Friday, October 18, 2013

Tender Mercies

 “...But behold, I, Nephi, will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all those whom he hath chosen, because of their faith, to make them mighty even unto the power of deliverance” (1 Ne. 1:20).

In one of my all-time favorite conference talks, Elder David A. Bednar spoke about the "tender mercies" of the Lord.

"What are the 'tender mercies of the Lord'?", he asked.

His answer: "Through personal study, observation, pondering, and prayer, I believe I have come to better understand that the Lord’s tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindnesses, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ."

In short, tender mercies are how the Lord lets us know that He is aware of us, and that He loves us.  As I think about the times in my life when I have recognized the tender mercies of the Lord, I notice that they always come when I am in most desperate need of them.  And lately, I have needed them.  Let me share a few of the tender mercies the Lord has shown me recently...

A couple of months ago now, I asked for a priesthood blessing from my dad at the start of a new semester.  I have been getting these blessings every school year since I was a kid, so I don't know why I am always amazed at the fact that my dad addresses my exact, and very specific, concerns -- often having nothing at all to do with school.  How lucky blessed I am to have such a wonderful example of what manner of man I ought to be.  My dad is the most amazing man I have ever met, and without a doubt my absolute hero.  As I listened to the words he said while placing his hands on my head, I knew -- as I have known many times -- that he was completely in tune with the Spirit, and that the blessings he was pronouncing were directly from my Heavenly Father.  Only He knows me so personally.

On Tuesday of this week, our home-teachers came by.  We had a nice visit, and then Brother Jones shared a message with us.  He shared parts of President Monson's talk from general conference this month, entitled "I Will Not Fail Thee, Nor Forsake Thee".  He could have chosen any talk, but he chose this one.  Many (most?) of you are aware of the trial that Mary and I are going through as we try to increase our family.  But our home-teacher is not aware of this struggle.  Yet he was inspired to share a beautiful message with us about how the Lord is aware of us and the trials we are going through.  He will not forsake us, but will help us through these difficult times if we rely on him.  The Spirit was so strong as he shared this message.  I am so grateful for a loving home-teacher who listened to the Spirit and prepared a message for us that seemed tailored to our very specific situation.

Last night we had the opportunity to attend the temple and perform sealings with a group from our ward. We, and two other couples from the ward were joined by another couple that was at the temple alone.  The sister in that couple had such a beautiful spirit about her.  Her countenance glowed.  As I took my turn as one of the witnesses, I watched her face as she knelt across the alter from her husband and performed the sealing ordinances.  I could tell that she was moved by the words of the sealer, and in turn I was moved as well.  When we were finished with the sealings, before we left the sealing room she approached us and asked us how long we have been married.  When we told her that we are coming up on seven years, she asked how many children we have.  We responded that we don't have any children yet.  Even though we obviously did not go into the specifics of our situation, she seemed to understand.  She replied, "So you're still waiting for that miracle to happen.  One of our children was also waiting for a long time for that miracle, and theirs finally came.  And yours will too."  I felt a wave of compassion from her.  How had this complete stranger known exactly what to say to us?  The only explanation is that the Lord gave her those words.  It is remarkable how the Lord blesses us  through our brothers and sisters.

When we were married, our sealer told us that our future children we smiling down and rejoicing as they watched us enter into the sacred covenants that would seal us -- and them -- together for all eternity.  Sometimes Mary and I joke -- "if they were so excited, what are they waiting for?!"... We want to be parents more than anything.  And we both know that our miracle will happen.  I will be a dad.  But sometimes, its easy to get discouraged and to wonder how much longer we will have to wait.  I am so grateful to my Heavenly Father for His tender mercies that keep me going.  Lately, I feel like Heavenly Father has been reaching out to me, almost as if to say "hang in there, just a little longer".  He knows what is best for His children.  So I will keep hoping, and trusting, and waiting.

Monday, July 15, 2013

26.2

Ever since hitting my goal at the Big Cottonwood Canyon half marathon in May, I have been considering running a full marathon. I've gone back and forth on the decision. It's something that I definitely want to do -- yet I keep taking myself out of it. The truth is, it scares me. A marathon is 26.2 miles. TWENTY-SIX POINT TWO! That is a long way to run. The furthest I have ever run at one time is 13.5 miles. But it's not just the actual race that scares me -- it's also the training. Marathon training plans include long runs of 20+ miles. Am I even capable of something so physically demanding? The whole thing is very daunting.

But here's the thing -- I really WANT to do it. And deep down, I am positive that I can.

Well today I found the inspiration I needed to stop doubting myself.  I read the story of this awesome lady.


Annette was diagnosed with MS three years ago.  A year ago, she decided to set a unique and awe inspiring goal for herself -- to run 366 marathons in 365 days!  Holy cow!  Well, day 365 was a couple of days ago, and she did it.  I cannot even comprehend how this is humanly possible -- especially while dealing with a physically debilitating illness.  She has totally inspired me.  If she can accomplish this incredible feat, there is no excuse for me to procrastinate this goal of mine.

So that's it.  I've decided.  On September 14, 2013 I will run the Big Cottonwood Canyon Marathon.  And by the way, I'm still scared.  But I'm also excited.  Wish me luck!!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Fatso McButterpants

Guys, sometimes I get discouraged because I feel like I work pretty hard to be active and fit.  And I feel like I do a pretty good job of eating healthy, too.  But in spite of that, I'm not completely satisfied with my body.  I've got this stubborn layer of pudge that just won't... budge.  And that's why I feel pretty good when I see something like this...

Mary was looking through her blog at old posts and I happened to glance over at her screen.  I was actually horrified and pleased at the same time.

December 2010:

That's me -- at probably the heaviest and most out of shape I've ever been.  Yuck.  Total Fatso McButterpants.  I believe I weighed about 210 pounds in this pic.  At this time in my life I was a total couch potato and eating fast food and drinking 32 ounce sodas daily.

Fast-forward 2 and a half years...

April 2013:

Here I am a couple of weeks ago, weighing in at 178 pounds.  I run 3 to 5 times a week, and I have my fourth half-marathon coming up three days from now.  I would honestly much rather go for a 10 mile run on a Saturday morning than sleep in.  I still eat out occasionally, but nowhere near as often. If I hadn't attended the World of Coke museum on our recent trip to Georgia, I wouldn't be able to even remember the last time I drank soda.

It's nice to get a little perspective, and it's encouraging to see how far I've come.  I may not be exactly where I want to be just yet, but I'm on my way and I'm getting there.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Canyonlands Half Marathon

Disclaimer:  This is not a plea for sympathy.  I'm not throwing myself a pity party.  Sorry if it comes across that way.  This is a honest reflection of my experience and the lessons I've learned from it.

Goals are tricky.  As a missionary, I learned that it is virtually impossible to achieve a goal unless you make specific plans for how you intend to accomplish it.  And obviously you have to then follow those plans, measure and evaluate your progress, and make adjustments along the way.  I have experienced great success in reaching my goals by following that model.  But what if you believe you are following your plan, and your measured progress seems to validate that belief, but somehow you fall miserably short of your goal?  Well, to be honest, it's confusing and extremely disappointing.

When I decided to run the Canyonlands Half, I had a very specific goal in mind.  I wanted to finish in under 2 hours.  That would require an average pace of roughly 9 minute miles.  I knew that this was an ambitious goal -- it would mean a 15 minute improvement on my half marathon P.R.  So I designed an aggressive training plan to help me get to that pace.  And I stuck to it.  And things were looking great.  As race day got closer, I was averaging about 8:45 miles.  Everything was right on track.  I was not only going to hit my goal, I was going to be even faster that I hoped!

Nope.  I ran an average pace of 10:22 per mile.  I finished in 2:15:20  (that's by my watch -- my official time was even slower.)

So yeah, I'm disappointed.  I felt like I had really pushed myself hard in training, but it didn't pay off like I hoped.  However, hindsight is 20/20 so I'm trying to take this as a learning experience.  Here's some things I learned:
  • The treadmill is a liar.  I already kind of knew that.  I knew that you couldn't trust the number it gives you for calories burned because it ignores several important variables that factor into that calculation.  However, all the research I did seemed to indicate that most treadmills are fairly accurate on distance and speed.  In fact, most treadmills will err on the side of short-changing you -- meaning that it will tell you you're running a little slower than you really are, or that you haven't gone quite as far as you really have.  But that must not be true of this particular treadmill.  I think this particular treadmill is a big time liar.  And due to several factors (disgusting inversion air, cold temps, boatloads of snow, convenience...), I trained for this race almost exclusively on the treadmill.  Which brings me to my next lesson learned...
  • Running on the treadmill is not the same as running on hard pavement.  It may be convenient, but it's just not an equal substitute.  Truthfully, I much prefer running outside anyway.  Part of the fun is planning out your course and finding cool new places to run.  I have missed doing that, and I'm looking forward to getting back to training that way.
  • If your race is downhill, at least some of your training should be downhill.  I knew this already too.  I just hadn't learned it yet.  
  • If your race has any uphill at all, you need to do some hill running in your training.  The general trend of the Canyonlands Half was downhill, but it sort of meanders up and down, including one hill that was a beast.  And I am much slower on uphill stretches than I am on downhill/flat stretches.  That was amplified by the fact that all my training was done on level ground.
  • Listening to books while running is risky.  I usually really enjoy listening to audiobooks during my runs -- it helps distract my from my aches and pains and fatigue.  And its entertaining.  But during my half marathon, one of the main characters was taken prisoner and was being marched through snowy terrain to some unknown location.  She kept going on and on about how bad her feet hurt, how exhausted she was, how it was all she could manage to keep putting one foot in front of the other, etc.  Psychologically, not real helpful.  (although it's pretty funny thinking back on that...)
Yeah, coming up short is pretty discouraging.  But there's no reason this shouldn't be a positive experience.  I am just as motivated as ever to reach my goal.  And I learned a lot of valuable lessons that will help me get there.  Here's some things I loved about my Canyonlands Half Marathon experience:
  • It was by far the most beautiful course I have ever run.  The red-rock cliffs and the Colorado River provided spectacular scenery that made this race awesome.
  • I got to escape the cold and spend a few days in the mid-70's!
  • Moab might be my most favorite place to visit -- I love it.  I want to own a vacation home there someday.  
  • Spending the weekend with my awesome wife and some of my best friends was a blast.  Seriously cool people!
The Canyonlands Half Marathon was awesome.  It was a great experience and I learned a lot from it.  Now it's time to pick my next race and take another crack at hitting my goal!  

This is exactly the type of blog post I would typically scroll past and not read -- super long and no pictures!  Sorry folks.  If you read it, thanks!