Seeds of Faith

I’m now in the middle of my second year teaching an energetic group of third graders. Our church offers a Wednesday after-school program, and last year I cautiously agreed to be a teacher. You can read a few of my initial thoughts here.

Looking back I can clearly see this was something I was being called to do, but I have to be honest. I didn’t immediately listen and step forward to help. After vaguely noticing a plea for volunteers in the bulletin it took a personal ask before I even thought about it. When you’re asked personally it requires an answer, and eventually I knew it should be yes.

As you probably know, JR and I don’t have any kids yet. I’ve spent most of the last decade learning about spreadsheets, theories, and economics at college and working with adults and animals on a farm. I used to volunteer more with youth programs in high school, but it feels like quite a while ago. As an almost thirty-something I wondered what I could possibly have to offer these kids.

Would they listen to me? Could I reach them?

The answers, as it turns out, are “Plenty,” “Sometimes,” and “Yes,” respectively.

Kids mostly want to be listened to, feel valued and secure, and have some fun along the way. Humanity, old and young, is very much the same in that respect.

I’m just one person in one church in one small classroom, but somehow teaching has actually made the world seem more hopeful to me. Instead of feeling insignificant I am reminded God is working through me every time I pray with my class or help them discover a new bible story. Sure, I may struggle with being patient, finding enthusiasm, and discipline at times, but God still wants to use imperfect me. If I listen he can lead.

This week during lesson time we learned about Jacob wrestling with God. My students all liked the action of the story, and the boys already immersed in youth wrestling especially listened well.

If you want to remind yourself of the story check out Genesis 32! Jacob wants a blessing from The Lord after they struggle through the night, and The Lord gives him something else too. Jacob gets a new name. Israel.

After the story I had each student pick a word they identified with from a short list. Then they were supposed to pick a corresponding name from a separate list. Lots of important traits like “truthful,” “generous,” and “kind” were listed, but I was happily surprised when two of the girls in my class chose “brave.”

There is no reason they shouldn’t pick brave, but for some reason I didn’t expect them too. I hope that word will stay with them through the crazy teenage and high school years.

I also had to silently giggle when a small boy who picked “strong” chose the name Gertrude. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that was generally a female name. I grew up in a very Scandinavian area where women were still named Gertrude, but in this more German pocket of the state none of the kids cared or knew the difference.

These eight and nine year olds I see each week seem so young and yet old beyond their years all at once. I can’t imagine what it’s like to see your own children grow up that fast.

I hope and pray the simple lessons we talk about on Wednesday will reach these kids and their families. Maybe it won’t make a difference today or tomorrow, but I have faith that the seeds we sow will take root and start to grow.

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Balmy

I often dream about visible grass and sun that’s actual warm in January, but it’s rare those dreams become real.

Since we returned from vacation last weekend we have had the most balmy January week I can ever recall. I have lived in Minnesota my whole life, and the middle of January can be a bear.

While we did have an early November blizzard and plenty of below zero already, it’s wonderful to get a reprieve of sunshine.

This warmth has been more dry and crisp – unlike the fog and drizzle of December – so the cattle like it too. Usually in January we are worried about water freezing up or keeping snow clear of the hutches, but this past week the main challenge was muddy boots and extra straw for the outdoor pens!

We got a sprinkling of snow several nights to make things white, but usually by afternoon it melted off again.

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This weather is also heaven if you happen to be a runner. Usually at the beginning of the year I decide on several spring races and start mapping out my training. Between getting ready for and going on vacation I just hadn’t nailed down a plan yet. I put in several sweaty miles around the resort in Mexico, but overall I felt uncertain. I hadn’t run a lot in 2015, and I wasn’t sure what kind of shape I was really in. I thought about how last winter I had to split up several long runs between outside and the treadmill because I couldn’t stand two to three hours of running in so much cold. (I’m talking days of well below zero with wind and blowing snow.)

I love the feeling of finishing a marathon, but does that mean I want to run one this spring? Is a 50K going to drive me completely crazy?

Saturday provided me with a glorious opportunity to find out. After doing a few morning chores and checking on our newest calf I got ready for my run. I even ate a gu and wore my water belt so I wouldn’t have an excuse to turn back too soon. Fifteen miles later I had my determination back. I’m so grateful we’ve been blessed with a true January thaw this year. It’s exactly what I needed, and I know that is not luck. It’s something much more powerful, and it gives me faith for the journey.

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To Mexico and Back Again

We left Minnesota during the wee hours of January 10th. Us and seemingly thousands of others from the northern Midwest were looking to flee to warm beaches. I don’t know if I mentioned it previously, but I’ve never seen Terminal 2 at MSP so full in my life!

I’d done most of my worrying the night before, and when we landed in Cancun the warm breezes and green landscape made me truly joyful. We were in the Riviera Maya for a week!

Our whole group made the journey safely, and we spent the first few days enjoying food, drink, pools, sun, ocean, and sky.
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I knew one of JR’s objectives — besides getting his friend married — was to catch fish on the ocean. I helped set up a boat rental with a captain and all, and twelve of us cruised the sea for the morning. To be honest, I was a little disorientated from all the Dramamine I took, but at least I wasn’t terribly seasick like a few in our group. The smallest fish of the day were mine, but they were also the first! JR got several nice catches, and a wonderful chef at our resort even cooked up the red snapper for us. (We tipped accordingly.)

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The wedding was a picture perfect day on the beach. We did have rain a few times on our trip, but for the wedding everything was sunny. I am beyond grateful to Brad and Amy for letting us be a part of their celebration. The officiant beautifully reminded all of us to chose love everyday as she asked God’s blessing on the couple.

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I am so grateful for both the old and new friends we shared this trip with. Memories still vividly fill my mind, and I suspect they will do so for a long while. The stately Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza were our last stop, and they brought us deeper into Mexico in many ways. We drove through small villages, saw children playing, and got a better feel for the soul of the country. Yes, there was poverty and hardship, but there was also strength and perseverance. I admire the people we met on our journey.

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Minnesota was waiting for us when we got back, complete with a beautiful winter day and melting snow. January has definitely been kind since then, and things are getting into a normal rhythm again at the farm. It’s hard to come back in some ways, but in other ways it’s always good to be home.

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At the Airport

It’s 4:56 a.m. on Saturday morning. I’m sitting at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport in one of those industrial chairs that lets me know I’m about to get on a plane.

The ever important question “To drink coffee or not to drink coffee?” is filling my brain.

A steaming mug of black coffee is something I require when I’m up at this hour, but if I resist I might be able to sleep on the flight. I can typically sleep like a rock just about anywhere, and it’s been a long, cold, exhausting week.

Preparing for a week off when you have a job you normally do every single day leads to high anxiety — at least for me. I know some small business owners, farmers, etc. are better at getting away than we are, but I think it’s still hard to prepare. You plan, you make lists, you work, you give instructions, you worry, and then hopefully you pray and leave it all in God’s capable hands.

The below zero weather nearly all week didn’t make things any easier, but it already seems less significant. As long as nothing freezes up while we’re gone… At least the weather should be a little warmer and better for everyone this week when we’re gone.

We made it to the airport, and we’re really doing this. For the first time since our honeymoon nearly six years ago, JR and I are taking a real vacation. It’s not one night sandwiched in between things, a work trip, or a dairy, crop, or manure conference. Not that I don’t enjoy those in their own right. :-) It’s also not a race of any kind.

We are Mexico-bound along with many friends. I love traveling with family or friends. It seems to make everything more fun to explore and experience when you’ve got a group to experience it with. One of JR’s best friends is getting married on the beach, and since JR is in the wedding party this trip has been a high priority for months.

So now you know what I’ve been busy with this week and why I haven’t been blogging about resolutions or the icy 2015 weather.

I have captured some photo-worthy moments though, so I’ll share a few from the new year.

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Hopefully soon I will have pictures with less snow and more sand and sunshine to share. We’re grateful, and we’re off!

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Running Through 2014

Another year is over, and as I look back at my running and racing I feel some surprised wonder.

It’s not that I ran particularly fast or far. I suspect I’m very close to average by many measures. The surprise and wonder come from realizing running has become a seamless part of my life. Training for spring races, running a 4th of July weekend 5K, and picking my next marathon have become as natural to me as planning projects at work or celebrating a birthday. It’s part of what I do.

All this from a girl who couldn’t stand “long runs” of two miles at track practice. It’s good things can change.

Sure, I still have days where I sleep later instead of going for a run, but usually I choose the run. I know it makes my body and mind feel better, and I know I’m blessed to be able to do it. My gains in speed are smaller than they once were, but with hard work and a dash of grace I can see progress.

I enjoy the seasons of running, too. It’s fun to be an adult and still get excited for brisk fall running or an upcoming race. I hope to prepare for spring and fall running season the rest of my life. I know some years will bring less running than others, but that’s a normal part of the journey.

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I ran nine races this year, most of which I wrote about here on the blog.

April – Earth Day Half Marathon

May – Lake Wobegon Trail Marathon

June – June 7th 5K (combined post)

Grandma’s Marathon

July – July 5th 5K (combined report)

July 19th 5K (combined report)

September – Esprit de She Maple Grove 10K

October – Monster Dash Half Marathon

November – Veteran’s Day 5K

I don’t want to re-invent the wheel, but I will reflect on a few highlights.

When I ran the Earth Day Half Marathon it marked five in a row. I definitely didn’t realize the trend I was starting back in 2009, but I keep coming back for the great organization, close location, and motivation to be in racing shape by mid-April. I missed my main goal for this race by about 30 seconds, but I still felt satisfied in my effort. The best part was meeting up with fellow Team Dairy runner Lisa who was running her first half!

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The biggest shock of the year was running TWO marathons. I look back and still hardly believe it went as well as it did.

Lake Wobegon Trail is a true gem, and it’s a local race I definitely hope to run again. It meant a lot to have my family — my parents and JR — at the finish, but my 4:03 time left me yearning to try again.

Six weeks later I got the chance at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth. With mere seconds to spare I finally broke four hours by finishing in 3:59. It hurt, and it felt amazing.

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I still didn’t get that illusive 5K PR, but I got much closer than last year. I also finished as first female for the first time ever. Breaking that makeshift “tape” was thrilling — even in a very small 5K race.

I got my first chance to race in Team Chocolate Milk orange this fall at Esprit de She. I loved meeting some other team runners, and I was proud to show my chocolate milk pride!

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More meaningful than even the finish lines this year were the chances to connect. I met some great people along the miles, and I have friends I continue to connect with online and at races. I feel like a broken record when I say it’s about the journey, but it is. Everything in life is about the journey. The milestones make it more exciting and fulfilling, and the journey still continues on.
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Friends at Monster Dash this October.

2014 also marked the first time I ran over 1,000 miles in one year. I didn’t necessarily set out to do it, but this summer I realized it was realistic and kept it in mind. I ended at 1,091 miles, and I passed 4,000 miles lifetime. I suppose it’s not a true lifetime count, but it dates back to my 24th birthday when I’d just started training for my first half. I’d tried and failed several times before to track consistently, and for some reason the spreadsheet I started that day has stuck. I’m a B.S.B. after all, and there’s a part of my brain that loves to see the numbers add up. :-)

I don’t have definite spring race plans yet like last year. I’m hoping to increase my mileage throughout January and see how things play out this winter. I’m tossing around the idea of 50K (ah!), but maybe I’ll stick with 13.1 or 26.2. It feels good to be flexible right now.

My main fitness goals for 2015 are to run a PR for at least two distances, bike more with JR, and continue doing yoga (which I started this fall). I still love running best, but I know some variety is good for the body. These should provide direction without too much structure, and I hope they will make for a great year. Here’s to 2015.

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