 1:5 “A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” Proverbs 11:14 “Where there is no guidance, the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.”

GO!  Heavenly Father, this life can feel so difficult at times! I feel weary trying to navigate through the hard times on my own. You’ve called us to carry each other’s burdens, so I humbly ask you to show me someone who’s ahead of me who can walk alongside me during this season of my life. Help me set aside any pride that may stand in the way. Amen.

womenrunningindesert

Blessings to you!

Lisa Preuett