Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Unlikely Runner

Let me just start by saying I am NOT a runner.  I never have been; and I used to say with certainty, I never would be.  Don't get me wrong.  I believe in exercise for the mind, body, and spirit.  I enjoy taking time for a good workout a few days a week, but I have spent most of my life avoiding running like the plague.  Why?  The number one reason is that I am, for sure, just not good at it.  It does not come easy to me.  And because I am not good at it, I don't like doing it.  Even though I am a small person, running makes me feel like a five ton elephant sucking wind through a cocktail straw.  Not fun.

Then, I got to thinking.  People do it all the time.  And those who run, love it.  What's the draw?  I have to admit that it does sound good.  It must be nice to get outside, enjoy some peace and quiet, maybe a little music, take in some scenery, get the endorphins going, and release some stress.  Ahh, if only it went like that for me.  Usually, that's as far as I let my mind go.

Recently, though, I was inspired by an important person in my life.  At 70, this person was still motivated to run like the wind, miles at a time.  And yes, I said 70 and miles with an "s."  He would still be running his regualar three miles to this day, but he has to take a break for right now because he has a bigger, more important marathon to win.  Cancer.  Cancer that makes breathing a form of exercise. 

So while this person I admire is fighting with all his heart to win this marathon, I am running.  And everytime I start sucking air, I think of him.  Stay tuned to see how it goes...  He has inspired me to run.

Well, I first began writing this post in May of this year.  My first run was on May 4th.  I recorded it, and every run since, on the "Map My Run" app on my iPhone.  I have no idea how far I went that first day, because even though I thought I was being all professional and runnerish, I didn't enable the GPS on my phone.  I do know, without a doubt, it was horrible, and I didn't go very far in my 25 minutes of complete and total ungraceful overexertion.  I hated it.  I sucked air five seconds in and couldn't even make it a half a mile without stumbling to a walk.  I was in way over my head and thought about quitting the entire time. I have never felt so out of shape in my life, despite the fact that I worked out regularly 3-4 days a week.  You know what kept me from quitting?  My 71 year old uncle.  I was running for him because I knew if he could, he would gladly out run me any day of the week.  I also know, he was a smart man; so if he loved running, there must be something to it.

Now, it's seven months later.  A lot has happened since May and that excruciating first attempt at running.   In October, my uncle won his marathon and is now enjoying victory laps in Heaven, cancer free.  My cousins would probably say he's tearing up the dance floor too.  I am still running despite my initial dislike and avoidance.  I can now say that I love to run, and I enjoy the stress relief that comes with it.  It clears my head and rejuvenates my soul.  I need to run these days.  Running is a metaphor for life from so many facets.  Sometimes you find yourself doing things you never thought you could do.  Those hard and exhausting things, whatever they are for us personally, help us grow.  With determination, faith, patience, and an open heart, those things we once avoided, feared, thought we couldn't do- they eventually strengthen us and turn in to blessings full of purpose.

My uncle Ralph sure had a good thing going.  His life was full of examples we could follow to
make us better people, far too many to put in a blog.  He inspired me and so many others way beyond his strength as a runner.  He lives on in spirit and the legacy of the family and friends he loves so much.  Sending love and hugs to you, Uncle Ralph!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Getting my Head in the Game

Mom's friends surprised her with an indoor tailgate party....special ladies!
 My nature, sometimes to a fault, is to be an extremely guarded and private person, but I feel like I should share some of the things I am going through lately in hopes that maybe some of what I am experiencing may help someone else. 

In keeping my posts real and honest, I have to admit to you that I am having a difficult time lately focusing on what is right in front of me.  I feel like I am living separate lives, and I am not transitioning well at all from one to the other.  When I am in one place, my brain is still in the other and vice versa.  The result is just a big mess and a lot of worry.  And what good does worry do?  No good.  It certainly cannot fix anything.

I am realizing the problem with letting my mind wander to other places rather than staying right where I am in the moment is that I miss the extraordinary things happening right in front of me.  I say all the time that my faith gets me through life.  And while that is absolutely true, it's hard sometimes to know how to do that.  

It's easy to get lost when we are caught up in the emotion and logistics of our highest of life's highs, our most boring of life's plateaus, or our lowest of life's lows.  So, what does having faith really mean?  How do you live a life of faith?  How do you call on your faith and lean on it when you need it most?

What I am talking about is a loaded question that I ask myself all the time.  I wonder if I am doing things right for the God I love so much.  

As I was driving home from taking care of my mom last week, I realized that I was spending so much time worrying about what was going to happen next and what I needed to do next to take care of things here and there that I was completely overlooking all the ways God is trying to take care of me, and they are RIGHT in front of me, no matter where I am or what time of day it is. 

I have to remind myself that faith is letting go and letting God meet my needs in the moment, not just sometimes, but in every moment of every single day.  

Faith, however, is NOT believing and hoping that God is going to do what I want Him to do.

In fact, what I want may be completely wrong for me, and I have to face those facts.  Faith is loving God and trusting His path for me enough to put His direction ahead of my own best thought out plans.  And I know I fall short of doing that more often than not.  The hardest thing about being a Christian and being faithful, at least for me, is that despite my best intentions and efforts, I am selfish, and I like to think that I can somehow control my circumstances and help them turn out the way I think is best. 

Thank goodness God is smarter and much more powerful than me because I do not know what I am doing.  If it were up to me to fix things, who knows how things would end up, and I'd kill myself getting there. 

If faith means I have to trust God and His path for me, then I have to talk to God in prayer about EVERYTHING.  

At this point, some might wonder how I know I am not talking to air, especially considering all my family is going through right now.  My answer is, give it an honest try for yourself.  I promise that if you make the effort to talk to God and ask him to help you, you will be filled with the Holy Spirit.  

You will feel His presence and peace when you look for it.  That's how good things happen, even in the worst of circumstances.  God will wrap me (and you) in His arms if we look for Him in everything that is around us.  

As Michael Hobbs puts it in his daily devotional A Servant's Song

"There is no problem for which God does not have an answer! The secret is to let God give us His answer, not insist that He accept ours."
So, as much as I am heartbroken by what is going on in my family right now, I know God is using this brokenness.  He is the ultimate Healer.  I have to trust that what is in front of me each step along the way is orchestrated by God to turn the bad into good.  If I blink, I might miss the hands or face of Christ at work in my life, and I know I don't want to miss something that extraordinary!

"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."  -Romans 10:13

*That picture at the top of this page is one example of the many ways God is reaching out to me when I needed reassurance right now.  How is God reaching out to you?

To read more posts on Mom's story, use the links below:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Redefining Extraordinary

In case you couldn't tell already, I am not a consistent blogger.  I write when the mood hits me if I can find the time.  I have to be honest.  I am not in the mood to write today, but I am going to because I can feel the man upstairs pushing me to sit down in front of my computer.  Just a forewarning, I have no idea what is going to come out in this blog...

The last time I posted something was May.  And let me tell you, a lot has happened in my life since May.  We celebrated my husband's birthday, Mother's Day, and Father's Day in our house.  My sister and new husband moved in with us while they await the closing on their own house.  We enjoyed salt air and summer time boat rides.  We got to be a part of several beautiful weddings.  Our family of five went to Pawley's Island for a week long vacation with my husband's ginormously wonderful family.  My middle baby, now big boy, started kindergarten and my oldest went to third grade.  One of my best friends turned 40 and is still hot (I might add).  Carver decided to try out organized tackle football.  The list of events in our lives over the past few months goes on and on.  And this is how life goes for many of us.

The thing is, this list doesn't even begin to go below the surface of our very busy summer.  I started this blog over a year and a half ago while I was on bed rest with Gracen.  And today, since I began writing without knowing my purpose, I have to remind myself where I was headed with this blog in the first place.  Take a look at what I wrote in my very first blog post in reference to Oh the Places You'll Go:
  Life is definitely a journey, and the "Great Places" Dr. Seuss describes are not necessarily about traveling to far away, exotic places and becoming rich and famous for our ambitious accomplishments (even though that is a possibility). Instead, "Great Places" are for us to recognize and embrace in our here and now. "Great Places" are not an accident or luck of the draw, nor are they limited by our circumstances. Going to"Great Places" is about how we intentionally and conscientiously choose to focus our time and energy. "Great Places" exist in even the most ordinary daily lives, and if we visit them with eyes wide open, they can turn our ordinary lives into extraordinary ones.
I want to recognize and appreciate my own "Great Places." That is the whole point of my blog. For this to happen, I need to be what Dr. Seuss so cleverly terms a "mind-maker-upper." I have to stop getting caught up in my own routine rat race. Oh, the Places You'll Go! isn't just a fun and inspirational graduation book. It provides an ingenious way to welcome each of our todays, "with brains in your head and feet in your shoes," you and I can choose to be mind-maker-uppers. I can't wait to see where this revelation takes me.
Well, many of you that know me also know that I am not, at least at first glance, in one of those "Great Places" in life at the present moment.  To catch up, feel free to check out the Caring Bridge sight we have created for my mom and read her story (  She was diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic breast cancer that has spread to her lymph nodes, spine, and skull.  Our biggest hope is that Mom's experience can change people's lives and hopefully save some.

So back to my blog, I think I was supposed to write to you today to share my story of faith.  My mom, my sister, and I are as close as it gets.  My mom has been the rock in our lives.  She is an amazingly strong woman, and she loves us the way every mother should love her children.  She has taught us to be independent, intelligent, strong women who know how to face life and face it with grace.  You can imagine how devastating this recent news has been to us.

It's a bad situation.  At the same time, I know there are millions of people out there who suffer in their own burdens.  This is just part of life.  The only good and perfect unchanging, everlasting gift is from above.  God is using me and this situation to reach out to His children who need reaching.  I am here.  My heart is open, and I am listening. 

My faith has never been stronger than it is right now.  My relationships with my mom, my sister, my husband, her husband, and my children have never been more pure, close, and more connected to our Heavenly Father.  That, friends, is the extraordinary part of my ordinary life.  There is nothing more beautiful than being able to find joy and peace in the middle of such a heartbreaking situation.  I am living proof of what faith is all about.  God, through His son, Jesus Christ, is my constant source of "extraordinary" in my ordinary life, regardless of my circumstances.  I have no idea what tomorrow will bring, but I know that I have all I need for what is ahead.  And even better, I know it is going to be amazing because God is in charge.  My greatest strength, I am finding, is in my weakest moments.

I pray for all who read this blog today.  May you be moved by the Holy Spirit.  May God bless you and keep you, wrapping you in His arms and walking with you on your way and guiding you in all of your days to come, giving you comfort and peace.  Amen.

To read more posts on Mom's story, use the links below:

Happy Father's Day!

Doesn't get much better than a homemade bowtie, especially designed for Dad.  Isn't it beautiful?  Please notice the beautiful neon green with orange and purple tiger paw embellishments.   Lyles, my five year old, was so excited to surprise Daddy with this fashionable accessory to his professional wardrobe.  In fact, Chip had strict instructions to keep his tie on all day at work.  And you know what?  He did! 

Happy Father's Day to all the wonderful dads in the world.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Happy Birthday Gracen!

Another extraordinary...our little miracle baby turns a year old April 23, 2012.  We've come a long way from our uncertain bed resting days, my little angel, when we were up against horrible odds and scary scientific reality.  What a difference a year makes!  All of God's grace in one sweet little face, for sure. 
April 23, 2011
8 lbs. 3oz.

April 23, 2012
19 lbs. 12oz.

If you need to see to believe, just look in these sweet little eyes.  God is amazing and the power of prayer is life changing!  Thank you, Lord, for the perfect gift you have given us in Gracen.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Weddin' Time Y'all

Mere and me at her bridesmaids' luncheon.

My sister's wedding on March 30th of this year was definitely an extraordinary event in my ordinary life.

On the funny side, I would like to draw attention to a few things I learned from my experience as the matron of honor in a family wedding.  In fact these things should probably be listed as disclaimers prior to participating in the festivities.  1) Saying weddings "bring out the best in everyone" is most certainly full of sarcasm.  2) Weddings are not days, they last all week and they are exhausting.  Pacing yourself is necessary and may require training similar to running a marathon.  3) Blowups, emotional meltdowns, fighting, sleep deprivation, lateness, and all out crazy talk are pretty much guaranteed multiple times over the course of wedding events.

My toast, that I had all intentions of giving at the rehearsal dinner, is a prime example of the disclaimers mentioned above.  I worked on the toast for weeks before the wedding to find just the right words for my sister's special occasion.  It was typed, printed, and ready to go on my desk at HOME.  Of course, that doesn't do me any good when I am on a boat in the Harbor in front of my sister, soon-to-be husband, and our closest friends and family members.  In my panic, I realized I could pull the toast up on my iPhone; but as soon as I stood up to speak, my emotions just overflowed.  Man, I tell you that toast would have been good. I don't even know what really came out. I just know that at that moment, I looked at my sister, and I was overcome with how much I love her and how thankful I am that I have her in my life.  The tears started coming and all the tiny words on my iPhone ran together.  So much for being able to read my toast to keep me from turning into a blubbering mess!  So, in an effort to redeem myself, I am going to share the toast that was "supposed to be."

From the day mom and dad brought you home from the hospital, Mere, I was hooked.  Even though I was only 4, I remember them laying you down on the middle of their king size bed to sleep.  I wanted to hold you so bad but you just kept sleeping.  Thank goodness Dad was as ancy as I was…he taught me how to sneak in the room and give you kisses on your little bald head without waking you up.  If your had any hair fuzz when you left the hospital, we surely kissed it all off by the end of your fist day home.

And that was the start of our sisterhood.  I had big plans for us, and we hit the ground running from there.   Life has always been more fun with you in it.  Who knew driving through the neighborhood could be so exciting when mom hit those curvies with just the right jerk of the wheel?  Remember the tacky, tacky deer and hee, hee, hee moments that only you and I understood?  Flying down our stairs on gymnastics mats, doing acrobatics on our collapsing trundle, dance routines and Whitney Houston, shopping with Granny’s money all by ourselves…I have to add temperature taking; it’s a wonder we’re here in one piece.  We knew how to find trouble…the splatter painting your room incident I blamed on you, peeing in your trash can, photocopying our best sides and leaving the evidence behind in mom’s office, that high speed, plunging water slide Rikki and I convinced you was such a blast to go down- that gave you nothing but water up your nose and the biggest wedgie of your life…just a few of our best moments.

All those hours of playing house under the stairs with our baby dolls have helped to prepare you for the real deal.  You are my best friend and an amazing aunt to my three boys. You are a feisty, sensitive, loving, firecracker of woman with an enormous heart. Luke is a lucky man. 

Chip and I will have been married 10 years this year, and I have always said that every woman deserves a man who loves her as much as my husband loves me.  I am so thankful Meredith has found that in you, Luke.  I knew you were a keeper from the first time I met you the weekend of Erin’s wedding.  Our family is bigger and better with you in it.  Luke, I want to welcome you and all of the Hutchins’ crew to our family where more is merrier. 

Congratulations on your marriage, Mere and Luke.  We look forward to this next chapter... I want to raise a glass to both of you.  To a life that is better together.  May your marriage be filled with constant love, abiding faith, undying hope, and the grace to forgive each other when you screw up…because you will screw up…and cheers to children of course!  Love you both.
In all seriousness, Mere and Luke's wedding was amazing.  It is a blessing to be able to celebrate happy moments as a family, big and small.  Congratulations to two of my favorite people. 

Monday, February 27, 2012


"So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up."     -Galatians 6:9

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


This is a picture I took of a small potted tulip blooming on my back porch.  It's amazing how something so simple can be so beautiful and reflect a message so much bigger than itself.

Life happens.  It does.  We get caught up in it.  Whether it sweeps us off our feet with joy, drowns us in its business, rocks us to sleep in its monotony, or smacks us in the face with its abruptness, life happens. 

For those of you that know me, I have been drifting high on life since experiencing the birth of my third little boy, Gracen.  He has definitely swept our family off our feet.  That boy is pure unexpected joy, straight from Heaven.  I believe he is living proof of the power of prayer.  Man, life is good.  God is amazing, and we couldn't be more thankful.  I have spent the last nine months since he was born thanking God for his undeserved, extraordinary gift, trying to figure out how to live my life in a way that reflects my indescribably ginormous gratefulness and thankfulness. 

Then a month ago on a Saturday night, my husband and I had a much needed date night.  Finally, a night to hear each other talk, something we don't get to do often with three boys fighting for air time.  On the way to dinner I got the phone call.  It was my dad.  His sister, my aunt, my Uncle Jimmy's wife of fifty years, the mother of four of my cousins, wasn't feeling well and had lost a lot of weight.  She was in the hospital.  Cancer.  It was all over her body.  It was incurable.  There was nothing doctors could do.  My aunt was 68 years young.  A week later, she was gone.

Bam!  Life smacked me in the face.  Just like that.  Like a huge splash of freezing cold water first thing in the morning, I was awake!  As obvious and cliche as it sounds, the news hit me like a ton of bricks.  I couldn't stop crying.  I was overcome with guilt.

Now, let me back up and give you a little background and personal confession on my guilt.  I come from a divorced family.  My parents split up when I was 6 years old, and it was not an amicable split to say the least.  The split rocked my family, immediate and extended, to the core.  Don't get me wrong, time did heal things for my sister and me, and we were able to accept our situation for the better.  But, time also created distance, especially from our dad's extended family.  Life goes on.  We grew up, and I have added to our family tree.  But, the undeniable guilt that welled up in my throat when I got my dad's phone call was most definitely from the fact that I let a woman, my aunt, go from my life without letting her know how much I respect, admire, and love her often enough.  I sure hope she could feel the power of my prayers and my family's prayers, if nothing else.

When bad things happen to good people, I find myself grasping for understanding.  Do you ever do that?  As many times as I have searched for answers, I have yet to come up with a good answer for suffering.  But what I have come to know, Beth Moore, a woman with a true gift for sharing her faith in Christ, explains beautifully.
The truth is, God uses change to change us.  He doesn't use it to destroy us or to distract us but to coax us to the next level of character, experience, compassion, and destiny (from So Long Insecurity).
I am awake. God.  I am listening. My aunt's life, from its very beginning to how she came to be with You so soon, is full of Your loving purpose.  To me, my Aunt Carolyn was full of warm, tight hugs, ridiculously delicious southern cooking, sweet smiles, kind words, and a humble, serving spirit.  People were lined up out the doors of the funeral home to pay their respects to this quiet, loving lady, daughter, sister, pastor's wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, neighbor, and friend.  Carolyn Highsmith lived a life "clothed with strength and dignity (Proverbs 31:25)" that can only come from a deep faith in Jesus Christ.  Her faith, her life, is an inspiration, a legacy.

I am inspired by my Aunt Carolyn's story.  For all of us that knew her, Carolyn Highsmith will have a lasting impact on us, making us better in just the right ways.  In my case, I am reminded how precious family is.  Life is unpredictable, uncertain, and busy, but that is life.  That should not be the way it is with family.  We need family in our lives to give us unconditional predictability, certainty, and a place to be still.  It seems to me that family is God's way of wrapping us up in His arms when we need it the most on this Earth.  Family, by it's very nature however you define it, is a comfortable and familiar stronghold of roots, despite personal differences and the chaotic world around us.  Family offers us refuge at just the right moments.  Family roots allow us to bloom in our own ways, in our own time.  Thank goodness for family.  Thank goodness I was lucky enough to have Aunt Carolyn in my life.

A side note to my family near and far, blood related and adopted- you are all near and dear to me.  No matter how much I see you, how often we get to talk, how different or alike we are, you are a huge part of the woman I am and the woman I will become.  I pray for you and think of you often.  I love you, and I am thankful for you.  And yes, I know I am terrible at reaching out to everyone.  It's really the balancing act I struggle with, I believe. Nonetheless, I am a work in progress, and I promise to keep working on it.  I hope you can love me anyway!