The Making of Beauty

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This summer has been a remodeling project of sorts.  We have an area in the back yard that used to be for my vegetable garden, but with a new job and summer traveling, vegetables tend to not get taken care of. So my oldest son came up with a brilliant idea – a flower garden with a path and a pond! It has been fun to work with my son – he is very creative and loves to solve problems!  Here is the pictorial documentary of our progress;

After clearing out all of the weeds and debris, breaking rock into smaller pieces to make the path. My son loved this part of the project!

Placing of the stones for the garden path!

Sections of the completed path. There are actually 3 places to enter the garden!

Plants purchased and waiting to be “placed” in the garden!

Playing with plants can be very fun – trying to figure out the placement for this section of the garden! This turned out to be the final arrangement, with just a minor adjustment!

The plants are in the ground – well most of the them. There are 6 still left to be put in their permanent home. The large area in the front was going to be a pond, but now looks like it will have a table and chairs for some “quiet times” alone with the Lord!

This was a bit more challenging part of the garden. The plant on the right will trellis up the fence! It is a beautiful plant that we just picked up today. A wonderful addition to the garden!

My favorite plant – It has a bright pink flower and will trellis up the fence, unless we decide to get an actual trellis for it!

More pictures to come as we make progress.  the colors in the garden are food for my soul.  I feel like I am coming back to life again and can’t wait to spend time in the garden. The kids seem to be enjoying the garden as well, some were out dancing in the garden and others were just taking in all the sights and smells of the new garden.  This is a life-giving garden!  It is beauty that tells of the Glory of God!

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I Wanted to Run this Morning

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Some of you who know me well might be a bit confused about the title of this post because you know that I have been running a lot lately. But for the first time in over a year, I wanted to get up and run! Some runs are not about how fast you run each mile, but in the quality of the time you have while running. This morning was one of those runs where I ran well and had some good time to think and process life.

The past 16 months have been hard. Dealing with the loss of father’s death in March 2011 and the grief that has followed has been one of the hardest things I have had to go through. The only things that I can think of that would be harder would be the death of my husband or one of my kids. Even though I have been running over these past 16 months, I have not “felt” like running. I did it because I had signed up for races and knew I “needed” to run. There is a big difference between wanting to and needing to run.

This morning for the first time since my dad passed away, I am beginning to feel more like my “old” self although I will never BE the same as I was before my dad passed away.  I am beginning to laugh more and cry less.  I want to run rather than needing to put in the miles.  That is a huge shift in mindset.  From the time my dad passed away, running was my time to process, which for most of my runs meant my time to cry!  I was very thankful for dark sunglasses last summer because in the middle of a run or race almost anything could and did trigger thoughts of my dad and tears flowed freely. As a runner I struggled to find my stride, my confidence and really it took almost everything I had to get from the start line to the finish line in almost every race I did last year.  I think I had only 1 Personal Record (PR) last year.

This year I have been better and have a couple of PR’s. I have had to work on retraining my stride (I had a sprinter’s stride as a distance runner – not the best combination). The new stride is becoming more intuitive and I have recovered from my injury.

Grief surprised me in many ways, primarily in how long it took to process and work through it all.  There were times when I wondered if I would ever get to the other side. I was also surprised at how it affected my running.

Today while running, I felt good. Running seemed effortless and my brain started to think more creatively about life, work, kids and camps.  I finally found my stride and it felt great!  It felt good to be able to tackle the hills of the city I live in and make it to the top without much effort or at least feeling like I wasn’t expending much effort.

Today’s run made me realize that the hardest part of the process is over. From what others have told me there will always be a small part of me that will be grieving the loss of my dad and that there are certain years that will be hard. But for now, it is good to be able to laugh, to have visitors in my house and to enjoy life again. I still miss my dad a lot, but there has been a softening to the pain, to the hole that was left when he passed away. His last years were hard. the type of disease he had just sucked his life away slowly. It was hard to watch and yet I don’t have any regrets about those last years. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

This morning’s run gave me hope that I am moving on. So as I continue to run, I know that I will still cry at times, but I am hopeful that the shift in my thinking will be beneficial to my running in the long haul – but more importantly that I will be able to be much more creative in solving some of the trickier things in my life!

“I believe God made me for a purpose – but He also made me fast. When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” Eric Liddell, 1924 Olympic Gold medalist and Missionary to China. This is my all time favorite quote and this morning I felt God’s pleasure once again as I was running and it felt great.

Grandma’s – 6 years later. . . .

Six years ago I ran my first marathon.  I picked Grandma’s marathon because I was told that it was generally cool, had beautiful scenery and was relatively fast.

Running Grandma’s Marathon 6 years ago was one of the worst experiences of my life.  It was hot, humid, high dew point and no breeze off the lake.  I hit the wall at mile 15 and the last 11 miles were brutal.  But I continued to the finish because 5 pairs of eyes were waiting for me to finish!  After finishing in just under 6 hours, I thought to myself that I would never run this particular race again!

Fast forward to June 2012 – I was running Grandma’s again!

Why?  Because my son wanted to run it and was going to register.  I was not to sure what to expect.  I had already experience the worst – it could only get better – right?!?!?!

Arriving at the start line with a friend and my son, the temps were already in the low 60’s and a clear sky.  The sun was bright and strong.  It was not feeling like a good race.  We met up with some other friends and went to the start coral.  Another runner told us that the clouds were predicted to come around 10 AM – it was 7:30!  If we ran conservatively, we might be able to have enough for the 2nd half of the race.

There were four of us running together – Juli, the veteran runner (she was doing her 42nd marathon); Erin, running her 4th; Sarah running her first and myself doing marathon #9.  We decided to run the three miles to the first water stop and then do a walk/run pattern until we hit the midway point.  All was going well, but it was hot. Thankfully there was ice at each water stop and we used it liberally.

At mile 13, as predicted the clouds began to develop and the temps dropped 5-10 degrees! Since the first half of the race was so warm and ice and water were used to keep cool, + sweating profusely, I was now cold since, but the breeze off the lake and the cooler temps felt wonderful!  The next few miles went by relatively quickly and then. . . .

the hip began to hurt and I was starting to lag behind the group by just a few seconds.  Water stops were slower for me and I knew it would take all I had to finish.  But we were still doing well with pace.  By mile 18 we had to slow the pace since the hip was hurting but we were able to run up lemon drop hill at mile 22- albeit a slow run up the hill!  We continued the slower pace until mile 25 and then we ran the last 2 miles – slowly but we ran them.

And we all ran across the finish line together!  Crossing the line in 4 hours 35 minutes – a personal best for me by 9 minutes.

It was a beautiful day and even with the hip issue, I felt relatively good after I got a shower. But what made this marathon so much fun was running with friends from the start through the finish.  There was encouragement for those that were struggling, there was cheering when we needed it and we had the most amazing PIT CREW!  Maria and Jennifer met us at various points along the course with snacks, signs and big smiles.

Grandma’s has been redeemed!

Will I do it again – Probably!

Will I go back?  Probably!

Welcome to Taper!

Taper is the 3 weeks prior to running a marathon where the mileage is lower and the pace is slower.  I have been in taper for 2.5 weeks and the race is on Saturday. Coach Juli has a few rules for taper and I thin I have managed to break all of them this time around.

So what are the rules of taper?

Rule number 1 – watch what you eat.  For 15 weeks the miles have been increasing and generally I run at least 2 18 mile runs as well as 2-3 20 mile runs.  Running those kinds of distances, the body requires fuel and I can generally eat almost anything and still maintain my weight.  It takes some time for the body to catch on to the fact that the miles have gone down and it doesn’t require as much food.  However we are currently in graduation open house season and when one goes to at least 3 open houses per weekend, it is really hard to not gain weight!  Even limiting my self to just a small plate of food, doing that multiple times per weekend – it adds up and I have gained some weight.

Rule number 2 – don’t plan on wearing new clothes on race day – stick with the tried and true.  Um I just bought a new running skirt and am planning on wearing it on race day on Saturday.  Will take a trial run in it tonight!

Rule number 3 – Don’t start any big projects at home.  Well I have a son who is motivated to do some landscaping and building.  I have been pulling weeds, moving rock transplanting plants and moving dirt.  I don’t see a problem here as my son will do the heavy lifting of the rocks for the garden path and planting all the “new” plants in the garden.

The purpose of the taper is to let your body rest and recover so that by race day, you are good to go.  Rules are there to help you stick to the program and maintain all that you have worked for.

Rules are also meant to be broken!

Here’s to a great race on Saturday.  See you on Saturday Coach!

Back to the Basics!

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I have had a nagging injury for some time, in fact, I have not run much since the end of January.  The pain in my ankle has been intense.  It took some time to determine the nature of the injury and realize that in this case, time off will be the best healer!

The injury was a result of landing on my toes – running on tippy toes more or less! This caused the soleus muscle, the smaller muscle that makes up the calf, to become strained and stretched, resulting in a lot of pain near the achilles.  The movement causing the most pain – going up steps or standing on tip toes!  Basically I have a sprinters form as a distance runner – which is good for speed!

The fix – go back to the basics and drill drill drill!  I need to retrain the muscles and body how to run again!  I feel like a beginner again – learning how it “feels” to run!  I will be sore as I work through the drills and retrain and rethink running – but in the end, I should feel like I can run forever!

So if you see me and I look like I am sore – I probably am as muscles are worked and retrained!

The fundamentals are so important!

The BIG Snow!

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Winter in Minnesota has been almost none existent.  There have been a few “cold” days and some snow – but compared to what is normal – this is the winter that pretended to be winter!

The weathermen got our hopes up with predictions of 6-12 inches of snow and then 8-14 inches of snow.  Everyone was looking forward to the BIG SNOW STORM!

As we were waiting with anticipation, something stated to fall from the sky – but it was not snow – at least not in the south metro!  It was too warm.  We got rain!  Then the temps dropped and it went from rain to sleet to snow and back again!  When it did snow, they were big beautiful flakes!

This morning I was wondering if I was in a winter wonderland or the Spring thaw!

Winter Wonderland or Spring Thaw?

The swiftly flowing "river"

The Beauty!

Opulence

op·u·lence

Opulence is a fun word to say and the definition of this word – wealth, affluence, abundance – has given me much to think about!

I had a TCK tell me that one of the things she misses about her life as a TCK is the opulence of living overseas! I had to think about this for a minute, but my latest trip to Thailand gave me some great insight into her statement. I began to look at life abroad with different mindset and began to see things as a TCK might see life! If one looks for it, one can see the richness that fills their lives.  It is in the little things – things like:

Towel Art - The elephant that greeted me the first night in Thailand!

The Swans that graced my bed at the conference hotel!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This towel art was beautiful to look at and made coming back to the room a joy!  Upon entering the room and seeing these swans, peace and calm entered my soul – no matter what I had experienced during the day!  As a guest at the hotel, I felt like I was  important because  the room attendant took the time to to do this!

 

This beauty is not just limited to the room – there is “art” everywhere in Asia!

This flower picture changed frequently during my stay!

The elephant topiaries were amazing and detailed!

Food is an art in Asia - it is always displayed artistically

Some images from around the area;

I am sure that if I lived in Asia, I might begin to take all of this art and opulence for granted, but while I was there, it was a source of pleasure to me and made my stay in Asia so much more enjoyable.

However with all of this beauty around me, I was also reminded that there is spiritual oppression as well.  As I walked through the conference grounds and elsewhere in the city, there were many spirit houses and shrines (similar to this one);

Spiritual oppression as evidenced by the "spirit houses" and shrines.

There are times when I walk past these houses that I shiver as I think about the bondage of these beautiful people.  Pray for them that the eyes of their hearts will be opened to see the glorious truth of the gospel, that the blinders will be removed, that there will be many signing praises to the Lord at the end of the age!

A Very Practical Christmas

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Christmas 2011 has officially come and gone, but as Christians the spirit of Christmas lives in our hearts every day!  This Christmas we were very practical in our gift giving.  It started when my oldest posted her list of things needed for her trip to France.  Since she will be there almost 5 months, there were a few things she needed.  This list became “the list” for her Christmas gifts.  This started us down the road to being very practical with all of our gift giving.

Gary's tool box of 31 years finally had to be replaced. There is a great story behind this gift - ask Geoffrey to tell it to you!

SInce he was looking for something to read earlier this month! Hopefully this will keep him busy for a few days!

Another reader - Giovanna has recently took off reading! She also got a couple of chapter books! Happy Reading!

Courtney's first aid kit for France. Hopefully she won't need this one, but just in case!

Then there were the presents that were too big to wrap:

The BIG box. . . .

containing the new mattresses. . . .

which were a huge hit. They each had a really good nights sleep!

Courtney spent most of the afternoon laughing. . .

and smiling.

A

All in all, it was a great day.  We are blessed beyond measure and thankful to be together as a family.

MERRY CHRISTMAS from the Ayers Family.

Almost. . . . .

My oldest leaves for France in just under 2 weeks!  She will be will be a student at the University in Montpelier for the semester.  She has been looking forward to this semester since she was in France 3 years ago.

She can’t wait.

She is excited. . . .

and nervous!

It will be hard.. . .

and it will be good.

It is a gift from the hand of God.

Saying Good bye is not easy for this child.  So to make it somewhat easier, we had a party.  Fifty + of her friends gathered for Fun, Fellowship and food and for four hours Courtney got to just hang with her friends.  She had just finished her first (and hardest) final and was ready for some down time.  The evening was filled with laughter and tears, singing and prayers for this Sweet young lady.

Here are some pictures of the night:

Coming into the party!

Worship lead by friends!

Courtney loves to Worship her Lord and Savior!

Prayer times by friends to send her off well!

She has surrounded herself with godly friends who love her!

A little juggling to end the evening!

Courtney, you have prepared for this semester and you are ready.  You will be protected by the one who loves and cares for you more than your father and I do.  He has planned this semester to be part of your life at this time since before time began.  You are in the palm of His mighty hand and He will be guiding you as you walk through this next semester. When you come  back at the end of the semester, you will be a different young woman than the one leaving on New Year’s day!  Go with God and bring Him glory and honor in all that you do.  Live life to the full as you immerse yourself in a new culture!

I love you and will miss you!

(Photo credits go to Elise and Garrett – Thank you for capturing the night well)

A New Era!

Today was a special day for my youngest son! He had his first ever birthday party and he turned 13 yesterday!  Having a birthday in the winter has its challenges.  This is the first year that he really asked to have friends over and so we did.

He also asked for a special cake – an iPad cake.   So I went to work this afternoon and created this;

Geoffrey's iPad Cake!

He and his friends had Nerf gun wars and played board games.  He had a fantastic time.

It is hard to believe that he is leaving his childhood behind and entering into young man hood.  The time has flown by.  What a blessing he has been over the past 13 years.  For those of you who don’t know, we had a bit of a rocky start with him.  For starters, we were told that he would be a girl, twice via ultra sound while I was pregnant.  He is very much all boy!  To top it off, during delivery, he got stuck and neither the doctor or my husband would believe me.  Needless to say, he eventually  made his way out and we have enjoyed him ever since!

He has developed an interest in programing computers and spends as much time as he can programming.  He has taught himself several programming languages and I rarely understand what he is talking about when it comes to computer stuff.  Home schooling him has been a challenge the past few years!

Happy Birthday my dear son – May the Lord continue to bless you as you grow into manhood.  May you always remember to keep Him first in your life and may you seek Him with your whole heart!

Geoffrey has always been happy!

He has a great imagination and has "conquered" the wilderness of our backyard!

Happy 13th Birthday my dear son!