October 31, 2010

A Little Help from a Friend (part 2)

I was getting ready for work the other morning carrying out the morning ritual of putting in my contacts. Now, I've worn contacts since junior high so putting them in is as fast and easy as taking a breath. I never need a mirror and can put them in or take them out any time and anywhere. Not long ago I had each contact in the wrong eye, so on the way to church Jimmy held one in the palm of his hand as I made the switch. Having only lost one or two over the years, my record is stellar.

This particular morning, however, threw me for a loop. With my right contact in place, I proceeded to take the left lens out of the case and place it on my left eye. I blinked only once before watching it descend as if in slow motion. About three quarters of the way down, just before landing on the wash cloth, it disappeared. Like an episode of the Twilight Zone, it vanished from sight.

After an awkward search with one good eye, I took out the remaining contact and donned my glasses. With both eyes working in tandem, I looked high, low, left, and right. I scanned with my eyes and felt with my hand, searching every inch of the crime scene. After several unsuccessful minutes, I decided it was time to risk disturbing the site by leaving to get the flashlight. Gently jostling my house coat as I looked for falling debris, I hunted down a flash light and returned with renewed hope.

Time was wasting and I needed to get ready for work. I scanned the bathroom like a forensic scientist high on caffeine, but found nothing. Absolutely nothing. A little ticked by this time, I pulled out two new contacts and stored away the good old one, which still had two week's life yet in it. Since I change out my contacts at the first of each month, pulling out new ones mid-month was bugging me something awful. I could feel my innards tighten so I gave myself a pep talk. "Ok now, don't get upset. After all these years I can't recall the last time I lost a contact. I have no idea what a single lens costs, but it isn't enough to ruin the day. I'm gonna let this go, move on, and not let it get the better of me." Coaching myself down the hall, I entered the bedroom to put on my make-up and get dressed for the day. I flicked on the light and waited for Jimmy to stir. I couldn't wait to tell him all that had transpired while he slept.

"Well this morning was a first" I said tossing out the bait that would enable me to vent this frustrating event. Emphasizing the outlandish odds of this happening to me, I pointed out to my sleepy one-man audience how seasoned a contact wearer I was and how long I'd worn modern eye wear. I described the forensic search and my witnessed to this mysterious vanishing and once satisfied the facts were out in the open, I sat down to put on my make-up. I felt like an attorney who had just blown away the jury, barely noticing Jimmy as he slipped out of the room. Returning some 60 seconds later with his right thumb up in the air, he sleepily announced, "Here ya go."

I thought he was joking. He had to be. After all, who carries a contact lens on their thumb? What a novice. He hadn't fooled me one iota. But then, as I leaned forward to humor him, I saw it. My little round blue-tinted escapee perched on his big ole thumb."Where did you find it!" I exclaimed. "On the top ledge of the door of the vanity. When you told me how you lost it, it was the first place that popped in my mind. When I went to look it was sitting right there, just as I envisioned." he said rather unimpressed. "But I looked there a million times, and with a flashlight no less. This is a miracle. Why in the world did God use your eyes instead of mine to find the silly thing?"

I still can't help but wonder why God used Jimmy to find what I had so intently searched for myself. Seems to me Jimmy was bothered for nothing and my efforts were wasted. But then again stranger things have happened when it comes to God's plan. Suffice it to say for some reason the Lord wanted someone to lend a helping hand, even though I could have easily found it myself.

This early morning experience reminds me of the importance of a little help from a friend. Sometime an encourager needs encouragement, a prayer warrior needs intercession, and the one who is always the strongest needs a little help themselves. As they say, what goes around comes around. Sometimes we are called to give, while others times we are called to receive. How especially important it is to know when God is calling us to receive, even when we feel capable of doing something ourselves. I think it's God's way of keeping us connected, humble, and a bit mystified all at the same time.

I wonder. Who needs your help today? On the flip side, who might God be sending your way to assist you in your time of need? Whether giving or receiving, God calls us all to love one another as He loves us. Pride holds no place in this call, only the humility and servanthood of Christ. As you go out this week look for the ways God has you to give or receive and then thank Him for the friend He's placed in your life. Friends are an invaluable jewel. Love them each with His everlasting love. Who knows, it just may improve your vision as it did mine!

October 26, 2010

Running in My Bikilas: Week 3 Update

I've had my "monkey" running shoes for three weeks now. With a busy schedule week after week, I haven't had time to run as often as I'd like but progress has been made nonetheless. My toes are used to having their own sleeve, my calves have strengthened in new and different areas, my feet have adjusted to running without padding, and the instinct to land ball first, instead of heal, is completely natural.

The greatest news of all is that these barefoot buddies have, so far, rid me of a left knee strap and right knee support. It appears the theory that running barefoot (eliminating heal strikes) does indeed optimize body mechanics and reduce wear and tear on joints and ligaments. I remember clear as a bell just a few months ago, while still in running shoes, my right knee would begin to ache at 2.7 miles. Each consecutive run shortened the distance until I could barely run over a mile without pain. Today I ran 2.07 miles, it felt great, and I'm very excited. I plan to gradually increase my mileage and as I do, I'll keep you posted.

If you use Vibram running shoes please share your story. I'd love to hear from you.

October 20, 2010

A Little Help from a Friend (part 1)

It had been an exceptionally long day at work and felt good to be home. I didn't know it at the time but my arrival home had commenced with a trading of sorts. Challenges at work were about to take second seat for a much bigger one waiting at home.

Before having a chance to rest my purse on the desk, Jimmy told me the news. Dani had been crying all evening and told him, in distinct sign language, she wanted to go to the hospital so a doctor could help her talk. I stood dumbfounded at her clear request.

Glued to his side, she huddled next to him on the couch as I stood purse in hand. My heart ached for her as I looked into her red teary eyes. She was truly down in the dumps and I could see it on her face. Suddenly drafted into the think-tank, my mind began racing for a solution. I could remember them all clear as a bell. We'd tried every enzyme, vitamin, biofeedback, OT, PT, and speech therapy under the sun, all to no avail. No matter what we tried, her ability to speak remained illusive and out of reach. I was at a loss for what to do next.

I once felt this way with our son Drew. He had recently entered kindergarten only to discover his classmates didn't have brothers or sisters like his. As I tucked him in bed one night, he cried uncontrollably over this new revelation and I felt the same pressure to ease his pain. Tonight was like deja vue all over again, only this time it was Dani craving for words of wisdom.

In the nick of time God gave me words to speak to Drew that proved to helped him accept his role as Dani's special big brother once and for all. By faith I trusted the Lord to do the same for his little sister. Sitting hip-to-hip on the recliner, I put my arm around her as she began to sob uncontrollably on my shoulder. This was truly serious and I couldn't imagine what to tell this poor child. The Lord hadn't yet spoken to my heart, so I held her and acknowledged her pain. "You wish you could talk and that's why you are sad. Right?" Her big nod propelled tears down her cheeks.

"I'm sorry you are sad sweetie and I wish you could talk too. All I can say is we all have troubles that only the Lord can help us with. Your brother, daddy, and I all have weaknesses that we cannot overcome without God's help, so we do the best we can with His help." Fearing this might sound like I was making light of her serious disability, I knew I needed more than these tidy words of comfort. Even from my perspective, comparing a quick temper or streak of laziness with her inability to speak seemed cold and uncaring. About that time the Lord gave me words.

"Sissy I know you can't talk but it's important to always remember what you DO have. There are some of your friends at work who not only can't talk, but are in wheelchairs and can't walk. Some are so disabled they cannot even use sign language. You on the other hand can walk, turn on your T.V. and DVD player to watch your videos, dance, and get your own food. You can feed yourself and communicate through sign language and lots of people admire how smart you are for knowing sign language and wish they knew it too!"

Suddenly, as if a storm had lifted, the tears were gone and her sunny smile filled the room. She lifted her head off my shoulder and appeared light as a feather. With a heavy weight now off her shoulders, she stood up and began to dance around the room. In a flash she was gone from sight and off to her bedroom to watch her favorite video. She was happy the rest of the evening, having made a complete turn around.

Two things amaze me. God's perfect words at just the right time and Dani's sweet little heart. She didn't have to listen and accept these words of encouragement. She could have decided to stay in the storm and wallow in grief. Instead, she chose to release the pain and embrace God's truth. What a wonderful example.

I couldn't begin to count the times I too have been so blinded by what's wrong that I fail to see all that is right. These are the times God sends a friend my way to help me through the storm. Interestingly enough, it often takes very little on their part to turn me around. Their mere presence seems to work wonders almost instantly. A good friend mixed with God's truth always draws me back into His warm light.

Are you or someone you know in a time of distress? Storms can be intimidating from afar but we need never fear approaching a friend in their time of need. God will provide you with just the right things to say and sometimes the simplest thing like sitting with them during their darkest hour will turn someone's world around. Your presence alone can work wonders. Our little Dani can attest to that.

October 16, 2010

Running in my Bikilas: The Theory

My chiropractor said it best, "Adam and Eve didn't wear shoes, so barefoot running has to be the most natural and healthy way to run." This of course is true but so much has changed since the garden. While the first couple walked in grass and on dirt, we predominantly tread on concrete and hard wood floors, not to mention I don't suppose Adam and Eve felt peer pressure to buy expensive athletic tennis shoes or stylish pointy high heels. They simply walked on the two feet God gave them and that was that.

Today even newborn babies go home from the hospital with at least something on their feet. Seems nearly the moment we're born our feet are covered and destined to stay that way the rest of our days. Some experts, however, feel this isn't always a good idea, especially when it comes to running.

The theory behind barefoot running is it's most natural and therefore more conducive to healthy ligaments, joints, and tendons. By altering our natural gait, padded tennis shoes essentially cause us to run unnaturally by allowing heels to strike the ground first. Repeated heel strikes over time can begin to take a toll on a runner's knees, hips, and spine causing aches and pains an alternate form of running may likely avoid. Running barefoot, on the other hand, prompts us to land on the ball of the foot in order to avoid landing hard on the heels.

Natural though it may be, I can attest to the fact that having worn tennis shoes nearly all my life, this method of running feels very odd and takes a great degree of concentration to pull off at this early stage. Should I ever forget to land on the balls of my feet and by chance land on a heel, my Bikilas remind me toot sweet. With no cushion in the shoe whatsoever, a heel strike in these five-fingered beauties is most unpleasant and not easily forgotten.

I was warned adapting to these shoes would be slow so I'm in no hurry. I wear them each day just to get used to the feel and have worked up to running outside in them for a whopping six minutes. Interestingly enough the first thing I notice about these shoes, beyond the void of cushion, is lack of support. With absolutely no arch support, each foot left is on its own to strengthen and adapt in a new way. Eventually the intricate muscles of the feet grow and develop to meet the demand so the feeling of running barefoot becomes more comfortable and natural. Until then I must limit my workouts and keep patience close at hand...or should I say foot.

Oh. I almost forgot. My last six minute run worked my upper, mid, back calves so much I couldn't run for two days. They were sore as could be. Clearly these calf muscles are not the predominant muscles used propel me in my tennis shoes. Everything is so different now.

October 13, 2010

Running in my Bikilas: The Purchase

I took up running in May of this year and have enjoyed participating in three charity 5K's. All in all things have gone pretty well. I've developed the discipline of going out for a run before the sun comes up, when every cell in my body begs me not to, and when the humidity is so chokingly thick that even my contacts go on fog alert. I've enjoyed getting into shape and been rather impressed with how this five-decade old body has adapted to the challenge, unfortunately it hasn't all been peaches and cream.

For the most part running has been a positive experience, until a couple of issues with my knees developed, the left issue and the right issue to be exact. I settled the problem with my left knee relatively easily. I wear a strap that stabilized the outer tendon and I'm good to go, but then the right knee felt left out and began dishing out a much sharper debilitating pain. It was so bad during last quarter mile of the Autism run I thought I'd have to walk across the finish line. It hurt like the dickens, giving me a sneaky suspicion it wasn't going to be such a simple fix.

About the time my right knee and I were becoming bosom buddies, dad's health was rapidly declining. Taking care of him during his last few weeks essentially forced me to rest from running, thus giving the knee a chance to heal and restore. An MRI confirmed no major damage, only a little aging and one small cyst. My doctor instructed me to continue training, wear a knee support, and let the pain guide my training. So here I am back on track hoping my body will cooperate with my goals.

With the gut feeling mechanics is the core issue behind each knee's problem, I began doing a little research. One thing led to another and soon I was reading (and hearing) about the benefits of barefoot running. It's all very interesting so I'm giving it a try, only I won't be running totally barefoot. I'll be wearing Vibram Bikilas and blogging as I go.

While these "five-finger" running shoes look silly, they require a hefty dose of patience in the beginning. They are not easy to get on because your body has to learn to maneuver each toe into its own tiny little sleeve. Believe it or not I've heard some folks have taken up to an hour to get them on at first. Once you master the skill of getting them on, your feet, ankles, and leg muscles have to then adapt to running with no support. Even though this is the most natural way to walk and run, it will take a few months to get used to this newfangled footwear. Nonetheless, I believe it's going to be an interesting journey and I invite you to come along for the ride.

So go ahead, live vicariously through my Bikilas and let's see how it goes. I'll do all the "foot work" and you can prop your feet up on the desk and read along. It'll be fun and I look forward to sharing my progress.

Here is what Vibram Bikilas look like.

They look like monkey feet.

October 10, 2010

My Baby Boy

When life gets tough it's good to have my not-so-little baby boy, Ecclesiastes. Happy, obedient, and eager to please by nature, he was a good sport donning these whacky sunglasses. He had to wonder why the spectacles were placed on his head, but sat quiet as a mouse just the same. As a result, I have this priceless treasure.

I'd be a rich woman if I had a nickel for every time I've told Ecclesi he was a gift from God. After all, nearly three years ago God put it on my heart to begin looking for a yellow Labrador puppy to name Ecclesiastes. It seemed odd, but I couldn't get the vision out of my head. We hadn't had a dog in years and I was ever so busy with Dani, yet felt compelled to search for this specific dog. On the heels of my mother's passing, the desire to better understand the meaning of life had suddenly grown exponentially. Naming a dog after King Solomon's book addressing this very issue seemed most logical and fitting, so I complied.

I'm glad I listened to the Lord's tug to get a little Lab pup. At first some thought his name was too long and awkward. Many still can't pronounce it correctly, but it fits him perfectly and possess great meaning. Ecclesiastes has enriched our lives immeasurably and I'm convince God created animals to do jobs humans cannot fulfill.

Lord, thank you again for my special gift!

October 6, 2010

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