If Gerbils Could Talk, What Would They Say?

Gerbils. I feel sorry for them. It’s the same thing everyday. They wake up, eat, and then their idea of excitement is hitting that spinning wheel. You know the one? The one that takes them nowhere but around and around. Some life, huh?

But ya know what? I bet you’re more like a gerbil than you think. Do you find yourself doing the same thing every day? Same wake up time. Same breakfast. Same route to work. Same ———. (fill in your “same” here)

I’m more like a gerbil than I realize. I’m very routine. It helps keep me on track. I try to run at the same time every day. Read my Bible at the same time every day. In fact, I rarely shake things up. But, thank God for Wednesday! No, not Friday, Wednesday.

Wednesday is one of 2 days that I take off from running. It’s a day that I pop in a Focus T25 Stretch DVD from Beachbody. (Thanks Shaun T) It’s a hard core stretch workout, complete with some yoga, focus stretching, and breathing. It’s not as intense as a long run, or hill repeats, but I actually feel a bit more refreshed. It’s different. And, it’s a change to my routine.

That said, basically everything else in my day remains the same. (Insert shoulder shrug emoji) But, this subtle change has me thinking about a few more ways to alter my normal routine. What if I change the day I vacuum? (Every Friday) Read my Bible in a different spot. (Maybe by the Lake, or in the front living room) Or, cook breakfast for dinner! (My alarm goes off at 3:30a.m. so, I don’t often get a normal breakfast)

Now, not all routines are bad. But, what about you? Maybe it’s a need to break a bad routine, and create a new, “healthier” one. Try taking a walk. Try a new recipe. I’ve even found lots of enjoyment, and benefit, reading a new Proverb every day. It works great! There’s 31 days in most months, and 31 Proverbs. (But if I keep doing this, does that become, ‘routine’?) Anyway..

Are you finding yourself on the spinning wheel? Doing the same thing every day? Step back. Look at your day. What can you change, or alter? Or, I’ll say it this way, if Gerbils could talk, what would they say to you?

Thanks for reading. Break up your routine, and instead of just hitting delete, hit that Subscribe button. Keep making a difference, and Run By Faith.

P.S. That’s one routine I pray you never change.

#Planksquad: We Can Do Hard Things

It happened Dec 29, 2019. I put a simple challenge out on Facebook, wondering if any of my friends would like to join me for a 30-day plank challenge. I figured, “Why not start January in epic fashion? I’m going for a 5 minute plank in 30 days.” A plank is designed to strengthen your core, chest, and arms. But, what good would it be doing it all alone? I wanted a tribe. Well, let me tell you, I was NOT alone!

One by one, I began receiving notifications saying, “You have a new message.” Every time I opened the message, I saw things like, “I’m in!” or, “It sounds pretty crazy, but I’m up for a challenge“. One of those messages was from my wife, Patty. Another was from my friend, and Race Director of Gazelle Girl race, Holly. It seemed to make sense to make this more than just an idea for myself. I love the Bible verse that says, “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing”. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

A few years ago, I remember Holly inviting a few friends into a plank challenge. She called it her, “Planksquad”. This seemed like a great idea to resurrect! So, we created a new tribe,”#Planksquad”. To help create more of a sense of community, the three of us decided to begin posting pictures of ourselves planking. Not for vanity, but for accountability and community! We wanted people to share with others the, “hard things” they were accomplishing.

As each day went by, we heard from new people who wanted to jump into our #planksquad. Yes, they were willing, even if they missed the first few days. It totally showed us that people are willing to join something bigger than themselves. (that’s what community is all about, right?) One of our #planksquad-ers, Carrie, said, “I’m in! Cranked out side planks, too. Thought I would add extra since I missed yesterday.” Julie, in Florida, said, “I’ll join you! I’m almost always up for an exercise challenge.” Paul messaged me, “I’m in, but I need the accountability!” Then there was Patrick. Patrick posted a pic of himself, and his son, saying, “Building the strength of the next generation.” Wow!

As the month went by, the planks got longer, and harder. Longer planking equals more time ‘inside of your head’. So, just how does someone pass planking time? For me, I popped headphones in, and found songs that equaled the time of each plank. Like, “Jessie’s Girl” from Rick Springfield. Great for my 3 minute plank. (It comes in at 3:16.) Patty cranked up, “Desire” from U2. Great for her 3 minute plank. (It comes in at 3:29) Holly found herself mixing things up between songs, and reading out of her, “God Calling” devotional. A great way to build mind and body.

As the month passed by, each of us commented on how great we were feeling. We noticed that our core was getting tighter. And, we felt stronger in our arms. This really is working!

The real game-changer happened on Monday, January 27. God gave me a vision of getting as many of our #planksquad together to do a unified 5 Minute plank, in the same location. Remember, “WE can do hard things!” So, why not do these ‘hard things’ together? As Patty, Holly and I chatted, Holly reached out to one of her friends, Ed, at City Built Brewing in Grand Rapids. It was on! We arranged an impromptu #planksquad meet-up. We had no idea who would show up. But, you never know til you try, right?

January 30, 2020: The night that would live in infamy.

Day 30. Holly arrived at City Built Brewing first. She was chatting with Ed. Next, Patty and I arrived with our yoga mat. There were several people who wanted to be there, but already had prior commitments. Well, we were the only ones there for about 10 minutes. (The question of “would anyone show up?” went through our minds) That was until we saw Rose. Then Rachel. Next, was Brian. Followed by Betsey and Matt. Game on! Let’s DO this!

Ed took us back to a special part of the brewery, “the brew station”. This is the area where City Built creates their beer. We each grabbed our yoga mat, (mine made by Gaiam) got comfy, put located our headphones. As a tribe, I said a prayer of thanksgiving, and safety, for our #planksquad. We said, “Amen!” and we were ready to go.

I popped my headphones in. My song?? I went with, “Metal Health” by Quiet Riot. Odd choice, I know. But, it has a kickin’, driving beat, and is 5:22. Patty went with, “Don’t Fear The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult. Holly went with, “Rage Against The Machine”.

As time went by, we all shouted encouragement to each other. 5 minutes is a LONG time! Basically, the volume on each song got louder, as the minutes got longer.

Legs were shaking. Sweat was forming. Mental grit activated. Then, TIMER! 5 minutes! It was finished! The #planksquad goal was accomplished!

We all got up, cheered and clapped. “We did hard things!” What a feeling! To do something that has been 30 days in the making, together, makes it even tastier!

#planksquad Goal accomplished!

OK, so now what?

As we rolled into February, Patty, Holly and I knew this whole thing was something much bigger than ourselves. Together, we’ve decided to keep it going. Patty has created a sub-group inside of the #planksquad who want to plank, but at a bit of a slower pace. Shorter increases, looking for great results. Awesome, huh?

Meanwhile, we’re also currently in the midst of a, “31-Day Wall Sit Challenge“. And, once again, we have numerous amounts of people posting pics of themselves not only doing their wall sit, but also their planks, too. By day 31, we will be up to a 3:20 wall sit. (ugh my legs are shaking just thinking about it!) And yes, we’ve adopted 2 new hashtags. In addition to #planksquad, we have #BreakingDownWalls and #mindandbody.

In Genesis, the beginning of the Bible, God said, “It is not good for man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him“. (Gen 2:18) Friends, you were NEVER meant to do things by yourself. Knowing someone has your back really can push you through ‘hard things’.

What ‘hard things’ can YOU do? Wait. I bet you already have. Maybe you’ve battled a sickness. You’ve persevered through a struggle in a relationship. Even the loss of a loved one. (insert YOUR “hard thing” here) Take a second and reflect on how you’ve gotten through your ‘hard thing’. Chances are, someone in your “community” has helped you through it. I encourage you to take a second, and thank God for them. And hey, why not take it a step further? Send a text. Make a call. Simply say, “Thanks for helping me through some hard things!”

Find your tribe. Go make a difference. Do hard things. And, keep Running By Faith.

To receive more encouragement I’d love for you to subscribe to my blog. Feel free to drop me a comment about YOUR hard thing, and how you got through it.

They Call It Dopey For A Reason

Day 1 of the Disney Dopey Challenge

Sometimes, you sign up for a race, and think, “Yeah, I can do this!” Then, there are other times that you get to the race and think, “How am I ever going to do this!!” This pretty much sums my feeling as I approached the start line of the Walt Disney World Dopey Challenge.

Why is it called “Dopey Challenge”?

Complete all 4 Walt Disney World Weekend races on pace and earn not only the 4 individual event medals, but both Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge Medal and Dopey Challenge Medal—for a grand total of 6!

runDisney

That’s a total of 4 races in 4 days. Day 1 is a 5k. Day 2 bumps up to a 10k. Day 3 shoots you up to a Half Marathon. Day 4: The Disney Marathon. 4 races, 4 days. That’s a total of 48.6 magical miles!

This whole crazy idea started as my Pastor hinted that he and a friend were thinking of signing up for this race. I’d been training for my first marathon in the fall of 2016, so adding a few miles between my October race, and “Dopey” in January was not too big of a deal. So, in December of 2016, I noticed that there were a few openings left. I entered the race, and in the words of, “The Emperor’s New Groove” “Boom Baby” I was in!

In an earlier blog, I eluded to my experience with the Disney 5k. The 5k ran on a Thursday. It was a nice easy way to enter into the Dopey challenge. 3.1 miles of fun, entertainment, with very low key pressure.

The 10k took off at 5:30am. Yep, an early bird race. No issue for me,. as I am always at work by 4:30a.m. At the starting line, I ran into my Pastor from Michigan. Yes, Pastor Ken was the one that dropped this crazy idea into my head in the first place. We met up before the race. Had a time of prayer and encouragement, and we went to our separate corrals. It was a chilly morning by Florida standards, but great for running. 6.2 miles of fun, characters, pictures, and an amazing sunrise. Oh, and that sunrise, accompanied by Phil Collins’ “You’ll Be In My Heart” from the movie Tarzan was breathtaking!

As I finished, I noticed a fellow runner limping. I asked if she needed help. “If you could hold this little meal box, that would be great.” I gladly held it for her, as she was walking with an ice pack wrapped around her leg.

We chatted for a while. “My name is Joy”, she said. An interesting name for a woman who was in severe pain. She never complained about her knee. She was simply excited to be at the finish line, ready to see her husband and kids. She was choosing, Joy!

Disney does an amazing job helping to set the stage to an unforgettable experience. Complete with magical Disney music pumping through Epcot Center. Torches blazing around Epcot Center. And, smiles galore! That’s a two day total of 9.3 miles completed!

Then came Friday night…

We kept a close eye on the weather, as things were looking pretty stormy for Saturday Morning. We were to report to the starting line near 4:30am. Severe Thunderstorms were in the forecast. I thought, “Eh, no big deal!” Then, it happened. I received an email saying. “Due to severe storms, the Disney half marathon is cancelled.” Say what!?! How am I going to complete my Dopey challenge? This is my mission! My reason for signing up! So, I did what all committed runners would do, I mapped out my own 13.1 miles, and got my half marathon in!

An easy 13.1 miles. Yes, officially did a half!

I sent a text to my Pastor, and we decided to meet up and get our own 13.1 miles in. The funny thing is, we saw several runners out on sidewalks doing their own thing. Some of them were even wearing their bibs! Yes, I had to stop and grab a pic of this fellow Dopey runner!

Saw this fellow “Dopey runner” wearing her Bib. We had to take a pic!

Here is where things get quite interesting

I went to the Dopey Challenge at Disney with my friends DeWayne and Tony. DeWayne didn’t run, but Tony wanted to do the half marathon. But, when the half was cancelled, the amazing people at runDisney gave runners the option to bump up to the marathon at no extra charge. So what did Tony do? He bumped up! Now, Tony had only run as far as a 7 miles during his training. But, he still wanted to attack the full! Uh-mazing!!

Marathon Morning

We arrived at Disney by 5:00am, which in hindsight, was probably too late. So late, that Disney put us on one of their shuttles and whisked us to the starting line. Which, by the way, had a windchill warning in effect that morning. The windchill was 29 degrees. No biggie for this Michigander, but for others, it was a scene out of Frozen!

What an incredible 26.2 miles. Attractions every .5 miles. Treats, water, electrolytes, and FUN! Tony and I stayed together for about 22 miles of the race. We stopped quite often to take pictures of the scenery, the characters, and to soak in the ambiance. Then it happened.

Tony was spent! Tony fought cancer, and now he was fighting “the wall”. The wall is the moment in which runners experience a moment in which they feel like they just can’t go any further. I was super impressed that Tony had made it this far! “Go ahead. I’ll be alright”. Tony told me to leave him, and go finish the race. I struggled with this. We runners don’t leave friends behind. But he insisted. He just could not go any further. So I took off.

I loved running near, “The Green Army guys” from Toy Story. Snapping pictures, and shouting encouraging messages to fellow runners, while (spoiler alert) enjoying magical pieces of Dove Chocolate!

As I crossed the finish line, I teared up. Yep. I cried. No shame here! 48.6 miles in 4 days is NO JOKE! It was tough like Tarzan. Tiring, like Sleeping Beauty. And, magical like Tinkerbell.

Tony? Yep, he finished! He fought cancer, and he did what very, VERY few people have ever done – run a marathon without training! Now that’s Dopey!

48.6 miles of memories. 48.6 miles of smiles. 48.6 miles I would happily do all over again!

Think Twice Before Hitting Send

Your phone dings. Your wrist buzzes. You’re being notified.  Someone wants your attention. It’s a text! But what happens when you swipe to open the text?

Did you know that you can change someone’s day with a simple text? Encouragement in the palm of your hand! Think about it. It could be a co-worker needing help. A family member saying, “I love you”. Or, a friend asking for advice.

But, it can also be discouragement in the palm of your hand. Think about it. A co-worker ripping on another, causing you to do the same. A family member saying, “I’m sick of you”. Or, a friend saying something so harsh, it breaks your heart.

Today, I encourage you to think twice about that text before hitting send. Does it bring life? Or does it breed, “death”. You hold a pretty powerful weapon in your hand. That 3×6 inch device has the power to help speak “life” into someone. And, it can bring almost a “death” to the heart. Words last.

Remember getting a card, letter, or email, from someone you cared deeply about? Perhaps it was your first love! Oh, you held onto that thing for dear life! (My wife still has love letters from when we dated) It’s stored away in a drawer, a memory box, or even flagged in your inbox. Sometimes, you think of that person, you reach for the letter. and read it again. Why? Because it brings you feelings of love. But, what about the “breakup letter”? A rejection letter? A “letter of termination”? Chances are, you tossed it. Those things hurt to read. You don’t hold onto them, but they’re etched in your memory. You’re skin might be crawling even as you read this.

Today, there could be a text you revisit to bring you a feeling of peace and love.  Recently, my Aunt passed away. Our last text exchange went like this, I said, “I love you”. She said, ” you’re so sweet. I love you.” That is a text I will never delete!

Are there any texts you wish you had never sent? Or, texts you’re holding onto that need to be deleted?


I encourage you to stop, “bitter texting”, and delete any “harsh texts” you keep re-reading that do nothing but cause you pain.  Remember, build up, don’t tear down.

Text with care.  Run by faith. Go make a difference!

When You Have To Say Goodbye To A Loved One

Hello friends. I feel the need to post this short, short blog today.

My sister, Kelly, left this “home” 20 years ago today, January 9, 2001. She died from a nasty disease called Wegener’s Disease. Kelly was only 25.

I am grateful for the promise of Heaven. Kelly loved Jesus, and I have no doubt where she is today. She was always full of laughs, smiles, jokes, and lots of love. Kelly was my only sibling.

I’m asking you for a favor today. Would you take a moment and simply text/call your sibling (s), and say, “I Love You”? My sister is gone. I don’t have the opportunity to do this anymore. If you have a sibling, I encourage you to reach out today. It only takes a few minutes. Use an emoji if need be. Share a funny memory. Or, whatever is coming to your mind as you’re reading this. And, if need be, push differences aside, and reach out. It would mean a lot to me for you to simply connect.

Here is a picture of Kelly. I miss her, and look forward to seeing her again. And yes, I know that I will!

Go make a difference, and Run By Faith!

Walt Disney World 5k: I Didn’t Expect THIS During The Race

Day 1 of the Dopey Challenge. At the starting line for the 5k.

Ever sign up for a race, without being fully prepared for what’s in store? That’s what happened to me at the Run Disney 5k – part of the RunDisney Marathon Weekend at Walt Disney World Orlando, Florida. It’s also the first race of a 4 day challenge called “The Dopey Challenge”. (more about the Dopey Challenge in an upcoming blog)

Entering the Magic Kingdom

As we entered the Magic Kingdom, nothing can really prepare you for the first glimpse of the iconic welcome sign. Seriously, all the feels! I was swamped with the emotion of what’s ahead, combined with the excitement for the memories to be made.

We made our way to the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex for the Race Expo, and packet pickup. Let me tell you, I had NEVER been to a fitness expo quite like this! Vendors. Samples. Disney-Magic!

The RunDisney Expo is something to behold!
After packet pickup, we headed to our car, and went back to our place to rest up for the race

Thursday Morning

The alarm rang at 3am. Crazy enough, that’s not early for me, as my normal daily alarm rings at 2:45. Forecast was a touch on the cool side, so I grabbed my Saucony running jacket, laced up my Hoka running shoes, and was off to make a memory.

We headed to the “runner drop-off area”. Considering it was near 4:15 in the morning, everything was very well marked. Signs made it easy to navigate, and the volunteers were super friendly. DeWayne and Tony, two friends who embarked on this adventure with me, and I sat in the car to try and stay “warm”. Now, being a guy from Michigan, a temp of 55 in January was very comfy. But, when you’re standing around for 2 hours, it does get chilly. (Tommy tip: pack large garbage bags. Cut a hole in the bottom, and slide your head through it. Wear it as you wait for the race to begin. It locks in the heat)


I surely didn’t expect to run with Elsa, Buzz Lightyear, and Snow White!

I made my way to the coral area, and was greeted by runners not dressed as, “typical runners”, but as Disney characters. I surely didn’t expect to run with Elsa, Buzz Lightyear, and Snow White. This was a surprise to me! Perfect proof that this is designed to be a FUN 5k. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED seeing the costumes, and experiencing the vibes in the coral, I just never thought a starting line could be so FUN!

RunDisney does a fantastic job pumping up the crowd. There’s music playing, announcers playing the part of a “hype-man”, (I seriously want this job!) and every time that a wave of runners is released onto the course, they shoot off fireworks. That’ll put a little Zip a dee doo dah in your pre-sunrise activities.

The 5k Race

The 5K is a fun race for everyone, great for adults, kids and teens—from beginners to veteran runners and every level in between!

RunDisney

I failed to mention that I signed up for the Dopey challenge in December. Yes, 1 month before the actual Marathon weekend. That said, I was placed into the last coral for every race. Not a big deal, but it did make a difference for me. Why? Because when I crossed the timing mat, I was surrounded by people walking the 5k. Please hear my heart on this, walking a 5k is 100% acceptable, and totally fine! My wife is one tough mama, and rocks out a very brisk walking pace! I just didn’t want to be “that guy” and spend time weaving in and out of people, and making them feel “less than”. (I hope that just made sense) The runners were amazing on the course. Nobody gave me a harsh look, (as far as I know) and we all cheered and laughed with each other.

Running around Epcot before the sunrise is something I will never forget!

I love how Disney makes this a true “experience” race. Every 1/2 mile, there is some kind of activity, or character, to entertain you. There are lots of photo-ops with the characters, so make sure you bring your phone/camera with you. Just make sure that you shoot the video “the correct way”! I will share this video with you, although I shot it sideways.

Sorry for the sideways video. But I think it’s worth viewing.

Normally, I run races and watch my pace. This race, was all about having fun. I did have the timer on my watch going, I just didn’t set out to make it all about the “finishing time”. I made it all about the “memory time”.

As I came across the finish line, I never thought that there would be such a large medal at a 5k race. But, this is Disney!

Again, sorry for the sideways video. But, I had to show you the medal, and the awesome volunteers! (always remember to thank them for their time!)

You will LOVE the Walt Disney World 5k. Every runner receives:

  • 5K Finisher Medal
  • On-Course and Post-Race Refreshments

  • Participant Shirt –
  • Personalized Race Bib
  • Virtual Goody Bag
  • Downloadable Finisher Certificate

Feel free to subscribe to my blog, and drop a comment. In my next blog, I will detail the Walt Disney World 10K. Til then, keep making a difference, and Run By Faith!

I’m Letting You In On A Little Secret

Well, here we go!

Here we are, 2020. Sounds so futuristic, huh? It’s a new year, a new decade, a brand new beginning. So, as I write my first blog of the year, I thought I’d let you in on a little secret to how I’m beginning the year.

A few years ago, my Pastor challenged the church to begin the year doing something called, “The Daniel Fast”. It’s a 21 day fast in which you eat no meat, drink no coffee or alcohol, eat no sugars or sweets, and really put a focus on God. Whew! Yeah, this is serious!

My wife, Patty, and I took the challenge last year, and we each lost over 10 pounds in the 21 days. It was also an incredible way to be introduced to many healthy foods that I had skipped over for way too many years. Foods like Black Bean Hummus, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, Spaghetti Squash, Black Bean burgers, Oatmeal, plus several fruits and other veggies.

The initial launch into the fast was admittedly tough. I had caffeine withdrawals, and a slight headache, for the first 3 or 4 days. But, after that subsided, I really felt great!

As a runner, I did realize I was lacking an intake of protein. Often times, after a run, I grab a slice of Turkey, or eat cheese. But, because both of those are NOT allowed during Daniel Fast, at times, I felt sluggish after a workout. So, I had to learn to adjust a bit. I began eating more nuts. I also learned that Broccoli is a very good source of protein, as is Quinoa. Once I figured that out, I was able to get some energy back.

Spiritually, I spent more time reading the Bible, and praying. (This is something that Daniel did in the Bible) I also journaled my experience. In fact, I have journaled daily for the last 3 years. I love looking back and reading about what I was going through, what was happening in the life of my family, and taking inventory on what God had done for me on that day. If you currently don’t journal, I highly recommend you starting this simple task! It is a life changer.

Preparing a fresh fruit bowl for day 1 of Daniel Fast

Interested in joining this 21 day journey with me? To launch into 2020 in a different kind of way? Drop a comment below, and I will keep you in prayer.  We all could use it! I also invite you to subscribe to my blog for other ideas, and inspiration.  Here’s to 21 days of change, to help you Run By Faith!

A New Year’s Resolution That Won’t Fail

Every year you say it, “Oh this is the year. I’m sticking to my resolution!” Yeah right! We keep resolving to lose weight, eat healthier, stop doing this, start doing that. Enough already!

A few years ago, I was asked to be the voice to an audiobook called, “My One Word” by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen. I’d never heard of this book before I walked into the recording booth, but I tell you what, it’s changed me.

“The concept of My One Word is simple. Lose the long list of resolutions – all your sweeping promises to change – and do something about one thing this year instead of nothing about everything”. Straight and to the point, huh? “Choose just one word that represents what you most hope God will do in you, and focus on it for an entire year”.

I was immediately hooked. As I voiced this audiobook, I pictured lives being changed. Resolutions ditched. Promises broken no more. But how do you pick one single word? Good question! For me, it is through prayer. I simply ask God what He wants to do in me. And, I also dig a little deeper into my own life and see what I need to change. Crazy enough, they both always line up beautifully.

Here’s a screenshot if you’d like to listen to the My One Word audiobook.

To give you an idea, here are the words I’ve chosen for the last 3 years. 2017 was Opportunity. 2018 was Inspire. 2019 was Transform.  That said, these words really do change you!

In 2017, I chose Opportunity. That same year, my job changed. Corporate America pulled our morning show into a meeting, and pulled the plug. Wow! That’s not the opportunity I was thinking about. Yet, God opened a door to a new opportunity. A new job at a new radio station in JOY 99. One that could not have happened, unless the door was closed on my former station, to make way for this new opportunity. He also brought opportunity in my passion for running with new races, and new friendships. Friendships that have deepened. Friendships that have grown me and challenged me. Friendships I still have today!

2018 was a fresh new start with a new radio station in Joy 99. An opportunity to Inspire people. Not just on the radio, but in my running community. You see, I love people. I love getting to know them. Hearing their struggles, and letting God open an door to an Inspiring word! I had training runs where we laughed, we swapped stories of struggles, and sometimes there were tears. But, whether I had the opportunity to inspire someone, or someone inspired me, inspiration was always a common theme.

As you focus on your word over an extended period of time, you position yourself for God to form your character at a deep, sustainable level. Growth and change will result.

Mike Ashcraft

And this last year, I wanted to Transform my life. From health, to my running goals. From helping to shape people’s lives, to letting God transform me. Well, it has worked. I’m healthier. I’ve shaved 7 minutes off of my Marathon time. God has opened doors for me to create some deeper relationships with friends, and yes, my time with God has been special. He’s done some needed ‘surgery’ in my own life, too. He’s transformed me in many ways. ALL for the better!

So, what about you? What will be your “focus” for 2020? I encourage you to skip the resolution, and try focusing on One Word. Drop a comment, and let me know what your One Word for 2020 will be? And, if you’re interested in picking up this book, it’s available through Zondervan Publishing at Zondervan.com or simply search for the audiobook.  I’d count it a privilege to have the opportunity to inspire you as the voice of My One Word and transform your life, too.

Sometimes, Christmas Makes Me Cry

“Sometimes, Christmas makes me cry.” What an odd Christmas lyric, huh? Especially in the midst of “It’s the most wonderful time of the year”.  But, it’s true. Christmas and tears can be a thing. And, this isn’t the, “Jason’s home from college” Folger’s commerical tears, either. So, what’s up with this?

There’s ugly sweaters. Christmas parties. And, much mistletoeing. Yet, you feel empty. Why? It’s called grief, and it’s a real thing.

Whether you’ve recently lost a loved one, and this is your first Christmas apart, or it’s been over 10 years – it can still suck the life out of you. You walk around and see everyone saying, “Merry Chritmas Darling’, and you’re asking yourself, “Where’s my Joy to the world?”

First of all. I’m sorry. I hate that you’re going through this. Grief sucks. It’s painful, it’s hard to talk about, and it leaves a whopping hole in your heart. I know, because I’ve been there.

It was Christmas, 2000, when my world changed. Christmas morning, my sister, Kelly, was fighting a disease called Wegener’s. Wegener’s basically shuts down your organs. (This is the cut to the chase definition) Anyway, that Christmas morning, she was dealing with more pain, and she needed to be seen by a Doctor. That morning, her journey to the finish line began. She was admitted into the hospital, and never left. January 9, 2001, Kelly slipped into the arms of Jesus.

I miss her. She never got an opportunity to watch my family grow. And, every Christmas, something is missing. Now don’t get me wrong, I know she’s with Jesus in Heaven. Before she died, I asked her “the million dollar question”, ‘Have you asked Jesus into your life?’ She assured me, “yes!”  So, even though she’s not here, I know she’s enjoying eternity in Heaven. That’s the best day ever!! Yet, a hole still exists.

That was 18 years ago, and I still miss her.

It seems that lately, I’ve encountered many people dealing with grief this time of year. I spoke  with a woman who suddenly lost her husband. A friend who is missing his best friend. A young mom who still misses moments  spent with her mom. These are real conversations, with real people, experiencing real grief.

I want you to know something –  time does help. But, that doesnt mean it goes away.

We find ways to honor our loved ones. A toast. A tattoo. A memorial. I think all of those are amazing things. But, then there’s the moment when you come across that Molassess Cookie recipe handwritten by your Grandma before she died. One look at that paper, and you begin to tear up. What’s up with that? It’s a piece of paper with ink that’s been in your cupboard for years. Simple. Smudged. Stained. Or, maybe it’s an ornament. Even Facebook, when that ‘memory’ pops up that nobody else can see, but you. And again, the tears begin to flow.

So how do you deal with it?Runners might lace up their shoes and hit the trail. Readers might bury themselves in a novel. Some work overtime with a goal of simply making it through another day.

Then, there are some who choose substance abuse, seclusion, and some contemplate suicide. All of these are not healthy. Please seek help! Professional help. Counselors are trained for things like this. And, asking for help is NOT a sign of weakness.

J.D. Greear writes, “In times of suffering, we have three options. We can (1) abandon our faith in God, (2) ignore the pain, or (3) allow the pain to drive us deeper into the gospel. Only by allowing the Gospel to speak to our deepest hurts will we ever gain the true hope and comfort our souls yearn for”.

If you’re lacking peace, love, joy or hope, caused by grief, please know that Jesus is there for you, too.

My hope, and prayer, is that you find hope and comfort in the midst of your grief. For me, I found that in Jesus. I encourage you to seek him, too. He IS my counselor. He IS my peace. He IS my hope. He IS my source of joy. Yes, even at times when Christmas makes me cry.

The Email and Conversation That Changed My Life

I love parties. I love to throw them, and I love attending them. It’s quite an honor to be invited, don’t you think? Out of all of the people you know, and surround yourself with, YOU are chosen. Or, if it’s your party, you’re choosing others to hang with. That’s pretty powerful.

An invitation is a pretty special thing. Some invites are casual and word of mouth. Some are posted on social media. And some are so special, they come sealed in an envelope.

I remember a specific email I received a few years ago. It was from a listener to my radio show, Crissy. Crissy heard me talking on the air about my passion for running. She sent an email inviting me to meet up with her run group from Gazelle Sports some Saturday morning. (I didn’t even know that run groups even existed) I held onto that email, and was grateful for her invitation.

Fast forward a months. I was at Gazelle Sports, and began chatting with one of their workers, Aleksandra. Guess what she did? She invited me to run with their Gazelle Sports run group some Saturday morning. That’s 2 people, that I barely knew, giving me an invite to join the same run group!

So, one Saturday morning, I took Aleksandra up on her offer. I sheepishly walked into a room filled with other runners. I didnt know anyone but Aleksandra. As we headed out for our miles, I heard another voice saying, “Tommy, you made it. I’m Crissy who emailed you a few months ago inviting you to join us.”

Crissy and Aleksandra changed the trajectory of my running routine. Before their invite, I was a solo runner. An ear bud runner. In my own head with my own thoughts. It’s like I was a different man!

It reminds me of another amazing story about a guy whose life was changed by an invitation. He was paralyzed, and spent his life on a bed. But, he had some amazing friends who invited him to go see this man who was walking around healing people. They tried getting into this “healing session” but it was too crowded. So, they figured out a way to lower him down from the roof, and placed him at the feet of the Healer. “Your sins are forgiven…rise up and walk.” (You can read this story in the Bible, Luke Chapter 5)

Those friends, because of their investment, and invitation, helped change this man’s life. Jesus forgave his sins, and he was longer bound to a bed. It’s like he was a different man.

As we approach Christmas, who, in your life, needs an invite. An invite to church? An invite to a party? An invite to coffee? Your invite might change someone’s trajectory, and make them a different person!

Now, go make a difference and run by faith!

Crissy is on the far right! Also pictured are Dan and Janene. We took this on a “Christmas Lights run” through Grand Rapids!
Here I am with Aleksandra on that very first Saturday run with Gazelle Sports.
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