May You Have Hope Shining Like The Sun

It was a Friday morning and all I wanted to do was stay in my bed under my warm sheets. I am not a morning person. I would not say that I am grumpy in the morning, I would just rather stay up late than get up early. In addition, things have been more challenging for me here after returning from my Christmas break and my sheets were providing a comfort that I did not want to leave. Unfortunately with my work schedule the only time for a track workout is the morning, so I have been forced to become more of a morning person than I ever thought I would be. So, I laid there in my bed and knew that if I did not make my way to the track on this dark, foggy, Oregon morning that I would regret it for the rest of the day. So, I got out of bed and quickly got ready as I had snoozed one too many times. I made my way to the school where the fog was so thick that I could not see the track.

After warming up, I began my first 600m repeat. I was not too happy with my time and was not encouraged by the thick fog, cold air, and air stagnation alerts that are to continue throughout the weekend. I was determined to improve my time for the next 600m. My next two times were slightly faster. As I began to get slightly frustrated with myself for not running the times that I had run last fall, I reminded myself of the obvious that I am still getting back into training and that I am coming back slowly. Progression is key.

After finishing 600m number three, I knew that I only had time for one more 600m before I had to head to work. Huffing with frozen air stagnation-lungs I made my way back to the start. The moment I put my foot on the start line, the fog began to rise as the sun came out. The immediate feeling that I felt was hope (no, not just for an improved 600 time) and my spirits began to rise. I stepped on the line with this feeling of hope and with a relaxed mind. I hit my watch and began my final 600m as the fog continued to rise and as the sun continued to break through the Oregon sky.

IMG_1122At my first step, a poem was being written in my head. With each step words built upon words from the step before. All I remember from this poem are the words: sun, hope, challenge, family, and friends. That is it. I know that words of encouragement, beautiful words, had been created yet I cannot remember them. I ran with a feeling of hope and happiness as the sun continued to shine through. I have never experienced anything like this before. Ever. I do not know where the words came from. All I know is that they were beautiful, encouraging, and that the experience was surreal. Crossing the finish line after this 600m I do remember the last phrase of the poem, “And you look up to the sun and realize that you really aren’t that far away after all.”

While missing home, there are no other words that I can imagine that would encourage me more. I looked up to the sun and I knew that friends and family back home were looking up to the same sun. I did my workout on this cold January morning and knew that people all over the world were doing their workouts at the same time as I was. I thought about just how small the world really is. There is one sun. One sun that gives light to us all. One sun that shines on the world. We are all connected. A light that shines in the United States, Togo, England, Chile, and Brazil. A light that allows plants to grow and people to see. There is just something about the sun that brightens our days, lifts our spirits, and gives us hope. It is a pick-me-up.

While in distance, I am many, many miles away from the comfortable, I am encouraged by the fact that the sun that shines in Oregon is the same sun that shines in Pennsylvania. And because of this, I feel so much closer to home.

After leaving the track still mesmerized by the experience, the realizations, and the thoughts that were now running through my head, I thought further about that last phrase that I remember as I crossed the finish line, “And you look up to the sun and realize that you really aren’t that far away after all.” My mind started going down a path. A path that had me thinking about how short our lives really are. I was reminded of how important it is to follow the direction that I believe God is calling me in. I do not want to go about trying to do my own thing when my real purpose, God’s plan, is not being fulfilled.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”- Matthew 5:14-16

I am reminded that I need to be a light of hope to others who may be struggling or who need a listening ear.  My devotional for today that I read after returning home from the workout was entitled, “Prescribed by God to Make a Difference”. The Uncommon Key to think about was this: “Is the way you are living your life making a difference in someone else’s? Someone you wouldn’t readily gravitate to? There may be bigger things that Christ calls you to than what seems obvious.

I am reminded that right now it is my time to make a difference and be a light of hope to someone who needs it.

Live it in the Moment

I recently returned to Roseburg, Oregon after my Christmas break to continue my service through AmeriCorps which ends in August 2014. One thing that I have found myself struggling with is the idea of “living in the moment”. A cliche phrase I know, yet something that is quite challenging to actually do. One of my new years resolutions was to attempt to find ways to change daily life to make the idea of “living in the moment” a more obtainable task. Small steps reach a larger goal. So, here are a few things that came to mind when I imagined the life of someone truly living in the moment.

Well, to start with, reducing your connectedness to the world through social media seems like a good place to start. Going on Facebook 10 different times a day and absorbing what everyone else is doing with their life, where they are, and who they are with most certainly does not help you to live your life in the moment. A constant connectedness to the world through social media not only can cause you to want what you do not have, but it eats up your time and takes you out of your attempts to live in the moment and throws you into someone’s life. Most of the time what comes up on our newsfeed isn’t even about those who are close to us anyways. The time that you waste away on Facebook can better be used doing something, anything that is away from the screen. I’m not saying to cut it out all together. Hey, its nice to be up-to-date on what your friends are up to when you don’t see them all that often. But take a few moments to think about how much of your day social media eats up.

Along similar lines as Facebook is the constant connectedness that we have through our phones. I remember being in a bookstore once and I saw a family of four where they were all sitting next to each other playing on their iPhones. Not a word, just fingers tapping and sliding on a screen. Eyes glued. When you are with people, actually be with them. Don’t put on a front that you are actually listening while your head is trying to think about how to respond to that last text message. For a day, leave the phone at home and feel the freedom you have without it. You may be thinking, “Freedom?!…lost is what I would feel.” Another experiment to go along with this one…Leave it at home and count the number of times that you reach for it, think about checking it, or wonder if you have a text message, missed call, or notification. This number in itself should show you just how much your phone can invade your ability to truly live in the moment. Make an effort to see people in person or call them. When you are somewhere, be there. When you want to talk, give them a call. Save your phone games for a long airplane ride and play a board game with the people that are right in front of you.

So, besides the reduction in social media and technology, how else can we live in the moment, appreciate each day and not let life pass us by? Well, for me, a devotional reading in the morning and a few Happy Book entries at the end of the day may do just the trick. As the year 2014 began, I started reading the devotional, Uncommon Life Daily Challenge” by Tony Dungy. Each short page-long devotional for the day ends with an “uncommon key” to think about. One of the uncommon keys is: “God was intentional about your design, your opportunities, and your purpose. Thank Him and look for ways to use what He has given you in the best way possible.” After reading this in the morning, I should not just read it, let it go in one ear and out the other, and think, oh, that was nice. It is something that should be chewed on during the rest of the day. As I go to work, eat lunch, drive home, hang out with friends and before going to bed, I should be thinking about how I can apply what I have read to my life and be on the lookout for how it can give me a new perspective.

I have also been reading the book, “The Noticer” by Andy Andrews. Essentially the book is about an old man named Jones who gives people a different perspective on the lives that they live or the problems in which they find themselves. Jones is all about perspective. One of the stories was about a man and a woman who were going to get a divorce as the woman did not believe that her husband loved her anymore. Jones explained to them that people feel loved in different ways. Which similarly reminded me of the book, “The 5 Love Languages”. The 5 love languages are: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. (Check out the website to find out which love language you speak: http://www.5lovelanguages.com). Jones points out how we often love in the way that we want to be loved and if we don’t know how the other person feels loved, then problems occur. In the story, both the husband and the wife learned the other’s love language, gained a new perspective and they saved their marriage.

Learning something new or seeing something in a new way can forever change how we live our lives.

Now, at the end of the day, make a few entries in your Happy Book. What is a Happy Book you ask? A Happy Book is a book full of things that make you smile, make you happy, or that make you feel blessed. They are a few words jotted down. They are not things from last week, or about something in the future that you are looking forward to, but they are from today. As time goes on and your list continues, you will see how blessed you truly are and what it is that you take out of each and every day.

My last thoughts for living in the moment are to seek out and enjoy all opportunities that may come your way. Say yes often. Seek out ways to be involved in the lives of those around you. Seek the needs and make a difference. Be a part of your community.

Take in and appreciate the beauty in nature that surrounds you. Remember that you will never again have this moment. 

Thank God for each moment of your life.